children dress up
not just because
Photo: Allison Archer
children dress up
not just because
Photo: Allison Archer
are almost too beautiful
in every way
for ball gowns
Fairies love Christmas. They come in and take bits of ribbon and sparkles, lights, torn wrapping paper and small bits of yarn. They use everything to make special gifts they often leave in cribs and buggies, or prams, when they take a human baby and leave a fairy baby in it’s place. It’s just what they do. Changelings aren’t as uncommon as you may think. The gift is simply to let the human know that payment has been made. That’s extremely important to fairies.
The fairy folk have several reasons for switching babies, but it rarely works out to anyone’s advantage. Neither child is in it’s right environment. I mean, fairies have special abilities that human children do not have and human children don’t have any skills the fairies can use at all. Not even a little.
But that’s what makes tradition a sometimes dangerous thing. Just because something has been done for a thousand years doesn’t make it a good idea. Fairies and humans both need to remember that. Hating people because that hatred has been handed down for generations doesn’t make it right. Brutality and violence against living beings who do not have the ability to defend themselves is always wrong, even if parents tell their children it’s not.
So, if your baby suddenly seems a little different, don’t be surprised. It’s hard for baby fairies to fly in this world but they can still manifest many of their other skills. It’s silly to reprimand the child, just chalk it up to fairy DNA. And don’t worry about your actual baby. The Fairies will return the her, or him, someday. Really, they will. The always do. Well, not always, but mostly. Some people never realize the switch has taken place until their stolen child returns as an adult. But you don’t need to hear about all of that. Just be happy and enjoy whichever baby you end up with because it’s not really your choice, it’s always up to the fairies.
“Bunny,” she said, siting across from the girl. “I’d like to try something.”
“What,” asked Bunny, chewing on William’s ear.
“It’s like a game. You close your eyes and listen to what I say. Then I ask you some questions and you might be able to remember what happened to you before you lived in the alley. We don’t have to do it, if you would rather not. But, if you want to know if you’re a real princess, this is one possible way to find out.”
“I don’t care if I’m a princess. I like it here with you, Joey and my friends. I don’t care what happened before.”
“Okay, if that’s how you feel, we won’t play that game. I’ll get you some chocolate cake and lemonade, instead.”
Bunny smiled and did a little dance, holding William out in front of her.
“She said no, didn’t she,” asked Joey, a little while later.
“Yes. Bunny doesn’t care about her past, or she doesn’t want to remember it, either way, the subject is closed. At least for now.”
Joey stared at her. “You said you would help me find out what kind of magic I can do. I’m ready to learn.”
“Wonderful. Let’s start this very moment,” she said happily. “We will begin by talking about what you already know you can do. So, what have you noticed in the past, that others can’t do, but you can?”
He looked down and concentrated. “I don’t know what other people can do,” he finally said.
“Of course your don’t. How silly of me,” she laughed. “Just tell me what you can do.”
The dog walked up to Joey and put his head on his lap. Joey started petting him and started to relax. “Well, sometimes I know what’s going to happen before it happens, and sometimes I think I know what other people are thinking, and sometimes, I can touch something and I know where it’s been.”
“Wait,” she said. “Have you ever touched William?”
“Yes, a couple of times.”
“But you felt nothing?”
“He was just a stuffed toy and I wasn’t thinking about touching him. I just held him, or part of him, while I was talking with Bunny.”
“Do you think you could learn something by holding him for a reason?”
“I don’t know. I can try.”
“Good enough, so continue.”
“I know how people feel. Whether they’re afraid, happy or sad.”
“Can you do any of the things I do?”
He started laughing. “No.”
“I think you can do other things, things you don’t know about. If you agree, we can start lessons tomorrow. After dinner, for one hour. How does that sound?”
Joey stood up, waking the dog, and threw himself into her arms. “You’re the best mother, ever,” he said. Then he turned and ran up the stairs.
“Well,” she said to the dog, while she straightened her blouse, “That seemed to go well, don’t you think?
Two ladies came into the store, they looked exactly alike. They walked to the counter and smiled.
“Hello,” they said.
The one who wore her hat pushed forward turned to the other and said, “Dearest, please, let me speak. It’s so difficult for others to understand us when we both say the same thing at the same time. You can talk to the next person, okay?”
The second woman nodded and smiled.
“We are identical twins, but you probably already know that. We looked more alike when we were younger but still, here we are.”
