Jake soon realized he was getting nowhere, yelling. Jessica took his hand and finally calmed him down enough to look at the footprints where he had not yet stomped. Jake recognized Elizabeth’s by her little foot and short stride. The other prints were barefoot, flat footed and too big.
“Mister Putterwig?” Jake asked. The prints did not look right because they did not look exactly human.
Jessica shrugged. “Where are we?” She squeezed Jake’s hand, and her question caused Jake to finally look around and wonder the same thing.
“I felt something when we came through the door,” Jake said. He dropped Jessica’s hand, stood, and fingered a pine branch to be sure it was real.
“I did too. An odd tingling sensation.” She only looked at him
“Me too,” Jake agreed. He went to look again at the footprints. He avoided her eyes.
“I don’t see any way back the way we came,” Jessica walked all of the way around one of the trees.
“This is the way we need to go,” Jake said, and he pointed in the direction the footprints pointed.
“But the way back.” Jessica protested. “We can’t wander off. We’ll just get ourselves lost and never find this place again.”
“I’m not leaving this place, wherever we are, until I get Elizabeth back.”
Jessica was scared about wandering off into the dark woods, but her words spoke of something else. “Are you sure? You didn’t seem too concerned about Elizabeth before.”
“What are you implying?”
“Nothing. You said she ruined your life. I just thought you were only concerned about Jake.”
“What made you think that?”
“Well, you sit right next to me in Civics and you won’t even talk to me.” That was a complete change of subject.
“Well, you won’t talk to me either.”
“I’ve tried, but you don’t respond.”
“Well, I can’t talk to you.” Jake turned a little red. “I’ve tried too.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t think of what to say, and my life is so dull and boring.”
“Oh.” Jessica lost some steam. “I don’t think your life is dull and boring. I think taking care of a seven-year-old is special, and you do a great job.”
“I didn’t do such a great job today,” Jake confessed. His voice was also calmer, but his upset was evident.
“We will find her together,” Jessica offered, and reached out to touch his hand again.
“Good,” a woman’s voice said, which startled Jake and Jessica. They backed away from each other like two young people caught by their parents, “Some of us are trying to sleepy.”
“Who said that?” Jake raised his voice and spun around.
“Was it a bird?” Jessica pointed toward the top of a tree where the branches shook.
“Don’t be silly,” the voice said. “Birdies can’t talk.” Something fluttered down from the branches to face them, and at first it made them think it was a bird, or a giant talking insect. It turned out to be a little woman with wings, a fairy, and Jake stared and smiled. Jessica fell over and seemed to have trouble closing her mouth.
“Elizabeth, my little sister dressed like a fairy for Halloween,” Jake said, completely enchanted. He put his hand up slowly to touch and see if the fairy was real, but the fairy backed off and would not let him touch her.
“Yes, I heard you calling. Elizabeth. Eliza-BETH. It was very loud. Too loud for sleeping.”
“I’m sorry about that.”
“We’re sorry,” Jessica corrected Jake as she began to get over her astonishment.
“Oh, Jessica. Elizabeth would love to meet a real, live fairy.” Jake looked down, and gave Jessica a hand to help her to her feet.
“Do you know the way through the forest?” Jessica asked and spoke to Jake, though she never took her eyes off the hovering fairy. “I wouldn’t mind going after Elizabeth if we had something like a guide.”
The fairy fluttered down to face Jessica. “There are ways through the trees, and then there are ways. I’m not saying which way is best.”
“Maybe you could show us the way Elizabeth went,” Jake suggested.
She zipped over to face Jake. “I don’t know the way Elizabeth went.” Jake looked defeated. “But she was with Greely Putterwig, and I know where he lives.” Jake brightened. “Maybe we could go to Greely’s nasty house and ask.”
“So, you will go with us?” Jessica asked
“Well.” The fairy looked at them both and put one hand up to tap a finger against her cheek. “Human people don’t belong here. I suppose Lady Alice would not want you to get lost in the woods and yelling. Then nobody would get any sleep.”
“So you’ll come?” Jake asked.
“My sister Pumpkin used to travel with human people and she had great adventures.” The fairy appeared to smile. “Okay,” she said. “Where are we going?”
“To Greely Putterwig’s house,” Jessica said.
“But we can’t get there from here,” the fairy said firmly.
“I’m Jake,” Jake said and pointed again. “The footprints go this way. Maybe we can find a place where we can get to Putterwig’s house.”
“Okay,” the fairy said happily. “I’m Cinnamon.”
“What a lovely name. I’m Jessica.”
“Hi Jessica. Can I ride on your shoulder?”
Jessica stopped. “Will it hurt?”
“Only if you get too bumpy. I might have to hold on to your hair.”
“Okay,” Jessica imitated the fairy and then squinted in case it did hurt. The fairy settled down without a bump, and she was very light so Jessica hardly felt her. “That’s not so bad.” She started to follow Jake and Cinnamon grabbed to the strands of Jessica’s hair that stuck out from beneath her cap.
“Woah. Pumpkin never said it was this bumpy.”
Jessica grinned at her thought. “I just think you want to ride on my shoulder so you don’t have to use your own legs, or wings as the case may be.”
Cinnamon nodded, though Jessica could not exactly see her. “That, and to hide in your hair and shut my eyes when we run into spookies. Too bad you don’t have more hair.” Jessica removed her ballcap. She actually had a full head of rather thick hair. Cinnamon sounded delighted, scooted closer to Jessica’s ear to get covered and promptly spent the next few minutes playing peek-a-boo like Jessica’s hair was a kind of curtain.
They heard a scream up ahead. It sounded like Elizabeth, and Jake began to yell again. “Elizabeth! Eliza-BETH!” When there was no answer, he stopped yelling, but he turned them in the direction of the scream.
Cinnamon asked. “Can I take my fingers out of my ears now?”
“Yes,” Jessica said, but her peripheral vision showed Cinnamon still plugged up. Jessica had to reach around very carefully with her finger and dislodge one of Cinnamon’s arms to unplug the ear. “Yes,” Jessica repeated with a smile. She noted that the fairy felt like flesh and blood and not at all like something ephemeral.
“Good,” Cinnamon grabbed a chunk of hair to steady herself. “You know, there are all sorts of monsters, nasties and spookies that can make screaming like that.”
Jake stopped for a second to check the footprints. “I figured that, but it sounded like Elizabeth, and we don’t have anything else to go on.”