Etty moved John’s arms aside, and crossed the floor to stand in front of her. Both Logan and John were surprised to see Donna be wrapped up in Etty’s arms, openly crying.
Being nearest to them, Logan overheard their conversation, and found it difficult to keep his own tears in check.
“I see how you love him,” Etty whispered, “and I know how well he loves you. He feels as you do, and so your disapproval stings him.”
“I don’t want to see him hurt again.”
“He doesn’t want you hurt either.”
“How can you know that? You’ve known him for hours, and I’ve known him most of my life.” Donna stepped back, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with strange arms around her, regardless of whom they belonged to.
“My father tells me that you have stories about our kind. ‘Fairy tales,’ am I right?”
“You tell these tales to children, I’m told.”
Donna nodded. Etty reached out, took Donna’s hand in her own, and held fast when she flinched to pull her hand back.
“In these children’s stories, is there love that begins in an instant between two people who are brought together by fate?” Etty placed her other hand on Donna’s cheek. “Are there volumes of knowledge exchanged in a glance? Star crossed love?”
“Do the lovers in these works mean one another harm, or do harm?”
“Very well. Do you, in these fantasies, talk of promises, honor, bargains, and trusts which must remain unbroken?”
“I see.” Etty nodded, and caught Donna’s eyes with a glance. “I will tell you a thing, Donna Abrams, daughter of Joseph Abrams and Roberta Greene Abrams, and I ask you to listen well.”
Chills ran down her spine, hearing her parent’s names spoken by someone who couldn’t possibly know the story of her life. She wanted to run, more than ever, because the being who held her hand scared her to death. It was a visceral dread, and had nothing to do with the girl’s appearance—she was ethereal, adorable, a doll—and everything to do with how heavy the world seemed to be.
“I am Etty Blue-eyes Doeskin Pendy, and I make this bargain with you, Donna Marie Abrams. By my name, I vow it. By the sun and moon, I shall hold fast to it. By my love of John Frost, I shall never break it.”
Donna gasped. The words seemed to coil through her skin, and dive deeper into parts of her that medical science couldn’t see. Logan felt as though his feet were nailed to the floor. John felt something he couldn’t describe, but somehow understood.
“My bargain with you is this,” Etty continued, “should John Frost ever come to harm or hurt from the love we share, I offer you my life in recompense for his suffering.”
“What?” Donna couldn’t believe her ears.
“As I have said: if he comes to pain from our love, you may take my life in payment for it.”
“Etty, that’s insane! You can’t promise something like that!” Donna wanted to pull her hand back, but the fairy’s tiny hands held her like steel bands.
“I can. Indeed, Donna Marie Abrams, I have. Accept it, and the bargain is sealed.”
“No. No way. I will not accept anything of the kind!”
“Accept it, Donna, that you may feel safe.”
“No.” Tears started to fall from her eyes for the second time that afternoon.
“Accept it, and know a second thing: I never intend you to have my life in your hands. I will hold John close, keep him well, help him, never allow him to come to harm, and soothe his every pain. There will never come a day when I fail in my bargain.”
“You can’t promise something like that! It isn’t the way the world works! I don’t want this responsibility!”
“I do not want this bargain, Donna, but it is the surest way to prove my sincerity. I may still be a child in some ways, but I know the meaning of promises.” Etty released Donna’s hand, and stood tall—easily two inches shorter than Donna—and asked one last time. “Do you accept this?”
“All right.” In that moment, Donna would have agreed to an appendectomy without anesthesia, if only to make the drama stop.
Etty lifted her face to the ceiling, and cried out, “Sealed.” Her voice sounded several octaves too deep.
“Know this, too, before I go home. I am the stuff of which your children’s stories are made.” Her eyes glittered, and her smile was fierce.
Donna continued to stand, fighting the urge to collapse to the floor, and nodded mutely.
Etty turned to John, who watched her with wide eyes.
“I’m going home for now, beloved,” she told him, “but I will see you soon. Every time, we will have longer together before we part.”
“Yes.” He took her into his arms. “Soon.”
They kissed, and then she was gone.
Logan Manleigh and his friends stood in his kitchen, frozen. He was the first to break the silence.
“Mascarpone! Let’s all make mascarpone!”
Donna and John looked at him as if he’d sprouted extra limbs and was spraying webbing around the room.
Logan looked at both of them, and recalculated.
“Drink! Let’s all drink heavily!”