She began to panic and started to run in the direction she hoped was the right one. Harder and harder she ran, until she slipped on an icy patch and skidded, head forward. She put her hands out to save herself, but she would not open her right hand. She landed awkwardly, hitting her forehead and grazing knees and knuckles. She started crying.
At first she was aware of nothing but her pain and wetness and the snowy ground and some blood that was coming from her knuckles. But then she realized several people had gathered around her.
“Are you all right, honey?” asked a grown-up blonde in a long coat with a fur collar and with very red lips.
“Yes, ma’am, I think so,” said Minnarose, trying not to cry again.
“Your hand is hurt—let me look.”
“No, ma’am, thank you, ma’am. Really, it’s all right.”
“Where is your mommy, honey?”
“Back home, I think.”
“And where is home?”
“I don’t know,” said Minnarose, and started crying all over again.
“Now, then, now then, what appears to be the trouble here?” asked a calm, commanding brunette voice. Minnarose looked up beyond the blonde lady and saw a constabel with her blue uniform and silver buttons and her shiny silver helmet.
The blonde lady stood, rejoining the upper atmosphere of grown-upness.
“Rayati, honored defender,” she said. “This little one has taken a nasty tumble, and she seems to be lost.”
“Rayati, ma’am,” said the constabel, saluting the blonde lady, who made reverence in return.
Then the constabel crouched down, descending from the cloud-world of the adult, saying, “And rayati to you too, little one.”
“What is your name, young miss?”
“Honored to meet you, Miss Minnarose. What about your other name?”
“Honored to meet you, honored defender. My other name is Lendella.”
“And where do you live, Miss Minnarose Lendella?”
“I live with Mommy and Amalah-chei—but Amalah-chei has to go away soon—and Auntie Phelyan.”
“And where is the house, lovey?”
“It might be that way—but then it might be that way. I’m not sure. It might be any way.” She started to sniff again.
“Now, now. None of that. We’ll get you home, don’t you worry. Is your house in a street?”
“No, ma’am. It is in a square.”
“What is the square called?”
Now Minnarose knew the name of the square, but just at that moment she couldn’t think of it. But she remembered what Amalah-chei always said, and she said that: “There should be horses in it, but there aren’t.”
“Yes, Cavalry Square.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, never mind that. I’ll take you to Cavalry Square and then you’ll know your house when you see it, won’t you?”
“Oh, yes, ma’am. I shall.”
“How would you like to sit on my shoulders? You can see all the Nativity decorations from there. Don’t worry, I’ll hold you real tight. You shan’t take another tumble while I’m around.”
“Oh, yes indeed, ma’am, I should love that.”
So Minnarose rode home, high above the grown-ups, sitting on the shoulders of the constabel. She looked at all the Nativity decorations, and as they came to the huge figure of the Star Fairy, she saw the lights go on, and the Star Fairy looked so very beautiful.
“May I ask you something, honored officer?” she asked.
“You ask away, lovey,” said the constabel.
“Have you ever seen the Star Fairy herself?”
“I haven’t seen her, but I’ve heard her.”
“Ooh—when was that?”
“An awful long time ago, lovey, when I was the size of you. It was Nativity Eve and I was lying abed with my eyes shut. I had woken up, and I was so excited I just couldn’t get back to sleep. It must have been midnight because I heard a rustling in the room, and that was when the Star Fairy came with my presents.”
“Didn’t you take a little peep?”
“I did not. And if I were you, I wouldn’t either.”
“Why not? You see, that way I could find out.”
“What you’d find out, my girl, is that you didn’t have any presents. The Star Fairy only gives presents to girls who are sleeping nicely.”
“But can’t she tell when girls are only pretending to be asleep?”
“That she can. But she turns a blind eye if they are playing the game properly.”
So they came safely back to Cavalry Square and Minnarose pointed to her house—with her left hand—and the constabel knocked on the door. Amalah-chei answered it because answering the door was Tilly’s job and she was gone.
“Rayati, ma’am. Parcel for you,” said the constabel, saluting.
“Ohh good heavens! Where was she?” cried Amalah-chei making flustered reverence.
“Lying in a heap on the sidewalk when I found her. She’s got a few scrapes and bruises, I’m afraid. You’d best put something on this one.” She handed over the ‘parcel’ and showed Amalah-chei Minnarose’s scraped hand, which was still tightly closed.
“Thank you so much, constabel.”
Amalah-chei carried the Minnarose-parcel toward the nursery. Auntie Phelyan stopped her.
“Where have you been, child?” she asked Minnarose in her gloomy and rather cross voice.
“I am sorry, ma’am,” said Minnarose. “You see, there was an air-fairy—at least I thought there was—and I followed it and got lost, and there was a shop that isn’t there most of the time and—”
“Don’t you think your mother has enough to worry about without all this? Put her straight to bed, Miss Sura. No ifs or buts.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Amalah-chei firmly. “As soon as I have looked after her little injuries.”
She took Minnarose to the nursery and put some sticky ointment on her hand and her knees.
“Can you unclench that hand?” she asked, slightly worried.
Minnarose looked at her a bit dazedly. “Oh yes, I can now. I am in the house.”
She opened her hand slowly—it was stiff with being hurt and with being squeezed shut so long. It was empty. There was a ridge of deep indentations where her nails had been pressed into her palm. That must have been what felt like the key. She looked at her empty palm and her eyes became watery.
“Did you lose something?” asked Amalah-chei gently.
Minnarose thinkled deeply. “I had my hand shut tightly all the time. I can’t have lost it.” Then her brow cleared. “It must have lost itself!” She smiled happily but very sleepily.
“Well, that’s all right then,” said Amalah-chei, not really understanding, but glad that Minnarose was happy again. “Your Auntie Phelyan was right about one thing. Bedtime for you. You look as if you can hardly stand. We’ll talk about your adventures tomorrow.”
Amalah-chei tucked up Minnarose in her bed and sang her special song, and then she turned out the light and whispered, “I hope you have the most magical dreams a girl ever had.”
And it was curious that she said that: because that is just what happened.