This just in from my lawyer…”He says he told you that you can see the kids any time, no restrictions.”
To a stranger, from far away, that probably sounds more than reasonable. In fact, why would I take issue with that at ALL? I must be the most crabby and unreasonable person on the planet, right? But what a stranger would not know and what my attorney SHOULD know is that my ex just plain stopped paying my alimony the second I gave over custody. And this surprise maneuver meant I went from having child support and alimony to zero. That’s zero dollars folks, after having to put up with an ex who’d based the amount of child support and alimony on self-reported income and jobs he repeatedly said he lost near any court date. So, even when we had child support and alimony, this was an amount that I had to creatively stretch to put food on the table and gas in the car so the kids could get to school while their dad lived a completely comfortable life of relative luxury.
Me to my attorney (last Fall on the phone): That’s great that he says that, but in my financial situation I cannot live near the kids. Plus, it is challenging to get them here to see me and vice versa.
My attorney: Why couldn’t you open a gallery here, where you could see them all the time?
Me: Because there were no galleries near you where I could also sleep and maybe take a bath. I had no money with which to pay rent when he stopped paying alimony. A friend offered a place to live down here. So, that’s why I'm here. Plus, business space is cheaper here. I couldn’t afford a gallery there.
My attorney: I’d love to have a little golf shop, but I do this (she could almost see him make a sweeping gesture of his mahogany office) so I can pay my bills. Why not get a part time job or something?
Me: I’ve never had a traditional job. I’ve always been either a mom or an artist. Even when I looked for a job, no one would hire me.
My attorney: What about your savings? Could you live off of that for a while until you get on your feet?
Me: There are no savings.
My attorney: I mean he did pay you all that time when you had the kids, even when he was unemployed.
Me: He wasn’t really unemployed. He only threatened to be unemployed when a court date came up.
My attorney: But he did pay you.
Me: Yes. He did.
My attorney: What about your parents? Could they help you out?
Me: I believe I have mentioned before that my parents died in an accident a long time ago and that I was orphaned at an early age.
My attorney: Right. Sorry.
My attorney: What about that man who was your guardian?
Me: I'm guessing he gave me the money to pay you so that my ex would pay what he is supposed to, not so he would have to support me. Besides, I shouldn’t have to ask him that. I thought the laws supported a woman receiving alimony!
My attorney: They do but you never know what will happen when you get in a courtroom. It could go either way.
Me: I am willing to find out what will happen. Let's just do it.
My attorney: Why don’t I talk to his attorney one more time?
You can take the above conversation, record it and then put it on a permanent loop because my attorney and I have had that exact conversation so many times, I can’t count them all. Bottom line is that I still don’t have my alimony reinstated and I’ve only seen my kids three times in 8 months.
As a result, when winter hit, I sort of fell into a dark place, you know, metaphorically. But then, and this is the life of a fairy I guess, I fell into a dark place literally.
Apparently it is TRES, TRES bad when fairies go dark because they go uber dark and then bad things happen around them. I guess it explains why the local fairies did what they did, but anyhoo...
It was the Full Moon just before Halloween and I was dressed as Alice in Wonderland because, well, that was the costume that was my size at Goodwill. The art camp classes at the gallery were doing well and my kids were coming down for the weekend, which was when Halloween fell. In hindsight, I was one happy Alice that day.
(Late afternoon, Full Moon before Halloween, Phoebe’s Studio and Gallery)
Phoebe, dressed as Alice in Wonderland is standing over a potter’s wheel where an eleven-year-old boy in Harry Potter glasses and a cape frowns at a misshapen lump. The boy’s arms are crossed.
Phoebe: In a standoff with the clay? Happens to me all the time.
Boy: I hate pottery.
Phoebe: I’m sorry to hear that, but the dragon cup could still be pretty cool if you get your hands wet, re-center the clay and start again. I loved the drawing of what it would look like.
The boy continues to frown.
