a Fairy Tale of the Aunt Family
Rosaria is known in the family for her fairy tales, in all of which you can find a thread – or sometimes a whole tapestry – of truth.
On occasion, Rosaria deigns to write down one of her tales. This is one, and I won’t say that it’s true or that it’s not, simply that this is how she chose to write it.
The bear had been coming around for quite some time before he vanished.
Nieves and Rosa called him that – at first it had been their private joke, but as time went on, they liked to tease him with it. It wasn’t that he was so very hairy, but he’d been wearing a dark brown coat when they first found him wandering in the snow, and his hair and his beard were long and tangled.
They lived alone with their widowed mother, and if they had been normal girls and their mother a normal widow, they might have been afraid to let a drifter in. The world was a dark and scary place in those days, and most people could not trust strangers. But these daughters and their widowed mother were not normal; nobody in their family was.
Even most of Nieves and Rosa’s large family chose not to entrust much in the hands of those that weren’t kin, but it was not because they were afraid. Indeed, if anything, the family they came from was too bold and too brash, forgetting that there were other powers in the world. But that is a story for another day.
The bear, as Nieves and Rosa called him, had been visiting them for months and months – not every day, but on the coldest days, the worst days, he would knock on their door, as they’d assured him he could, and they would give him a place to sleep, and a warm meal, and stay up into the wee hours talking to him.
They’d found their drifter, their bear, in the middle of a blizzard, trying to sleep in the shelter of their wood-pile. And sometimes, when he was feeling shy, they still found him there. So when he didn’t show up for days and for days, as the snow fell and fell, Nieves and Rosa took to lighting a lantern out there, in hopes that their bear would return to them.
When a month had gone by without him – and it was a long winter, and a hard one; he’d first shown up in October and now it was nearly the end of March – they went to their mother. “We need to look for him,” Nieves declared.
“We need to find our Bear,” Rosa agreed.
The three of them sat down in their living room, the lanterns burning and the fire hot, and they did what it was that their family did.
They called upon the spirits and the powers, the strings that bound the universe and the little threads that bind humans. They reached and they stretched, searching through the dark places and the demons’ hidey-holes, looking in every cave and pit they could find.
The minutes stretched into hours and the lanterns burned low. The fire sank down to coals and still they reached. Their family’s power stretched to its limits – for the family was tied to their little intersection, their blood and their bones, and so was its power – and still they reached.
And there, so far out that they could barely brush him, there, lost in a cave so deep the light never shone, there, stuck in a pit of misery that locked around him like chains and held him down like giant rocks, there they found their bear.
They were cold, but they were so close to their goal. They were tired, but they could brush their fingers against his soul. They were in danger, so far out in the woods of the world, but they had come this far.
“If we just nudge here,” Nieves said, and
“If we just poke here,” Rosa said, and
“If we file a little bit here,” their mother said, for she, too, was fond of the bear. And they nudged and they poked, they filed and they shaved, until the chains that bound him were loosened. And then their mother took a step back, holding a lantern made of love and made of family. And Nieves and Rosa leaned in, and, in their spirit forms, they kissed their bear’s cheeks.
“Come back to us,” they whispered, as one. “Come home to us.”
And their bear opened his eyes and smiled at them. “You know what?” His psychic voice was so quiet as to be a breath and nothing more, but so were theirs. “I think I will.”
And it is said that he returned to them as the snow finally melted, their bear, in a coat as yellow as gold, and knelt down in front of them to ask them to marry him. But that, my children, is a story for another day, and a very good one at that.