To celebrate my twentieth yarn online, I went back to the beginning and asked my daughter to nominate three things for a story. To help parents read the story to their kids at night, I’ve broken it into chapters.
Mt Stromlo + Guinea Pigs + Fairies
Chapter 1: The Note
Josephine stared down at the note. She couldn’t believe it.
The fairies had written back to her!
She stood in her backyard, the rain teeming off her umbrella onto her back.
‘What does it say?’ Belinda, her little sister, called from under the pergola roof.
Awoken, as if from a dream, Josephine suddenly ran back undercover.
‘They wrote back! They wrote back.’
She showed the note to Belinda, and began reading it aloud.
‘Dear Josephine, Belinda, Ida and Indigo
Thank you for your letter and delicious muffins. While they were much too big for us (four of us shared one muffin) we have taken the rest back for our coven.’
‘That’s fairy-talk for family,’ Josephine paused to explain. Belinda nodded, as if she knew that already. Josephine continued:
‘You are right, we do live in the mushroom patch on the corner of your street. We have constructed lovely houses under and within the gills. We only venture out in the darkest of nights, so you may never see us. But please keep believing in us, and perhaps one day we will meet.
Love, your fairy-friends
Patricia (Portobello Fairy), Beatrice (Button Fairy), Tania (Toadstool Fairy) and Tina (Truffle Fairy)
PS Your guinea pigs are very friendly. We are glad you let them roam free in your backyard so we can play with them at night.’
Both girls squealed with delight. ‘Runforit’ and ‘Larchey’, the girls guinea pigs, glanced up from the grass they were munching, as if they had understood the last part of the letter.
‘I will have to call Ida and Indigo!’ Josephine yelled. Josephine’s two best friends were just as excited when they heard the news, and all four girls agreed they should write back.
But on their way to school the next morning, they saw something terrible.
‘Where have the mushrooms gone?’ Ida yelled.
For the previous week, the girls had been watching the mushroom patch spread larger on the corner of Josephine and Belinda’s street. But where the patch had been, there was a gaping hole.
Something or someone had destroyed the mushroom patch that had been there a day earlier. All that was left was a few stems that had been ripped out of the ground.
‘What about the fairies,’ Indigo said, a look of grave concern on her face.
The four girls scanned the area around the damaged patch. Belinda even lay down on her stomach and called quietly to the fairies.
But the girls couldn’t find any trace of the fairies. Mr Jones, who lived on the corner, popped his head out of his door.
‘Sorry girls, you’re too late. I picked those last night for my casserole. They were delicious.’
The girls stared at him in horror.
He waved and went back inside.
‘Did Mr Jones eat the fairies?’ Belinda asked quietly.
None of the other girls spoke for several minutes, as they contemplated what had become of their beloved fairies.
‘We should write them a note at least,’ said Josephine.
‘Perhaps they are hiding because it is daytime,’ she said, trying to sound hopeful. Belinda and Ida looked on sceptically as Josephine ripped a page out of her homework notepad.
‘I think we’re too late,’ Ida said quietly.
Nonetheless, the girls hovered around Josephine, who crafted a short note:
‘Dear Mushroom Fairies
We were so upset to find your mushrooms had been destroyed. We hope you are okay. We will come back this way after school. Please tell us if we can do anything to help.
Josephine, Belinda, Ida and Indigo’
The girls could barely concentrate in class. Indigo and Josephine got in trouble twice for whispering to each other.
Belinda, who was in pre-school, was quiet all day.
‘I’m not sure what’s got into her today, but she was very sad,’ Miss Anna told Josephine and Belinda’s mum when she arrived to collect the girls.
The girls walked quickly in front of her, eager to return to what was left of the mushroom patch. Although they all did so with heavy hearts, terrified of what they might find. What if the fairies hadn’t written back?
Were they gone forever?
At first, the girls could see nothing more than the scattered remains of the fairies’ mushroom houses from the morning. But then Belinda again got down on her stomach, and noticed something straight away.
‘There is something written on this leaf!’ she squealed.
And sure enough, written in little tiny characters on the leaf was a message. Josephine read it aloud:
Thank you so much for your note. We are safe and hiding nearby. We cannot show ourselves in daylight. But we can hear what you say. We cannot stay out in the open for more than three more days. We need to get to the tallest nearby mountain to collect seeds sent from the stars.