Phoebe: Okay Boy Who Lived. Scoot. Go get some fresh blood juice and a Dracula cookie. I will re-center it for you. You’ve put in too much effort to give up now.
The boy is at the refreshment table before Phoebe even finishes the sentence.
Phoebe sits at the wheel, dips her hands in the water bowl, presses the foot pedal that spins the wheel and expertly slides the glob of clay to the center of the wheel. She does what she does whenever she can tell a student has hit a serious wall. She presses her thumbs down and the clay rises, as if by magic, to form the sides of the dragon cup. The boy returns with a cup of red juice and a handful of cookies. Phoebe stands up.
Phoebe: Make the handle the way I showed you and then you can form the dragon’s tail and claws the same way.
Phoebe motions for him to sit down, which he does. Before thinking about it, Phoebe wipes her hands on her white Alice apron and leaves a clay colored smear next to the many others. Normally she wears a paint smock or a more utilitarian clay-colored apron.
A girl wearing a panda costume yanks on Phoebe’s sleeve just as the bell on the door jingles. Phoebe looks at the girl and then at the door. It’s Cooper and Lucy. Cooper is dressed as a knight and Lucy is dressed as….as…. Phoebe waves and squints at Lucy who is covered in balloons and streamers and seemed to be wearing a piñata as a hat.
Cooper (does a little bow): My lady.
Phoebe holds out her skirt and does an awkward curtsy. The panda-girl pulls on Phoebe’s sleeve again.
Phoebe to panda-girl: Need some bamboo leaves to munch on?
Panda-girl shakes her head but doesn’t say anything.
Phoebe: Do you want me to check out your cup?
Phoebe to Cooper and Lucy: I’ll be right back.
Cooper to boy in Harry Potter costume: Wow. That cat is amazing.
Harry Potter boy: It’s a dragon.
Cooper: Are you sure because the whiskers are suggestive of "cat."
Lucy pinches Coopers arm.
Cooper stares at Lucy and rubs his arm.
Two girls dressed as princesses approach Cooper and Lucy. Each is holding her clay mug art project.
Girl one: Where do we put these?
Cooper (points): Go ask Alice.
The girls leave.
Lucy pinches Cooper again.
Cooper: What was that for? And would you mind explaining your costume? The suspense is killing me.
Lucy: Bad jokes get pinches. And, I wanted you to guess.
Cooper: Okay. A birthday party.
Cooper: Okay. What you throw in the dumpster after the party is over.
Lucy opens her mouth and Phoebe walks up to Lucy and Cooper and points at Lucy.
Phoebe: Birthday party!
Cooper: Try again.
Phoebe: What’s left after the guests go home?
Lucy: I’m the Life of the Party! Get it? Life…
Lucy does a wiggle dance.
Lucy: ….of the party.
Lucy points to the balloons.
Cooper: Don’t know why I didn’t see it before.
Phoebe’s phone makes a noise.
Phoebe: Oh wait! That might be the kids. I’m so excited they will be here for Halloween!
Phoebe reads the text and her smile fades to sadness.
Lucy: Uh, oh.
Phoebe puts her phone in her apron pocket.
Cooper: Everything okay?
Phoebe’s lip trembles and Lucy magically pulls a Kleenex from under the balloons and hands it to Phoebe.
Phoebe dabs her eyes and sniffs. She sits on the edge of a table and twizzles a strand of yellow hair on her Alice wig.
Lucy: Do you want to talk about it?
Phoebe: The kids aren’t coming after all. They want to go trick or treating with their friends.
Cooper: Those brats!
Lucy gives Cooper a warning look.
Cooper: What??? I mean it. They are putting fun and friends and lots of candy above their own mother. What kind of kid does that?
Phoebe and Lucy murmur in unison: Well, most kids…yeah…
Cooper: Still. When’s the last time you saw them, Phoeb’s? Wasn’t it this summer? That’s not right. But then, of course, the last time they were here they almost got eaten by a tree so they might not...OW!
Cooper rubs his arm again and glares at Lucy.
