This story is by Elin Molin and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The child tumbled out of the house, stumbling in the yellow rubber boots she still wore years after she’d outgrown them. Her tiny toes ached but she refused to buy new ones. She grinned as she tugged at the elder’s grey coat to make her hurry up.
“Hold on, love.” The timeworn lady rummaged her pockets in search of the key, as her granddaughter started to gallop down the driveway. “I’ll be right there.” She grabbed the right one. She’d already concluded that this would be one special anniversary, but it still was a day she feared. She let out a heavy breath and locked the door.
The grandma faced the six-year-old kid whose smile could make any worry she had disappear. It was that time of year again, Catherine concluded, when the trees are on fire and the air become crisper with every day that passed. She grabbed a hold of the child’s hand, and then they were off.
They skipped down the street hand in hand. Catherine left all the troubles at the driveway, and they were off on a remarkable adventure.
Elsa came to a sudden stop when they had only half the street left. “Grandma!” she exclaimed. “Can you see the fire fairies?” She stared at her favourite person in the entire world. It took Catherine a few seconds to figure out what Elsa meant, and then she saw it too. The leaves fell and flew for a while with the light breeze. They sparkled in the trees and whispered secrets to each other. You could almost hear them speak if you were quiet enough.
“Of course I do,” Catherine grinned and had almost forgotten everything that had troubled her earlier. She pointed at the trees, “and that is the enchanted forest they live in.”
Elsa’s mouth fell open as she squinted at the maples. “Oh granny, can I climb in the forest?”
“Of course, honey.” Catherine smiled at the youngling and desperately wished she could as well. It had been forever since she’d climbed, but she couldn’t climb anymore due to a bad knee.
Elsa took off towards the trees. She sprinted like her life depended on it, until she came to a sudden stop. She turned right around and furrowed her brows. “Do you think the fairies would mind?”
Catherine thought about it for a second. “No, honey, but make it quick. They want to be left alone too.” She watched as her granddaughter disappeared up the closest tree in the enchanted forest.
Elsa could see the world from up there. She saw the street where she grew up. By one of the houses was the driveway where she’d learned to bike last spring, and where she and grandma had endless tea parties. If she turned around, she could see the playground with the best slide and the swings she loved, and even further away was the garden with all the stones and the writing on them.
She could have stayed up there forever, and she would have if it hadn’t been for what her grandma said. The fairies adored company, but wanted to be alone too. She sighed as she made her way down again.
“I saw the world!” Elsa grasped Catherine’s hand. “It was beautiful!”
They continued their adventure towards the garden with the weird stones. Hand in hand, they walked on a path through the forest. Elsa twirled around every once in awhile, and Catherine needed to guide her forward for them not to be stuck by one particular tree or gazing at one especially magical fairy.
Elsa skipped between endless puddles in the enchanted forest. As she found an especially deep one, she jumped up and down. Her pants got soaked, but Catherine didn’t have the heart to tell her to stop. The child looked so ecstatic that the grandma had to join her. It took them a few minutes to part from the puddle and continue their quest.
When Elsa saw the playground reveal its contour in front of them, she let go of Catherine’s hand and ran. She tumbled and stumbled around the slide that matched her yellow boots and the well-worn oak swings. She jumped onto the left one and swung back and forth. The air brushed across her blushing cheeks. Two tight braids played with the wind. Elsa wanted to hold her arms out and fly, but she knew better than that. She knew from experience that she’d fall and get hurt. That would end the adventure way earlier than it had to.
Catherine rested against the slide as Elsa beamed with joy. She couldn’t help it but to crack a smile. This child had been her saviour and she was over the moon about being her best friend in a difficult time for them both. The last few years had been a challenge, and Catherine knew she wouldn’t have made it without her young partner in crime.
“Let’s go.” Elsa had made her way from the swings. She knew the adventure had to continue.
They would soon reach the end station of their adventure, and Elsa lingered her steps. She didn’t want it to end just yet. Catherine had to force her forward for her not to stop completely.
The graveyard spread in front of them. It was only when the fence and the grand entrance was right in front of them that Elsa stopped struggling. They stood there and looked up in awe. The steel gate was magnificent. It stared down at them, and Catherine felt just as small as her grandchild.
Catherine swallowed and grasped onto Elsa’s hand. “Let’s go inside,” she said and pushed the gate open. They left the sparkling trees and the fire fairies behind.
The graveyard was quiet. Inside the gate was only the stones and the occasional lawn with yellow-turning grass. The grandma and her granddaughter walked quietly through the garden with the stones. A breeze made the forest whisper to them. They both wanted to turn around and return to the maple trees and the fairies. The gravel crunched under their boots. Elsa looked at the gravestones and let her gaze play over the beautiful lettering. She wished she knew what they said. She wondered if they all told remarkable tales of long lost friends.
It didn’t take long for them to find the one stone Elsa knew inside and out.
“Do you think mama can hear me?” Elsa whispered.
Catherine was suddenly aware of how young Elsa actually was. She sat down and looked the little vibrant human right in the eyes. “I think your mama is always by your side, so she can listen to you talk all the time.” She hugged her grandchild’s hands. “And I think she follows you on every adventure you go on.”
They turned to face the stone. Elsa wondered if her mother was on spectacular adventures on her own now, but she didn’t say anything. That was a question for another time.
Catherine stood up and looked at her daughter’s grave. ‘I’m taking care of Elsa for you,’ she thought and made a mental note to bring a flower to the grave the following day.
“Can we go home now?” Elsa begged. She’d had enough of this huge garden with all its haunting shadows.
Catherine nodded, and knew she could stay longer tomorrow and tell her daughter all about her and Elsa’s wonderful adventures.
“Let’s go home and make you a warm cup of chocolate.”
Elsa grinned and hugged her grandmother. She knew Catherine made the best chocolate in the entire city. “I love you, granny.”
“I love you too, sweetie.”
This marked the end of the day’s epic quest.