The fairy's reply.

Most were a shade of brown or red at this time of year, their once rich, plump flesh having become dry and crisp. Fragile, but every bit as beautiful as they neared the end of their life cycle as they’d been in their prime, when still they'd had the energy to cling to the branches on which they’d flourished. Now, most fluttered and fell through the air as they began the task of carpeting the floor of the forest and providing those nutrients that the following spring's new batch would need.

A few leaves clung to their youthful lustre even now, with the autumn well under way and the bite of the advancing winter already bringing a chill to the bones of the aged, though even these hardier individuals would inevitably succumb to the cycle of the seasons.

The chill wind blew, rustling the canopy, stirring up those leaves already fallen, shaking the branches and, in performing this latter action, tearing more leaves free of their increasingly brittle and fragile anchors.

One leaf, one of those examples still youthful in appearance and whose green flesh still shimmered in the late September sun, rose higher than the others. Free of the crowd, it was also free to take it’s own path, twisting and tumbling through the air as it performed a swirling, twirling, aerial dance every bit as complex as the most finely choreographed of ballets. Guided by providence alone, the little, green leaf plunged close to the earth, almost kissing the dried out remains of it's fallen brethren, before being cast skyward again, briefly pausing high above the tallest of the tall trees before, seemingly summoned by the whistle of the wind in the trees below, swooping down and continuing it’s meandering route.

The little, green leaf found itself briefly leaving the safety of the forest and drifting towards the wide road that skirted the tree line as a small car with an exhaust that rattled sped by. The little, green leaf struck the windscreen of the car and adhered to the glass, though only for a moment or two, it’s edges curling and it’s stem flapping in the wind before again becoming subject to the whims of the elements and being launched skyward as the little car with the rattling exhaust rounded a bend and crossed a tiny, stone bridge that bridged a narrow brook.

This time the little, green leaf took a more direct flight path, speeding along just inches above the water that bubbled and babbled it’s way toward a little stone cottage that stood alone in the woods. For a short portion of the route along the brook it was joined in it’s acrobatic, aerial shenanigans by a mayfly who was also nearing the end of his own, far briefer, life cycle. The two appeared to be competing in a race until the mayfly, having become either tired or bored, chose to rest on a large, flat stone instead.

A particularly chilly blast of wind rustled the canopy above, drawing the warmer air that the little, green leaf had been surfing upon higher, above the bank of the brook. The little, green leaf went with the warmer wind, somersaulting and spinning away from the waters as the waters coursed close by the little, stone cottage in the woods. Then, as it’s friend the mayfly had so recently done, the little, green leaf settled upon a large, flat stone.

The large, flat stone that the little, green leaf had chosen to alight upon made up part of the front step of the little, stone cottage in the woods that the blonde lady who lived in the little, stone cottage in the woods had recently brushed clean of many of the little, green leaf’s fallen comrades and was where she now sat, taking a well earned break, smoking a cigarette and wishing it were still spring, for spring had been a far better time.

Spring had likewise been a better time for the little, green leaf, but leaves, whether little or large, green, brown or red, don’t care about such things, their being nothing more than leaves.

The blonde lady watched the little, green leaf flutter toward her and settle beside her on the step. She plucked it from it’s resting place, holding it gently by it’s stem and twirling it between her fingers. She held it up to the distant sun so as to better admire it’s sheen in the bright light that provided little heat as it shone through the now near naked branches of the trees surrounding her property and smiled, reminded of a time not so long ago.

She turned up the volume on the red radio that sat beside her, smiling as she recognised the tune being played and shaking her head at this second coincidence, then took a final, long drag on her cigarette before blowing the smoke at the little, green leaf as she released it. She considered making a wish as she did so, but she knew wishes only came true if the wish wished would've come true anyway. She climbed back to her feet, placed her hands on her hips and stretched, her back performing a series of satisfying pops as she did so, and prepared to continue with her toil.

Discarded and cast aloft on the cloud of hot smoke, the little green leaf continued on it’s journey, performing graceful arcs as it rose up above the guttering and followed the line of the roof tiles before accelerating upwards, having been caught in the rapidly rising maelstrom of hot air spewed via the chimney of the little stone cottage from the wood burner within. Reinvigorated, it flew faster and higher than any leaf in the forest had done so far that year, performing a series of increasingly acrobatic arcs and loops.

Now dried by the heat from the wood burner the little, green leaf began to lose altitude more quickly, but the little, green leaf wouldn't have been sad, were it possible for little green leaves to feel such emotions. It's journey should have ended upon the step of the little, stone cottage but the blonde lady and her addiction had gifted the little, green leaf with a second chance to experience the world in the way only an autumnal leaf can.

The edges of the little green leaf were now beginning to turn brown, resulting from a combination of the change in the season, it’s recent separation from the branch on which it had flourished, it’s arduous journey and the heat from both the cigarette and the wood burner, though still it’s lustre persisted as it slowly began what would be it’s final descent. The little green leaf sank lazily earthward, toward the perimeter of the blonde lady’s property to where a car with a rattling exhaust now stood.

The man in the brown, suede jacket paced to and fro by the gate, wishing he wasn’t so stupid, wishing he had more words, better words, the right words. He almost gave up and climbed back into his car but then, fists clenched and jaw set, he turned away and passed through the gate, marching head down and muttering the same five words over and over under his breath, determined to finish the task he had set out upon earlier that morning.

Like the little, green leaf and the mayfly before it, the blonde lady was beginning to tire. She leant on her broom and fumbled in her pocket for her pack of cigarettes. The blonde lady had smoked a lot lately and she wasn’t proud of it, but like all of us she was weak in periods such as the one she’d found herself in and her existing addiction to those insidious little sticks had taken advantage of the situation.

The DJ at the other end of the digital stream, who had been providing the music and banality that the blonde lady had been enjoying via the little radio on the porch, faded out the tune that had recently elicited her smile and seamlessly blended in another that held far less pleasant memories within it's words. She snorted a short laugh and smiled a bittersweet smile, forgetting about her addiction and turning off the radio as she turned back to the pile of leaves she’d already assembled behind her, determined to finish the task she’d set out upon earlier that morning.

Had she not set out upon the aforementioned task earlier that morning then the little path that lead through the trees and down to her gate would still have been carpeted in crisp, dry leaves and, had that been the case, the man in the brown, suede jacket wouldn’t have been able to get so close without her being alerted by the sound of his crunching footsteps above the sound of the red radio on the porch. As it was, he was almost upon her when she had turned.

The blonde lady gasped, the shock, surprise and confusion quickly disappearing as a smile brought a happy arc to her ruby red lips. The man in the brown, suede jacket repeated, out loud, the five words that he’d been rehearsing in his head since setting out upon the task he was now determined to finish and, as he did so, the blonde lady reached down to where he knelt, plucking a little, green leaf, it’s edges beginning to crack and turn brown, from his hair.


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