Phoebe shrugs and her lip trembles again.
Lucy: Uh, oh.
Cooper and Phoebe look at Lucy.
Lucy: I was watching Phoebe, who is dressed like Alice in Wonderland, and I saw a tear roll down her cheek and, and...well, I had a flash of what happens in the story of Alice in Wonderland when Alice cries.
Lucy: Don't you remember? Her tears begin to create a puddle and then a river and then an ocean?
Phoebe shrugs again and stares out the window at the parking lot and another tear rolls down her cheek.
Cooper: I'm not sure I ever really read the book. My knowledge may be limited to the Disney version and even that bored the pants off me...well, not really my pants, but you know what I'm saying.
Lucy: What I mean is...I just had a feeling about it. Didn't your mentors...your..what are they again?
Phoebe: Guardian angels, or so they say.
Lucy: Right. Didn't they say something about your moods connecting to your powers. Something about staying happy was important. Or not getting too sad or mad, I think.
Phoebe: I have to say that I think fairy rules suck. I can't help how I feel.
Cooper: Lucy, I think you're stretching things a bit, here. I mean, sure, Phoebe here is a fairy and weird as shit things happen around her (sorry Phoeb's) but that doesn't mean her life will mimic a fairy tale.
Lucy: I don't know. It was just a feeling. Hey, Phoebe, let's all do something after work. We don't even have to go to the stupid Full Moon Party if you don't want to. I'm all for a movie and a pint of Ben and Jerry's, right Cooper?
Cooper: Uh..sure. Cherry Garcia and a movie it is, but I vote for a comedy.
Lucy (glances at Phoebe who stares vacantly out to the parking lot): I second the comedy idea and I've got to go do some bookkeeping before I can leave.
Cooper: Look, we'll brainstorm this. We'll either get you up there to see them or get them down here to see you soon. I'll help you figure it out.
Cooper: Okay, I probably need to wrap up some things at the store before tonight. So I will see you later.
Phoebe nods and smiles like her face really, really doesn't want to.
Like a robot, Phoebe moves through the motions of ending art camp for the day. She wipes the tables, carries the animal cups to the drying shelves, picks up all the stray bits of clay and sweeps the floor. She helps a few stray customers, rings up a few impressive sales and cashes out for the day. She gathers her things, sets the alarm, locks the front door and goes to her golf cart.
A mild wind rustles the palm trees. The evening feels like October on the coast. It's not cold, but it's not warm either. A long arrow of Canadian geese fly overhead and honk to each other. Phoebe knows what they are saying and assumes everyone can understand what they are saying because no one has ever told her that most people don't hear other living creatures the way she does.
She hears them saying: Stay left! Marcus, get back in line! I'm hungry! You just ate! The sun is sinking, the sun is sinking, the sun is... and so forth. The usual. In the bushes a squirrel is chattering: My mouth is not full, my mouth is not full, where did I put that? Oh, there it is! The sun is sinking, the sun is sinking, the sun is...and so forth. The usual. These are the sounds as normal to Phoebe as the sound of the wind to anyone else on earth and she has no idea that no one else can understand the language of the living things around them.
The squirrel stops for a moment and stands upright, alert. He eyes Phoebe and says: Are you going to drop any food because my mouth is empty and the sun is sinking. Phoebe shakes her head and turns the key in the ignition.
Phoebe turns down Federal Road toward home. Steering with one hand, she grabs her phone with the other and speed dials her ex. His voicemail, as always, picks up.
Phoebe: You bastard. I usually don't give you the satisfaction of upsetting me, but I want you to know that I know who you are. You think no one can see it. You think no one will ever know who you really are. But I want you to know that I know who you are and you can't escape it. You can't escape who you are, you ever-loving bastard! What you are doing to the kids is unforgivable! Unforgivable! On the day you die, you will understand this like nothing else and I want to be there to see the look of suffering on your face.
