The Cave- Part Two

sea-cave-of-1000-steps-beach

“Hey, watch out!” a tiny voice screamed at Meghan as she fell out of darkness and into the back of a loaded hay wagon. After she regained her breath, she felt movement under her back and then a sharp pain.

“Ouch!” She rolled over, the hay stubble sticking to her jacket. A small creature crawled out of the indention Meghan had made in her landing. “Did you really bite me?”

“You’re the one who crushed me with your hugeness!” the tiny creature replied, a wide smile showing his tiny pointed teeth. “I didn’t bite you. I just nipped you a bit. Got you off me, I did.” Its large ears stood up on an otherwise human head like a Chihuahua and its large dark eyes twinkled with mischief. Dressed in overalls and a blue checker shirt, he couldn’t have been taller than up to Meghan’s waist.

“What are you?” Meghan wondered aloud. Maybe that’s not polite. “I mean, I’m not from these parts, and I’ve never met anyone like you before. My name is Meghan. I’m sorry for landing on you. I had no idea the portal would dump me into a wagon.”

“Apology accepted,” the creature said. “Since you have named yourself, I must also. You may call me Malarkey. Obviously you are a human tourist, as you don’t know that I am a Hob.”

“A Hob?”

“Hobs are extremely useful persons to have on a farm, which is where you landed, by the way. Mr. Greenleaf’s farm, to be exact,” Malarkey continued, as he brushed the straw from his shirt and reshaped his crushed straw hat. “I guide the cows to the best grazing and lead them back home in the evening. In between all that, I try to grab a few winks in the hay wagon. Didn’t expect to be crushed by an incoming visitor.” After placing on his wide brimmed hat, he jumped down from the wagon.

Meghan also jumped down, straw falling around her in piles. “It’s nice to meet you, Malarkey.” She looked around at the rolling fields of wheat that spread out around her on every side. In the distance she could see a grove of trees, perhaps shielding a farm house and barn.

Suddenly, she realized that she hadn’t seen Noodles since the portal. She was no longer holding his leash.

“I’m missing my dog!” she cried. “Noodles! Noodles! Where are you?”

The field in front of her rustled and waved, and a small black and white dog shot out of the wheat and into her arms. Meghan squeezed her dog close. The clasp for the leash was still attached to his collar, but the length of the leash was missing, roughly chopped off at the clasp.

“Where have you been?” Meghan wondered. But Noodles looked no worse for his travel, jumping down from her arms to bark at the Nob.

“Be still, beast!” Malarkey commanded, and Noodles lay down immediately with his head down.

“How did you do that?” Meghan asked. “Noodles barely listens to me, and I’ve worked with him since he was a puppy.”

“I’ve a way with beasts,” the Nod answered.

The bright sunshine suddenly dimmed and a growing roar approached them. If Meghan had been back in her world, she would have seen a squadron of fighter planes in tight formation circling toward them. But she was in Faerie, and instead of airplanes, it was a group of dragons coming in for a landing.

The dragons flew in staggered formation, their long arrowhead tails close to the snout behind them. Their golden bellies faced the ground, shimmering in the sun. She saw at least twenty of them, their huge segmented wings pulled up to slow their descent. The head dragon roared commands which were repeated down the line, creating an endless stream of sound.

The leader hit the ground running on all four of its legs, slowing to a stop right in front of Meghan and the Nod. The rest of the pack landed behind it in the field, creating a trampled down hole.

“Won’t Mr. Greenleaf get angry about his field?” Meghan asked the Nod.

“No doubt,” Malarkey agreed. “But there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s a dragon rider club. They’re too dangerous to mess with.”

“Dragon riders?” Meghan asked, but then she saw the tiny saddles set in between the spiked ridges on top of the giant creatures. A rope hung down the side, and riders slid down to the ground beside their mounts. Each rider said something in an unknown language, and the huge dragons slid to the ground and lay still.

“Let’s get out of here,” Malarkey said, pulling on the girl’s leg. “It’s never good to have dealings with dragon riders.”

The leader approached them, a slender man wearing a black leather jacket, leather pants, and boots. He took off his leather gloves, and removed his leather helmet. With his pointed ears and bright green eyes, Meghan realized she was meeting her first faery since her arrival.

“Good morning to you, miss,” the faery said with a quick nod. “Visiting on a day pass?”

“Yes, I am,” Meghan said. “Good morning to you also. I’m here on an adventure.”

“Well, no better place than Spring for adventures,” he said, motioning for his companions to join them. “The DOGS welcome you to Faerie.”

“Dogs?” Meghan asked. “You have dogs, too?”

The faeries behind the leader rumbled with laughter. “No, miss. We’re the DOGS- Dragon Owners Group. We’re a dragon club. See?” He turned around to show Meghan the green and gold embroidery on the back of his leather jacket. It showed a dragon twisted around in a circle with a knife in his mouth and a very human-looking skull clutched in its front claws.

“I see,” Meghan said. That was embarrassing. The faeries surrounded her, watching her curiously. They look like they’ve seen as many humans as I have seen faeries. Malarkey folded his arms and stood as tall as he could. Meghan thought about movies she had seen about faeries. Unlike the movie faeries, these beings were at least six feet tall, and no visible wings. Despite the leader’s polite words, their presence exuded menace. She had the uncomfortable feeling of being in a dark alley with a street gang.

“We were headed down to the house for tea,” Malarkey said firmly. He reached for Meghan’s hand and started leading her to the dirt road between fields. “Good bye, riders.”

