A fairy tale for adults. A mysterious girl named Tojet appears in a convent-run school one day. Two teachers, Sister Elizabeth and oddly-named Merkit Terjit, take her under their care.
But is she a lost, imaginative orphan or a time traveler with fairy powers? How does she know who Merkit is and how he was named?
Tragedy drives her away, but she returns as a young, beautiful woman, far more mature than she should be. She shows Merkit a world of obsession and dark fairies.
He can’t help falling in love with her, but what about the monastic vows he’s about to take? Can he fight the temptations that surround him?
The next morning, a Saturday, Merkit sat with Tojet in the kitchen after breakfast as Barb ran some light errands. He talked with Tojet about school, but she kept yawning.
“Didn’t you get enough sleep last night?” he said with a grimace that was supposed to be a smile.
“Well, no,” she said. “I came back too late in the night to get all my ten hours. I came back when the fairies woke me up. They said I’d fallen asleep, and should go to bed.”
“Fairies? You saw fairies?” Merkit crossed his arms to block a sudden chill.
“I want you to be my friend, so I want you to know everything about me,” she said. Her tone was matter-of-fact as she explained, as if every other child went to visit fairies across the ocean in another time every night. Yet as he listened to her story, Merkit felt as if he himself had been there, had gone to dance with the fairies, had gone to a fairy ring on a hill in the forest around Silva at midnight, had seen a full moon. . . .
There, a full moon shone through the treetops. Mushrooms sprouted up in the meadow in a ring large enough to fit a few human-sized fairies, if there were any. Tojet looked like a fairy herself in her white lace dress, the same she’d worn at their first meeting, so yes, there was one. Merkit leaned his arm against a tree trunk to watch. His cloak billowed down from his arm and around his shoulders in the evening breeze.
The moonlight couldn’t penetrate the trees of the surrounding wood, and lit only the little ring. Deer, squirrels, mice, and other animals crept up to the ring to watch the strange creatures, but moved no closer. Powder-scented, naked elves and pixies of both sexes danced inside the ring on the mild, May night. Their nakedness was no surprise: drawings and paintings often showed them that way. The fairies were of various sizes, some tiny and with butterfly wings, some larger and without wings. Fairy musicians with fairy flutes, lutes, panpipes, fiddles, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and jaw harps played reels and softer, sweeter melodies. Merkit wanted to join the leaping, spinning fairies, but Tojet called to him,
“Don’t come in the ring. You’ll have to join in if you do, and then you’ll get a wasting sickness, like consumption, or you’ll find out a century has gone by the time you get out again. Only I can join in, until you marry me–then you can, too.”
Some fairies left the dancing to find private spots in the darkness of the treetops and bushes. Tojet saw them go, but looked away again, ignoring them. When Merkit cried out in surprise, she looked at him.
“They’re fairies,” she said, shrugging, “not humans. I don’t think they keep that stuff between a man and his wife. They have totally different rules for what’s a sin and what’s not. For example, if you step in the ring, they think it’s right to make you dance till you get sick, because you broke the rules.” After unfastening and unbraiding her pigtails, she continued dancing.
Two blue cat-eyes appeared by a tree outside the ring, then the full-sized woman they belonged to. She was several inches taller than Merkit. Her middle-parted, blonde hair fell in both curls and tiny plaits to her knees. Two braids circled her head below a wreath made of leaves and lilies of the valley. Her slanted eyebrows, tiny nose, pointy ears, butterfly wings, and enchanting beauty showed her to be a fairy, probably the queen or princess of the fairies. She was also the only fairy wearing clothing. She wore a sleeveless, knee-length dress woven of gauzy, green spider silk, and only a small shift underneath. Queen Anne’s lace circled her wrists. She wore no shoes on her three-toed feet. She smelled like violets.
A fog filled Merkit’s mind until he forgot his own name. He forgot he was a married and God-fearing man. Who was he? What had he done, what had he been before this night? He shook his head, but couldn’t clear it. All he saw was the fairy queen. He wanted her with a primitive, nature-worshiping lust.
He forgot all his objections to the fairy behavior. The queen’s slight and perfect, small-breasted, curved figure beckoned to him. He forgot he’d ever even had a wife.
