Aeressal laughed as Inav came down the stairs, holding the banister with chubby little hands and a face full of concentration.
“You’re doing very well with the stairs,” she praised and the four-year-old looked up, beaming.
“I don’t like shoes.”
“I know you don’t, but they are a necessity. We’re going to the garden this morning. You don’t want prickers in your feet, do you?”
Inav considered it before she scurried over to hug Aeressal’s legs. “I can walk,” she said but pursed her lips together in a way meant she wanted a kiss. Aeressal chuckled again and bent down to accept the kiss before she took one little hand in hers.
“Why we going to garden?”
“We need to see how it looks after last night’s storm,” Aeressal said. “And I know you like the garden.”
That earned her an emphatic head nod. Last week Inav had discovered she could agree or disagree with things by shaking her head, though at this point she had a tendency to over do it and sometimes knocked herself over.
One of the gardeners opened the door for them. “Good morning, my lady. Good morning Inav.”
“Morning! Good sunrise?”
“It was a very good,” he answered and Aeressal smiled.
“Thank you,” she said quietly and let Inav hop down the wide steps into the garden.
Most of it looked alright, with debris and leaves strewn everywhere. Aeressal took care to pick up a longer stick torn off a tree and set it to the side of the path. Inav roamed a few feet ahead, face confused as she brushed leaves off her favorite flowers and squatted to peer into a bush or two.
There was however, one small sapling that had been uprooted and Aeressal sighed a little as Inav stopped in front of it, confusion on her face.
“Why’s the tree napping?”
“It’s not napping. It looks like the wind pulled it out of the ground. I’m afraid we’ll have to get a new one.”
“But…we have one,” Inav said and Aeressal smiled a little as she crouched to be more on her daughter’s level.
“Yes,” she agreed. “But you see how it’s roots are exposed here?”
Inav nodded, looking at the roots. “Those are tree feet.”
The comparison made her smile. “Yes, roots work a little like our feet do. But for a tree, the main job of a root is to keep them in the ground so they can get water from the soil. With the roots pulled out of the ground, the tree won’t be able to live and grow.”
It was close enough for now and Aeressal smiled. “Yes,” she said. “The tree is hurt.”
“Then we fix it,” Inav decided and moved to try and lift the trunk, straining against it. Aeressal laughed.
“Oh, my little heart, you are so sweet. I’m afraid we won’t be able to fix it. Damage like this is usually what kills trees.”
“Not killing my tree,” Inav said firmly and hauled on the trunk again, toddler arms struggling to lift it.
Thinking to pick the girl up before she could injure herself trying, Aeressal took a step forward, yet as she made to scoop up Inav, she stopped.
The leaves of the tree rustled, rattled and to her shock, the roots themselves shifted, reaching out to grab the ground. The thin trunk creaked a little as the branches pushed off, helping to lift it upwards.
Inav’s lips puckered and she shoved on the tree, trying to get it back up. Another shake as the roots found purchase in the ground and the branches straightened themselves out. One branch remained dangling, partially snapped off from the impact with the ground.
With a final grunt from her four-year-old, the tree righted itself and Inav beamed at it.
“Fixed!” she said and Aeressal stood up, looking at the fully upright tree.
“It…You’re right. It is fixed,” she said and picked Inav up. “How did you do that?”
Inav shrugged. “I told it,” she said and held her hand out to display a little mark in the center of her palm. She must have gotten dirt on it, or else a splinter from the bark. “See?”
“I do see. Let’s get your hands washed. I want to make sure you don’t have a splinter.”
Aeressal hadn’t been the only one to see that one tiny miracle, and the two gardeners and cook who’d seen it swallowed as they opened the doors again.
It was an impossibility. Though she’d heard of magic, those instances were few and far between and almost always after a lot of work.
Not a seemingly effortless decision from a toddler to help a ‘hurt’ tree.
Yet, as she wiped at Inav’s hands with a damp cloth, the mark she’d thought perhaps dirt, didn’t budge and Aeressal frowned, looking closer at it.
At the center of the palm was a miniscule green leaf, resting there as if inked into the skin.
“Inav, my heart. Did you draw on yourself?”
Inav shook her head, eyes wide. “I’m in trouble?”
“No,” Aeressal said and smiled as she smoothed Inav’s hair back. “You just have this little mark here. I was wondering if you’d been playing in your father’s quills and ink again.”
Frowning, Inav looked at her palm and grinned. “A baby tree!” She held her palm up to show her mother and Aeressal smiled, not sure she liked the implications.
“Indeed. It’s just about time to play in the nursery, don’t you think?”
She picked Inav up and as they passed a window, she looked out at the garden, and the righted sapling.
A tree. The leaf on her daughter’s palm.
It made no sense to Aeressal. Perhaps, she decided, the best thing to do would be to wait and see if there were any other unusual occurrences around Inav.
by A.J. Helms