When we were ten and eleven, Camille and I saw fairies all the time. We even named them cute things like “Buttercup” and “Moonbeam.” They were our best friends and followed us everywhere. We had sleepovers nearly every night in the summer, just me, Camille and the fairies. It was our special secret that we never told anyone.
Camille stopped seeing them first, at the beginning of seventh grade. She started spending less time at my house and more time with boys. But I still had the fairies, so I was never really lonely. I couldn’t understand why Camille would ever leave us, and soon even when she was at my house, she said she couldn’t see them anyway.
My mom made me go to therapy, even though I insisted that I wasn’t nuts, but I don’t think that’s what made them go away. It felt like they just disappeared one day when I was in seventh grade. It was school picture day, and the day I got my first period. When I got home from school and told my mother, she gave me this blubbering speech about sex. I guess I was too busy to pay much attention to them, because they disappeared that day and I never saw them again until I was almost eighteen.
I should have been happy that my friends had come back all these years later, but I wasn’t. I was annoyed. They were cramping my style, and I didn’t want to have anything to do with them.
Things got even worse when they followed me on a date with Matt. I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t be able to see them, but the thought freaked me out all night. About halfway through dinner, when I pulled one out of my ear, I officially had enough.
I took the girls to the ladies’ room to give them a talking to. They reclined on the counter and swam in the sink while I talked to them. It was like a private fairy pool party right there in the restaurant’s bathroom.
“Now, listen,” I said. “This date is very important to me. Matt and I haven’t been going out very long, and I think he’s going to ask me to Prom. So I need you girls just to hang out here for a while, and not hang out on me. Then I promise you,” I said as I crossed my fingers behind my back. “I’ll let you talk to me all night, okay?”
The fairies seemed satisfied, so I brushed my hair before I went back to my date. But before I could get back to dinner, a mother with her small daughter came in. I could tell right away that she could see the fairies by the way her eyes sparkled as she washed her hands.
“Mommy, look!” she said as she pointed. She looked straight at me. “Those are cool fairies you have.”
I smiled. “Thanks,” I said. “Would you like to play with them awhile for me?”
The girl nodded and grinned.
Good, I thought, maybe I can just give this little problem away. The fairies will be glad to have someone who actually wants to believe in them again.
On my way out the bathroom, I ran into a girl from school, Meghan Parker, on her way in. She smiled and waved. We had never talked much because we were in different classes, but we were friendly when she saw each other. As the door closed behind me, I could hear her chatting with the little girl I had left the fairies with.
I plucked a fairy off my shoulder and tossed it on my bed. “I’m telling you,” I said into my cell phone. “I don’t know how they got in here.”
“Well, all I know is, you had better get rid of them fast,” Camille said on the other end. “Matt won’t be going to the prom with you if you have fairies dangling out your nose.”
“I tried to get rid of them. I left them with this little girl in the ladies’ room. I figured the fairies would have so much fun with her that they’d leave me alone. But they followed me back. Right now they’re clinging to my hair and whispering about me. They think I’m nuts because I won’t play with them.”
Well, when they visited me, all I did was ignore them and they went away. . .”
“Wait, when did they visit you?”
“Last year, right after Greg and I fooled around for the first time. It was so weird; they were all glaring at me in this dream, like my mother or something . . . and then again like every day for a week. I swear I saw them in front of my eyes even in the daytime. Thought I was going bonkers, but I didn’t let them bug me too much and they left.”
In some strange way, I felt betrayed by the fairies. After all, they had lived with me, in my bedroom, and only visited Camille when I was there. How dare they visit her dreams!
“What? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Didn’t think you’d care. You hadn’t thought about those things in years.”
I was angry, but I didn’t show it. “If I thought someone else could see them, I’d use them to my advantage. Maybe ask them to hang off my ears and call them earrings? They could glow in the dark. That would be so cool.”
I sat up all night watching the fairies flitter around the room, their bodies glowing quietly in a rainbow of colors. In the morning, they were still there while I got dressed, put on my makeup, and did my hair. They followed me to school, hung out in my backpack, and flew around my car on the way home. I didn’t speak to them, not even when they started chirping in unison on my backseat.
Matt noticed how quiet I was at school that day, and pulled me into an empty classroom to ask me if I was okay.
