This is a fairytale I wrote for Mother's Day 2012. It's a work-in-progress, this is draft number two. I also did a slightly dramatized narrative of this version. Enjoy~ Constructive criticism would be lovely.
to the story instead, if you like. Or read-along.
There was once a little girl who lived in a cottage by the sea. Her name was Ella. Ella was a beautiful little girl, with long golden hair that hung in a braid down her back. She always wore pretty dresses, and tied a ribbon in her hair. There’s something else that you should know about Ella--like all children in the land she lived in, Ella had no mother. She didn't even know what a mother was. All she knew was the life she had lived since arriving at the cottage. She had been there for so long, she didn't even know how she'd gotten there.
Ella was a spunky little girl. She always liked to explore the beach and the little smattering of forest around the town of Hadra, near which she lived. Her days were full of fun and adventures, and her nights were spent quietly reading or drawing in front of the fire with her cat, Boots. She was genuinely happy... But she always had this tiny inkling that something was missing. One day, she decided she would set off to find out what it was.
So, one bright Tuesday morning, Ella packed her bag with clothes and some food from her cupboard, and left her cottage by the sea. She locked the door, and bent down to tuck the little key into her sock. As she walked through the streets of the small town near her home, she waved to the boys and girls who played in the park, to the older kids who were running the grocery store, and to the babies who sat splashing around in the small swimming pool set up on the grass.
None of them questioned where she was going. She wouldn't have been able to answer even if they had. She didn't need to know where, she just had to walk. One foot set in front of the other, for miles on end. By the time the sun set on the first day, Ella's feet hurt and she almost cried as she took off her shoes that night. But she was a brave little girl, and refused to let the tears fall. She slept, tucked up against the roots of a huge tree, using her bag for a pillow.
When she woke up in the morning, she was cold. The dew made her hair stick to her skin, and she began to shiver. Her teeth chattered and her knees quaked as she got to her feet and pulled a piece of bread off the loaf she'd brought with her. She ate as she walked, looking around as the landscape became less and less familiar. The forest around her grew thicker than she'd ever seen, and the ground got harder under her shoes. As if her feet didn't already hurt badly enough, she could feel sharp rocks poking at her through the soles of her shoes. The weather got colder too.
Ella walked for three days, and slept for three nights under the branches and by the roots of the trees. The farther she walked, the colder and more frightened she became. Eventually, she couldn't feel her fingers and toes, and the tips of her ears got so cold that her hair froze to them. She couldn’t pull it away.
On the fourth night, as she lay huddled in an old hollow log, a North wind began to blow through the forest. It blew and hissed and screeched its way through every crack and crevice, and it shoved its blustery fingers through Ella's log, pinching at every bit of exposed skin it touched. She yelped, and asked the wind to stop blowing, but it wouldn't listen. She clenched two fists and held them against her face, trying to block the vicious air. And then it began to snow.
By the time she crawled out of the log the next morning, the crunchy, cold whiteness covered everything in sight, and it nearly blinded her. She shielded her eyes from the glare and pressed on, eating the last piece of food she had--a strip of beef jerky--as she went. The snow melted against her shoes and soaked her socks, and her chattering was more intense than it had ever been. She could barely feel the ground beneath her, and her eyes were squinted so tightly that her head began to hurt. She used to think that falling and scraping her knee was the worst pain in the world...but that was before she met Winter.
When night fell, she kept walking. She was afraid to lie down and sleep, lest she awake covered in even more snow. As she walked in the growing darkness, she heard the howl of wolves and the hooting of owls, sounds that had never seemed more frightening. Eventually, all was pitch black, and she realized with sudden terror that she no longer knew which way to go. Panic took hold of her, and she began to run. She ran and ran and ran, her heart beating at twice its normal pace, her eyes darting to and fro in the blackness, trying to find the way.
As Ella ran, she suddenly felt the hard, immovable trunk of a tree, and she bounced back from it, falling on her rump in the snow. Her body already ached with the hunger and the cold, and now this. She wrapped her arms around her legs, buried her face into her knees, and burst into furious sobs, her shoulders shaking as merciful hot tears poured down her face.