This is a magic leaf. We can communicate to you through it. Simply speak and we will reply in fairy writing on this leaf.
Your Mushroom Fairies’
‘I wonder if…’ began Josephine, but her mother had interrupted before she could reply.
‘Homework time, girls.’
‘But Muu…’ Josephine again began.
‘But nothing,’ Josephine’s mother replied. ‘The deal was the girls could come back to our place if you all did homework together.’
‘What do you think the range is on this thing?’ Ida whispered, pointing at the leaf.
‘My Dad is always complaining about how bad our wireless internet is at home, and that’s in the next room,’ Josephine replied.
‘Maybe fairy magic is stronger that wifi?’ Indigo speculated.
‘Girls!’ Josephine’s mother exclaimed. ‘Put down that leaf and continue walking please. Otherwise no afternoon tea.’
‘I guess we’re about to find out,’ Belinda replied.
Josephine sneakily put the leaf in her pocket and along with the other girls, trudged after her mother.
Chapter 2: The Mission
After what felt like an eternity, Josephine’s mother left them alone at the kitchen table to do their homework.
‘Belinda, you can stay and help, as long as you don’t disrupt what they need to do. I’m just going to put this washing out girls. Call out if you need me.’
The girls nodded whilst munching on their afternoon tea of delicious homemade fruit bread. But they could barely taste it, such was their excitement.
When Josephine’s mother had left the room, Josephine carefully removed the leaf from her pocket and put it on the table.
The girls all stared down at it.
‘What do you think the mountain is they are talking about?’ Belinda asked.
‘Mount Stromlo is the closest mountain.’
‘Oh,’ Ida squealed. ‘And it has an old burnt out observatory at the top. My mum took me last weekend. The observatory got burnt out in a fire years ago.’
The girls nodded enthusiastically at Ida, and so at first didn’t notice that the text on the leaf had changed.
‘That’s right. That is the mountain we must travel to.’
The girls stared down in amazement. At last Indigo spoke.
‘We could take you. I mean, we would have to get a lift in our parents’ cars or something.’
Again the leaf changed.
‘We fairies cannot remain in direct contact with humans for more than a few seconds, otherwise we will grow large, lose our wings and become like you.’
‘Mountain Stromlo is very tall!’ Josephine said gloomily. ‘I don’t know how they will get up there and back in three days.’
The girls all nodded and look down despondently at the leaf.
Belinda started giggling.
‘Look at Runforit and Larchey,’ she said, pointing at the window. The two guinea pigs had pressed their snouts up to the window, and were staring in at the girls.
‘I’ve never seen them do that before,’ Josephine said.
The girls were all laughing at the strange sight of the guinea pigs peering in, when Ida suddenly called out.
‘Look at the leaf. It changed again.’
‘Yes?’ Indigo asked. ‘What does that mean?’
‘What did we last say?’ Ida wondered.
‘Belinda mentioned the guinea pigs,’ Josephine answered. ‘Do you mean yes to the guinea pigs.’
Again the leaf changed.
“Yes, the guinea pigs can help. That is why they are watching. They can carry us to the top of the Mountain. We can collect the seeds we need.”
‘Will Runforit and Larchy be ok?’ Belinda wondered out loud.
The text again disappeared and was replaced on the leaf:
“Our fairy dust will keep them free from predators and warm at night.”
‘Well, it seems as though they want to go. Do you guys?’ she said, turning towards the guinea pigs.
Their two pets, who usually walked slowly around their yard, or ran quickly back to their cage when scared, had become strangely animated. They were moving their snouts up and down against the glass.
It almost looked like they were nodding.
‘I guess if it’s ok with them, it’s ok with us,’ Josephine said.
With those words, a bright flash of light appeared in the backyard and a light, shiny dust began to fall from the sky above the guinea pigs. The girls peered at the window, and slowly began to make out, through the golden dust, four figures fluttering down from the sky. They landed gently on the back of the two guinea pigs, who had now ceased “nodding” and relaxed to their usual states, appearing comfortable with the weight of two fairies on their backs.