The leader took Meghan’s other hand, and stopped them. He frowned at Meghan’s new acquaintance. “Now wait a moment, Nob. I can see that the young lady wants to ride a dragon. Don’t you, miss?”

Meghan looked into those green eyes, and felt like they pierced the secret longings of her heart. How exciting would it be to ride a dragon! “But sir, I don’t know you. Would it be safe?”

The riders roared with laughter. “Of course not!” the leader said, as he started walking her over to the dragons. “But it’s exciting! The wind rushing through your hair, the land below you a patchwork quilt of colors!”

“I’ve been on airplanes before,” she said, but she allowed the dragon rider to lead her over to his creature, who turned his long neck to watch her, steam curling out of its nostrils. With its tail wrapped around it like a cat it looked larger than any of the elephants she had seen at the zoo. It’s like one of those dinosaur skeletons, with skin on, come back to life. Noodles, realizing he was in the presence of larger dogs than he could ever imagine, followed his master in submissive silence, but with wild eyes. The dragon paid no more attention to the dog than to a bug crawling on the grass.

“It’s amazing,” she said, wanting to reach out and touch its shiny green scales, but its bright red eyes made her pause.

“You can touch her,” the faery said. “She’s tame enough, especially with me by your side.” He took her hand and placed it on the side of the creature’s neck. It felt cool and slick, like a lizard. Noodle stood at her feet whimpering softly.

“You’re okay, Noodles,” Meghan said, picking up her dog. “Look, it won’t hurt you.”

The other riders came up to their leader. “Should we go, Hardly? We need to get to the forest before nightfall.”

Hardly nodded to his group, and they sprang into action. They replaced their helmets, buttoned up their jackets, put on their gloves, and climbed back up onto their dragons. The leader took another leather helmet out of his saddle bag and offered it to Meghan.

“Come with us,” he said. “My name is Hardly, and I’ll make sure you have a great adventure.”

Meghan looked back at Malarkey, who was shaking his head vigorously. How can I turn down a dragon ride?

            “My name is Meghan. I’ll come with you.” She took the helmet from the faery as Noodles licked her chin. “What about Noodles? Can he ride, too?”

The faery laid his hand on Noodles’ trembling head, and the dog was still. He pulled out a leather harness from his bag and slipped it over Meghan’s head. After fastening it securely around the dog, he smiled at the girl. “He should be fine. Let’s go.”

Meghan slipped on the helmet, pushing her bangs out of the way. She fastened the leather buckle under her chin. Hardly climbed up on the dragon and secured an extra saddle behind his saddle. Then he called down to her.

“Climb up the rope and sit behind me.”

With an apologetic look back at Malarkey, Meghan took hold of the rope and found herself seated on a dragon, taking off into the blue sky of Faerie.

The Cave

sea-cave-of-1000-steps-beach“For once, I’d like to eat something that wasn’t charred black!”

“Why do I always have to cook? If you don’t like what I serve, do it yourself!”

Meghan could hear her parents argue from the other end of the campground. She wondered why they even went camping when all they did was argue, just like at home.

“Come on, Noodles,” she called to her tiny wire-haired dog, who was busy sniffing every deposit in the dog run. Noodles looked up, his black eyes shining, and trotted back over to the entry gate. Meghan clipped on his leash and closed the gate. She walked over to the worn wooden stairs that led down to the beach. After looking in the direction of her parents’ trailer, she sighed and started down the three flights of stairs.

A battered sign announced that dogs were not allowed on the beach, but during the week they’d camped there, the ten-year old had noticed that in the mornings dogs accompanied people on the beach with no consequence. Before the lifeguards set up on their towers, of course.

Camping was supposed to bring families closer together, she thought as she descended the creaking stairs. But the tension that hovered over her parents followed them wherever they went. At least she could get away from it on the beach for a while. At the bottom of the stairs, she jumped down onto the sand which had eroded into a large gap. Noodles jumped down with her and stopped, waiting for her to unleash him.

“Here you go,” she said as she unhooked him. The black and white dog sped away onto the beach, looped around and headed back to her. He would repeat this pattern during their walk, never leaving her sight. Meghan tied back her shoulder length ash hair with a pony tail, slipped off her flip flops, and wallowed through the dry sand to the water line. She started walking down the shoreline on the wet, firm sand.

The crashing waves, hissing foam, and the early morning mist made her forget about her volatile home life. The sky and sea blended together in tones of grey, the horizon a mere smudge in the distance. She took a deep breath, suddenly realizing that she had been holding it. Noodles barked at a sea gull and chased it, the bird waiting for the last possible minute to launch into the sky. Meghan smiled for the first time that day.

Noodles continued his pursuit of sea gulls which led him close to the cliffs that rimmed the beach. A small ground squirrel poked its head out of some dried seaweed, and the dog changed his direction. The squirrel raced for the shelter of the cliffs with Noodles in pursuit. With the small creature almost in reach of his barking jaws, the dog entered the cave.

“Noodles, get out of there!” Meghan cried, fearful that her dog would uncover a snake or something worse. She slipped on her flip flops and followed him into the cave.

Damp coolness made her shiver, in spite of her warm hoodie and jeans. The walls of the cave were smooth from the tide and slanted back far beneath the cliff. Years of pounding waves had carved out a larger space than the entrance indicated. Other than large flat rocks, the cave was empty.

            “Noodles!” she cried. “Noodles, Noodles.” The cave echoed back to her. She looked behind every rock but there was no sign of him.

She sat down on a rock, tears springing to her eyes. She pushed them away, for she would not cry. Her parents’ endless drama had drained her of emotion. Her dog had to be here somewhere. She took a deep breath and looked around.

