Stories

Short Story: Blessings and Gifts

“There is a difference between fairy blessings and gifts, child. Both can be equally dangerous, but one binds the recipient in ways worse than death.”

Juniper paused in her sweeping to look up at the old woman. “Blessings are supposed to be given when a child is born, aren’t they?”

That earned her a chuckle “They are, but that’s not what makes them different from gifts. Blessings bind a person to a fate. A role in destiny.”

“That seems like some blessings would make people terrible.”

“People can always be terrible. A blessing of beauty does not give you a good heart, and a good heart does not protect against misfortune either.”

Juniper smiled a little. “I think I’ll be happy I don’t have any blessings then.”

Before her mentor could respond, someone knocked on the door and Juniper jumped a little. The old woman chuckled as she began shuffling towards it. “No blessings, but perhaps just enough bravery to see you through.”

If by bravery she meant the terrible voice in her head that screamed she was doing things wrong, Juniper didn’t want it. She returned to her sweeping as the door opened.

“Ah. Miss Cleary. Come in, come in. What do you have today?”

Juniper usually kept her head down, not wanting to draw attention to herself, but still glanced up at the girl who came in. She couldn’t have been much more than seventeen. Deep shadows underscored her velvet brown eyes and her raven-black hair had been tossed into a messy braid.

“Some carrots. Fennel and anise. A few mouse bones. A yard of spun wool.”

“A yard isn’t much.”

Juniper returned her attention to the floor, sweeping the dust towards the door where she could sweep it out. That would be a sign to anyone looking at they were open for business, for requests for this or that charm or fixed pot, pan or box.

A soft hum came from the girl. “No,” she said and suddenly there was a hand thrust in front of her. “You dropped this.”

The ribbon Juniper had strung in her hair earlier stood out against the sun-graced bronze. Gently, Juniper took it. An odd tingle went through her as her fingers brushed that palm and she pulled back a little sooner than was really polite. “Thank you,” she murmured.

The girl, who Juniper only ever heard as ‘Miss Cleary’ studied her for a moment before she nodded and turned. “I only have a yard for you this week.”

“I suppose I’ll make do. Any twigs?”

“A few.” Miss Cleary reached into her bag and withdrew several. “Apple and pecan.”

“Those will do nicely. It’s almost autumn you know. It’s a season of preparing.”

“For some,” Miss Cleary answered.

The usual rattle of coins as they were counted out filled the small room. Juniper had only just opened the door when Miss Cleary approached again.

“Sorry,” Juniper said. She stepped aside, expecting their visitor to pass by. Yet, the girl paused for a moment, tilting her head a little before she reached in her bag and pulled something out.

“Here. They’re fresh.”

Blackberries. They were all contained in a little glass jar which Juniper took reverentially. “I don’t—”

“They’re a gift,” Miss Cleary said and nodded only once before she stepped out. Juniper stood there, a little shocked before she turned and looked at her mentor, who only grinned.

“I don’t understand,” Juniper said.

“That’s Crystal Cleary. She’s the third generation seventh child of the Cleary family.”

“Seventh children are powerful,” Juniper said as she held the glass jar with its treats a little closer.”

“That they are. And Crystal herself got a fairy’s blessing. She always finds what she needs at hand.”

Juniper was silent a moment before she came around to put the jar on the sideboard nearest the hearth. Perhaps she’d make some tarts later, she decided.

“If she’s fairy-blessed, isn’t she bound to a fate?”

“Of course she is. That is between her and the fairy that blessed her however.”

“What about fairy gifts? Don’t they bind someone?”

“Not at all. A gift from a fairy is freely given, and that is what makes it dangerous. Wrong a fairy, and you may find yourself gifted with something nasty.”

Juniper smiled a little as she looked out the door. “Would it be alright if I made some tarts for her?”

“For Miss Cleary?”

“Yes. She gave me the blackberries, I can at least give her something to say thank you.”

The old woman studied her a moment before she nodded. “I suppose you can. Besides, I know you do love your blackberries.”

Juniper smiled. “It’s a very nice gift.”

_________

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