# 1 Every Story Has a Beginning
The music began to play; indicating the end of another school day, at Fairy Meadow. The children with nice teachers were already packing their belongings into the row of backpacks, hooked up along the corridor. The other children were still sitting at their desks, with miserable expressions on their little innocent faces; being kept in for a lecture, because some dumb kid had been naughty. Their little spirits sighing; why did some kids have to be naughty, and why oh why did they have to be in my class? It was a mystery for the ages, and something they had zero control over. The often-overlooked burden of being a child.
Mackenzie Tanaya and her BFF, Annie, already had their backpacks on, and were hurrying towards the timber picnic table, at the school yard’s edge. Here they met Mackenzie’s Nanny and Poppy, who walked them home from school each day.
That once a year event which every child gets excited about, and every adult dreads, for Mackenzie, happened to be today. Her party wasn’t on until Saturday, but she had already received some very nice presents; from her Daddy and Mummy, her two older brothers, and, through the post, from her Grandma in Queensland. She was sure she would get something nice from her Poppy and Nanny too, after they picked her up from school. She was excited about the party, but also excited just for today; and well, why shouldn’t she be, it was The-Big-One after all.
“I’m ten today Annie,” said Mackenzie.
“Yeah, I know Mackenzie,” said Annie. “You’ve been telling me all day.”
“Well,” said Mackenzie. “I’m too excited about it. I have to keep saying it; Daddy says double digits is a big deal!”
“Yeah, I know,” said Annie. “I’m already ten too, you know?”
“I know,” said Mackenzie. “But now I’m ten. Isn’t that exciting Annie?”
Nanny and Poppy waved when they saw the strawberry-blond hair of their granddaughter approaching. Long braids either side of her hat, jumping up and down as she skipped along, like snake-charmer’s pets, curving gracefully, rising from their basket. Mackenzie jumped up giving her Nanny a big hug. Nanny laughed out loud. Her little granddaughter brought instant joy to her heart. Poppy put his hand out slowly; placing it on her shoulder, giving Mackenzie a little squeeze.
“Happy birthday Nanny,” said Mackenzie.
Her Nanny laughed, “It’s not my birthday little one!” Her Poppy had tears in his eyes, chuckling away. Funny things that children say.
“And how was your day?” said Poppy, to Annie.
“Oh good,” said Annie.
“Anything exciting today girls?” said Poppy.
“Not really,” said Annie.
“Not really,” said Mackenzie. “But we did have cupcakes of course!”
At Fairy Meadow, the children were allowed to bring along a tray of cupcakes, on their birthday. Mackenzie’s Mummy had made them late last night, after work. There were 38 cupcakes; one for each student in her class, one for the teacher, and a few extra. Daddy said there was a conspiracy happening where the teachers would take any extra cupcakes, and store them in the teacher’s lounge. Mackenzie didn’t think so, but it was fun to imagine her teachers being so silly.
The four walked home together and the two girls discussed school, TV shows, the burden of being ten, and the upcoming party. They had been given an assignment by the Librarian, on the Eiffel Tower in France. Although she had never been there, Mackenzie said her favourite country was France, so she was quite keen for this task.
“We used to call it the Awful Tower,” said Poppy. The two girls laughed. Nanny didn’t, but made a disapproving face. They continued along Albert Street, then turned into Bundeena Road, the street they all lived along. Annie lived directly opposite Mackenzie’s house; so, it was handy they were BFFs, well, most days anyway.
Nanny and Poppy had been living in her backyard for about a year now; not in a tent, as some people thought, but in a nice modern cottage, her parents had built. As happens to us all eventually, even ten-year-old girls, they had become elderly; and the large house they had had, was now too big for them. The Garden Villa (it was too nice to call a granny-flat) sat at the end of the yard, facing the back deck of the main house.
Annie’s Daddy was home early today, so she went across home straight away. Other times she would stay with Mackenzie for a while, until there was someone responsible at home. Her brother Grover (whose real name was Tom) was supposed to be included in that trusted circle, but she wasn’t so sure.
