“Morning, sunshine! Late for work again, I see.”
Peaseblossom scowled at the receptionist, who merely tsked and pointed at the sign above her head, which read, “TARDINESS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.”
Peaseblossom rolled her eyes. She had woken up with a nasty head cold and was in no mood to play nice with Gladys. Especially on a day like today. “Just let Mr. Abernathy know I’m here now, okay?”
Gladys gave Peaseblossom a smug smile as the phone rang. “Abernathy’s Agency of Mythical Creatures, how may I direct your call? One moment, please.” She hung up the phone and looked back at Peaseblossom. “He’s in a meeting right now, but he did mention he wanted to see you. Something about the Spencer twins?”
Peaseblossom looked at Gladys sharply. “I don’t care what they say, it wasn’t my fault. Those kids are evil.” She took off her jacket, and pointed to her back. “They wanted to pull these off. They almost caught me, too.”
Gladys’s smile faded as she stood up to inspect the damage. Peaseblossom’s right wing was tattered around one edge, and the color had faded from its regular iridescence to a sickly gray-green. “This isn’t good. This isn’t good at all.” Gladys tried to draw the wing out to full wingspan, but Peaseblossom flinched and pulled away.
Thankfully, Mr. Abernathy’s door opened before Gladys could say anything more. A leprechaun emerged, his face blushing bright green. “…and don’t forget that ‘two left feet’ is only an expression!” boomed a voice behind the door.
The leprechaun glanced at Gladys and Peaseblossom worriedly and mumbled, “Yes, sir,” before scurrying out the front door.
Gladys straightened and smoothed her dress, clearing her throat loudly. “Mr. Abernathy will see you now, Peaseblossom,” she announced in an overly cheery voice. But before Peaseblossom could move towards the door, Gladys reached out and caught her hand.
Peaseblossom turned, annoyed.
The bright smile on Gladys’s face was gone. “Just…if you need anything, I’m here, okay? I haven’t forgotten what day it is.”
Peaseblossom nodded stiffly and walked into Mr. Abernathy’s office.
Mr. Abernathy is nothing but a grizzled old gnome, thought Peaseblossom as she stomped through the rain twenty minutes later. He had given her a dressing down for her constant tardiness, then demanded an explanation for the debacle surrounding the Spencer twins. She had tried to keep her temper in check. Really, she had. But in the end, she had told her boss to shove it, and he had reacted rather predictably.
“We have several laundry fairy posts opening up,” he’d said, his eyes darkening with rage. “Until you learn to control that mouth of yours, I suggest you go back to the basics.”
Back to the basics. Hmmph. She hadn’t been a laundry fairy for ten years. How many socks was she supposed to collect per wash? She had no clue. Did humans even wear socks anymore?
The rain was coming down in sheets, and Peaseblossom was getting drenched. She pulled her jacket tighter around herself. Until her wings healed, she’d have to walk everywhere. She could teleport, of course, but that took a lot out of her, and she already wasn’t feeling all that well. She sneezed. Great. Just great.
Her first stop loomed ahead. It was a Victorian townhouse, under renovation. The brick steps leading to the front door were crumbling, and the construction workers had created their own path of muddy bootprints through what was once a lovely patch of primroses. She sniffed as she walked by. Some people just have no respect!
She slipped through the cat flap in the kitchen door. The laundry room was just through the kitchen, but she still kept close to the walls and cupboards, in case she saw any humans. The construction workers probably wouldn’t notice her; nevertheless, she thought as she touched her wing nervously, it’s best not to risk another close encounter.
Once in the laundry room, she busied herself with cleaning and folding the piles of laundry that had been left there by the residents. She wondered if they knew how their laundry miraculously got done. Although there were magical humans who had, through some bargain passed down by their ancestors, the right to regular help from creatures like herself, most humans might only be visited by a fairy or an elf once or twice in a lifetime as payment for a good deed that they did to one of their own. These good deeds happen more often than one might imagine, and for centuries, fairies like Peaseblossom have been able to make a decent living as a result.
Being a laundry fairy is an easy job, but there was more to life than housework. Peaseblossom had her eye on the post of fairy godmother, and she’d be well on her way to becoming one, too, if it weren’t for…
She shook her head, trying to think of something else, anything else. A year ago today he had died in his crib, a victim of what the humans called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The agency had ruled it an accident, but she couldn’t stop blaming herself. He would have been her first charge if he had lived past three months. She had turned her back on him for just a moment, but that was the moment that he had decided to leave this world. She hadn’t even been able to tell him her name. Her eyes welled with tears. She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.
Now that a year had passed, she would have been eligible to take on a new charge today. If she hadn’t lost her temper.
A large orange tabby wandered into the room. Peaseblossom dried her tears with the hem of her dress and jumped off the counter to greet the cat. “I’m pretty sure I’m just here for the day,” she said, smiling and holding her hand out. “But just in case I have to come back, I’m Peaseblossom.”
The cat began washing himself.
Embarrassed, Peaseblossom withdrew her hand. “Well, anyway, it’s nice to meet you.” She returned to sorting the light and dark clothes.
At the top of the pile, there were several small sweaters. “I guess there must be a child or two in the house?” she asked the cat. She knew the cat wouldn’t answer, but at least it was nice to have some company while she did her work. She pulled a strand of long blonde hair from the sweater. “A little girl?”
The cat looked up and began to purr.
“You like the little girl, do you?”
The cat just stared at her. He blinked slowly.
She put the sweater down. “Do you want to show me around?” The work could wait.
The cat stood up, stretched, and wandered down the hall, stopping only once to make sure Peaseblossom was following.
The house was much bigger than it had seemed from the outside. Each room was full of little cubby holes and nooks, perfect hiding spots for fairies. Peaseblossom had taken time to peruse the library, and found it more than satisfactory, from the box set of Harry Potter on the shelves to the old, well-worn copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth on the piano bench. She began to realize that this family had a fairly comprehensive understanding of her kind. For a human family, of course.
At last, the cat led her to the little girl’s room, and for the first time in a long time, Peaseblossom smiled. Her wings no longer ached and her cold seemed to disappear. Her delight didn’t stem from the downy pink and yellow comforter on the bed or the pictures of unicorns on the wall, although any other fairy would be gleeful at such a sight. Nor was it the dish of honey and chocolates clearly set out as an offering to a fairy.
Rather, Peaseblossom was looking at a bouquet of flowers sitting on the bedside table — pea blossoms, to be precise — with a note written in the unsteady scrawl of a six-year-old:
Billy said you’re nice. Will you be mine?
Maybe there were some good humans in the world after all.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Kirsten Doyle challenged me with “Write a story that includes an old copy of Macbeth, a strand of long blonde hair, and a footprint from a man’s boot.” and I challenged BubblegumDreams with “Write a story with a character that frequently uses malapropisms.”