From her seated position, she could see a large gap under the rock in front of her. It was large enough for a person to crawl through, and definitely large enough for a small dog. She got up and inspected it, discovering familiar paw prints. There’s where he went!

            Thoughts of snakes and rabid squirrels forgotten, she crawled through the hole. Suddenly she fell to soft sand in darkness. Meghan took out her smart phone and turned on the flashlight. This cavern was not as tall as the one above it, but it was wider, and she heard water trickling nearby. Next to her on the sand she could see a dog-sized impression and paw prints going away.

What am I doing? How am I going to get out of here? The flashlight revealed that the hole she fell through was at least ten feet above her. The smooth walls gave no hope of climbing. Sighing, she turned to follow Noodle’s trail. She hoped there was another way out somewhere.

The cave split into several tunnels at one end, but the paw prints led her the right way. Fortunately the tunnel was tall enough for her to walk standing up. The ground was sandy but to her right a trickle of slimy water flowed, draining from somewhere.

“Noodles!” she called. “Noodles, Noodles, Noodles,” the cave echoed. No answering bark. She continued to follow his trail. Her flashlight gave her glimpses of green mossy dripping walls, but thankfully no large bugs. Her heart pounded anyway with the thought that there had to be other creatures down here.

After what seemed an eternity of listening to her own breath and walking in the dark, she saw a light ahead. Afraid to hope, she trudged toward it. The tunnel made a dog leg right turn, which was where the light originated. When she made the bend, another large cavern was revealed, circular with natural ledges sticking out like balconies. The light came from a large hole in the roof, shining down in a beam to the ground.

A joyful bark announced the wet dog circling her ankles, and Meghan scooped him up, pressing his matted down fur to her face. “Noodles, Noodles,” was all she could say. “Noodles, Noodles, Noodles, Noodles,” the cavern agreed.

Now that she had found her dog, Meghan turned her thoughts toward getting back up on top of the ground. She walked around the edges of the cavern, but she found no other tunnels. Then she walked into the center of the room to stand in the beam of light. She squinted as she looked up to the ceiling. The hole was large enough for her to get out, if she could just find a way up to it.

Suddenly, she heard a rumbling from the side of the room she faced. Looking down, she could see the edges of a dull metal plate under the sand she was standing on. She bent down and wiped away the sand. It was a dark metallic disk with no markings on it. It looked almost as ancient as the cave. The sound intensified as the huge rock that she had assumed was part of the wall slid aside. With Noodles in her arms, she entered the new room.

Another hole in the ceiling filled the room with light, and Meghan couldn’t believe what it revealed. The surrounding walls were covered with tapestries in bright red, green, and blue. Their patterns were of trees, flowers, and fruit. The room was filled with antique wooden furniture, including chairs, tables, and small sofas. Then she realized that she and Noodles were not alone.

“Welcome to the Carlsbad Portal, young miss,” announced a thin, dark-haired man dressed in dark green tunic and pants. “Where might you be traveling today?”

“What? What are you talking about?” Meghan asked, with her arms clenched around her dog.

“This is part of the Faerie Portal System, miss,” he explained patiently. “From this station, you can visit Summer or Spring Courts. Which would be your destination?”

Meghan stared at the man, suddenly noticing his bright green eyes and slender, pointed ears. “Are you an elf, like in that hobbit movie?” She looked behind her. “Where are the cameras and the director? You’re shooting a movie, right?”

The man cocked his head to one side, and looked at her carefully. “I understand. You’re not fae. Not to worry, miss. I have visas here. You can visit on a day pass.” He went over to a small desk, and took some paperwork and pen out of a drawer. “All you have to do is fill in your true name and your family homeland, and you can be on your way. The weather at the Spring Court is lovely today.”

Realizing that he was serious, Meghan stood there speechless.

“The price for a day pass is only a song. We’re running a special this month,” the man continued, motioning for her to join him at the desk.

“A song? What do you mean?” she said, her curiosity overruling her unbelief. She set Noodles on the ground and firmly clipped on his leash. Then she walked to over to see the paperwork.

“Any song will do, miss,” the man explained, “but lullabies are preferred. Come, fill this in, then you can sing, and you’ll be off.”

Meghan looked at the paper on the desk. It was a printed ticket titled “Day Pass, Mortal Use Only,” and had a rather large paragraph of fine print. At the bottom was a blank line for her name and her hometown. Convinced now that somewhere in the tunnel she had hit her head and blacked out, and this was her dream, she decided to go along with it. She signed her name and Riverside and handed the pen back to the man.

“You want me to sing now?” she asked. The man nodded, and took her paperwork. He stamped it and handed it to her.

“Okay, here I go,” she said. She sang the only lullaby she knew, even though as she grew older she understood it had a grim ending:

Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top.

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will fall baby, cradle and all.

“Very good, miss, that will do nicely,” the man said. “Now step into the portal. Don’t lose your ticket. You’ll need it to get back.” He gestured toward a metal disk directly below the skylight.

Meghan took another look around the strange room. Is this real? Am I really traveling through a portal into Faerie? Her worried parents’ faces flashed through her mind, but she shook her head. They were too busy fighting to even notice that she would be gone.

Even if this is not real, only a dream in my head, why shouldn’t I go on an adventure?

“Thank you, sir.” she said with a nod, and she stepped onto the disk. The bright light blinded her as the room around her disappeared.