“How can I help you?” she asked, positively charmed by the sisters.
“Dearest,” she said to the silent sister, holding out her hand.
The silent one placed a package on the counter.
“We have written a book,” she said. “There aren’t enough books about twins on the market, so we took the liberty of writing one ourselves. Now, before you jump to any conclusions, this is no ordinary story. You see my sister and I,” she paused to look at her sister, “were spies for the CIA. We were undercover, of course, but the people we dealt with couldn’t tell us apart, and because of that, we were able to do certain things that one person could not and, if I may say…”
“Tell her Love,” said the silent sister.
“We did wet work, but no one could ever catch us, because we always had an alibi.”
“You mean you were hitwomen for the government?”
“Indeed we were.”
“How absolutely wonderful!” she said. “Ladies. If you will permit me to read your book, and it goes well, I will publish it for you and sell it in my shop. All of the proceeds will go directly to you.”
“We would like twenty-percent to go the the cat and dog shelter on Washington.”
“They take lizards too,” said the silent sister.
“Easily done,” she said. “I can’t wait to begin reading. What an amazing life you must have had.”
“You should have see our clothes,” said the woman, dreamily. “We were beautiful, once. Tall, slender, tight red dresses. Oh, my dear. Men fell all over themselves to be with us.”
“They did,” sighed the silent sister. “Some women too.”
It was so easy to dispose of them.”
“Indeed,” said the silent sister, longingly. “We had such fun, parties every night, dancing, drinking, choosing lovers, getting new assignments, traveling the world.”
“A dream job, most definitely,” said the woman. “All the weapons, especially the knives. Such craftsmanship.”
“Don’t forget the poisons, Love,” snickered the silent sister.
“You’re right, Dearest. The poisons were wonderful and they never suspected us,” said the woman. Why would they? We were never seen together. When the bodies were found, one of us had always been in plain sight.”
They both laughed. “No one can be in two places at once,” said the silent sister.
“So, here is our card,” said the woman. Please call us when you have finished reading.
“We still take the odd job, you know. We freelance,” whispered the silent sister. “It’s difficult to give up work you love. But it’s not the same. We’re still remembered, of course, at least in certain circles, but we’re no longer young, fast, or beautiful. That’s what life takes from all of us, you know. They say older women are still beautiful, but that’s just talk. Nothing is the same, is it Love?”
She unwrapped the packaged and looked at the thick manuscript. “Jane and Janet?”
“I’m Jane,” said the woman.
“I’m Janet,” said the silent sister, but you knew that already, didn’t you, seeing as how there are only two of us and she identified herself first.”
They all chuckled.
“Well, we’ll be gong then,” said the sisters.
“One more thing,” said the silent sister. “You have a pretty big fairy problem. We saw them in the tree out in front, and on the rooftops. We can help you with that, if you like.”
“How very generous. I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.”
The two sisters nodded and left the store, chatting at the same time.
The cat jumped onto the counter and stared at the door. “I like those two,” he said. “They’re cool. I bet they keep cats.”
The crow flew in through the upstairs window, glided down the stairs, and landed on the back of the chair. “Fairies everywhere,” he cawed. “Thick as thieves.”
The angels dropped from the sky like gigantic white birds.
“Oh, crap,” said the cat.
The fairies and some of the Fallen rose to meet them. The front door of the bookstore slammed open and pages flew into the street, morphing into heroes from every book where a hero was needed. Heroes from every country, each holding a weapon from their story, joined the battle. Men and women alike, witches, wizards and thugs, all there to stand with the Fallen.
“I get the book thing now,” said the cat. “Harry Dresden, Sandman Slim and Robin Hood?”
The man nodded and smiled broadly. “They’re friends. All of them.”
The cat shrieked and hurled himself into the air, bringing down an angel already splattered with blood. A passing witched, pointed her finger, said a few words, and the angel, held tightly in his claws, took his last breath. The fighting was brutal, fast and furious. The noise was horrific but the power hungry angels didn’t stand a chance.
Dead Boy, from Simon Green’s books, stopped to pet Pippen. “Long time no see, Pip,” he said. “Suzy Shotgun is here, don’t forget to say hello.”
