Oh, bother! Greta sat up. The sun would be up soon enough and the bed she had was not the best. She found her way to the kitchen and found Mayann already up and cooking. The woman handed her a bowl of some kind of mush in milk. Yesterday’s bread, she thought, but it went down well.
“Thank you,” Greta said. “I would help, but my Mama says all I do in the kitchen is make a mess.” Greta wondered what Darius would think of that.
“Quite all right,” Mayann said. She seemed perfectly at home in the kitchen.
“I thought maybe you went home.” Greta had not realized Mayann stayed in the village.
“I stay with Vilam when I can,” Mayann said. “He is a good man and a good father.” Greta noticed she did not call him a good husband.
“Are you happy?” Greta asked.
Mayann stopped cooking. “I suppose. Well enough. I don’t ask for much so I don’t get disappointed. Vilam cares for me and he has never beaten me. I suppose that is more than some women can claim.” She tried to smile. She handed Greta a second bowl of mush. “Here. You need to get some nourishment into that brother of yours. He has slept long enough. That girl made sure of that.”
“What do you mean?” Greta asked, and tried to sound casual about it all.
“Well.” Mayann was not fooled, but spoke freely anyway. “Vilam got him here and to bed all right, and got on to the meeting. That girl, though, curled right up on top of the boy and said she would be his blanket. I said she was being shameless, but she threatened me if I dared wake him, even by accident, she was going to feed me to the ogres.” Mayann shook her head and smiled. “Ogres.” She laughed. It did not seem to Greta that Mayann believed in ogres and she felt it wise that it was not the time to correct her. Instead, Greta took the mush into Hans’ room
Hans lay in bed, alone, with no sign of Berry. “Time to eat.” Greta said, as Hans roused a bit. She began to spoon feed him.
“Greta,” Hans said, as he started to wake up. “I had the strangest dream last night.”
“Oh?” Greta wondered.
“Yes. I dreamt we went into the forest and pushed Grandma into the oven. Then I saw these lovely bright lights and I followed them to a place where I heard the strangest music. I danced all night with beautiful women. I suppose I’m not making any sense.”
“That’s the way dreams are,” Greta said. “Go on.”
“Well, then you showed up, and we went over to a table where they had a feast. And then Papa carried me to bed like when I was a child, except we didn’t go to bed. The next thing I knew; we sailed to the land of talking animals. I remember an eagle and a bear, and we headed to the village of the bears. Grandma was there, too. I guess she got out of the oven. And she had the most awesome young girl with her who was the most gorgeous creature I have ever seen.” He stopped. He looked a little like he was not sure if he wanted to tell the rest.
“Go on,” Greta said, feigning no interest in anything but the mush and the spoon.
“Okay, but just remember, it was only a dream because it is kind of embarrassing.”
“I’ll remember,” Greta said, and fed him a spoonful.
“Okay,” Hans said. “I was still trying to go to sleep and this bear and this dream girl took me away from you and brought me to bed, and I was so happy because I was so very tired. But then, before I could lie down, the girl hugged me and snuggled right up to me and kissed me. You’re not going to believe this. She kissed me right on the lips, and, I don’t know, but it did not seem like a friendly “How do you do” sort of a kiss.
“Oh? What was it like.” Greta could not resist teasing a little at that point. Hans began to change color. “That good, huh?”
Hans slid down a bit under his covers. “Gods, it was wonderful.” He said to his sister what he would have never admitted to any other human being in the world.
Right on cue, and the little ones do that sort of thing naturally, Berry came breezing in. “Good morning,” she said. “My Hans. It is going to be a beautiful day. You must come and see it with me.” She bent over and kissed Hans on the cheek. “Do you see the flower I found? Doesn’t it look lovely in my hair?”
“Go on.” Greta brushed Berry back out the door.
“Who was that? That was her.” Hans sat up and looked around as if for the first time. “Where are we?”
“We are in the village of the Bear Clan,” Greta answered. “And they are people, not bears. You were missing for three days, but now I found you and you are safe.” She hugged him. “And that was your dream girl, Berry. And if you are very good, and for once in your life do what I ask, maybe she will stay with us for a while.”
Hans became utterly transparent for a minute, stared at nothing in particular, and put his hand softly to his lips. Greta laughed even as Vilam burst into the room.
“We have to go,” he said. “Can you move?” He asked Hans, but Hans had no idea what the Celt was saying.
“I think so.” Greta responded for him.
“I hope so. Hurry up.” Vilam picked up a couple of things and left.
Greta wondered what was up. She felt afraid to imagine, but fortunately, she had to help Hans to his feet first. He seemed shaky, but he could walk with help and she knew he would get stronger as he walked off his stiffness. They stepped out of the room and out of the house without pause, and Berry pushed Greta out of the way. “Let me help,” she insisted. She put her arm around Han’s waist and pulled his arm over her shoulder. “Ungh.” She said in a very fetching way. “You’re a heavy one.”
“I can’t help that,” Hans said. “But you feel light as air.” Greta saw his smile.
“I am,” Berry said, with all seriousness. “You don’t know, but I am.” She looked at Greta but Greta shook her head, no. At least not yet, Greta thought, though she knew it was already too late. In time, staying big, Berry would begin to behave more like a real thirteen-year-old girl, but as a little flyer, her mind and heart were set on Hans forever and ever. There was not room in the fairy world for the kind of complicated relationships and multiple choices and possibilities that humans got into. Greta envied her. Berry belonged utterly to Hans and since Hans had eaten fairy food, Greta imagined he belonged to her as well. She sighed. Why couldn’t her life be so easy?