 

The College of the Crones Chp 2

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Chapter Two Part One- Masquerade Ball

Although there were nightly parties at the prince’s castle, everyone’s favorite event was the harvest festival masquerade ball.  All the landowners and townspeople came dressed in elaborate and often ridiculous costumes.  The prince savored a sip of Eldertown’s best red wine, as he pictured the party guests. For most of my subjects the foolish apparel is an improvement. Except for the ladies, of course. At least the ladies, thanks to his beauty potion, did not offend his sensibilities. He downed the rest of his goblet.

All the preparations were complete for the masquerade ball. But of course all is ready. I will not tolerate anything less than perfect. Hours of labor had produced a glossy shine on the tile floors. The entire castle had been decked with garlands of ivy and blood red roses. From the kitchen came a whirlwind of noise and aromas, escalating as the hour of the guests’ arrival approached. The band was tuning their instruments. Court ladies reclined in their dressing rooms, allowing their servants and handmaidens to add last minute details to their costumes. All the lanterns and chandeliers had been lit. The castle glistened like a giant star upon the hill. Since it was the end of the harvest season and winter was approaching, it was already quite dark and crispy cool. It was the perfect night for a ball.

Away from the clatter of preparation, the prince relaxed in his sitting room, his chair facing a crackling fire in a massive stone fireplace. The fireplaces were always roaring in his private rooms. All the changing seasons in this world are quite unsettling. He was always layered in fine wool and furs after the leaves began to turn fiery orange and red. His shivering wouldn’t cease until springtime warmed his face once more.

The gold trimmed mirror over the mantle was tipped to catch his reflection. He couldn’t help noticing the way his wavy black hair caught the glint of the firelight, and how his neatly trimmed beard accented his piercing green eyes and prominent nose. No man in this world can captivate hearts the way I can.

            Still, he was too thin, despite his feasting, and not as tall as he would have liked. His narrow pointed ears he kept hidden under his hair. He didn’t need to draw attention to the few differences between mortals and faeries. His people thought his never-ending youth was due to another potion that he kept for himself. If they discovered I was a faerie, they wouldn’t be so eager to trust me.

College of the Crones- cont.

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Chapter One- The Funeral- Part 3

But the prince was overwhelmingly handsome, charming in speech, and strong in will, and none of the women who joined his court could resist him. Mikel had shielded her, his importance as a blacksmith affording him a few privileges.  But now she was exposed, husbandless. Their ruler could take her as an act of charity, sparing her destruction.

Some of the wives came forward to offer their condolences and admire her fine mourning clothes. Mikel would have loved this dress. It contrasts perfectly with my pale skin and pink lips. Her neighbor Madelin approached her with hugs and kisses, wishing her good fortune in seeking her next mate. Adel, already a veteran of six marriages, tried to introduce her to a potential suitor, one of her distant relatives. How can they be so cold? My dearest friend and husband is suddenly gone, and they choose this moment, his memorial, to begin the matchmaking. 

Mikel was Erin’s first husband. Will I ever bond with another mate only to lose him as well? He carried my heart away with him that night. I have nothing left for another.  In a culture where arranged marriages and third and fourth husbands were the norm, it seemed love was a luxury few women enjoyed. But for Erin, life would forever be divided into two parts: life with Mikel and life without him. Her loss was a fortress surrounding her, separating her from the kindness of others. She refused to be comforted, preferring instead to remain captive in sorrow.

After crone singers opened with a solemn song, the mayor began the memorial, saying many fine things about her husband. He praised their blacksmith’s every accomplishment, from the shoeing of the prince’s famous steeds to the construction of the elegant village clock. After he was finished, the prince’s representative delivered a stirring eulogy praising the marvelous weapons Mikel had forged. Erin’s step-father and sister sat dabbing their eyes and sniffing. Her mother’s striking features were dry, her pale green eyes narrowed slightly as her gaze fell on her eldest daughter. Erin sat next to but far apart from them, trying not to get caught up in their grief, having too much of it herself to take on more.

Next was Old Tong, who shared his memories of training Mikel as his apprentice. Old Tong had been a precise craftsman in his day, concerned with every detail, from heating the forge to shaping a nail. This eye for detail stamped into young Mikel as well, as the elder blacksmith spent many hours insisting that they adopt standards of excellence. “Hot forge, cool head, steady hand, stout heart,” he’d always said. Mikel was the finest student he had ever trained.

Erin listened to her husband’s teacher, brimming with pride.  But her face and body betrayed no emotion at all. She knew if she allowed any feelings to show she would lose all control. It was hard enough to keep the knives quiet in her heart without allowing tears to seep through. She had not cried since she was a young girl. Crying made her eyes look puffy. She kept her eyes on her lace gloves. They seemed to need constant adjustment.

After all the words were shared, songs sung, tears wept, and family members hugged, the crones took the children home to bed while the rest headed over to the pub. After assuring her sister that she would soon join them, Erin allowed herself to relax in the empty room. As difficult as it was to attend her husband’s memorial, somehow some of the crushing weight was gone.

 

 

College of the Crones-cont.

 

tonic

Chapter One- The Funeral- Part 2

Even though his body was never found, Mikel was declared dead, in accordance with the law in Beautiful. Because of her husband’s great service to their village, the mayor wanted to make sure the blacksmith had a proper memorial. It would also serve as the public declaration that Erin’s period of mourning was over and the time for courting had begun.

Every morning she checked her face in the mirror for wrinkles. Although she had celebrated only eighteen birthdays, she had reason to worry. The small brown bottle was empty on her dressing table, reminding her that time was running out for her beauty.

The tonic.

Erin remembered the first time she saw the small brown bottle sitting on her mother’s dressing table, right next to a silver hand mirror. She had picked it up and tried to pry out the cork when her mother entered the bedchamber and quickly rescued it from her three–year-old hands.

