A flash of green sparked in the growing dusk, then another. Ellie inhaled deeply of the night air, the sweet undertones of mowed grass mixed with the heady perfume of the pale pink roses growing along gazebo. As the sun disappeared, replaced by the pale grayness of oncoming night, the heat from the day also waned. Fireflies blinked on and off, more with each passing moment.
Ellie stuffed her purple painted toes into her Keds. She smiled as fireflies continued to beckon with their pulses of light. This morning when she woke, Ellie knew tonight she would follow the magic trail of twinkles into the forest. As mother and daddy settled in for the night in front of the TV, Ellie sat in the gazebo waiting for just the right time.
Daddy said there wasn’t anything special about the lightening bugs, they were just bugs whose butts lit up, but Ellie wasn’t so sure. Those small lights in the night called to her of adventure and excitement. The full moon tonight added to the excitement.
Skipping through the grass, Ellie made her way to the edge of the woods. She stopped at the first tree and peered into the darkness. Moon beams skimmed across the top of the forest, sprinkling pale shoots into the darkness below.
“This is it, girl. Time to cowgirl up and see where the magic leads.” She wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but she’d heard the upper class girls at school say it and it just seemed right.
Ellie stepped into the woods. A twig crunched under her foot. She cringed and looked back over her shoulder. The house sat solemnly in the clearing. Peering back to the narrow path ahead of her, Ellie watched as fireflies blinked on and off along the way. Cicadas chattered into the night, telling stories of the disappearing day that only they could understand.
The path wound through the trees as Ellie moved forward into the growing darkness. Somewhere in the night an animal cried it’s plaintive plea. Goose bumps danced across her arms. The heat from the day barely warmed her now.
A loud crack, Ellie stopped, listening. Silence followed by a smaller thunk.
Was someone following her? What animals prowled the night forest? Ellie didn’t know, she’d never been this far into the woods. Her heartbeat thumped in her chest. Should she go back?
No, she couldn’t do that. She’d run into whatever was there. The only choice was to go forward. Drawing a breath deep into her lungs, she stepped forward. The fireflies lit the way along the path. Magic wrapped around Ellie again and she continued along the narrow trail.
The darkness gave way as the woods opened into a clearing. Water cascaded over a boulder into a pond. Moonlight flooded down and twinkled off the pool. The waterfall’s melody mixed with the cicada concert. A thick patch of honeysuckle dispersed it’s aroma into the night.
Ellie whispered, “So beautiful” as she slipped out of her Keds and dipped her toes into the cooling water. After the muggy heat, the water washed over her feet in pleasant little waves. She stepped back and slipped off her shorts and t-shirt and threw them on a rock next to her.
The water cooled her skin as Ellie walked into the pool. She leaned back and floated, watching the moon above. The peace of the night swept down and she giggled. All these years this magical place had been right here and she never knew.
A movement in the woods caught her eye. She dropped her feet and stood in the water. Chills ran down her spine. Whoever it was stood just beyond her sight, hidden by a bush. There was nowhere for her to go.
“Shame on you Ellie Marie Smith, you know better than to go into the woods by yourself.” Ellie’s mother walked out onto the edge of the clearing.
Ellie’s breath came back in a deep gasp. “Mother, you scared me. Why didn’t you tell me you were following me.”
On the bank of the pond, Ellie’s mother slipped off her summer dress to reveal a swim suit. She ran into the water, splashing Ellie as she came.
“I wondered how long it would be before you found my secret spot. You were so quiet at dinner tonight, I was pretty sure tonight would be the night. I didn’t want to spoil the magic for you.”
Ellie pushed water back at her mother. “You knew about this place?”
“I’ve been coming here since I was a girl about your age. On a night like tonight with the full moon and the fireflies, it just seems like another world.”
“Oh Mom, it’s beautiful.”
A deep sigh whispered out of her mother. “That’s the first time you ever called me mom.”
Ellie giggled. “This is the first time I realized you could be my friend as well as my mother.”
The women floated, holding hands, not speaking as the moonlight, music, and magic surrounded them.