I’m betting that, when you were growing up, you didn’t ever look forward eagerly to living your life as a cliché. Yeah, me neither. So what the hell happened?
My fairy tale started like a cheap drugstore potboiler displayed on the whirly thing near the cash register. You know, the ones with glossy covers featuring dashing swains with glossier pecs crushing delicate damsels against their brawny chests; the ones my Aunt Edna called “bodice-rippers.” It started just like one of those. Once it really got going, I finally understood what mama meant when she said, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Oh, yeah, I finally got it.
Luc is tall, dark and handsome. Yeah, yeah, I know, trite. But what can I say? He is tall, dark and handsome. He’s at least six-four and fit, but not all bulgy like that muscle-bound hulk on the back of the comic books who kicks sand in the poor skinny guy’s face before walking off with the girl. His dark brown hair is thick and slightly curly, and one lock of it insists on falling across his forehead boyishly. It’s the kind of hair that causes every woman’s hand to twitch with the desire to smooth it back off his face.
And, oh, when he chooses to turn on the charm… He fills a room with it, drawing men and women alike into his light. Luc makes everyone feel like the only one, and they all discover that they are witty conversationalists after all. Never having had it myself, I can’t say for sure, but I think this is what people call charisma.
I met Luc at a charity ball to raise funds for a shelter serving abused women. I have to smile at the irony of that. Even in a sea of tuxedo-clad men, he stood out, a prince among men, you might say. Like everyone else, I fell under his spell. But unlike the rest of them, I am the one he chose to woo and marry.
My lucky day? Not so much. Remember what mama said about the book cover? My Prince Charming turned out to be the frog in drag. Oops, sorry, I’m mixing my metaphors here.
Anyway, so here I am, living the life of Cinderella. Literally. You got a fireplace that needs sweeping out? A scullery that needs cleaning? I’m your girl. Pretty much any household drudgery needing expert attention, I’ve got the experience and skill to do the job.
And where is Prince Charming through all of this? Why, off being charming, of course. But I’m betting you’d guessed that already. He
carouses works his way up the corporate ladder, while I raise our three children and tend to the endless household chores.
I would tell you this turned out to be no fairy tale, but as you know, some fairy tales are pretty horrible. As unrewarding as my life is, at least I’m not in danger of being eaten by a wolf or anything. At least I don’t think I am. Luc has never hit me. But he also never talks to me, other than to ask if I picked up his blue suit from the cleaners or something equally important. Any “abuse” is purely psychological, and it’s primarily my ego that’s taking a battering. Didn’t I used to be beautiful? Smart? Talented? Like I said, what the hell happened?
You’re probably wondering why I don’t just leave Luc. Why indeed? It’s quite simple, really. I love the guy. What can I say? Sure, I keep hoping for my happy ending. Every time I kiss Luc, I pray that the sweetness of my lips will turn him into a nice guy. Ha. No such luck. I’m not leaving, though.
That’s the way it is with fairy tales, I guess. Not all of them end happily.
The hectic early morning rush is over. I‘ve fed Luc and kissed him goodbye – nope, didn’t work that time either. I made the kids breakfast, some of which they actually ate, and shoved lunch boxes into their hands as they hurried out the door to catch the bus, late as usual.
Sinking onto the couch, my first coffee of the day in my hand, I breathe a sigh of relief. There is a mess in the kitchen and mountains of laundry waiting in the hamper and on all of the bedroom floors. I decide they are going to continue waiting for a while, and open the newspaper I’ve reassembled from the pile Luc left scattered on the kitchen table.
In the back of the local section, I see it.
Gypsy Soothsayer, Advisor,
& All-Around Fairy Godmother
Tonight at King’s Bookstore
Hmmm… Fairy godmother? Crazy, I know, but like they say in the ad, “hey, you never know.”
I jump up and call my friend Belle, and we make a date. I know Luc won’t be home – is he ever? – but Belle’s daughter is my go-to babysitter, so it’s all good.
The rest of the day passes in a fog of fantasy. Dishes float into the dishwasher. The laundry is magically washed, folded and put away. The kids even sit down and do their homework without much nagging. Well, OK, the promise of pizza may have wielded the magic there.
When Belle and Ariel ring the doorbell at six o’clock, I am dressed kind of like a grown-up for a change and more than ready to go.
