Fairy Tales of Cliffside: Volume Two
By Corey Daggett
Chapter 6: Innocence
Malcolm awoke only a few hours later to find the most frightening sight: Slipha smiling down at him. “Hi, sleepyhead. Ready for breakfast?”
“Uuumm...” he struggled to regain his mental faculties. “I’m gonna sleep in today. Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“Oh?” she put a finger to her lips. “Sounds juicy."
“Not really. Just... sleeping on the floor isn’t very comfortable.”
“Alright, I understand.” She patted his chest. “Sleep as long as you want.”
She stood and left the cabin. Malcolm breathed a sigh of relief. Somehow he would have to keep up a facade around her.
The next time he woke, he found Kara looking down on him. “Morning!” she said, chipper as ever.
“Morning.” he mumbled. “How late did we sleep?”
“It’s noon. We should get up now.”
“Yes, we should.”
After some struggle, Malcolm got himself up. They went outside, both shielding their eyes from the bright sun. It looked to be a pleasant, somewhat warm Saturday afternoon. A good day to be lazy. “You know, I got to thinking last night as I slept on the floor.”
"If I built a small house, like yours, would you be able to shrink me at night? That way I can have a real place to sleep."
“Sure I could. That’s a great idea!”
"Good. I'll start making plans." His mind was already turning. It would be an incredible man-cave dream home, complete with electricity, running water, and a TV bigger than him. His mind was beginning to take off with unrealistic expectations considering he had no carpentry skills and had never built anything in his life.
After lunch, Malcolm sat in the center of the yard where he and April had practiced magic. He held out his hand and began charging a sphere. It was already becoming easier (after all the practice he’d gotten last night). He stared at the globe lazily as it spun in his hand. Then, he glanced over to find Slipha asleep, once again napping in a beam of sunlight. Now he understood why.
April came and plopped down across from him. “You’re doing so well already!”
“Thanks. Do you think I’m ready to practice throwing these? I’ve already been able to pull it off a couple times.”
“Sure! Stand up and we’ll give it a try.”
Malcolm stood and held his hand out, keeping his energy sphere charged.
“Throw it at me.”
Malcolm smirked. “Sure I won’t hurt you?”
“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt me.”
But Malcolm couldn’t help but think of Daniel barely putting a hurt on Slipha. A savage sort of competitiveness rose in his mind. He charged the already-charged globe further. It became more chaotic, sizzling and crackling, sparks spraying out from it.
“No, wait!” April called.
He tossed the ball. It quickly veered off course, missing April and slamming into the house. Everything shook as it exploded. When the dust settled, the side of the cabin was covered with a black mark. “Uuuuh... ooops.”
“Malcolm! That’s not how we practiced.”
“I’m sorry. I just got carried away.”
“Control is more important than power. Remember that.”
He began charging another sphere, this time being careful to keep it the correct size. “I know, I know. Let me try again.” He tossed the ball at April. It hit her arm and popped, just like Daniel’s. April didn’t even wince.
“Much better. Now do it again.”
They played catch for the next couple of hours. Malcolm sat down to rest on the bench. April brought him some candies and sat beside him. “You’re getting much better. I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks. I really owe you for helping me.”
“No, you don’t owe me anything. Just promise you won’t use magic for stupid things!” She rolled her eyes. “Like Autumn does. Magic is for helping people, whether you’re healing or defending them. Don’t use it for your own gain.”
Malcolm nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“I admit we’re taking a big chance in teaching you. As far as I know, you’re the first human to learn.” Malcolm nodded, knowing that he wasn’t the only one. And the other would use it for ill gain. “But I trust you. You have a good heart.”
“Thanks for having so much faith in me.”
She patted his leg. “You did good today. Now we can relax the rest of the day away.”
He smiled. “Sounds good to me.” The candy in his mouth was still fizzling and it tasted great. Malcolm’s gaze wandered around the yard. Slipha was stirring from her nap. She sat up, yawned, stretched, and stood up, staggering her way into the house. (She probably needed to splash water on her face.) “Oh, April? There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask someone. But it’s a little embarrassing.”
“What is it?”
“Well... I haven’t bathed in a couple days. And I really need to. What should I do? It’s not like I can afford a hotel room or a gym.”
“Oh, I see. I suppose humans need to bathe more often than fairies?”
“I wasn’t even sure if fairies needed to bathe.”
“Sure we do! Once a week, we go down to a natural spring that’s just a little ways from here. It’s a pleasant outing.”
