“I-I-I think you had better show that to Aunty Belle,” was all he would say before turning back to his pork chops; the girl bit into her roll happily, savoring each and every mouthful.
After the meal was over and the dishes had been cleaned, the kids were given free time before bed. Usually, Natalia used this time to catch up with the girls. There were slightly more girls than boys, and the ages were more varied. Out of the thirty children, nineteen were female, twelve of them under the age of thirteen. The girls congregated in their powder room. Aunty Belle had converted three bedrooms to make the room, and they spent as much time in it as allowed.
Sonya and Britta were sisters, and had been at Mercy home since they were little. They were nice, but absolute opposites. Britta had dark hair, and Sonya had light. Britta was athletic, Sonya was bookish. They both looked after the younger orphans with loving hearts, but they did it in their own ways. Natalia smiled mischievously at Britta, as she approached. If anyone would be up for an adventure it would be Britta. Britta loved to roam the grounds, and did so every chance she got.
“Hey there, Natty Cakes! How about telling me why you look like you are going to explode? Did Daniel finally come around?” teased Britta as she braided her own hair in the mirror. She winked at the reflection. Averted but not disheartened, Natalia thrust the coin back into her pocket, thinking about what Daniel had said. He was right, that was exactly what she would do. Having made a plan, the pixie child seemed about to burst with her secret.
Each of the occupants of Mercy Home was enamored with the little redhead, and each in his or own way paid their tribute to girl. Natalia loved dresses, so Aunty Belle always made sure that Kristen had enough material to sew as many as she liked. Kristen was almost as old as Britta, and she dreamed of being a famous designer someday. Today’s dress was dark green velvet trimmed in cream colored satin. Natalia’s dresses were deceiving, as the laundress was to quickly find out. Kristen knew how much Natalia like to collect treasures throughout the day, so she had hidden pockets all over the dresses.
Natalia solemnly dug her hand into a pocket and pulled out a small object. Holding it in her closed fist, she held her hand toward Britta. With a giggle, she opened her palm, and there sat an acorn. Britta was curious as to what was so interesting about an acorn, and was about to ask why, when Natalia began furiously digging through a dozen different pockets. She emptied the contents of each one on the vanity. Two pieces of bubble gum, a barrette, some very small rocks, a piece of string, were just a few of the things that came out of the hidden pockets. Natalia cried a great sigh of relief when at last, she found the brass coin.
“I’ve been called home,” she began. Her voice was barely a whisper, and Britta had to lean very close to hear her. They both stared at the brass coin in Natalia’s hand. The little hand shook with excitement. “We have to go find the tree, that’s where the door is. And after the door, well, after the door, I’ll find my parents!” Natalia hugged Britta as tight as she could. Then leaned back and stared into Britta’s face.
“You can’t tell anyone, Britta, I have to know it’s really there, before I tell the others. Do you swear by the light of the moon that you won’t tell a living soul?” she begged. If it was really out there somewhere, she needed Britta to help her find it. After all, you couldn’t expect magic to do everything. It made her tired when she used too much magic, and part of her knew this to be because she drew her power from the world around her and from within herself. Natalia had so many questions, and no one to answer them.
“Of course, I’ll go with you, and I’d never tell. First of all, where did you find that? Secondly, how does it have your face on it?” Britta examined the coin as she listened.
“I was walking down by the creek, where the footbridge is. I heard singing, and I followed it. After I crossed the creek, the singing got louder, and I could almost understand the words. I kept going deeper into the southern woods until the voices were right in my ear. It was the opening of a tunnel. A flat stone carved with a tree covers it; I can’t move it by myself. On top of the stone, right in the middle was this coin, and it has me on it. Do you know what that means, Britta? It means they are looking for me. I always knew they were, haven’t I always said so?” Natalia’s eyes flashed with emotions.
Since she had arrived, Natalia had claimed to be the daughter of fairy royalty. It was easy to half believe that might be true, with the many wonders Natalia shared with the other children at the home. Being only three however, Natalia’s princess dreams and fairy tales were smiled at. Over the next three years Natalia began to convince the others that she truly was a fairy, and her parents truly were the king and queen of this land. Only the grownups remained sure that Natalia was simply another child whom the world had seen fit to abandon. They all agreed that she was an exceptional child to be sure, but magical, they doubted. They all secretly wished it could be true, though.
A sudden thought flashed through the princess’s mind. If they knew she was alive, then maybe they weren’t the only ones! She had no memory of the night she was taken from her palace bedchamber, only of awakening in the bed she still slept in nightly. She had been terrified, and confused. The gentle faces that surrounded her as she came awake explained that she had been found in the woods, very ill, and had been brought here. No identification had ever been found. Over time, she had become part of this world, but held firm to the belief that she was descended from royalty.
“What if it’s a trap? What if whoever took me wants me back? What if it’s a witch, and I’m finally old enough to learn her spells” Natalia’s imagination wandered, exploring this new avenue of possibility. Britta combed and braided the little girl’s hair as the child chattered on. Slowly her eyes began to droop, and her head to nod. Britta helped her into her pajamas and bed.
“By the light of the moon, I love you, Britta,” whispered Natalia as she drifted off to sleep.
“By the light of the moon, I love you too, Natalia,” Britta whispered back.