Once Upon a Time I Wrote a Little Gift
by angela readman
Last year, I was lucky enough to be in a lovely anthology of fairy tale flash fiction, Once Upon a Time (edited by SJ Holliday and Anna Meade.) They ran a competition which I couldn’t resist- write a flash that’s a fairytale! Yes! I finally had an excuse! It was lovely to be one of the winners and have such lovely encouragement given to my work. Now, Anna (aka, the dark fairy) is getting married and her friends are putting together a little gift of short wedding stories for her. Isn’t that lovely? It makes me feel all happy and awwww, and all those other things writers read about. So, for Anna and her beloved, I wrote a little story. Here it is. I hope she likes it.
Fuzzy Love Wishes to all
Author: Angela Readman
I did not know if I could marry him. Him being one of that kind, and me being me. It made my mother afraid.
“They are not like us,’ she said, ‘if they do not love you enough you, you die.”
She tilted her head towards the ocean, that thin blue strip. The sleeve of her kimono dipped in the water, rippled wrinkles to her brow. She carried away the sad laundry. I sat kicking mud off my shoes by the house. I looked up at the sky the way lonely people look at the moon and think of someone far away keeping them company.
He went on one knee by the river, bent on legs so long it didn’t look easy. The ring fit. On my finger, silver, I twisted it like a pigeon with a homing band. I ran home, a dam of happiness bursting. My mother wept for us both.
“You could marry a boy from the village, you could live in that house never floods.”
She looked up imagining me so high up, falling like a woman on a ledge.
“I know he loves me,” I said.
I nodded. I would not picture broken wings, rumours of girls, crumpled paper dolls dropping out of the sky. My mother bit her lips. She was that kind. I was mine.
The women whooped around me on the night of the wedding, his sisters, cousins and aunts. Their red hair set a dozen little fires on their heads.
“You will look beautiful. You will be beautiful,” his mother said.
I think that’s what she said, I was still trying to understand. I watched her cheeks darken and lighten to match her daughters, all laughing, bubbling, clapping their hands. Every shade of red lit their skin. Their skins were a series of sunsets migrating from pink, vermilon to maroon. I did not have words for so many shades of red. I was still learning the language of their faces. I replied to everything with a small smile.
“I don’t know what they think about me,” I’d said, “if they’ll like me.”
He lowered his head, neck crooked into mine. “I like you,” he said, “you’ll get used to them.”
So I sat, as they all flapped around me, wove flowers in my hair and snatched them out.
“No! Not like that! You’re not building a nest!”
His mother was scarlet, fading to the silky shade inside a pomegranate.
“You’re ready,’ she said, ‘doesn’t she look ready?”
I saw a nod, nod, nod, nod. His sisters stood around like agreeable ballerinas, a foot crooked up resting on a thigh, a knee bent to one side. One of them carried the dress, a silvery white. It lay across both of her arms like a pale woman being carried out of a house.
“You try it now! We won’t look!”
They giggled, holding fingers across their eyes, peeking out of gaps. Hook by hook, I opened up the dress and stepped inside, feathers wafted on gasps of breath. Feathers settled, silking themselves to my skin. I looked down and could not see my arms. I did not need a mirror, I could see myself in their bird eyes.
“Lift, lift up your petticoat, higher, higher!”
My arms rose, lifting the skirt off the floor. They stood back and watched me. Go, up, up, up, fly to where he was waiting by the ocean. I looked down at my mother, hand on her chest to stop her heart flapping out. I saw her get small, crying and laughing as she watched me fly. I did not fall.