Love, A Cautionary Tale

Once Upon A Time…

Despite public belief, there still were fairies in the forest. Particularly in the parts between towns where the wood was allowed to grow particularly thick and children with slingshots weren’t in abundance. Admittedly, the creatures were few and far between, a result of the Parliamentary Ban on Magickal Acts brought against them a century ago when everyone largely decided that making people fall in love with each other for one’s own amusement was kind of a creepy move. The fairies had taken this good-naturedly enough at the time, shrugging with a sort of “fair enough” gesture and a carefree smile, but over time this had really cut into their productivity. On the pie chart of the distribution of a fairy’s working hours, “making people fall in love (to calamitous yet ultimately beneficial results)” was the biggest slice by far. The next closest were “making shoes for unthankful and desensitized shoemakers” and “flying around mystically and giggling occasionally (for atmosphere),” neither of which held a candle to a good, old-fashioned frenzy of love confusion.

So, occasionally, just every so often, a fairy would fall off the wagon. They figured, as long as they were in an isolated enough area, with no powerful heads of state involved, there wouldn’t be any sort of fuss. It wasn’t that they had to do it. No. They could quit anytime they wanted. Definitely.

The fairy Cockscomb crouched between two limbs of a birch tree, smoking a dog-ended cigarette. Fairies are traditionally named after flowers and plants, and Cockscomb would want it stated that the cockscomb is a lovely red-frilled bloom that symbolizes “singularity,” “loquaciousness,” and “geniality.” He would also point out that he is the youngest of 500 siblings, and that flower-name motifs grow thin after the first hundred or so. He would then produce a somewhat weathered page from the Laurence Baylash Illustrated Almanac of Flora and Fauna that he kept in his back pocket for safekeeping, just to make sure you believed him.

For now, however, he was temporarily relieved of the burden of explaining his name, being otherwise occupied by listening. He could hear footsteps, and footsteps meant mortals, and mortals meant fun.

Giana pulled her overly stuffed suitcase in the direction she had guessed the train station the most likely to be. She guessed that she would have about an hour until her mother discovered the sack of potatoes she had left in her bed as a decoy. She spent all night fashioning it, although the exact reason for it still baffled her. She presumed that a potato-sack-Giana would be just as much cause for alarm as an empty bed. But it was definitely tradition to leave a sack of something in your bed when running away from home, and Giana believed very strongly in tradition. Just as the sheet-rope she used to escape her window wasn’t strictly necessary for a one-story cottage, Giana made one and climbed down it all the same. Things were a tradition for a reason, and she wasn’t going to take any chances.

She dragged the heavy leather case behind her, creating somewhat of a trail in the pine-needled forest floor. Aside from a few pairs of pants Giana had stockpiled by way of theft from her younger brothers and one voluptuous hat (because there were always cases in which one would be in need of a fancy hat) the luggage was almost entirely filled with law books she’d pilfered from the library, guessing, correctly, that they’d never be missed.

Lawyers were not a common occurrence in Bogg’s Hollow, and lady lawyers even less so. Giana was aware of this fact because it was one that was frequently shouted at her when she was caught doing something as insurrectionary as reading. Usually what would happen next was that the book would be removed and a needle and thread would be pointedly placed into her hands as a sort of heavy-handed suggestion about the kinds of things Giana’s aspirations should contain. And so Giana was off to the great capital of Genoa, where she heard ladies were doing all sorts of radical things. She heard they read frequently there, and very rarely had sewing implements forced upon them. But first, she had to find her way to the train station…

A little bit away in a different part of the forest, which was virtually indiscernible from the first part, because it was really all just trees when you got down to it, Stock paused to look at the picture again. It was a lovely portrait of Emmeline, her golden locks flowing and her limpid eyes sparkling and all of the other good things a girl could have in a portrait.

He kept stopping to look at it so that he could remind himself what exactly he was walking so far for. It was true love, after all. Mad, hysterical, unequivocally frantic love. The only thing, as far as Stock was concerned, that was worth walking seven leagues for. A little farther and he would be at the train. And then in sweet Emmeline’s arms. He probably would already be at the train station, but periodically stopping to gaze at his love’s visage and sigh was really taking a chunk of time. He was so enraptured in her portrait that he hardly noticed the bustling, determined form with frizzled brown hair huffing its way towards him.

