Amy's Ogre - a short story by CL Stegall
Amy’s Ogre – a short story by CL Stegall

 

You Have to Believe

Amy is a young girl on the cusp of losing her faith in the innocence of the natural world around her, Indeed, she faces a terrible fate. Her friends – fairies, brownies, and more – try desperately to help the girl but she is caught in a web of fear that threatens to cost her everything.

If only she’d believe.


Amy’s Ogre is a tale of the merging of fantasy and reality, a modern fairy tale that holds deep emotion and infinite possibilities.

AMY’S OGRE

By CL Stegall

 

 

The last long rays of light fell through the bedroom window, which stood open but an inch or two. Billions of dust motes floating in the sunlight now faded from view, although their ethereal travel was far from complete. Twilight fell and time appeared to stand still. Those moments between day and night seeming to pause as if to catch their breath.

Amy sat with her back to the wall, facing the door to her room. The open window lay to her left, breathing in the final moments of the failing day. Slight of frame and thin for her height, her eyes were closed and her breathing was all but silent in its patience. Her eyelids fluttered ever so and her breathing quickened at the soft buzzing of tiny wings.

From a distance, it would have appeared that a dragonfly or night bug had slipped through the open window. It was not. Amy smiled as the little creature flitted about the room, finally performing a dancing dive to settle soft upon her shoulder.

“Is it safe?” The delicate voice sounded like the distant chink of crystal, high and musical. A girl of minute size gazed at Amy. The diminutive creature was nothing short of beautiful. Four thin, multicolored wings folded tight to her back.

“Yes, Lizelie, it’s safe.” Amy’s voice was soft and hesitant, the sound of which perked up the little fairy’s ears.

“Amy, is everything all right?” The concern flowed from the fairy. It wafted toward the girl as direct as had the fairy herself only moments before.

“Yes,” Amy replied, shifting her head a little to make out the almost translucent voice of her tiny friend. “He’s still at work.”

“I do wish you would let us help,” Lizelie stated. She plopped down in a squat with her arms crossed and her lips poking out in a sad pout. “You just have to believe we can.”

“But, you can’t,” Amy said, her voice cracking with sadness on the last word.

Without warning, a tiny streak of baby blue zoomed through the room. It dashed from corner to corner. Up to the edge of the door to the room and then back to halt. It hovered, less than a foot from Amy and Lizelie.

“What’s up, ladies?” His smile was like a pinpoint of light among the glow of his humming wings.

“Hi, Rusher,” the two replied in unison, giggling as Rusher performed an aerial bow that went awry. He flipped over forward, as if falling, only to pop right back up in a perfect curtsy.

“Is it safe?” he asked, glancing back toward the door. They both nodded. “Wonderful!” With that, he shot out the window, barely slowing to slip through the crack between the window and the sill. The girls looked at each other and shook their heads.

Amy stood and then walked to the little table she had set up in the middle of the room. She fussed with the tiny teacups now filled with orange juice. As she was about to take her seat, Rusher flitted back in. Behind him, a large black crow swooped down toward the window’s ledge and slowed, almost as if floating. The pause in flight was just enough for two small elven-like creatures to leap from its back to the window sill. The crow disappeared as the two little creatures—each no more than six inches tall—clambered through the open window. The male was the larger of the two and had to squeeze a little to get through the opening.

“Oh, for goblins’ sake!” he exclaimed upon finally entering and standing to look back at the window. “Can’t you leave that thing open a wee bit wider next time?” He picked up his tiny hat which had fallen off when he stood.

“Twerp,” the female remarked, “Perhaps it’s you who’s a wee bit too wide. Maybe you should think about losing an ounce or two?”

“Hah! I think not. The Dowards are generous with their honey and I’m not one to turn a nose to good fortune.”

“Or, anything edible,” Rusher commented as he flew by Twerp, who shot him an evil glance.

“I will have you know,” Twerp blasted back, “I am just as nimble as I was twenty years ago.” In evidence, Twerp bolted along the windowsill, leapt the distance between the window and the bed and shimmied down the bedding to the floor, finishing in a deep and elegant bow. His audience applauded with approval.

“Twila,” Amy said, addressing the female brownie, “Will you follow your brother’s lead or would you care for a lift?”

“I prefer not to lose my composure and am pleased to accept your offer, Dear One.” She curtsied and stepped onto Amy’s proffered hand. The two of them went to the little table and Amy set Twila on the tabletop, joined by the others. They each sipped delicately at their juice.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you all,” Amy remarked, her voice filled with nervous gratitude. She focused on her juice and failed to notice the look that passed among her friends.

