A Faery Wish Parent Story
Beatrice’s hand slammed into the night table.
Her fingers felt around and grabbed at the plastic, bottle shaped object on the surface, knocking it over. She scrabbled around a bit more.
Popped the top. Shook two pills out into a waiting hand. Groped some more with the other hand. Water. A cup of water. She’d left one there the night before. Right?
Yes. There it was, the cool touch of glass.
She swallowed the pills down with a rush of stale tasting liquid, and prayed there weren’t any spiders in the glass. That had happened to her once. Usually she opened her eyes before taking a drink. But this morning? Everything hurt too badly.
Beatrice lay on her back in the darkened room, waiting for the pills to do their work. Slowly, the pounding in her skull receded, as did the nausea that always accompanied it.
“Maybe today will be okay,” she whispered.
Floating near the ceiling, her Faery Wish Parent heard the whisper, and smiled.
This was Elvenia’s first job. She’d been in Wish Parent training for years now, practicing listening to secrets, granting wishes—within reason—and setting boundaries. The last was the hardest thing of all.
“And the most important,” her teachers always said. “Sometimes humans ask for things that will hurt themselves or others too badly to repair. It is our job to guide them toward better choices.”
They made it sound like being a Faery Wish Parent was more like a security guard than a grantee of wishes. And what was the fun in that?
Elvenia wanted to have fun. She wanted Beatrice to have fun, too.
“Just look at the poor woman,” Elvenia said to herself. She watched Beatrice stumble around the tiny, yellow and white kitchen, struggling to make coffee in her stocking feet, drab brown skirt, and badly buttoned cream blouse. Beatrice’s brown hair was a tangle, and her dark eyes still held shadows that spoke of a restless night.
The woman dropped the bag of coffee, spilling fragrant grounds across the white linoleum floor.
Elvenia could have cleaned up the mess in two seconds, but held back, as per instructions, as Beatrice broke out a red broom and dustpan, sweeping the scattered grounds into a heap that went in the metal trash can hulking in the corner of the space.
Coffee finally in the old-fashioned metal percolator, Beatrice padded to the bathroom to fix her hair.
At least, Elvenia hoped so. That bed head was not street ready.
“Maybe today will be okay,” Beatrice had whispered in the dark. Such a paltry, sad, little wish. And one that clearly wasn’t going well so far.
Elvenia had been taught to not judge wishes, either, but sometimes it was hard. And clearly Beatrice needed help even with such a simple wish. Elvenia sighed. Better crowd into the bathroom and help the woman fix that rat’s nest on her head.
It was the least she could do.
Beatrice couldn’t believe it. Her hair actually looked good. She peered into the mirror at her serviceable round face with white skin no one would ever call “creamy” and ordinary brown eyes. Her hair, which she’d gotten cut into what she hoped would be a fashionable bob, but which was usually just some weird combination of frizzy and oily, actually looked the way she’d always hoped it would. The way it had only looked once before, in the few minutes after the hair stylist was done.
Go figure. Maybe the new conditioner she’d bought had delivered on its promises for once in her life.
She hummed as she put her bathroom things away and walked back out to the kitchen. She swore she felt something brush her arm as she walked down the short hallway linking the spaces, but when she looked, nothing was there.
Just the old Magic Happens painted in cursive on a white wood plaque on the wall that she’d bought on a whim at the craft store, back when she thought she might stick with a hobby.
The plaque was askew, and a bit dusty. She straightened it and vowed to give her apartment a good clean sometime this week.
Back in the kitchen, the coffee smelled delicious. The cream was sweet. The combination was perfection. Beatrice sighed.
The toaster dinged.
Her sourdough bread was a perfect, golden brown.
Beatrice smiled into her coffee cup. Maybe today would be okay after all.
Not too shabby. Elvenia was pretty darn pleased with herself as she followed the woman down the sidewalk to catch her bus. With a wave of her wand, she slowed the big bus down one block away, to give Beatrice plenty of time to get to the corner.
Then she nudged a passenger near the back, reminding them it was time to get off.
Beatrice slid into the waiting seat and pulled a book out of her purse.
It was Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. A good book. Elvenia had to read it as part of her schooling. Of course, the book was meant to be an object lesson in how Faerie Wish Parents were not supposed to act. But since the bad acting Seelie beings in the book were Elven royalty, Elvenia didn’t really see what it had to do with the humble likes of her.
Elvenia just liked the story. Apparently, Beatrice did, too, growing so engrossed, Elvenia worried she would miss her stop.
Elvenia busted out her star tipped wand and gently tapped Beatrice on the shoulder. The woman waved her off, as if Elvenia was a fly.
Elvenia tapped harder this time.
“Ouch!” Beatrice exclaimed, looking around.
Oops. Too hard, then.
