A young woman, troubled by a peculiar phobia, is tasked with collecting an odd assortment of objects to obtain her heart's desire. Finding she cannot bring herself to complete one of the tasks, she attempts to deceive the kind faeries and thus, their magic goes awry...
...In only one way was Beatriz braver than her neighbors: she had no fear at all of the small queer creatures which crept at times from hedge and wood. And because she was kind and generous to a fault, she very soon began the habit of leaving a bowl of the very best cream and fresh bread slathered in golden honey on her back stoop each evening, to feed what she called the Little Grandmothers and Little Grandfathers; a term of respect for the helpful household kind of that rare species, learned as a toddling girl at the knee of a superstitious great-granny who dressed in widow’s weeds and spoke with the accent born of a girlhood spent among sheep crofts and vineyards in faraway Spain.
One night Beatriz was surprised by a gentle knocking at the back door. On the stoop, still licking cream and honey from their fingertips, stood three diminutive old women. They were no more than four feet high, gray-haired and leathery-skinned, with apple-round cheeks and audacious, gap-toothed smiles. The only way to tell either apart from the other was the color of their eyes: one had twinkling blue eyes, the other a placid green, and the third sunburst yellow.
Once she recovered from her shock, Beatriz said, very politely and just as her bisabuelita had taught her long years before, “Good evening, Little Grandmothers.”
“Good evening, Beatriz,” said they.
“Was there not enough cream tonight?” Beatriz asked. “Or would you like more bread?”
“Oh no, you are always generous,” said one, blue eyes glinting in the moonlight.
“That’s why we’ve come knocking, such kindness and generosity as yours should be rewarded,” said the other.
“We are weavers of the greatest skill,” said the third, yellow eyes flashing with pride. “We can fashion for you whatsoever you desire most in all the world.”
“You’re very kind,” Beatriz said sadly. “But I’m afraid even you can’t make what I desire most in the world.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said one.
“Our skills are quite marvelous. One might even say magical,” said the other, fixing gleaming green eyes upon Beatriz.
“You’ve only to name it,” said the third, “and it shall be done.”
Beatriz knelt. Face to face with the three Little Grandmothers, she confessed her most deeply held and secret desire. “But the thing I desire most in all the world is someone to love me, and only me, for all his days.”
“Hmm,” said one.
“Ah,” said the other.
“Oh,” said the third. “I see.”
The three queer and ancient creatures put their heads together, chattering and nattering at one another’s ears in their own curious tongue. When they were done, one blinked her blue eyes and said, “we can do this thing.”
“Can you really?” wondered Beatriz, and all three smiled, self-assured and perhaps a little smugly, and nodded. “Oh yes, yes indeed,” they answered together.
“Now, it will take some time,” the other said.
“And there are…requirements, naturally,” said the third, sunburst eyes all aglow. “Trifles really, but necessary just the same. Sought, found, and delivered to us by your own hand.”
Ah, a quest then! The thought made timid Beatriz feel almost brave and nearly reckless. “Very well, what must I do?”