12 The branch man

‘Mom, may I go outside?
‘That’s good but stay in the garden and don’t get into any trouble,’ Mommy replies.
‘Yes mom,’ and with her rolled-up drawing in her hand, she walks to the side of the lake.
Father Swan sees her coming and for a moment he raises his wing as a greeting.
‘Hi Noortje, how was school,’ ask mother swan and together with father swan they waddle in her direction.
‘Have you learned anything,’ asks father swan sitting next to her.
‘Yes, do you want to see what I have signed?’
‘Of course, we want to see that,’ and the little swans are coming in her direction to take a place on the grass. They push and pull to conquer a place near Noortje.
‘I was first,’ the smallest of the seven calls out.
‘Out of the way, my dear, I am the biggest and the prettiest, so I can sit in here,’ her brother shouts.
‘And now it’s over, says mother swan. ‘You sit there, and your sister sits here.’
Noortje unrolls the paper and shows it to everyone. ‘Isn’t he beautiful. I signed myself.’
Father and mother swan stretch their necks and shout to the children that they must go into the water quickly.
Noortje doesn’t understand. Why do they suddenly so crazy, she thinks?
‘Sweetheart,’ mother swan stutters. ‘That is the branch man. We want nothing to do with that man. If I were you, I’d be very careful with him. Before you know it, he will also turn you into a swan, or maybe something much worse.’
Noortje shrugs and calls. ‘I don’t believe you. He helped me when I was very plagued at school. At first, I found him scary and not at all sweet, but he is not so bad. He may look crazy, but, but….’
The swan family no longer listen and swims away from her as quick as possible.
‘Well, are you, my friends,’ Noortje calls after them. Moaning, she gets up and walks to Droef, who is enjoying his shade under the big tree. He jumps and barks at his own shadow. She sits down next to him and tenderly strokes his back. then she lays her head in his neck and whispers. ‘I don’t understand, they just swim away. What must I do with this?’
Droef raises his head and gives her a big lab over her face as if he wants to say.
Yes, girl. I understand, but what do I do with it.
‘Well, you can’t help it either. I wish you could talk to me too.’
Droef stands up and sniffs a little under the bushes. Every now and then he lifts his leg to mark his area. Noortje takes a broken branch off the ground and sits down by the lake again.
‘So, Noor, are you bored again,’ she hears the crow behind her asking.
‘Oh, you are back again. I certainly don’t want to come across you, bad bird.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ the crow replies and sits down next to her. ‘I just want to tell you something important, but good if you don’t want to know.’
‘Well, well then. As long as you don’t ask me again if I want to climb the tree or the church tower.’
‘You only dreamed that. That didn’t really happen. I know nothing about all of that, “the crow chuckles.’
‘Yeah, right. You can also lie like the best, but tell us, ‘says Noortje.
‘If you want to know why your mom can’t talk to us you have to walk very quietly to the bench next to your house.’
‘Why you said that you can tell me,’ Noortje asks.
‘Well then not,’ and the crow is gone again.
Now Noortje has become very curious. She knows very well that it is bad to listen to what others tell each other.
She worries about what to do and doesn’t see the swans coming. ‘Noortje, Noortje, we are sorry that we left you like that. I will tell you why we want nothing to do with the branch man,’ says mother swan.
‘It’s all right. I have to leave,’ Noortje replies and sneaks to the side of the house.
Mom and Dad sit on the bench there. Mommy sadly bows her head and Dad takes her in his arms. ‘Dear baby, Noortje can’t help it,’ she hears him whispering.
‘That is true, but I am so scared that she will find out that I am enchanted and that I have always been able to talk to the animals. I hope she never finds out that I was really a fairy and that I was punished by the carpet beater witch,’ and again she starts to cry softly.
Noortje doesn’t understand it. She also knows that she should never have heard this, but she is unable to walk away. Her legs just won’t listen to her.
Noortje is thinking. Mommy would talk about the witch that she met in the tree. Could it be have enchanted her mom?
‘I’m so scared that she will do something to Noortje or that she will let her do things that are not good. I can’t do anything for her as long as I’m enchanted,’ she hears mommy says.
‘My dear, Noortje will be fine. It’s good that she doesn’t know anything about this,’ dad whispers again.
‘I know, but I’m worried about you too. You say yourself that you too have heard that the swan say that she was in the suitcase. I’m sure that means the witch is up to something.’
Noortje can’t believe what she hears and carefully crawls away from her eavesdropping spot.
She walks to the lake and all kinds of questions come to her mind where she doesn’t know the answer to.
‘Hi Noortje,’ she hears someone whispering to her from the tree. She looks up and sees the strange man whit his strange hat.
‘Is it true what I have just heard,’ she asks.
‘Yes, honey. That’s right. That’s just the way it is. Your mom has always been a good fairy. A very good one indeed. She wanted to be a mother, so badly, but in return, the witch wanted her beauty.’
‘Yes, mommy is pretty, right ..,’ she asks.
‘Yes, she is! But the witch is false. She doesn’t tell your mom that she turns her face into that of the witch. That was something your mom didn’t want. She was afraid that her child would be so scared of her and wouldn’t love her. instead of her beauty, the witch took away all her powers and the ability to communicate with the animals.’
Noortje no longer wanted to listen to the branch man. After all, she knew how ugly the witch was. She would never want to see her mom so sad. She shall always love her. Noortje lay down in the grass and closed her eyes. Soon I will just wake up again and then I will have dreamed all this again, but when she opened her eyes everything was exactly the same.

End.