“No! Bad girl!” she had cried in panic. “Don’t play with Mother’s things!” Her mother was wide-eyed and flushed of cheek, still beautiful but also frightening enough to make Erin cry. She was too young to understand the bottle’s importance. Only years later, when she was sent to finishing school, did she realize the tonic’s value.

Her training told her she needed to remarry so that she could maintain access to the tonic. The alterative, turning into a hunched over, shriveled up crone was unthinkable. The only cure was the prince’s tonic, which he was willing to sell to husbands at a high price. But Erin knew that a new husband and beauty tonic that came with him would never cover the ugly pain in her heart.

Was it the thought of marrying someone else, or was it the prince who frightened her? She remembered his eyes measuring her every time they attended the prince’s festivities. The prince presided over every birthday and ball and when giving his blessing, if he was taken with the presumed bride, it was his right–and one he exercised from time to time–to take the woman for himself. Their husbands could not reclaim them, but instead must choose a replacement wife.

The prince could command the hand of any woman he chose, even one with a family. If he took a woman with children, she wouldn’t see her children again until they were wives themselves, visiting the castle for parties. To be at the whim of the prince was part of the price the citizens paid for the tonic.

Some were more willing than others.

College of the Crones- revised

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Chapter One- Funeral Part 1

Erin looked over her shoulder, shivering at the icy cloud of death surrounding the somber villagers as they silently filed into the council chamber. She smoothed down her long black dress elegantly trimmed with black crocheted lace and pearl buttons. Her ageless face was hidden behind a veil that cascaded over the brim of a black feather-trimmed hat. She adjusted the hat so that it sat correctly on top of her dark braided hair.  Then she pressed her dress smartly down over her knees and crossed her hands in her lap to ensure no one could see them shaking.

I can’t believe I’m here. She closed her eyes with a sigh, and then opened them expecting to see her husband enter the room, rushing over to comfort her. I can’t believe he’s really gone. When Mikel had first disappeared, she clung to the hope that he would be found somewhere in the hills, injured but still alive. She left early that night from the prince’s ball, with some of their friends. Mikel told her he needed to finish up some business at the castle and would return the next day. He had kissed her hastily, neither imagining this would be their last kiss.

But it was their last kiss, as well as their last embrace, last glance, last smile together. Even now she dared not gaze at his face in her memories. The sharp knives of loss waited in ambush. Instead she took a deep breath and smoothed her dress again. She must remain poised and beautiful, despite her grief. After a few moments, her discipline failed, and her mind returned to that day.

Frantically she had appealed to the prince concerning her husband. The prince and his agents swore they sent Mikel home the next morning on one of the royal stable’s finest horses, but the animal returned to the castle riderless that evening. In response to Erin’s plea, their ruler had sent out his best trackers to scour the surrounding countryside.

No trace of her husband was ever found.

Six months later, she realized that her identity had disappeared on that horse as well. After a childhood spent learning how to become “Mikel the blacksmith’s beautiful wife,” she wasn’t sure who she was supposed to be now. Her husband was different from most of the men in Beautiful. He truly loved her for who she was, regardless of her beauty. Memories of him forced their way to the front of her mind: dancing at her sixteenth birthday ball, riding away in their wedding carriage a few months later, cuddling together by the fire, whispering dreams to each other… The searing pain stabbed her without mercy. Without Mikel, she was a delicate crystal goblet after a party. Stunning but empty.

 

 

Plain Old Lucy- Scene Five

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Back at O’Connell’s Pub in New York. The buyers are at the bar.

CANDY

Here we are, one month later. Lucy, I’m so glad you changed your mind about coming here. Of course, if you want to go somewhere else, we can. But this place is fabulous!

LUCY

It’s okay, guys. You don’t always have to choose the place I want to go to. There’s just something about it. It’s old and a little creepy.

SUSIE

Creepy or not, this pub has been good luck for you, girl. Ever since we came here  last month, your business has been through the roof! Not to mention all your orders come in on time. You even designed 2 new styles of jeans that were approved with only one fitting! You’re golden now.

CANDY

All my vendor friends are talking about you, Lucy. All the men want to take you out and all the women want to look like you.

LUCY

Thanks, guys, but we’re all a team. And I can’t really say I’ve had good luck today. When I called the office, Sean didn’t answer. It isn’t like him to be out of the office when we are all in New York.

DAVID

(To Lucy) Cheer up, Lucy. I know you’re used to working with that boy, but you’re going to get a real executive assistant when we get back. You’ll need one. (To their group)Now that we’re all here, I want to make an announcement. Our business at Lucky 17 has grown considerably this past year. We’ve opened 10 new stores on the west coast. I’m going to need some help with those stores. Starting now, Lucy will be my lead buyer and Junior Vice President of Lucky 17.

LUCY

Wow! David, I don’t know even know how to thank you. Didn’t see that coming. Umm, I need to speak with you, privately. You may have to rethink your decision.

 

DAVID

You’re scaring me! Did Next to the Beach call you in for an interview? I’ll double whatever they’re offering you. But I’d love to talk to you privately. I have another proposal for you.

Just then, Mr. Green enters the bar. He sits down at the booth. The bartender brings him a beer.

LUCY

(looking determined, to David) I’ve to speak with someone first.

She walks over to Mr. Green.

LUCY

I told you already. You can take the glamour back. I don’t need your beauty! I should have listened to my assistant a long time ago. Now I only have one year left. If that’s all I have, I want to make the most of it. Even without the glamour.

MR. GREEN

Well, lassie, that’s why I’m here. I’ve accepted your alternate form of payment, and I’m willing to take back your glamour.