“Uh, yeah . . .” I lied. “Just fine. Why?”
“Well, you seem kinda spacey,” Matt said. “Thought maybe your mind was on something?”
I shook my head. A fairy flew out of my hair and sailed across the room, then dove head-first into the wall. She hadn’t been hanging on well enough. For some reason, I always found them in there amongst the crazy, red tangles
“Uh. No, nothing more than usual,” I lied.
“Okay. Well, there’s something on my mind,” Matt said. He ran his hand through his long, black hair.
“Okay.” I tried to snap back to reality. Matt was about to ask me to prom. This was the moment I had been waiting months for!
“I was, um, wondering, if you’d um, like to maybe go to the drive-in with me tonight?”
“The drive-in?” I said with a squeak. “Yeah. I mean, of course.” I faked a smile when I said it.
“Great. We’ll take my car. It’s bigger than your Bug.”
At least with Matt’s car, I wouldn’t find any fairies hanging out in the big sunflower on the dashboard. I knew they’d follow me though, so I kept up my plan to ignore them no matter what they did.
At the drive-in, Matt put his arm around me and I sunk into him, one hand in his and the other in the popcorn. A small, white fairy fluttered out of the bowl and landed on the dashboard. It was smaller than any I had ever seen before, and I wondered if that was a good sign. Maybe they were slowly shrinking into nothingness.
Matt kissed me softly on the lips, the kind of kiss he was really good at, and we both soon forgot about the movie. His kisses made me feel dizzy, as usual. I lost control of all of my senses as his hand crept toward the hem of my skirt. My heart pounded in my chest as his hand slid up my thigh. I was so caught up in what was happening that I didn’t really think about what it meant.
Matt was about to round second base with me for the first time – and I was about to let him – when I felt the pain in my head. It started behind my eyes, like a sinus headache, and inched its way through my forehead, increasing in intensity as it spread. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore it, tried to concentrate on what was happening, but that only made me feel worse. I snapped my legs closed on Matt’s hand.
“I have a headache. I want to stop.”
Matt pulled away, looking dejected. “Sorry.”
“It’s not you,” I said, but couldn’t really explain what it was.
I put my head out the window, hoping the cool night air would help me regain my senses. It didn’t.
“Take me home,” I said to Matt, on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry. I have a migraine or something. I just wanna go home.”
I woke up the next morning with a dull headache like I imagined a hangover to feel like. I opened one eye and looked around the room, scanning for any signs of fairies. I opened the other eye and sat up. My head throbbed. I looked under the bed, expecting to see them doing their early morning beauty routine as usual, but there was no sign of them.
Cautiously, I walked around the room, checking all their usual hangouts. No fairies. I let out a deep breath. They were finally gone!
My cell phone rang. I pulled it off the charger to answer it.
“Hello?” I said through a foggy head.
“Amanda, it’s me.” It was Matt, and I could tell, even though I was out of it, that he wasn’t happy.
“Uh, hi. Why are you calling so early?”
“Listen, Amanda. I just can’t see you anymore,” Matt said, short and to the point.
“What?” My heart thumped in my chest so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
“I’m sorry. It’s just, you know. . . .”
“Is this about last night?” I asked.
Matt was silent.
“If it helps any, I can promise you that’ll never happen again,” I said. Although I couldn’t. Not really. I didn’t actually know what had happened to give me that kind of headache, a pain I could still feel the morning after. But I had a sneaking suspicion is had to do with the fairies.
“Sorry,” he said again. I imagined him shrugging casually the way he did when he told customers at the Dairy Barn that they were out of sprinkles.
I hung up on him and went back to bed. Camille called me a few hours later.
“Where are you? We were supposed to go to the mall.”
“The fairies are gone,” I said.
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“Yes. I mean, no. Matt broke up with me.”
“Bummer. I’m sorry. Come meet me for Chinese.”
I groaned. “I’m just gonna stay in bed, okay?”
I tried to sleep, but the fairies trespassed on my dreams. There was a whole swarm of them, probably more than the ones that came to visit me, and they were all wagging their pointer fingers like my mom does when she’s disappointed in me. I forced myself awake and crawled out of bed. There was no use sleeping if they were going to be there. I called Camille back.