Malcolm saw the group of fairies bathing together in his mind. It was a magical image, turning his face warm and causing a grin to stir at the edge of his mouth.
“I can take you there!” April declared. “It’s my duty as your host, after all.”
Malcolm snapped from his daydream. “Oh? Sure, yeah, that’d be great. I feel really dirty.”
“I’ll grab the supplies and we’ll head out!”
The two of them came across the spring after a few minutes of walking. It was a beautiful place; a small watering hole that was about the size of a swimming pool, shrouded by thick foliage with a beam of sunlight focused on it. The spring feeding it bubbled below the surface, while on the far end, a small waterfall fed a stream which snaked away. Perhaps it led to the ocean.
“This is an amazing place.” Malcolm said, looking around in awe. “As perfect as a painting.” He knelt beside the water and dipped his hand in. “Oh geez! It’s cold.”
“Don’t worry about that.” April said. She held her hands out toward the water and began projecting strong beams of light into the water. After a few seconds, steam began to bubble from the surface. “There! It’ll stay warm long enough to bathe.”
“Magic has so many uses. Maybe eventually I’ll be able to heat my own water. Anyway, thanks for helping me out. I guess I’ll see you back at the...”
Malcolm turned to find April loosening the strings of her dress. He stopped mid-sentence, his entire body frozen. “Wha... what are you...?”
She beamed another cheery smile his way. “It hasn’t been a week yet, but I would like to take my bath now. Why not? We’re here, aren’t we?”
Before Malcolm could say anything else, she slid her dress off, letting it pile at her feet. Her entire body was bare before him and he couldn’t help but stare. She knelt down to one knee, picked up her dress, and laid it flat on the ground so it wouldn’t wrinkle. Then, she stood. “You can’t bathe with your clothes on, silly.” Then, she carefully sank into the water.
Malcolm felt terrified, more nervous than he’d ever been around a woman, and elated all at once. He looked around the forest, double and triple checking for anyone who might see them. Then, he took a deep breath and took off his clothes. He followed her lead, laying his clothes out flat. Then, he climbed down into the water.
April was already cleaning herself. She’d brought a small satchel with things like soap, towels, and sponges. She dipped her head under the water, then brought it back up. Her normally bright, curly hair became straight and dark with wetness. She hummed a pleasant tune as she lathered the soap with the sponge and began to bathe.
Malcolm’s face was bright red. He kept trying not to stare at the bathing beauty, trying to keep his eyes on the water, but couldn’t help but glance up at her every five seconds.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you ready to bathe?”
“Yes! I mean, yes. Of course. Just enjoying the water. That’s all.” The supplies were sitting behind her on the bank. He summoned the courage to inch closer until he was sitting beside her.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked, a puzzled look on her face.
He reached behind her head where the supplies sat and quickly picked up the sponge and soap. “No no no. I’m fine. This is just the first time I’ve bathed outside. That’s all. It’s different.”
“Oh? I don’t think I’ve ever bathed indoors. How odd.” She stood up, her breasts suddenly inches from Malcolm’s face. They sat up on her chest, perfectly rounded, small, and perky. She began lathering her upper body. “I love bathing out here in the fresh air. The scent of pine all around. The warm water and the cool air. It’s all so refreshing.”
Malcolm nodded his head furiously and ran his words together. “Yes yes yes you’re right it’s invigorating.”
She turned around. “Can you get my back?”
“Sure, of course.” He took the sponge and began scrubbing her back, taking care to work around her wings, which protruded from her shoulder blade area. Though this was certainly a new experience, a very happy, very nerve-wrecking and dangerous experience, he tried to keep a cool head. After all, he and Blaire had shared showers together. Back in the old days, the happier days before things changed. He just had to force himself to turn off his mind and not think dirty thoughts. Whatever happened, he couldn’t fall into the gutter.
“Thanks!” she said, turning back towards him and sitting down. “Here, I’ll get yours now.”
Malcolm jolted a bit. “Get my what?”
“Your back, silly!”
“Yes, my back. Sure.” He laughed a weak and nervous laugh as he turned and stood up. She began scrubbing his back with the sponge, which felt wonderful, like a deep back scratch. “Thank you.” He sat down. April lifted her leg out of the water and began lathering it, returning to humming her song.
Malcolm took his sponge and began cleaning himself, trying hard and failing to keep his eyes off her. Her beauty in the nude was mesmerizing, the smell of the soap rising from her skin intoxicating. As he gazed upon the gentle, ever-bubbly April, he couldn't help but wonder if this was her sly way of making an advance on him. It was an ingenious plan, too. She was leaving the door wide open for him to make a move on her while still maintaining an air of mindless innocence about bathing together. It made sense, didn’t it? They had grown closer over the last few days as they’d spent so much time together. What if this was her way of trying to get him to advance on her, but guarding herself from the embarrassment of rejection if he didn’t?
