Every day before breakfast, Mariela crept out to see the fairy’s maze. She took her mother’s old mirror from the top of its mahogany dresser, blowing off the scraps of crumbling wallpaper, and swiped a scone from the cook’s first batch of the day. The cook followed her with a lazy swipe of her flowery handtowel, but after the last year had finally given up on scolding her.
Mariela banged out the back door, stuffing the scone into her mouth. She carried the mirror with both hands down the crumbled stoop and its patchy moss, the rickety ornamental bar-cage clanging shut in its frame. Blue, translucent chimney smoke carried over the dewy yard. The groundskeeper’s fox raised its head from beside a moldy toadstool patch, and Mariela paused to make a face at it. It yipped and put its head back on its dainty paws, a flash of gold disappearing into its neck fur.
“Well, I didn’t want to talk to you, either,” Mariela sniffed. She marched past with the mirror under her arm, keeping her skirt clear of the muddy turf.
The maze devoured the estate’s yard almost monstrously. Its foliage was dark and glossy no matter what the time of year, and its walls were nearly taller than the house. Mariela knew, because she had climbed the roof hoping to see down into its paths. Possibly to leap down on the wrong side of the hedges, too, but the governess who had caught her didn’t know that.
There was no way in or out of the maze that Mariela had ever found, and none the groundskeeper had been willing to tell her about. There was no real proof the maze even was a maze, other than assurances from old groundskeepers that’s what it was. Mariela scanned along the maze’s thorny outskirts, ducking down to squint.
“You’ve moved since yesterday,” she grumbled under her breath. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed, you bugger.”
Beyond one protruding branch, Mariela finally spotted the gleam of grimy bronze. She tucked her skirt beneath her knees and plopped to the grass, leaning the oval mirror against her leg. She fussed to set it at just the right angle–just the right angle to see through the keyhole.
Wrestling the branches away (besides nearly tearing a button from her sleeve) revealed a perfectly arched, perfectly ornate bronze door. It was barely a foot tall and wide, and in its center was a single keyhole.
There were no entrances to the maze, yet there was a door.
Mariela had discovered it at around the age of seven, one day when guests were visiting. She’d been stuffed into a blue pinafore and handed over to the groundskeeper, to be touted around outside with the estate’s dogs. The groundskeeper lost interest in her quickly and began sprucing up plants potted in the garden, so Mariela wandered the perimeter of the maze alone, looking for a way in.
And there, in the center of the greenery, Mariela found a bronze door that she was positive had not been there yesterday. It only began seeming strange to her the older she became, and the more she learned about geometry and architecture. Especially as her cousins started moving away to boarding schools, Mariela turned over the bizarre door for hours of the day.
It was only decoration, the cook assured her. It was none of her bloody concern, the groundskeeper assured her. It was “nice, dear,” the governess assured her.
All of those things were silly, in Mariela’s opinion. It was very clearly a fairy door.
Whenever she put her eye to the keyhole, Mariela saw only leaves. Yet when she angled the mirror into the keyhole and looked, she could see…something else. Not twigs or shrubbery. Colorful wings. Tiny roofs. Once a very impudent pixie making rude expressions, though the cook had nearly walloped her with a rolling pin for saying so.
Mariela sat up on her knees and glanced back towards where the groundkeeper’s uppity fox napped. The red string around its neck was tucked between its paws, as always. She bit her lip, imagining that flash of gold.
There was only one key left she hadn’t tried.
This story was based off this week’s fairy tale-inspired prompt fragments. You can try spinning your own story from the list here!