Thanks for joining me for Friend Friday. I’m thrilled to be joined by Cheryl Headford and an interview with Draven and Keiron, the leading men in her latest release, Fairies At The Bottom Of The Garden.
So over to the boys…
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Draven: Keiron, of course. He’s the only reason I’m here, in your world. In any world. I would have died…twice, if it wasn’t for him.
Keiron: No you wouldn’t have, because if it hadn’t been for me you wouldn’t have been in those situations in the first place.
Draven: (sighs and pats Keiron’s cheek) We’ve talked about this before, Keiron. You keep blaming yourself for decisions I made. I’m not a child, you know. You keep treating me like a child (Draven pouts and crosses his arms)
Keiron: Let’s move on
What is your favourite journey?
Draven: (Sits up straight and bounces in his seat) From the cottage to the other side of the wood. I have so many friends, it takes ages and ages. Except in the winter. It’s faster in the winter because the squirrels are asleep. They talk so much I spend ages listening to them.
Keiron: You could just walk on.
Draven: But its rude. Squirrels hate rudeness. They’d sulk for months – and throw nuts at me. That hurts. Anyway, there are lots of other friends who join in and talk to me. I can’t walk away from all of them.
Keiron: I’d be happier if you walked away from the snakes.
Draven: But I like the snakes. I told you they won’t bite me.
Keiron: The might bite me though.
Draven: That’s because you flap about and yell. They don’t like that. And they definitely don’t like it when you step on them.
Keiron: Nearly step on them. And I only did it once.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Draven: Oh. I don’t know. (He looks to Keiron)
Keiron: Curiosity. Definitely curiosity.
Draven: Do you think so? I thought maybe bravery, or adventurousness, or…or…being lovely.
Keiron: Definitely curiosity. And sulking.
Draven: I do not….hmph.
When and where were you the happiest?
Draven: Here with Keiron, in our cottage by the wood. It’s not exactly perfect, because your world still poisons me a little, but only a tiny bit (he adds quickly, glancing at Keiron) and if I go back to fairyland for holidays every couple of months I get all better again. It would be better if…. (he breaks off and looks sad)
Keiron: I’m sorry, but I can’t live there. Maybe one day.
Draven: (sighs) Yes. One day.
What is it that you most dislike?
Draven: Cities. The poison nearly killed me and the people rush around with their eyes closed. Oh…(he shakes his head)…I don’t mean actually with their eyes closed but they don’t really see anything. Only what they think is there. They never see the magic folk, or the beautiful colours of magic. They only see grey.
Keiron: That’s not entirely true. Not for everyone.
Draven: No, not everyone. Some humans still have a little bit of magic.
What is your greatest fear?
Draven: That the High Lord will change his mind and call me back, and I won’t be able to be with Keiron anymore.
Keiron: That won’t happen. He knows you’d die if the link was severed again.
Draven: (nods) But he could. If there was a war or something bad happened, I’d have to go back to fight and I might not come back.
Keiron: (shivers) I still can’t see you as a warrior. You’re so…sweet and…innocent.
Draven: (laughs) Not so sweet and innocent with a spear in my hand, Keiron. You know I’ve killed, and I might do again. But it’s alright (he hurries on at Keiron’s dark expression) I won’t kill you, even if the High Lord told me to.
Keiron: (looks alarmed) Do you think he might.
Draven: (grins) No, but I wanted to see your face if thought so.
(Keiron growls and Draven grins even wider)
What is your greatest extravagance?
Draven: I don’t have any.
Keiron: Feather duvets and expensive bedding.
Draven: (sighs and closes his eyes) Oooh yes. Soft. I like soft. And warm. Soft and warn and snuggly with Keiron. I don’t like the scratchy itchy ones.
Keiron: So we have to buy the best, and once we’ve washed something a few times we have to throw it away.
Draven: I never throw it away. I make things.
Keiron: (rolls his eyes) You make forts in the forest. Then, when they’re filthy you throw them away.
Draven: You like my forts. (grins slyly) You like what we do in them.
