When Pixie Pewterson's father raised his voice once in a blue moon, she knows she's in trouble. It just so happened that her antics had caught him on a particularly shit evening, one where the printers had been jammed for half the working day and Pixie had convinced a kid at her school to launch himself off of the tyre swing at school. She had told him he could fly, you see, and all of 8 years old he'd believed her. If big, twelve-year-old Pixie Pewterson said so, then why not?
Well, turns out he couldn't fly. He could, however, snap his leg on landing and howl until the teachers came running and Pixie was sent home for the day, a grin on her face and her tales between her teeth.
"YOU WHAT?!" howled her teacher and her father, both red in the face at the time, but Pixie only gulped when her father yelled.
"I didn't do nothin'-"
"That's it Pixie Pewterson, you're spendin' the day with the Gills"
"AWH NO! BUT DA-AAAAD!"
"Some hard work'll do you good Pix."
So that's how Pixie Pewterson ended up trailing behind Mo Gill on Saturday morning at dawn, feet squelching in the damp grass and already over her punishment.
"Mo!" she whined, swinging her basket around and around in her left hand. "I'm cold! And hungry!"
Mo was annoyed. He'd been looking forward to this weekend, and had worked all 5 days this week, and this is what he had to look forward to? Mother had insisted he go out this weekend for a hunt. Chanty and Cremini were at home. They were working on firepit outback, and Father was insistent he had some help. Mo, of course, was left on harvest duty. And not only that, he got to have a shadow today. Pixie Pewterson's dad had asked if she;d be able to trail along on one of those "shroom walks" as he'd called it. Of course, Mr. Gill had no problem with the extra pair of eyes.
Pixie Pewterson was most definitely a bundle of energy, and Mo, innately grumpy, was in an absolutely sour mood as he walked through the woods with Pixie trailing behind. She'd insisted on using a basket instead of a satchel, and Mo's bag was filled with... maybe a handful of common white mushrooms. Completely nothing to bat one's eyes at. In fact, it was a complete waste of Mo's time but he wasn't one to disobey his parents. Dad's wrath with a leather belt was nothing to mess around with. It'd probably been a year or two since the last time he'd been punished for disobeying his parents but as Mo got older, he didn't have the natural inclination. There were more fulfilling ways to live than to be a teenage rebel.
But this girl? They'd been around each other a few times in the midst of the Pewterson and Gill family interacting but Mo had never taken a liking to the spunky and never-ending energy that Pixie offered. It honestly weighed down his ever-angsty demeanor. I mean, he wasn't always like that, but he hadn't earned the nickname of Grumps around his household for nothing.
The sun beamed down on the back of Mo's neck as if to say hello as he continued through the familiar path in the beginning part of the forest. It wasn't hot. In fact, Mo still had his flannel all the way buttoned up, and a shirt underneath that, and then another undershirt underneath that. And still, the only sweat on his body was from walking. The trees were still waking up and stretching out their arms. They said hello as Mo passed and in some ways that did help. This was the place where Mo was the most comfortable.
They really hadn't made it that far into the woods quite yet. He didn't expect to find much. It'd been much drier than last year and... that was another thing. If they couldn't get a good harvest, and it seemed like they might at the beginning of the season, they would not have nearly as good of a summer financially. And if they didn't get a good yield this summer, well... that meant that it probably would equal out to just as sucky of a winter and fall, too. It wouldn't be the first time, so in some ways Mo was used to it, but he didn't want to suffer because of Mother Nature yet again.
"Mo, I'm cold! And hungry!" Pixie whined, and Mo was having none of it. "Yeah, so is all of District 7. Stay quiet and try to get a few mushrooms if you can. Just let me know if you see anything. They could be dangerous, and as annoying as you are, we wouldn't want you to die, would we! Then you'd be ineligible for the reaping." Most of the time, Mo didn't know to filter his thoughts before they came out of his mouth. It didn't matter if the person he was talking to was 12 years old."At least you're young, I guess. And it'll warm up in a little bit. We've barely even done anything, Pixie."
Mo Gill wasn't one easily persuaded by Pixie's big-eyed, trembling-lip act. Truth was she really did feel cold, and it seemed like hours since she'd had breakfast. It'd only been all of three circles around the clock, but Pixie was impatient.
"...and as annoying as you are, we wouldn't want you to die, would we! Then you'd be ineligible for the reaping."
