Emerald Constance McFadden hated her name. She was only nine, but she had hated it as long as she could remember. She always insisted that people call her “Em”. Everyone would ask if that was short for Emily and Emerald would say, “My great grandma had an aunt named Emily, ” and the person would smile and assume that he or she had been correct. It wasn’t really a lie, but it wasn’t really the truth either.

Emerald lived in a tiny village in Ireland in a cottage that her Irish father, Finbar, had given to her American mother, Lily, in place of an engagement ring. Lily had fallen in love with the house on one of her many visits and Fin knew, then and there, they had to have it. The cottage was right in the center of the rolling, green countryside and Emerald could see the ruins of an old castle from her bedroom window.

As a country, Ireland itself was full of myth and magic and Em wanted no part of either. She didn’t want to be told bedtime stories and she didn’t want to hear about pooka, leprechauns or the Bean Sidhe. She overheard her parents discussing it that night.

“She’s nine! She should want to hear stories–she should even want to read the stories!” Lily sounded frustrated and worried all at once.

“She’s probably just heard too much of it already, ” argued Fin, “You didn’t grow up here; it’s not the same for you. My gran used to tell me so many stories that I thought I’d be sick if I heard another.”

“You really think she’s alright?” asked Lily, the worry winning out.

“I do.” Just as Fin made this declaration Em had poked her small head around the corner. “Emmy! Come here to me little one!” he happily shouted.  “Your mam seems to think that instead of calling ye Emerald, we should’ve named ye Jade.”

Lily had laughed and swatted Fin’s shoulder before she bent down and kissed them both.

Lily was the real magic in Em’s world. Lily loved the Irish rain and made the best of every gloomy day. She taught Em how to peel an apple so the skin stayed in a single, curly piece. Lily knew how to brew the perfect pot of tea that was always a certain shade of amber when it was poured into a cup. But, best of all, Lily always smelled like lilacs.


Em sat, cross-legged, on top of the quilt at the foot of her bed. Lily sat behind her and brushed Em’s hair. This was their evening bedtime ritual and had taken the place of storytelling. They would talk about the day or school or how the weather had been or what their plans for the weekend might be. Every once in awhile Em would even try to convince Lily that the cottage wasn’t too small for a puppy.

“You’re awfully quiet tonight, Dear One, ” Lily said as she placed the brush on the nightstand and folded back the covers.

Em crawled into bed and kicked her feet up into the air so the blankets tucked under them as she lowered them back down. She looked at her mother with the most serious expression a nine year old girl has and softly asked, “Mom, why do you have the name of one flower and smell like a different one?”.

Lily smiled a huge, warm smile. She wrapped her arms around the little girl in a big hug and whispered in her ear, “Because a name is what you are called, not who you are.”

Em giggled as she drifted off to sleep with the scent of lilacs on her pillow and her mothers words still tickling her ears.  Maybe there was hope yet!