Here's a festive, playful story that introduces our little endearing oddball, Gracie. Enjoy!
“I love France!” Gracie squealed, looking outside at all the snow. “Can I go and play, Grand-pere? I think I might find snow-fairies!”
Her grandfather chuckled. “Mon enfant-terrible,” he smiled behind his bushy moustache, “you have such an imagination!”
Gracie was staying with her grandparents for Christmas. She loved visiting them because Grand-pere would tell her amazing stories about the local animals in the nearby woods, and Grand-mere made such scrumptious brioches (a kind of bread-cake with chocolate melted in the middle!). They lived in a small country cottage in northern France, miles from anywhere. Every morning, Grand-pere would go outside and chop wood ready for a cosy day by the fire, and Gracie just loved warming her cold toes by the fireplace and the smell of the smoke.
Gracie looked outside again. It had been snowing all night and now the fields were covered in a soft blanket of thick white. Gracie could hardly contain her excitement. “Can I go, Grand-pere?” she said, jumping up and down and pulling at his Christmas jumper. “Please can I go out and play? I might meet the roe deer you’ve told me about! Or the wild boar, or the barn owl, or the robin!”
“Ah, oui, the robin,” her grandfather chortled. “She comes to visit me every day. Such a wonderful-looking winter bird. Well, as long as you wrap up warm and promise not to go too far.”
“Promise!” she smiled, rushing over to the door and throwing on her coat and scarf. The snow had begun to fall again and Gracie noticed a flash of red dart across the garden. She stopped, wondering what it was. “Grand-pere…” she said, looking where it had gone.
“Hmm?” her grandfather replied.
“…Are French fairies red?”
Her grandfather couldn’t help but smile. “I’m not sure, mon petite fille,” he laughed. “Perhaps you could find out.”
Gracie turned back to her grandfather, who was reading his newspaper by the fire. “What a great idea!” she sang. And with that, Gracie skipped out of the door.
As soon as Gracie was outside, the little flash of red flew across the garden again and into a nearby field.
“Wait for me, little fairy!” she cried, running through the snow with a huge smile on her face. She reached the garden gate but the snow was so high she had to climb over it.
Gracie landed in the powdered snow on the other side. She was wearing warm clothes but a few icy flakes still managed to sneak down her neck. “Ooo!” she shivered. “That’s cold!” Gracie peered across the field and dusted herself down. There was no sign of the fairy.
She walked over to a small tree and looked around. Suddenly, Gracie heard a tiny fluttering of wings and the small creature drifted into the sky. “Fairy!” she called out, sliding and slipping as she ran. “Wait! I want to talk!”
Soon, Gracie found herself at the edge of the woods. She could hear crows cawing in the distance and it made her feel a little uneasy. “Where are you, little fairy?” she whispered to herself, staring up at the trees. “Perhaps you’re in trouble and you need my help, and that’s why you flew off…” Gracie peered into the woods. All the bushes and branches were heavy with snow and she could hear a strange scraping noise coming from somewhere deep within. “She needs me,” Gracie concluded in a determined voice, and marched in.
She was beginning to wonder whether it really was a fairy after all, when the strange noise suddenly stopped. Gracie stopped too. She held her breath as a cold wind breezed through the treetops. Flakes of snow drifted down from the branches, like silver glitter. It was very quiet.
Then, from a small bush, a young roe deer strode into view. It looked at Gracie, studying her carefully.
“Hello,” Gracie said, holding out her hand. “Was it you making the noise?”
As if by answering, the deer began scraping at the ground with its front left hoof, clearing away the snow so he could get at the fresh shoots below.
“Oh, so it was you,” Gracie smiled. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen a fairy fly past have you?”
The deer looked up.
“Yes, I know they are very rare,” Gracie sighed, as if replying to something the animal had said.
The deer tipped its head, then turned to the left.
“Oh, she went that way?” Gracie nodded, beginning to walk in that direction. “Thank you for your help, Mr Deer.”
The deer sprang off between some trees and disappeared.
Before long, the little girl came to a stream. “Hmm,” she said, rubbing her chin. “Which way now?”
A family of wild boars waddled past, grunting to each other as they nudged and pushed at the snow with their long snouts. The biggest one turned to Gracie and snorted loudly.
“How rude!” Gracie said. “My nose is not ugly! And it is very good at smelling I’ll have you know.”
The boar snorted again.
“No, I’m not!” Gracie said, angrily. “I’m not lost - I’m just finding my way!”
The boar shuffled into the undergrowth and Gracie stomped in the other direction, along the banks of the stream. “Silly boar,” she muttered to herself. What does he know?”
