This will be the third story in our Enchanted Fairytale series...and you can read the first few chapters right now!
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
Michela carefully pushed the dirt around the plant with her fingers. The miniature red rose was small, but perfect for the fairy garden. Once it grew up the side of the stone castle to the balcony, it would look like something Robin Hood could climb to visit Maid Marion. Even if the castle was only 18 inches tall, the details were amazing.
Michela sat back on her heels and smiled. Just a few more touches and this part of the garden would be finished.
“Would you like some sweet tea?” her Aunt Ida asked, looking around the edge of the house. “I’m going to make some to have with the cookies. The first batch should be out of the oven in a few minutes.
“That would be lovely,” Michela replied, brushing her bangs off her forehead with the back of her glove. “It’s warm today!”
“I’ll say,” Ida agreed. “I almost didn’t turn on the oven, but I promised to bring cookies tonight for the Women’s Club meeting.”
Michela smiled. “Do you want me to drive you there?”
“No, I’ll be fine,” her aunt replied. “Days are long this time of year, and I’ll be home before dark.”
“Let me put things away, and I’ll be right in,” Michela said, placing her tools in the large basket. “And I’ll clean up the kitchen.”
“You’re a dear.” Ida smiled and disappeared around the edge of the house.
Michela brushed off her jeans as she stood up and looked carefully at the garden. Maybe she should add a few violas between the moss and miniature evergreens. They would be a good division between the fairy forest and the green space. Her mother had always used moss for the grounds around the castle.
“I think you’d like it this year, Mom,” she said quietly. “With the new arbors along the garden path and the second bridge over the water, it’s really added more interest to the open area between the castle and the cottages.”
The fairy garden took up a good portion of the side yard. The area had been overgrown with old juniper shrubs when they’d moved in, but her mother had insisted they pull those out. They started the fairy garden when Michela was six years old. They’d worked on it every spring and all through the summer for eight seasons, then her mother had gotten sick. That’s when Aunt Ida had moved in and helped take care of them.
Michela took one last look at the garden, remembering her mother’s last summer. “You keep working on it,” she’d said. “I know you’re gotten too old to believe in fairies, but I want you to have a place that’s special. Something to remember me by.”
As if she’d needed that. Her mother would always be with her…but working in the fairy garden did make her happy. So many little details that brought back fond memories or special moments of their time together.
Michela picked up the basket and walked around the house to the back stairs. As she came into the kitchen, Ida said, “You’ve got dirt on your forehead. Better wash up.”
“Don’t I always?” Michela asked, then laughed. “I mean wash up, not necessarily have dirt on my forehead.”
“I’d say yes to both,” Ida replied, smiling. “I’ve got tea on the table and cookies cooling. They’ll be ready to sample in a few minutes.”
Michela took a bite of the cookie and smiled. “So good!” she said as she finished chewing. “The chocolate is just perfect. Melty, but not too hot.”
“You and your melty,” Aunt Ida replied, shaking her head. “I’m glad you like them.”
“I’d better not eat too many.” Michela raised an eyebrow. “Unless, you made a few extra…”
“Don’t I always?” Aunt Ida smiled. “I made an extra two dozen for us, which still leaves plenty to take to my meeting.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you?” Michela asked. “I don’t want you to have to worry about the time.”
“The doctor said I’m fine as long as I don’t drive in the dark,” Ida reminded her. “And this meeting won’t take very long. We’re discussing the book donations for next month. We want to make sure we have plenty of children’s stories for the bookstore.”
“I think it’s great that you make sure every child has a book to read in the summer.” Michela looked over at the long row of bookcases along the far wall. “Mom always loved her books.”
“She gets that from our mother.” Aunt Ida beamed. “She was quite the reader. In fact, she even wrote a few stories.”
“I didn’t know that,” Michela replied. “How did you and mom never mention it?”
“Oh, they were just cute little stories about animals and gardens, the occasional fairytale.” Ida looked over at the bookcase. “I don’t think we even saved any of them. She wrote them in notebooks that she’d read to us at bedtime.” She smiled. “Now, I wish we’d asked her about them. Of course, that might be where your mother got the idea for the fairy garden.”
“She did mention she loved fairy stories as a girl,” Michela agreed. “I wonder if those notebooks might be with Aunt Jane.”
