(Pond by George Hodan. Web source.)
Story. Ever since I set eyes on a pond in the forest, I felt drawn to it. Every day I felt it calling for me. I could sit and watch the tranquil pond for hours. However, the more I went there to watch the pond, more things appeared each time. First, I could see only the pond, then some fish, then animals, and then a young man my age. It was weird, but it was nice to have some company.
I can stay there all day without getting bored. When I am there, it is like I’m in a trance. At the end of the day, though, I always go back home. I can hear my younger brother calling my name from a distance away and that is when I remember to go home.
“Penelope! Penelope!” my younger brother, Oliver, called.
In a rush, I bid goodbye to William, the young man my age, and the animals. I have forgotten the time again.
“See you later,” William shouted as I ran towards my brother’s voice.
“There you are. It’s time to eat supper. I called your name numerous times. What were you doing?” said Oliver.
“I was busy talking to William and playing with the animals today,” I responded.
We arrived home and my mother said she had news to tell me.
“Your father and I have found a husband for you!” she happily announced.
“What?! Who?! I’m not ready to marry.” I quickly said.
“It’s Jacob,” my mother said.
“Jacob is always focused on hunting.” I mentioned.
Mother reasoned, “And? We know that he will be able to feed you. You will never starve, child. Anyway, you’re marrying in a week.”
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to argue against her. She always had the last say. So, I kept my mouth shut and longed to return to the pond. The pond… the place where I can relax.
“Excuse me.” I said after I finished my meal at the dinner table. I put the dishes up and started the chores I should've done long ago. I shouldn’t have stayed so long at the pond. As I did the dishes, I overheard my brother and mother talk.
“Mother, do you think Penelope spends too much time in the forest?” asked Oliver.
My mother said, “That is why I am sending her off to marry. With a husband and child on her mind, she would stop going in the forest.”
“She was with William again,” he told Mother.
“I really don’t know who that William is. I’ve asked everyone I know and they don’t know this William either,” Mother said.
Oliver said, “All she does is go to the forest. The other kids don’t talk to her because she doesn’t talk much. I’m worried about her, Mother.”
“Me too. Now, hurry and go to sleep.” said Mother.
I sighed. They always talk about me. I know they don’t like the fact that I’m spending time in the forest, but I can handle myself. And so far, nothing has happened.
I went in my room where I shared with my brother after bathing.
“Goodnight, Sis,” he quietly said.
“Goodnight,” I replied and went to my bed. I dreamed of going to the pond. William was there.
He spoke first. “How are you, Penelope?”
“As usual.” I responded, “My parents have found me a husband.”
William didn’t talk for a minute. “How is he?”
“I don’t know much about him except what Mother says about him. He’s really into hunting. He is always doing something about it.” I said.
After that, we dropped the subject and did our usual routine of staring off in the pond, watching the animals, talking, and exploring.
“Wake up! It’s morning, Sis!” yelled my brother. I jolted up and got ready in a rush.
I apologized to Mother for not helping her cook. and she told me to gather vegetables for lunch and supper. After I ate, I went to gather vegetables and sang.
“Penelope. Penelope.” said a voice.
I searched for the source. William! I quickly put down the vegetables and walked over to him. “What are you doing here?!” I asked in a surprised voice.
“Do you want to come to my house?” he asked.
I replied, “Yes. Let me finish and I’ll meet you at the pond.” I gave my brother the vegetables to give Mother. If I personally gave it to Mother, she would have me do more chores.
I went to the pond and William guided me to his home which was inside the pond. I was very surprised to see his home. It was grand and magical. He gave me some food and we talked and talked.
We ate a lot. It has been about a dozen times, about four days’ worth of food if I ate three meals a day. How long have I been here actually? I heard a crack. It was like the house was hit with a big rock.
“Penelope! Sis!” I heard Oliver calling me. I finally saw him.
He told me to run home and shot an arrow at William without me seeing. I knew that he shot William later at home. They told me I’ve been gone for four days. Mother kept talking about preparing for the wedding.
I was so worried about William; I skipped sleep for a day, but fatigue took over me and I fell asleep. I saw William in my dream and apologized to him.
He confessed, “I love you, Penelope. Do you love me?”
“Yes,” I replied sincerely.
“Then, wake up and meet me at the pond if you want to be with me forever,” William said.
I woke up instantly and secretly left home. I ran to the pond and William took me in his arms. He took me to the land of his parents and I have lived happily ever since. I still think of my family sometimes though. I wonder if they still think of me.
Author's Note. In the original story, Neen-i-zu, a short woman, went in the forest or dim trails for hours. She always longed for a Happy Land where it was always summer without sorrow. In real life she longed for Happly Land and little gnomes would make Neen-i-zu dream of the Happy Land. She often went a grove by the Spirit Wood and sang sad songs to fairies. Later, her mom would arrange her to wed a hunter, but Neen-i-zu felt they were incompatible. In her wedding clothes, she would go to alone to the grove one last time only to not return ever again. In the end, although she did not marry the hunter, she did marry a fairy.
In my story, I kept most of the same things. I added a brother for Penelope. He would try to bring her back to reality, but he was not able to prevent her at the end. I wanted to give Penelope a chance to return to reality instead of being stuck in a different world. Aside from this, in the original, Neen-i-zu was the main character, but the story was told in third person. My story is told in first person. Although there were details that cannot be added because my story is from her point-of-view, I believe it was important to write what she felt and experienced.
Bibliography. "The Fairy Bride" from American Indian Fairy Tales by W.T. Larned; link to reading online.