Writing

A small offering to lighten our days: my short story about magic

These days of concern and self-isolation due to COVID-19 are strange times indeed. To lighten the mood, here is a little story I wrote, before the craziness got too crazy, for the March Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction competition.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

‘While these visions did appear…’

From my place in the wings, I can see Ella and her best friend Toni. Ella clutches the edge of the stage curtain, her jaw set with determination to not mess up her scene. Her parents are out there in the audience, their faces probably tight with worry. I know they’d had misgivings about the whole thing.

On stage, Bottom leans back in Titania’s arms. His ass’s head wobbles precariously but stays in place. Titania rests her head on the cushion of soft ferns in the fairy bower.

Ella had gasped when she’d first seen the set, hung with greenery to conjure a park, a woodland meadow. The play cast its magic over everything. In the dressing room, she’d looked into the mirror and squealed.

‘I’m a fairy!’

She wears her yellow gown and fairy wings as if born to them. A long blonde wig completes the disguise, transforming snub nosed Ella into a fairy sprite. Even Rick—the handsomest boy in the school—is convincing as Bottom, the fool with a donkey head. It is all working.

Now here is Ella’s cue. She bounces out on stage beside her fairy friends. Ella has just two words to say, and I know she won’t get them wrong.

 Peaseblossom calls, ‘Ready!’

Moth and Mustardseed chorus, ‘And I!’

Within minutes their scene is done and they all run off stage again, giggling and hugging each other.

Ella spots me in the wings and rushes over, her round face one huge smile. She puts her arms around my waist and hops up and down, her excitement spilling over like a fizzy drink.

‘Shhh!’ I warn, but I can’t help smiling back. ‘You did great, both of you.’ I put my finger to my lips, and they quieten to watch the action until the play’s closing lines.

I give them a gentle nudge.

‘Curtain call! Go and take your bow, girls.’

Ella and Toni hold hands with the other fairies and bow to the audience, beaming. The applause and cheers rise to a crescendo. I blink away tears. When the curtains swish shut for the last time, the whole cast rattle off the stage together, breathless with joy.

I wait with Ella and Toni until their parents find them. Ella’s dad is shaking his head. Oh no… Is he unhappy with Ella being in the play? I’d fought hard for the chance for Ella and Toni to take part. Does he still disapprove?

Before I could speak, he takes my hand.

‘Thank you, Ms Roberts!’ he says. ‘What a wonderful night. It worried me it might be too much for Ella, up there on stage. I know the school hasn’t had special needs students in the play before. How can we thank you?’

I grin. ‘Just look at their faces.’ I turn to Ella and Toni. The girls’ eyes shine as they grin back. They are still fairies, inside and out. ‘That’s thanks enough.’

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