Back in the Camel Hill
Fleur hears Grandma’s soft voice: ‘Sweetie, you’re doing well. You saved us. Now it is up to you to find your happiness,’ she whispers.
Fleurs heart is overflow with happiness when she hears Grandma’s voice. How wonderful it would be to be able to cuddle grandma one more time. She now understands that her life is very special, but first, it is necessary to go back to the house. A few meters further up she sees the red roof tiles of the house. On the terrace, she sees Corn, who beckons her and asks her if she stays there.
‘I have to because my wheelchair has disappeared,’ she replies.
‘Are you kidding me,’ he asks. ‘Come on, otherwise, the food will be getting cold.’
Then Grandma comes onto the terrace and she also asks: ‘Do you stay there, dear or …?’
Fleur doesn’t understand. Where am I, what is happening, she wonders.
‘But grandma, get my wheelchair. You know I can’t walk.’
‘Come on honey, stop that. It is not funny,’ and she walks back into the house.
Funny….., what’s going on here, Fleur wonders. She grabs an overhanging branch and tries to pull herself up. She slowly rises and feels a tingling in her legs. She struggles to stay up and carefully she moves forward a few steps.
‘I am standing, and I can walk,’ she shouts several times.
Gently she walks to the house and when she wants to go inside, she sees that it is dark there. For a moment she becomes anxious and expects to see The Beast again. Then she gathers all her courage to endure this setback. She shuffles toward the door, sighing and groaning. Before opening it, she sighs deeply and speaks to herself.
‘Okay, let him come. I can take my loss,’ she whispers.
She walks into the dark with her head held high. Inside she feels an oppressive warmth. I am going back, she thinks, but when she wants to walk back to the door, he is gone. Her eyes try to adjust to the darkness. Then suddenly the light flashes on and her mouth falls open from surprise. In the house are all kinds of animals who are smiling at her in a friendly way.
‘Please, stop those dreams. It’s enough,’ Fleur whispers.
‘No honey, you are not dreaming. You’re in fairyland,’ Corn replies.
Fleur turns and looks into Corn’s beautiful blue-grey eyes.
‘Corn, is it really you. Corn the squirrel,’ and before he can answer she grabs him tightly.
‘Be careful, you almost smother me,’ Corn begs her.
‘That’s not possible, I don’t squeeze that hard.’ Fleur takes a step back and greets the other animals.
‘Wait for a second and close your eyes,’ asks Corn.
‘Well, I don’t think so. Soon I will be somewhere else. No, I don’t want that anymore. Enough is enough’
‘Just do it. I promise to stay with you.’
‘Yes, I heard that before and then I was misled by The Beast,’ Fleur replies.
She examines Corn and sees in his eyes that he means it. ‘Good, you have your way. I believe you. Such loyal dog eyes won’t fool me anyway,’ she says with a laugh and closing her eyes.
She has hardly closed her eyes when she hears Grandma’s voice: ‘Open them again.’
Yet she begins to doubt again. Do I have to open them, she thinks? What is happening?
‘Corn, are you still there?’
Hesitantly, she carefully opens one eye and peers through her eyelashes. She sees that the lights are out. There are only a few table lamps that illuminate the room. When she opens her eyes, she sees in the mirror a beautiful young woman in a pretty dress. Her eyes widened because she has never seen such a beautiful woman. Suddenly she realizes that the beautiful young woman is her reflection. She steps forward to take a good look at herself. The beautiful light blue dress fits like a glove around her body and the small diamonds, which are attached to the diadem, sparkle in the light of the twilight. She could look at this for hours.
‘Pst …,” someone whispered behind her. ‘Dream … dream … dream!’
She turns around and sees Corn smiling at her.
‘Corn, don’t you like it,’ she asks, spinning around. Then she realizes that this is not just any dress and when she looks around, she sees that not only herself but also the others who present in the room looks beautiful. On the floor is a beautiful red carpet that contrasts beautifully with her dress. On the side are the smallest animals that form a hedge of honour. Beautiful chandeliers forming hundreds of small and large tears in the brilliance of the light. It overwhelms her and makes her feel warm. To see something like that, she would allow that to everyone. So fantastic.
Corn takes a step forward and stands diagonally in front of her so that the others have a good view of her. He greets her with a deep bow. Impressed by his charms, she cannot speak and nods her head slightly.
Corn smiles at her and puts his arm through hers and escorts her down the aisle. Fleur sees the twinkling eyes of the tiniest animals lighting up when she passes them. They are so beautiful. All are dressed in the same attire with a decent hat. The ears of the hares and rabbits stick out of the hat through two holes. Quite funny to see and it makes Fleur smile. When she walks through space, it looks a bit familiar to her here and there. Suddenly she understands that she is back in the camel hill and that means that she is very small again. She doesn’t care because she walks again and Corn walks by her side.
