They exchanged that glance that mingles hope and fear

Continuing Janet … I promised Daisy, and here’s a little more.

Janet needed to digest the news her parents told – of how the farmland she had grown up with would be developed into houses, a great lump of a soulless supermarket and, worst of all, a parking lot.

‘There’s more,’ her mother said. She shook her head, disbelieving. ‘There’s talk of building behind us too. In the forest.’

Father and daughter in woods

Janet’s grip on her father’s bony fingers tightened. Memories of their walks in those woods filled her mind. He showed her the plants, told her the birds, until she was old enough to explore on her own, to play beneath the willow tree.

‘But that’s public land. That’s my forest,’ Janet cried. ‘They can’t do that!’

‘They say the trees are diseased, and must be felled, and once that’s done …’ Her mother’s voice trailed off in hopeless angst.

Janet let more, different, memory fragments glow. Iron gates, a snowy path, a dragon, a green giant … and now, peeking from the edge of her consciousness, a fairy and a pixie. Janet sought the little creatures’ eyes from within herself. They exchanged that glance that mingles hope and fear.

It was then Janet understood. These beings were not her imaginings. They were real, or had once been real.  She gently let go her father’s hand and stood.

‘Let them try,’ she said again, and this time the promise was real. Janet had allies in this fight.

She didn’t bother with a coat despite the cooling evening, but tugged on wellingtons by the back door. Without looking left or right, she strode out into the garden, past the last of the summer fruits and vegetables, to the creaking wooden gate in the fence. It swung open when she approached, as if it had been waiting for her. Janet wasn’t surprised. She walked through, heard the click of the latch behind her, and continued on the narrow, overgrown path.

When she reached the willow, she ducked under its branches, almost bare of leaf by now. She gazed around, and squinted into the knobbled roots. She smiled.

‘Hello, goblin king,’ she said softly.

The goblin king emerged from his hiding place to stand before Janet.

His craggy face, the colour of bark, split into a wide grin. ‘Thought all those years of training had gone to waste,’ he complained. ‘Good to have you back, young Janet.’

‘Good to be here.’ She turned in a full circle, gazing into the boughs of the old tree. ‘Shall we summon our army?’ she said. And laughed.

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