Burst by Katie Jordan
Storm clouds drifted closer, harboring plump raindrops that cascaded down, pelting against Adelina’s thick glass wings. Each plink contributed to a gentle melody, lingering, then drifting away in the breeze. Adelina stood on the edge of the meadow, just beyond the forest, greeting the storm as she hummed along to its melancholic tune.
One of the faerie children scurried by, under the protection of the canopy. Her paper-thin violet wings flapped behind her as she latched onto her mother’s hand and tugged. “Mum, do ya see that tall woman? What’s wrong with ’er wings? Why’s there no color in ’er skin?”
Her mother held a finger to her lips. “Shhh, Sebille! Born different, that one. Found as a wee babe and raised by our kind. Wings too heavy to fly. Best to leave the poor dear to ’er mournful song.”
Adelina pressed one hand to her chest and closed her eyes tightly, humming louder as the precipitation increased to a torrential downpour, the tempo hitting its crescendo as lightning cracked across the cobalt and ebony ombré sky.
Sebille tugged harder. “Mum! Did ya ’ear that? A voice like an angel that one has.”
Her mum nodded, guiding Sebille onward. “Indeed. Nature’s way, I suppose. A bit of good to make up for ’er misfortunes.”
Adelina tucked her chin to her chest, remaining in place until the last drops of rain struck her wings. Then she curled up underneath a leaf, saying, “I wish I could fly, if only to belong.”
Glimmers of sunlight peaked above the clouds at sunrise, highlighting the curvature of Adelina’s hooked nose, her milky white skin, and vibrant, emerald-green eyes. She climbed a weed and leaned against its stalk, her spindly, long legs nearly brushing the ground. The weight of her glass wings threatened to drag her back.
Blades of grass rustled below. Adelina’s eyes grew wide at the sight of the freckled-faced child staring up.
Sebille cupped her hands around her mouth. “Psst! Can ya make that music again?”
Adelina’s shoulders slumped forward. Her voice as smooth as honey, “I wish I could do that for you. It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid. I need rain.”
“Oh, bother.” Sebille rubbed her hands against her flower petal dress. “My mum says it’s a shame, what with you being different, but I think yer the most beautiful woman I ever did see.”
Adelina raised her chin to speak, but Sebille’s mum flew in, grabbing Sebille by the arm. “I told you to let ’er be.”
“Just give me one minute, Mum!” Sebille wiggled away from her mother’s grasp and flew beside Adelina, whispering, “Mum said you like to be on your lonesome. She said you’re lookin’ for somethin’.”
Adelina’s jaw quivered. “Perhaps I am.”
Sebille’s freckles danced as she smiled. “All fairies have a purpose. I think you’re just sitting on ya tuffet, waiting for yours.”
“Sebille!” her mum scolded. “You best mind me this instant!”
After Sebille and her mum left, Adelina ate berries, watching the meadow fairies in flight. The corners of her lips pulled upward as their conversations and laughter infiltrated the air. Her smile faded. Palms pressed together, eyes searching the skyline, she whispered, “Something is missing. But I don’t know what.”
Nightfall came early. The gentle glow of stars and the waning crescent moon emitted a soft light that sent shivers down Adelina’s neck. The chill relaxed her wings. She stretched, then laid down and slumbered.
A single drop of rain fell, emitting one sweet note of music that woke her, and left her craving more. Carefully she stood and began to walk past chestnut trees, ponds, and tall shrubs, journeying further from home than ever, as her heavy wings throbbed. She gritted her teeth, bearing the pain. The moon beckoned, the stars shone, and the single note of music begged to be accompanied. Her soul guided her. She paused in an open field, the last glowing of starlight fading, as day broke.
A young man's voice sounded behind her, too gentle to be startling. “I’m Jayy. Who are you?”
His eyes were impossibly green. His stature tall. His skin as milky as a pearl. Long snow-white hair framed his thin face and hooked nose. She inhaled sharply, “I’m Adelina. I live with the meadow faeries.” She turned to point in the direction of home, her finger hovering mid-air.
Jayy took a step closer, “Did you lose your way?” Adelina’s wings beat twice at the sight of his bare feet, leaf shirt, and pants knitted from moss. He bowed his chin, gazing at her petal dress. “You clearly aren’t a meadow faerie. You belong with us. The rain faeries.”
Adelina’s lips trembled. One look at Jayy told her they were somehow one and the same. Her wings flapped again. She murmured, “Why is the rain so sad?”
“It isn’t,” he said, motioning upward. “Here, let me show you.”
She tried to fly, but grimaced and groaned underneath the weight of her glass wings. Jayy took her hand. She leaned on him for support, soaring. They landed in a thicket dense with mist.
Her breath caught in her throat. “Why are your wings stronger than mine?”
“Your strengths are not mine, and mine are not yours.” He squeezed her hand, then released it as fresh rain fell. “Go on. Spread your wings and see for yourself.”
Adelina furrowed her brow. “What do you—?” She stepped into the mist and gasped as her wings refracted the light and sent out bursts of color, arching and stretching for miles.
Jayy intertwined his fingers in hers. “I can’t shine as brightly as you.” He stretched his wings, creating his own prisms — a faint second rainbow.
Fine mist continued to fall. Adelina began humming, the music light and constant. Jayy chimed in, his song strong but sporadic. As their melodies joined, the fusion created a joy that filled Adelina’s heart with hope.
Katie Jordan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her bonsai enthusiast husband, Brad, two daughters, and the world's loneliest goldfish seeking a friend, Fishy McFishfish. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Wyld Flash, Marrow Magazine, and Eerie River Publishing, among others.