Monday, August 29, 2022

The Butterfly Wellies

By Selena Jones

Mom, look!  Oh, Dad, stop the car!”

“Charlotte, it’s getting late,” her mother sighed.

“Ugh, not again!  Dad!  I’m hungry.”   Her oldest brother, put his face in his hand with a dramatic pout.  

“Daddy, please!  Look at those trees!”  Charlotte leaned up so her dad could see her very best puppy-dog-eyes in the rearview mirror.   “Just for a few minutes, promise.”

Her parents exchanged a glance and her mom gave a little smile to her husband.

Slowing the car down, her dad responded “Okay, Lala, but just for a minute. We’re going to be late checking into the B&B.”  The puppy-dog-eyes didn’t always work, but it was always worth a try.  

Her dad pulled off onto a little dirt path from the main road.  If you can call a narrow English lane such a thing as a main road.   Mom rifled through her bag to see if there were any munchies left for her starving sons.  They were already back to their tablets, swiping up and down, foreheads pursed in concentration.  

Quick as lightning, Charlotte reached over the front seat and grabbed her dad’s big, black camera and hopped out of the car.  

“Lala, wait! You be careful with that…”  Slam went the car door and she was off into the trees.  

Charlotte had been called Lala for as long as she could remember.  Her parents always teased her about spending so much time in LaLa Land and the name had stuck.  Charlotte loved words and stories and pictures.  Her Gigi would call her My Little Dreamer and give her a wink as she handed her a new book.  Charlotte just couldn’t help it.  It’s the way she was made.  

She pulled the long black camera strap around her neck and climbed over some moss-covered stones.  Her rain boots crunched through the leaves and twigs of the thick underbrush.   

When Charlotte had found out they were going to England for their summer vacation, she had begged her Mom for new rain boots.  Everyone knows it rains all the time in England.  When she found these green ones covered in butterflies, she just had to have them.  Luckily, they were on sale and she didn’t have to break out the puppy-dog-eyes to get them.   

She had worn them every day so far of their vacation.  The fact that it hadn’t rained a drop since they had arrived was a small detail, really. 

Once Charlotte had moved into the middle of the little glade she stopped and stood very still.  She turned in a slow circle to look all around her.  The family had spent the day driving through Dartmoor, stopping many times along the way, usually at Charlotte's urging.  Her brothers' grumbling had increased throughout the day.  

They had seen sheep and ponies, waterfalls and stone circles.  It was an amazing place and she couldn’t get enough.   She couldn't wait to find some books about Dartmoor.  But, her siblings were getting more and more bored and her parents were eager to get to the next destination.    

When she first saw this little forest next to a field of lazy cows, she had sucked in her breath.  It was straight out of a fairytale.  She couldn’t believe a place like this even existed in the real world.  She knew they had to make just one more stop.  

Charlotte let out a long sigh and her breathing slowed.  This was a magical place.  Every rock and tree stump was covered in soft, fuzzy moss.  And the sun shining down through the delicate leaves made everything shimmer with light.   

She moved as quietly as possible through the tall trees taking pictures with her Dad’s camera.  It was almost too big for her petite hands, but she managed.  They had given her a small one of her own for the trip, but she loved this one.  Her Dad let her use it sometimes if she was very careful. 

Click.  She took a picture and looked down at the tiny digital screen, but the camera was just not capturing what she was seeing.  She knew that she would just have to take it all in with her senses, so that she would never forget this special place.  The blue sky was peaking through the towering trees.  The light had a green, shimmering tint to it, like glitter.  The forest even smelled green and rich.  

She saw something move out of the corner of her eye and heard a tinkling giggle.  Shocked to find she wasn’t alone, she turned to see a little girl sitting on a low branch in one of the nearby trees. She had long curly, red hair and sat comfortably on the knobby limb, swinging her legs.   Charlotte blinked and took a stumbling step back.  

“I like your wellies.” 

“My what?”  Charlotte looked back through the trees to see the comforting sight of her parent’s rental car just beyond the stone wall.  The little girl wiggled her bare feet and pointed to Charlotte's green boots. 

“Your wellies.  With the butterflies.”

Charlotte looked down at her new rain boots.  She noticed all of the clovers peaking out from the pine needles around her feet.   Then she looked back up at the little girl.   

Charlotte was naturally shy and still a little shocked to not be alone in this hidden place.   She didn’t quite know what to say. 
“This place is magic, isn’t it?” she asked softly and then felt silly for saying it.  

But the little girl didn’t laugh at her.  She just paused for a second and responded in her lilting voice.  

“Yes. But all places are magic, really.”  

Charlotte noticed her accent.  It sounded English but somehow a little bit different. 

“I don’t know of any magic places where I live.”  Charlotte responded with a question in her voice.   She would have to ask her Gigi if she knew of any. 
The little girl responded  with a nod.  “There’s magic there.  It’s probably just covered up."  

Charlotte shifted the heavy camera, chewed her lip and thought about that for a minute. 

That made sense.  She remembered the time they had looked for their cat Tigger for hours, only to find him sleeping under a messy pile of clothes in her closet.   Mom had made her clean her room from top to bottom after that. 