They walk together on the carpet and Fleur recognizes most of the animals, but she misses one.
‘Where’s Trip,’ she asks Corn.
‘Trip? Do you remember him?’
‘Of course, how could I forget Trip. Tell me where he is?’
‘Come on, Fleur. Not now. Just enjoy this beautiful day,’ Corn replies.
Suddenly a little hare walks out of line and pulls at the bottom of her dress. She smiles at him and he points his finger. He wants to ask her something. She bends over and recognizes the little hare she rescued from the ferret’s claws. The youngster stutters a bit and asks: ‘You are going to marry Corn, aren’t you?’
She pats him on the head and the little one quickly walks back to his place. Fleur looks straight ahead and walks on.
Corn looks at her intently. He had heard what the little here had asked her, but with a straight face he asks, ‘What did that little bell-ringer want to know about you?’
‘Oh, nothing special. It wanted to know something about me where I can’t say yes to.’
Corn turns white around his nose and mutters, ‘In that case, I’ll turn into a squirrel again.’
‘What do you say Corn?’
Corn is taken aback and stunned he stares at the ground. If it were up to him, he would quit now and run, but he feels obliged to stay ahead of the others.
Then they arrive at the end of the room and there are several animals in a very elegant costume sitting behind a heavy beech table.
‘Who are they’ asks Fleur.
‘That’s the Wise Animal Council,’ Corn whispers in her ear.
‘What are they doing here?’
Corn would like to tell her, but now that he knows she doesn’t want to marry him, he cannot answer her question.
One of the wise animals greets them and they take a seat on one of the stately chairs. When one of the wise animals gets up, the hall becomes dead silent.
‘Are the animals afraid of the council, asks Fleur.
‘No, but they have a lot of respect for them,’ Corn replies.
‘Oh,’ is Fleur’s answer and looks straight ahead again.
Then one of the wise begins to speak.
‘Fleur, on behalf of the Wise Animal Council, and on behalf of all the others present, we wish you a warm welcome. The Council and its subjects have unanimously decided that you are the chosen one to take charge of the fairytales. In recent years you have proven that you are extremely suitable for this honour. We think it is a great honour to pass on the title of the patroness, also on behalf of your grandmother, and we all hope that you will accept it. Before you officially get this title, we want you to answer one question.’
Corn looks intently at the wise councillors. He already knows the answer that Fleur is going to give the Council and that it means that his role has been played. He is still holding Fleur’s hand and Fleur feels his hand shaking slightly. She understands which question she must answer. The little hare has unintentionally revealed the secret. She feels guilty towards Corn. The joke must have hit him hard.
‘Yes, I do,’ she calls out to the wise men.
The wise man looks at her in surprise and asks: ‘What do you want, Fleur?
‘Getting married, of course,’ she replies.
Corn looks at her unbelievably, but then he is over the moon and flies around her neck.
‘Ho…, ho…, wait a minute. I didn’t say I want to marry you,’ Fleur teases him.
Corn takes another step back, but then she hugs him tightly and kisses his warm lips. When she lets go of him, Corn shouts, ‘She wants to marry me, she wants to marry me. I am the happiest man in the whole fairytale world, all those princes cannot compete with that.’
He throws his hat high in the air and that is the sign that the party can begin. It’s a great party. They all eat, drink and dance. There seems to be no end to it and the little ones have a great time.
Corn lovingly takes Fleur’s hand and asks her to come along.
‘Where are we going?’
‘I have a surprise for you.’
He takes her out of the room and Fleur asks: ‘We’re back in the camel hill, is it?’
‘Yes, darling. You saw that correctly. We walk to the exit. It will be all right. Trust me.
He takes her in his arms and kisses her softly. Some young animals have followed them and are very excited about what the two are going to do, even if they don’t know what. They giggle at them. Fleur notices them and pulls Corn to the exit.
‘You have a surprise for me,’ she whispers.
‘Yes, but we can’t go out yet, because then we’ll be big again,’ Corn replies.
‘Do you have a surprise or no surprise or …,’ and then she suddenly sees a wolf through the opening. He is coming from behind her grandmother’s house.
‘Is that the surprise?’
‘Yes, that’s Trip coming up.’
‘Trip. Really,’ Fleur answers.
Trip now stands in front of the hole and lies down. His nose catches the scent of Corn and Fleur.
‘Trip, it’s really you,’ and Fleur reaches her arm out to touch him.