Mackenzie went straight to her large and messy bedroom, changing into her favourite pink t-shirt and matching shorts. The shorts were the kind that had many pockets along the sides, with big buttons, and lots of hidden compartments. Mackenzie loved these; because she could put all her special kit into these pockets, when exploring in the backyard. Most of it fitted inside a little tin, but she would always grab extra things from the cubby-house. She had put the items together herself, modelling it off Daddy’s survival kit. There was a little torch, a compass, a pencil and notebook, powdered soup, Nutella, and some first-aid gear.
Nanny walked in, telling her off, for dumping her uniform on the floor, instead of hanging it up, or putting it in the wash. She picked up the clothes for her, as she told her off. Poppy was already out in the cottage, probably asleep. Her two older brothers, Jackson and Dylan, would be home from their school a little later.
Having no sisters (except for Annie, she would say) entitled her to having a bedroom of her own, painted light-pink and purple. Mummy had decorated it; with cut-out butterflies made of paper, wire and fabric. She loved butterflies.
About a third of the bedroom was taken up by a collection of stuffed teddy-bears and dolls; these were piled rather clumsily in the north-eastern corner of the room, on top of old Oregon-pine floorboards. Throughout the day, the dolls and bears, as well as art supplies, bits of paper, and cardboard boxes, would scatter messily all over her room, often overflowing to the rest of the house. Mackenzie was full of energy; leaping with excitement into the next project, without leaving any time to pack up the mess of the last one. The result of this, was that while she had many desirable qualities, she was not good at keeping her room tidy.
Mackenzie’s Daddy also worked long hours, and right now he was on one of his overseas trips. She knew her parents loved her very much, but sometimes she felt lonely, as their work commitments meant they were away from the children for long periods of time. Whenever possible, Daddy and Mummy would play with her, but sometimes work came home with them, and they had to keep working, even after bedtime. Mackenzie didn’t think this was particularly fair, considering when a kitten came home with her one day, she was not allowed to keep it.
Mackenzie often wished that things were different, that her Daddy and Mummy didn’t have to work so much. It was her greatest wish of all, but was unlikely to come true. While this made her sad, she thought about that one big benefit, to having all this time alone.
Her thoughts interrupted, as a honey sandwich, with its crusts cut off, divided into triangles, appeared on the kitchen breakfast bar. Mackenzie stepped up and sat sideways on the stool, to have her afternoon tea.
“Mummy will be home after seven,” said Nanny.
Mackenzie nodded, this was normal routine. Instantly she thought of the backyard. It was her favourite place to be, and the only thing that would have made it any better, would be having her parents explore it with her.
Mackenzie loved the backyard garden, even more than she loved her light-pink and purple butterfly room. Perhaps because the garden butterflies were real, alive. Her parents had turned a once bare yard into a lush, green paradise, which now had many secret places to explore. Daddy had built a rather large timber cubby-house, which had a sandpit in the front, and a frog pond out the back. In Spring and early Summer; tadpoles would appear in the water, and then as Autumn fell, they formed legs, turning into frogs.
Up the side of the house, sat Daddy’s shed, which contained a wide assortment of woodworking tools. Due to his busy work, he rarely went into it these days, but now and again would make a special toy for the children: dollhouse, toy-car-garage, ice-cream-truck. Just outside the shed sat a round fire-pit, made of oversized curved bricks. The family liked to sit around the fire at night, toasting marshmallows on the ends of sticks. Mackenzie enjoyed toasting the marshmallows, but she didn’t like eating them. So, she would toast them, offering the warm treat to Mummy or Daddy; or her brothers, if they had been nice to her.
Around the border of the property were established shrubs and trees, including more than a dozen different types of fruit tree. There were raised garden beds, growing all types of vegetables. They grew uncommon heirloom varieties, so there was always an interesting selection of produce: three types of pumpkin; at least seven varieties of tomato, including the one with green stripes that made it look like a zebra; big strawberries, that grow all year round; cucumber, two types; radish, carrots; turnips. Growing inside old car tyres, were healthy looking potato plants. When ready, they were wrapped in foil, and roasted in the fire-pit. Mackenzie really enjoyed these.
