The Lost Fairy

Steve knew Christ­mas wouldn’t be the same with­out her . . .

The People's Friend - - News - by Em Barnard

OH, no. Not now. Please.” Candy’s heart sank as her car jud­dered to a halt in the for­est. She had been to the garage with it twice, had parts re­placed and re­paired, but still it was let­ting her down.

The conifers stood tall and reg­i­men­tal ei­ther side of the road, and in the dark­ness of the De­cem­ber evening she could al­most feel them creep­ing in on her. Then the first spits of rain pep­pered her wind­screen, draw­ing her eyes to the twin­kle of vil­lage lights round the bend of the road.

Candy grabbed her mo­bile and phoned her brother.

“Kev, the car’s died on me again. Kev, you’re break­ing up. Kev?” She cursed the lack of a sig­nal as she hung up.

Ear­lier that day, he’d bus­tled into her flat in a panic.

“I need your danc­ing skills. A week in, and one of the fairies has dropped out with flu. You know the rou­tine – it’s one I chore­ographed when we were kids. Here’s her fairy gear. It should fit you.”

He dumped three car­rier bags on her sofa. He was di­rect­ing an orig­i­nal pan­tomime called “The Fairy’s Story” at Whitton Ju­nior School, where he also taught maths.

“Kev, I’ve got a job in­ter­view!”

“Not at seven this evening, surely?”

“In an hour, and I can’t miss it. I’ve been out of work a month now, and the car’s cost­ing me a for­tune as it is.”

She’d worked in the of­fice of a small builder’s firm, play­ing ev­ery role from ac­coun­tant to tele­phon­ist to tea girl. And she had even stayed loyal as they slid into bank­ruptcy.

“Do this for me and I’ll pay your garage bill.”

The un­ex­pected of­fer had per­suaded her to agree.

The spit­ting rain sud­denly rapped on her wind­screen with force.

Those lights were look­ing very invit­ing. It might even be Whitton vil­lage, though she couldn’t be sure.

She’d come a dif­fer­ent way for his first night, and this wasn’t an area she knew very well.

Candy took a breath, tugged the hood of her white padded coat over her head, grabbed her bag and opened the door to the hiss­ing down­pour.

Snatch­ing the bags from the back seat, she locked the car and scut­tled to­wards the lights, grip­ping the hood over her head.

In his bed­room, tap­ping on his lap­top, Steve heard the girls gig­gling. The creaky stairs in the cot­tage were a give­away to any­one try­ing to creep up or down.

He rubbed his hand across his brow, fear­ful for the on­com­ing fes­tive sea­son. He looked at the photo of his wife on the desk. This would be their first Christ­mas with­out Sally.

Seven-year-old Ava and her younger sis­ter, Mae, had raced in from school to­day.

They’d halted in awe at the tree Steve had brought in, which stood in a red, tin­sel-cov­ered con­tainer in the lounge.

They’d clam­oured to dec­o­rate it there and then, tea for­got­ten.

He’d given in to them, know­ing Sally would have.

Once it sparkled with dec­o­ra­tions and fairy lights, they ate toast and marsh­mal­lows cooked over the log fire.

He then tucked them in their beds to watch “Frozen” be­fore go­ing to his own room to work on the ac­counts.

But his mind wouldn’t hold the fig­ures.

The fancy-dress shop in town had been Sally’s all along – a dream she hoped the girls would take on when they grew up.

Steve was try­ing to hold on to that dream while work­ing as a free­lance jour­nal­ist.

He needed help. Some­one com­pe­tent to work in the shop in­stead of the two part-timers, and do the ac­counts as Sally had done. Where would he find that com­bi­na­tion?

He left the lap­top and went down­stairs, peep­ing into the lounge.

In their match­ing py­ja­mas, the girls were star­ing at the glit­ter­ing tree. The lights re­flected the hap­pi­ness on their faces so strongly that Steve, tak­ing in the scene, swal­lowed his emo­tion and turned away to lean on the hall wall.