LUCY

Really? I don’t have to give you my life?

  1. GREEN

Not any more.  Come sit with me while I undo the magic.

Lucy sits down at the booth. Mr. Green reaches over to the top of her head and yanks an invisible sheet off her.

LUCY

Thank you so much, Mr. Green. Even though the glamour made everyone notice me, I still knew it was fake. Susie and Candy don’t really respect me. David only spent time with me because of the enchantment. I admit it was fun for a while. Now that I only have a short time left, I want to find someone who likes the real me, even if I am plain.

MR. GREEN

(Chuckling) Humans! Think they see everything and they’re so blind! Pity you did not see him while he worked by your side. It’s hard to believe that your faery friend would stand up for a human. He must have cared deeply for you.

LUCY

(Shocked) It was Sean who paid for me

MR. GREEN

Oh, he paid all right. He volunteered to pay your debt with 100 years of service, effective immediately. The way he looked when he realized he was giving up being with you for the last year of your life. Such sacrifice for a faery? Unheard of, at least in the past century. Makes the deal even sweeter.

LUCY

(Almost to herself) He took my place?

MR, GREEN

Well, miss, I must be going. Fare thee well.

Lucy walks over to the bar. She’s still in shock. Everyone ignores her. Her phone rings, and she picks it up.

LUCY

Hello? Yes, this is Lucy Mason. (She listens) What do you mean there’s been an error in processing my lab work? (She listens) Of all the incompetence! (Listens) Of course I’m relieved. Wouldn’t you be? (She hangs up)

(To David) David, the doctor’s office called. There was a mix-up with my blood samples! I’m not sick, just a vitamin deficiency! I’m going to live!

DAVID

(Ignoring her) Candy, let’s toast to your great business! One of these days, I’m going to promote you to lead buyer. (Finally realizing Lucy is talking to him)

Lucy, what did you need?

LUCY

Never mind. (To herself) It was all fake. Oh well, everything is back to normal.

(To herself and audience) I can’t believe you did it, Sean. How could I not see you, listening to me and caring about me- just the way I really was. One hundred years is a very expensive price to pay. (She pauses.) But I think I can do it now. It’s the only way to live a real life. From now on, I’ll be myself, plain old Lucy.

Plain Old Lucy- Scene Four

nc-food-and-beverage-pub

Back in the buying offices one week after the New York trip. Susie, Candy, and David are on their phones. Sean is inputting orders on his computer.

Lucy walks in. She looks upset.

LUCY

(Putting his call on hold immediately) Lucy, already back from your doctor appointment? Sean’s got your orders under control. Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? After your successful week in New York, you probably need to relax.

LUCY

(To herself) Leave early, coming  out of David’s mouth? This whole thing is getting scary. (To David) Thanks, David. I just have to take care of few things. After that, maybe I’ll leave early.

CANDY

(Looking over the partition.) Hi, Lucy! That sweater you’re wearing is fabulous! Did you get it in New York?

LUCY

(Listlessly) It’s a sample they gave me at Hot Jeans.

SUSIE

Hot Jeans giving away their samples? That’s a first. You’ve excellent taste! I didn’t see that style when I was there. Can I write down the style number and call Anna about it?

LUCY

(With a sigh) Sure, Susie. (She goes over to Susie’s cubicle, and Susie looks inside her back neckline.)

Then Lucy sits down in her cubicle. She looks overwhelmed. Slowly she turns on her computer and takes a few papers out of a tray on her desk.

SEAN

(Looking up from his computer, he sees her distress, and turns his chair toward her) What happened?

LUCY

(Trying not to cry) Sean, I don’t know what I’m going to do. How could this be happening now- right when my life is finally going great!

SEAN

(Goes over and gives her a hug) You were fine yesterday- what happened at your doctor appointment?

LUCY

I was just feeling tired. I thought all the attention I was getting was wearing me down, and I caught a bug or something.

SEAN

A lot of attention! You’re the new superstar! Ever since your last New York trip, you and David have been working together nonstop. For a whole week, everyone in the office is following you around like you’re the Queen of England. There is something different about you. What is this all about?

LUCY

It’s so strange that it doesn’t affect you. You’re still my best friend. It’s funny. When they started fawning all over me in the office, I was embarrassed to tell you the reason why. But now it’s too late, too late even for shame.

SEAN

Lucy, what do you mean about “too late?” Tell me what happened in New York. You know you can tell me anything.

LUCY

I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him. Something about him was creepy, but he was so polite, and somehow knew a lot about me. This is really Mr. Green’s fault.

SEAN

(Suspiciously) Mr. Green- what did he look like?

LUCY

It’s funny- I’m usually so good with faces, but I can’t remember. I know he had a black hat, and wore a dark green wool coat. He saw me at O’Connell’s. He called me over to his table, and told me he could get me noticed by everyone. Even David.  I never told anyone my feelings for David.

SEAN

Oh no. Lucy, tell me you didn’t make a deal with this rascal!

LUCY

He seemed like he really cared about my situation. He didn’t even want my money.

SEAN

(Disgusted) Of course he didn’t want your money.

LUCY

How did you know? Do you know this Mr. Green?

SEAN

I know enough to know that “Green” is not his true name! Always meddling with mortals. Can’t mind his own business. Running around stirring up mischief.

LUCY

Sean- what are you talking about?

SEAN

Lucy, I’ve worked by your side for four years. I came here to have a normal life. I would never hurt you.  But making deals with our kind is highly dangerous. Tell me you didn’t promise him anything.