Or was his mind simply convincing him of these things in the heat of the moment?
The thoughts tumbled around in Malcolm’s mind as he tried to decide how he should feel. Yukina’s stern words echoed in his mind. As they continued bathing, and the thoughts tumbled faster and faster, he became convinced that his suspicions were true. April wanted him to make an advance, and he wasn’t going to disappoint her.
“Done bathing?” she asked. “I am, so we can leave whenever you’re ready.”
Malcolm set his sponge aside. “There’s no rush.” He inched closer and put his arm around her shoulder. “Why don’t we stay here for a little while longer and relax.”
April’s face lit up. “Sure! That sounds great.” She loosened up and lounged against the bank. Malcolm could see a green light flashing in the delight of her eyes. He smiled back at her and pulled her closer, so close now that the sides of their bodies were pressed together.
“It sure is lovely here.” he said.
“It is, isn’t it? It’s much more peaceful without all the commotion of my sisters here. Autumn and Kara are always cutting up!”
Malcolm laughed. “I can imagine! But maybe it would be more enjoyable if... if we, you know... made a habit of coming here alone? Just the two of us?”
“I’d like that!.”
“Sure! I love your company. Actually, I’m glad you’re feeling better. I was beginning to think you were hating it.”
“No, not at all. It just... caught me by surprise. I’m fine now. Better than fine, in fact.” He took a deep breath, then reached his other hand around, putting his arm over her stomach and his hand around the soft skin of her waist. “And... I think I understand now.”
“Understand?” she asked, turning toward him as he moved closer, inching so close that their noses now touched.
“Sure. You like me, don’t you?”
“What a silly question. Of course I like you.”
“And you love me?”
“Yes, I love you.”
“And you want to be together?”
“I love being with you.”
“Then... do you want to be intimate together?”
April smiled. “Intimate? What does that mean?”
“Yes, Malcolm, what does that mean?”
“Oh, hi!” April brought a hand out of the water and waved to the newcomer.
Malcolm’s heart was frozen in terror. His eyes inched to the edge of his sight to see Yukina standing at the edge of the bank, her hands placed firm against her waist. She towered above them, projecting a foreboding shadow upon them. “Well, Malcolm, what did you mean?”
His neck creaked as he turned to face her. He couldn’t breath, or think, or speak. He tried, but all that came out was gibberish.
“We just finished bathing.” April said, elated as always. “It was Malcolm’s first time outside, can you believe that? The water’s still warm if you’d like to take a bath.”
“No, that’s alright.” She reached out and grabbed him with grip magic. “I think Malcolm and I need to have a word alone.” Without giving him a chance to catch his words, Yukina yanked him from the water, tossing him to the side. He hurtled through the trees, past the cliff, and out to the ocean. It was like being launched from a cannon. He screamed all the way.
Yukina turned her attention to April. “We’ll be back in a moment. Dry off and put your clothes on please.” Then, she took off into flight after Malcolm.
April lifted herself out of the water, taking a moment to ponder, putting her finger on her chin. “Did I do something wrong?”
Malcolm sailed through the air, naked, and gliding closer to the surface of the ocean. He flailed and screamed until the invisible hand grabbed him again, stopping his flight. He was upside-down with his head mere inches from the water. As soon as he realized where he was and what was happening, he quickly covered himself with his hands.
Yukina rocketed to him and halted abruptly. She kept one hand held out, projecting the magic which kept Malcolm from plunging into the deep. Her eyes sent terror into him. Her lips were pursed tight. “Malcolm?” she asked, her voice sounding like a large machine which could easily grind him into paste.
“I’M SORRY! I’M SO SORRY! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!” he wailed, on the verge of tears.
“What were you doing?!” she shouted at him.
“I asked you a question. What were you doing with April?”
“She took me there! I swear, I just wanted a bath! You have to believe me!”
“Calm down, Malcolm, calm down. Take a breath.”
He still hung upside down and still struggled to keep himself hidden with his hands. He took deep breaths to try and calm down, but he knew he was dead. She would talk nice to him, get him to relax, then drown him. He would be a missing person for the next thirty years until a fisherman found human remains in his net and they identified him by DNA.
“Now, are you calm?” she asked.
“I’m better.” he lied.
