One of my earliest memories is not of my parents. Sometimes I wish it was that way but then I remember Drew when he was still a kid and I feel this fondness that makes everything better.
When I was a little girl, I once visited my Great-aunt Margaret with my parents. She lived in a manor house far away from the city. All I cared about was the enormous gardens.
I begged and begged mum and dad to let me play in the garden. The six year old me believed in elves, fairies and garden gnomes. That was the very reason why they were reluctant to allow me. I had a tendency to linger off and get lost.
Maggie assured them that I would be quite safe; that the garden had fences and that the fences were intact. So, finally, they let me go.
Maggie’s gardens were a wonderland for me. The grass was always green and soft under my feet. There were always birds that were always singing. And there were butterflies.
God knows, I loved butterflies. I could spend hours and hours chasing them. I even talked to them and then made up replies.
That day, I had been particularly busy chatting with a blue one who constantly seemed to fly away mid-sentence.
I was chasing him, intending to give him quite a listening to when I realized that I had ventured a little too far. I could have touched the fence if it weren’t for the bushes. I also realized that I was a bit out of breath. Wings were a faster mode of transport than my chubby feet. I plopped down on the grass and looked into the woods through the gaps in the fence.
I wondered if there were any ferocious beasts in there and whether I could possibly take one to scare Toby Meyers. He had been sneaking spiders into my bag-pack for almost a week now.
While I sat, conjuring images of beasts, the bush in front of me rustled and I jumped out of my skin. I thought it was one of the beasts of my imagination, who had come to eat me.
Then I remembered the way Toby Meyers had called me a girl when I shrieked at the spider that crept out of my bag. I am not scared of spiders, a fact Toby refused to believe. Jenny, the spider had become my pet once I got over the surprise.
“Who is it?” I asked the bush, my voice wobbling a little.
I imagined an ambush by the beast. But what I saw instead was a pair of rainbow-colored eyes peeping out shyly from behind the bush. Slowly the body followed the eyes out of the bush. It belonged to a boy, only a few years elder to me. He had the wildest mop of the greenest hair. He did nothing but stare at me like I was some kind of an alien.
“Lily! Lunch-time!” yelled my mom, right on time.
I looked in the direction of her voice and yelled back “Coming, mommy!”
When I looked back towards the bush, the boy with the strange eyes was gone.
I never thought I’ll be returning to Maggie’s manor. It was too far from the city and my parents thought that Maggie was weird.
But I did come back.
Around two years had passed since I had first visited Maggie. Two years since I had seen the weird boy with green hair. Six months since the accident. Six months since my parents died.
I was shuffled through a wild array of aunts’ and uncles’ houses. Everyone wanted to do their bit in helping Hannah and Michael’s daughter, emphasis on the bit. Everyone except Maggie. She wanted to keep me with her for as long as I needed her.
All my aunts and uncles let out sighs of relief when Maggie declared her decision of taking me in. No one even thought twice and I was deposited at Maggie’s doorstep cold and miserable. I missed my mum and dad.
Maggie was nice to me. She had a specially decorated bedroom for me. It had a canopied bed and a vintage dresser. I felt like a princess.
But nor the bed, nor the canopy could stop me from missing mum. I needed her to read me a bedtime story and tuck me into bed before I could actually sleep. But she wasn’t here and Maggie had no clue about children.
The first night at Maggie’s manor, I lay snuggled in my canopied bed, wide awake and mad at Maggie. The eight year old me needed someone to blame for my misery and that night it was Maggie.
I was cooking up a plan to escape into the woods and live the Jungle Book life. The images I painted were quite vivid and I was lost in the dream.
Meanwhile, a very loud crashing noise came from the other side of the house. Since I had being surviving on a diet of Enid Blyton books, I set out to investigate.
What I expected was a burglar who I was going to beat up using the rusted swords hanging in the corridor outside my bedroom.
What I found was a boy with bright green hair and flaming ears. He was lying on the floor- a tangled mess of limbs and broken lamps.
He got up, brushed the broken bits off himself and offered me a handshake. He had rainbows in his eyes.
“I’m Drew.” He said. “Drew short for Mildrew.”
“I’m Lily.” I replied. “Lily short for Lily.”
Drew was my first friend at my new home.
Drew was the perfect best friend except for the thing that we couldn’t meet up every night. He used to turn up during new moon nights and then disappear for a month, no trace that he even existed. Sometimes, I wondered whether he was a fragment of my imagination. But whenever I had such doubts, the moon would disappear and Drew would appear.
I often wondered if Maggie knew about Drew. She never said anything but she never asked why I was so sleepy every morning after a new moon.
Great Aunt Margaret, or Maggie as she insisted I call her, was the coolest guardian ever. She was the perfect definition of the eccentric aunt but she wasn’t stupid or easy to fool. She kept me in line. She had never married. She said that she didn’t need a man to live.
I absolutely adored her. Maggie, Drew (once a month) and Maggie’s butler Andre were the only people I hung out with. Maggie was my mum, sister, friend, aunt and teacher- all in one. She also had a cook, a housekeeper, a gardener and some maids working for her. But I never really formed lifelong friendships with them.
Over the years, I grew into an introverted, bookish girl. Maggie encouraged my love for reading. She had the resources too; she had collected numerous titles which I devoured.
Drew, on the other hand, grew up and became this amazing guy. He had always been beautiful, unique. But as we began to grow up, I realized that Drew was a babe. He was magic. Literally. He was a color elf (with adorable pointy ears and all), in charge of painting the nature. He was just apprenticing currently.
