Fifteen years or so ago, I was talking with a friend, and we were discussing fairies and the odd things that happen around houses. Missing keys, locked doors, books or glasses moving and that kind of thing. She challenged me to write it into a story. This is the story. While the names and a few small details have been changed, the rest of the story is based on real events.

A Fairy TaleThe Coach House Painting

Our house always had fairies and things that went bump in the night. It was an old cottage in a little village in Suffolk. The house was timber and plaster with a rounded door. It had great big hinges and a key that must have been three inches long. There were funny little windows, and two round ones up in the attic. The hedge hid the garden from the road, and the gate was old and creaky. The front garden was full of flowers. The kind you don’t have to really tend, they just grow and all we ever did was pull a few weeds. Roses and daffs, primroses, peonies, forget-me-nots and gladiolas.

Behind the house was a horse paddock, and a barn. The two old horses, Serenade and Melody weren’t very lively. Good thing as sometimes we had to go into the paddock to get our ball. The barn was dark and old. A barn owl lived there, and we could hear her hooting in the night.

Our back garden was next to the barn and a field. The hedge was made up of old oaks and hawthorn. Father said it was suppose to keep witches away. Hawthorn is prickly enough to keep anything away! There was rhubarb for sauce and jam, elderberries and black bramble berries. Yum! Mummy made lots of jams and pies.

The lane was quiet and so was the village. Father worked in Cambridge, at the museum. It was full of dinosaur bones and old armor. Nat use to pretend to get lost just so that we could look in all the corners where children aren’t suppose to go. Mummy use to work at the museum too, but that was before we were born. Now she stays home and looks after us.

Late at night when we were tucked up in bed, and everyone else was asleep was when the fairies played. Nat and I slept in the attic and we had a fairy doll house that Poppy made. Poppy named it Gemma’s Cottage. That’s me, and I got it for my birthday. We’d always put all the bits away in the box, as our brothers Adam and Danny were mean sometimes. They’d take our stuff and hide it. Said that the fairies took it. Nat and I knew better. The fairies played with our stuff, but they always left it in the cottage. They brought stuff too. Acorn cups or bluebells and one time a bit of honeycomb! Our brothers never did that.

The fairies played with Mummy and Father’s stuff too. Mummy was always very careful with her glasses. She’d stick them in her pocket when she was done so she wouldn’t loose them. In the morning, Mummy would be running around looking for her glasses. They weren’t in her pocket. They weren’t on the dresser or nightstand. She looked everywhere.

Nat said, “Mummy, ask the fairies for them. Maybe they took them.”

Mummy gave Nat a funny look like she was being silly, but Nat wasn’t. Adam and Danny laughed when Mummy finally gave in.

“Dear Fairies, please give me back my glasses as I need to read the paper,” Mummy pleaded as she looked up and around the kitchen. She sighed and went on looking for her glasses. She went off to the dinning room to look again. We could hear the papers being moved about and books falling. Mummy was not happy.

“Love, ” Father called from the stairs.

“What John?”

“Do you know what your reading glasses are doing in my tweed jacket pocket?”


“Only I’ve just put it on and felt a lump in the pocket and there were your glasses,” Father said as he came down the stairs. He handed Mummy her glasses and walked off shaking his head. Mummy just stood there with her mouth open. She had no explanation for the glasses being in Father’s pocket. He’d only just picked the jacket up from the cleaners last night, and Mummy had had her glasses on in the sitting room just before we went to bed.

Nat and I knew……. fairies.

Every night before bed, Father would lock the big front door with the heavy key and then place it on a hook next to the door. The back door had a funny key too, but it was just about the size of my hand. They called it a skeleton key, but it didn’t look like any bones that I had ever seen. Mummy and Father each had one on a keyring. The back door was next to the drive where the car was parked. When Father came home late and in the back door, we could hear him turn the key in the lock. Our room was right above the back door and it made a lot of noise. He’d lock it again, and then hang his keys up in the cupboard. Father was very forgetful, so Mummy made him put his keys on a special hook.

One morning, Father was running late. He had lost his tie, and then his satchel. He was getting ever so mad, and grabbed for his keys as he went to open the door. No keys. And, the door was locked. If you ask me, there was a bear in Father’s suit that morning. He growled and yelled and did so many things that we had never seen Father do. He started looking all over the kitchen. Opening cupboards and drawers. Tossing dishes into the sink and threw Mummy’s paper in the bin. Adam and Danny ran for their room. I sat at the table and couldn’t move. Nat ran for Mummy’s handbag and the extra keys.

