Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can see the dappled sunlight dancing in my memories from a day long ago.
She appeared out of nowhere like a dream and faded like one, but the magical day we had together is perfectly seared in my memory, never to be forgotten. Her hair of gold was so different from anything I’d ever seen. There was dimension to her light brown eyes flecked with green. All I’d ever known were black eyes and black hair, so you could imagine how taken I was with her.
I met her at the country club one lazy summer day. I had an early round of golf and had retreated to the library until hunger got the better of me and I was forced to go to the canteen. When I was making my usual order of fried chicken on nasi lemak, I noticed her picking flowers in my peripheral vision.
What an astonishing creature. I kept glancing at her throughout the meal, convinced that my eyes were playing tricks on me.
At my age, I hadn’t yet discovered race and skin color. I knew that there were people that looked different, such as my golf instructor, who told me he came from a country that was dreary and cold but sounded wonderful to me. He also had a large hooked nose and a funny way of speaking. He’d say “a hair past a freckle” when I asked for the time and he called me a wallaby.
It never occurred to me that perhaps the girl came from a different country with light hair and colored eyes. I imagined she was just like me, just born different and lucky.
When I finished my food, I went up to her and asked what she was looking for.
“I can’t seem to find any flowers I recognize,” came her reply. It was so articulate and proper that I was taken aback. She looked to be about my age and I’ve never heard anyone speak like her before.
“I don’t know any flowers.” I answered pointedly. Who wasted time learning the names of such mundane things when there were adventures to be had?
“I think this might be a type of snowdrop,” she held up a little white drooping thing. “But it’s far too tiny.”
Without warning, she chucked everything onto the ground and dusted her hands on her trousers. I think she must have been wearing trousers, but when I remember her in my mind’s eye, she’s always wearing a dress.
“Shall we go?”
When you’re eight or nine, you don’t try to get to know someone first before deciding to play with them. You jump at the prospect of having companionship, names be damned, and truly, it never crossed my mind to ask for her name and neither did she ask for mine.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked, eager for a friend.
“I’ve only just been around here.” She admitted, “I don’t know where to go.”
Overjoyed at the idea of taking this wonderfully radiant girl on a tour around a place I knew so well, I told her to follow me. The first place I took her was to the putting range, because it was early afternoon and all the golfers were out on the golf course, leaving the putting range and its cover of pine trees abandoned.
“Come look at this,” I picked up a pine needle and attempted to play a game that I would play with the other golfers my age during class. We’d sever the pine needle into two pieces and sheath it back together again. “Where is it broken?” I ask her.
She squinted at the pine needle I was holding and laughed. I hadn’t expected to be embarrassed by her forthright laughter but she said, “That’s silly!”
I forced a smile and threw the needle away. If I were as sophisticated as she were, perhaps I’d find it silly too. But I glanced at the fallen needle glumly, feeling like we’re not going to have fun together.
“I think this place could be magic!” She exclaimed, throwing her hands up into the air and skipping forward.
Excitement filled me, “Really? Why do you say that?” I looked around, hoping to see what she saw.
“If you close your eyes, you can hear it… Do you hear it?”
I closed my eyes and strained to hear what she heard, but all there was were the distant sounds of the driving range, chittering birds, and oh! A wonderful silence.
“Yes,” I nod. “It is beautiful.”
“You don’t hear it.” She says, not in an accusatory manner, but as a matter-of-fact.
“What do you hear?” I ask her.
“I hear magic.” She smiled widely. There was no slyness in her face and so there was no reason for me to doubt her. It was probably why I was so ready to believe everything she said. I hung on to her every word, so filled with conviction were they.
I lean close towards her, “What does magic sound like”?” I asked, awed.
She cocked her head to the side and her curls cascaded like a waterfall of sunshine. “If only we could find a ring of toadstools…”
My brows were furrowed now. “What are toadstools?”
“It’s a fairy ring! Don’t you know about fairy rings?”
I shook my head and followed her deeper into the foliage as she scoured the ground for what I did not know.
“Surely you must know about fairies.” She straightened up to look at me with her greenish brown eyes and curiously pointed ears.
“Of course,” I said importantly, “I’ve read about them in Enid Blyton and in many adventure stories.” I wanted to sound more knowledgeable than I was so I lied blatantly, “They are really small and if you’re not careful, you’ll smack one accidentally, thinking it were a bug.”
This sent her into peals of laughter. I was surprised she didn’t fall right over.
Instead of contradicting me, she told me that where there are fairy rings, there are fairies. Winged little beings that are as mischievous as they are beautiful. If we entered a fairy ring, we would be able to see them, but otherwise, they’d be invisible to the human eye.
Upon hearing that, I joined her search because I so wanted to see fairies for myself. We entered the golf course and glued our eyes to the ground. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly, but I assumed that a ring of anything could be a fairy ring.
Soon enough, I came across miniscule flowers growing in a ring and called out, “I found one! I found one!”
The girl who was hunting under a canopy of leaves came scuttling over, eyes wide with anticipation. When she saw what I had found, she hissed in annoyance and told me that toadstools weren’t a type of flower, they were mushrooms.
I was too young to feel embarrassed about my ignorance. Finally I announced that there was no magic here because I’ve never seen any fairy rings and that was the end of our little adventure.
Undeterred by disappointment, she began to tell me about the fairy court and how they would often play tricks on unsuspecting people.
“They sound bad!” I gasp when she talks about how they stole babies and misled people into fairyland.
“Oh, no, they aren’t wicked at all,” she explained, “They love tricking humans because they haven’t got any human emotions of their own.”
It struck me as odd, how fairies don’t have feelings, and I told her as much.
“But they do have feelings.” She insisted, looking slightly irritated now.
“Are they unkind?”
She mused for a moment before saying, “I suppose they could be kind but they are also dreadfully merciless.” Like a child who doesn’t know any better, my experienced mind quips in. Having gone on to have children of my own, I understand the single-mindedness of fairies much better now. Unfortunately, I have come a long way from being the same person I was that day I met the beautiful blond girl.
Now that I’m older, I imagine she must have been visiting, which was why I never saw her in the country club after that day, although I did search for her in the weeks to come. She became a secret that I guarded, a little bit of magic from my childhood that I stowed away.
“Why do you want to find them if they are so horrible?” I asked upon finding out that fairies could be cruel.
I didn’t see it then, and perhaps the years have distorted my memory somehow, but her eyes flashed green and she said in a low voice, “No more horrible than humans can be.”
In a moment, she was back to normal again, and she continued in a lighthearted manner, “Have I told you about the piskies? They are smaller than the fair folk, almost child-like…”
Unquestioning is the child’s mind and I allowed her words to sweep me up in my fanciful imagination. I pretended that pixies and nymphs giggled just out of sight at the two little girls who were blind to the magic around them. Or perhaps, I was the blind one, and they followed us so they could bring the golden sunshine child home.