"Camarie's Dream"

The woods were dark and dense in the inky blackness after nightfall, and the
only illumination was from the moon which shown almost full in tandem with
the splash of stars hanging suspended in a cloudless sky.

Below this endless canopy of muted light, rested a fairy kingdom called Camarie,
a magical place indeed, where mystical happenings not commonly seen
in the real world occurred with great frequency.

Deep within the trunk of an old oak tree at the outskirts of this magical
place, a roomy hollow sat beneath the branching of several limbs.
Two fireflies very adequately served as the only light within the room where
several small winged creatures stood huddled around an exquisite nymph who
was daintily perched before a piece of broken glass which served as a makeshift mirror.
"Merriam, don't brush so hard," the comely girl said with a trace of irritation
as she pulled gingerly away from the handmaiden behind her who was tending
to her long golden hair. Shiny and soft it was as it reflected the light
from the fireflies' glow with soft curls naturally falling from a slight widow's peak.
Many of the fairies looked with envy upon her moon-kissed hair wishing their curls
fell as beautifully. They admired the way it cascaded around her creamy shoulders
that served as soft pedestals for the highlighted tresses.
Why, it was almost as if she saw the light of day, which of course she could not,
since those of the fairy world did their best not to be seen in the harsh glare of the sun.

"I'm sorry, madam," the handmaiden said. "I'm almost finished. 'Tis beautiful as always," she said with affection, for despite her mistress' minor irritation with her from time to time, she knew her to be most kind and generous, especially when she felt no pressure from her nerves which seemed to have her in their grip tonight. Her mistress, Princess Shaleigh was going to the most anticipated event of the summer season, the Celebration of the Summer Solstice, and it was her first time to go. A milestone in the life of any young fairy, but most particularly, this princess who would meet her subjects, not to mention the King, before this night was over.

Merriam was very proud of her mistress. Didn't she have every right? She had raised her since she was but an infant. Princess Shaleigh's parents, the King and Queen of Camarie, had been killed in a tragic accident when she was very small, and Merriam had been charged with the task of making sure the child became the sort of adult befitting her station.

In the fairy world, a young maiden of noble birth was required to stay virtually hidden, tended to by family and handmaidens, until she reached young adulthood. She could play with other child fairies, and of course she could be with her family, but the general population would not see her until she reached the age of majority. At that time, at Summer Solstice, the newly proclaimed royalty of the clan would be presented to the Fairy King - in a much-anticipated celebration that included fairy dancing and games within a circle constructed of young mushrooms that had sprouted just for the occasion. These young nymphs, who had been carefully taught all of the traditions and customs of the fairy culture, to better carry the ways of the past into the future, would now stand before their King, proud to be welcomed into the fold of the fairy clan in their positions of honor.

"I'm sorry to snap at you, Merriam," the princess said as she turned away from the mirror. She looked at the faces around her with eyes wide with trepidation. "I just hope I don't do something foolish! I would just die if I did something stupid in front of the King!"

Merriam shushed her. "Ach, you will be fine! You are so comely, my child, and you have learned your lessons well. Don't worry so."

The girls assembled in the room around her nodded their heads in agreement with Merriam's words. These were the entourage, her ladies in waiting, who had been assigned to her for the rest of her life to see that her needs were properly met. They would be with her from now on in times of trial and triumph. The training they had received since they were very small had been just as arduous as Shaleigh's had been. In the hierarchy of fairies, it was considered an honor to serve within the entourage of one so fair.

And she was beautiful. Framed within the halo of hair was a face with a flawlessly creamy complexion. Her eyes were her most striking facial feature .wide and aware, seemingly soaking in the events occurring around her.

But her wings were what one noticed first. It should be explained that a fairy's wings are a very important part of the visual statement made to others, as the colors are as varied as the fairies themselves. The more pleasing the color combinations, and the more splashy their appearance, the more choices a fairy would have, male or female, in the courtship ritual.