Keiron, tell me something about Draven
Keiron: He’s the most annoying and frustrating person I’ve ever met. He can’t keep his nose, or fingers, out of anything and he never stops talking. Oh, (he glances at Draven, who is glaring at him), and he sulks – a lot.
Draven: I do not.
Keiron: Yes, you do, but it never last long.
Okay, so Draven, what do you think of Keiron? It’s only fair to ask.
Draven: (still sulking) He’s nice and cuddly and lovely and he makes me hot chocolate and gives me whiskey and I do not get drunk and makes me cow’s milk and cleans up my messes without getting too cross, although I’ve got the hang of knives now so I don’t make so much mess, but he boring and he doesn’t like to play very much.
Draven: You do sums all day, and you get cross and won’t play with me.
Keiron: It’s my job, I’m an accountant. And your idea of “playing” usually involved getting naked, running around in the woods, getting wet and peed on by small animals.
Draven: (with a sly expression) You like getting naked.
Keiron: (blushes) Inside where it’s warm and we don’t attract an audience, some of whom…participate.
Draven (giggles) They’re my friends and they’re curious too.
Keiron: (suddenly looking up) Animals. They’re animals and they never participate when we…when we…you know.
Draven: When we have sex, Keiron. What have I told you about that. He hates saying that word, especially to other people. There are a lot of words he doesn’t like saying, like fuck and cock and anus and….
Keiron: Draven, that’s enough.
Draven: (grins in triumph) See. And I was only just starting
Which talent would you most like to have?
Keiron: I would like to be better at doing kitchen spells.
Keiron: You mean cooking. I told you, they’re recipes not spells.
Draven: You gather a lot of things together, do stuff to them and turn them into something new. That sounds like a spell to me
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Draven: Being without Keiron. I nearly died of sadness.
Keiron: It would have killed me too. Maybe not physically, but I would have died inside. You’re the most infuriating creature in creation, but I can’t imagine my life without you.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Draven: Kindness. Keiron is very kind. Even when he hates my friends or is afraid of them, he would never hurt them. Or me. Or anyone.
Keiron: I honestly don’t know. I would have said stability and commitment, but Draven’s turned me on my head. He’s anything but stable, and if you’d asked me before if I would have found someone like him attractive, I’d have said no. I’d have said he’d be too high maintainance, too much hard work, but now…. Like I said before, I can’t see myself with anyone else. I wouldn’t wand to live in a world without Draven in it.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Draven: Cats. I really don’t like your cats. Most of them are downright rude, and they won’t let you milk them, or ride them. It seems that someone thought they were gods at some point. Can you imagine it? Gods? Cats? The worst thing to do. They get uppity really quickly. They’ve never forgotten, you know. About the god thing. They’re awfully conceited. (He sighs) I miss cat milk. You only have cows.
Keiron: And goats.
Draven (sighs and doesn’t look happy) Yes, and goats. No cats though. Not even bobcats.
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Draven: What’s that?
Keiron: Someone from films and books.
Draven: Ooh, I like films, and books. I can read, you know. (Draven seems very proud of that) Fenn taught me. She’s my best friend…apart from Keiron. He’s not really a friend though, is he. He’s my mate. That’s different from a friend. Better.
Keiron: You haven’t answered the question.
Draven: What question? Oh, right. Heroes. Umm. Vampires. They’re not very much like real vampires, but they’re fast and strong and sometimes they can make people do things with their minds. They’re very dark and sexy and bite stupid humans. (Draven frowns) They pretty much always die though. And they never sparkle. Well, real ones don’t.
Keiron: Vampires aren’t heroes, Draven. Vampires are the bad guys.
Draven: (looks surprised) They are? But what about those people who chase them with burning sticks and stick them with spikes? I thought they were the bad guys.
Keiron: They only do that to stop the vampires killing humans.
Draven: (frowns) But they mostly don’t. They turn them into vampires, and that’s a good thing isn’t is? I mean vampires are way better than humans.
Keiron: (sighs) Maybe we should continue this conversation another time.
Keiron: Because it’s likely to go on for some time and we don’t have that much right now. We have to get on with the interview.