“I’m coming,” I said. “They followed me into my dreams.”
Over Chinese, I confessed to Camille that Matt and I had been getting pretty heavy at the drive-in.
Camille raised one eyebrow. “You?”
“Yeah, but then I got this crazy headache and about snapped his head off and made him drive me home.”
Camille’s mouth dropped opened. “No wonder he dumped you!”
I sighed, louder than I meant to. I couldn’t help it. She may have been my best friend, but she had absolutely no sympathy for friends who were awkward around boys. Everything came so naturally to her.
“Listen, I think it has something to do with the fairies,” I confessed. “Didn’t you say they like scolded you in your dreams?”
I sighed again.
Camille went back to eating. She never did take the fairies as seriously as I did.
Camille found a date for Prom the next day, just in time to coordinate tie and dress colors. She sent me emails every five minutes asking for my opinion on suits and ties on the internet. I stopped answering them.
I had no enthusiasm for Prom left, not even to help my supposed best friend. She certainly hadn’t been concerned about me after Matt and I broke up. She just shrugged it off like it was nothing as she made big plans for her and her new man.
“Thaddeus and I are going to go to the Blue Moon after Prom. . .” she said to me as she twirled one of her dark ringlets with her finger at lunch.
“Who the hell is this Thaddeus anyway?” I asked. I surely would know a Thaddeus in our grade. Our school was super small, and I don’t think I had ever met a Thaddeus. What kind of name was Thaddeus anyway?
“Oh, he goes to Oakland Catholic,” she said with a wave of her hand. “You’re just jealous. The only thing you’re bringing to Prom is some dumb fairies.”
I don’t know why I let her talk to me like that for an entire week, but I did. Finally, I just burst.
“You didn’t think they were dumb when you were heartbroken over Harold Dawson!”
Camille glanced over her shoulder. “Ssh! I don’t want everyone to know about that!” she hissed.
“Get over yourself,” I said in the calmest voice I could manage. “Did you ever think there was something more important than boys?”
Camille blinked. Obviously, she hadn’t. But I knew that already. I had known it since we were thirteen.
“What is going on with you?” she asked.
“You’re being a jerk. All you can think about is yourself. Did you ever think I said no to Matt because I wanted to?”
Camille blinked again. I swear her head emptied of common sense whenever she was in “love.”
“I thought it was those dumb fairies?” she asked.
“They are not dumb!” I shouted, which made a couple of underclassmen turn their heads.
“Ssh!” Camille warned me again.
“They are not dumb,” I repeated, softer this time. “And maybe they just reminded me that I knew that all along.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I liked Matt and all, but, no offense, I’m not you.”
Camille’s lips formed an “O.” I thought I was actually starting to get through to her.
“Maybe I want to believe in magic and imagination like when we were kids. Maybe I don’t need to give some guy everything he wants to be happy. Why can’t we just be happy like we were back then?” I asked.
“Because we grew up,” Camille said with a shrug. “And grownups don’t believe in invisible things like fairies.”
“Maybe,” I contested. “But grownups also don’t do things because they think it’s the cool thing to do.”
I got up and left Camille sitting there in the cafeteria. I hoped some of what I said would sink in, but I doubted it would make much of a difference.
I almost didn’t go to Prom because I knew I would probably spend the evening alone, sitting in the corner. But then I realized I was never actually alone and went anyway, escorted by a dozen or so fairies scattered throughout my hair.
I watched Camille and Thaddeus dance for a while before they disappeared for the night. Meghan Parker sat beside me at the corner table. “I like your fairies,” she said.
I nearly fell out of my chair.
“You can see them?” I asked.
“Of course I can,” Meghan said. “I’ve always been able to see them, since I was a little girl.” She didn’t apologize for it or anything, just said it like it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Did you ever think they were telling you stuff?” I asked it as vaguely as possible.
“I used to,” she said. “And then I realized that I knew that stuff all along.”
I knew she was right. I had known certain things all along. I had known that Camille and I were growing apart since ninth grade. And I had known the minute Matt asked me to the drive-in that I wouldn’t be willing to give him what he wanted.
I smiled at Meghan. The fairies did a dance in my hair, and I never again wished they would go away.