Princess Shaleigh's wings were quite vibrant. The colors were bright and vivid, an artistic statement against the backdrop of the greens and browns of the forest. They could easily rival a butterfly's wings in elegance, and it was a feature that would prove time and again to set her apart from the others of her community.

As they readied to go, with Princess Shaleigh nervously smoothing her gown and her attendants making sure her beautiful wings were spotless and ready to fly, a shrill sound rent the air around them. Looking for the source of the unpleasant sound, the princess suddenly, reluctantly found herself being pulled out of the room by what seemed like unseen hands. As she helplessly watched the scene below her fall quickly away, her handmaidens followed her withdrawal with bewilderment and regret clouding their disbelieving eyes.

Scene 2

Shara reached over to turn off the alarm. What on earth had she been dreaming about? The fairies again, she thought. A continuation of the same scene had been playing out in her mind for several nights now, and she always awoke feeling as if something begged to be finished.
As she took her shower, she thought about the dream. It seemed so real. It couldn't be, of course. She was dreaming about fairies, for goodness sakes, but she couldn't help wondering what would happen next. And the longer the dreams continued, the more she wanted to stay and finish the scenario.
And next you'll be saying you believe in fairy godmothers, she wryly thought. That'll be the day. If only it were that easy. But still, the dream had been magical, and the effects from it stayed longer and longer each day until she found herself thinking about these dreams all day long.
Her job was not an exciting one. She worked as a receptionist for a large company that designed ready-to-wear apparel for the busy women of the world, who since the war, increasingly worked outside of the home. Because she didn't consider it exciting was not to say that she wasn't good at it. Her face and voice were the first contact with potential customers, and her supervisors heard only good things about their friendly receptionist. She was so good at it that she was passed up for promotions because they knew it would be difficult to find someone as good at her job as she was.
The fact that she was bored with what she was doing did not stop her from doing the best job she possibly could. On the contrary, she was sure that one day, someone she greeted every day on the phone or as they walked in the door, would ask her supervisor why she hadn't been given a promotion. Or maybe they would hire her themselves. And then, perhaps, she could put the lessons she had studiously learned at night school to good use. Her dream was to become a high-end fashion designer, and for the past two years, she had taken art courses a few nights a week to enhance her natural ability with pen and ink.

It was about 2:00 that afternoon when Dolores asked her if she was okay. She thought Shara had been acting quite distracted today. Was everything all right?
Shara replied that she was fine, that she just hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before, and Dolores went away and left her alone. She couldn't tell her that she was lost in a world created in her own mind. Dolores would think she was crazy! And the fact that she was beginning to seriously wonder about it herself didn't comfort her in any way.
Try as she might, she could not keep her mind on work. And when the doors closed at 5:00 and she was free to board the bus that would drop her by her modest home, she felt nothing but weariness and a sense of great relief. It was becoming increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything but the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, when the fairies would celebrate the rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood. And it just so happened that this natural phenomenon was about to occur in the real world - when the path of the sun's rays on the earth passed from the Southern hemisphere into the northern one, and when summer officially began. For this was June 20th, and today was the longest day of the year.
When darkness descended, Shara couldn't wait to go to bed and hopefully continue with the story of the fairies. That she felt this way surprised her. She who had always been practical was living in a dream world of mists and mushrooms, and she fleetingly thought that maybe she was on the road to a breakdown. The fact that this was the most exciting thing to happen to her in a long while was perhaps a sad commentary on what her lonely life had become.