“Maybe,” Ida replied. “Jane is the oldest, and she did go through our mother’s things when she passed.” Ida wiped an eye. “Your mother was in college and I was out of the country.”
“You were serving our country,” Michela reminded her. “And I’ve always been very proud of that.”
“It was mostly paper pushing,” Ida replied. “I wasn’t the one on the front lines.”
“Still very important if you ask me,” Michela said. “Can I get you some more tea?”
“That would be nice, Dear.” Ida smiled. “I think I’ll just sit here and take it easy for an hour. If you’re sure you don’t mind cleaning up.”
“I’ll clean up any time you make such wonderful cookies,” Michela replied.
Michela had just put away the last pan, when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” she said, not wanting her aunt to get up from her chair in the living room.
As she opened the door, a man in a suit was standing there. “Are you Miss Michela Daniels?”
“Yes, I am,” Michela replied. “Can I…”
“This is for you.” The man handed her a large envelope. “Call the office if you have any questions.”
“Questions about what?” Michela began, but the man turned and walked down the front steps back to his car.
“What is it?” Ida asked.
“I don’t know.” Michela sat down on the sofa and opened the envelope. “What a strange man. You think he could have told us what this business was about.” She quickly read over the cover letter. “It seems someone wants to buy our house.” She looked up at Ida.
“But it’s not for sale,” Ida said. “Unless, you…”
“No.” Michela shook her head. “I still haven’t decided what to do in the fall. And I certainly would have talked to you first.”
Ida nodded. “Well, your mother left you this house. You should decide what you think best.”
Michela got up and gave her aunt a quick hug. “Aunt Ida, this is our house.”
“Thank you, Dear.” Ida patted her hand. “You’re very sweet, but we both know you might be going to college in the fall.”
“I’ve been accepted,” Michela said, “but that doesn’t mean I have to go.”
Ida glanced at her watch. “I’m going to be late if I don’t get a move on.” She smiled. “Why don’t you leave that business until tomorrow?” she asked, looking at the envelope. “We can talk about it after breakfast.”
Michela nodded. “That’s a good idea.”
After Ida left, Michela thought about it for a few moments, then decided to read the rest of the contents in the envelope. A firm called Wilson & Associates had received a request to find out if the property was available. They had an interested party willing to offer fair market value.
“They don’t even list a price,” Michela muttered to herself, glancing around the room. “I don’t want to sell.” She rubbed a hand over her face, then looked up at the photo of her mother on the fireplace mantle. “Mom, I don’t want to sell. I know you always dreamed of me going to college, but I just can’t do it. I can’t sell the last thing that reminds me of you.”
Michela pushed the papers aside and went out the back door. Walking around the house, she ended up at the fairy garden. She sank down and sat on the grass, running her finger along the edge of the garden. “I just can’t do it, Mom. I’ll have to find another way.”
She knew her mother had wanted her to go to college, but Michela had no idea what she wanted to do. Most of her friends knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives, but Michela had thought maybe she’d find something that interested her at college. She liked to do many things, but none of them seemed to be a career choice.
Michela leaned over and moved the little elf closer to the castle. He always seemed to end up back in the moss. She guessed it was the neighbor’s cat investigating. She was just thankful that’s all he did in the garden. He seemed to leave the birds and the rest of the figurines alone.
She smiled as a soft breeze blew the fragrance of alyssum towards her. She should plant some petunias here. They would be a little large, but the butterflies and moths would love it.
“Oh Mom, what am I going to do?” she whispered. “If we stay, I’ll have to find something to do. Even with the house paid in full, there are still utilities, insurance, taxes…so many expenses.” She paused. “Or I could spend my college fund.”
Her parents had set that up for her when she was just a baby. It wasn’t much, but it as enough to cover the first few years of her state college tuition.
“Aunt Ida gave up a lot to come stay with us,” she continued, running her hand along the wall of the castle. “If I used that money, I could make a few changes. Otherwise, she’s going to have to start looking at retirement homes. If she had a main floor bedroom and a full bath, she could stay right here.”
Michela felt the breeze again, and this time it smelled like lily of the valley. She glanced around. Those had stopped blooming long ago, but it was her mother’s favorite perfume. She smiled and nodded to herself. “I’m going to take this as a sign, Mom. That you want me to stay here and take care of Aunt Ida.”
She stood up and brushed off her hands. It was finally decided. College would have to wait…and she was not selling the house.
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