One evening, Elsa’s mom called her for dinner. She had somehow whipped up buttermilk chicken and mashed potatoes. Elsa looked strangely at the woman in front of her. Was this a surprise? Tomorrow was Elsa’s birthday, but she had very low expectations. Her mom had forgotten her last two birthdays.
“What’s the occasion?” Elsa asked, trying to sound nonchalant as she washed her hands.
“I’m on the verge of a very important sale. I’m so happy because this sale means we’ll be able to afford a family trip to visit your dad! I’m sure you’d like that,” her mom gushed, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
“Really? Yes, I’d love that,” Elsa said as she sat down. She meant it. It didn’t matter that her mom forgot her birthday. It was more important that they get to spend time with her dad. During dinner, they planned the trip, with her mom telling her all the places they could visit. Elsa couldn’t believe her questions were getting answered and she wasn’t being shushed.
“Let’s walk to the park tomorrow morning,” her mom said as she began clearing the dishes. “Maybe we’ll find a four-leaf clover to give me some luck.”
Elsa nodded, grinning from ear to ear. Maybe her mom didn’t forget after all. She fell asleep with a big smile on her face as she pictured their perfect morning together.
The next day, Elsa woke up extra early. As she came down from her room, she saw her mom grabbing her car keys.
“Elsa, I’m going out. The important client I was talking about wants to meet up with me as soon as possible,” she said hurriedly. “Just lock up and I’ll be back soon.”
“But what about…” Elsa’s voice trailed. She heard the door slam and knew that her mom was gone. She chewed on her lip, fighting the urge to get upset. She hurriedly ran upstairs, knowing exactly where she wanted to go.
“Do you have any photo albums with me in it?” Elsa asked the minute she stepped in the attic.
Lank (the tall one) nodded and emerged with a worn shoe box.
In it, Elsa saw her baby pictures and the warm smiles of her parents. Her dad raising her up in the air; her mom tying a balloon to her wrist as they strolled through a park; Elsa blowing sparkly candles on a cake. She blinked a couple of times.
“Your cheeks are wet,” Mafia (the bossy one) went up her ear to wipe a tear a way. “Don’t we make you happy? Be happy,” it commanded her.
“It’s not you,” Elsa bit back a sob. The sprites pushed a pillow beside her and she lied down, curled up in a ball. Exhausted from crying, she soon fell asleep. She woke up to a gentle nudge.
Elsa blinked a couple of times before realizing that the room was filled with colorful balloons and banners.
“What is this?” Elsa called for the furry sprites.
Slim (the thin one) waved a matchstick and all the sprites came together to sing a slightly off-key birthday song. They each took turns to climb Elsa’s shoulders to give her a peck on the cheek. They lifted pictures of birthday cakes, ice cream and brownies from the magazines. They were even able to find a piñata to smash. Soon, the attic was littered with candy and colorful confetti. Elsa clapped her hands and laughed as the sprites competed in their game.
Pretty soon, the sun was coming down. But Elsa didn’t want the day to end. She didn’t want this to be just another day that passed by. “Can I tell you something, Furball?” The furry sprite nodded. “I don’t want to go down anymore. I want to stay here.”
All the sprites gathered around her, nodding in consent. “Stay,” Biggie (the biggest one) said. “We’ll have fun all day long.”
“You’ll never get bored,” Smarty (the one who brought all the books) said.
“Ahhh,” Elsa yawned loudly. “Maybe I’ll sleep here tonight.” The sprites pushed the pillow back and watched as Elsa fell asleep once more.
Elsa woke up, but things felt different. She glanced around, and while it looked like she was in the attic, there was nothing in it, except for a frame that with a photo of two girls. Both girls looked alike, with one slightly taller than the other. They looked like a younger version of her mom.
“Elsa,” one of the girls in the frame spoke.
Elsa tripped on her footing as she scampered back, away from the picture.
“Don’t be scared,” the smaller girl said. “It’s me, your lola.”
“Lola Isabel?” Elsa asked.
“I’m your Lola Dea, your Lola Isabel’s younger sister,” the girl said. “You have to get out of this attic. Now.”
“But why? I like it here. The sprites love me and they take care of me. It’s not like my parents care that much about me. They’re always too busy.”
“That’s what I thought. I was the second child and I felt that my parents always gave more attention to your Lola Isabel. I felt that she was always better than I was. And so, I began hiding in this attic. I didn’t notice that the more I stayed, the more I faded. One day, I simply disappeared. I could see my parents searching for me in this very attic and they couldn’t see me. It was like I became invisible.”
Elsa’s whole body began shaking. “Could the sprites do that?” Elsa whispered.
“They told me that they were the protectors of the things people have forgotten. But the more you stay here, the more you become forgotten in the real world. You become like dust,” the girl warned. “Tell them you’re coming back. But go and do it quickly.”
Elsa woke up with a startle and she was back in the real attic. She tried to calm her heart as she thought of an excuse to go back down.
“You’re awake!” Bossy said. “She’s awake,” he announced to the other sprites. The group gathered around her. “What do you want to do?”
“I just want to go down for a while,” Elsa said as she forced a smile.
“Why?” Biggie asked. “Don’t you want to stay with us?”
“I just want to…get all of my photos so that I could store it here with you and we can look at them together,” Elsa said, as she held her breath for their answer.
“Ooohhh, photos!” Lanky said. “I want more photos!”
“Be back soon,” Biggie said as it moved away from the attic door.