Dreaming of warm oatmeal or a special treat of blueberry pancakes, the tiny girl pouted at Mo's matter-of-fact words. Frowning, she crossed her arms and huffed - stomping quickly to catch up with her family friend. "Yeah, well," she grumbled, "at least I'd be warm if I was dead!"
Lacking any concept of how dead bodies chilled over time, the twelve year old rubbed the skin of her bare arms now bumpy with cold. Her father had told her to bring a cardigan, but in her defiance toward the whole day's plans she'd stormed out of the house without one.
"We've barely even done anything, Pixie," noted Mo, to which Pixie glanced up at him with raised eyebrows and nodded an exasperated "Exactly!" Her own basket was empty, Mo's housing a handful of small mushrooms, and she was starting to get bored.
"Was it the green spots I should stay clear of, or the purple ones?" she pondered, tilting her head to the side as she peered at the base of nearby trees. "This is confusin' Mo. Oh, look! Flowers!"
Darting toward a bunch of daisies scattered in the near distance, twigs snapped underneath the weight of her walking boots and a few birds fluttered away in fright. Squinting down at the tiny flowers - which could almost pass for weeds more than anything - Pixie plucked one up from the ground and twirled it between her thumb and fore-finger.
Smiling, she turned and held it out toward Mo for him to see. "Look! Did you know real-life fairies sometimes use daisies as umbrellas? I saw one myself just the other week!"
It was a tale conjured from the depths of the imagination, but Pixie had to keep herself entertained somehow.
"They live in mushroom stools, too! Great big ones, bigger than you've ever picked," she continued, skipping back to the older boy with glee. "What'd the biggest mushroom you've ever found look like, Mo? I bet I'll find one even bigger today."
“and men said that the blood of the stars flowed in her veins.”
All Mo was looking to do was finally have a day off that he could spend doing whatever he wanted. Lately, that meant that he would write poetry on defunct paper from the paper mill, which had been a new development. The mother of the Gill family always instilled that creativity was key to staying awake and to staying alive, and Mo (even though he'd never admit it) was a momma's boy.
Mo chose to tune his brain out to the nuisance that was Pixie Pewterson. He had more important things to attend to and to worry about than a 12 year old. Her energy was like that of a fox. She was constantly hyper and zipped from place to place, always itching to move or to get herself into trouble.
This did not amuse Mo, and he felt his blood get a little more hot as she ran and picked a few daisies that were growing out of the earth. There was a cluster in a small patch of grass that the sun had been able to reach. Normally the canopy kept things pretty dry down here. There wasn't any grass. Just tons of vines and new trees and bushes amidst the trees. Normally there weren't daisies, and Mo was perhaps a bit struck by that, but not nearly as as much as he was annoyed by the little girl.
Mo continued to search the forest floor for signs of any sort of harvest-able fungus, and had suddenly come across just a handful of common white mushrooms, as he listened to Pixie babble on about seeing fairies and using daisies as umbrellas. Mo, although he did believe in the power of creativity, had no patience for this girl's imaginative energy right now.
And then she added on about living in mushroom stools, and Mo couldn't stay quiet any longer. "The biggest mushroom I've ever picked was big enough to swallow you whole. And I hope you do find one today so that it will."
If Pixie hadn't known Mo and his family since before she could walk she might have called the older boy a bully. However she knew better than that: his grumpiness was just Mo being Mo. The thought of reporting back to both of their fathers the things he had said bloomed in her brain, but she shook it off as soon as it crossed her mind. Pixie was many things but she certainly wasn't a nark - and proud to say so. It was a nark that had gotten her into this situation in the first place, so she simply pouted at his words and bit back her own, dropping the daisy and trudging back towards where Mo had stopped.
Sighing loudly, she crouched down and hummed a "You're no fun" under her breath. Her hands got to work at plucking the mushrooms from the ground as she had been instructed, dropping them into her basket. Three white shrooms later she stood up and pressed on, deciding to take the lead. If she couldn't get Mo to interact with her tales, perhaps she could get him to chase after her.
"Let's try over here!" Pixie exlaimed as she pointed in a random direction, using her imagination to her advantage. "I bet there's loads of mushrooms growing behind these vines. Bet nobody's picked them yet because they can't reach em, but I'm small!" the girl mused, elated with the thought of a challenge. "I could climb over or under or even through!"
Without waiting for permission she sped off excitedly toward the vines, mushrooms bouncing along in her wicker-basket.
“and men said that the blood of the stars flowed in her veins.”