Joshua laughed with delight at the fairy's excitement, but his innocent little grin soon fell into a trembling frown as he watched the fairy shoot high into the sky with a twirl of wings.
"Come back!" Joshua cried. He peered upwards, squinting at the beaming blue sky and trying not to cry. Then he spotted a quivering dot of light making straight for him. He watched with a confused wrinkle in his brow, his little heart beating fast with the anxious question of whether his fairy would keep her promise.
The light dove from the sky like a strike of lightning and Joshua gave a cry of trepidation.
"You can't catch fairies!" the fairy cried out, shooting into the sky once more. She made another pass. "And you can't make fairies keep promises!" Joshua began to stomp in circles with agitation, his arms to the sky, trying to see the cruel fairy. "Fairies will always be free!" Joshua ducked now as the light came buzzing close to his face.
He landed on his butt with a most dreadful sting and let out a wail. The fairy disappeared into the woods.
Joshua was in such a state of despair that he didn't care who heard him cry. As it so happened, the first person to hear his cry was someone Joshua least expected to see.
It was the boy from next door who Joshua had watched from his living room window on that rainy day last week when the family had moved into the house next door. Joshua remembered the moment clearly because he had sat at the window with a ginger cookie and a glass of milk and watched for an hour in curious wonder.
Joshua stopped crying in sudden surprise as he noticed the boy standing on the fence. The boy gave him a funny look and then hopped lightly from the fence. He landed beside Joshua and asked in a friendly voice, "What's the matter?"
Joshua gave him a wide-eyed stare. "Nothin'," he said, as if it were a strange question to ask.
"No, it wasn't nothing," the boy said, shaking his head. Then he noticed the jar.
Joshua tried to hide it behind his back but the boy gave a grin and said, "Now now, I want to see what you were catching."
"I didn't catch nothin'," Joshua said, keeping his short arms behind his back, fingering the musty jar with a thumb.
"Did it escape?" the boy asked.
Joshua's mouth trembled again and he pressed his lips firmly together and gave a teary eyed nod.
The boy smiled. "But you've still got the jar," he said.
"So we can use it to track down whatever you lost."
Joshua looked hopeful for a moment, but then he remembered that the boy was at least twelve; he wouldn't believe in fairies; he'd call Joshua a silly little boy.
But while Joshua was thinking this sad fact through, the boy made a quick lunge and stole the jar.
"Heya!" Joshua whined, but he went silent as he spotted the strange sparkle in the jar. Joshua went very still as he watched the boy and the jar.
The boy looked at the sparkle in the jar in silent wonder for a long moment and then turned to give Joshua a meaningful stare. Joshua stared back, biting his lip in worry. Then, slowly, in a dawning moment of excitement, the boy split a grin.
"Looks like your fairy left us a clue," he said.