Charlotte looked up at the sun shining through the canopy of trees.  She closed her eyes for just a moment with the sun on her face.  She wondered if her eyelids had turned green too or if it just looked that way. 

She was going to ask the girl if she lived close by.  But, when Charlotte turned back, the little girl was gone.  Charlotte looked around to see where she went, but heard her Mom calling that it was time to go. 

Click. She took a few more pictures and headed back to the car.  She didn’t mention the girl to her parents.  They wouldn't believe her anyway. 

She wondered herself if it had actually happened.  Her mom said that jetlag was making her brothers grumpy, maybe it was making her imagine little girls in trees.  

The next morning they woke up to rain and it rained for the next three days.  It made everything a little more challenging, but secretly Charlotte was happy that her rain boots were getting some proper use.  She made sure to stomp through every puddle she could find, even if it meant going a little bit out of her way.  Her Mom, Dad and brothers even joined in on the splashing fun.    

In a little gift shop in the one of the coastal towns they visited, Charlotte found some rhinestone pins shaped like fairies.   One of them was holding a clover and had a large green stone.  It reminded her of the little girl in the forest.  It cost eight pounds which was almost half of her souvenir allowance, but Charlotte knew she had to have it.  The shopkeeper said it was one of the infamous pixies found in this part of England.   Her accent was so thick that Charlotte wasn't sure what she had said at first.  But Dad translated for her once they got outside the shop.  She must remember to get some books about Pixies when they got home. 

Charlotte wore the pixie pin proudly for the rest of the trip.  

College graduate Charlotte climbed the narrow, creaking staircase pulling the huge backpack behind her.  The room looked just like it should.  It wasn’t the same Dartmoor B&B where she had stayed with her parents twelve years ago, but it had the same feel.  

The ceiling was low and every piece of fabric was splashed with country roses.  She went directly to the window and opened it wide.  There was no screen to prevent her from leaning out.  It was breathtaking and green, just like she remembered.   A true English garden below was bursting with color and there was a horse grazing in the field beyond.  

Charlotte looked down at the beautiful new camera on the strap around her neck.  It was a graduation gift from her Dad.  She loved the way it felt in her hands and the sights that she captured with just a click.  

Her fingers reached down to touch the green stone of the pixie pin.  She thought she had lost it, but luckily her Mom had tucked it away for safekeeping.  The camera had come with the pin safely attached to the strap.   It reminded her of the little girl in the moors and the important lesson she had taught her with just a few simple words. 

“Yes, but all places are magic really.  It’s probably just covered up.”  

Since that summer at the age of 10, Charlotte has been determined to travel and see places, to meet people and see the magic.  And she had been lucky enough to find lots of magic at home.  But, now was her chance to travel to some new places.  She raised the camera to her eye and leaned out the window.  Click.

Her college roommate Christine came banging through the door loaded down with more bags.  The two girls were taking a three week tour of the UK together before Charlotte started her new job in Chicago and Christine started planning her wedding.  

“Geez, Lala!  What do you have in this bag?” 

Charlotte quickly put down her camera and went over to help her best friend get through the door with the last of the bags.  Christine dropped her backpack and plopped down on the bed with an exhausted grunt.  But she was smiling.  

“I thought you said it rained a lot here.  It’s beautiful outside.”

Charlotte picked up the second bag that Christine had been whining about and set it on the chair in the corner.  But, not before tossing the fluffy, decorative pillow at her friend's head. 

“Don’t worry.  We’ll have rain.”  She reached in and pulled out two black wellies with bright orange butterflies on them.  

Christine looked over from the bed and raised her eyebrows.  “Seriously, Lala?”

“Yep, apparently only ten-year-olds and tourist wear wellies with butterflies on them, but I don’t care.  I like them and I’m going to wear them.  And it will rain.” 

Christine reached over to grab the camera as Charlotte kicked off her sneakers and pulled on the butterfly wellies.  Charlotte caught the pillow as it came flying back at her.  Click.

Charlotte laughed and tossed the pillow onto the bed.  She took the camera back from Christine and walked back over to the window.  She gazed down at the little digital screen and scrolled back through the pictures.  She stopped when something caught her eye.  It was the picture she had taken from the window before Christine arrived with the bags.

Charlotte pulled the camera up closer to study the little girl sitting in the tree.   She could barely see her, but could make out the flash of red hair and the bare legs hanging from the limb.  She quickly leaned out the window but the little girl was no where in sight. 

"Come on, Lala.  Let's go find this magic forest you've been going on about."

During our drive through Dartmoor, we turned a corner and came upon this picturesque little glade from my story.  I got out of the car to explore for just a minute.   It was absolutely magical and I'll never forget that place.  The moors have been inspiring authors for centuries.  I'm no author, but it inspired me to write my first short story.  I've included the pictures so you can get a feel of the place.  They were taken with the Nikon D90 and were tweaked on igoggle.  I hope you like it. Let me know what you think of my first short story.  (Written several years before my granddaughter was born in 2020.  I originally used the name Lila with the nickname Lala.  I changed the name to Charlotte for my granddaughter, who I actually call Lala, as in the original story. Updated, but our Lala is more magical then I could have ever imagined.)