Draven: Oh. Okay. I won’t forget though.
Keiron: Of course not. You never forget.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Draven: Not vampires. Real ones aren’t very nice. They smell bad. Keiron, of course. And people who go up in those big metal birds.
Draven: Whatever. They go up really high in the bellies of the birds and they can’t even fly themselves so if they fall out they die. That’s brave. I wouldn’t do that, but I don’t need to. I have wings and I can fly on my own.
Which living person do you most admire?
Draven: I should say the High Lord really, because he’s our King and everything, but it’s easy for him because he gets everything he wants and everyone always listens to him.
Keiron: I don’t think he quite sees it that way.
Draven: (shrugs) I admire you more, because you fight every day to fit into my world, even when I’m in yours. You’re scared of so many things, but you still do them. You still go out in the woods naked and play with the animals even when you’re so scared you go still and close your eyes. You go into my world when I need to be there and I know you hate it and it scares you. You do it for me and you’re my hero.
On what occasions do you lie?
Draven: Um. (glances at Keiron) and chews his lip.
Keiron: Whenever it suits him.
Draven: (smiles slyly) Hardly ever anymore.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Keiron: There you go, lying again. Mostly it’s why? And, what does that do? And, what will happen if?
Draven (grins) I like to learn new things.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Draven (looking puzzled) But I do change myself. All the time. I change myself when I grow my wings. I can change colour, too. Would you like to see? Or I could get really small and sit on your hand.
Keiron: Um, maybe not right now.
Draven: Why not?
Keiron: Um…because people will be reading this interview, not seeing it, so there isn’t any point.
Draven. Oh. Okay.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Draven: (looking alarmed) I’m not going to die…am I?
Keiron: No, of course not. What the interviewer means is…if you could be something else, an animal or a person.
Draven: Oh. But I wouldn’t have to die.
Keiron: No, you wouldn’t have to die.
Draven: I think maybe a dragon. It would be fun to blow fire out of my nose.
Keiron: Perish the thought.
What is your motto?
Draven: What’s a mo-toe? I only have ten and they’re pretty much the same as yours.
Keiron: A motto is…um…like a short phrase that sums up everything you believe.
Draven: Just a short one? How short?
Keiron: Just a few words.
Draven: I never say anything in a few words.
Keiron: Don’t I know it. Do your best.
Draven: I make a lot of mistakes, but I always try to learn from them – even if it takes a while, and I keep making them over and over until I get it.
All Keiron wants is a quiet life. Fat chance with a boyfriend like Bren. But if he thought Bren complicated his life, that was nothing compared to the complications that begin when he opens the door to what he thinks is a naked boy claiming to be his slave.
Draven is a fairy with his sights set on the handsome human who keeps a wild place in the garden for fairies. When Draven slips through a fairy gate into the city, he sets in motion a series of events that binds him to Keiron forever, and just might be the end of him.
While Draven explores Keiron’s world with wide-eyed wonder, Keiron does everything he can to keep Draven’s at bay, until the only way to save Draven and bring him home is to step into a world that should exist only in children stories.
Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden
Cheryl Headford © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Keiron hurried home at the end of a very long day, anticipating some peace and quiet. He liked a quiet life, so what had possessed him to take on a boyfriend like Bren Donovan was anyone’s guess. Whatever else it might be, life with Bren was certainly not quiet, and it was slowly wearing Keiron out.
It was almost a relief Bren wouldn’t be staying at the flat that night. Although they were practically living together, Bren had his own place and sometimes felt the need to stay there. This was usually because a member of his family—or particularly flighty friend—was coming to stay. It wasn’t as if his family wasn’t aware of their relationship, but Bren was shy about “rubbing it in their faces”. Keiron didn’t understand because Bren’s mother seemed to like him a great deal and considered him to be a stabilising influence on her son.
Keiron was a conservative person and so different to Bren, they might as well live in different worlds. As for Bren’s friends, they were usually very like him—loud, messy, and irresponsible. Keiron couldn’t stand them. He was lucky if nothing got broken, and they always left the flat in a complete mess. If Bren wanted to live in a pigsty, so be it. He could do it in his own home.