Suddenly, she heard a terrifying, screechy noise from above her and she jumped backwards. Two huge, dark eyes stared down from snow-lined branches.
“Ooh, aren’t you beautiful…” Gracie smiled. It was barn owl; her soft cream and orange plumage perfectly blended into the tangle of white trees above. “Um, I don’t suppose you’ve seen a red fairy on your travels, Mrs Owl?” Gracie said, hopefully.
The owl just blinked and swivelled her head from right to left.
“I see,” said Gracie. She peered around at the mixture of dark forest and white snow. “I don’t suppose you know the way back to Maison des Champ Blanc, do you? It’s where my grandparents live.” She checked to see if the wild boar was around, before adding in a whisper: “I think I’m lost.”
The owl blinked again before gliding silently away.
“Charming…” Gracie mumbled. She suddenly felt rather alone. The snow was still falling and it was getting colder. Soon it would be dark. She could hear Grand-pere’s voice in her head. She had promised not to go too far. He would probably be worried.
Just then, a flash of red flew from the trees.
“Fairy!” Gracie squealed, chasing it through the woods. “Wait!”
Determined not to lose her this time, Gracie ploughed through the snow as fast as she could, leaping over fallen tree trunks and sliding over icy puddles. The creature flitted to branch after branch, never stopping long enough for Gracie to get a proper look – though it seemed browner than before. The daylight was fading and it was getting hard to spot the fairy’s movement, but Gracie somehow managed to keep the fluttering wingbeats in her sights.
Without warning, the darkness of the woods suddenly broke away and Gracie found herself at the top of a small field. “Where is th—” Before she could finish, she tripped over a log and rolled head over heels down the hill. The whole world became a painful blur of white fields, distant trees and dark skies.
“Oommfffff!” Gracie came to a halt at the foot of a small gate. It took a few moments for her to gather her thoughts and catch her breath. “Wow,” she eventually said, picking herself up. “That was different.”
It was much darker now, and Gracie was really starting to get worried. “I could be anywhere,” she said quietly to herself.
“This isn’t just anywhere,” a familiar voice said from behind her, “and why are you covered in snow, petite fille?”
Gracie spun round. Stood the other side of the gate with a steaming mug of cocoa in his hand, was Grand-pere.
“I’m home!” Gracie squealed.
Grand-pere looked rather unimpressed. “Tres bien, Gracie. Now come inside. Grand-mere’s made you a double chocolate brioche.”
As Gracie stomped the snow and mud from her boots, Grand-pere closed the back door. It was good to be back inside the cottage. She could smell the fresh chocolate and the smoke from the fireplace, and it made her feel warm and cosy inside.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Grand-mere said, handing Gracie a freshly cooked brioche.
“Thank you,” Gracie said, politely. “Well, I met a helpful roe deer who pointed me in the right direction, and a rather rude wild boar.”
“Oui, the French ones usually are,” Grand-pere nodded, settling down in his armchair by the fire.
“And then I came across a barn owl,” Gracie continued.
“How lovely,” Grand-mere smiled. “They are such beautiful creatures, aren’t they?”
“Yes, but not very helpful,” Gracie replied, sternly.
“But what about the fairy?” Grand-pere asked.
“Oh, well, I did see it,” Gracie replied. “But it kept flying away.”
“What did it look like?”
“Small, like fairies should be,” Gracie explained. “There was a flash of red when it flew, and it had small fluttering wings. It was browner than normal fairies, but that may be because we’re in France.”
“Oh, like a robin?” Grand-pere said.
“A robin,” he repeated. “You know, small bird with a bright red-chest? It flutters from tree to tree looking for small insects or other things to eat. They can be quite tame, actually. There’s one that lives in the garden, remember? I feed her mealworms and she comes back every day.”
Gracie dropped her brioche and thought about the fairy’s movements. It did flutter from tree to tree. And it was red… She stepped over to the kitchen window and looked outside. It was almost dark now. The snow was still falling and it looked even colder than before.
Suddenly, a flash of red darted across the garden. “Fairy…” she whispered as she followed its movement until it landed on the garden gate. She squinted her eyes. Staring back was a small bird with a bright red chest.
“There she is,” Grand-pere announced from behind Gracie. “My robin!”
“My snow-fairy!” Gracie laughed, giving Grand-pere a big hug.
“Mon enfant terrible,” Grand-pere chuckled. “You have such an imagination.”
Gracie watched her snow fairy from behind her grandfather’s Christmas jumper. The fire was crackling and the smell of toasted crumpets drifted past her nose. Gracie yawned and watched as the small bird hopped around the garden in the fading dark, snatching a mealworm before fluttering back to her nest.
Gracie couldn’t wait to play with her tomorrow!