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Some Strings Attached - Flash Fiction - Jan 2024


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Flash Fiction First Friday is an effort to publish something small and fun on the First Friday of every month. The goal is simply to write more and to share more, and not get completely bogged down in huge projects. These pieces can spawn from writing exercises, prompts, or just freewriting. I'd love to see your flash fictions pieces if you participate, too! Either use the tag #flashfictionfirstfriday or comment below with a link to your blog. 


 

Some Strings Attached


“Would you like a tea cake? I made them with fresh honey.”

The fairy I’d been tracking alighted on the tree stump that was standing in for a picnic table but did not approach my offerings. There was a fine spread of miniature delicacies laid out aside from the honied cakes—a bowl of blueberries drizzled with thick cream, a small crystal jug of ice wine, and hard cheese cut into crumbles for the fairy’s small hands. It would have been too easy if she’d just taken them at first invitation, of course. Instead, she stood on the very edge of the stump and waited to see whether I was a threat. She had yellow hair the color of a firethorn berry, green-tinted skin, iridescent dragonfly wings, and was as fickle as a hummingbird.

And she was powerful beyond reckoning.

I poured steaming water into a pot with fresh herbs and muddled black raspberries, then strained it into two cups, one normal-sized and the other miniscule. “Tea?” I asked. “Mint and wood sorrel from the top of the hill.” I used the tips of my fingers to pass the cup and saucer over. “The flowers were still blooming.”

The fairy examined the tea with faceted gemstone eyes, sniffed the steam, but her suspicion won out. She didn’t outright pour away the tea, though. That was a good sign. She probably could have taken my eye out if she’d thrown the saucer. But she simply stood, holding the tiny cup and looking at me with expectant eyes, as if waiting for an explanation for this hospitality. On a certain level, she must have known. Her people had surely told her not to talk to humans bearing gifts. But it was hard to say no to tea and honey cakes; she was like a wild animal, skeptical and untrusting, but wanting the treats all the same.

“Beautiful day out for a picnic.” I ate one of the tea cakes myself. It was hardly a full bite, but I wanted to prove they were safe. That had been a misstep and I could almost feel her patience running out by her guarded body language. With knees slightly bent, arms crossed, and wings flexing continuously, she was ready to fly off into the ether if I so much as breathed wrong.

How stupid that had been! Fairies did not talk of the weather. They did not make conversation with humans at all, if they could help it. I wasn’t going to win her over with idle chatter, and the longer I waited, the more likely she was to flee back to her burrow.

But I couldn’t let that happen. Her power was my last chance.

“Ah, I almost forgot,” I opened the picnic basket next to me to reveal freshly baked loaf of bread and a crock of churned butter. The bread’s yeasty smell filled the little grotto that had been created when this old oak tree had been cut down decades ago.

With a serrated knife, I made two slices of bread and slathered them each with butter. Hers I cut into smaller pieces so that she could actually hold it.

That seemed to do the trick—no one could resist the smell of fresh bread, whether fairy or human. Her gaze was darting around to each delicacy greedily now and the temptation overcame her. She dove forward to sample each dish.

I let her eat, giving her a few minutes to relax her guard before slamming a glass jar down over top of her, as if she were an unwanted pest in the house. Her innocent face transformed with rage, eyes becoming beady and sinister like a wolf spider. She beat her tiny fists against the glass and almost knocked it over, but I held it down until she gave up.

With one hand outstretched and the other holding the fairy’s prison in place, I retrieved the bread knife from my basket. A quick slash to the meat of my left thumb brought a bright bead of blood welling up. I held it up to the glass and the fairy’s predatory gaze locked on. Blood was irresistible to fairies—not just a loaf of bread, but an entire bakery in the morning. She’d dined on the appetizers I’d given her (and would have the rest at her leisure once our deal was complete), but now she knew why I’d invited her down.

I lifted the side of the jar slightly, just enough to put my thumb into the fairy’s cage. She tried to resist. Her black faceted eyes darted between the drop of blood and the narrow gap under the mouth of the jar, as if trying to plan whether she could force her way out before her very nature overtook her. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. She bared her teeth at me and despite her size, she was a formidable sight. Her maw was full of razor-sharp fangs designed to cut, rip, and tear.

And I was suddenly reconsidering what I’d invited her to do to my thumb.

She dove at it, smeared her face with my blood while she feasted, and buried those teeth into my flesh. Lord, it burned like putting out a red-hot coal. But it was done. My blood was a gift she couldn’t refuse, and now she “owed” me a gift in return. A favor of my choosing. And her power was my chance to change everything.

The fairy was mine now. And all it had taken was putting together a picnic and baking all morning.

I wished people were so simple.


 

Copyright KR Holton, 2024

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