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The Fairy Queen

by Flamenca 

Posted: 03 June 2009
Word Count: 1738
Summary: A short story aimed at Writers News competition for an adult fairy story

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The Fairy Queen
Dermot looked up from the sculpture he was finishing and blinked at the girl silhouetted against the dusty sunlight flooding through the door.
‘Sorry…sorry,’ she stammered. ‘I’m disturbing you.’
‘Not at all. If no-one ever came through my door I’d never sell a blessed thing,’ he replied, taking in the filmy dress, back lit and made transparent by the sun. She had a fine pair of legs he noted, and as his eyes got used to the sudden glare he could make out a slim figure, and a long, blond pigtail falling over one shoulder. Something lurched in his chest as he stood up and moved towards her.
‘Can I look round?’ she asked.
‘Please do. Are you here on holiday?’
‘Sort of. I’ve a cottage near the beach for the summer.’
‘On your own?’
‘Yes. I’m sort of convalescent so it’s just me and Pooky.’ He raised and eyebrow and she laughed. ‘My cat.’
‘I see. Are you looking for something in particular or just browsing?’
‘I’m afraid I’m a time waster,’ she said ruefully. ‘I couldn’t afford any of your lovely paintings or sculptures.’
‘Never mind. What do you do with all this spare time while you’re sort of
on holiday and convalescing?’
‘I’m an artist too. I paint fairies.’
‘Then you should come to the garden at the back,’ he said. ‘We’ve a dozen or more out there.’
She flushed. ‘You’re laughing at me.’
‘Not in the least,’ he replied, wiping clay off his hands. ‘I see them quite often when I have my lunch out there.’
She studied his face, clearly wondering how seriously she was meant to take him.
‘I’m not joshing you,’ he insisted. ‘There are fairies in the garden and if you don’t believe me you should come back tomorrow with your paints and I’ll make us a sandwich at lunchtime.’
‘I didn’t say I believed in them.’ She laughed; a tinkling, mellifluous sound. ‘I illustrate the Fabulous Fairy books for Gloria Millerton.
‘Oh, I see. Well there you have me. I thought I had a believer on me hands. Now ‘tis only me who can see the little people. Never mind. I suppose you wouldn’t like to come for that sandwich anyway?’
She regarded him and he glanced at her amused violet eyes. ‘All right. We’ll fairy watch together.’
Dermot returned to his sculpture. And why would you be convalescent for the summer, Titania?’
‘Titania? My name is Laurel.’
‘Titania is Queen of the fairies. And my name is Dermot. Irish,’ he added unnecessarily. ‘So, Laurel, why are you convalescent?’
‘When I know you better I’ll tell you,’ she smiled. ‘Until tomorrow, then.’
She turned and left, and he felt as if all the breath had been sucked out of him. He sat down, blowing out his cheeks and wondered what had hit him, hoping desperately he had not imagined her. The sculpture, a bust of the local mayor was almost finished and he went back to refining the Romanesque nose of Mr Algernon Entwistle. It was to be presented at the dignitary’s retirement in three weeks and he was running behind. But somehow it didn’t really matter, and anyway, the only face he could conjure up was hers. Laurel.
Dermot spent a restless night worrying in case she changed her mind and decided not to come. He wondered how he would find her. A cottage close to the beach, she had said and as she seemed to have walked to his little shop, he assumed she couldn’t live too far away. Perhaps she thought he was some sort of lunatic who believed in fairies, or maybe a wicked seducer who was tempting her back by pandering to her fantasies.
It was one-thirty before she walked through his door carrying a basket laden with strawberries, clotted cream and a bottle of Cava.
‘My contribution,’ she smiled.
‘Come through,’ he said, trying to catch his breath. ‘I’ve set a table in the shade and made us a salad.’
‘I hope you don’t mind but I took you at your word and brought a sketch pad and my watercolours. Just in case we see any fairies.’ She smiled mischievously.
He watched as she wandered round the garden, and knew she was unaware of the way the light fell on her, the way she stood, perfecting a composition with the tall delphiniums, poppies and hollyhocks in the border. He knew he simply had to paint her like that.
‘It’s beautiful, your garden. I could almost believe there are fairies here among the flowers,’ she said, turning to him.
‘Almost believe?’ He mocked her gently. ‘But of course there are fairies here. How could you doubt it?’
She returned to the table and sat opposite him. ‘You live above your studio?’
‘I do. It cuts the travelling expenses. It’s not what you might call posh,’ he added in a plummy English accent. ‘But it’s cosy and mine own. Now are you going to tell me why you came to Cornwall?’
‘I found out after my mother died a few months ago that she wasn’t actually my mother.’
‘You were adopted?’
‘I was stolen. She stole me from my real mother in the hospital when I was a few days old. She left me a letter explaining how her desperation for a child drove her to do such a dreadful thing. I loved her, but she was – well, a wicked witch I suppose and I can’t find a way to forgive her. Nothing now is quite what I thought it was. Even fairies seem possible.’ She laughed ruefully.
‘Merciful Heavens.’ Dermot was appalled.
‘And you,’ she asked adroitly changing the subject. ‘How did an Irishman end up in Cornwall?’
‘An aunt on my mother’s side left me this place and it was like I was led here. Maybe by fairy magic,’ he said with a wry smile ‘ Because here I have the peace I’ve always craved.’ ‘My parents were both killed in the troubles in Ireland’
She touched his arm with quick sympathy.
‘Do you sell all your work from your shop?’
‘Mostly, but strangely enough there’s a woman coming to see me tomorrow with a view to giving me an exhibition. A customer showed her my work and she seems to think I’m going to be the next big thing in the art world.’ He laughed. ‘Now that really would be stranger than believing in fairies.’
‘I love your work, don’t belittle it’. Shall we eat before the salad wilts?’
She made a few sketches and it was twilight when she rose to leave. He walked along the beach with her until they came to the little lane leading to her cottage.
‘Come tomorrow and paint. I’ll put up a parasol and you can have the garden to yourself while I work inside.’
‘Thank you,’ she replied solemnly, holding out her hand.
He took it, resisting the urge to draw it to his lips. ‘Hasta Manana.’