In the distance, thunder rumbles and a wind kicks up. The sky grows instantly darker and a flock of crows begin to call out. Phoebe looks toward the thunder and hangs up. She looks like she is going to throw her phone at the thunder but she puts it in the cup holder instead. Unbeknownst to Phoebe, riding on the top edge of the back seat are Gus, Clementine and Balthasar, the regular-sized fairies (think "cricket-sized") who have been monitoring Phoebe since she arrived.
[They are worried that Phoebe, as a half-human fairy who has never been trained, will get out of control with her powers, especially when emotionally charged.
As a part of the traditional fairy training process--something they call "The Exam"--the fairies have been trying to vet Phoebe into the ways of fairyhood without blowing their cover. Their biggest fear is that she is emotionally unstable after the divorce and giving over the custody of her children. Fairies are not supposed to experience dramatic highs and lows, especially if they don't have a grip on their powers. The three small fairies sensed a disturbance in the atmosphere after Phoebe got the text that the kids weren't visiting, so they are tagging along to contain any collateral damage should Phoebe begin to really lose it.]
Phoebe grabs the phone again and speed dials her ex. Voicemail picks up.
Phoebe: And I forgot to mention what a miniscule penis you have!
Phoebe slams the phone into the cup holder just as a bolt of lightning slams into the forest maybe fifty feet away causing Phoebe to let out a little shriek and the three fairies to pull out their wands, which they aim at Phoebe.
Gus yells: Let's give her one more minute to cool down, but if she doesn't let's move in on the count of three.
Clementine and Balthasar nod and keep their wands poised. Leaves and sticks begin to fly through the air in a big swirling mass. Phoebe doesn't seem to notice and a thin green light seems to shimmer around her like a force field. Even her eyes seem to take on a green light.
Clementine: Look! The Large One has the green light. I say we zap her now.
Balthasar: I feel kinda sad for her. She must miss her family.
Gus: This is no time for sentiment. We have to think of the greater good and things aren't looking too good.
Clementine: If she's anything like her grandmother...
Clementine: Sheesh! I wasn't going to say her name!
Balthasar (a younger fairy): So, who was her grandmother?
A deep rumble seems to emanate from the ground. Gus buries his face in his hands.
Balthasar: I don't get it. What's the big deal?
Clementine's eyes sparkle: She was only the favorite consort of Blackbeard and the most powerful fairy ever! She's buried here on the island. Blackbeard commissioned the crypt himself. It's beautiful.
Clementine sighs dreamily.
A sound of wind combined with the creaking of the trees intensifies. Gus lifts his head and looks around.
Gus: The trees are awakening.
Around them, the tree branches are bending and swaying and every so often it looks like the trees are changing position in the woods, as though they can walk.
Just then, Phoebe lets out a wild laugh and slaps the steering wheel.
Phoebe: Haha! Small penis.
Gus: This isn't getting any better.
Gus, wand raised, gives Clementine and Balthasar a look.
Gus: On the count of three. One...
Clementine and Balthasar join in: Two...
The three fairies flick their wands in unison, sending hot red sparks at Phoebe, who is enveloped by the red sparks, lifted out of her seat and hurled into the darkening sky. Her scream fades as the red sparks carry her back down again somewhere in the marshlands.
Meanwhile, the cart careens down the road with the three fairies.
Gus: Anyone know how to drive one of these things?
Clementine zaps herself to human-size and leaps behind the wheel.
Clementine: Thor taught me a thing or two.
Meanwhile, the wind begins to settle and the clouds part to a full moon. In the distance, a dog howls and the ground rumbles once more.
Phoebe feels herself fly into the air like she's been shot from a cannon. And then she slows down, like one of those cartoons. For a moment more, she is suspended in midair. Just as she looks down, she begins to fall. And fall. And fall. She should be hitting the ground anytime now. She braces herself in her red, spark-mobile. She falls and falls. She is being swallowed by darkness. She looks up and sees a round circle of stars grow more distant. Now she's done it. Clearly, she is going to hell for laughing at her ex's penis.