The storm clouds made her nervous.
They had gathered in the early morning before sunrise and had slowly moved across the fields and threatened rain.
She had been playing in the fields as she did most days. School had been out for almost a month and she'd been allowed to do as she pleased unless her mother or father needed her. She tended to stay within earshot of the house. Close enough that her parents could find her but far enough that the sprites wouldn't be afraid.
The sprites were the reason she liked the fields. They had a home in an elderly oak tree that sat in the field. Her father had talked about cutting it down several times over the last few years, but he had never done more than talk. The sprites knew her and would come out of the tree's branches like so many fireflies, drifting on the breeze.
They weren't much for playing, actually, but they liked to talk and they liked to hear about the world beyond the fields. She told them about school and Mrs. Stephenson, her teacher, and about Sparky her dog. Sparky had even come to the tree with her once but all he'd done was bark and that frightened the sprites. She told them her hopes and dreams. How she wanted to get married some day and be a famous musician or maybe a movie star.
The sprites listened to all of her stories, often making comments and suggestions or joking about how they thought a person looked or talked. They hadn't been too far off with Old Man Thompson.
Sometimes they brought her presents. Flowers or small stones. She took them graciously and kept them in a small wooden box in her room, hidden under her bed.
'Let the storm come' she thought as she walked toward the oak tree after lunch (peanut butter and jelly and Fritos). Ominous as the clouds looked she was close enough to the house that she'd only get a little wet and her friends would keep her company until then. The summer was long and the day seemed endless.
Thunder cracked in the distance as she approached the tree.
A lone firefly sprite floated down from the tree.
"Go away," it said.
"But…" was all she managed before the thunder cracked directly overhead.
"Go away," the sprite repeated.
"Why?" she asked.
"This storm is unnatural. It will destroy you if you stay here. And you must survive."
She was used to the cryptic way the sprites talked, but something in the sound of its voice made her believe this sprite.
"Okay," she said, her voice almost a whisper.
She walked back to the house with her head hung low. She reached the screen porch at the back of the house, climbed the stairs and turned to look out over the fields and the oak tree beyond. Lightning arced across the sky, splitting the tree in two.
She cried for days afterward.