But Drew was magic. The way his vibgyor eyes sparkled when he spoke, the way they crinkled when he smiled, the way they were animated when he gestured. All of it fascinated me.
Yeah, I was crushing on him.
It was my sixteenth birthday, it was a new moon night and Drew was late. I had convinced myself that he had a dainty elf for a girlfriend. He must spend the remaining 29 days of the month in her pleasing company. I imagined them kissing, painting the world red, literally.
I was insanely jealous of this elf girl and I was convinced that he was ditching me on my birthday for her.
By the time Drew finally turned up, I had worked myself into a state of pissedoffness.
“Wow Drew! Aren’t you on time? Punctuality must really be your forte. I get that you have better things to do but Drew, it’s my birthday and you are my only friend. It’s no fun having a party with the oldies. All Maggie drinks is green tea. I sneaked us some wine. I just… I need you more than you need me. Okay? And you will have to bear with it ‘coz I’m not letting you go. Got it?”
Drew put his arms around my waist, holding me close. Our noses touched. I could feel his breath on my face.
“Got it.” He whispered, his lips brushing against mine.
“Don’t worry! I’ll catch you.” He whispered. “Jump!”
I was sitting on my window sill with my right leg dangling right above Drew’s mop of green hair. We had been dating for almost a year now– eleven months- but this was the first time I was sneaking out.
Maggie’s manor was huge. There were plenty of places to sneak around with your secret boyfriend. But today, Drew wanted to take me out for a midnight picnic by the stream, just next to the spot where I had first seen him.
“C’mon Lils! I promise I won’t crumple under your weight!”
“Haha. Very funny.” I finally decided to let go. “Okay. Here I come.”
Unsurprisingly, I ended up falling face first on Drew and we together toppled down the grass. Neither of us was hurt but Drew was a bit winded.
“Remind me to never do that again.” He said, straightening himself and then pulling me up.
Last year, Drew had had a massive growth spurt and now he towered over me. If elves were actually short, I would be the magical being here.
It was a full moon night. The food in Drew’s basket was all foreign to me.
“Elfish food.” He explained.
After our midnight meal, we lay next to each other, staring at the sky. The stars were hardly visible today but the round moon made up for their absence. The sweet smell of drew-moistened grass surrounded us. I could feel the heat emanated by Drew’s body.
“I love you.” I whispered as I drifted off to sleep.
I felt lips brush against my forehead as I was lost to the realm of dreams.
The next morning I woke to the sun trying to burn me to a crisp. I was all alone. Drew must have left around dawn as I knew he would.
He didn’t come back. I waited. I hoped. Months passed and it was as if he had never existed. Except in my memories.
My memories… I spent quite some time living through them. The time I spent in the library, among the books, it was as if I had shifted there. Drew’s absence was like a dark hole trying to swallow me whole.
And then Maggie fell sick. She had never been young for as long as I had known her. But she had always had that youthful, vibrant air about her. I always thought of her as some kind of an ageless being, a permanent fixture.
Now, her age had caught up with her and it was almost the time for her to go. She knew, I knew. She spent days just silently gliding around the manor, staring at walls or paintings as if lost in memories. Maggie was dying but gracefully so.
Even then, it was very difficult. I had to see her losing herself bit by bit. She withered away right in front of my eyes.
The night when it was time, Maggie called me to her room. She had lost a lot of weight. But her eyes still had that light that made her Margaret Stevens.
“So I am going to be dead by sunrise. Even when I am gone, you’ll always have a home here. But please, don’t stay back. Don’t spend your life waiting for someone who is never going to turn up. Promise me that!”
I promised with tears flowing freely down my cheeks.
Maggie left us in her sleep. I busied myself with the preparations for her funeral. All the aunts and uncles who had previously abandoned me turned up and immediately left when they found out that Maggie had left everything to me.
Everyone left before Maggie must have gotten comfortable in her grave.
I couldn’t bear to stay another day. The manor was too empty and there was also the thing I had promised Maggie.
My bags were packed. Only the goodbyes were left to be said. Andre had decided to retire. The maids had found alternate employments.
It was a full moon and I found myself venturing into the gardens. Here was where I had last seen Drew.
It had been a hard year. Losing Drew and then losing Maggie. Then dealing with all those relatives who didn’t give a damn about Maggie or me, listening to their jealousy induced barbed comments.
It caught up with me. I fell down on my knees, haunted by memories. I hugged myself and fell apart. I don’t know for how long I sat there, crying. But finally, I got up and faced the mocking moon. I turned to leave and there he was.
He looked so familiar and so different somehow. He was broader, had stubble and looked more firm. His eyes held mine, unwavering. There were scars on his arm and on his neck, just below his face.
“Lily” he said. He was no longer a child but nor was I.
“You can’t do this. You cannot just disappear for months and then suddenly turn up and expect everything to be a-okay. “
He pulled me close and buried his face in my hair. By now, my tears were back. I could feel moisture trickling through my hair.
“I’m back now, Lils. I am back and I am not going anywhere.” His voice was hoarse with tears.
This short story was written by my friend over at Diary Of An Introverted Schmuck.
If you liked the story, do leave comments here or on her blog, complimenting her about it. I’m sure she’ll like that.
This story is a part of a series I’m posting written by my friends based on Harry Potter. You can read the post where I explain it all here.
This is the previous post in the series.
The prompt “Meanwhile, a very loud crashing noise came from the other side of the house.” is from Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.
This was officially the last post in the series, but a couple of my friends said they’d wanted to try this too. So if they do end up writing stories, I’ll post them here whenever.