Read first: Sunny and Eve – part one
“S’that yer daughter, Jakob?” someone asked.
Eve stood a little tremulously in her solidly soled shoes on a street spread with awnings and carpets, jumbled with multi-colored, many textured, differingly dense and angled objects. Around these, the street was confused with motion and cries. Her father had arranged his wagon to display thread and cloths of various fibers and dyes. And there was the hope chest. A fairy’s hope chest can store unusual wares: so Eve stood a little tremulously in the jumbled street surrounded by intricate, wispy prisms – tethered to moonbeams and flickers of candlelight.
Father had not let her wear the cloak from the chest, though it weighed as little as wind in grass. The cloak was not for wearing, he explained. He had only reluctantly agreed to take her to market. “I can sell my castle,” she said, “and then I can tell Sunny about being a fairy, when I magically give her the coins.”
Father had put his pipe in his mouth. He already refused Eve the cloak: he could not explain a refusal to take her to market without causing the pain he feared. So the hope chest had been loaded into his wagon on Market Day.
Now he nodded a reply. “Yes, that’s my Eve.”
“Such a cloud around her, I wasn’t sure,” the man in the street said.
“It’s an embassy of bears,” Eve spoke. The man scratched his ear, looked at Eve’s father, at the other side of the street, back at Eve, unsure of his hearing. Eve’s words scattered like tiny blown feathers in the crammed street. “And here is the wind playing a cello, and a tree bowing to a snail.”
The man chuckled. “I can almost see that. What a patch of fog: someone must have thrown out soapy water earlier – these days you’d think people’ld be less wasteful. My little girl sees pictures in the cloud too.” He hailed someone across the street.
As the morning wore on, Eve’s wares faded, their edges unraveling to formless air.
“Can I hang these pictures on my wall? Or do I string them on a necklace?” A lady whose momentary attention Eve gleaned was humoring her: Jakob’s wife had been harmlessly strange. Then this was their daughter… The lady was wearing pearls: earrings glittered when she turned away.
But Eve’s magic would not stay visible long enough to hang on a wall, or a form a trinket for a chain. Magic vapor was almost as brief as other vapor: even while her wares floated around her, few people could see more than shimmering tufts of fog – soon these simply vanished from the sturdier shapes she stood among.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“I wanted to bring you coins,” Eve wavered, when Sunny greeted her on their return. Sunny was peeling potatoes. Behind Eve, Father shook his head and made a gesture Sunny could not interpret. Later he went out to her in the garden: Eve stayed in the house tenuously sitting, kneeling, straying to a window, drumming fingers light as echoed rain.
As Sunny listened to their father talk about Eve, she felt ache she did not understand, and pangs of new worry; but she covered this with listening. After he had explained about Eve’s magic and their mother, he added: “As the magic grows stronger in Eve, her frame will weaken. If she fashions a magic strong enough, she’ll lose her frame.”
“Like mother giving birth to us,” Sunny said gently. She had set down a watering jug, which she filled less full these days. “– Giving birth to Eve,” she corrected herself: Eve was the magic one.
“To both of you,” father said gruffly. “She fashioned you too, Sunny.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sunny was sitting in her mother’s rocking chair, humming an old song and taking in an old dress for a girl in the village, when Will came to say goodbye. Another border town had been raided, and he had to report to the army. Eve sat at the table swirling her fingers in old dishwater. “You should cover that: you could boil and reuse it,” Will said.
“She can play with it awhile yet,” Sunny replied. They went outside to talk. The ground was cracking under their feet.
“The more water you let her play with, the less for the garden, or tea or soup.”
Sunny said nothing. Water was hauled from the lake, and could be purchased from traveling merchants, but it was expensive. She could not deny that her garden needed it.
“Eve never changes to meet the world –” Will broke off. “This war and drought won’t allow us to remain children, Sunny,” his tone was not harsh. “But it makes a difference, if I have to use a bayonet, to think of you still growing things.”
Sunny’s feeling about her sister was bruised, tender and untouchable: she would not even know how to explain Eve, or their mother. So she said nothing until Will talked about different things.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Later, their own village was attacked. Father concealed Sunny and Eve in the small back room he used for weaving. He tucked them atop built-in cabinets where he kept wares, behind the loom: there was space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. “Stay hidden,” he commanded.
Eve and Sunny huddled behind piles of dyed fleece while he blew out the candles. Then soldiers burst in. Wherever father hid, they quickly cornered him, ransacking the main room. Sunny and Eve heard thuds, dragging furniture, smashing glass, three voices. Two of the voices trailed to the bedroom.