This weekend, with the bank holiday, Bren was getting both. His friends were congregating on Saturday. Then his parents and sister were coming on Sunday, and staying through until Tuesday morning. Keiron had a Bren-free weekend and was looking forward to it.
If it hadn’t been for their differences on this point, they’d have moved in together a long time ago. Bren chafed for it, but Keiron couldn’t handle his flat descending into chaos, and it wasn’t even as if Bren helped tidy up afterwards. Keiron cringed at the thought of having that chaos and therefore stress every day.
Not only that, but Bren was the most jealous person Keiron had ever come across. Keiron was constantly accused of looking at other men, and God forbid he spoke to one. Bren was a firebrand, completely living up to his fiery red-headed Irish-descended promise. Sometimes it was exciting, even invigorating, yet at other times Keiron longed for the peace and stability he used to have before Bren burst in on him. Maybe at twenty-two, he was just getting old.
Keiron ordered takeaway and, while he waited for it to arrive, wandered down to the bottom of the garden, a beer in his hand, his hair damp from the bath. The sun was still high and warm enough for him to be wearing a thin T-shirt and shorts. The smell of a barbecue drifted over from a neighbouring garden and his mouth watered.
Savouring his drink, he sank onto the stone bench under the rose arbour. It afforded a good view of the whole garden. It was a big one. A long lawn stretched ahead of him to the decking immediately outside the house, where a large wooden table, a number of items of garden furniture, and a shiny silver gas barbecue sat.
Sometimes, he had Bren’s friends around for a barbecue. They weren’t so bad out here in the garden, although they made such a mess of the barbecue itself that it took him days to get it properly clean. He smiled to himself. Sometimes, living with Bren was like having a teenage son. Fortunately, Bren was very good at things he’d hate to think any son of his could do.
The lawn was bordered on either side by flower beds and bushes, which hid the wooden fences separating his garden from the ones on either side. To his left, screened from the arbour by a yew hedge, was a garden pool with a rock fountain and fat koi swimming under lily pads. There used to be more fish—before Bren’s friends found the pond. He pursed his lips at the thought.
To the right was a shrubbery. A large variety of plants made up a wild area of about thirty square feet. Bren loved it, of course. He’d burrowed into it and, within a week, had made a green cave right in the middle. He’d floored it with an old piece of carpet he’d found on a skip. It had taken a long time and a lot of carpet-cleaner to persuade Keiron to enter it, but he had to admit, making love outside under the bushes in the darkness was something he’d come to enjoy very much.
Bren had been surprised he had such a wild place in his neat garden, in his neat life. Perhaps it was the thing that sealed the deal with Bren, who’d been reluctant to get involved with someone so unlike himself, and likely to “cramp his style”.
“But why?” he’d asked. “It doesn’t seem like you to have a wild place like this. It’s so out of place—with the garden and with you. Why haven’t you ‘tamed’ it? Everything else in your life is tame. You’re the most vanilla person I know—except for this.”
They were in the “cave” at the time. It was dark but warm, and they were holding each other in the afterglow of amazing sex. Keiron had smiled lazily and sighed.
“My mother used to live out in the country somewhere when she was a child. My grandmother never took to city life. She told me once there was no room in a city for life, real life. Nowhere for roots to reach the earth. No place for the fairies.”
“Oh yes, she was very superstitious about fairies. Never had anything made of iron in the garden. Put out saucers of warm milk if there was a deep frost or snow. And always had a wild place in the garden—for the fairies.”
Bren had smiled at him. “I never thought you had any of that in you, Keiron. I guess there’s hope for you yet.”
Keiron had grinned and held Bren tightly in his arms.
Keiron smiled at the memory and took a drink of his beer. Something caught his eye, and he turned towards the shrubbery. He was sure he’d seen something move, shooting across his vision, behind the trees. He stared hard, but there was nothing there. It must have been a squirrel. He saw them now and again, scrabbling for nuts under the hazel tree or acorns from the enormous oak that overhung the garden from next door.