“I said I needed a bath and April took me to the spring but I thought she was going to leave but she didn’t and then she took off her clothes and I was freaked out but I didn’t want to embarrass her so I went along with it and then I started thinking she was coming onto me so I started coming onto her and one thing led to another and then you showed up and I might’ve pissed in the pool and I’m so so SO very SORRY!”
“Quiet, Malcolm, quiet.”
“Please don’t kill me! I swear I’ll leave and never come back! I’ll never look at another fairy as long as I live!”
“It’s okay, calm down, Malcolm. I’m not going to kill you.”
“I’m so confused by all this! She was acting so nice to me! I asked her if she wanted to be together and she said yes. And then I asked if she liked me and she said yes. Then I asked if she loved me and she said yes! I’m sorry I promise I won’t touch her. I won’t touch anyone! I’m a terrible person!”
Yukina shouted at the top of her voice. “FAIRIES ARE ASEXUAL, YOU IDIOT!”
Malcolm stopped blubbering. He stared wide-eyed at Yukina. His mouth gaped, but nothing came out.
After a moment of awkward silence, Yukina spoke again. “I should have explained things clearly to you sooner.”
Malcolm stammered for words. “Then... April...?”
“She’s not sexually conscious. None of us are. She didn’t understand that what she was doing meant something different to you.” Yukina put her free hand to her forehead, trying to think of better words. “We aren’t humans with wings. We’re fairies. We’re completely different from you.”
“But...” his brain was still trying to work out the logistics in his head. “... I saw April. She looked human. She had all the... um... parts.”
“Of course we do. We have children just like humans, but we need nothing outside of ourselves.”
His brow furrowed as he processed the new information. “Ok. Alright. I think I’m starting to understand. Could you please flip me over? I’m getting sick.”
She turned him so that his feet dangled over the water.
“I am an idiot, aren’t I?”
Yukina sighed. “No, you’re not. You didn’t know any better. I’m the one that failed.”
Malcolm couldn’t look at her. He kept his eyes on the ocean. “Then, what about romance?”
She shook her head. “There is none. A fairy’s closest relationships are her friends.”
Malcolm nodded. “Okay, I understand.” He took another deep breath. “Can I have my clothes back now? And... please don’t throw me.”
Yukina’s tired smile came back. “Sure.”
Yukina flew back to the bathing spot with Malcolm in tow. April was sitting on the ground, hugging her knees with her face buried in them. She looked up when they landed. Malcolm walked straight to his clothes and began putting them on.
April stood and wrung her hands together. “Is everything okay?” Her voice was shaking. “Did I do something wrong?”
Yukina went over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, it was just a misunderstanding. Let’s go home, shall we?” She left April and began walking.
Malcolm, now clothed, approached April. He wanted to say something, but didn’t know what. He patted the side of her arm and whispered, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Then he left her to follow Yukina.
April, now more confused, ran after them.
The day soon became evening. The fairies went to the cliff to enjoy the last of the day as the sun painted the sky fire orange. Malcolm tagged along half-heartedly. He flopped down on the grass and began dozing, not really wanting to interact with anyone. He felt ashamed, stupid, and awkward. He hoped that tomorrow would be better. That he'd feel more normal and comfortable with his friends, like he had in days past, and he could get back to writing.
He teetered on the edge of sleep for a long while before drifting away. How long it lasted, he didn't know. He didn't even know he'd fallen asleep until a nudge on his arm woke him. Kara knelt beside him. "Hey, Malcolm."
Malcolm grunted. "Huh?"
"I have a plan. We can wait for Slipha to leave the bubble tonight. When she does, we’ll confront her. We’ll do it just outside the bubble, so if she tries to fight us, we can run back in for help. What do you think?"
Malcolm raised a finger asking her to wait. "Um... do you think maybe we can hold off another night?"
"What? Why? What if they do something drastic tonight?"
She shrugged. "I don't know, but they must be up to something devious."
Malcolm wasn't sure how to respond, but he knew he didn't want to do anything tonight. He still felt like the worlds biggest heel and wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. "I'm just not up for confrontation. Just thinking about it makes me sick. One more day, tomorrow we'll deal with Slipha."
Kara's eyes wandered to the side of the cliff where Slipha sat writing in her book.
Malcolm spoke again. "Do we really know if they're up to anything bad? Maybe she's trying to help him. Make him a better person."
Kara looked back at him. "Do you really believe that?"
"No. But I'm not sure what to think. Just give it another day."
She sighed. "Alright.” She stood and left. Malcolm felt even worse now than he had before.
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