On the western edge of the yard, stood a small tin shed, which housed eight chooks (chickens for the uninitiated). During the day, they were allowed out of their shed, to roam freely throughout the garden. Fresh eggs were collected daily, and now and again, a rogue egg would be found hidden under a shrub; usually quite stinky, by the time it was discovered. Over the space of a few years, the chooks had trodden down little paths across the shrubs, trees, and tall grasses, throughout the backyard.
Mackenzie loved to run along these paths. She would follow them as they wound through the thick collection of flowering shrubs; around tall gum trees, large rocks, zipping past the frog pond, and then behind the Garden-Villa. Sometimes, Mackenzie thought she had got lost, because there were so many of these winding paths.
It was always a very special day when she discovered a new path hidden in the garden; whenever this happened, she would pause and look down along it, dreaming about the fantastic possibilities that might await her, should she choose to venture down such a new path. And that’s just what happened the day before yesterday. Except Nanny called her in for dinner, so she didn’t get the chance to explore.
And so it was; that while her parents were busy with work, she would skip down the back steps, and explore the garden. And if you really think about it, had her parents been home more, she would not have explored the garden so often; and might never have had the fantastic adventure that was about to begin.
“I’m going outside then,” said Mackenzie, finishing her honey sandwich.
“Not without a jacket and hat on you don’t,” said Nanny. “It’s getting cold now.”
Mackenzie frowned but obeyed, putting on a puffy pink jacket, and a pink beanie. Daddy had given her the beanie after one overseas trip. All ready now, she went to go outside. Nanny followed her for a bit, moving slowly with her hot cup of tea, from the main house, back to her own home, at the end of the garden.
“The chooks are out,” said Nanny. “Don’t let Chess out the gate.”
“Yes Nanny,” said Mackenzie.
Going out the back door, onto the deck, the black and white staffie waited for attention. She was an old dog, moving slowly these days; but she still had the attitude of a silly puppy. Chess looked up at Mackenzie with a big juicy grin. This girl always pats me, she thought. I’m going to get a pat now. Maybe a scratch on the tummy too! She gave the dog a pat on the head and a little cuddle around its shoulders. Ooooh, that’s sooo goooood, thought Chess, hanging her tongue out. She wasn’t smart, but the dog’s love was unconditional.
“Good dog,” said Mackenzie, who then carefully opened and closed the gate as she walked down the stairs and into the backyard. Chess was not allowed in the garden, while the chooks were out. I’m a good dog, thought Chess.
She entered the timber cubby-house Daddy made, grabbing a few extra supplies. There was a tall mirror inside, and she admired herself. Mackenzie Tanaya was now ten years old. Double digits. She caressed the red and blond strands of her hair. Grandma called it strawberry-blond. Mackenzie straightened her body to be as tall as possible, as she gazed into the mirror. She was very small for her age. One doctor said she had a thing called slow-growing-bones. Daddy said he was always short in school, and grew a bit later on; she just had to be content with the size she was. Because of her petite structure, most people thought she was much younger; and were often surprised at how well-spoken she was, or at the type of things she would say. People are silly, aren’t they?
A petite button nose, little eyes full of wonder, cute round ears (which she was getting pierced this week), all finished off by a lovely little smile. She always grabbed the attention of anyone who met her, particularly with that magnetic personality outshining her appearance. She loved to sing and dance and generally show off, and was only ever shy around strangers. The type of person that everyone just naturally loved; and she made friends easily. Mackenzie loved life, and life it seemed, loved her back.
There were a few other items she needed from the cubby-house, before she could begin exploring. She grabbed the big-red-plastic-torch, which only worked sometimes. While she had the little torch in her survival kit, this one was a good size to hold in your hand, and when it worked, its light was nice and bright. She placed this into a backpack, where she had a water-bottle already enclosed. Then she plucked her white socks from off the ground (she left all her clothes on the ground), and slipped her feet into her gum-boots. Flinging the back-pack over her head, and across her body, she leapt out of the cubby-house, and into the garden.
Mackenzie wandered around one of the paths trodden down by the chooks; which led around to the frog pond at the back of the cubby-house. Quite often she would stop here to have a snack and watch the tadpoles and frogs, enjoying life in their little pond. They had their own society going on, and seemed oblivious to the rest of the big wide world. Mind you; the rest of the world were probably not aware of this pond, and the city of frogs that inhabited it, but it existed in any case. It was a secret place in the garden, which always felt so peaceful and calm.