The cat meowed and head butted Dead Boy’s calf, as the war raged on. The power hungry angels, who had come to slay the Fallen, littered the ground, their eyes blank, their wings crushed beneath the feet of those still standing. Swords clanged against each other, the wounded fought on and then, like the last page of a book, the fighting was over. The Fallen lowered their swords and looked around. The angels who had come to kill them, were dead, their bodies burning to ash where they lay. The wind picked up and blew the ash away, leaving the Fallen, the heroes, the fairies, and a cat standing alone in the street.
The heroes, politely accepted the gratitude heaped upon them, and went back to their stories. The fairies, surrounded the man and the cat jumped into his rms.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” said the man, to the Fallen. “We have won this battle but we all know it won’t be the last. The greedy and power hungry will always exist. And the only way to stay free is to fight, even though we are peaceful beings. We don’t want war but we can’t stand like sheep to be slaughtered and leave those who cannot defend themselves to be turned into slaves. Today we fought for freedom and as much as I would like to believe that doing the right thing will always win out, you and I both know that isn’t true. The war between good and evil is not about heaven and hell, it’s about what we do to each other. The evil is having power over another, whether angel, human, or other species. Whether over air, water or land. Hate, greed, inequality and power over others, that’s what we fight to stop. And we will continue to fight because we are all that stands between freedom and enslavement. Every Fallen who fought today has struck a blow for that freedom and I thank you.”
The angels nodded, shook hands, hugged, slapped backs, bumped fists and spoke softly, as they began to disperse. One of the Fallen approached the man. “So, it takes a war for us to see each other again?”
“Uh,” stammered the man.
“Call me. My number is the same,” she said, her eyes sparkling. “We’ll have dinner.”
“Meooooow,” said the cat.
“I will,” said the man. “Promise.”
Henry was so happy to see the man that she fainted. She came to, squeaked, and ran in circles until she finally settled down and went to sleep in his hand.
The books were back on their shelves, except for War and Peace, which was found behind the counter and Nancy Drew, which was nowhere to be found at all.
“Well, she probably manifested and realized she wasn’t in a mystery, so she left,” said the cat. “I mean that’s logical, right?”
“I’m going to be myself from now on,” said the man. “I’m not going to age any longer and I’m going to set up a network, so that the Fallen can stay in touch.”
“Good ideas,” said the cat. “I’m going home.”
The man looked away.
“FINE,” said the cat. “I guess I can stay for awhile longer. I mean you can barely tie your shoes without me. I’m amazed that you lasted as long as you did, pretending to be human. And I kind of like being a cat, there benefits, you know.”
“You are welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
“I know that,” snickered the cat, “but tell me about the raving beauty you used to date. Is that still a thing? You gonna do dinner with her. If I recall, you were madly in love with her.”
“I’ll get you a bowl of milk,” laughed the man. “No matter what form you take, Pip, you’re always the same.”
“What’s wrong with that? Hey, she’s really hot, for an angel I mean. You know that, don’t you? I mean come on, what are you waiting for?” asked the cat, following the man into the kitchen.
“He’s really a bad, kitty,” giggled one of the fairies, watching the cat.
“I like him too,” said another.
“He’s really nice,” added a small blue fairy. “He let’s me rid on his back.”
“Well,” said a lovely green fairy, “we are family after all.”
“Do you think the man has a girlfriend?” whispered the first fairy?
“Maybe. The cat thinks so,” said the second.
“I think life around here is going to get a lot more interesting,” said the third.
“So do we,” said the others, excitedly. “So do we.”
Nancy Drew’s Clock Tower book was found under the kitchen sink. Just thought you might want to know.
The man opened the front door of the shop and stepped outside. A deafening roar immediately filled the air. The man was shocked. The fairies fluttered around him, landing on his shoulders and taking off again. The cat sat by his side.
“What’s going on?” asked the man.
The cat sighed and scratched his ear. “You were the fist one,” he meowed. “You are the living proof that the fallen and the others can not only love, they can produce perfect angels. After you, others realized that they were being manipulated and lied to, so their eyes were opened and they fell.”
“But I didn’t do anything to be born…I just….”
“Just go with it. You’re a symbol of freedom. Your birth changed everything.”
The crowd parted and the man walked into the street. He turned in a tight circle and looked at the others. “Thank you,” he said. “Freedom is the most important thing in life. The freedom to be. The freedom to become. The freedom to choose. I am grateful..for your help.”
Another cheer went up from the angels, their swords held above their heads. “FALLEN, FALLEN, FALLEN,” the sang. The fairies darted back and forth, watching for danger. Finally the man held up his sword and when he did, the sun caught it and it burst into light. The angels immediately became silent.