Scene 3

Princess Shaleigh flew soundlessly through the night, excitement emanating from around her as her colorful wings beat efficiently, almost transparently behind her. Following closely behind was her entourage of beauties who studiously watched their surroundings to ensure that no harm would come to their charge. Merriam had remained at home to anxiously await the princess' return and a full disclosure of the details of the evening's events. Princess Shaleigh missed her sorely right now, because she felt she could greatly benefit from Merriam's calming influence. She didn't know which was beating faster her heart or her diaphanous, gossamer wings.
As she rounded the last curve on her short journey, she gasped at the sight that confronted her. Within a clearing in the forest, the traditional fairy ring had been constructed with the help of willing mushrooms who had consented to erupt from the ground completely in unison forming a perfect semi-circle in the glade. Many fairies had already arrived and frolicked around the premises with wild abandon, having found wide leaves to jump upon. And then after having bounced for awhile, the lucky sprites would slide down the length of it and depend upon the bend of the stem to transport them safely to the ground, one-by-one. Laughter and music filled the air, and Princess Shaleigh halted, speechless, at the scene before her.
As she watched, she noticed that occasionally, young women who appeared to be near her own age would arrive with regal bearing, their respective entourages following closely behind. Then, they would be escorted to specific places within the fairy ring itself to await the ceremonies.
It occurred to Princess Shaleigh that she was expected to do much the same, and that the lessons that Merriam had so steadfastly taught her had had good reason. Appreciating her handmaiden more than ever, she nervously straightened her back and concentrated fully on flying as smoothly and effortlessly as she could possibly muster, and soon, she found herself at the entrance to the ring.
She realized with a start that the music had stopped, and all was still. As she quickly looked around, she noticed that everyone was staring at her, and she wondered what it was that she was doing wrong. She glanced at the faces of her entourage then to try to get a clue as to why it had become so quiet. They were of no help to her, however, because each of them had a smug, satisfied smile resting easily upon their mouths, and it was obvious they weren't worried in the least.
As she was ushered to her place within the ring, eyes sparkling with the reflection of the fireflies' light, and the color of her cheeks high with emotion, she became acutely aware of the silence until finally, the music started again, and the buzzing of conversation returned.
It wasn't but a few minutes later that the hush returned in full, but this time, a lone, portly fairy with short, stubby wings, who was dressed in a dapper suit of gray linen, made his way to the opening of the ring. The sparse amount of hair he sported on top of his head stuck out in all directions creating a comical, straggled appearance. But as he addressed the crowd with a broad smile, it was obvious he was quite comfortable in his role as emcee.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he boomed. "The Celebration of the Summer Solstice is officially upon us." As he waited until the polite beating of wings died down, a grin remained firmly in place on his face, and his eyes scanned the crowd all the while. "Our official festivities will begin shortly, but first there are a few announcements to make."

To Princess Shaleigh, it felt as if he went on forever, but finally, he finished with the bulletins regarding the business of the kingdom and began his introduction for the King. Extolling the virtues and good deeds this King had performed during his short reign to this point - because after all, he was still quite young - he finally concluded with, "and I present to you, King Truitt, our esteemed leader." He went into a full bow as he awaited the King's entrance into the ring.

With her first eager glance at the King, Princess Shaleigh expected to be excited and impressed, as this was someone she had only heard about in stories throughout her short lifetime. But she didn't expect her breath to leave her entirely. She could only stare as his presence filled the space within the circle and beyond his handsome, commanding appearance demanding attention from all sides. His eyes flashed with vibrancy as he scanned the crowd, and when they stopped on Princess Shaleigh, she felt herself blush from her head to her toes as his face suddenly, unexpectedly broke into a gentle smile that immediately put her at ease. As he turned to take his seat, she couldn't help but notice his wide shoulders that tapered with muscular distraction to a vee at his slim waist, and between his shoulder blades sprouted the most magnificent wings she had ever seen. Thin and wispy as a cirrus cloud in a clearing sky, they nonetheless exhibited their bridled strength as he flexed them slowly in preparation for sitting. The colors on his wings were bold and striking, as if they were a commentary about the King himself. At long last, Princess Shaleigh forced herself to look away so that she could better concentrate on the proceedings.

At that exact moment, in her slumber, Shara restlessly turned over to her other side, as if to turn away from that which she could not have, but still, she did not awaken.

After interminable speeches by various dignitaries of the kingdom, it was time for the ceremony in which the young women would be officially declared as having reached majority, and therefore be decreed as eligible to take part in all the social festivities of the land. This also meant that they were available to be courted and eventually chosen as life-partners by the unspoken-for males of the clan of Camarie.

