A little girl with brown eyes and brown hair done up in braids sat on the couch, waiting to go to her grandmother’s house. She had an overnight bag, her teddy bear, and her pillow, and she was trying very hard not to cry.
Ava was six years old. Like many six year old girls, she liked to pretend she was a ballerina and dance to the pretty music her mother would play for her on the piano. Sometimes she liked to pretend she was a princess, and she would put on beautiful dresses and wait for her brave knight – also known as daddy – to come and rescue her.
Then, little by little, her mother started to get sick. Soon she didn’t have the strength to play the piano anymore, and her father didn’t have time to be her knight, he was always busy taking care of mommy. Now mommy had to go to the hospital, and that meant Ava had to go to her grandmother’s house.
After what seemed like a very long time, her father came and told her it was time to go. He took her bag and her pillow, but she held onto her teddy bear with one hand and held tight to her father’s hand with the other as he took her out to the car and strapped her into the car seat.
The drive to her grandmother’s house was hard with her mother being too ill to say much and her father on the phone, making plans Ava didn’t understand. An hour later, they turned up the lane that lead to her grandmother’s house. She was waiting outside as they pulled up.
Her father took her things out of the car and took them inside as her grandmother got her out of the back.
“You be brave now, Ava,” her father said. “Mommy will be back from the hospital before you know it. The doctors will know what to do.”
She hugged him around the neck, and nodded but she didn’t feel very brave. Then he kissed her and she began to cry as her father got back in the car. Ava’s grandmother let her stay outside until she couldn’t see the car any longer, then picked her up and carried her inside.
“Now, my little one,” she said, soothing her with murmurs. “Tears are too precious to waste down your cheeks.” Her grandmother held up a little glass vial and caught two of her tears in it before pushing a cork into the top. “Let’s put these tears to a better use, shall we?”
Ava didn’t know what she meant. No one had ever told her tears were precious before and she wanted to know what use they could be put toward. She nodded her head, her crying forgotten for the moment.
Her grandmother took her into the kitchen, then set a chair beside the counter so Ava could reach. One by one she began to set items out: a bowl, a mixing spoon, a cookie sheet, and an old, faded recipe.
“Can you read that?”
Ava picked up the recipe. “Fairy Cookies?”
“That’s right,” her grandmother said. “Not many people know this, but fairies love cookies. Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, and the fairies are feeling very generous, if you leave them a batch of fresh cookies with a note asking them for a favor, they will grant it.”
Ava’s eyes grew wide with wonder and she stared at her grandmother. “Really?”
“Really,” her grandmother said, giving Ava’s nose a light tap. “Now, read off the ingredients, and we’ll see if we have them.”
As she read off each ingredient slowly, her grandmother put it on the counter. “One cup oats, one half cup very finely chopped apple, two…”
“Tablespoons,” her grandmother said after a moment of Ava stumbling on the abbreviation.
“Two tablespoons warm honey, one teaspoon flax seeds, one half teaspoon lavender flowers, and very sin… sin…”
“Sincere,” her grandmother helped.
Ava looked at her, her face screwed up in deep thought as she considered the last ingredient. “Sincere tears?”
“That’s right, my little one,” her grandmother said, putting the vial on the counter last. “Very sincere tears.”
“What does sincere mean?” she asked, setting the recipe down.
“It means you really, really meant them,” her grandmother said.
“Oh.” Ava nodded; sometimes she didn’t really mean it when she cried, but she knew she had meant these. “And the fairies like them?”
“Think of it as a little sacrifice.” Then her grandmother put a kettle on the stove to warm, then wrapped an apron around Ava, just under her arms, tied it in back, and handed her the spoon. “Are you ready?”
Ava nodded, and her grandmother measured out one cup of oats, one teaspoon of flax seeds and one half teaspoon of lavender flowers into the bowl.
“You mix those, my little one, and I will chop the apple,” her grandmother said.
She did just that, rolling everything around with the spoon as she watched the apple get sliced, cored and chopped. Soon the apple was added to the bowl, and Ava stirred everything up again while her grandmother took the now steaming kettle from the stove and poured some of the water into a bowl.
“What’s that for?” Ava asked.
“It’s to warm the honey,” her grandmother said, setting the jar of it in the warm water. “This way the honey will flow almost as easily as water.”