The four figures were the most amazing creatures the girls had ever seen. They were tiny, no bigger than the index finger on Josephine’s hand. A bright light was emitted from the silvery wings on their backs, although each had a different coloured light reflecting their bright costumes. Slowly the girls walked outside.
‘Hello our new friends,’ the fairy seated on the front of Runforit said. She spoke in a quiet, melodious tone, but the girls had no trouble hearing her. Her dress was bright red, with white dots, and red light glowed from her wings . ‘My name is Tania and I am the mushroom fairy.’
The fairy behind her was the next to speak. She had a light brown dress and similar hue to her light
‘I am Patricia, the Portobello Fairy.’
The girls were staring at the creatures, their mouths wide open. The fairy at the front of Larchey’s back giggled at the sight.
‘Haven’t you ever seen fairies before?’ she asked. ‘Oh, and my name is Tina the Truffle fairy.’ Tina had a bright white dress and glow.
‘Of course they haven’t Tina,’ said the fairy behind her. ‘We have remained hidden from humans in these parts for years. My name is Beatrice, and I am the button fairy.’
Beatrice wore a yellow dress and glowed.
‘And you are Josephine, Belinda, Ida and Indigo,’ Tina said, pointing to each of the girls in turn.
At last Belinda found the ability to speak.
‘You’re fairies!’ she shouted.
‘Shhh,’ the fairies responded immediately.
‘We mustn’t be seen by your mother. Yes we are,’ Patricia added.
Tina fluttered up so she could make eye contact with Josephine and Belinda.
‘Thank you for thinking of us and helping us restore our home. If it’s ok, we must leave now so that we may make it to the top of the mountain in time. It will be a long and tiring journey for your guniea pigs, even with our magic dust to help them. We will need you to collect us from there on Sunday.’
Josephine considered this for a moment.
‘I think that should be ok. We just need to convince mum to have a picnic on Mount Stromlo on Sunday.’
‘Okay,’ Tina said. ‘We must be off. Thank you again our human friends.’
And with that, she returned to Larchey’s back and as the two guineas turned slowly and made their way to the gate.
‘Will you open it for us please?’ Tina called.
Taking a deep breath, and hoping she would see both these faiires and her guinea pigs again, Josephine opened the gate. She patted the guinea pigs as they walked through.
‘Good luck guys.’
The guinea pigs slowly walked through the gate and were away. Josephine’s mother returned a moment later.
‘Is everything alright out here? Have you girls finished your homework?’
Josephine made sure the gate was closed.
‘Nearly. Can we have a picnic on Mount Stromlo on Sunday?’
‘Maybe darling, but we have a very busy day.’
‘Please,’ Belinda begged.
‘I’ll talk to your Dad about it.’
The next morning, Josephine’s Dad quietly walked in to see her. He was holding Belinda by the hand.
‘I have some bad news I’m afraid girls,’ he said solemnly, picking up Belinda and putting her on the edge of Josephines’s bed.
‘We can’t find the guinea pigs, and we’re afraid they’ve been taken by a fox or have somewhere escaped the yard. It’s not looking good, as the gate is closed.’
‘Oh that’s alright Dad, they’re…’ before Belinda could finish, Josephine had kicked her under the doona.
‘They’re where?’ he asked.
‘They’re somewhere better I think she was going to say,’ Josephine continued.
Dad looked at Josephine and then at Belinda. Both were smiling back at him.
‘You’re taking this news very well. You loved those guys.’
Josephine tried to look a bit sadder.
‘You know what might cheer us up?’
‘What?’ Dad asked.
‘A picnic at Mount Stromlo on Sunday.’
‘Yeah, we might find the guinea pigs,’ Belinda offered.
Dad looked at the girls sceptically.
‘I don’t think that’s likely, but…’
‘Please!’ they both said.
‘Well, if it will cheer you up, we’ll try and make it work.
‘Can Indigo and Imo meet us there?’
‘I’ll speak to their parents.
Chapter 3: The Planting
That Sunday the four girls tumbled out of the car with great expectation as soon as it arrived at Mount Stromlo.
‘See you soon Mum and Dad,’ Josephine called as the four girls ran towards the remnants of the old observatory
‘Where are you going,’ Dad called.