The bookstore is crowded when we arrive. No surprise there. Madame Zachária’s book, All-Around Fairy Godmother, is a best seller. Besides, who doesn’t want the chance to consult a soothsayer and fairy godmother? We find seats just before Madame Zachária comes in and takes her place at the podium. She's a bit round -- "full-figured" might be a better way to say it -- and has black hair laced with gray. She looks to be around sixty and is still beautiful in an exotic sort of way. Her dark eyes twinkle mischievously, like she has a great secret and can’t wait to share it. She’s perfect, everything you could want in a fairy godmother.
I sit spellbound as Madame describes her life and her book. Her voice is musical and it carries a faint accent, making me think of Hedy Lamarr in some old movie. As she speaks, her voice echoes the promise of mischief that I saw in her eyes. She talks of joy, peace and love, and how she found the way to bring all three into her life. And if I buy her book, she’ll do all that for me too. Just $24.95 plus tax.
Joy, peace and love. Okay, then.
Madame Zachária sits behind a table stacked high with copies of All-Around Fairy Godmother. I take my place at the end of the long line waiting to exchange a few words with her as she autographs her book of secrets.
“You’re not buying that thing?” Belle whispers to me as she joins me.
“Yep. I am. I know it’s silly and probably wishful thinking, but… Well, you know.”
I’m kind of embarrassed, but what the heck? Belle knows how unhappy I am. God knows she should. She’s sat listening to me whine about it often enough. But, hey, you never know, right? Besides, if nothing else, I’ll have a new book to read while I wait for Luc to come home at night.
“Probably wishful thinking?” Belle makes her favorite little snorting sound of derision. It’s not her best quality, if you ask me, but it makes her meaning clear.
“Yeah, okay, whatever. I’m not standing here in line, though. I’ll be over in Mysteries when you’re ready to go.”
My turn finally comes. Madame looks up as she reaches for another copy of the book waiting in a much shorter stack on the table in front of her.
Smiles broadly, she says, “Welcome. Now tell me: what is your name?”
She opens the book to the title page and picks up her pen. “What would you like me to say in your inscription?”
I sit down in the folding chair in front of the table and glance around to make sure no one is waiting behind me.
“Tell me how to be happy. Tell me how to make my husband love me.” My voice is quivering a bit, and I know I am close to losing it and weeping. In a bookstore, for heaven’s sake.
The smile leaves Madame’s face. She puts down her pen and holds out both her hands. Before I can think about it, I reach out and take her hands in mine.
She closes her eyes a moment, and then opens them and looks right into my soul.
She leans toward me, squeezing my hands, and begins in a low voice, “Child, listen carefully now…”
She is speaking so softly that I have to scootch to the edge of my chair and lean across the table to hear her. And then she smiles again and releases my hands to pick up the pen again. She scrawls a few words on the page, signs her name with a flourish, closes the book with a snap, and holds it out to me.
“There! Now go be happy. I was going to say ‘Good luck,’ but I don’t need to. You already have that, and more.” She amazes me by actually winking at me as she says it.
I take the book. Mumbling my thanks, I turn away to find Belle. I’m anxious to pay my $24.95 plus tax and go home to begin reading.
I close the oven after basting the filet I’m roasting for dinner, leaving the kitchen redolent with delicious aromas. Mmm, almost done. I hear the hum of the closing garage door and wipe my hands on the dishtowel. Turning, I see Luc coming through the door from the garage.
“Wow, what’s that smell?” he says as he comes in.
“Dinner and you’re just in time. It should be ready in about 15 or 20 minutes. I opened a bottle of burgundy. Want a glass?
“That’d be great.” Luc comes over and kisses me. “I’ll be back in a couple. I want to get out of this suit and into some jeans. Where’re the kids?”
“Down in the playroom playing some Wii game, I think,” I answer as I reach up and push that lock of hair from his forehead.
“I’ll run down and say hi to them first. Be right back.” Luc heads toward the hall, leaving me to pour the wine and take up dinner.
I smile to myself, thinking ahead to the dinner we’ll actually sit down and eat as a family, and the evening beyond. And I realize that I am happy. Really happy.
You’re probably wondering what turned the tide. I would be. This is such a different scenario from the typical weeknights of several months ago. Things aren’t perfect, of course, but they are so much better that I finally believe in the happy ending. I might tell you that the secret was in that book, which you too can have for only $24.95 plus tax. But that would be a lie. I’ll share Madame Zachária’s inscription with you, though.
“Without wood, the fire would die.”
So what was the secret to turning my life into a “happily ever after” fairy tale? Sorry, but I’m not telling.
Get your own fairy godmother.
Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.