“You know we would do anything for you, Dear One,” Twila commented. The others agreed with fervor and then went back to their juice when the silence grew.

“Hey, has anyone seen Popper around?” Rusher asked, changing the subject.”

“Oh, that old goat could be anywhere,” Lizelie stated. “At least we’ll hear him coming if he does decide to join us again. That boy is about as stealthy as Gustus in a bubble wrap factory.” They all laughed and giggled at the image of big old Gustus stamping popping plastic bubbles. The conversation then turned to the mundane happenings and gossip of the woods.

***

“Amy. Aren’t you in bed yet?” The voice sent the little folk shooting for the shadows as the door creaked open and Martha, Amy’s mother, peeked in.

“In just a minute, mom,” Amy replied, beginning the clear the little cups and saucers from the table. Glancing at her bedside clock, she saw that it was almost eight o’clock. The tea party had been going for almost an hour. Now, she needed to get to bed before her father got home.

“Play time is over, sweetie,” her mother said, brushing a stray strand of hair from her bruised face. “He’ll be home shortly. Please get to bed.”

“I will, I promise.” Amy’s heart broke every time she looked at her mother’s face. It wasn’t the only evidence of her father’s drunken rages but it was the most obvious.

Without another word, her mother left the room and closed the door behind her. The latch clicked into place. The little folk eased out from the shadows, from under the bed and from behind the curtains.

Glancing at each other, it was obvious that they were all fully aware of the situation. Lizelie was the first to address her friend.

“Amy, please. We can help if you just believe.” The pain in Lizelie’s tiny voice was as clear as the sadness in Amy’s bright blue eyes. The little girl only shook her head as she finished clearing the table.

“Have a good night, my friends,” she said. They took the cue and made their way to the window. Amy stood by the window and lifted it a little wider for Twerp. As he was about to leave, he turned back to Amy, removing his hat. His little brown face was sad. He was unable to prevent the tear from escaping down his cheek.

“You know,” he said. “Sometimes… Sometimes I wish I was bigger.”

“I know, Twerp. Thank you.” She watched as he leapt onto the back of the crow that Twila had guided back around to the window and they all disappeared into the night.

***

They all gathered in the highest branches of the tall oak tree they had dubbed Clubfoot. This was due to the strange, abbreviated way the tree’s trunk ended into the earth below. The little folk argued. Clubfoot served as one of several meeting places aside from Amy’s bedroom. Tonight, the argument was the same as always.

“Why can’t we do something?!” Twerp asked loudly, slamming his little fist into his hand. His tanned face was currently the color of burnt amber, flushed in anger and concern.

“Because she doesn’t believe we can,” Lizelie stated for the hundredth time.

“If she didn’t believe in us, she couldn’t even see us. This is stupid.” Twerp began pacing, again.

“She believes in us enough that we can be visible to her, we can be her friends. But her fear keeps us from intervening with another human. You know this already, Twerp.” Lizelie was the oldest of them all. Well, except for Gustus. And, he only showed up when he felt like it. It usually fell to her to be the voice of reason.

“It’s horrible, what that little girl has been through.” Although the same age as her brother, Twila was more sensitive and mature. Lizelie knew that this situation—and their inability to help—was more difficult on her than anyone else. Twila had been the first of them that Amy saw. She held a great affinity for the girl. Lizelie moved over to Twila and brushed away her tears. “I just wish she would trust in us. Allow us to help.”

“Me, too, sweetie. Me, too.”

“Perhaps I could whisper some notions into Jet’s ear and set his furry butt on the guy.” Twerp was referring to the Barton family’s cat. For him to suggest anything other than torture with Jet was a sure sign of how desperate he was to help. Twerp spent most of his days devising new ways to torment the big tabby.

“That isn’t a solution, Twerp,” Rusher stated, finally piping up. “We need something definitive. Maybe we could hire Gustus?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Lizelie repeated. “If she doesn’t believe, there is little we can do. Besides, she has her own ogre to deal with.”

“He is that,” Twila remarked. “At least Gustus can be reasoned with.”

“Sometimes,” Twerp muttered.

***

Three days passed before Lizelie found Amy’s window open again. When she slipped inside, just after twilight, she found Amy curled up in her closet.

“Oh! Dear One! What happened?” she asked, seeing the bruises on Amy’s arm and the welt across her face.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Amy replied, her voice low but steady.

“My Aunt Jezzie’s wings!” Lizelie exclaimed. “You can’t keep letting him do this, Amy! Please! Let us help. Believe we can, and we CAN!”

“Not now, Lizelie,” she whispered. “Not now.”

Lizelie stayed with her, standing on her shoulder, stroking her hair until she felt Amy drift off to sleep. She then lifted off and left the room through the open window in search of her friends.