LUCY

(Standing up and moving away from him) What “kind” Sean? I don’t understand.

SEAN

(Sighs) Well, we’re not supposed to talk about it. We walk around in the human world every day, blending in. But there are other kinds of beings than just humans, Lucy. My kind, my kindred, humans call them faeries.

LUCY

Seriously? I’ve unknowingly worked next to a faery for years without noticing it? If this is a prank, Sean, I am not amused.

SEAN

Please, Lucy, let it be our secret. I just wanted you to know that I understand what you’re dealing with. It sounds like he sold you a glamour. I smelled magic, but there’s always residual magic in New York, so I just thought it rubbed off on you when you were there.

(He takes Lucy by the shoulders and looks into her eyes) What did you promise Mr. Green?

LUCY

(Dazed and fighting back tears) That’s the problem, Sean. I promised him one year of my life in exchange for glamour. I thought at the time, “What’s one year out of my whole life?”

(She sits back down in her chair and starts to chuckle to herself) It’s a joke really, a horrible terrible joke.

(She looks up at Sean) When I went to the doctor this morning, they ran some tests, and then the doctor pulled me immediately into his private office. I’ve got some rare blood disease, so rare there’s not even a name for it yet.

SEAN

(Reaches over to hug her) Lucy, I’m so sorry. This is what I dread the most about having human friends.

LUCY

The doctor thinks I only have one year left at the most. There is no treatment for it. Will Mr. Green really take away the last year I have?

SEAN

There are certain rules in my world, and they’re never broken. Mr. Green will collect on your debt to him.

(David walks by Lucy’s cubicle)

DAVID

Lucy, are you still here? Please go home. You look exhausted.

LUCY

(Wiping her face quickly) I’m leaving in a few minutes. Thanks for the time, David.

 (Lucy’s cell phone rings. She answers it.)

LUCY

Hello. (She listens.) Mr. Green, how did you get this number? (She listens) I see. But things have changed. You need to take your glamour back. (She listens.) You didn’t say anything about “no returns.” I’ve had some horrible news. (She listens.) How did you know? Well, I don’t even want to know the answer to that. (She listens.) I’m not giving you my last year, do you hear me? It’s my last year- it belongs to me! (She hangs up and starts crying.)

SEAN

(Looking serious and determined) Lucy, calm down. I want you to listen to me. You don’t deserve this. I’ll fix this. Trust me, okay?

LUCY

What can you do? He said the deal was unbreakable.

SEAN

He doesn’t know you have a faery friend. Our rules may be unbreakable, but there is always a way for a faery to bend them backwards.

(Fade to black)

Plain Old Lucy- A Modern Faery Tale

nc-food-and-beverage-pub  Here is the first scene from my one act play about deals with faeries:

Scene 1

Setting: the buying offices of Lucky 17. Grey cubicles, open side to the audience, separate the buyers from each other, but when they stand up, they can see each other. When the characters are talking to each other, they are standing up, and when they are talking to themselves and the audience they sit down. Inside the cubicles, there are desks, chairs, and computers. Each cubicle also has a rolling rack with samples of clothing on it, except Candy, who has purses and belts hanging on hers.

The scene opens with all the buyers in place, all on their phones. From stage right to stage left you have Candy, Susie, Lucy and Sean, and then David. David’s desk is fancier than the others.

SUSIE

(On the phone) I don’t care if there was a labor uprising, the boat sunk in the harbor, and there was no paperwork at the dock for customs! Those tees better be in my warehouse by tomorrow morning at 7 am or the entire three orders are cancelled! (She listens for a reply) And stop that whimpering! I’m running a business, not a support group! (She slams down the phone)

CANDY

(On the phone) You’re so funny, Angie! I want to place a reorder on those earrings. I sold them out in the first week. Of course, that’s not surprising- I told you they would be hot! (She listens) You can ship them today? That’s so cool! (She listens) Of course I’d LOVE to see that new musical when we are in New York this Friday. I thought no one could get tickets. (She listens) Front row center- how awesome! See you Friday then, bye bye honey. (She hangs up, jumps up and does a happy dance)

(To Susie, standing up looking over the cubicle) Guess what, Susie?

SUSIE

(Standing up to look over the cubicle, with a sigh) What now, Candy? You dyed your poodle purple again?

CANDY

No, it’s better than that! Angie from Angie’s Things is taking me to see that new musical             when we’re in New York this week! Isn’t that crazy?

SUSIE

Personally, anyone who would choose to associate with you in public would have to be crazy.

CANDY

You’re just a crabby kitty because your catalog order is late.

SUSIE

It’s not my fault! Those importers we use are idiots! They can’t even keep their workers under control for one important order. I’m never buying anything from them again.

LUCY

(Standing up to join their conversation) Maybe you should check into the source I found   for jeans. I know they have a knit line that seems well priced.

(They totally ignore her and go back to work)

CANDY

Hey Susie, maybe you should check out the source Lucy found for jeans. They also have   a knit line that looks cute and well-priced.

LUCY

(Sits down in frustration) That’s what I just said. They never listen to me.

SEAN

Ignore them, Lucy. You don’t need to do their work for them.

LUCY

I know, but I’ve worked here for 5 years, longer than Candy, and I know things! My jeans business has been decent. I just wish someone would notice me.

SEAN

By someone, you really mean David.

LUCY

 Shhh! Sean, not too loud. His desk is right over there. Of course, I’d love to have a           real conversation with our boss, who wouldn’t?

(David walks in, papers in hand, purposely.)

