"Jo! Look!" Johanna Rossyew turned around to see that her younger sister, Deirdre, was pointing to a ring of lopsided brown toadstools sitting among the lush green grass. "It's a fairy's ring!"

"That's so stupid, Deirdre! You know fairies aren't real!"

"You know what happens when you step inside one of these?" Deirdre asked, oblivious to her sister's comment.

"Yes, but I don't happen to care right now." Johanna leaned back against one of the ancient tall oak trees that made up the forest behind the girls' house, and closed her eyes.

"The fairies come and they take you away!" Honestly, she was like a little child sometimes!

"Really, Deirdre? That's remarkable." Johanna busied herself plucking the heads off of dandelions. The wind blew her curly red hair into her face, tickling her nose obnoxiously. Johanna pushed it out of her face irritably.

"Dare me to step inside it?" Deirdre asked, almost as obnoxiously, not about to let the matter lie.

"Go ahead. Knock yourself out."

"If I get captured, you'll be sorry!"

"I won't. You know why?"


"Because you won't get captured. Fairy rings are just stories that Mother used to tell us to keep us out of the woods."

"Bet you're wrong!" Deirdre chanted at her.

"Bet I'm not."

"How much?" Johanna thought about it for a second.

"Half a florin."



"Done." Deirdre raised her foot straight out in front of her. "I'm stepping inside now!"

"All right. You'll be sorry when you're one florin poorer."

"I'm putting my foot down inside the ring! Jo! Watch me!" Johanna turned around and watched as her slowly set her foot daintily down inside the fairy's ring.

"So where are they?"

"The fairies?"

"Yeah. Where are your precious winged captors? I don't hear them. I don't even see them."

"Doesn't mean they're not there!" Deirdre said defensively.

"Don't be dumb, Deirdre! You just lost a florin. Now let's go have lunch." Johanna got up and started walking towards the house. "Come on!" Finally, reluctantly, Deirdre came. It was funny, Johanna thought, as they left the woods behind their house, but she was sure she felt a change within the wind. It was colder, somehow, and discomforting. She paused for a moment, but shrugged it off, and continued into the house.

Their mother stood at the door, waiting for them, hands on her hips.

"Do you girls realize how long you were out there?" Deirdre looked sheepishly at the floor. Johanna smiled mischievously.

"Sorry, Mother. I was betting Deirdre on whether or not the fairies would come after her if she stepped inside their ring." Mrs. Rossyew's face got deadly serious.

"Deirdre, you didn't, did you?" Deirdre didn't look up.

"Johanna! You let your sister step inside the ring?"

"Mother, there's no harm in it! There weren't any fairies coming, or at least not that I could see." Johanna rolled her eyes. Mrs. Rossyew looked at her daughter.

"I didn't even step in, Mother," Deirdre said quickly, covering for her sister. Their mother breathed a sigh of relief.

"Don't you ever do that to me again! You had me genuinely frightened, do you understand?" Deirdre and Johanna nodded. This time they both looked down at the floor.

"Now come inside. Your lunch is growing cold." Mrs. Rossyew turned on her heel and walked into the house, followed by the girls. Deirdre shared a nervous glance with her sister.

"I told you. They're real!"

"Just because Mother says they're real doesn't mean she's right."

"Grown-ups are always right."

"No they're not! Remember how Grandma used to say that if you slathered honey on a cut that it would get better?"


"Did it ever work?" Deirdre paused.

"You see? You just wait. You'll still be here in the morning, there's no doubt about that."

"Girls! Lunch! Now!" their mother called from the kitchen. A silent look passed between the two sisters as they sat down at the table to a tomato and cheese sandwich, and milk.

"I've just gotten a letter from your grandmother," said their mother, as she bit into her sandwich. "She's had to go to the doctor. Something about bee stings. Silly thing probably tried to use honey on one of her cuts again." Johanna shot a glance at Deirdre, and raised her eyebrows, as if to say, "see? I told you so." " One of these days," their mother continued, "she's just going to go off the deep end, and then we'll have to take her in and feed her porridge with her in a straightjacket."

"I thought she'd already gone off the deep end," Johanna remarked. This got her a giggle from Deirdre, and a glare from her mother.

"What? I'm only stating truth."

"Don't talk about your grandmother with such disrespect."

"But you just said she was crazy for putting honey on her cuts!"

"That's different. I'm an adult. Only adults can make fun of other adults."

"Father would have agreed with me."

"That's enough! Don't talk about your father. And if you talk back one more time, you're going upstairs, young lady!"

"Mother, I'm a big girl. I hardly think that I need to be sent to my room anymore."

"That's it! Upstairs!"

"Oh, and I suppose you aren't going to give me any supper, either?"

"What an excellent suggestion. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea." Her mother's gray eyes had turned to steel, and Johanna got the distinct feeling that she was staring straight through her.

"If you're wanting an apology, you're hardly going to get one." Her mother remained silent, and raised an eyebrow. Johanna glared at her mother, got up, and stalked upstairs to her room.

There was, of course, a reason that the subject of Mr. Rossyew had hit a nerve in Johanna's mother. He had passed away the winter before, the result of a hunting accident, in which he had been gored by a buck deer. Though Johanna tried to act as though she'd gotten over her father's death, this was not the case. Johanna had been her father's daughter, always getting help from him when she got into an argument with her mother. There had always been a rift between Mrs. Rossyew and her daughter, an unexplainable one that had existed since Johanna was only a small child. But it seemed that the death of Mr. Rossyew had caused the rift to grow even more. It was still a very sensitive subject with Johanna's mother, and the arguments between Johanna and Mrs. Rossyew had been growing more and more severe lately. Part of this was probably due to the fact that Johanna no longer had a teammate to side with her. Deirdre, ever her mother's child, but loyal to her sister as well, wanted to keep everybody happy, and so always remained on the sidelines during arguments. And so, having seemingly lost the argument with her mother, and therefore having to suffer punishment, Johanna spent the rest of the day in her room among her books, reading, trying not to frustrate herself with the events that had taken place that afternoon.

