By Tim Porteus

THE twins had been so excited the night before their trip with their granny.

“Now go to sleep,” their dad had said after their bedtime story, but when you’re excited it’s hard to just fall asleep. But of course eventually they did and in the morning they woke with sunshine streaming through the gaps in their bedroom curtains.

They were all ready for their granny when she arrived. “Granny Mags,” they cried and ran to her as she walked up the garden path.

“Thanks for this, mum,” said the dad, “are you sure you will be OK for that length of time there?”

“Och, dinnae be daft of course I will, we are going to have a great time, aren’t we kids?”

“Yeah, yeah, the faerie wood, the faerie wood,” they chanted as they jumped up and down.

The plan was that dad would drive them to the wood and then head off to work. A picnic basket was all prepared and the sun was due to shine all day.

When they arrived, Louisa and Callum shot out of the car like rabbits the moment their seatbelts were undone. “Now be careful here,” said dad, “it’s a car park.”

He turned to his mother: “You sure you’ll be OK?”

“Of course, now off you go and see you in five hours,” she said. Then she added: “Mind you, time is not always what it seems in a faerie wood, you know that.” He smiled and nodded.

After some hugs, dad drove off and the adventure could begin.

They were surrounded by glistening trees which covered a hill. The magic was floating in the air along with the wisps and wishes which were hitching a ride on the breeze.

“There,” said the granny, “that way, into the wood and look out for faeries.”

The children’s behaviour changed. Instead of jumping and running about they now went quiet. They went through the gate and began to climb up the hill, looking carefully at every bush and behind every tree for signs of the wee folk.

Their granny walked behind them doing the same. It was a lifetime ago she was last in this magical wood. In fact, her son had been much the same age as Louisa and Callum were now when she had last walked along this very route with him. It was steeper than she remembered, but that made them walk slowly and carefully.

It was one of those summer days in which sweetness hung in the air. They took care not to step on the wild flowers but the children found lots of signs that the faeries were in the wood; mushrooms growing in a circle, fairy cups lying under an old oak tree, strange entrances in the ground and what looked like doors in the tree trunks.

Finally they reached the top of the hill.

“Wow,” said the children as they peered up. A tall tower graced the summit.

“It looks like Rapunzel’s tower,” said Callum. “Yeah, it must be,” agreed Louisa.

They sat in the shadow of the tower having their picnic. The views over the countryside of East Lothian and to the sea beyond were spectacular.

The Bass Rock and North Berwick Law in particular loomed out of the landscape, just like the giant mushrooms they had discovered in the wood.

The children wanted to climb the tower but their granny told them another time, for she was too tired and her legs might not make it the whole way.

“There are 132 steps in there,” she said, “that would be a good thing to do with your dad. Nag him to take you, because the views are wonderful from up there.”

“And scary I think,” said Callum. “Yes, perhaps a bit,” nodded granny Mags.

“You go and play by the edge of the wood while I rest here for a wee bit,” she said to the children. She sat and soaked in the wonder of the moment. She hadn’t remembered that the views were so spectacular from the top of Byres Hill. But then again she had spent most of her last time here with her son, looking for faeries and singing to them.

She closed her eyes for a moment. The gentle breeze stroked her face and the scent of memory surrounded her. In the near distance the sound of her grandchildren playing and singing was mixed with birdsong and rustling leaves, creating dreamlike music.

Then suddenly the children called out to her: “Granny Mags, granny Mags come quickly!”

Thinking that there was something wrong, the grandmother got up and rushed towards her grandchildren. But as she approached them and saw their faces, she realised their expressions were full of excitement rather than being upset.

“Och ma dears, ye nearly gied me a turn, what is it?”

“Look what we found, it must be a present from the faeries!”

There, carefully folded and laid between the roots of an old tree, there was a clean and crisp old-fashioned handkerchief.

The granny stood for a moment, looking at it carefully. It looked as if she might be ill, as her face for a moment seemed to go pale and she had a strange expression.

“You alright, granny Mags?” asked Louisa.

“Yes, my dear, yes,” she said, “let me sit down and in a moment I’ll be fine, I just have to catch my breath.”

They all sat together, looking at the neatly folded handkerchief.

“Do you think it’s for us from the faeries?” asked Callum.

“I’m sure of it,” said his gran. She bent down and carefully picked it up. Now she seemed to get all sad and it looked like she was going to cry. Her grandchildren said nothing, not understanding but at the same time understanding, and hugged her.

“Here,” she said, as she handed the folded hankie to the children. “Hold it carefully and open it up, it feels like there is something inside, and I think I know what it is.”

“What is it?”

“A rose,” she said, with emotion in her voice.

“A rose! Don’t think so gran!” they said, “it’s too wee for that!”

“Let us see,” she said.

With great care the children unfolded the neatly wrapped corners and inside there was a rose-shaped button.

“Wow gran, it is a rose, how’d you know that?”

“Open the hankie some more,” she said. The children did so with great care as their grandmother cradled the button in her hand.

“It’s got a letter sewn into it, and a flower,” they said.

The letter M was embroidered, next to a beautifully woven violet flower.

The children could sense that their grandmother was for some reason very emotional, so they sat quietly with her until she explained: “The last time I was in this wood was with your dad. It was a day just like today. He wanted to leave a present for the faeries and I explained to him that the best present was something simple, but also special and treasured which you don’t really want to lose.

“And so we left a handkerchief and rose-shaped button. The hankie was embroidered by my great grandmother for my mother, who was called Margaret. She was your dad’s granny. And the button was from one of her summer cardigans which had come off while picking brambles one summer. They were very special to us because they helped us remember both my great grandmother, my grandmother and mother. It kind of tied them all together.”

Her grandchildren were trying to make sense of what she was saying.

“But why did you leave something so special?”

“Well, to be honest,” she said, “your dad wanted to leave them as he was so desperate to see the faeries and so I agreed. But I planned to return quickly as we left and take them back.”

“So why didn’t you, did you forget?” asked Louisa.

“No, I didn’t forget, I went to get them as your dad was looking another way but it was too late, they’d already gone. The faeries must’ve really liked them and taken them.”

“And now they have given them back!” said Callum excitedly.

“Yes, I suspect they have been waiting all this time for me to return, once they realised how much these things meant to me. They seem to have looked after them really well.”

“Wow, we must leave them something else then!” said Callum.

They searched their pockets.

“Nothing made of iron,” said the Granny.

They made a picture with fallen leaves and acorns. “Perfect,” said their granny, “…and look at the time, your dad will be waiting for us at the car park.”

The children veered down the hill, running between the trees, using the their trunks as breaks.

“Dad, dad we got a presents from the faeries,” they yelled as their father came out of the car and held out his arms for a hug.

His mother appeared some moments later, holding the presents.

She said nothing but just unfurled her hand and showed him. He stared at the hankie and rose-shaped button.

“It can’t be,” he said, “that was over 30 years ago, they are in perfect condition.”

“I know,” said his mother, “but as I said, time is not always what it seems when faeries are involved.”