“Here Father!” she said as she handed him the keys. He took them, opened the back door and headed for the car. Mummy followed and was trying to say sorry and good bye all at the same time when Father yelled.

“Who… What on earth… Oh, I don’t believe this!”

“What is it dear?” Mummy asked.

Father stood there pointing to the steering column of the car. Nat and I peeped from around her and saw what Mummy saw. There in the locked car, in the ignition, were Father’s keys. He opened the door, muttered something to Mummy and then tossed her the spare set of keys. Off he drove in a cloud of dust, knowing he was very late.

Mummy was very puzzled too. She asked all of us if we had put the keys there. We hadn’t. Adam and Danny hadn’t either. They were both too little to get to the keys.

Nat and I knew……… fairies.

Father called around teatime. He told Mummy about a big accident on the A-11 into Cambridge. It made him even later for work, but the director of the museum wasn’t mad. He was just glad that Father wasn’t hurt. Mummy told us later, to thank the fairies for hiding Father’s keys. If they hadn’t, Father might have been right in the middle of the crash. We left Homewheat biscuits and milk for the fairies in the doll house that night. They must have liked them, because all that was left in the morning were a few crumbs.

Just as we knew that the fairies had been there, we knew when scary things happened. Mummy was washing dishes while we were eating our tea. A shadow went past the window and Mummy dropped a dish. She flung open the door and looked out. We went to look too, but we didn’t see anything. Mummy was very pale. When we asked her what was wrong, she said, “I think I just saw a ghost.”

Later that evening, when we were suppose to be tucked up in bed, Nat and I snuck down the stairs to listen to Mummy and Father.

“I know what I saw John, and it was very startling.”

“But a ghost?”

“Yes. She was dressed in dark blue with a bonnet and a basket under her arm. I looked out the door right after she passed and there was no one in the garden or even on the lane.”

“Well, let’s not get too excited about it. Perhaps it was just Glenda going to feed the horses.”

“It wasn’t! I know Glenda when I see her, and there was no way for anyone to disappear so fast.”

Father just nodded as he knew he wouldn’t win an argument with Mummy. Plus, we knew it was true.

A few weeks later, Father was gardening in the back and we were making fairy baskets for the cottage. Adam and Danny were watching the horses when Father shouted. We rushed out thinking that Adam or Danny had fallen or gotten hurt. Mummy went to Father who was very pale.

“Whatever is the matter dear?” She asked.

“I …. um… oh, you’ll never believe me,” he sighed.

“Believe what dear?”

“I just saw a ghost. A man. In a top hat and long coat with a whip over his shoulder.”

Mummy smiled and asked, “And where did you see this gentleman?”

“He walked down the lane and through the garden gate. Right in front of me. In fact, I thought I hit him with the spade until I realized that it went right through him,” Father said in a shaky voice.

Just about then, Adam and Danny chimed in that they had seen him too. The ghost had walked to the barn and disappeared. Mummy smiled at Father, and we all went back to what we had been doing. Father of course believed Mummy now.

As we grew up, we saw the ghosts from time to time. However, the fairies seemed to multiply. Nat and I decided that they liked us, so we would leave them treats. Especially when they kept Father safe. One time, Grandpa Rope came to visit us from America. He was Mummy’s father. He was so stern and tall that we thought the fairies would never play tricks on him. We were wrong. They tied his bootlaces together. Grandpa Rope blamed Adam and Daniel. They moved his comb and wallet, and Nat and I got the blame. We told him it was fairies, but he didn’t believe in fairies. So, they pinched him. All over his arms and legs he had little pinch marks. Grandpa Rope blamed the cat. Said she had fleas and made Mummy put her outside. Kitty Starr didn’t like that.

Just before Grandpa Rope was getting ready to leave for America, he put all of his papers high up on the sideboard where none of us could reach. He still thought that we were making things move or disappear. We could hear him grumbling to Mummy even though we weren’t on the stairs.

In the morning, Grandpa Rope was growling. He sounded just like Father the first time the fairies took his keys.

“Where have those children put my passport!”

