Ro and Jo hurried to the bathroom, brushing teeth, using the toilet, washing faces, and then it was back to their rooms to get dressed. When they finally headed toward the kitchen, stashing their backpacks next to the front door, they hadn't noticed yet, the view through the window.
Ro was almost finished microwaving French Toast sticks for herself and Jo when she happened to glance out the door window. She almost dropped the plate in her hands; she was so surprised!
"Jo! Look!" she said, sitting her plate on the table and stepping to the door to look out, blinking her eyes to make sure there wasn't something wrong with them.
Jo joined her by the door, and his mouth dropped open in amazement when he looked around at the yard.
Dad had already let Brie and Kato outside, and of course they are black and white dogs. However, this morning, they were hard to locate out in the yard because they blended in!
The whole yard and sky were black and white and gray only! Not a spot of color anywhere!
"What's going on?" Jo said, opening the inside door, and then the storm door for the dogs to come in. Kato looked a little confused, last through the door, as he checked back over his shoulder. Everything looked funny to him to, and Ro petted him gently, reading his thoughts, and understanding how weirded out he was – because she was too.
And then she thought about it. "I'll bet I know. Something's up with the fairies."
"Fairies?" Jo said.
"Of course. I have an idea. But first we need to eat breakfast. There won't be much time."
The children ate quickly, rinsed their dishes and loaded them into the dishwasher. They still had about thirty-five minutes before the bus arrived. "I think we have enough time," Ro said, dragging her brother out the back door and into the Team RoJo fort.
She rubbed her hands over the crystal ball as she'd seen Grandma Crystal do so many times, and suddenly mists inside began to swirl as the ball came to life.
Ro closed her eyes and thought, "I want to be back in the Royal Woods of Rosieland, with BEN Owl, Jo, and Kato. I want to land at the Fairy Tree where Tasha, Sasha, and Kasha live."
It only took a half-second, before Ro, Jo, (and Kato who'd sat down between the children just as Ro had made her transportation request to the crystal ball) to materialize beside the very special tree in the Rosieland Royal Woods.
Jo smiled. "Wow! Is that a fairy door?" he asked, just as BEN Owl swooped through the trees and perched on a gray branch above them.
"Well, this is disturbing," he said, looking around the gray, black, and white woods, looking unhappy.
"Yep! That's a fairy door," Ro said to her brother, as she very lightly tapped on the door – regular knocking and regular human voices hurt tiny fairy ears, Ro explained to her brother and Kato. "Hello, BEN Owl, we came here through the crystal ball to find out what's going on. We hope the painter fairies aren't sick or anything."
Just as Ro finished her very quiet sentence, the little door swung open, and a real live fairy stepped out of it. Jo almost said "wow!" out loud, but caught himself and whispered it.
Sasha smiled and fluttered into the air with her sparkly little fairy wings, to hover next to Ro's cheek and give her old friend a kiss. "Tasha used to love finding your teeth under your pillow! She said they were the whitest and cleanest teeth she ever collected!" Sasha spun around in mid-air and kissed Jo's cheek as well. "And yours too, Prince Joseph!" Then she swooped up to give a kiss to her old friend BEN Owl.
"Umm, it's just Jo now, since we've moved away from Rosieland and become part of Team RoJo," Jo said, and Sasha smiled a big, fat smile. "All the fairies are proud of you both!" she said, and dropped low to land on Kato's head and scratch behind his ears. "Both of you and all your friends too!"
"That's sweet. Please tell Tasha and Kasha we said hello and sent our love," Ro said, and then she looked around her. "Notice anything a little…off?"
Sasha looked around and smiled. "Of course! Everything is black, white, and gray. No color."
"Are the painter fairies sick or something?" Ro asked, knowing that there were thousands and thousands of fairies all over the world, and that they all had jobs to do – magical jobs.
"Would you believe they're on strike?" Sasha said, surprising the children.
"On strike?" Jo said, eyebrows raised and eyes wide. "What does that mean?"
Ro explained, "When people who don't like something about their jobs, something that's really bad, like not enough pay or something dangerous that their managers don't fix to make it safer, they stop working until changes are made. They walk around in a circle with signs – that's called picketing – to make everyone understand what they are unhappy about. Usually the bosses and the workers get together and talk about the problems and try to agree on how to make things right."
"Very good, Ro. How do you know so much about strikes?" Sasha said.
"We learned about it in Social Studies," Ro answered. "What are the fairies unhappy about?"
"Oh, you know, the usual stuff. The young whippersnapper fairies are sloppy and don't want to listen to the senior fairies. They all fly around saying, "A done thing is better than a perfect thing," and they just spray magical plant paint everywhere; sometimes they even splatter the sky when they are at the tops of trees. Can you imagine?! The older fairies want separate trainers to work with the younger ones because dragging trainees out with them slows them down from an already huge and difficult job. Plus, some of the young fairies are disrespectful to the older fairies who have learned a lot but the younger fairies want to learn things for themselves. There's nothing wrong with that, except that they don't need to be snarky and rude to older fairies who are just trying to help them and make things easier."
"Wow, I didn't know fairy life was so complicated," Ro said, and Jo nodded too.
"Yes, well, nothing is perfect. It's hard work, even using magic, to keep the world beautiful and healthy. Especially with so many humans working against us – like using oil products instead of solar power, for instance. Even fairy wings are solar powered!"
"Your wings are powered by the sun?" Jo said.
"Sure! Our whole bodies are!" Sasha replied.
"That's cool!" Ro said. "Dad says it's all about the money with humans. Oil makes a lot of money, and that's all everyone cares about."
"Maybe, but it's really messing up the air, soil, and especially water," Sasha said, and then smiled and flitted around in the air, forgetting the serious conversation when she saw fairies spinning and darting about plants, instantly turning them many shades of green, flowers many shades of pink, purple, yellow, white, and red. And gradually the sky turned a light blue with little white puffs of cloud scudding across it.
"Yes!" she said, clapping in mid-air. The fairies and bosses must have come to an agreement! Yay!" As she hovered in mid-air before Ro and Jo's eyes, she spun toward them and said, "The strike is over, so the fairies will have a lot of catch-up work to do. I have to go now! Come and visit again soon, okay?"
Ro and Jo nodded and said, "Sure! Can't wait!" and Sasha gave them a thumbs up then turned and flew away so fast it was almost as if she disappeared.
As Ro and Jo and Kato felt themselves swirled into the mists of the crystal ball, they could see trees and flowers, back yards, houses, and farms, all begin to burst into color.
"I didn't know the fairies painted the whole world every single night," Jo said as they popped out of the crystal ball into their fort.
"I don't think they do; I think they just touch up the color each night. They probably made everything black and white to show the bosses how important their jobs are, and how boring the world would be without them. I think that's called a bargaining chip." Ro said.
"Well, I'm glad they got their problems figured out and everything is settled. I like the sky blue and the grass green," Jo said, hurrying out of the fort and into the yard where he rolled in the green grass with a tail-wagging Kato. "Green, green, green!" he said, giggling as Kato jumped on him and slurped his chin.
"Me too, and now whenever we see fairies, we can thank them for all their hard work," Ro said, sniffing a bright pink bloom on a rose bush by the fence.
"Yeah, we sure can!" Jo said, smiling, and beside him Kato let out a happy little bark. "Because everyone likes to know they are appreciated."