Winter watched the rain drip from the roof of the birdhouse. Her stomach grumbled, hungry, angry at her for not feeding it.
But her appetite had left her. All she could think of was the Hollow. Dry and warm.
No fairies would come out in this weather. And it had been raining for days, ever since she’d made the decision to ask Rose for help in speaking to the Queen. She wondered if the Spirits were trying to tell her something.
She wondered if maybe she didn’t belong back in the Hollow. If maybe she wouldn’t be allowed back until she’d proved that her power was a gift, given to her for a great reason. Maybe learning to control it just wasn’t enough…
Her heart thudded, shocked out of her reverie.
Birch stood before her, dripping wet.
She stood up. “What are you doing out here in this? You’ll catch a cold.” The idea sent a shiver up her spine. Apparently colds were just a nuisance to humans, but for fairies they were very dangerous things.
“Nah, I’ll be fine.” He took her hands and they both sat down. “I was worried about you out in this. I saw you sat there and wondered why you weren’t inside the house with your friend.”
“I wanted to be alone,” she mumbled.
A raised eyebrow. “You couldn’t be alone in there?”
“Okay, I wanted to be out here for when Rose comes out so that I can ask her about speaking to the Queen.”
“I told you I could do that for you-”
“I know. But I don’t want her to think I’m tricking you into asking. Rose isn’t on my side. But she’s not on anyone else’s side either. She’s, just, neutral.” Winter sighed. This was never going to be anywhere near easy.
Birch shook his head, sending little droplets of water flying from his hair. “”It could be ages before she comes out. You know her and her troop. They’re fussy about the outside world.”
“I know, but most of the others agreed with the decision to make me leave. Why would they want me back?”
“Because some are feeling guilty about what they did? Because you’ve learnt to control your gifts? Because your mother’s been chewing everyone’s ear off since you left?”
“And your father, in his way. I know they haven’t been out to visit you, but their age…”
Winter knew, and understood. The older a fairy got, the more dangerous it was outside the Hollow. “I know you want to help, but I just think that I have to do this my way. Please understand?”
He regarded her for a few moments. The rain started pattering on the roof again. “Okay. But I’m going to wait here with you.”
Tears pricked in her eyes, and she squeezed his hand. “Thank you.” Then, “But when Rose comes you have to leave. I have to do this myself.”
He half-smiled. “You’re a funny fairy Winter, but I love you for it.”
He kissed her as tears ran down her face.