The day of Elodie’s funeral, after every one had left, Mary went into her daughter’s bedroom. She sat on the single bed and stroked the sheets, concentrating on the feeling of cotton between her fingers. She stared at the flower fairy wallpaper and wondered, not for the first time, what she had done wrong. Her eyes travelled around the room, trying to drink in the essence of what her daughter had been, to bottle it up and keep it inside of her, lest she forget.
A copy of Stig of the Dump lay on the bedside table. Teddy bears, shabby with love peered out from the top of the wardrobe. They had bought the wardrobe from MFI. “I want that one for my big girl room mummy!” Elodie had said. Mary recalled how they had laughed as they ran back to the car through the rain, Mary’s raincoat held over both of their heads. Mary couldn’t look at the tennis racket leaning against the desk and the Dunlop green flash trainers neatly placed next to it. She had put them there in the hope they might tempt her daughter back onto the tennis court. Back when they had hoped she would get better.
The open window looked out over yellow fields. Mary could hear a tractor outside and the scent of oilseed rape drifted in on the breeze. Mary remembered Elodie as she had been last Summer, before the sunshine had left her cheeks. She noticed a tear in the wallpaper and crossing the room she hooked her nail into the hole, ripping the face of a fairy wearing a bluebell in half. She kept ripping, yanking off more and more paper, hating the way they laughed. She stopped. She was the mother. She had been the mother. She shut the window and sat back down.
She thought back to the day she had put the porridge on the table wondering why she couldn’t hear the sound of the T.V. She had found Elodie still fast asleep in bed. Downstairs, Elodie had just stared at the porridge. “Sorry mummy,” she had said, “I am not hungry now. I ate enough last night.” That was how it began. The weight loss had been slow at first but a photo taken at the beach had jolted Mary into action. It was then that she had seen how emaciated Elodie had become. It wasn’t just the loss of interest in food. Elodie’s face took on a glazed look, she was listless, always exhausted, she spent more and more time sleeping. Gradually looking for life in Elodie became like looking for life in a lunar lake. There was nothing living there. “Away with the fairies,” Mary’s mother had laughed once at the beginning. No one ever laughed again.
They had tried everything, of course they had. Anorexia, some kind of psychosis, a personality disorder, the doctors had had a lot of theories. Elodie received treatment. But nothing worked. Each morning Elodie seemed less present, less visible, the brightness had gone. She was less. Just less.
The sun set. Mary sat. She heard her husband pause outside the door. She held her breath. He carried on past and into their room.
Later, a tapping noise woke her. The clock said half past two. She went to the window and saw them, waiting. They carried platters full of food. One of them in a bluebell dress said, “let us in.” Was that Elodie she saw there? Through their gossamer wings? She opened the window, “Elodie! Elodie!” she called. And the fairies trooped on in.
*Title taken from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ask Ye Why These Sad Tears Stream