After dinner, there was a knock on the door. Startled from her silent state, Johanna got up, and answered the door. Deirdre stood in the doorway, smiling mischievously. She reached into her dress pocket, took out a dinner roll, and tossed it to her sister as she quietly closed the door behind her. Johanna smiled. Fore all the times Deirdre acted childish and sweet, she could be sneaky if she tried.

"Don't expect me to do this for you every time," she told Johanna seriously.

"Of course not. I can't expect you to do this for me three times a week. It'd be too risky."

"Why do you have to talk back to her all the time?"

"I was just defending myself! She was the one who got on my case!"

"Still, you didn't need to say that about grandma."

"Neither did she! I was simply pointing that out. Please don't tell me that you're going to tell me off like mother was going to."

"I'm sorry. It's just that I feel bad for her."

"I'm sixteen, Deirdre! You're thirteen! I'll be able to leave in a year or two, and you're old enough to start thinking for yourself. We're too old to be sent to our rooms anymore."

"I'm not the one who gets sent to my room."

"Still! She needs to let us go!"

"But we're all she's got anymore, Jo! Ever since Father died-"

"Oh, of course. Ever since Father died, Mother's been a nervous wreck, and now she wants to keep the two of us close at all times, so that she can make sure we're not going to die or get into trouble."

"That's stupid, Jo. You know that's not how she feels."

"But it is! I know it is! You saw how she got when we told her about the fairy's ring."

"That's just because she's superstitious."

"Deirdre, stop fooling yourself. She's just overprotective." Deirdre paused.

"I know you've always been defensive, Jo, but I think you've gotten worse since he died."

"No I haven't. You're just-" Johanna paused, unable to think of a comeback immediately, "You're just imagining things."

"Mother always said you were so much like him."

"And that's a bad thing?" Johanna avoided looking at her sister. Dierdre was about to say something, but thought better of it.

"I'm going to bed," she announced instead.

"You do that," Johanna muttered. "Make sure the fairies don't come for you!" she added, smirking. Deirdre smiled back. But Johanna thought she caught a brief flicker of worry in her little sister's face as she did so.

A few minutes later, the girls both stood in front of the doors to their rooms, which were right across the hall from each other.

"Are you afraid?" Deirdre asked.

"Don't be so silly, Deirdre! What's there to be scared about?" Johanna scoffed.

"What happens if they take me?"

"They won't take you, sis. Honestly, don't let it scare you out of your sleep."

"You'll come to get me, won't you, if they come and steal me away?" Johanna sighed in exasperation.

"Yes, Deirdre, if the fairies come and get you, I will make certain to try and get you back. Now let's just go to bed, already." This statement seemed to comfort Deirdre.

"All right," she said, "Goodnight, Jo." She tucked her red-gold hair nervously behind her ear.

"Good night, sis." Johanna smiled, and closed her door. Wouldn't Deirdre feel silly, she thought, when she woke up tomorrow in her own bed, only to find out that the whole fairy ring ordeal was just a silly story.

It was midnight when Johanna woke up. She had been having one of the best nights of sleep she'd ever had, a very comforting one, without any bad dreams at all, when she suddenly awoke in a cold sweat, clutching her stomach. There was a tingling feeling there, as though something was missing that should have been there. She swung her feet off the bed, the cold sensation of the hard floor stinging her feet. Johanna ignored this, and tiptoed quietly across the hallway.

"Deirdre?" she whispered quietly, cautiously pushing open the door. There was a curled up, sleeping lump on the bed that Johanna recognized as her younger sister. Quietly she approached the bed. But there was something odd. The shape of her sister was there, certainly. The blankets rose over the way they would if someone were actually sleeping inside the bed. The pillow had a small head-shaped crater. But there was nobody in the bed. Johanna's eyes widened in fear. She reached out to touch the blankets, and they collapsed under the weight of her hand. Johanna gasped, and pulled back quickly, staring in disbelief at the empty bed. This had to be the single strangest thing she'd ever seen. She blinked hard in disbelief, running a hand through her hair. Fear rose in her chest. Where was Deirdre? Had the fairies truly come to take her away? No. Of course not! Fairies weren't real anyway.

"It's all right," she told herself, "this is just some freakish dream I'm having. The second I wake up, I'll just go and check on Deirdre, and she'll be right there in bed, where she's supposed to be." So, she closed her eyes. There was a rush of air, and Johanna opened her eyes. There she was, in her bed, her quilt kicked to the end of the mattress. She got up, and, very cautiously walked to Deirdre's door. But, once again, something did not seem right. There were noises coming from the other side of the door. A buzzing sound, as though a large conference of flies were meeting behind the door. Johanna pushed the door open a crack. What she saw she would not forget for the rest of her life. Her sister was being lifted from her bed by what looked like a bunch of oversized fireflies. Deirdre was looking around, making only muffled whimpering sounds. As the oversized fireflies reached the window, Deirdre looked behind her, and saw Johanna peeking through the door, or at least she appeared to, because a frightened, pleading look came into her eyes. It was then that Johanna noticed that there was some sort of fiberous, cottony structure covering Deirdre's mouth. And instantly Johanna understood everything, though she didn't want to. Deirdre had been right. The fairies had come after all. The sinking feeling in her heart told Johanna that this was not a dream at all. This was for real. What would she do? What would she tell their mother? There was no telling how she'd react. As much as Johanna had hated to admit it, Deirdre had been right when she'd said that they were all their mother had in this world.

"Well, I'll have to break the news slowly."