Tory and Zack rushed over to Auntie Blayne after dinner. Auntie Blayne smiled. “Well, children, did you enjoy the meal?”
Zack made a face. “The soup tasted like fish. I hate fish. And there was salad.”
Tory scowled. “Zack!” She smiled sweetly at Auntie Blayne. “It was very lovely, thank you. I love chicken pies and the chocolate mousse was amazing.”
“Um, I did like the pies and the dessert. Sorry, Auntie Blayne for being rude. Can we still look at your cabinet of curiosities?” Zack paused when Tory hit him with her elbow. Then he added, “Please?”
Auntie Blayne laughed. “I’m sorry you didn’t like the soup and the salad. I’m glad you both liked the rest. I’d hate to have starved my favorite niece and nephew.” The children looked at her, hands clasped together and eyes pleading. “Oh all right, let’s go. Whose turn is it to pick?”
“It’s my turn,” Tory said. “I think I know what I want to pick.”
“Then let’s go,” Auntie Blayne said. She led them through a maze of hallways. They passed an empty ballroom, and walked though a library that meandered off to the left and right like a river. They passed a large round window that looked out on the back lawn. They could see that flickering lights hung from the trees and torches that ringed a seating area. Adults mingled in the soft light, talking in little groups.
They walked on through the hallways, finally reaching the little room at the top of the stairs. It held a few overstuffed chairs, a ratty couch, and a soft, brightly colored rug. The chairs and couch were arranged in a half circle along one wall, facing the opposite wall. Along that wall stood a tall, wooden cabinet painted turquoise.
It was a treasure trove of little cupboards and shelves and drawers. Every time they visited Auntie Blayne, she let them pick one thing from the cabinet and she’d tell them its story. Auntie Blayne had been all over the world, and she’d seen and done impossible things.
Today, Tory confidently opened the cabinet doors and pulled out a little drawer right in the middle of the cabinet. Inside was an envelope. “Can I open it?” she asked.
“Of course,” Auntie Blayne said.
Tory smiled and opened the envelope. She tipped something into her hand and it glowed faintly. Zack leaned closer to get a better look and then wrinkled up his nose. “Is that a hair?” he asked.
“It looks like it’s made out of glass or crystal. It has rainbows inside,” Tory said.
“You’re right. That’s kind of cool. What’s it from?” Zack asked. The children both looked at Auntie Blayne expectantly.
“It’s from a unicorn,” she said.
Zack laughed. “Unicorns aren’t real.”
Auntie Blayne smiled. “That’s what they want you to think. They’re just very, very good at remaining hidden. Lucky for me, I saved the life of a brownie who’d been swept out to sea.”
“What happened?” Zack asked. “Did you rescue him from sharks?”
“What happened is a story for another time,” Auntie Blayne said. “For when you ask me for the story of the brownie’s tears. But, when I asked if I could collect his tears, he wanted to know why. He was impressed by my collection and told me how to find the unicorns.”
“How?” Tory asked.
“You’ll have to promise not to tell anyone else.” Auntie Blayne paused and both children nodded. “All right then. I had to track them through misty meadows on May first. I did a maypole dance single-handed while singing a lullaby in Latin.”
“Why Latin?” Blayne asked.
“It’s the language this particular lullaby was written in that this particular herd preferred.” The children nodded and Auntie Blayne smiled. “While I was singing, I scattered flower petals in a complicated design around the may pole. And then the unicorns came.”
“Were they really beautiful?” Tory asked.
“Yes, all sparkly and pearlescent. Just like you’d expect. They even glowed a little, like this hair.” She nodded at the hair still glowing in Tory’s hand. “And then I fed them hay. Lots and lots of hay.”
Zack snorted. “Unicorns eat hay?”
“The brownie suggested I bring a treat, and I know that horses like hay,” Auntie Blayne said. “They ate the flower petals too. And the grass underneath them.”
Tory gasped. “Did it look like a crop circle?”
Zack grinned. “Unicorns are aliens.”
Auntie Blayne laughed. “I’m sure some poor farmer was very surprised to see his field the next day. So, after the herd had eaten and left, I hunted through the whole meadow. There was only one hair left behind. And that’s it.”
“Did you leave the maypole?” Zack asked.
Auntie Blayne smiled. “No, I’d borrowed it and had to return it.”
“So all that and only one unicorn hair?” Zack asked. He leaned over Tory’d hand and poked the hair with a finger.
“Well, that and the memories,” Auntie Blayne said.
“It does make a good story,” Tory said. She tipped the hair back into the envelope and closed it.
“I get to pick next,” Zack said.
“Yes you do.” Auntie Blayne put the envelope back into its little drawer. “Now, shall we go visit the grownups outside? I have basil lemonade.”
“Yuck,” Zack said. “Do you have strawberry lemonade?”
“Of course.” Auntie Blayne smiled. “Let’s go.”