The Lending Library
C. L. Kraemer
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Faeries try to fit into the human world when the forest where they make their home is destroyed by a mysterious enemy.
Ailidh wobbled precariously on her high heels.
Kayne smirked. "Having problems, dear?"
"Shut up!" she snapped. "I need to practice this until I get it right. We don’t really have many options left open to us, Kayne. You had better practice, too."
He stopped and steadied himself on the railing of the porch. He wriggled his feet out of the closed leather shoes that encased them.
"I don’t know why you insist we wear these ridiculous articles of clothing. This long-sleeved shirt cuts off the circulation to my hands not to mention the lack of space for my wings and these long pants chap my legs.
"Worst of all, are these horrendous leather shoes. They pinch and make my feet swell. Why do we have to go through all of this? I don’t understand." Kayne grumbled.
Ailidh sighed and slowly, patiently explained to him, once again, why they were practicing.
"Remember last Wednesday when Keegan and Connal lost their dwelling? The sound of their tree crashing to the ground was deafening. The Others are moving out more and more. We will lose our home if we don’t act first. Now, put your shoes back on and walk for just five more minutes."
Kayne wrestled his shirt off and threw it to the porch’s deck. He pulled the long pants off his body and left them in a heap next to the shirt. Bending forward, he touched his toes gingerly as he gradually unfurled his lacey wings. Slowly, he pulled himself to an upright position. Shoulders back, wings completely expanded, he lifted his 18-inch form to its full height and looked at Ailidh defiantly.
"I don’t need to fit into the Others’ world. They need to adjust themselves to my world and leave us alone."
Ailidh, teetering, grabbed the lower railing of the porch and shook her head.
"Kayne, most of the Others don’t even know we exist. How can they adjust to something they don’t even believe?"
"They adjust to animals, don’t they?"
"The animals chose to be seen. We did not. Remember? Our great, great grandfathers took a vote and decided we would endanger ourselves more if we continued to be visible to the Others. At that time, they didn’t have all the machinery they have now. They moved into our lands at a slower pace. Now, put on the clothes and try to adjust."
"No." Kayne kicked at the clothing on the porch. "I’m going to get a magazine and a cup of coffee. You can stand here and practice day and night for all I care."
He turned on his heels and lifted himself off the ground with his delicate appendages. He lazily winged his way into the open window of the building marked Lending Library.
Hovering until he landed on the balls of his feet, he folded the wings tight to his torso and walked to the corner of the building signed Coffee Shop. He sat in a small chair snugged close to the matching table. Sliding the Newsweek someone had tossed on the table toward him, he flipped through the pages. Minimized for easier handling, the magazine was still large enough to require both of his hands to turn the pages. A diminutive nymph in a waitress uniform with a "Chrissy" nametag took his order for a latte. Ten minutes later, she returned with the steaming liquid in a cup.
"Thanks, Chrissy." Kayne picked up the cup carefully and took a sip.
"No problem, Kayne," she had a surprisingly deep voice for a nymph. "Where’s Ailidh?"
Kayne jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward the front porch.
"Practicing," he grunted.
"Oh," Chrissy mopped the table next to Kayne’s with a wet rag then flew daintily to the kitchen with the dirty cups and saucers she’d picked up. One of the resident dryads of the valley, Chrissy was living in the tree behind the Lending Library. Her home across the meadow had been one of the first destroyed.
Ailidh is right. Kayne frowned at the silent admission. The Others were invading his world with frightening, swift, uncaring swaths into the forestlands. Soon there wouldn’t be an Ancient tree left. While, at a glance, their movements seemed random, even careless, Kayne had noted a pattern, albeit haphazard, to their actions. Months earlier he’d watched from a safe distance as the huge screeching yellow machines ripped up his ancient wood friends and squashed their bodies beneath armored tracks. He could never be sure whether the squealing had been the old trees or the vicious yellow machines. After the first occasion of watching as they destroyed a sea of Ancients, Kayne had left on shaky wings and flown home. Ailidh was furious at him, thinking he’d been with his friends drinking honeysuckle wine. He couldn’t stop throwing up long enough to tell her what he’d seen.