“I don’t know Dad. They aren’t even up yet. Plus, you were the last one up and closed this door. No one has been in there till just now,” Mummy said.

“Well, call them down here and have them look for it. I have to be to the train in an hour,” he huffed.

Mummy called us down and we all looked for the passport. Father was looking behind all the books on the bookcase. He was sneezing as there was a lot of dust on the books. He was just moving the heavy history books on the bottom when there under the last book was Grandpa Rope’s passport.

“How did that get there?”

“Your children put it there of course!” Grandpa shouted. He was still very mad.

“How? Look at how heavy they are, and the books were covered with dust! If the children had put the passport there, they would be covered in dust too. Not to forget that there wouldn’t have been any dust to cover me,” Father said.

Grandpa Rope just shook his head. He took his passport and said his goodbyes. He still thought that we had done it. Father took him to the train and off he flew to America. As to who had hid the passport?

Nat and I knew…….Fairies!

The year that Nat went off to University, the rest of us moved to America. Father had been offered a position at a University in the Rocky Mountains. It was ever so strange to pack up everything we owned and to leave England. The last thing I did before we left the house was to take some Hobnob biscuits and milk down to the back garden. I left them for the fairies. Mummy had said that the fairies wouldn’t come with us to America. I was sad that they weren’t coming, but I understood that their place was in the hedges and fields of Suffolk.

Our new house was very modern. America was a big place. The mountains were impressive. Snow fell thick in the winter. It was so different than our little village. We had to get use to new schools, a city and such funny accents. Danny didn’t want to talk because the children in the new school stared at him.

I missed the fairies and the ghosts. Father never lost his keys, nor Mummy her glasses. No one ate the ‘cookies’ we left out, and my fairy cottage from Poppy grew dusty. America didn’t seem to have fairies. Or, if they did, there weren’t many about. I certainly couldn’t find them.

One afternoon as I came home from school, I saw that Father’s car was in the drive. I wondered why he was home so early. As I entered the kitchen, I heard voices. There in the middle of the kitchen with Mummy and Father was Nat! She had come to visit during Spring Holiday.

We were all so happy to see her. It seemed like forever and not just a year. We had a wonderful dinner, and afterwards, Nat handed out prezzies to all of us. She brought Adam and Danny the Beano Comics and sweetie treats that they had missed. Mummy got tea and lavender soap from Culpeppers. Father got a book and some wine. My present was the last she took from her bag. It was odd shaped and very heavy. I couldn’t figure out what it was and so tore the wrapping off. Into my hand fell the great big front door key from our cottage!Fairy key

“Oh Nat! Whenever did you take it?”

” I grabbed it just as we left. I’ve had it with me at Uni, and when I was ready to fly over, I couldn’t think of anything else to bring to you,” she smiled.

I hugged and thanked her. When we went up to bed, I put it on my dresser. I was so happy to have that link to our cottage. Mummy thought it was a very odd gift, but she just smiled.

In the morning as I was getting ready for school, I could hear Father shouting at Mummy.

“Where are my keys!”

“I don’t know dear, where did you leave them?” Mummy asked.

“Right here on the counter in the kitchen.”

Father sounded very cross. I got my bag and headed downstairs at the same time Nat came out of the bathroom. We looked at each other and suddenly, it all made sense.

“Father! Go look in the car!” I shouted as I bounced down the steps. I was smiling, and Father thought that I was playing tricks on him. Out we went to the car, and there in the ignition were Father’s keys. The doors were locked, and Mummy brought her set so that Father could get in. As he raced off to work, Nat and I just smiled.

Nat and I knew…….. Fairies!

They had come with Nat on the key. Not many of them, but it was good to have them in the house. Mummy said we were Fairy Light.

April 2001

2 thoughts on “A Fairy Tale

  1. The first house we lived in after we got married had a big old key, so big was it that in the end we never bothered locking the door since that meant we would have to carry it around. We had a gremlin who must have liked to write since I would put my pen down on the table to go make a cup of tea and come back to find it gone no matter how I searched it would not appear till I told gremlin he had had it long enough and I wanted to finish my story. Go to make another cup of tea and there it would be back on the table when I came back. Ahhh happy memories.

    1. To this day, when something goes missing, I ask the Fairies to give it back. With a please and thank you too!
      Oh, and my mom gave me a big plaque which says… Don’t Piss Off the Fairies!

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