1: It always starts. Once Upon a time
Once upon a time, or how tales of magic and mischief are supposed to start, there was a young girl. Her story may be, in fact, about magic and mischief but telling it with "Once Upon a Time" doesn't seem to fit her tale. Every tale she ever heard that started as such always ended with, "and they lived happily ever after." And that doesn't always end up being the case when it comes to magic – sometimes there is darkness, mishaps, and even pain. Nevertheless, her story will start with the grand intention of being that of a "happily ever after" ending and will properly begin as it is expected to:
Once Upon a Time……….
A young girl of the age of five was found wandering the streets by herself with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small stuffed animal that looked to be a well-loved orange cat. She seemed to have been well cared for – her long auburn hair was neatly combed and tied into a ponytail running down her back. Her dress was clean – a frilly pink dress with little flowers scattered across the hem. The girl's shoes were simple black leather with a single strap around the ankle. She wore a necklace that was of a silver chain with a small purple stone sparrow charm. A simple hemp bag was over her shoulder and across her chest that she tightly held onto the strap.
The girl sat on a bench in the park and watched the world go by for hours. She was talking to herself, or so it seemed, about what she saw passing the bench she was on. No one seemed to notice that a five-year-old was sitting by herself. The girl sat, snacking on the fruit that she had with her smiling; her face was warm in the sun.
It was a typical Saturday afternoon in late June – not too hot, not too cold - families were playing in the park, and people were out walking their dogs and jogging the trails. The girl stayed on the bench and watched the world go by.
"Do you think that guy over there will let me play with his animal? What do they call it?" She was looking over her shoulder as she spoke. "A dog? It looks like a wolf to me. But it doesn't look like it's going to try to eat him. He keeps throwing that ball, and the wolf, I mean dog, just brings it right back to him." She giggled as she shoved apple slices into her mouth.
A woman sat on a bench not far from where the little girl was and took notice of her. She watched from afar as the girl carried on a conversation on her own. She looked around to see if anyone else may notice that the little girl was alone. No one seemed to notice her, and no one appeared to be in a panic that they were missing their daughter. She finally decided that the child was sitting there by herself and went over to check on her.
"Hi, are you here with anyone? Are you all alone?" The woman softly smiled as she bent down onto one knee to look the girl in the eye.
The little girl smiled back – she had no fear of talking to someone she didn't know. "I'm not alone….. I'm here with Zyan!" Her grey eyes twinkled as she answered the woman.
The woman looked around to see if anyone was paying attention to this small child – the park was starting to empty as it was nearing supper time, and there wasn't anyone who seemed concerned for this little girl talking to a stranger. "Will you come with me? I want to help you find your parents."
"Sure, we'll come with you. Come on, Zyan!" The little girl gently placed her stuffed animal into her bag and started to follow the woman – taking her hand into hers as they walked down the path through the park.
"My name is Lucy. What's your name, sweetheart?" The woman questioned as she pulled out her cell phone and waited for someone on the other end to answer.
"Isabella." The girl did not show any signs of being afraid as she smiled from ear to ear, staring up at the woman that found her.
"Yes, hi – I have a non-emergency call. There is a little girl that was sitting on a bench in Hyde's Park by herself. She doesn't have any parents around and was there by herself for a couple of hours, from what I can tell. Yes, I'm walking her to the entrance of the park. Thank you!" She hung her phone up and placed it in her pocket. "There is a policeman up here at the entrance that is going to help you find your parents. How old are you?"
The little girl held up her hand, showing all five of her fingers to the woman. Lucy returned her contagious smile.
"What's your mom's name?"
Lucy smiled as they walked up to the policeman that met them at Hyde's Park gate. Isabella would occasionally whisper something to herself or giggle but would answer with a sweet "oh, nothing." as if she asked what she said. Lucy said goodbye to Isabella and told her to stay with the policeman to find her parents. He, too, tried to get any information on who the child belongs to was unsuccessful as all he got out of Isabella was that she lived in a cabin with her mom and dad, but she didn't know where that was. The policeman started to the little girl that there weren't any cabins in the city, but Isabella was sure that she lived by many trees, just like the park, where there was a cabin.
The sun was starting to set, and the policeman had walked Isabella around the entire park finding no one that the little girl had known. The policeman told Isabella that she would stay with some people who would take care of her for the night. Isabella was brought to Child Protection Services, who had her placed for the night in a group home where she was fed and given a bed for the night. She settled in for the night – still not showing any signs of fear, which was unusual to the workers to see in the children in their care, especially on the first night.
The lights were out, and all the children were sleeping, well, except for Isabella. She had a cot in the corner of the room – cuddled up with her little orange cat stuffed animal and would be whispering to herself.
"Why didn't you tell them what mommy said? I wasn't there by myself, and you let them think that I was."
"You know what your mom had told you. They're not supposed to know that I'm here, and they wouldn't understand anyway. You'll be safer this way. Trust me and trust your mom." Finn's voice was deep but friendly as he spoke to Isabella.
"But they thought I was just here with my kitty. What's going to happen?" fighting to fall asleep and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
Zyan gently pulled the covers up to Isabella's chin and smoothed the blankets out. "You're going to go to sleep and let the pieces fall into place, Izzie."
Zyan wasn't the well-loved orange cat stuffed animal that Izzie had carried in her bag with her. He was a little man covered with dark coarse hair; his skin was as green as grass, and his eyes were the brightest blue found in nature. His nails were long and came to a sharp point. A slight underbite deformed his jaw. He was small in height, as he was no taller than the five-year-old he was there to protect. His magic made it so that Isabella was the only one that could see or hear him, which would be a favor to them both being in this new land. Unlike the Winding Woods, where humans and creatures lived together, this new land only seemed to have humans and was doubtful that they would understand what a Boggle was, let alone allow him to be by a small child, as his sweet Izzie. He had pledged that he would do everything he could to keep her safe – even if that meant bringing her to a place that he knew nothing about. He loved the little girl as if she was his own.
She waved her finger, and the shimmers of the dust in the moonlight gathered in a beam of energy from her finger, moving the curtains, covering the light from the window. "You can't do that here, princess." Zyan softly whispered as he pushed her hair off her forehead.
Izzie drifted off to sleep, hugging the little cat as she softly snored with all the other children innocently dreaming in the room. Finn took his post on the edge of the bed, watching everything moving outside of the window. He would keep every person, every shadow away from his little princess. He did not sleep.