Tara Martin, a British girl, knocked on the front door of her parents’ house on Christmas Day. Her appearance caused her mother to faint. That’s because Tara disappeared 20 years ago from their small English town. Tara was last seen at the age of 15 in the Outwoods, a small forest on the outskirts of their town. The prime suspect in her disappearance was her boyfriend, Richie, but he denied having done anything wrong, and the case never went to trial. Richie and Tara’s family, however, never spoke to each other again. Tara’s brother, Peter, and Richie had been best friends before Tara disappeared.
In the present, Peter is married, and he and his wife have four children. Peter is a farrier, and makes his living shoeing horses. Peter and his parents never recovered from Tara’s disappearance. Neither did Richie. He had been a promising guitarist, but in recent years he spent much of his time drinking his loss away.
Tara promises to tell Peter about her disappearance 20 years ago, but worries that he won’t believe what could only seem unbelievable – that she had been taken away by fairies. On the fateful day, Tara had ridden to the Outwoods on her bike. She broke up with Richie but he wouldn’t accept it.
The forest that day seemed surreal, with bluebells in full bloom. After she took Richie’s ring off, she saw a man on a white horse. The man talked to her and asked if he could sit next to her. He asked if she wanted to see the light on the water, and Tara said she did. They both got on his horse. Tara told Peter this was the happiest she had ever been in her life.
The rider took her to a messy house that had no electricity. Tara wanted to use the phone to call her folks to tell them she would be home soon, but to her surprise, the man told her he didn’t have a phone. The man then realized that Tara was too young to have been taken to the house. Tara wanted to go home that night, and he would take her home as soon as he could, but that it would be six months. What she didn’t know was that six months in his time was 20 years in real time.
Of course, no one in real time believes that Tara had been spirited away by fairies. Peter is furious at her, but her parents think she is delusional, and Peter arranges for her to see a therapist. The therapist, Dr. Underwood, thinks she is suffering from amnesia and that the man who abducted her may have given her some exotic substance and taken her away to some type of commune.
What puzzles everyone is that Tara hadn’t aged in the 20 years she was gone. She still looks 15. Also, curiously, her eyes so sensitive to light that she has to wear sunglasses constantly. Through the course of trying to help Tara, Peter and his parents make amends with Richiem and he begins to enjoy his music again. Tara, unwilling to live with her parents, who pity her, asks Richie if she can move in with him. About this time, he learns that he is seriously ill.
“Some Kind of Fairy Tale” is told in alternating chapters with Tara, Peter, Richie and the therapist narrating. This fairy tale is a quick read, and readers will wonder until the very end on what really what happened to Tara 20 years ago.
The author, Graham Joyce, is the winner of the O. Henry Award and the British Fantasy Award. He lives in England.
Maggie Braun is a teacher at Manhattan High School.