Tears streaming down her face, the young girl entered the cottage and flung herself face down onto the straw mattress. The old lady looked at the younger one and nodded.
“What’s wrong, my child,” the young mother asked as she got up and walked to the girl.
“The kids in the village all tease me. They say I’m strange. I look different from them and I don’t have a father. Where is my father?”
“Years ago I had to visit my aunt in the village on the other side of the forest. I was late coming home and it grew dark. I was afraid I’d lost my way when I saw a faint light. I followed it, not realizing I was being led deeper into the forest. After what seemed like ages I entered a small clearing. The floating light had stopped. As I approached the light it turned into an elfish prince. I fainted. When I awoke I was alone. But something special must have happened, for in nine months you were born.”
“Really?” The child was wide eyed in wonder.
“Yes, really. I’m sure your father is still someplace out in the forest, and perhaps he is now king of the fair folk, an elvish king in the deep woods. He might even watch you from his secret spot in the forest as you play in the fields. Don’t tell anyone though, for it is bad luck to cross the fair folk. Keep this as our secret, OK?”
“Now go back out and play and don’t let those mean words do you any harm, for you aren’t strange, you’re special.”
“OK, mommy.” The little girl got up and ran back into the dusty street.
When the child was out of hearing the old lady said, “The day your step-father died you ran away. You came back a year later with a baby in your arms. You hinted you were in the city and I always assumed she must be the child of some foreigner to look as she does.”
The young mother thought back to her cruel stepfather and the day she had made sure he would never touch her again. Afterwards she had run into the forest. Quickly lost, she followed a light deeper and deeper, farther and farther away from home. The flickering light always stay just out of hand’s reach. It stopped and she knew nothing more until she woke up in a clearing. Or was the light just a dream? She never knew, nor how long she had slept. By the time she had made it to the city many weeks later she was already heavy with child. In her mind her daughter was always the child of the floating light, for the only other alternative was too hard to bare.
“A man from a far off land or an elvish prince, what difference does it make when you tell fairy stories?” she aksedthe old lady, her mother.
Her mother, nodded as if guessing her thoughts.
“Your daughter does float like a fairy princess. Perhaps it’s best she believes that she really is one.”
The young mother walk to the door and watched the kids play in the fields at the edge of the village. Beyond the fields she could see the tangled form of the dark forest. Was that a light in the woods? Was the light focusing on her daughter? On his daughter?
A thrill went up her spine. Yes, it was much better than the alternative.