He extends his neck as far as possible so that she can touch his nose. Fleur talks to him, but she gets no answer-back. Corn explains to her that he has changed. From the moment he transformed, he can recognize us, but he cannot communicate with us. We will never be able to talk to him again.
‘He has since turned into an ordinary wolf, just like everyone else outside Camel Hill.’
‘Strange, I thought Cherry and Trip were dogs, but it doesn’t matter. But it is sad. I would have loved to have him at our party,’ and she gently strokes his nose. Then she sees one of his whiskers and pulls on it. Trip immediately starts to sneeze, and the air pressure blows Fleur a few meters back. Corn laughs exuberantly and says it’s her own fault. Luckily, she didn’t hurt herself and Trip strokes his nose again and Fleur says: ‘Sorry Trip, I didn’t mean to hurt you.’
Trip raises his head and licks her nose with the tip of his tongue.
‘Stop Trip, it tickles,’ she giggles.
Trip gets up and turns around. He looks back and then disappears back into the forest.
Fleur cries from happiness and Corn carefully wipes her tears away.
‘Come on honey, we have to say goodbye to the others,’ Corn whispers.
‘Also, from my grandmother,’ asks Fleur.
‘It is hard to explain. I don’t know how.’
‘I understand l will never see my grandmother again,’ and Corn nods in agreement.
‘That’s a shame because she can’t be at our wedding,’ she now weeps softly from grief. ‘I do not understand it. Didn’t I hear her at the mud pool and in the hall? Shall I see my mother again?’
‘Of course, I promise you, she is okay,’ answers Corn.
‘How should it continue now. When is the wedding,’ she wants to know?
‘ First, we say goodbye to the others and then we can marry when we are outside the Camel Hill. That means that we are who we really are again,’ Corn replies.
‘When we get married, I invite the whole village. Or…,’ and she looks at him quizzically.
‘If that is what you want, I agree, but where would you like to live?’
‘You ask me where. I have no idea, did you have thought about that,’ she replies and smiles at him.
‘We are not dependent on the city. We both can earn our money from a distance. You write your stories, and I can do my work everywhere I live. How about…,’ and he nods in the direction of Grandma’s house.
‘You’re right, that would be great. There is enough space and in principle we do not have to say goodbye to the others. When we get children, we can always expand the house a bit. Do you want children,’ she asks carefully?
‘Only if I have daughters who are just as beautiful and sweet as their mothers.’
‘I can’t promise that but I’d like a second Corn too,’ she replied.
‘Okay, we’ll see how many and what it will be,’ he teases.
‘Let us focus on the wedding first. Now that we have decided that we will move in here, I want a big forest party with all our friends and acquaintances.’
‘Now we first concentrate us on saying goodbye to our friends inside the camel hill,’ Corn replies gloomily.
‘Sorry, I got a little carried away in our early happiness. You’re right, we have another sad task ahead of us. I can’t believe we have to say goodbye to them.’
Together they walk into the room in silence. Then the music stops and Wappert is the first to approach them. With tears in his little beady eyes, he says goodbye to Corn and Fleur.
‘I’ll miss you,’ says Fleur and give him a big hug. ‘Thank you for everything.’
Wappert quickly breaks away from her and disappears into the crowd.
The little ones cackle nervously. They realize that they will not only miss Fleur, but especially Corn. If they had problems, he told them how to fix them and how many times he had not saved and protected them. Then one of the wise councillors approaches them and tells Corn and Fleur that it is really time to leave now. He hugs Corn and kisses Fleur’s hand and says, ‘It is very sad that you are leaving us, but you have a beautiful task on your shoulders.’
Corn and Fleur say goodbye to everyone one by one and every now and then a tear roll. Then it is time to go to the exit and they wave one more time to the stragglers.
A few animals walk with them to the exit and here and there one sheds a tear. When Fleur sees this, she lovingly pets the animal over his or her ball.
‘Can’t we stay,’ Fleur whispers to Corn.
‘You know that’s not possible. I will miss them too, but we have a task to fulfil. In doing that so we make many children happy and we save the lives of these animals.’
Despite the answer that he gives Fleur, he does not feel well and stares sadly at the ground.
‘You must hurry,’ says a rabbit. ‘Come there is not much time left, your time here is really over.’
When they are almost at the exit, Corn and Fleur don’t feel well and Fleur whispers: ‘I’m getting a little dizzy.’
The rabbit urges them to run faster, but Fleur can’t do that anymore. It seems like her legs don’t want to carry her anymore. And then they see, to their horror, that her body begins to grow.
‘Run Corn, she’s already starting to transform. She’s growing up fast,’ the rabbit shouts.