‘Picking mushrooms,’ Belinda called back
The girls had agreed to split up and search the old buildings separately. The top of the mountain felt like a special place with the black, burnt husks of the former telescopes providing a foreboding contrast to the rich bush land view visible around them in all directions
‘Mum and Dad remember coming up here to see the telescopes before the fires,’ Josephine told Belinda.
‘What a shame they couldn’t rebuild them.’
‘I know,’ Josephine replied. But we saw that cool music concert up here remember, inside one of the old buildings.
‘Come here guys,’ Indigo suddenly called out.
She was inside the partial remains of a round building on the right of the Mountain. There were still some walls around the outside, and a couple of windows. Underneath one of the windows she had discovered the two guinea pigs and four fairies shivering against the wall.
‘Are you guys alright?’ Ida asked.
‘We don’t have long,’ Tina whispered. ‘We have the seeds for the new mushrooms. They will grow quickly but need to be planted somewhere safe. If we sleep on the ground where they are planted, our energy will return as they grow.’
The other three fairies almost appeared to have lost consciousness. They had their eyes closed and their heads buried within the fur of the guniea pigs. The guinea pigs too looked exhausted, and were shivering in the cold corner.
‘We’ll take you back to our place. You can plant the seeds there,’ Belinda said.
Tina nodded wearily.
‘We need to be quick. The three days is nearly over.’
‘Mum! Dad! Come quick!’
‘We will become invisible now, with what fairy dust we have left,’ said Tina. ‘We cannot be seen by grown-ups. We will become visible again when the time comes.’
And with that, all four fairies disappeared.
‘Look Mum,’ Belinda said, running up to her. ‘The guinea pigs.’
Mum and Dad walked up the corner of the building where the four girls were huddled around the guinea pigs.
‘I don’t believe it,’ said Dad. ‘They look exactly like our guinea pigs. How did you know they would be here Belinda?’
Belinda shrugged her shoulders.
‘That’s them alright,’ said Mum.
‘We should get them home,’ Josephine said. ‘They don’t look happy.
Both parents nodded.
‘Josephine, Belinda, take a guinea pig each and carry them gently to the car. They look like they need some food and water.
Carefully carrying the guinea pigs, hoping not to hurt the invisible fairies on top, the girls gently carried them to the car.
Moments later they were back at home. After what felt like an eternity, Josephine and Belinda’s parents left the four girls alone. Almost immediately the four fairies became visible again.
‘Can you plant these seeds somewhere hidden in your garden,’ Tina croaked. She was barely able to keep her eyes open. Josephine took the tiny seeds from her hand and scanned the garden.
‘What about here?’ Indigo suggested, pulling back some leaves and branches to reveal a hidden patch of dirt.
Josephine carefully took the seeds to the ground and made a small hole, before burying them. The guniea pigs slowly walked over, and collapsed, along with the fairies.
‘We don’t usually live in backyards,’ Tina said, sleep overcoming her. ‘Please keep our house safe. You may not see us again until the next dark night, but we will be here as long as our house is not touched.’
All four girls nodded. With that, the guinea pigs fell asleep on the mound, and the fairies did the same. After a few moments, the four fairies again disappeared.
The girls looked down at the guinea pigs.
‘I think we need to leave them alone,’ Ida suggested.
Chapter 4: New Residents
The next morning Josephine and Belinda crept into the backyard. They were surprised to find Larchey and Runforit leaping around the backyard as usual. They went and checked on the mushroom patch, and found hidden amongst the branches of the tree a large patch of many different coloured mushrooms and toadstools.
There was no sign of the fairies and in fact, they hardly ever saw the fairies again.
But some nights; some very special nights, like on Christmas Eve, or Halloween, Josephine and Belinda’s parents would let them stay up late. And when they weren’t looking, the girls would creep into the backyard.
And there they would find the fairies and the guinea pigs playing together.
Sometimes running amongst the grass together, giggling and laughing. Other times, the fairies would be scratching the guinea pigs on their tummies.
And often the four fairies would be practicing riding them; two on each guinea pig.
Just in case they ever needed to move a long distance again.
But you know what; they never did; even when Josephine and Belinda left that house.
But that’s another story.