DAVID

Attention everyone! Here are your plane tickets and hotel confirmations for New York. Tuesday morning we’re meeting at the fashion office at 8 am sharp, no excuses. Make sure you bring your fall plans and assortments. (He passes out papers to each of the buyers.) Also, there is a mandatory meeting at O’Connell’s Pub at 6 pm.

CANDY

What fun! But what if I already have plans for dinner?

DAVID

I know you have a very busy social life, Candy, but our team needs some bonding time. After 8 you’re free to do as you wish.

SUSIE

 I’m not sure I want to be bonded to anyone on this team.

CANDY

Don’t be a party pooper! It sounds like fun. Lisa from Tinkles told me that O’Connell’s is an “in”place right now. An old-fashioned tavern with gourmet food, all the right people will be there.

LUCY

 It will be great to hang out with each other outside of work.

(They all ignore her.)

CANDY

 It will be great to hang out with you guys outside of work!

DAVID

That’s the spirit, Candy! You’re our Lucky 17 cheerleader!

SUSIE

(sarcastically) Go team go!

 

LUCY

(sitting down and talking only to Sean) Everything I say- someone else gets the credit for it!

SEAN

 Now, now Lucy- you’re getting upset over nothing.

LUCY

What about the pencil jeans from last year’s Back to School catalog? I found them first,   but Susie brought in the sample to the catalog meeting. Everyone was so excited that David demanded that I order 5000 pairs. They sold out to the last pair at regular price!

SEAN

Well, that was your idea first, but it all worked out, didn’t it?

LUCY

And what about the corduroy jeans for the Christmas catalog? I wanted to shoot the pink color for the cover. I tried to convince everyone but no one listened. Then Candy showed her pink knit scarf at the Monday meeting, and David asked for the pink corduroys to shoot with her scarf.

SEAN

But those are only isolated incidents. Come on, Lucy. You are a talented buyer. No one can take that away from you. If people don’t listen to you, they just don’t know what they are missing.

LUCY

They don’t listen to me because I don’t stand out, that’s all. I am plain and boring. My ugliness prevents everyone from noticing me.

SEAN

If you were really that hideous, I think they would notice. You’re beautiful, in your own unique way. They just don’t take time to really see you.

LUCY

 I’m not even remarkably ugly! I wish I was as glamorous as Candy, and or as assertive as Susie- then David would notice me!

SEAN

I’d be careful what you wish for, my friend. Wishes have an awful way of coming             true.

(Black out)

Rain in the Mirror (A College of the Crones short story)

Boom! Unexpected thunder caused Yvette to jump, resulting in a black line down her cheek.

“Sunne, you’ve ruined my makeup!” she shouted at her crone servant who had been carefully outlining her eyes with a black stick.

“So sorry, my lady, but you moved,” the hunched over, wrinkled old woman insisted as she carefully sponged off the errant line. A flash of lightning blinded them both for a moment.

“I hate thunder storms,” Yvette complained for the tenth time that day. She sighed and fidgeted with her corset. Her reflection in the large mirror on the wall behind her dressing table showed a beautiful young woman being tended by an ugly old woman. In the land of Beautiful, unmarried women over the age of eighteen transformed into hideous crones. But Alfred rescued me from that fate. Her marriage was prerequisite to buying the tonic. But the beauty she saw reflected in her face became marred on days such as this one.

Rain made her life impossible. Her sleek, waist length hair became fuzzy and resistant to the straightening iron. Her face powder clotted into lumps, and her eyeliner refused to dry properly. And that was just getting dressed! Getting into her carriage was an ordeal. Carpets had to be laid from her doorstep to the carriage. Two crone servants had to carry a canopy held up with rods to cover her as she walked outside. One servant walked behind her, lifting up Yvette’s skirts so they didn’t brush against the wet steps. When they finally arrived at the prince’s castle, the canopy came out again as she carefully walked down the carpets provided by the prince’s staff. Dressing rooms just inside the castle provided a final chance to check makeup and hair. A great deal of trouble, even for the prince’s parties.

            “You are finished, my lady,” the crone announced as she stepped back to admire her work. Even though the beauty tonic changed Yvette’s appearance, most of the wives felt that makeup and hair styling were still required. The wife twirled around in her dress, a pale pink blossom of lace and satin. She checked to make sure her golden combs holding back her perfectly straight hair were tight enough. She inspected the tiny pink flowers fastened into the braids using her mirror. Upon her long neck were displayed a set of perfectly matched pearls. Her mouth smirked back at her as she remembered her husband’s uncomfortableness when she received the necklace as a gift from the prince. With a nod to herself, she smoothed down her full skirt and reached for the lace gloves offered to her by her crone servant.

“Not a moment to spare,” Yvette grumbled as she swished out of the room. Sunne replaced the lids on the makeup jars and put them away in the jewel encrusted box on the dressing table. Her stiff curled fingers made the task more difficult than it should. Carefully, she hung the other dresses that had been rejected by her mistress back into the large closet that adjoined the dressing room. Then she walked to the large ceiling to floor window, opening one shutter to glance out at the storm.

Swirling in the wind, the trees surrounding the manor house seemed to hold their vivid green leaves up to gather the drops. The rose garden below her washed their red, yellow, and orange heads in the shower. Gleaming white, the crumbled stone driveway looked like snow. “The rain renews the earth,” she said out loud to no one. No one listened to a crone.

Another grumble of thunder hailed her from the distance. She counted to ten before the answering flash of lightning. The storm was almost past them now. Even though her life was dedicated to service, her mistress sometimes irked her with her petulance. Rain brings beauty. Not the false beauty provided by the tonic, but the real beauty of life. The God Who Really Sees gives rain freely to those who thirst.

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