Eve knew that a covered dishpan stood by the sink, and that moonlight was streaming through the windows. She slipped off the top of the cabinet, light as wind in grass. In darkness, Sunny did not realize her sister had gone. Eve rose up in shadows, glided through them like a silent shuttle through a loom. In the main room, Father was holding his side, leaning against a wall: a soldier stood over him. Dishes from the cupboards lay in shards on the floor: as Eve flitted through these, she saw a silver gleam. The soldier was looking at a pocketwatch. She noiselessly lifted the cover from the dishpan…
So it was that Father noticed a shining swirl on the rim of his downcast sight and looked up. He grimly shook his head in the direction of the sink. Then the soldier with the pocketwatch saw a luminous mist pass before his eyes. And it seemed to him that the mist strangely resembled a hedgehog with a scepter … followed by a roe playing the lute … these forms gave way to others, but they danced around him so quickly he could not make them out. One of his companions emerged from the bedroom – “What are you doing?”
He went over and shoved father. “What is this?”
The first soldier had been half pulled, half stumbled from the dance of Eve’s dreams, still holding the watch. “How can anyone control fog?” he asked. But the dance had widened, still circling. To the soldiers it looked like a filigree of otters approaching a waterfall of rainbow mist. These were followed by fireflies: hundreds of translucent-winged gleams, colors of dew at dawn. Then there were evanescent wolves whirling with mandolins, stately weasels, veiled rabbits. Both men stood mesmerized: the third soldier in the entry to the bedroom stood agape. “Does that one look to you like a flying lettuce?” someone whispered.
A voice like a chink of starlight floated past. “It’s a bumblebee carrying a chicken.”
Sunny, who felt she was a mere heart hammering in her strained ears on top the cupboard, understood that Eve was not with her. She bounded down and raced to help. On the threshold of the main room, she ever afterward saw three things. The first, a look of rest flickering over anxiety on father’s moonlit face – as if he heard strains of music. The second, a moonlit fist battering into father’s cheekbone. The third, a silver pocketwatch falling from that fist.
“Stop it!” the soldier shouted at father, hitting again. “Whatever you’re doing, stop!”
Eve flew over shards of crockery and took hold of the soldier’s arm. He easily threw her back: she fell like a spent wave. Sunny ran to her sister: she too was sent sprawling. Hurting on the floor, she heard father fight towards them; but the soldiers dragged him from the house.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
They found out that father had been taken to a work site with other men from the village, to spin and weave garments for the enemy’s army.
“Will you put father’s pipe on the table?” Eve asked the day after the raid. “He might need it.”
It had been left lying on the floor in the struggle: Sunny put it away in a cupboard. The sight of it so far from Father’s hand or mouth or pocket was hard to bear. But she took the pipe out again: it was all Eve said that day. Sunny was up sweeping glass, pulling furniture back in place, helping others do the same, and returned to her old strength quickly.
Eve could not rise for weeks. She had breathed out much of her strength spinning the dance around the soldiers, and her life among solid shapes was always uncertain and wavering: as if she were balancing on many sharp edges. The soldier’s blow crumpled her fragile frame, and as she lay weakly breathing, she could only think that her magic had not helped father.
Sunny pushed Eve’s bed up against the back window, and did what she could to strengthen her. Something needed mending beyond what her practical hands could do. She went rummaging in their mother’s hope chest and brought Eve one of the frail bottles: it was tinted like the last light on wet sand. ‘I think you could fill this full of magic fireflies,’ Sunny said.
But even if Eve spun the bottle full of magic fireflies, it would not bring coins to buy fuel or food. The water it would take was precious in the sharp dimensions of the world. And the magic would fade.
Sunny understood that something about Eve’s relation to her magic was sick. She did not know how to help. She only knew what she herself had learned.
“Eve,” she said softly. “There is always the gift of service. Even if we can’t do other things. It’s as free and as common as the beauty of the earth. No matter what happens – no matter what we still have to suffer – we can always help each other.”
After awhile, Sunny stretched herself on the edge of Eve’s bed. She was afraid to hold Eve, whose frame seemed so paper thin it might crumple: but she made a warm cradle of her hand, and Eve’s fairy fingers rested in it all night.
Illustration by Will Kelly
Will is an illustrator who loves telling stories with pictures and sharing good things with others. He’s been drawing since he was very small. He has done work for various publishers & galleries, including Light Grey Art Lab in Minneapolis. The last time anyone checked, Will was known to be residing in Tennessee.
Lately she loves trying to translate lyric, metaphysical Spanish poetry into English.A small first collection of her own poetry is available at: https://animapoetry.uk/
She especially values Gabriela Mistral's 7th 'Decalogue of the Artist', because it reflects the hope of consolation visible in God's handiwork: "The beauty you create shall be known as compassion and shall console the hearts of men."