Corn lifts her off the ground and uses all his strength to move forward. Fleur is getting heavier and heavier and Corn can hardly wear her anymore. He has to let her go and puts her on the ground. The animals look at him bewildered and understand that something must be done otherwise everything has been for nothing. If she stays here, she won’t survive.
Then Corn asks if they want to help him. ‘Help me quickly and we’ll roll her out.’
They all roll her with all their strength to the exit.
‘We are almost there. Just a little longer,’ Corn shouts.
But then the others notice that Corn has also started to grow, and Corn also notices, but he is only happy that he was able to save his sweetheart.
Before he collapses, he sees that Fleur is outside the camel hill and then it turns black before his eyes and sinks away.
Nervously, Fleur’s mother walks back and forth through the living room, wondering where Fleur is. She has already walked to the neighbour a few times, but she is nowhere to be seen. She has not seen her son either. Eventually, she decides to call a taxi and go to her mother-in-law’s house herself. At first glance, it seems deserted upon arrival and that really worries her now. The driver turns his taxi and Mother asks what she owes him.
‘Would you like me to wait for you,’ he asks.
‘No, thank you,’ Mother replies and gives him the money.
Mother walks around the house and pauses at the veranda. The doors are open, and she walks in with small steps. There she gets the shock of her life. She can’t believe what she sees there. Her daughter is in the arms of a complete stranger. What do we get, she thinks? Angry she wants to approach him, but then Fleur sees her coming and immediately understands that mother does not understand anything about this. She quickly breaks free from Corn and gestures to her mother that it’s okay. Her mother stares at her. That she finds her in the arms of a strange man is still beyond that, but her surprise is even greater when she sees that Fleur is standing on her own two feet.
‘What’s going on here, I can’t believe my eyes. You can stand and who is this man?’
Fleur smiles at her and Mother has to admit that she hasn’t seen her so happy in years.
‘Mom, this is Corn and we’re getting married.’
‘Marry, no,’ she begs and walks up to her.
Corn introduces himself and explains everything to her in a calm way and to Fleur’s surprise, she sees that her mother, just like herself, melts like snow in the sun, for his charms.
‘So, you would argue that the animals in this area can talk?’
‘It’s really true, Mom,’ confirms Fleur.
‘No, I don’t believe any of that. That is going too far, but I understand it already. You must have made up one of your fairytales again, as you did in the past.’
Fleur smiles at her and understands that it all sounds unbelievable.
Mother shrugs and says, ‘It’s okay, I’ve been through crazier things in recent years. Why could not this be true,’ and relieved she walks to the veranda? She basks in the sun’s rays and her thoughts go back to earlier times. She imagines herself together with her husband and mother-in-law. She even hears the child’s voice of Fleur when she played in the box.
Then she is awakened from her reverie and she hears a squeaky voice: ‘Hello ma’am,’ she hears and, in the grass, she sees a rabbit looking at her happily.
‘Hello,’ he says again, scrubbing one of his ears. ‘Are Corn and Fleur okay. Didn’t we hurt them too much when we push them out of the hill?’
Mother’s mouth falls open in amazement and then asks: ‘What did you do. What do you mean and who are you?’
‘I am Wappert. Didn’t they tell you that? I don’t think you understand any of it, but are they okay,’ he continues and holds his drooping ear between his legs and pretending to be shy.
Mother falls from one surprise to the other. She has not yet processed one surprise or the other is already taking place. Would they have told the truth after all? The fact that a son-in-law is coming is one thing, she must get used to. They have only just met. At least that’s what I think?
‘Are they injured or not? You’re not deaf or anything,’ Wappert asks impatiently.
‘Yes, I think so. They are healthy and well at the table. Go see for yourself or should I call her?’ Mother calls them and Corn and Fleur come out together and ask if it is important.
‘No do not bother. It’s not important,’ she replies, and Corn and Fleur decide to go for a walk in the woods.
Mother sees them go and must admit that they are a beautiful couple and that they seem to be meant for each other. One day I will understand it better, after all, it is a granddaughter of The Ugly Fairy. Full of surprises and as it seems she is happy now. What more could you want as a mother, she continues?
‘Pst …,’ she hears again and sees the rabbit again. He jumps forward and sits down next to her.
‘I’ve already seen it, they are fine. Fortunately, because we had to literally and figuratively roll them out the hill.’
Mother gets up and walks into the house. In the living room, she takes a seat on the sofa and presses a soft pillow into her back. She thinks about the rabbit she just saw. ‘A rabbit that can talk. Come on,’ she mumbles softly.
After a while Corn and Fleur come back and Fleur asks her if she is okay.
‘No…, um yes…. I do not know. So far, I believe in fairytales, but a talking rabbit. No… that’s too much.’
Corn and Fleur laugh at it and understand that it is better to leave it at that.