He forgot he’d ever been anywhere else but there in the forest. He forgot who Tojet was. The fairy queen’s red, Cupid’s bow mouth curled up in a seductive grin. He imagined taking her to the side of the ring and lying on the ground with her. He forgot Tojet’s warning. In his mind, he kissed every inch of her heart-shaped face and pointy chin, holding her tightly, but careful not to tear her delicate wings.
He shook off his fantasy. He stepped around the ring and toward her to kiss her and act it out. She put her arms around him, letting him kiss her and press his body against her.
“No!” blasted across the ring.
They both turned to Tojet. She glared at them with her cat-eyes. Her own childish beauty showed despite her frown, and perhaps because of it. The fairy queen obeyed the human child and gently pushed Merkit away. Merkit looked at her again, disappointed. He saw the lust in her own eyes.
“It must not be,” she said in a voice like the tinkling of a dripping faucet, or a dewdrop splashing on the tin roof of a garden gnome’s house. “You are to stay pure, and I am not the one who belongs to you.”
The fog cleared a little; the memory of his wife and Tojet now returned to him. At first he thought the fairy queen meant his wife, but somehow he knew she meant Tojet.
“But Tojet’s only a child,” he said.
“Of course she’s not yours now, but she will not be a child forever. She’s half grown-up already, and once she’s fully grown, she’s yours.”
“Don’t make him a slave with your kisses, please, Your Majesty,” Tojet said. “He’s not meant to be your boyfriend. You and your fairies promised him to me.”
Merkit blinked. He now remembered where he came from. “Why me?” he said. “Why not someone in her own time?”
The queen said, “Because you’re more likely to treat her as an equal, and be good enough for our favorite. Tojet should never be treated as second best. We sent scouts throughout the twentieth century and beyond to find a husband for her. Your parents loved fairies, so we soon focused on you and decided to see what kind of man you’d be when you grew up. We looked, and had the local fairies check on you. We liked what we saw, and thought you’d make an excellent match for Tojet. You’re kind, you’re passionate, and you treat women properly; you two also have similar interests.”
“Similar interests? But she’s only nine. I like classic novels and she likes Winnie the Pooh books, for example.”
“We know how she’ll turn out, what she’ll be interested in as she grows up.”
“But I have a wife.”
“We also know your future.”
The last traces of fog dissipated. Unease jabbed his stomach. What was in his future? Why did she say this when he mentioned his wife?
Merkit turned and saw Tojet, who was curled up on the side of the ring, asleep. He felt more like a father who must get his sleeping child to bed than a predestined husband of a fairy child.
“What did you do to me? Why did I forget everything about myself? Who will you do this to next?”
The fairy queen only smiled. “I’ll turn to the king of the goblins. Of all the local kings, he is the handsomest. After the dance, I will go to meet him; he needs no spells. Your heart is so loyal that trying to charm you has given me a headache. Now go, take your betrothed maiden home.”
Merkit picked Tojet up, but she disappeared, along with everything else. He jerked his head back and forward again. There she sat at the kitchen table in front of him. She finished her tale. He must have imagined the scene with the fairy ring, but it had seemed so real. Even his lustful fantasy seemed real, and now it shamed him.
What business did he, a married man and a Christian, have fantasizing about a fairy queen? He had to find something else to do to chase the fantasy from his mind. Why would he even want to fantasize about a fairy queen? Barb was everything he’d ever wanted in a wife; they had many of the same thoughts and liked many of the same things. When they met in a Christian group at college as sophomores, they fell for each other right away. After a few months of obsessing, Merkit worked up the courage to ask her out, only to find that she had also been obsessing. The Christian group was new, and Merkit and Barb worked together to help make it more visible on campus. They worked side by side for the group to make and put up posters around the campus, plan parties and trips to see Christian rock bands, and lead (Barb) or go to (Merkit) small groups. They fought hard against many temptations to sleep together, their biggest struggle of all. Their friends called them the perfect couple.
When they got engaged in their senior year, no one was surprised. He had no reason to want a stranger, even a fairy queen, instead.
“A nice little tale, Tojet,” he said, “but we can’t spend all our time dancing with fairies. I have to go grade some papers now.” He jumped up and trotted off to find his briefcase. He later hurried off to the church for Saturday morning confessions, to purge himself of the fairy queen fantasy.