When Glen was ten, he touched the fairy for the second time. It happened when he asked the fairy to sit beside him on the big branch where he often stretched out his legs. Aster stayed out of reach, but she was glad to comply until Glen made a request.
“Would you get big?” He asked, because she had not done that and he wanted to see her full sized. Glen knew in their big size, fairies could pass for ordinary people, though very beautiful people. So Glen wondered what Aster looked like in human terms, and he wanted to try and guess her age.
Aster said nothing. She rose up from her perch and flitted back and forth a bit as she appeared to think.
“Please.” Glen thought to add the word, and that seemed to be enough. Aster sat again on the branch and became big, and her dress also got big to accommodate to the larger Aster. Glen was astounded. He said nothing for a good minute, and Aster actually had to prompt him.
“Do you like the way I look?” She said and turned her head away like one embarrassed.
“Very much,” Glen said. “And I would guess you are about twelve.” He could see the signs that her stick figure might be getting ready to develop some shape.”
“Thanks,” Aster responded with a look in his eyes. “But I am much older than that.”
“Wait a minute,” Glen made her pause as he thought about it. “That would make you about sixty in real years.” He guessed.
“Exactly.” Aster sounded surprised before the two of them sat, looked at each other now and then and mostly looked at the lake.
“You are taller than I am,” Glen said at last.
“Girls mature faster.” That was the first time Glen heard that, but he believed it.
“Let me see your hand.” Glen raised his hand and waited while Aster fretted. Aster worried her hands, looked down at her feet over the water, brushed her hair behind her pointed ear, but at last put her hand to his so her thumb was to his thumb. She had long fingers and fully a third rose above his, but her hand was narrow and disappeared entirely behind Glen’s. They both smiled when they touched.
“Your fingers are longer,” Glen said.
“Your hand is wider,” she responded while she wiggled the part of her fingers that stuck over the top of his.
“But you have longer fingers than I do.”
“But your hand is wider and swallows my little hand.”
“It does, but yours is softer.”
“Yours is stronger.”
They were babbling. Neither wanted to let go even if they weren’t exactly holding hands.
“Glen!” Someone called from the path in front of the Big House. Glen and Aster snapped their hands back to themselves. “Glen.” The person inched down the steep hill to see where Glen was sitting in his tree, but Aster was already little and gone. It was Brother Tom.
“I’ll be back next summer,” Glen whispered, though there was no response.
“Who are you talking to?” Glen’s brother looked at him like he thought Glen had surely lost his mind and was talking to himself. Or maybe he glimpsed something.
“Just telling stories,” Glen said as he scrambled back up the hillside. He said no more about it.
When Glen turned thirteen and Aster turned sixty-three, Glen could see that he guessed rightly. She had the small bumps and curves of a girl who was going to become a beautiful woman. Glen smiled all summer and they sat close, side by side, and held hands, often. They did not say much that summer, but they did not have to. They were content to be together.
Glen took that whole summer to work up the courage, but at last he took her to the end of the trunk where the roots of that big tree clung to the side of the hill. He was about to speak when something zoomed past them like a sudden gust of wind. Aster rolled her eyes in a very pre-teen fashion that Glen knew well. The gust came again in the opposite direction.
“My cousin.” Aster admitted.
“Oh?” Glen stuck out and stiffened his arm and immediately felt the bump against his forearm and heard the complaint.
“Ow!” Aster’s cousin fell to the ground in a crumpled heap and rubbed his chest. He was an elf and about eight or nine in human terms, the age Glen was when he first met Aster.
“Caleon!” Aster scolded him with his name and stomped her foot. He totally interrupted what might have been an intimate moment.
“I wanted to see him. I can see if I want to.” Caleon even sounded like an eight-year-old, though he sounded more like a nosey little brother than a cousin. Aster responded in her most grown-up voice.
“Well, you’ve seen. Now go tell Iris I’ll be home shortly.”
Caleon looked up at Glen and Glen had a word to add. “Go.” Caleon went. Aster watched but as Glen felt the wind, he found his hands move to Aster’s waist.
Aster turned to Glen with great joy written all over her face. She was still a bit taller than him in her big form, but that did not matter. She slipped her hands over his shoulders and pulled in for a great hug, and both fairy and human felt exactly the same way – full of joy and peace and warmth. Then their lips met.
Most Grown-ups forget what it is like to be twelve and thirteen. They think of such young people as children. They forget what it was like before sex invaded their lives. There was nothing sexual in that kiss, but it was full of more passion than most grown-ups would believe. When they parted, Aster had tears in her eyes. She took a step back and Glen did not resist, though Glen wanted to hold her longer, maybe forever.
“I have to go,” Aster said, and she let go completely. Glen also let go, though he felt the stab in his heart when he took back his hands.
“I’ll be here next year,” he said. “You will be almost thirteen then and I’ll be fourteen, and maybe as tall as you.”
Aster let out a whimper of a laugh before she began to cry in earnest. She immediately got small and fluttered out of reach. Glen saw her head shake and heard her words between her tears. “I cannot see you again.”
“Because you are growing up, and I can’t help that. You are becoming a young man and I am still the same little girl you met on that first day.”
“No, but you are growing, too.” Glen saw Aster shake her little head. He put his hand out to her, but she just backed up a bit more to stay out of reach.
“When I am of age, Iris says you will be fifty, and when I am full grown you will be eighty. I don’t want to see you get old. I want you to stay young with me forever in my heart.”
“But that is not fair.” Glen did not know what else to say. Aster hovered and stared at Glen while he came to grips with it all in his mind. “If you change your mind. If you ever need me or just want to see me, promise you will find me.” He felt the tears come to his eyes as well, but shoved them back down.
Aster nodded and said something that Glen could never have articulated on his own. “I love you.”
Glen responded with his heart. He felt the same way. “I love you too.” And he watched as Aster flitted across the lake, a fairy at first, then indistinguishable from a butterfly or horsefly and finally she disappeared altogether in the silver sparkles of the sun that danced on the lake in the late afternoon.