“Do you believe in fairies?”
I stopped knitting. Abigail closed her prized possession, a book of Shakespeare’s works, and looked at me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” Abigail began, “there are so many stories of fairies and they seem so realistic. I want to believe in fairies—and I did when I lived back East—but this is a different world. With sagebrush and sandstone everywhere I look. It takes a full day’s wagon ride to the mountains to find something that resembles a forest. When I lived in a grove of trees on the Mississippi I never questioned if Shakespeare knew Robin Goodfellow and all the rest. Now…I find it harder to believe what I used to, regardless of the memories that flutter through my dreams. It seems rather difficult to think of fairies in a place with so much sun.”
I moved my black-booted toe against the wooden boards and pushed the rocking chair back before I answered. “When I help Mama boil the lye for soap and it is blistering hot with hardly a tree in the yard, I want to believe in fairies—if only to escape to their world full of streams and flowers until after my chores are finished.”
“Martha, everyone dreams of escaping to a fairy-land…but do you believe in fairies?”
I thought about Abigail’s question. I too had heard fairy stories told at bedtime and Abigail was brilliant at reading Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But as I looked over the valley, I couldn’t imagine Titania wanting to be queen of rocks and buffalograss. Perhaps there was no such thing as fairies; but if there were, could they live in a desert?
Later that night, after Abigail and the rest of my cousins left, I walked through the field behind my house toward the back steps of the school. I was restless and I thought that none of my brothers and sisters would follow me to the schoolhouse. I leaned back with my elbows against the top step and looked up. The stars twinkled as if they knew where my thoughts were headed. I sighed and asked myself out loud—if only to validate my question, “Do I believe in fairies?”
The stars did not laugh at me. But the fairy in the sagebrush next to the barn did.