When it was finally announced that they were to line up for the presentation, the princess took in a nervous breath as she looked back at her ladies in waiting for encouragement. They all smiled at her and nodded in reassurance, and as she looked around her at the others being so honored tonight, she saw that most of them appeared to be as nervous as she was feeling.

All were mindful of the space allotted for their wings so that they wouldn't be bumped or mussed before their meeting with the King. It would not do for them to be in disarray during this most prestigious meeting when they would be making the all-important first impression.

As the first participant was introduced to King Truitt, he asked her a question. "What," he said, "is the most important goal you wish to achieve in your lifetime?"

None of the participants had anticipated being asked a question of any kind, let alone one so lofty as this. It seemed that he placed a goodly amount of weight on the answer as well, because while he listened acutely in anticipation of the words issued in reply, it seemed as if he were disappointed at each response. As each of them neared the podium on which he sat, they hoped that they would be given the gift of the correct answer before the question was asked of them.

One-by-one, the girls went to their meeting with the King. One-by-one, they answered his question. Some said that they hoped to always make their mates happy. Some said that they wished to bear children and work hard for the kingdom. Some even said that they hoped they could make him happy as his humble servant throughout their lifetimes, but still, none of these seemed to be the correct answer. Even though when these girls left his immediate sight he declared that they had passed into majority, most left knowing they had disappointed him nonetheless.

Princess Shaleigh was more nervous than ever when her turn came. She drew herself up to her full height as she rose from the mandatory curtsy and hoped that she was displaying an outwardly calm appearance even though she was far from calm inside.

King Truitt looked at her in kindness. "What is your name, m'lady?" "Shaleigh, Your Highness." As was the custom, her eyes were downcast, but she held her chin high and spoke clearly as she responded to his query.
"Shaleigh, a pretty name that is." He smiled slightly. "And what is your answer to my question? What is the most important goal you wish to achieve in your lifetime?" She looked up at him then, directly into his eyes, and did not hesitate in her reply. "My goal is to live my life and perform my duties to my utmost satisfaction, Your Highness. Knowing that I have done the best that I can do in whatever I undertake. I will accept no less."
King Truitt smiled broadly at this answer. "That," he said, "was the answer I was waiting to hear." He rose from his throne and spread his wings to their full span. "Princess Shaleigh, will you honor me with the first dance of the evening?"
Eyes shining, she bowed her head in acceptance, and after he tipped her chin up so that she would look at him, they moved closer until she was in his arms. When the music from the lyre began, they found its rhythm and moved as one until the strains of the first verse ended. As the second verse began, the crowd, who had been mesmerized by the scene playing itself out before them, began moving into pairs and dancing alongside them.

The dew falling in heavy splashes from the canopy of leaves overhead signaled the coming of early morning, and it was as if the weaving of a spell were reaching its mystical conclusion. A fairy's place at sunrise is within the comfort of his or her home, and it was to her home that King Truitt brought her just before daybreak. His eyes never left hers as he gently placed a kiss upon the back of her trembling hand, and as he turned to go, he made plans to see her that night when the moon was full and the mist was settled among the trees.

Scene 4

Shara woke up before the alarm went off, a smile on her face and the fragments of the wonderful dream in her head. She lay there for awhile thinking about how handsome the King was and how gently he had treated the fair princess. She realized as she thought about it, that it was she who was playing the part of Shaleigh, and she wished that things were as wonderful in real life as it was in her dreams. Of course she could never be a fairy, that world was closed to her. But she could always dream, couldn 't she?

At any rate, her real life awaited her. Enough of fairies .she knew the ending would be a happy one now. Princess Shaleigh would eventually marry the handsome king, and they would live as all in fairy tales do .happily ever after. No worries, no strife, no working as a receptionist in a dead-end job.
With a sigh she got up and readied for work. She went into her office fully determined to put this fairy business behind her and get on with her real life. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that fair Shaleigh had a point. "My goal is to live my life and perform my duties to the best of my satisfaction," Princess Shaleigh had said. "I will accept nothing less."