Usually, she sat on a little bench; made from four bricks stacked two high on either side, and a length of timber, which used to be an old step. But today she had something else on her mind. Today Mackenzie was determined to explore that new path. She had no trouble finding it again. As you might expect, the path was in the same place that she left it, a few days earlier. Imagine a path that moved from one place to another!
Standing at the entrance to the path, surrounded by tall flowering shrubs, she was ready to take that first step. Every explorer must take that first step. Today the leaves on the shrubs seemed to be a deeper, darker green, and the orange flowers, almost looked as though they were glowing with electric light.
Grabbing out her big-red-plastic-torch, Mackenzie began to venture down this lush green path. There was plenty of light, but the torch made her feel brave, even though it wasn’t working right now. The further in she went, the more the bushes seemed to push in towards her; as though they were growing wider, with each step that she took. The path becoming narrower. And just when she was about to turn around, because she thought this path led to nowhere, she stepped out into a small clearing.
Looking around, she was surrounded by oversized shrubs, which towered above her. A very small bee, gathered pollen from one of the orange flowers; it was the tiniest bee she had ever seen, dancing around, stuffing pollen into its little black socks, then flying away, back to its hive. It flew right past Mackenzie’s nose. That’s when she noticed, it was a normal sized bee after all. Her eyes tricked by the oversized flowers, making the bee look much smaller. An optical illusion!
She sat down upon an old rotting log, at the side of the clearing. Rough and uncomfortable. Her hands rubbing over the moist moss growing upon it; like freshly cleaned carpet, that was still a little damp. Little yellow flowers grew in the moss. The air was cooler here. Almost as though someone had turned on an air-conditioner; a cool breeze blowing across her face. It smelled fresh, clean, like the smell of newly dug over soil, just after a rainstorm. Calm. Peaceful. This was a perfect place that you would never want to leave.
Mackenzie’s thoughts of peace and tranquillity were interrupted, by a sudden rustling within the shrubs. The large green leaves started to shake; an orange flower dropped, falling to the ground. Big as her foot it was! The noise grew louder from within. Leaning closer; she could hear sticks breaking, followed by a galloping, a squawking sound. I’m feeling nervous now, she thought. Sitting forwards on the log; leaning in a little closer, holding up her big-red-plastic-torch for protection; anxiously wondering what on earth was hidden in these giant green shrubs.
A white mess of feathers burst out from the shrub, with a ridiculous, awful noise. The old white chook, not seeing where it was going, leaped straight up at Mackenzie’s face. She reacted, holding up the torch, protecting herself from the mad hen. The chicken landed hard, right on her chest. It hurt! It knocked Mackenzie backwards off the log, and into the shrubs behind her!
As things turned out, this was no ordinary part of the garden. This particular path had a little magic in it still, which meant that sometimes the opposite of what would normally happen in the natural world, will most certainly happen in a magic world. So instead of falling off the log and onto the ground; she found herself sliding down a slippery muddy hill. Down and down and down, she went, sliding rapidly along a muddy slope; giant, dark-green leaves brushing over the top of her face, sliding head first, on her back. Mackenzie had never been so scared. Panicking; her little heart beating faster, and faster; eyes closed tight; falling fast. She attempted to grab at leaves, flowers, twigs, anything that might stop her fall. But it all slipped out of her little hands. So, she just held onto her torch for dear life. It seemed like she had been falling and falling, at such a great speed, for such a long time; when suddenly, she felt herself slow down, then came to a complete stop. She was exhausted. Out of breath. Covered in mud. Heart racing. Can’t see. Her right hand still clinging tightly to her big-red-plastic-torch. Eyes shut tightly; refusing to open. Wet and cold; flat on her back.
And then, although she had to build up the courage to do so, she cautiously opened her little eyes; and, to her surprise, looking up, she saw stars, shining brightly, in the night sky.
I would LOVE it if you could write a comment below – Josh Reid (author)
Read Part One, Chapter #2 HERE