Why had she ever come to this place? What had driven her to leave the comfortable life she'd had? Some crazy idea that something in her life wasn't right? Why did she ever think that such a small, insignificant girl as herself could do anything against such a big, harsh world?
As she sat there and cried, the wind howled around her, drowning out every sound to her ears but the cries she was making. Because of this, she did not hear the crunch of footsteps in the snow. Because she was hiding her face, she did not see the bright lantern light that spilled across her tiny form. It wasn't until a soft, gentle hand reached out to touch her shoulder that she gasped and turned around.
The woman who stood over her was older than any person Ella had ever seen before. The lady had on a big coat, thick pants, and boots lined with fur. A large bag was slung across her shoulder, and a bow and quiver were strapped to her back. She had her hair up in a bun, and in her hand she carried a lantern.
Ella just stared for the longest time. The woman tried to speak over the wind, but it had gotten so bad that she could not make herself heard. So instead, she picked Ella up and held her close as she trudged off in the opposite direction the little girl had been so frantically running.
It wasn't long before they reached a house, and the woman took Ella inside. The house was warm, and Ella looked around. It was cozy, and full of furs, blankets and quilts. There was a couch and a rocking chair by a fireplace, and from the kitchen she could smell all kinds of good smells. The girl looked up at the lady, and whispered, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," responded the lady. Her voice was like nothing Ella had ever heard. It was soft and deep, and sounded like music as she continued speaking. "Now what on earth is a child like you doing out in a blizzard like this? You'll catch your death. Get those cold shoes off your feet."
The woman introduced herself as Ember. She said that she had been living in these woods for a long time, and she almost never saw a living soul pass by her front door. She told Ella that she was a very lucky girl, because it wasn't normal for Ember to go out in a storm. But for some reason she had felt like there was something wrong, and lo and behold not six yards from her porch she'd found Ella.
They talked a lot that night, about everything. About animals, about snow and sunshine, about how angry the North wind was all the time. When Ember brought Ella some hot soup, they started talking about food, and eventually Ember asked where the little girl was from.
"We call our town Hadra," Ella said, as she ate the soup, "But no one like you lives there."
"Why, whatever do you mean?" Ember asked, curiously.
"We're all kids. And I know you're not a kid."
"Well, that is a surprise. There are no parents? No mothers?"
Ella cocked her head to one side, and looked up at the woman with intent eyes. "What's a mother?"
Ember sat for a long time, thinking deeply. Ella could almost see the thoughts passing through the lady's eyes. Then, she finally spoke.
"A mother is a gift from God, Ella. He gives us mothers because He knows we need them to survive in this world. A mother guides her child in the way he should go. She teaches him the important things in life. I'm not talking about manners and being nice to other people, though those are good things. I'm talking about deep questions.
"A mother keeps you warm when the rest of the world turns a cold shoulder. She tells you it's going to be all right when you're scared. She prays with you, holds you, and tells you stories before you go to bed at night. But most of all, she loves you no matter what."
Ella thought about this for a long time once the woman was done talking. After nearly fifteen minutes of silence, the girl finally looked up. "You're a mother, aren't you?"
"I was, once."
"Will you be my mother?" Ella asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
With tears in her eyes, Ember leaned down and pulled Ella into a tight hug. The lady thumbed her tears away and nodded. "Yes, yes of course I'll be your mother."
And so it was that Ella found what she had been missing for so long. She stayed with Ember for several days, before the two of them made the journey back to Hadra together. They rode in Ember's wagon, and as they wound through the forest on a road Ella hadn't known existed, everything seemed so much less frightening. The trees didn’t seem so big and black, and when the wolves howled at night, Ember explained to Ella that they were just talking to each other, there was nothing to fear.
They reached the town in a matter of days, and Ember moved into Ella's little cottage by the sea. All the children flocked around to meet the lady, and she got to know them each by name. Every night, she would start a fire on the beach, and all the children would gather around and she would tell them a story before they all went home to bed. She gave them guidance when they asked for it, and let them go it alone when they didn't want her help. She hugged them when they needed it and dried their tears. She listened to their problems, and helped them overcome what they were scared of. She taught them to pray, and taught them to love.
Every night, in the cottage by the sea, Ember would tuck Ella into bed and remind her that she would always be her special little girl.
And they lived happily ever after.