The next morning Jane Mitchell arrived at his shop at ten-thirty as promised. She was a vital and attractive woman of about thirty, who swept in and seemed to fill the space in spite of her slight build. He found his artist’s eye compelled to imagine a painting of her naked, draped across a chaise long, the dark grey eyes and full, glossy lips slightly parted, tempting the viewer to seduce her.
‘Oh yes, Mr Murphy, I like what I see too.’ Unnerved, he glanced at her, aware she was smiling at him, the response to his awareness of her clear in her eyes.
‘Your work is different and compelling and I am sure we can do very well with it at my gallery in Perren and after that we may take it to the London in the autumn.’
‘London…’ he said, alarmed.
‘Our commission is ten percent, but as you have it seriously under priced at the moment you won’t even notice. Well, what do you say?’
‘I’d say I’m astounded and thank you very much.’
‘Good, then shall we seal the deal with dinner this evening? I’ll bring the contract. There is a wonderful seafood restaurant about a mile along the coast.’
‘I’ll look forward to it.’ She went to the door and opened it, just as Laurel was reaching for the handle on the outside. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, do come in, I was just leaving. I’ll pick you up at seven then, Dermot.’ She blew him a kiss but her eyes promised so much more.
‘Titania, good Heavens girl, come in and I’ll make us some coffee,’ he said, watching Jane Mitchell climb into her car and drive away. He shut the door firmly and leaned against it with a gasp.’
‘Are you all right?’ she asked, laying a hand on his arm. ‘Who was that?’
‘The key to my artistic future if she has anything to say about it. She’s offered me an exhibition locally and then one in London.’
‘How exciting.’
‘But I hate London – or any city. I like the simple life,’ he fretted. ‘I like it here…’
‘Me too.’
‘I feel emotionally safe here and I sell enough in the summer season to make a fair living.’ Without thinking he took her hand and she didn’t resist.
‘Then don’t do it. Maybe that woman was a bad fairy,’ she said softly.
‘You know me darlin’ you’re absolutely right. I shall call her and tell her I’ve changed my mind.’
‘Think about it first,’ she said anxiously. ‘I would hate you to miss an opportunity because of something I said.’
‘She didn’t feel right; it was like being caught in a whirlwind the few minutes she was here. I think you’ve saved me from something appalling. Now go in the garden and set up your painting things, Titania. I shall call her, decline her generous offer, and then bring you some coffee in a moment or two.’
When he finally got off the phone after a lengthy argument with Jane, he went outside to look for Laurel.
She had set up her easel under a cherry tree and was studying the hollyhocks. He slid onto a garden chair on the patio, so he could watch her, and it was several minutes before she looked up and held his gaze.
And just for a second, he could swear a pair of silvery wings fluttered among the flowers.

