A poem by Siegfried Sassoon, titled:
Where sunshine flecks the green,
Through towering woods my way
Goes winding all the day.
Scant are the flowers that bloom
Beneath the bosky screen
And cage of golden gloom.
Few are the birds that call,
Shrill-voiced and seldom seen.
Where silence masters all,
And light my footsteps fall,
The whispering runnels only
With blazing noon confer;
And comes no breeze to stir
The tangled thickets lonely.
I was moved by the feeling of Mr. Sassoon’s forest. It returned me to the mystery I find in the woods. This in turn led me back to another segment of my urban fairy tale.
“What May Enter Here” : Part Four
Where Sunshine Flecks the Green
The summer neared its close and Todd had been careful and circumspect in all his visits. It was nearly a year since Culley had begun his journeys to that other place. I wondered if I had somehow offended Todd on the day I think of as ‘The Art Class’. I certainly did not have the skill to make such a judgment and I could hardly ask Culley “have I made Todd angry?” It would sound ridiculous and only confuse him in the face of my uncertain relationship with his father’s family and all the Fey for that matter.
It had seemed such a pleasant encounter. He showed humor of a level that surprised me with its intimate understanding of some portions of our culture, juxtaposed with a complete and utter ignorance of other aspects. He was gentle and courteous about my own ignorance as well, which is vast. I feel so unprepared to interact with anyone of his world, or of my own if I am to be honest; Dain and I were separate from any of them, either mine or his. We made our own world apart.
Today I found the fox on my porch, when I returned from the store. I knew there was something wrong at once. The clothes I had supplied him were mostly scattered beside the hen house, the feed bin where they were kept lay open. The shirt remained where it had caught and torn on a hinge. He wore only the trousers and he was slick with rain. It had been a misting rain that came early and I assumed would be burned away by the sun before noon. I did not see him at once. I had pulled up and began to gather the shopping bags from the back of the auto when I looked up to see him, off to the side of the porch, hunched as if awaiting a blow.
“Todd?” he did not speak, but only looked at me from beneath his brows. A look that caused fear to rush up my spine. Still I could think of no reason for any problem, so I acted with a polite manor to set him at ease, if not myself. Nothing is normal in this life I have chosen. “Come in,” I told him, “I have to put away this food and then I can make us tea.” He stood in a near mechanical way, for a creature so normally graceful. I tried and failed to quell my anxiety as I led him in.
I shoved milk, butter, and meat into the refrigerator and turned to face him, the question on my face beyond recall. In one step he wrapped me in his arms and laid his head against mine. He held me hard and I answered him in kind, feeling his sorrow. Then the question struck me hard.
I pushed him back and asked, “Is it Culley?” Terror staccatoed my heart so suddenly that I could not breath. A flicker crossed his face as he realized my confusion and he rallied himself.
“My foster mother Mora has passed. I had no other place to go.” He seemed ragged and tired. Grief I understood and I nodded closing my eyes for a moment of recovery. He seemed inclined to speech now, so I took his hand and waited. There was more than grief here. He was despondent and there was a barely held fury as well. “She asked me to prevent them, but they took her. They have their ways and care not for any other choice. They will burn her remains and dance and laugh pretending to honor her.” He panted with his outrage, unable to go on. I squeezed his hand and he nodded. “They held me aside like some churl! I fought them, but they knew and came with many and with weapons. They laughed.”
I could see the bruises now on his arms and chin. He had fought them hard. I slipped my arms around him and laid my head against his skin, strangely aware of the scent of cinnamon. We stood like this until I heard his heart and breath slow. He continued.
“She asked to be buried in the wood by my family’s grave, where the sun finds its way at end of day. I promised her.” He looked into my eyes with a pain so full that it washed through me as well. I held his eyes, incapable of words and he shuddered and then bent to my lips. In ways I do not know, we made our way to my bedroom and to my bed. I had forgotten touch, forgotten the lost sense of boundaries. The confusion of who is toucher and who is touched as you are convinced there is only one joy, one longing, one heart brought into being.
We slept and woke to touch again, returning to sleep and woke and slept yet again. It was as if we had fallen into a dream, a cycle of moving together and then not quite apart. The sun moved to play patterns of leaves against the wall. I heard the screen door slam. Culley!
In my blue robe, its sash knotted firm against me, I pulled open the door to my room. There stood Culley, smiling.
“It’s not…” His direct gaze froze me. Never had I spoken less than truth to my boy: the being of my heart. “I want…” I began again, feeling helpless to find a word that would not make me cringe. My child saved me.
“You want me to know that you love me.” I nodded. “I know that. I want you to be happy.” He paused and watched me with a guileless gaze that I had never questioned, and still could not. “I believe you are.” He ended softly and left me without voice at all. Behind me, the door opened wider and I cast a glance back to see Todd clothed only in my blouse, knotted around his waist: a floral voile of less than useful translucence. I covered my mouth but not in time to stop the snorted laugher. Both men (for man my son had become) looked at me with incomprehension. I simply shook my head, letting go of any need to explain.
“Todd.” My son’s voice rose in volume and clarity. He seemed taller and older, and I knew this to be a glamour of sorts. “You are welcome here: all entries, posts, lintels, doors, windows, of any kind will let you pass. You are held as friend and family in my home. Here you may find protection, anonymity, support and succor. Only ask.”
Todd had dropped to one knee as Culley spoke. I felt strange and appalled, but somehow right as well. “I thank you my Lord Culley.” Todd’s voice rang out with similar clarity. “With all my heart I pledge troth to you and yours. If there is work or council or aid I may give, you need only ask. If a day comes to take up arms, I will stand at your shoulder.” A thread of fear chilled me with these last words, though it all seemed only formal.
Now Culley grinned, all little boy. “Just ‘Culley’ at home Todd, please rise.” He turned back to me as Todd stood. “I realize you had already given permission, Mama, but there is a formula that must be met, if the protection charm is to stand firm.” I nodded, still mute. “Todd, my grandmother sends her greetings. She promises that todays’ outrage will be met in kind. Both you and my father will be avenged.” There was a silence we all held at these words. Then my boy seemed to deflate, and to transmute himself back into ‘boy’. “When’s dinner? I’m starved!” He turned and clomped boy-style into his room, where rucksack fell and books were ruffled and the sound of the bed being flopped on put to an end to things.
I turned to look at Todd who showed me a face of amazement and a growing smile. Gently he reached for my hand and drew me back into the room, where we took a peaceful moment or two before retiring to the kitchen to prepare ‘Lord’ Cully’s dinner.
I have grown used to waking to a tangle of limbs and easy caresses beneath my covers. Sometimes I find a fox, wound tightly on top the coverlet, tail tip over eyes. If I have the bad sense to tickle him then, sometimes I sport a painful nip. I return it later.
I do not know what the future holds, but the ‘now’ has resolved itself nicely.