“It’s not the same with­out the fairy on top of the tree,” he heard Mae say.

“I told you, Daddy’s lost it,” was Ava’s re­ply. A mo­ment’s si­lence.

“If Mummy was here, she’d know where it is. Do you think if we prayed to Mummy, she might tell Daddy where it is?”

“I have been pray­ing,” Steve said un­der his breath.

Sally had made the fairy for their first Christ­mas.

Last year, when he’d packed the tree dec­o­ra­tions away, he couldn’t find it. But then he spot­ted it on the girls’ bed­room win­dow-sill, and de­cided to re­move it at a later date. But by then couldn’t find it any­where.

Steve was about to step back into the lounge again when the bell trilled.

He opened the door and stared at a bedrag­gled young woman, hunched over in a mud-streaked white coat and clutch­ing car­rier bags.

“Oh, thank good­ness.” Candy said as he beck­oned her in. “It’s chuck­ing it down out there.”

He shut the door.

“Let me help you off with that coat.”

She found that the skirt front of her pink satin dress was in a sim­i­larly mud­died state.

“It’s a long story,” she said, smil­ing.

Her wet hair dripped round the edges of her face and there was a sparkle of rain­drops on her cheeks and eye­lashes.

Re­al­is­ing he was star­ing, Steve blinked.

“Come through.”

“You sure? I’m muddy.” She took her phone from her bag and kicked off her train­ers.

He hus­tled his daugh­ters back from the door­way where they were watch­ing, open-mouthed at this life-sized pink fairy.

“I’ll bank up the fire.” He took the guard away.

“Please don’t go to a lot of trou­ble,” she said, smil­ing at the girls as she moved closer to the fire.

“I just need to phone my brother and get him to col­lect me. I’m play­ing a fairy at the kid­dies’ pan­tomime at the vil­lage hall in Whitton. Stand­ing in for one that has flu. This isn’t Whitton, I sup­pose?”

“No. It’s the next vil­lage on, about six miles.”

“Ah, a de­cent sig­nal! Kev? The car broke down again. Can you col­lect me? I’m at . . .”

Steve gave her the ad­dress and she passed it on.

“He’s com­ing straight away,” she told Steve. “Sorry to be a nui­sance.”

“No prob­lem. I’d drive you, but I can’t leave the girls.”

“Did you fall from heaven and land in a ditch?” Mae asked.

“Some­thing like that. I didn’t see it till I fell in it!”

She held her mud-caked hands to the fire.

“I’ve had prob­lems all day,” she told Steve. “Late for a job in­ter­view, due to the car play­ing up.

“And then, when I tried the dress on, it was too tight and it split, so I sewed my­self into it. Oh, dear, it’s split again.

“Told you.” She shrugged. “It’s just not my day.”

“Let me see if I can im­prove it a bit.

“Ava, take the lady up to the bath­room. You’re wel­come to take a shower.”

“My name’s Candice – Candy for short. Thanks. If I take this dress off I doubt I’d get it on again, but a sponge down will prob­a­bly help.”

“I’ll make you a hot drink.”

“We’ve got a spare cos­tume, Daddy,” Mae said, tug­ging his shirt sleeve.

“We’ve rented them all out, dar­ling.” He turned to Candy. “I run a fancy-dress shop in Ruther­ford.”

“I mean Mummy’s,” Mae ar­gued.

“She’s in heaven,” Steve heard Ava add as she led Candy up­stairs.

“She could have Mummy’s cos­tume,” Mae per­sisted, run­ning after Steve to the kitchen. “I bet that’s why she got Candy to knock on our door.” “Shush, Mae!”

She stood her ground as he filled the ket­tle.

“Mummy said we should al­ways try to please and make peo­ple happy!”

Steve took a mug from the stand. He swal­lowed, see­ing in his mind’s eye Sally talk­ing to her girls in those last weeks.

Her words to him came back, too. To give in to them now and then; to let them have a wish come true.

For if you didn’t give hope, life was a poor old thing. It was bet­ter to give than re­ceive.

