Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-One

Blinking away a world of sunsets and wings, Wil snuggled her arms free from their blanket cocoon. She groped into an outside coat pocket, searched, and removed her thin, black gloves. The other outside pocket produced a few wood chips, and a remembering blush. The inside pocket held lint and a rather bent novel. She frowned, hoping her teacher wouldn’t be too upset at the state of her loaned material.

Wil reached into her last pocket. This held a crinkling wad of official paper folded over a handwritten letter: her goal. Wil spread them out as best as she could and read them over again.

“Mom,” she said. Her fingers traced the looping flourish of Guinevere Greene’s signature. The title of Mother belonged to Cynthia; there had never been any thought or chance or wish for Wil to believe otherwise. She’d read stories, of course, of children with awful parents who wanted more than anything to be cared for by someone else. Wonderful, loving Cynthia, however, had always been so sweet. If they hadn’t had limitations like health and money, the mother she and Jakob had known for most of their lives might have spoiled them.

As such, they were only ever spoiled with affection.

Once when Wil was quite young, she remembered, she got into Cynthia’s makeup. Staring at her tiny, painted self in the mirror, Wil had realized that her mother was standing right behind her. Arms crossed, face frowned, Cynthia had not been pleased. “Now Wil,” she’d said. “This is my makeup and you need to ask permission.” She’d come forward and sat right next to poor, apologetic Wil. “Now,” she’d added, “Let me show you how grown-up women put on their lipstick.”

Wil’s lips pursed forward, remembering the way she and her mother -the mother she’d always known- had made kissing faces at the mirror after painting their lips. Anytime she’d wanted to after that, Wil had joined Cynthia at the mirror to get made up for the day.

Wil stared down at the cursive again, trying to picture its author. Was Guinevere the sort of mother who smiled with love when her daughter blurted out whatever came to mind? Did her laugh or smile light up a room? Would she have asked Wil about her day, every day? Would she have shown Wil how to put on makeup from her own supply?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Wil had no experience with how a real mom might be. If anything, her reading had taught her to fear a stepmother, but Cynthia was nothing like the cruel stepmothers that stalked the pages of fantasy stories. Given that, was Guinevere the evil one?

She had left Wil behind. She had insisted on Rob’s never telling Wil about her.

And yet…

—–

“Whazzinit?” Syl the pixie paige asked, ever the nosy sprite.

Wyl Winterling cast him an imperious glance, her coils of dark hair shifting across her featherlight wings with the movement. “I believe that is none of your business.”

Syl drawled a disappointed, “Awwrr.”

“Still,” Wyl interuppted. “I may tell you that I’ve learned I’m also daughter of The Great Lady of the Greene.”

The effect of her statement was instantaneous. Syl drew breath in, and was blessedly speechless. The Great Lady existed in forgotten ballads and old stories, and was whispered amongst the branches of the magical elder boughs.

“So,” Queen Wyl’s paige squeaked out, “Will she be comin’ for a wee visit soon?”

 

Continued from Seventy.
Keep reading to Seventy-Two.

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty-Six

Rob steadied himself on the door frame, and Wil stopped screaming. She saw now that the head belonged to her father. He stepped into her room very cautiously.

“Sorry, Mina,” he said quietly. “I thought you would already be awake because I heard your alarm go off.”

Wil’s heart rate slowed considerably. She took a few breaths and wiped her hands down her blanket top as a calming stretch.

“It’s okay, Dad,” she replied. She looked up at him, and saw shadows of concern on his dark-muddled features. She smiled feebly. “Sorry I screamed.”

“Well,” Rob began, rubbing the back of his neck. “Well,” he repeated, looking around at nothing.

“Are you going to go get Mom?” Wil prompted.

Rob met what he could see of her eyes and gave her a sleepy morning half-smile. “Yes,” he answered. “I need to go now so I can get to work on time.”

He started back out Wil’s bedroom door, then stopped and turned around. “I need you to get ready, so I can drop you off at school,” he remembered. “I can take you when I bring your mother back here.”

“Okay, Dad,” Wil said. She watched the dim form of his head give a nod, then head out. “Thanks, Dad!” She whispered loudly to his retreating back.

Left alone in her needly nest, Wyl snuggled back to assess the situation. She could afford a small nap while her father got ready. He always checked on her one last time.

Unfortunately, Wil’s grand plans were dashed as she heard three departing sounds: the clink of her father’s keys as they were picked up off the counter, the clump of boots across the kitchen floor, and the final solid closing of their front door.

Wil groaned. She stretched resignedly. She pushed her bedcovers to the side. Then, she slumped to the floor to examine her mass of discarded clothes through groggy eyes. She smelled them. They seemed okay. Perhaps she’d better try a different shirt, in case she met the secret note-writer at school.

Groaning again, Wil picked up her pants. She slumped over to her dresser and fumbled through the drawers for the rest of her ensemble. Carrying her clump under her arm, she headed to the bathroom to finish getting ready for a new day.

 

Continued from Twenty-Five.
Keep reading to Twenty-Seven.

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty-Five

*Beep! Beep! Beep!*

The annoying, repetitive sound surprised Wil moments after she remembered closing her eyes. She stared in confusion at the completely dark ceiling for a few seconds, then memory caught up to consciousness. She rolled over quickly and tried to turn the noise off.

In the darkness of room and stupor of near-sleep, however, Wil succeeded in knocking the alarm clock to the ground. It landed on her clothes from last night, beeping insistently. Wil scrambled out of twisted covers, clunked to her floor, and succeeded in picking up and silencing her clock.

Twists of dark hair obscured most of the strange woodland creature’s face. She stood still and alert, clutching at the angry bird that had shattered the silence, and peering furtively around her. Her tiny, pointed ears pricked delicately as her barely translucent wings flicked slightly in agitation.

She’d been keeping watch over the forest all night from within Evergreen. Now, this thoughtless worm-eater had potentially ruined everything. She looked down, finally, at the struggling, indignant avian face held in her slight embrace.

“Hush!” Wyl whispered, and glared at her captive in return. Once certain the bird had gotten the message enough to keep quiet, she released her grip.

He immediately stepped backward, fluttered his wings, turned a last look at Wyl, then took off to the trees. Wyl’s hair swept away from her features as she lifted her face to watch him find a safe perch. She couldn’t be sure, but she felt her feathered friend was still shooting her spiteful glances.

Wyl sighed a soft sigh only sprites could hear. It was always the young fools who took rumors like, “The Early Bird Catches the Worm” seriously -especially when darkness meant danger to their world.

Night mists wafted randomly over the lush forest floor. The plants swayed and shushed against each other. Wil sensed mystery and darkness. She flitted to a clover stem, wetting her tiny bare feet in dew. Immediately after, she flew to a dandelion head, then a low tree branch. Within seconds, Wyl had soundlessly scouted the stretch below her original perch.

Satisfied but ever wary, she decided all was well. Leaf to leaf to tendril to branch to needles, Wyl flicked her way back to Evergreen. Folding her wings comfortably together, she settled back to watch and rest.

“Mina!” A dark head whispered loudly as it poked suddenly into her vision.

Wil screamed, surprising her father more than he had startled her.

 

Continued from Twenty-Four.
Keep reading to Twenty-Six.