What have I been doing during these last several months, Shara asked herself now. I have been accepting something less, settling for what I have even though I am not contented with it. And it's my own fault for just standing by and simply accepting. With determination, she rose from her seat behind the switchboard, and asking Dolores to cover for her, she knocked on her boss's door.

"Shara, come in," Mr. Hammond said, somewhat startled, as he waved her to a seat. "I hope there's nothing wrong."
"No, sir. Well, yes...yes," she amended. "I guess there is something wrong."
As he took his seat behind the desk loaded with bolts of new fabric to examine, Shara gathered her courage. "I have been your receptionist for some time now, and I think I do a good job for you." At his nod, she continued. "Well, I also think that I can do just as well in a better position."
Noticing he was about to speak, she hurriedly went on. "Wait, before you say anything, I want you to know that I've been taking classes to better learn this business. I've become a very good artist, if I say so myself, and I feel I can design with the best of them. Mr. Hammond," she plunged on, "I would like you to give me a chance to prove it to you."

He had been watching her patiently as she made her speech. He prided himself on being a kind man, and it was obvious she was passionate about what she was saying. She had been a loyal employee, he mused, and perhaps she at least deserved a chance. Reluctantly, he had to admit she was right. He had been taking advantage of her in her current position because she was darn good at it. If she put that kind of energy into designing, assuming she had the talent, she might have something he could use.

"Shara, I assume you have sketches?" At her enthusiastic nod, he said, "Well, get them in here and I'll look them over."
"Oh thank you, Mr. Hammond. You won't be sorry! I'll bring them right in!"
She was walking on cloud nine when she went back toward her desk. The phone was jangling noisily, but Dolores was handling that, so Shara turned her attention to the visitor who was waiting in the foyer. "May I help you, sir?"
When he turned around, her breath audibly hitched. It was all she could do not to say the name that came instantly to her lips. For standing there in front of her, looking as handsome as he had in her dreams, was none other than King Truitt himself. Dressed a bit more conservatively, of course, and there was no sign of the memorable wings, but she would swear that it was he.

She snapped back into reality as he spoke. "Are you all right, Shara?" he asked in concern.
Composing herself, she finally found the voice to ask, "You know my name? Have we met before?"
He smiled. "Oh, no, not in person anyway." Shara was starting to think this was somewhat surreal. He surely wasn't saying that they had met in her dreams, was he? "I've called several times to talk with Mr. Hammond, and you usually answered the phone. But this is the first time I've actually come in. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine, really. You just remind me of someone I used to know," she replied with a shaky smile. She hoped he didn't ask any more questions, because she was fresh out of answers. Maybe if she asked a question of her own. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I didn't get your name.?"
"Oh, sorry, its Jared. Jared T. Fitzpatrick. Here's my card."
As she took his card, she tried to hide her momentary disappointment. Okay, so he didn't go by Truitt. How silly could she have been. But wait. There was that middle initial..
"And may I ask what the "T" stands for, Mr. Fitzpatrick?" She held her breath as she awaited his reply.
"First of all, please call me Jared. Second of all, I think I'll just keep you wondering for a little while." At her quizzical expression, he added, "Well, I'm not familiar with this town, and I will be needing lunch a little bit later. I may eventually be persuaded to tell you my middle name - because I can pretty much guarantee you will never guess it - if you will consent to showing me where I can get a good hamburger around here." He held out his hand to her in the offer of a handshake. "Deal?"

Shara took his hand. "You most definitely have a deal." She could barely contain her amusement when she added, "And I'll make you a side bet, Mr. Jared T. Fitzpatrick." Her eyes danced with confidence. "I will bet you that I can guess your middle name on the very first try."

And you know, of course, she did. She knew it with every fiber of her being. Because all of us who believe that fairy tales could come true are certainly aware that they have a consistent tendency to end in only one way happily, blissfully ever after.

THE END





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