The Lilyfrog family consisted of a mother, a father, seven brothers, and their oddball daughter, Windy.
Windy’s childhood was lived very happily until her wings poked from her shoulder blades on her sixth birthday. After years of watching her brothers flying, Windy’s wings tingled to try it.
‘Father, my wings! My wings!’
Father Lilyfrog chuckled to himself and returned to his work. Windy wouldn’t have it. She called for him until Mother Lilyfrog led her away and hit her hard over the head.
‘Windy, stop that nonsense immediately.’
‘But Mother, my wings are poking through. I can learn to fly like my brothers!’
‘Quiet, Windy. We have female fairy wings. They’re… different. We’re not meant to fly with them. We only have to groom our wings so they look beautiful.’
Windy poked out her tongue and wrinkled her eyes.
‘But that’s not fun!’
From that moment onwards, Mother Lilyfrog was tougher on Windy the more she mentioned flying. Each slap throbbed harder than the last. The Lilyfrog family were more right wing than left, and Windy suffered for it.
‘Father, please just listen to me for a moment. I’m sixteen years old. I’ve mastered domestic spells. I will work hard if you let me learn the magic my brothers use.’
‘No. This is not a conversation I’m having with you.’
‘But father –‘
Father Lilyfrog hurled an inkpot at the wall. It smashed and ran its blue meteor path down the wallpaper.
‘Enough, unruly child!’
Windy had learnt to swallow down her anger, no matter how bitter the taste. She stalked away from her father, clenching her fists.
One evening, the perfect opportunity offered its hand. Her mother was visiting an elderly fairy and most of her brothers were elsewhere. Windy peeked through the keyhole of Father Lilyfrog’s study. He was giving her eldest brother a lesson in magic.
‘Father,’ it was her brother’s voice. ‘I was reading up on the infirmatur but I don’t quite understand it.’
‘Ah. To put it simply, an infirmatur is a plant that will null the magic of a fairy. It’s different for each of us.’
Windy whispered the word to herself, ‘Infirmatur.’ It sat wickedly on her tongue.
Her father raised his voice for instruction. ‘Now, concentrate on this hare. To cast healing magic you must say clearly – salutem!’
Windy would learn the hard way that the sound of spells can be muffled through a keyhole.
Windy copied them, ‘Salantem!’
Her brother and father stopped talking. Windy cursed herself and was ready to bolt away when the door was thrown back. She locked eyes with her father. Before he could scold her, Father Lilyfrog had turned to stone. A look of rage cut sharp in the bust of Father Lilyfrog. She could see the veins bulging on his forehead and neck.
Windy screamed, ‘What have I done?’
Looking into the study, she could see that her brother was a statue too, with his head hung in his palm.
Windy sobbed as she waited for her mother to return. She had no clue what she was going to tell her. She couldn’t imagine the punishment that would follow. Windy had never felt so awful; she wondered if a clip around the ear would make her feel better.
Mother Lilyfrog opened the door. Windy raced to her and dropped to her knees.
‘I’m sorry, mother – so sorry – you were right all along – female fairies shouldn’t – ‘
Windy’s eyes widened. The moment her mother walked through the door she had turned into a nightingale. The spell was still active! She watched as her mother’s ranting stopped as her mouth shrunk and grew into a beak. Feathers pierced through her skin. Mother Lilyfrog twittered angrily and flew out the window.
‘No, mother! Come back!’
Windy ran to the local village for help. Whoever she tried to approach, the spell would touch them too. So she ran deep into the woods to mourn her parents and brother. When her eyes had cleared of tears, she remembered her fairy grandparents once lived in a castle in the woods, but had now passed to heaven. From that day further, Windy lived a life of solitude in the castle, and would venture into the woods each day to search for her own infirmatur.
The spell intensified through the years. Many people would wander by the castle for a light stroll and suffer the same fate as Windy’s parents. By the time she was an adult, Windy had a knack for bird catching. Each young lady who turned into a nightingale would have a cage in her home. The twittering helped to stave off the loneliness.
One morning, Windy was reading a magic book by the window when she saw two figures in the distance. My keep away signs should ward them off. she thought. Yet in her peripheral, Windy could see the figures nearing the castle.
‘Stay away. It isn’t safe!’ Windy shouted from the castle, but they couldn’t hear her. The young man walked up to the door and Windy watched from the window as he turned to stone. She ran outside to catch the newly-formed nightingale.
‘I’m very sorry,’ Windy said to the bird in her palms and kissed her head. ‘I’ll find a way to undo this somehow.’
Windy turned to the statue of the young man. ‘And as for you chap, it will be a day before you transform back. I’ve watched it before. I don’t know why it only happens to the men.’
Windy shook thoughts of her father from her head and carried on with her excursions, with one extra nightingale in her castle and a little more bird poo to clean up.
One evening, Windy awoke to the sound of the doors slamming open. A beast must have broken in, she thought. She had encountered some nasty animals on her searches, but had always been small and quiet enough to escape their notice.
Windy grabbed a dagger as she crept from her bedroom.
She crashed into a figure on the stairs who held a bunch of purple flowers. She screamed.
‘Oh my god!’ Windy cried, ‘Oh my god! Oh my god!’
‘Don’t be alarmed.’ The handsome young man said, holding up his hands. ‘I am Jorindel, the statue on your property the other day. I dreamt these purple flowers by my cottage would save my love, Jorinda.’
‘Oh I’m not alarmed, I’m overjoyed! You, wonderful man, have found my infirmatur, my cure!’
Windy took Jorindel’s hand and led him to the Grand Hall, where she kept the myriads of cages. Excited twittering filled their ears as the nightingales fluttered in their cages.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know which bird is your Jorinda,’ Windy explained, ‘but I shall help you open all the cages.’
When all the birds were free, Jorindel brushed the flowers over each bird’s head, restoring them back to their human forms. After a decade of emptiness, the Grand Hall was filled with the number of guests it was built to entertain.
Jorindel ran over to Jorinda and planted a soft kiss on her lips.
‘I can’t ever lose you like that again, Jorinda.’
And so Jorindel bent down on one knee and asked if she would be his wife. Jorinda said yes and hugged him tightly.
To celebrate, all the newly freed women and the happily engaged couple ran down to the village to have a feast. Windy watched them leave from her window in a river of colours.
I thought I would be happy in this moment, but all I feel is loneliness.
A hand patted Windy’s shoulder. She turned around.
‘I have so much to thank you for, Windy.’
One of the women had stayed. She cried happy tears. Windy noticed that she had wings.
‘I don’t deserve thanks. Jorindel is your hero.’
The woman shook her head.
‘When I was a nightingale, there wasn’t one day when you weren’t out searching for the plant that would help us all.’
The woman hugged Windy.
‘Fly with me to the feast. You deserve a place at the table.’
The woman stood on the window ledge and offered Windy her hand.
‘I – I can’t. I don’t know how to. I was told female fairies couldn’t fly.’
‘Then walk with me to the feast, and after you will be my wife’s apprentice. She will teach you to fly and cast magic.’
‘More than the domestic kind?’
‘I’m sure your magic can do far more than wash socks.’
Windy enjoyed the feast and her new apprenticeship. She became a talented fairy, one who made her mark on the village for the better.
Jorinda and Jorindel married in the summer and not long after gave birth to a little girl. Windy became her godmother.