With a sigh, he settled back and took another drink. His stomach rumbled, and he glanced at his watch, wondering when his pizza would get there. The deliveryman was a regular, and if there was no answer at the door, he’d text to say he’d arrived. So Keiron could relax and not worry about—
There was definitely something there. It moved again. He’d seen it—a flash of white. A cat? Most of the neighbours had cats, and they liked to hang about in the shrubbery, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting birds. It had taken a lot of work to get rid of the smell of cat pee from the carpet.
Ah well. Although…something nagged at the back of his mind. It wasn’t a cat. It couldn’t have been a cat because it hadn’t looked like a cat. It had looked like a person. A small person with a pale pointed face. But it had only been a fraction of a second, a flash, an impression. It was nonsense, of course.
Maybe it was one of the fairies. He smiled.
There was no further movement in the bushes, so when the text came to herald the arrival of his pizza, he wandered back into the house.
He decided to eat his stuffed-crust vegetable supreme at the kitchen table. It was a beautiful night. Other than distant strains of music drifting over from the barbecue, there was the type of silence that magnified the slightest sound. Like the silence that came with snow. It was magical.
Keiron laughed at himself. Magical? That’s what you get for thinking of fairies.
Something flashed at the window and he glanced up sharply. There was nothing there, but there had been. In that fraction of a second between his head beginning to move and his eyes orienting on the window, there had been something or someone peeping in. Someone with a small pointy face. Shit.
Take it easy. If something was there, he didn’t want to frighten it away before he found out what it was.
He took up the uneaten pizza, making a show of putting it onto a plate and into the fridge. The back door was open to let in the summer warmth, and the bin was next to it, out of sight of the window. He folded the pizza box, and headed for the bin—only he wasn’t going to the bin at all. He lifted the lid, so the sound carried out into the garden, but before he let the lid drop, he dived for the back door.
There was nothing there, but there had been. There had been someone crouching under the window, peeping in. It was someone with long white hair, a pointed face, and unnaturally blue eyes. It was all seen in the blink of an eye, and after he’d blinked, there was nothing there and no sign there ever had been.
“I know you’re there. I’ve seen you three times now,” he called into the silence. “I know what you are.” Why had he even said that? It couldn’t have been anything but a figment of his imagination. Human beings couldn’t move that fast, and it was certainly no animal. Then what? A fairy? Hah.
Smiling at his own foolishness, he went back into the house and closed the door.
He was halfway through the remaining pizza, drinking his third bottle of beer and feeling pretty mellow, when there was a soft tapping at the back door. This surprised him very much. No one ever knocked on the back door. Why would they? How could they? They’d have to be in the garden, and there were only two ways into it, the door at which they now tapped or a tiny gate right at the bottom, which would have necessitated them traipsing right through the garden. Who would do that?
With a frown, gripping the bottle in his hand like a weapon, he walked through the kitchen to the door. He could see a vague form through the frosted glass. There was definitely someone there. He wondered if they’d disappear by the time he opened the door.
When the door opened, Keiron froze. He’d never seen anything—or anyone—remotely like the creature who stood on his back doorstep.
Keiron blinked, half expecting the creature to vanish before he opened his eyes. He didn’t. He seemed human enough. A boy of seventeen or eighteen years old, with long silvery-white hair and a pretty elfin face. Long white lashes swept over the downturned eyes and skin so pale it appeared translucent, seeming almost to glow in the gathering dusk. He was slender, willowy, and completely naked.
“Who the hell are you?” Keiron eventually asked. The boy looked up and Keiron recoiled. Nothing with eyes like that could be human. They were blue, but it wasn’t any blue he’d ever seen before. It was a brilliant electric blue with a metallic sheen that marked him as something very different to anyone Keiron had ever encountered.
“Draven,” the boy said automatically in a light singsong voice.
“What do you want?”
“Whatever you want.”
“I…want…I want to know who you are and why you’re standing naked on my back doorstep.”
“I’m…Draven,” he said with an anxious little smile. “I’m yours.”
Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play. Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a reenactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere. In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem.
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