It only took a couple of minutes for the honey to warm up. Once it did, her grandmother dipped a spoon into it and then pulled it out as the golden liquid left a sticky thread between the jar and the bowl. It drizzled easily over the mix and Ava went back to stirring again until the whole thing was a sticky, gooey mess.
“And for the most important ingredient,” her grandmother said, opening the vial and shaking the two little drops into the mix. “Done!”
“Now what, Gramma?”
Her grandmother set the cookie sheet next to her. “Now we drop little spoonfuls – little, mind you, fairies are very small – we drop little spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet, then we bake them for ten minutes.”
When there were two dozen little lumps on the sheet, in the oven it went, and her grandmother put the bowl in the sink, then took Ava’s hand. “While those bake, let’s write that letter.”
Her grandmother sat her at the table with a piece of pretty stationary paper and some colored pens. “Write out what you would like, and remember to be very polite.”
Ava scrunched up her face and chewed on the end of the pen as she thought about what to write.
Please make Mommy better so she can come home.
P.S. I hope you like the cookies. I made them myself.
P.P.S. Gramma helped me.
Her grandmother helped her fold it in half and put it in the envelope, then the oven timer went DING! and Ava ran back into the kitchen. “Are they done?”
“They’re done,” her grandmother said, carefully taking the hot cookies out of the oven and transferring them to a cooling rack. “But while they cool, let’s go get you dressed for going out in the woods.”
“What are we going in the woods for?” Ava asked as she took hold of her grandmother’s hand and they walked back to her bedroom.
“That’s where the fairies live, little one,” her grandmother said. “We have to take the cookies out to them.”
Once Ava had on a warmer shirt and shoes she could get dirty in, they went back to the kitchen and found the cookies cool enough to wrap in a cloth napkin. Her grandmother got her a little basket and they put the cookies and the letter inside, then Ava carried the basket out into the woods with her grandmother to find a good place to leave them.
“A place where it looks as if the fairies visit,” her grandmother said.
“What does that look like?” Ava asked, feeling a chill of excitement as they went.
“It’ll be a quiet, grassy place, where the trees open up to show the stars and mushrooms grow all around.” Ava didn’t know, of course, that her grandmother knew where the place was already. She kept careful watch, looking all around.
“Gramma, Gramma! I think that’s it,” Ava said, pointing to her left where the trees parted to reveal a quiet, grassy place with mushrooms.
“I think you’re right, Ava,” her grandmother said and they quietly crept up to the opening. “Let’s leave the basket here.”
“Will they come now?”
“Oh no, child. They never let themselves be seen. They’ll come out when they’re certain we’ve left, once it grows dark and the stars are shining.” Her grandmother smiled, then gave her a gentle pat on her head.
Ava was disappointed, she had wanted to see the fairies, but she did as her grandmother said and left the basket in the knotted roots of an old tree. They then walked back to the house, hand in hand.
“Yes, my little one?”
Ava gazed up at her, brown eyes filled with questions. “How did you learn about the fairies and the fairy cookie?”
“Why, I was a little girl once, and my grandmother used to make them with me, too.”
“Did anything you ask for ever come true?”
Her grandmother nodded. “Yes, once or twice. Only when it was very important.”
Ava thought that this was very important, too, and hoped very much that the fairies would grant her request.
“How long will it take?”
Her grandmother thought for a moment, then said, “Well, fairy magic does take time to work. The bigger the favor, the longer it takes. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
When they go back to the house, her grandmother put her down for a nap. When she woke up, they had lunch, then she colored while her grandmother knitted. Later, they made more cookies, ones they could eat this time.
That night her grandmother tucked her in and read her a bedtime story about a cat who solves crimes. When she fell asleep, she had dreams about fairies who ride cats and grant wishes. The next morning, she got up and pulled her clothes on and ran out into the woods to see if the fairies had come.
In the woods, tucked in the roots of the tree, Ava found the basket where she’d left it. It was empty except for the napkin, which was folded neatly in the bottom. She grabbed the basket and ran back to the house to where her grandmother was sitting on the porch, waiting for her.
“Gramma, Gramma, they came!” she cried.
“Is that so? Let me see!”
Ava held up the basket with a breathless grin. “See? They took the cookies! It worked!”
Her grandmother smiled broadly. “You must have done a very good job on the cookies.”
They were just coming back into the house when the telephone rang. Her grandmother picked it up and spoke for a few minutes before hanging up. Then she caught Ava up into her arms and said, “Everything is alright now, Ava. Your mother is coming home.”