Throwing her toys across the room in her frantic search, Kaitlyn ignored just about everything else. Her new friend was hungry and she needed something for her to eat off of. It just wasn’t proper, even in the mind of an eight year old, for a pretty lady to eat off the ground.
Her eyes lit up in triumph when her little fingers curled around the plastic bowl. It was usually reserved for the guest of honor to her tea parties but she figured that she could make an exception for the pretty lady.
Bouncing down the stairs, the odd looks that her siblings and their friends were giving her from their various positions around the room was lost to her. The looks didn’t last for very long anyway before they all returned to their cell phones and conversation.
It was the woman bustling around the kitchen that was her goal. Putting on her most angelic smile, she held up her bowl and tapped on her mom’s leg. If her older sister could get what she wanted with words, then Kaitlyn was determined to do the same.
“Yes honey?” Her mom glanced down and her brow furrowed in confusion. She had been sure that her daughter had grown out of the stage where she needed actual food and water for her tea parties or it wouldn’t be ‘real’. “Dinner will be ready in an hour, can’t you wait?”
“It’s for my friend! She’s really hungry!” Kaitlyn beamed, setting her bowl on the counter like her dad had told her to do. Her parents never liked it when she held things out; they always said that it was ‘impolite to demand things’. Not that she fully understood what that meant but if she got the food she needed, then she’d do it more often.
“Layla has already had her snack for today,” when her mother turned back to chopping vegetables, Kaitlyn’s smile morphed into a frown. Layla the bunny did get her snack but her new friend didn’t like sweets like Layla did, she only wanted fruits.
“It’s not for Layla mommy; it’s for my new friend!” She argued, crossing her arms with a pout. Her older sister only needed to stomp her feet and throw a fit to get what she wanted. Well, sometimes it worked but others, her sister would end up in trouble.
“Oh? And this new friend doesn’t want chocolate chips like Layla?”
“No! She only eats fruits! She says she’ll die if she doesn’t eat something soon!!” Kaitlyn’s frown began to wobble and her eyes watered up as her mom paused again to stare down in shock. Unbeknownst to the distraught girl, her mother was in absolute shock. Her youngest was an avid avoider of anything that wasn’t processed, fruit included, and so this request was especially shocking. None of Kaitlyn’s imaginary friends liked healthy foods either.
With a sigh, she walked over to the fridge and pulled out the package of grapes. Kaitlyn was very adamant about filling the bowl to the point that it was nearly overflowing but since she was finally eating something healthy, she really didn’t argue.
“What is this new friend’s name?” She asked while she carefully moved the bowl to the awaiting her hands of her daughter. “Be careful, you don’t want to spill her dinner.”
“Uhmmm,” Kaitlyn paused, not actually having a name for her newest friend. The pretty lady hadn’t given her a name yet. She did mention that she was a magical creature in dire need of help but Kaitlyn couldn’t remember what exactly she said. “Her name is Drya! She lives in our big tree out back!”
“Oh does she now? Well, you tell her to make sure you’re back inside in time for dinner.”
“I will!” Moving with exaggerated slowness, Kaitlyn carefully made her way outside and towards the oak tree that shaded their yard while her mother held open the door.
“You really should stop encouraging her.” Her eldest leaned against the doorframe and was eyeing her mother with disapproval.
“You had imaginary friends until you were eleven, Maya.” She pointed out as she turned back to finish dinner. “Besides, if it helps her eat something other than chocolate and lunchables, then I don’t care if she says she’s got gremlins asking for dinner.”
Outside, Kaitlyn gently set down the bowl among the roots of the big tree that were facing away from the house. It was the oldest tree on the block, with large sloping branches and a thick trunk. At one point, there had been a tree house that was in the lower branches but after one too many accidents, Kaitlyn’s father had it taken out.
“Drya? I brought you what you asked for; you won’t die now, right?” She settled down in a small hollow that was just perfect for her little frame. For a few moments, nothing happened. The wind didn’t even stir the leaves that were still clinging to the branches.
Then all at once, the bark of the tree seemed to twist and flow like liquid. Kaitlyn’s eyes lit up like the fourth of July as she watched her newest friend emerge from the trunk of the tree. The pretty lady had long green hair and light brown skin; perfect for a lady who lived inside of a tree.
“My name isn’t Drya,” she giggled softly, settling down next to the little girl. Her nimble fingers were already plucking up the grapes a few at a time and plopping them into her mouth. She had gone too long without eating and it was starting to wear down on her and her tree. “My name is Calista.”
“But you said you were a Drya!” Kaitlyn’s brow furrowed in confusion but it quickly melted away into laughter when the tree lady tossed a grape at her. No one in the house would play with her like that; they all wanted to be proper and boring.
“I’m a Dryad. My sisters and brothers all live in trees.” And for the most part, they could take in nourishment from their homes but they did need to eat real food now and again. It was why she asked the little girl to get her some fruit.
“That sounds like fun! Can I see your home?” Calista giggled again as the little girl bounced up in an attempt to get into her tree home. The bark wouldn’t budge for her and she was quick to pat the spot in front of her to get the girl’s mind off of the fact it wouldn’t work.
“Sorry sweetie,” she murmured, running her fingers through Kaitlyn’s hair before slowly braiding it. “I can’t take anyone into my home with me. It’s too small.” A lie but she wanted the child to smile again, not cry.
“But it’s not fair!” Kaitlyn sniffled, kicking the dirt unhappily. All she wanted to do was see Calista’s home.
“I know, but let me tell you a secret.” That got the girl’s mind off of the unfairness well enough. After dragging out many promises for secrecy that Calista knew wouldn’t all be kept, she slowly began to tell Kaitlyn the stories of her kind. It had been so long since she had last spoke to anyone that she didn’t mind that her new companion was only eight years old.
Humans weren’t all bad. Little Kaitlyn was a ray of hope among them for her and others like her. If they could get the young to realize that they weren’t all dangerous, then they wouldn’t have to always cling to their trees for safety.
Kaitlyn beamed up at Calista and settled down so that the dryad could finish braiding her hair but at the same time, she hung onto every word that passed the tree woman’s lips. The little plastic bowl was empty long before Kaitlyn’s mom called her in for dinner but the girl promised to bring her more food in exchange for more stories.
Calista smiled gently as she became one with the oak tree again, listening to the girl and her mother as they disappeared into the house. Her kind wasn’t known for dealing with many humans but so many of her kind had disappeared from the area that there was no other choice for her anymore.
She needed someone to help get her food just as much as Kaitlyn needed a real playmate who didn’t judge her as harshly as her older sisters did.
Next creature: Nymph