Today was the day.
Every faerie looked forward to their fifth birthday, and Kerria was no exception. In fact, as she sat up in bed and threw aside her fluffy pink comforter, she knew she was more excited than any other Fae could possibly be; after all, she’d been waiting two years since her older sister got her gift, and it proved to be a gift fit for a Spring Court princess:
She could talk to animals!
Kerria would sit at her bay window, watching her sister roam the gardens, interacting with every animal she crossed paths with: offering handfuls of nuts to squirrels, laughing as birds chittered. But after today, Kerria wouldn’t have to yearn for any longer; no, she would finally have her own gift, and make her parents — the beloved King and Queen — proud.
As Kerria dressed in her favorite lavender dress, the skirt of which brushed across the tops of her bare feet as she walked the corridors of the palace, she thought about what she had been hearing from her parents for the last five years.
Gifts were incredibly important in the Spring Court. Well, they were important everywhere, but her parents had made it known that they mattered even more in the Spring Court, because of a tradition that had spanned for centuries. Fae were never guaranteed that their powers would match their Court, but the Spring Court’s royal family always had gifts relating to their home: the Queen could revive wilted plants with a brush of her fingers, while the King could bring on sunshine or a thunderstorm with a wave of his hand. And, of course, the eldest princess could communicate with animals.
And now, it was Kerria’s turn.
She bunched her dress in her fists as she sped-walked the corridors, only releasing the fabric and slowing down once she realized what she was doing. The Queen was constantly reminding her — slow down, calm down, quiet down — but it was hard to remember to act like a proper princess when she was so full of energy, which she often was.
Kerria touched every bouquet that she passed, in case something were to happen.
As Kerria passed the dining hall, rich scents of bacon and porridge filled her nose, but she couldn’t stop. She was on a mission to discover her gift, and she wouldn’t stop until she’d done so. It would have to be something incredible, she just knew it. Maybe she would be able to grow flowers at will!
She imagined the look on her parents’ faces once they realized they could do away with seeds, that their youngest daughter could touch her fingers to the soil, and there would sprout a daisy. Oh! Or, even, a bush of those fiery red roses that Kerria loved. The King would sweep her up into his arms, the sun shining overhead with his joy and pride. She would make her Court the best and most beautiful it could be, just as her family had done for generations.
Her next stop was outside. She scurried down the marble steps and veered right, into one of the gardens. She smiled as she knelt down, not even thinking about the grass staining the skirt of her dress or the dirt caking under her nails as she dug her fingers into the soft soil, shutting her eyes and focusing on it, pursing her lips in concentration.
Disappointment fluttering in her stomach, Kerria pushed herself up off the ground. Maybe her gift would be weather related, like the King.
With the soft grass tickling her bare feet, she looked up into the blue sky, filled with puffy white clouds. She tilted her head back and, the breeze blowing her unbrushed blonde hair back from her face, squeezed her eyes shut, lifted her hands, and willed something to happen.
With a very un-princess-like growl of frustration, Kerria whirled around and started back inside, that fluttering disappointment beginning to harden into frustration.
She made her way around the palace, running when there weren’t any servants looking. She willed anything — from books to oranges to the tiles under her feet — to react to her presence.
But nothing did.
Kerria felt anger building deep inside her, wilting the excitement she’d woken up with, her cheeks burning — something she was always chastised for by her mother.
Calm down, Kerria, she’d always say. No princess allows herself to become so upset so quickly by such little things. Patience is a virtue.
But what if it never came? What if, somehow, she was the only Fae without a gift? People would most certainly whisper about it: Did you hear about the Spring princess who has no gift? What went wrong there? What a disgrace to her family.
Kerria’s eyes burned with tears, her face hot, as she stormed back to her room, her hands bunched into the grass-stained fabric of her dress. She had to have a gift. She had to. This is what she was born for.
She made it back to her room, but stopped in front of her open bedroom door, her gaze falling on the little table that sat next to the door, holding a vase of blue hydrangeas. Kerria would try one last time, and then she would take a break, calm herself down, and try again later. That’s what her mother would tell her to do, after all.
Kerria reached out to touch the soft, delicate petals, her other hand still clenched in her skirt. She braced for disappointment.
Kerria’s fingers brushed the petal. She willed something to happen, and when nothing did, she felt that volcano of fury — at herself for never seeming to be able to be the perfect princess like her sister, at the other Fae’s perfect gifts, at the Queen’s voice in her head telling her to calm down — erupt.
And the bouquet of hydrangeas burst into flames.