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Comments by other Members

saturday at 09:05 on 08 June 2009  Report this post
Hi there, Suzanne. I found this easy to read and was carried along by it, although I have to confess, I'm not much of a reader of short stories, so I'm probably the wrong person to comment.

The main thing that struck me was the balance of the story. It felt as though you spent most of the time setting up the 'good' fairy, Laurel, to the extent that the 'bad' fairy was in and out in a second so that I wasn't completely sure what her role was. Actually, that's not true, I was perfectly sure of her role - she was the bad fairy wasn't she? You draw her very powerfully, it's just that she doesn't seem to do anything wrong. She tries to seduce Dermot, personally and professionally, but fails because of the intervention of the good fairy - but we have no proof that she would be 'bad'. In fact, I was looking for the twist, half expecting that Laurel was actually the bad fairy who had bewitched Dermot into giving up his ambitions, so I felt slightly flat when nothing happened at the end.

I have to admit, this is something I often feel at the end of a short story and is probably something to do with my relationship with the medium rather than this particular story, so please feel free to ignore my comments.

Lots of luck with the competition

Patsy at 17:27 on 22 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Suzanne,

I love any story with a fairy theme, and I really liked yours You have all of the little touches in there that spell fairy with the stolen baby, and the tall fine boned blonde. I loved the artist slant to it as well, and the studio with the garden.

Things to consider if the women are true fay:
You might consider adding a bit more detail to the story, and a few more hints of fairy. Like instead of having Laurel taken from a hospital, why not have her found in a woods or on a doorstep? That would give her orgin more of a fairy feel, and having her not believe in fairies didn't feel quite right. It would be more in keeping with the story if she was a secret believer, and she was a little nervous at his belief, or angry because she thinks he's teasing her.

As for your dark fairy Jane, you have a hint of the fairy glimmer going on, but try adding a bit more to her hypnotic power. Make her truly irresistible to him until Laurel comes in and breaks the spell and clears his head, and give Jane and Laurel a stronger reaction to each other as if Jane recognizes Laurel for what she is, and doesn't like her poking her nose in.

In the conversation where Jane is on the phone with him, you might make some comment about how clear his head feels, and have him wonder why he was going to do something that felt so wrong to him just to please her in the first place.

Other things to consider:
Try adding in a little detail about the shop - what does it look like? what kind of paintings and sculpture does he have for sale? You could describe them as Laurel looks at them is she attracted to any of them? Are there any pictures of his garden fay?

You tease us with the fact that she is convalescing, but you never tell us what for.

Just suggestions, feel free to ignore all of the above! I really loved the story. Good luck with it for the contest.


Flamenca at 19:09 on 22 September 2009  Report this post
Patsy, thank you so much for your comments - and brilliant ideas! It pushes the story along much better and I will definitely re write it. I'm really grateful.x

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