“Love is not the answer,” he said, “so I won’t bore you with that speech. The celebration of diversity, that’s what matters. Diversity allows beauty, passion and wholeness to exist. That’s what we should strive for, no matter the difficulty. We don’t have to agree with each other. We don’t have to understand, or even like each other, we simply have to acknowledge that we are all different and that our differences can make us stronger. Most importantly, no single opinion, or point of view, should rule over all of us. That is the death of freedom. So we gather today, to fight for the right to be free.”
“Nice one,” said the cat, rubbing against the man’s legs, hoping to be heard over the roar of the angels.”
And at that very moment, the self labeled righteous dropped from the sky.
The cat was napping, a fairy tucked safely between his front legs.
“Are we going to be okay?” asked Henry.
The man smiled at her. “Being okay is a somewhat false concept. Okay is a momentary thing. But I understand what your asking and I honestly don’t know how things will turn out. But, once I put this on,” he said, showing her the silver pentacle he held in his hand, “I’ll change. I’ll be young and strong again.. I’ll be who I am. I won’t love you a speck less,” he said, petting her back. “That won’t ever change.”
Henry stared at him. “Who are you now?”
“Well, I didn’t want to keep moving from one place to another, so I let myself live more like a human. I had to age, if I wanted to stay here, so I did.”
“is this war?”
“In a way,” he said. “There are always those who believe there is only one way to do everything and that way, is their way. They can’t allow others to make different choices, because that is threatening to their way of life. They want complete control over others. Unfortunately, they break their own rules and do the same things they hate others for doing. They are jealous of the freedom some angels have because they made different choices. They are so afraid, they kill those who are not like themselves. And you know how some people are afraid of you? They scream and run, when they see you. They don’t see your beauty or sweetness, the see something frightening, dangerous and bad. The miss out on having you for a friend. The angels who are coming are exactly like that. They are afraid and hate what they don’t understand.”
“Aren’t they breaking some angel laws by doing those things?” she asked.
“They are but if you’re in charge of the rules, you can break them whenever you like. That’s why some angels left in the first place.”
“Hey,” meowed the cat, sauntering into the room. “Put it on and let’s get going,” he purred, looking at the pentacle. “We don’t have a lot of time. I can feel them getting closer.”
The man rose and carried Henry to her drawer. “Burrow deep, my tiny friend. Do not come out until I tell you things are safe. You have enough food and water to last a long time, so just nap and dream happy dreams.”
Henry rubbed her nose against his thumb and dove into her nest.
“The fairies said the books are ready, whatever that means,” said the cat, jumping onto the dresser, watching the man put on his necklace. “Ah, nice abs,” he meowed. “How could you stand that old, worn out body in the first place. Look at you now. I mean you’re YOU again.”
“It does feel kind of good,” the man admitted.
“Your sword’s on the kitchen table. The fairies brought it upstairs.”
“Very kind of them.”
“They’re vicious little ones,” smiled the cat. “Well armed and fierce.”
“They are that.”
“They will fight to the death for you.”
“I hope it won’t come to that.”
“What’s that noise?”
“Look out the window,” said the cat, grinning.
The man pushed the curtain aside and gasped. The fallen were everywhere. They covered the rooftops, the streets and the empty lots. Fallen…as far as the eye could see. Wings open, swords up, focus intense. The noise was simply the hum of their comncentrated energy, as they stood, surrounding the bookstore, ready to fight.
“Wait,” said Henry. “Flaming swords?”
“Yes,” said the cat. Flaming swords of righteousness.”
“But they’re not righteous,” said a fairy. “They are the bad guys.”
“That’s true,” said the cat. “They kill anyone who isn’t like them.”
“Um” said Henry, looking at the man once again. “Do you have a flaming sword?”
“I have a sword,” he said, looking around. “I just don’t know where it is.”
“Great,” hissed the cat. “So you haven’t been keep your wings in fighting condition, nor anything ELSE, it seems!”
The man sat perfectly still, then started to open his wings. He concentrated as hard as he could and little by little they opened more and more. Feathers fell to the floor and the cat pounced on them, upset with himself for doing so. Finally, his wings hit the walls of the living room and could go no farther.
“They don’t look that bad,” said the cat, a feather, stuck to his side. “How do they feel?”
“Strange but familiar,” said the man, smiling.