He turned to apol­o­gise to Mae, but she’d gone.

While he made the tea, he pic­tured Sally’s fairy cos­tume in a card­board box, high on top of the wardrobe.

On the last shop­ping day be­fore Christ­mas they’d al­ways dressed up in the shop: Sally as a fairy, he as Santa Claus, giv­ing dis­count on the re­main­ing cos­tumes. It was al­ways a suc­cess.

Last year she’d been too ill.

A scream broke through his thoughts. He dashed out of the kitchen and took the stairs two at a time. Candy was in his bed­room, kneel­ing in front of the wardrobe, rock­ing a sniv­el­ling Mae in her arms.

Ava, look­ing guilty, was sur­rep­ti­tiously up­right­ing a chair. The white card­board box with Sally’s fairy out­fit lay on the floor close by.

“She’s fine, no wor­ries.” Candy smiled at Steve. “Up we come.”

She got to her feet and pulled Mae up, too.

Candy ex­cused her­self to fin­ish clean­ing up in the bath­room.

He opened his arms and the girls walked into them. He held them close.

“You could have been se­ri­ously hurt.”

“But I’m not, be­cause Mummy was look­ing after me.”

“Mummy would have let Candy bor­row the dress,” Ava said. “It’s what Christ­mas is all about – giv­ing.”

Steve swal­lowed hard. Candy was Sally’s size. If the girls wanted to give their mum’s dress to Candy, he should be proud of them.

“OK. Let’s take a look at it.”

The girls clus­tered round as he lifted the box on to the bed, his heart thud­ding as he pulled back the lid.

His gasp at what was ly­ing there was over­pow­ered by the girls’ shriek.

Candy dashed in.

“Is ev­ery­thing OK?” “It’s our fairy!” Ava cried. “Mummy found her for us!”

Mae held the doll up to show Candy.

Steve was stunned. The box hadn’t been opened for two years.

“She says you can bor­row her dress. Doesn’t she, Daddy?”

“You’re her size. Please, try it on.” Steve handed Candy the box.

He saw the ap­pre­ci­a­tion in her eyes, that she knew what it meant for him to make this of­fer.

“We’ll wait down­stairs. Come on, girls, let’s put the fairy on the tree.”

Candy hov­ered ner­vously in the door­way to the lounge, un­sure of the re­sponse now she was wear­ing the dress.

It fit­ted per­fectly, the skirt flared with floaty pet­ti­coats.

There was also a pair of pink slip­pers and a wand.

“Doesn’t she look pretty, Daddy?” Mae asked.

The three were look­ing up at the fairy he’d fixed on top of the tree.

“She looks per­fect.” Just then Ava saw Candy and squealed in de­light.

“Ooh, doesn’t she look per­fect, too, Daddy?” The girls ran to her. “I knew it would fit you,” Steve said.

“Of course, it would. Mummy wouldn’t send a fairy that wouldn’t fit!” Ava tut­ted.

Just then the door­bell rang.

“Kev!” Candy cried. Steve ges­tured for him to en­ter.

As Kev stared at her dress, Candy ex­plained.

“Thank you,” Kev said ap­pre­cia­tively. “I’ll pop some tick­ets for the show through your door.”

“I’ll bring them. I have to re­turn the dress.” Candy bent to the girls. “You be good and take care of your daddy.”

Al­ready she was think­ing what lit­tle gifts she could buy them. She hoped Steve liked her enough to let her visit again.

Steve and the girls waved them off.

As he stepped into the lounge, Ava and Mae were say­ing a prayer.

“Thank you, Mummy, for find­ing the pink fairy for us.”

“And will you let Candy come and see us again? We like her a lot.”

Mae opened an eye and beamed up at her dad.

“Happy Christ­mas, Mummy, we love you,” the girls cho­rused.

Steve added his own prayer.

He hadn’t found out much about Candy, but he’d picked up that she’d been to a job in­ter­view. Was it too much to wish for that she might ac­cept his job of­fer? ■

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.