The Peril of Pretzels
Pretzels were ultimately responsible. Most people have no idea how to tempt a pixy. Some leave a saucer of milk, but only a brownie would drink something that came from a cow. Then there’s the usual fare: sparkling pieces of foil, colored glass, costume jewelry, bits of waxed twine, berries, seashells, orange peels and flower blossoms. Interesting, all of it, but not enough to lure someone like me.
It was the setup that threw me–amateurish and lop-sided, I thought it was a bird house. On the lowest branch of the Mimosa tree, a child had hung a small milk carton, decorated with pink and green flowers cut from scrap paper. A rectangular hole was cut in the front, providing an ample doorway. Inside, in the far corner, lay my downfall–a long pretzel stick covered in crystalline chunks of salt. I would have dusted at the sight–if I’d had any dust left. I hadn’t eaten in two days.
I should have shown more caution, although I’m not sure I could have resisted even if I’d seen the trap. Pretzels are tricky, crunchy things.
I stepped over the lip of the doorway and ducked under a dandelion propped into the corner. I didn’t realize I was stuck until I tried to leave. The floor of the milk carton had been coated in some sort of glue. As, apparently, was the wall. I’d braced myself to duck back under the flower. Now I couldn’t let go.
I sneezed and my best bell-hat fell off, landing in the glue next to my feet.
“Hallo?” It was Saffron. Of all the pixies to find me like this, he was the worst. I’d never hear the end of it. Saffron was a first son of a first son, and his mother never let anyone forget it. She specialized in two things: plum-mint tarts and elevating Saffron’s social status through the methodical and persistent destruction of everyone else’s.
“Blu, Blu, Blu.” He laughed so hard his wings shimmered in the sun. “Look who finally got caught. Mother’ll love this one.” His sharp eyes hadn’t missed my feet hardening in a pool of lacquer. I pulled on my foot, hoping to tug it from the boot, but the laces were tied tight. Saffron darted in, tucking up his wings and wedging himself against opposite walls–he wasn’t stupid enough to land. “Those new boots?” Another smirk.
“These?” I tried a nonchalant shrug, resisting the urge to spit on him. “I have two pair just like them at home.”
“Two more?” He snorted. “And thistles make good soup, Blu. You couldn’t afford two more boots if someone gave them to you.
“What do you want?” I was in no mood for Saffron’s games today. He started to speak and I cut him off. “For your silence and your help.” I was wasting my breath. He was still happily attached to his mother’s tit.
“I would have asked for your hat,” he snickered, glancing at the floor, “but I prefer something less…sticky.” I glared at him. He leaned over and tweaked my breast. He’d been waiting a long time for the chance. I flushed but there was no room to retreat. He smiled, waiting for me to say something, hoping for the opportunity to spread word of my misfortune.
“Your dome would do me nice, I think.” He knew better than to look me in the eye when he said it.
“My house? Where am I supposed to sleep?” I’d be killed by the first frost.
“You could always stay here.” Saffron shrugged with a rattle of gold-tipped wings.
I made a sound of protest. “Not a lot of options,” he said, his eyes back on my chest. “I’ll have your vow.”
“You think I’m a liar?”
“Doesn’t matter what I think, Blu. You give me your vow, you can’t back out.” He laughed and I almost, almost dropped the pretzel to knock him off his cocky little perch. “In advance,” he smirked. He must have seen my expression.
“My vow, then,” I told him. “My dome to you, in return for your assistance and discretion.”
“Madame Blu.” He tipped his hat and ducked out the doorway. “I’ll return presently.”
“Presently” could mean anything–I hadn’t thought to stipulate a time-frame. Tears sprung to my eyes. I’d promised him my house, my beautiful little house, just yesterday decorated with buttercup petals and hanging fern leaves. More tears welled, but before panic could set in, there was a noise outside and the milk carton tipped, a violent rocking motion that made the only possession I had left in the world–my pretzel, fall to the floor and lodge itself in the glue at my feet.
I cursed, and a pair of wide, sky-blue eyes peered in at me. “That’s a bad word, little fairy.” For a moment, my heart stopped beating. I’d been Seen. Not just trapped, but Seen. It was an offense punishable by death.
Chubby fingers, grimy with dirt and coated with something purple, reached in, grabbed me around the waist and pulled. I tried not to make a sound. The punishment for talking was disembowelment before you were killed. Despite my intentions, getting yanked out of my boots and losing the skin off my hand hurt enough I couldn’t stop the scream.
“Come on, little fairy. I’m gonna take you home. I gotta a dog and a cat and now a fairy. I used to have a bird, but Petey died. You can have his cage. Door’s broken though, so my mom’ll have to clip your wings. Just like Petey.”
My vision greyed as the grubby fist squashed me in an unholy grip, but as I was carried out of the sun and into a dark house that smelled of cats, I caught sight of Saffron’s mother, hovering next to the old Hemlock and watching me with a crooked little smile.