***

“She has no backbone, that girl,” Gustus growled.

“That’s not it!” Lizelie argued. “She’s been beaten and torn down, physically and emotionally. She needs help, that’s all.”

“You know we can do nothing, Lizelie,” he replied. “If things were different, I would be first to deal with it. I don’t want to see her hurt, either.”

They were at the edge of a glade a few miles from Clubfoot, since Gustus would never be able to climb the tree. His huge hands and craggy face left his appearance somewhat imposing. And every time he spoke it felt as if the very earth was reverberating with his voice. His face scrunched up in irritation at a popping sound that became louder with its approach.

Lizelie watched as a creature made its way toward them along the edge of the woods that encircled the glade. He appeared to be half boy and half goat, his jaw moving constantly as he chewed on a wad of bubble gum, blowing it out his mouth into a small circle and then… POP!

“I thought I recognized that rumble,” the satyr commented, squatting down a few feet from Gustus. He scanned the faces of Gustus, Lizelie and Rusher.

“Popper.” Lizelie’s greeting was half-hearted at best.

“Wow, you sure seem down. What’s going on?” POP!

“Amy’s been hurt again.”

“Oh, sweet seasons. Why can’t that girl just let us help her out, huh?”

“It’s her fear.” Gustus looked about as thoughtful as he could under his natural, grim expression.

“Well, of course she’s afraid,” Popper responded. “That ogre of a father of hers…” He saw the look on Gustus’ face and his voice trailed off upon feeling, more than hearing, the low growl. “Sorry, buddy. You know what I mean.”

Gustus stood, the ground shaking with his effort. He looked down at Popper and then to Lizelie and Rusher. He shook his head. “It will be up to her.” He began ambling off into the trees, his voice resounding through the glade. “She must choose to believe.”

***

Amy sat huddled in her closet, trying to get as far away from the yelling as she could. Saturdays were always the worst, since her father didn’t have to work. It left more time to drink and simmer and then explode at her mother. And, at Amy herself.

The yelling was the hardest part. Amy could take the pain of his iron grip whenever he jerked her around. The bruises always faded with time. It was the things he would say. The horrible things he would call her mother. The angry words that he berated her with. Those stayed with her and repeated over and over in her mind. She could not count the nights that she had fallen asleep remembering those words, tears warming her face.

Her father had never been a parental star but things had gotten so much worse last year when he lost his previous job. It seemed to set him off and his moods became more and more caustic and vicious. If it were not for the refuge that her little friends provided, Amy was sure she would have gone insane.

She heard a sudden crash and her mother screamed something at her father. Amy stood slowly from the closet. Her mother never fought back, never spoke back. She heard the words. “…rather be dead!” Her father yelled something about ‘fixing that’, and then there was another loud crash. Then, silence.

Amy listened for long moments. She glanced over at the window and saw that dusk had fallen. The silence was deafening and she felt herself begin to tremble. She edged her way to the door and peeked out the hallway toward the living room.

Her mother lay motionless on the floor. Her father stood over her, breathing heavy and swaying as if in a stiff wind. In his hand, he held a bottle that was shattered, only the neck of it remaining within his grip. Amy was about to scream out to her mother when she saw his eyes on her. His expression was of uncontrolled rage.

“What’re you looking at, you little brat? You’re no better than she was. You both just loved dragging me down, didn’t you?” He took a step across Martha’s body and began stumbling toward Amy. Before she ducked back into her room, Amy could have sworn she saw her mother move.

“Where’re you going, you little bitch? Get back here. We need to talk.” His words slurred and shot from his mouth in unadulterated anger. Amy locked her door and darted for the side of the room.

She struggled with the heavy window but got it up enough that she could scramble through. She had gotten half of her body through the window when she heard the door crash off its hinges. Her father shouted for her to stop.

Amy took a breath and pushed through the window. She felt herself fall toward the ground. She never reached it. His hand wrapped around her thin little ankle. She felt it crack and screamed out in pain. Her father held her with one hand and shoved at the window with the other, opening it as far as it would go.

“Where do you think you’re going, you little brat?” he spat at her, pulling her back toward the room.

Amy let out her breath, closed her eyes and muttered something almost out of his hearing. Before he could respond there was a loud thump-thump that came from the surrounding trees.

Her father stared out into the deepening darkness but could see nothing. He turned his attention back to his daughter, dangling from the window. “What’d you say, you little brat? What’d you say to me?”

Amy felt her ankle twisting in pain and fought to keep her breath. “I said,” she breathed, as the thump-thump grew closer and louder. “I said… I believe.”

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