There was one person who did notice this. The fairy Cockscomb rolled his eyes from his perch. What did you expect to happen to you, he said to himself, being very rarely in a situation to speak to anyone else. Being young and beautiful and walking through a forest, was there any clearer way to ask for trouble?

He twitched two fingers and a helpful breeze turned the girl a few degrees to the left, pointing her in the direction of the young man. Much to the disappointment of the fairy Cockscomb, Giana’s nose was still buried in the map she had brought along, being what men in her village had described, in smaller words, as almost frustratingly sensible. With a beleaguered sigh, Cockscomb gestured to the boy.

Stock looked up from the portrait of his beloved to find himself almost inexplicably tripping through the woods at a decent clip. He tripped for so long that he had time to look down at his own shoes and wonder why he couldn’t stop and what casual tree root could have sent him this unreasonably far. However, this looking down did prevent him from noticing that there was, in fact, someone towards, and subsequently into, whom he was tripping.

Giana, had little time to do anything but find herself entangled in a mass of limbs and filled with the conviction that someone would be apologizing for it before being confronted with the most beautiful face she had ever seen. She found it almost impossibly beautiful, in fact, in a way that, had she ever been to the Carribbean Islands, she would have found not asimilar to being drunk on rum. She was filled with a confidence that she had only ever felt one other time, while reading her first book on law: an absolute certainty that for the world to make any sense at all it had better include the thing before her. Giana was confident that this face, and the boy it was ultimately attached to, should be hers. She tried to quickly work out a sentence that, when spoken, would reflect this revelation.

“Hi,” she said, intelligently.

Stock, having arrived at similar groundbreaking deductions, responded in kind.

“Oh, hey.” After a moment of reflection, he decided additional information would be helpful, and added, “I didn’t see you there.”

“Yeah, I didn’t either,” Giana returned. After another meaningful pause, she chose to branch out from the “who saw whom” topic, which was running a bit dry.

“What are you doing out here?” she asked, insightfully.

“Looking for the train station,” Stock supplied, quite proud of himself for his memory recall.

“Me too!” exclaimed Giana, excited to have found some common ground.

The two young people spent a moment chuckling to each other over nothing in particular. Giana became aware that the drunken feeling she was experiencing, which she could best describe as being somewhat sticky and purple, if feelings had a color, was growing. The same was true of Stock, and was made evident in their next volley of words.

“You pretty.”

“Like your… head.”

Giana became aware that her vision was blurring, and was rather less concerned by this phenomenon than she would normally have been, convinced as she was that the only thing that currently mattered was that the handsome man not leave.

“Your hair… good.”

The handsome man continued to not leave, and so Giana lost consciousness full of a pleasant sort of security she probably shouldn’t have had the right to have felt.

Giana became slowly aware of the pine needles pricking into her back, and of the fact that the sunlight that was attempting to burrow its way into her brain via her eyelids was either lower or higher than it should be, although she couldn’t be sure which. She next became aware of a vague stirring, moaning sound being emitted from somewhere on her left. The part of her brain that stored memories of handsome strangers kicked in around the same time as the part that stored her deep convictions that her ambitions outranked romantic fantasies, and she hoped deeply that the sounds were some sort of nonthreatening wild boar that would take a liking to her and drag her to safety. The part of Giana’s brain that spent its days combatting unrealistic optimism wiped away this thought, and Giana reluctantly opened her eyes.

She was confronted with a boy that was nowhere near as dazzling as she remembered him. He was now, inexplicably, dressed in formal wear, which made her suspicious that more time had passed than she had originally thought.

However much shock and confusion Giana was currently processing, it was almost definitely surpassed by Stock’s as he regained sight and was confronted almost immediately by a slightly angry looking, frizzy-haired girl in a wedding dress.

Stock screamed, indicating Giana’s dress. After a moment of indignance at being screamed at, she followed his gaze to her outfit and screamed as well. She screamed again, noting that the boy’s outfit was exactly the type of garment one would wear at one’s own wedding, and then screamed once more out of general displeasure with the situation.

“Who are you,” the young man asked slowly, “And why are you-“

“Do not say it.,” Giana cut him off.

“… wearing a wedding dress,” he continued, not being the most adept at stopping a train of thought already in motion.

To read the rest of this story, and other nonsense like it, please visit my Amazon page, where you can get this story in its complete form, along with some snappy illustrations, for just a couple of bucks. Thanks!



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