The first time I saw her was on the #22 bus heading downtown. She had her head in a book and I could tell that she was really reading, not just hiding from the world, or trying to escape from it. That’s probably what originally drew my attention.
She had on big glasses that were just now coming back into style. I have a similar pair somewhere in my sock drawer, from the last time around that they were in fashion. If I were to be honest, I’d say they didn’t do much for her looks, but they probably didn’t do much for mine, either, back in the day. She had curly, out of control hair, another thing I knew all about, at least until I discovered cornrows. Maybe that was the second thing that garnered my attention; she reminded me all too much of myself when I was in college.
I must have been staring, because she raised her eyes from the book and looked over at me. I smiled and she made an effort to smile back, but there was no serious interest in her eyes, just a temporary politeness salted with the indifference of youth. Yes, I remember that too. For a moment I pictured her wearing clothes like mine, classic black wool and fine leather boots, later, when she reached my age, though I also knew she could not even imagine living that long. I watched as she hurriedly shoved her book into a bag overflowing with multicolored pens and notepads. Then she turned her face to the window. Two stops later, she got off the bus.
I found the bookmark on the seat that she vacated. “Follow Your Dreams,” it read in glittery, bold print. It was then that I knew I would see her again.
Now, you may think that I haunted that particular bus line, waiting for another glimpse of the girl, but it doesn’t work that way. Fairy Godmothers are a busy lot, what with mortgages and weekly balls and gardening on the weekends. And besides, I am old enough to know that everything is interconnected in this small world; I knew it would only be a matter of time until fate threw an opportunity in my direction.
Sure enough, two weeks later, the girl plopped herself down beside me on the same bus route. That may sound like an odd bit of magic, but the fact is that the bus was nearly full and I certainly looked safer than the big guy with the cutoff sweatshirt across the aisle. She had her finger in a book, marking her page the old-fashioned way. I considered giving her bookmark back to her, briefly, but decided against it.
After a few minutes of riding in silence, I asked her what she was reading. She passed the book my way and launched into an efficient summary of plot and characters. Passion peppered her words and I could easily picture her hunched over a keyboard, her own stories flowing from her fingers. As she wound down with her description of the book, I remarked how well versed she was and she hesitantly admitted, “Well, I write, too, sometimes.” We ended up having a nice chat all the way until her stop, and when I handed the book back to her, I slid the business card of an editor friend between its pages. Now she had a new bookmark and a phone number that would get her somewhere. I figured that was enough meddling for one day.
So. Back at the ranch… Actually, I live in a townhouse; a smallish, comfortable affair, with a cat or two and roomfuls of books, not all of which are fairy tales, though there are quite a few of them mixed in among the shelves. My neighbors seem to believe I’m a witch, possibly because of the abundant plants, the dark clothes and the odd hours that I keep. I don’t dissuade them because I’m a big fan of encouraging imagination, especially in adults. For the record, neither of my cats is black.
The kids in the area like to ring my doorbell and run. It is an ancient game that has become much more fun in this age of high-tech; at my house, when you push the lighted button, melodious chimes ring their way through what might be the music of the spheres or current hip-hop riffs, depending on my mood. Tonight Kyle, the twenty-something from three doors down, was the one to ring the bell, but he didn’t run when I answered the door.
Kyle is a handsome lad with a dash of quirky funkiness that I find endearing. Of course, I also find his handyman skills quite admirable as well. While he set to fixing my washing machine, we talked about his day job and his latest classes at school. He was a hard worker, I thought, who could use a bit of fun. When he had finished, I paid him with cash and added two convert tickets as an extra bonus. They were for a sold out show at Club Z, one that matched up a trendy, popular author with an equally famous band.
“Wow,” he said, “And thanks. But I don’t have anyone to take with me.”
I looked at his crestfallen face and thought now that is a story I’ve known all too well for far too long. I could have arranged a proper introduction between him and the girl from the bus, but Fairy Godmothers don’t always take well to matchmaking. That may be the reason why so many of us fly solo. Or it might be because we’re always so busy. Or perhaps it’s because sometimes we just need someone else to throw a little bit of fairy dust in our direction once in a while.
In the end, I advised Kyle to take a ride on the #22 bus this coming Tuesday at 3:30. As I watched his strong back walk out the door, I figured there was probably enough mojo in that step for him to easily make his own magic. When he was gone, I looked for the crumpled bit of paper that had been lingering in the bottom of my purse and picked up the phone.
The next time I saw Kyle was at Club Z. The girl from the bus was holding his hand shyly, but I saw her grin big when he leaned down and kissed her. When he looked up and saw me among the crowd, he shot me the victory sign. As I waved back, the girl also spotted me. She raised one pierced eyebrow and in the space of an instant, I watched her grow up, just a little. This time when she smiled at me, it was for real.
The pair took a few steps in my direction, but the band had just begun their second set and it was at that moment that Oran decided to pull me onto the dance floor. “I’m glad you finally called me,” he said. He had all the makings of a charming prince and didn’t do too badly on the dance floor either. “Umm,” I said close to his ear. “I’m glad I did too.” He slid his arms around my waist and didn’t let me go until the music ended.
I finally found out the girl’s name when I took a break to visit the Ladies’ room. No, it isn’t Cindy. Nor is it Ella. You may see it, gracing the cover of a book one day in the near future, but that is a fairy tale for another time. We made small talk at the sinks as we washed our hands, and when she turned around to grab a paper towel, I slipped a couple of prophylactics into her handbag. I remember what it was like to be her age; practicality isn’t always high on the priority list. Besides, I have a brand new box of them sitting in my dresser drawer, right next to a bookmark that offers the inspirational words “Follow Your Dreams.” With a wink and a silent breath of thanks, I left her behind and made my way back to the dance floor and Oran.
See, they come in all shapes and ages and sizes. You never know when you may meet one. Fairy Godmothers are everywhere.
(Or maybe just the beginning.)
is a previous contributor to Cabinet des Fées. She is a native of Bucks County, PA, where she plays with pencils and paint, wood things and words. Her muses often lead her down the path to an otherworld shaped by mythic fiction and fairy tale poetry, zoomorphic triskeles and knotwork that has no end.
, Elenore Abbott, Grimm’s Fairy Tales. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920.