But then, Beatrice’s eyes widened. She yanked the cord, shoved her book back into her voluminous brown purse, and quickly stood, just as the bus lurched to a stop.
“Thank you!” she crowed to the driver as she stepped lightly down.
Elvenia would like some thanks, too, but that seemed unlikely to happen.
“It is best if they never notice you are there,” her teachers said.
But sometimes? Elvenia thought it would be nice to actually talk to the person she was Wish Parenting. She’d like to cozy up on a sofa in the evening, drinking hot chocolate and swapping stories and dreams with her charge.
Not only humans had dreams. Faery Wish Parents did, too.
But Elvenia was never taught to follow her dreams. She was only supposed to nurture the dreams of others.
Her supervisor greeted her in that way-to-hale-and-friendly manner he affected, to try and lull people into thinking he was just a nice guy. Just their friend who had pizza delivered on Fridays and expected that made up for asking everyone to work late.
“John,” she replied, swiveling her chair around.
John’s elbows perched on the top of her cubicle. He was always leaning, trying to act casual, in his cheap tie, sale-rack white button-down shirts and the khakis that he wore day in, and day out.
He shoved his glasses up on his nose.
She didn’t give him a bright smile. Didn’t ask what he wanted. For once in her life, Beatrice just… waited.
His own smile dimmed a few watts. “Will you be finished with the Stevenson report today? I hate to ask you to work through lunch, but…”
This time, Beatrice did smile. “Did you check your email? The report is already sent.”
“Oh!” He backed off from her cubicle. “Oh! Right. That’s great! Um, thanks.”
John scurried back to his office, which was no larger than the custodian’s closet, slicking his thinning hair back with one hand. As Beatrice watched him go, for the first time ever, she felt a pang of sympathy. John had a boss manipulating him the way he tried to manage Beatrice.
She also suspected he didn’t make much more money than she did, considering he was a supervisor and she still made overtime.
The Stevenson report had come together like a dream this morning. The information she’d been banging her head against for days flowed together seamlessly, and the missing piece had been found buried in an interview snippet they’d done with the client two months ago.
She didn’t know what had changed, but it felt like magic.
“Thank you, whoever heard me this morning,” she whispered, then signed out of her computer, got her purse, and headed out to lunch.
Yeah, today was turning out okay. Maybe even more than okay.
Elvenia heard the whispered thanks and gasped. The woman noticed! This was a banner day! She wondered what else she could do to make the woman happy.
Did Beatrice like her job? She didn’t seem to, but Elvenia had come to understand that many humans didn’t.
What else would make Beatrice happy?
Elvenia thought about it all day, as she smoothed the tiny annoyances out. Beatrice’s lunch place had her favorite curry chicken to top her salad. The bookstore had three novels she’d been wanting. Elvenia had nothing to do with that, but by making sure everything in the lunch place went smoothly, and with a little persuasion of the crosswalk signals, she bought Beatrice the time to stop in.
Beatrice bought all three paperbacks and smiled.
That made Elvenia smile, too.
Today? Elvenia was enjoying her job quite a bit.
As the week progressed, Beatrice only woke up with a headache once, which felt like a miracle. Consequently, she had the brain and energy to complete her tasks at work and still have some juice left at the end of the day.
And her hair was still behaving.
“I feel like I have a Faery Godmother all of a sudden,” she said to her best friend Harvey over early mocktails on Saturday evening. She sipped her sparkling raspberry and mint drink on the patio of their favorite casual restaurant, a plate of appetizers set between them.
Music piped over the speakers, faery lights winked in the pergola above their table, and in the corner, a fountain splashed. They were early, so practically had the place to themselves, which was nice. In half an hour, the patio would be jammed.
“Ooh!” Harvey leaned forward, a glossy hank of dark hair falling in front of his eyes, as he grabbed a deviled egg. “I always wanted one of those. Maybe you could share, and I could finally find Prince Charming.”
Beatrice laughed. “I’d settle for a better job. I mean, my job isn’t terrible, it’s just not very interesting.”
Harvey tapped one of his many rings on his glass, looking off toward the fountain, thinking. “What would you do if you could do anything?”
“I don’t know,” Beatrice began, then felt a tingle between her shoulder blades, and a tickle at her right ear. She scratched her ear, then took another drink, buying herself time to think.
“You can’t say ‘I don’t know,’ when the universe asks you a question, Beatrice!” Elvenia hissed in her ear.
This woman was so used to thinking small, she barely understood what gave her pleasure in life, let alone what she truly wanted.
“Dream a little!” Elvenia said. “Scratch that. Don’t dream a little. Dream big!”
One of the first lessons Elvenia had been taught at Wish Parent school was that big dreams stretched the imagination, so little dreams could take root and flourish. Some people needed so much coaxing, little dreams were where they started, but others, like Beatrice? Elvenia just knew—from the cases of unopened colored pencils, scrap books, pastels, and washi tape shoved into the closet of her spare bedroom—that Beatrice had wonderful dreams.
