C.A. Broadribb

C.A. Broadribb has a few uni degrees, writes both fiction and non-fiction, and lives in Sydney. Read her story below. See www.wildthoughts.com.au

Shall I Call You Christina
(Somewhere Else Theme)

Leaves rustle in a bush nearby and then a fairy emerges. I assume that’s what she is:  about the height of my hand, slim, and wearing a dress made of flower petals sewn together with cobwebs. An eclectic mix of white, orange, red and yellow. Pretty but surely not very practical, given how quickly petals wilt once plucked. She must need a new dress every few days. Her hat is an acorn cup that looks more like a helmet, and doesn’t match her outfit at all. I supress a giggle.

‘What are you doing here?’ she squeaks.

‘Nothing much.’ I’d been watching the clouds in the sky drifting slowly, forming and reforming intricate, wispy patterns, and listening to waves crashing rhythmically at the base of the cliff below us.

‘Wait. Fairies aren’t real.’ I wonder if I’ve dozed off and am dreaming.

‘I’m as real as you are.’ She indignantly pokes me in the leg with a sharpened twig, which I barely feel.

Studying her, I see that she really does resemble a tiny person, aside from the gauzy wings poking through holes in her dress and folded along her back. I wonder if she can fly. She doesn’t have an aerodynamically adapted body like a bird or insect. Her proportions and weight must be all wrong for flight. However, I don’t want to embarrass her by asking such a personal question.

‘Where do you live?’ I say instead.

‘In there.’ She gestures at the heath myrtle bush behind her. ‘Your foot is in my living room.’

‘Oh.’ I move my leg out of the way, and surreptitiously peer into the mass of spiny leaves and white flowers. I catch glimpses of her life:  a bed made of dried grass, bark dishes, hollowed out soapstone containing water and presumably serving as a bathtub, shreds of paperbark for use as towels. It’s like looking into a different world even though it’s technically part of ours.

‘You humans never think about what you’re doing. Trampling our houses, throwing litter all over the place, letting your dogs run free. My best friend was mauled by a terrier last week.’

‘Sorry to hear that.’ It’s a beautiful sunny day, and it’s peaceful out here, with all of the greenery and rocks and the ocean stretching towards the horizon. I’m not in the mood to get into an argument with anyone, let alone a mythological creature that shouldn’t even exist.

‘What’s your name?’ I say to distract her.

‘We don’t have names. That’s a silly human practice.’

‘Then how do you refer to each other?’

‘By our descriptions. I’m the fairy-in-the-petal-dress-who-lives-in-the-fine-leafed-bush-near-the-lantana.’

I struggle not to laugh. ‘Then that is your name. But it’s too clumsy. Shall I call you Christina?’

When I was a kid in primary school, there was a girl in my class named Christina and I always thought that it sounded like a perfect fairy’s name. I was disappointed that she was ordinary, not fairy-like at all, and not very friendly.

‘If you insist.’ Real-fairy Christina shakes her tiny head in obvious bewilderment at my human idiosyncrasies. ‘Have you got any fairy bread with you?’

‘No, sorry.’ My bag contains a chicken wrap, muesli bars and a banana. Nothing that she would be likely to eat. No fairy floss, either, if that’s what she’s going to ask next.

‘If you’re going to squash my home, you could at least give me a present.’

I look through my belongings. She wouldn’t have any use for my mobile phone – it’s as big as she is, and much too heavy for her. I find a stray button that must have fallen out of my sewing kit. It’s made of abalone shell and glints in the sunshine. ‘Would you like this?’

She snatches it from me. ‘I can use it to decorate my bedroom.’

‘Aren’t you going to say ‘thank you’?’ I wonder why I have to remind a fairy of her manners.

‘Thanks,’ she says rather haughtily.

She doesn’t have the sort of personality that I’d have expected, based on what I’d read in fantasy books or seen in movies when I was a kid, and I feel let down. Why couldn’t I have met one of those cheerful, friendly little beings who radiate magic and mystery and excitement?

‘Do you own a dog?’ Christina peers suspiciously at the white hairs on my pants leg.

‘No, a Ragdoll.’

She shudders. ‘I hate cats! They’re so quiet, they move so quickly, they have such sharp teeth and claws.’

‘Mine would be too lazy to attack you.’

As soon as I say it, I realise that it’s a mistake, for her tiny face turns red. How was I supposed to know the etiquette for talking with fairies? The books and movies never covered that.

‘Don’t come here again!’ She disappears into the bush in a swirl of indignation and wilting petals.

I shrug. ‘Nice meeting you, Christina.’

A teenage girl walking past pauses to stare at me. ‘Why are you sitting there talking to yourself?’

‘I’m not. I was talking to –’ I realise that it would be too difficult to explain. ‘Never mind.’

‘Weirdo,’ she sneers.