“I made a couple of stops before I came here,” meowed the cat. “I talked to a few of the fallen and they couldn’t believe that those idiots, that was their word,” he said haughtily, “would come after you after all this time. They volunteered to help you fight.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” said the man frowning. “This is my fight and I don’t want anyone to get hurt on my behalf.”
“Oh, blah, blah, blah, it’s not all about YOU,” said the cat, pacing back and forth in front of him.
“It’s not?” asked the man, surprised.
“Okay, it is, but there are a lot more like you now, than there have ever been before and they want to fight against the establishment.”
“I get that,” said the man nodding.”
“So where do you think you put your sword?”
“It’s in the back room behind a lot of rare books,” said one of the fairies, brightly. “I’ve been polishing it for years.”
“You have?” asked the man, taken back.
“Sure,” twittered the fairy. “I thought it might come in handy one day. You know, in case you ever had to fight for your life, or protect us,” she said, pointing at everyone. “I’ve been taking care of the gun under the counter as well.”
“I’m going to talk to the books,” said another fairy. “They can help.”
“How?” asked the cat.
“Leave it to me,” said the fairy, flying out of the room.
“How many will show?” asked the man.
The cat caught another feather and rolled on top of it. “No idea,” he mewed. “They said they would pass the word.”
The man nodded. “I guess I’ll get ready then.”
“Okay,” purred the cat, rubbing against the wall. “I can’t wait not to be a cat,” he meowed. “They do such…oh, another feather,” he said happily, leaping into the air.
The man leaned over and scratched the cat’s head. “You make a wonderful cat.”
“I make a wonderful ANYTHING, and don’t you forget it.”
The old man picked Henry up off the table and took her into the bedroom. He put her in her drawer and told her not to come out until he said it was okay to do so. Then he went into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
“He looks much, better,” said Tom, smiling. “I’m confident that he will make a full recovery.”
“I’m happy to hear that,” said the man, holding out his hand. Tom took and they shook. Thank you for everything you’ve done for him.”
“You’re welcome,” laughed Tom. “And I did it as much for you, as the cat. I know how you get when someone needs help.”
The man blushed and walked Tom to the door.
“Call me if he takes a turn for the worse. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll know he’s fine.”
The man nodded and closed the door.
The fairies were screeching questions. “Is the beast going to stay here? Is he better? When will he come out of the bathroom?” And finally, from Henry, “Do you think I should move?”
The man sat down on the stairs and the fairies landed on him. Henry ran up his shirt sleeve and sat on his shoulder. “No one is moving and all of you will get along. There’s nothing to worry about. I promise. Now go about your business while I talk to him.”
The cat was awake but still curled up in the sink. When the man walked in he sat up and meowed.
“Hello to you too,” said the man, happily. “I see that you are indeed, much better.”
The cat put his paw on the man’s arm and pressed down hard.
“What is it?”
“They found you,” hissed the cat.
“Pippen!” said the man, recognizing his voice at once. “In a cat’s body?”
“Got that right,” meowed the cat, rubbing against his hand. “I got here as fast as I could but it was a difficult trip. I never would have made it in my normal form.”
“I can’t believe it’s you,” said the man picking up the cat. “I’ve missed you.”
“You’re not going to get all mushy on me, are you?”
“They found you. They know where you are,” he meowed loudly. “They are gathering the power needed to finally kill you. You have to RUN. NOW.”
“The entire building is warded, they can’t get through.”
“Maybe you didn’t hear me,” yowled the cat. THEY ARE GATHERING POWER. They are WORKING TOGETHER to finally bring you down.”
“I’m not afraid,” he said, half listening to the fairy chatter on the other side of the door.”
“Then you’re not THINKING clearly,” said the cat. “Henry is freaking out. You might want to introduce me and get it over with.”
There were shrieks, as the fairies scattered and the man could hear Henry squeaking, as she ran for her drawer.
“Tell me you’ve been keeping up your skills,” said the cat.
“Not so much,” said the man, smiling. “I’ve been busy selling books.”
“Perfect!” sighed the cat, unhappily. “You won’t even be able to fight back.”
“I think I remember enough and you’re here now, so….”
“THEY ARE ALL COMING FOR YOU,” screamed the cat. “What is it that you don’t understand?”
“How long before it starts?”
“If I had to guess, I’d say less than twenty-four hours,” said the cat, thoughtfully. “Tell me your wings still work.”