By Korie Pelka
The fairy ring was silent as she entered, holding her breath and possibly her future. They could hear you, if you let them.
The ring had always fascinated her, exerting an energy that drew her more strongly than any other place in the woods. It was a night place. The world had those; day places and night places. She liked the mystery of the night. It forced her senses to come alive and focused her thoughts. It revealed things hidden, but true – even truer sometimes, than daylight reality. She took a deep breath, needing the cool, damp smell of dead tree fall to fill her like water, calming her bubbling, gurgling thoughts while plumping up her nerves. Here she would meet those hidden truths. It was time.
She chose her seat with care, a large cedar log with good sightlines to all pathways into the ring, though she couldn’t say why that mattered. The moonlight was fading as fast as her courage. Yet, the night’s inky darkness comforted her, telling her it was alright to take this time for herself, to feel every bit of every feeling.
This was a seeking of her own choosing. She’d told no one of her journey here; afraid of revealing the truth about her marriage, afraid of her husband’s anger, afraid to face her inner truth – afraid, afraid, afraid. She’d lived in fear so long it had lulled her into sleepwalking acceptance. Yet, events of last night had slapped her awake with a fierceness that drove her here tonight. She needed to be brave for the sake of her children. She needed to face this alone. And she needed patience, her inner voice reminded her, at which she rolled her eyes. Patience was not her strong suit, but she needed it tonight. So, she waited knowing they would come. How long she waited, she wouldn’t be able to say afterward.
The Answers arrived according to their own timetable, like trains in Rome or buses in Tarifa. They hovered at the edge of the ring, unsure if she was ready to receive them. Their discordant chattering sounded like the buzz backstage before the curtain reveals the players. Yet, as agreement settled in, they hushed, fully aware of their roles and the life-altering words they were about to carry into the ring.
These were Answers that came before her questions, like Jeopardy, playing games with her soul. Answers to questions she was now forced to ask herself in order to protect her children. She didn’t need sight to sense them. It was time.
The first Answer was the color of Dentyne gum and old-fashioned embroidered roses on faded upholstery. While small in stature, its impact would be huge. The creature drifted slowly into the fairy ring, surfing on the gentle breeze, coming to shore at the feet of the woman who had yet to ask the question. It knelt before her and looked up. “This is going to hurt,” it warned, “but you already know that.”
She nodded. This Answer had been haunting her for years. Now, here it was, sitting at her feet, holding her tight, grounding her inescapably. She nodded again and, with deep conviction, the Answer spoke.
Her heart plummeted. This Answer was not unexpected and maybe, not even unwanted. But its sudden reality hit hard.
She expected tears. Instead, she felt anger. “Yes, I need to leave him. He’s already left me . . . and the boys.”
She could accept that he no longer wanted her. What she couldn’t understand was him leaving the children. Those bright, beautiful, adoring souls who loved him with all their little hearts; who waited at the front window each night for his car to pull into the driveway, waiting until she was forced to pull them away and sing their sorrow to sleep. “How many nights of broken promises can those little hearts take,” she wondered, “How many days of unknown fear before real damage is done?”
On cue, a big sturdy Answer dressed in rugged blue denim wearing a baseball cap made of hope, stepped into the ring. Its presence commanded her attention and tugged at her heart. “They are strong but need protection. You will need to show them the way through your love,” it said, coming to sit beside her on the log.
She leaned her head against its shoulder, knowing again, this was the Answer to her doubts. It took her hand, emitting a low, earthy hum of encouragement. She clung to it and took a deep breath, exhaling with a responding hum. The two sounds merged into one strong note, surrounding them, echoing around the ring, sinking into the roots of the trees to form a circle of protection.
As the sound faded, she began to cry. This decision would create a loss that was just too hard to imagine. Before she could form the next question, she felt a feathery weight on her right shoulder, light but steady. A green, pixie-like Answer whispered in her ear. “You will have to be both mother and father sometimes.” The tiny creature fluttered against her cheek. “You question whether you can do it and the answer is yes. We are here to help you, if you will let us.”
This, then, was the first lesson: asking for help. Could she be brave enough, humble enough, fearsome enough, to ask for help when she needed it? Who could she trust to help her? More questions flooded her mind. But it was not yet time for those Answers. For now, she hoped she had what she needed, if she could find the courage.
They sat in the deepening silence, settling into their new roles. The wind shifted ever so slightly, carrying with it a curtain of fireflies emerging like bright glimpses of giggles and hugs.
She looked down at her Dentyne Rose Answer, draped across her toes, holding her steady and grounding her in the decision to leave. Her feet gained roots, growing into the forest carpet, searching for strength from the sugar pines and ancient sequoias.
She hugged her Blue Denim Answer, knowing it would always be visible to her through the eyes of her boys, guiding her to be strong and brave.
With a nod of her head, she invited her Green Pixie Answer to hop into her pocket. This Answer she would need to keep close.
She took a deep breath and heard her Answers intone a mantra she would repeat countless times in the coming years, “Go live your version of your best self and show your children what freedom and choice look like.” She stood and surveyed the ring. Night had faded as quickly as her questions and doubts. Hints of daylight and the future peeked through the trees. It would be years before she returned.
She entered like a warrior huntress with a beat-up quiver and well-worn bow. The ring remained as a place out of time. Her cedar log waited for her; the damp tree fall still elixir for her nerves. This time, the bright daylight held no shadows or fears. She’d met them along the way and faced them down, one by one, with the help of her faithful companions. It was time to release her dear Answers from that dark night, back into the ring, setting them free to help others in need.
She had, indeed, left him. As her solid Dentyne Rose Answer released from her feet, she felt lighter and ready to travel a road of adventure, her gypsy spirit free to seek unknown happiness.
Her boys were now men-children, products of her nightly quiz, “Did I try my best? Did I laugh? Did I hug my children today?” If she answered yes to all three, it was a successful day. Consecutive days of yes added up to a life she could live with. Her Blue Denim Answer, a constant companion through years of testosterone-filled angst, gave her one more hope-filled hug and strode into the forest. “I hope he takes some time off,” she thought. “My boys put him through hell!”
Finally, her dear Green Pixie Answer flitted worriedly around her, knowing they must part, yet afraid of leaving her too soon. She released it with a tender smile full of love and gratitude. The years of lessons were etched deeply in her soul. She’d learned to value vulnerability, sit with sorrow, accept loneliness, dig deep in her dark places and bring light to them. Ultimately, she learned that love for her children could see her through anything life threw at her.
Watching her dearest, deepest Answer move back into the lush forest, she stretched, inhaling the sunshine. Today was the kind of warm that toasted her soul and hugged her with possibilities. Time to go in search of more Answers to the questions deep within.
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