She’d just abandoned them, donning her plain brown skirt every day, and focusing on trying to fix her unruly hair.
Well, her hair was fixed now. That meant it was time to bust out the washi tape and start scrapbooking some dreams.
Beatrice chewed her own deviled egg, considering Harvey’s question. He was already detailing all the things he would do if a Faery Godmother graced his life.
Harvey worked a barely-pays-the-bills job, just like she did. But the rest of his life was vibrant, interesting, and fun. He was filled with ideas, and always planning excursions to weird places in the city Beatrice had never heard of, or making music on his computer, or writing poetry, or even just going out dancing.
Beatrice was probably his most boring friend.
“I don’t know,” she said again. “I always thought I needed a better, more interesting job, and maybe I do. But my job is going okay lately, and that’s freeing something up inside of me. Making me want…”
“More?” Harvey asked.
“Yeah,” Beatrice agreed, grabbing some grilled asparagus. “More.”
Elvenia clapped her hands in delight. “I love it when people want more!”
Not the movers and shakers. Not the greedy ones, who wanted more to hoard it. She didn’t like those humans.
But people like Beatrice? As soon as they told the universe they wanted more, it freed her up to give it to them.
And giving Beatrice more? That was exactly what Elvenia would do.
For the first time in almost two years, Beatrice was in her tiny second bedroom. She was in her old, ratty, navy-blue sweatpants and a Practical Magic T-shirt. Her back hurt, and she was slightly sweaty, but she felt satisfied, thinking about the shelves of craft supplies waiting in the closet behind her.
Most of it was stuff she’d bought because she liked the colors, and it was on sale. And most of it was still in its original packaging.
Time to change that. Time to make space for herself again.
Beatrice had hummed as she moved her grandmother’s side table from the too cramped dining room she never used, and into the bedroom. She placed it under the big window that was the best feature of an otherwise sterile space. She could look out onto the small courtyard of her apartment building.
Looking at the table now, she smiled. Maybe she’d hang a bird feeder outside the window. She always loved birds.
Then she turned. Looked at the closet. The closed, sliding doors taunted her with their bland whiteness. A riot of color waited in baskets and plastic tubs behind the doors. All Beatrice needed to do was walk across the cream carpet and open the doors.
Her dreams were there. Not only in the craft supplies, but in two cardboard boxes she hadn’t opened in those same two years. Not since Magnolia had left, taking her dog, Rosie, and Beatrice’s happiness.
“I can’t make you happy, Beatrice! You have to do that for yourself!” That’s what Magnolia had shouted, in that final, horrible, fight, before she’d packed up her things and left.
And Beatrice had packed up all the memories. The pinecone from the one camping trip they took together. A cocktail napkin from the restaurant where they’d had their first date. Photos. Things Magnolia had left behind and told her to throw in the trash when Beatrice had texted a week later, asking about them.
Those boxes hulked in the bottom left corner of the closet. Beatrice could feel them.
They were leeching the joy from the craft supplies above.
“What is she waiting for?” Elvenia muttered.
Beatrice had been doing so well, rearranging the little room. Even wrestling that long, polished wood table in, though she had dropped it once, and was standing like she’d wrenched her back.
Elvenia had lightened the table a bit, but a Faery Wish Parent can adjust the laws of physics—and mass, and all the rest of it—only so much without giving herself one of Beatrice’s headaches.
And who needed those?
Beatrice stared at the closet as if something terrible awaited her there. Elvenia could not understand it. The young woman had seemed so excited—joyful, even—just moments ago. What had changed?
“Open the closet doors, Beatrice. I believe in you,” she whispered.
Beatrice’s right hand twitched, and she took one step forward, but then stopped again, wrapping her arms around herself.
So close, and yet, so far.
“Time to investigate, Elvenia.” She popped into the dark closet, getting a face full of a winter coat that really needed cleaning. Yuck. Sputtering, she lit a blue, glowing orb. The gentle light sparked and sparkled across the bins and baskets of craft supplies and paper, and the neat rows of journals and scrap books, waiting to be filled.
Then she saw them, crouching like white toads on the floor. Two cardboard file boxes, filled with sadness that radiated outward, suffusing the closet. Sadness and disappointment, both.
“Oh. You poor child. No wonder your life is a mess. You’ve cursed yourself.”
Humans did that more often than they knew, robbing themselves of the small joys of life. Punishing themselves for past mistakes. Clinging to outdated, ill-fitting dreams.
Elvenia doused her light, exited the closet, and floated in the room in front of Beatrice’s face.
She clapped her hands three times.
“Snap out of it! Now!”
Beatrice shook herself and looked around in confusion. Had something made a sound? She listened. The apartment was quiet, except for the low murmur of Mr. Oluwole’s television. The man was a secret soap opera lover, though why exactly he thought he was keeping this secret from anyone, she didn’t know. Today’s volume was reasonable, but usually? The man blasted his TV and cackled and shouted at the characters as he cooked fragrant meals. Those meals were delicious. He’d invited her over to eat more than once.
So, what had startled her? She shook her head, then squared her shoulders, and looked at the closet with determination.
“No time like the present,” she said.
Striding across the carpeted floor, she flung open the closet doors and looked down at the white banker’s boxes.
“Guess what, boxes?”
The boxes hulked in silent accusation.
“It’s eviction day.”
“Good girl!” Elvenia crowed, as the words left Beatrice’s mouth.
The woman unstacked everything from on top of the two white boxes, lining the crates and baskets of craft supplies neatly on the floor against the empty walls.
Those walls needed art. This place was astonishingly boring, like Beatrice herself. It made Elvenia wonder how long it had been since the spark inside Beatrice’s chest had flared to life. Too long, it seemed.
But it’s never too late. That was one of the Faery Wish Parent’s Magic Phrases from the training manual.
“No matter how dire things seem, remind your charge that it is Never Too Late.”
At least she was moving now. Elvenia made a note that clapping one’s hands in front of one’s charge’s face was an effective technique.
Clearing space to get at the banker’s boxes was the easy part. But now that the boxes themselves crouched on the carpet in front of her, Beatrice felt frozen again.
Should she call Harvey? He was probably busy, but if he wasn’t, he would be here in a flash, pint of ice cream in tow, ready to offer support.
But something inside of Beatrice whispered that this was one thing she needed to do on her own. She couldn’t fob this task onto someone else. If she did that? She had a deep sense that she’d never be free.
But what did that even mean? Was she not already free?
Beatrice looked around the plain little room and made a decision, then and there.
She wasn’t going to go through the white boxes. She wasn’t going to look for sentimental treasures. She wasn’t going to thumb through photos. She was not going to open those old wounds.
“You’re going in the Dumpster, boxes. Both of you. Like I said, it’s eviction time.”
And it truly was.
Elvenia flushed and fluttered with excitement. She was doing it! Beatrice was actually doing it!
Elvenia had braced herself for tissues and tears and hours of couch sitting while watching bad television, but no! The young woman had pulled on a pair of sneakers, hoisted the first box, and carried it out to the hallway toward the stairs.
The stairs leading down to the large, metal bins where people threw away the detritus of their lives.
Garbage, they called it. Flotsam and jetsam, that was how she thought of it. All the little objects that washed up into a person’s life that they just couldn’t hold onto. Not forever, at least, though some of them tried.
With a grunt and a mighty heave, there went the first box!
Elvenia gasped and clapped her hands in glee.
Once the first box was done, grabbing the second one was easy. Beatrice stood in front of the big Dumpster, engaged her core muscles and bent her legs the way they taught her at the one weightlifting class she took, six years before.
She inhaled, then flung the box up and over the side as hard as she could. It bounced off the side wall of the metal bin with a clang.
That clang announced to all the world—or the alleyway at least—that Beatrice was tied to Magnolia no more.
Maybe, just maybe, she was free.
Maybe, just maybe, she had a chance to wish for more.
No. Not just wish. Harvey was always nattering on about “manifesting” things.
And for the first time in years, Beatrice was ready for just that.
“Bring it on,” she whispered. “Bring. It. On.”
Before Elvenia’s eyes, Beatrice transformed the plain little room into a cheerful space. It took two weeks of putting in more shelves, hanging a plant in the window, getting not one, but two comfy chairs, one to sit and work in, and one for dreaming.
Elvenia had helped with it all, in her own small way. The dreaming chair, she’d found on the sidewalk, next to a garbage can. It was a green velvet beauty, slightly threadbare around the seams of its tufted back, but once Beatrice had muscled it up the stairs with the help of her friend Harvey, she had put a gorgeous blue pillow on it, and that hid the seams just fine.
There were books in the room now, and the long, narrow wood table had been set up as a crafting space, with cunning trays for bright paper, and a clever box that opened out to show off pens and tools.
One day, the day the room was almost done, Beatrice had begun to sing to herself.
Elvenia had never heard a more beautiful sound in all her days.
Harvey stood in the craft room, looking around appreciatively.
“This is one thousand times better,” he said. “We should celebrate!”
Beatrice smiled at her best friend.
“I’ve got sparkling water and raspberry syrup in the kitchen. And ice cream in the freezer, too.”
“Well, put on some music and make some drinks then! What are you waiting for?”
“The room isn’t finished yet,” she said.
Harvey looked confused. “Looks great to me.”<