The Faerie Ball
by P. I. Barrington
part 1 of 2
“Hey, let’s go to the Faerie Ball this year!” I yelled at my then-boyfriend, a fellow fantasy aficionado. He looked up from reading his Fantasy and Fiction magazine and gave me that half-smile, half-scowl of his, indicating that while he may love immersing his brain in utter unreality, he despised the hard fact of having to shell out any amount of real cash no matter how thrilling the rewards.
“Aw, c’mon!” I walked around the couch and leaned over his scrawny shoulder.
“The biggest cost will be my costume and the hotel room. We could afford that by just canceling all of your magazine subscriptions.”
The scowl changed into a full-on grimace and he pushed the bridge of his wire-rimmed glasses further up his nose. “I don’t think so. It’s hardly worth all that money for one night.”
“Oh, I get it, you drag me all over the state for those stupid free ‘Cons’, yet when it’s something I want to do, it costs too much to even consider!” I stood up behind the back of the couch over his back and folded my arms.
“I thought you enjoyed all of that.”
“Well, yeah, up to a point. But come on, after the fifteenth convention, you realize that it’s all the same old weird people dressing in the same old Trekkie costumes, following these conventions around without any apparent means of financial support... kind of like the DeadHeads,” I added. “I want something... glamorous! Something classy and different, a real fantasy!”
“Well, the conventions are about as real as you are going to get. Where did you hear about this ‘Faerie Ball’ anyway?”
“Uh,” I walked back over to the low wall that ran between the front door entry and the actual living room. I picked up the gorgeous postcard from the ledge where we kept the daily mail stack. “Here! It’s from the... the...” I squinted at the ultra-fancy script lettering. “’The United FAIRIES of MagicRealm,’” I read to him.
“What the hell does that mean? And how did they get our address? Have you been giving out our information again? I told you not to do that — we’ll be identity theft victims!”
“I don’t give out anything important — like credit card numbers for magazine subscriptions!” I countered with more than a touch of sarcasm. He gave me another scowl. Didn’t he ever make any other face? “That’s probably where this group got our info, though” — I carried the postcard to the couch and sat down beside him — “it’s addressed to only me. That’s funny.”
I flipped it over and nearly died. The artwork practically leapt off the page with the effect of 3-D. I ran a finger over the dancers and the moonbeams that lit their dance floor. I felt a tiny electric thrill move through my fingertip.
“I want to go.” I said. “It’ll be my... Valentine’s Day present! Just think of the money you’ll save not having to buy a piece of jewelry!”
That seemed to register. His brows moved so close together they nearly touched. After a second — a nanosecond — he concluded that I might be right.
“Oh, all right! We can go.”
“You still have that wench costume?”
“I can’t wear that! This is a ball. A ball! Do you understand what that means?”
“Yeah, it’s still gonna cost me an arm and a leg.”
I pictured him in a hospital bed, minus the appendages. It could be arranged.
“I still have to have a dress made.”
“Made? Why can’t you just go to the costume shop and rent one?”
“Rent? Oh, you’re out of your gourd. I’ll pay for the damned thing myself if I have to! And... I probably will,” I noted, looking at his face one last time.
I stood and headed toward the bedroom, shaking my head. I flung myself, stomach down, on the bed and picked up the yellow pages.
“Tailors...” I read aloud. “Seamstress, costume creations... Duh!” I slapped a hand to my forehead. I got up and headed for the computer.
“FantasyCreations.com” came up on the monitor. “We make your fantasies come true!”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that!” I typed in my ‘fantasy dress request’ and my measurements and several dress images popped up. Unfortunately, none were to my liking. I searched other sites without pause, unmindful of the time passing.
The tinkling of the phone beside the desktop jerked me out of my concentration, but I let it ring twice more in case the boyfriend was on the way to answer it.
“Hello is this Aithley Daray?”
“Hello, Aithley. My name is LaLana from The Faerie Ball. I understand you’re seeking a gown for the ball?”
I held the receiver away from my ear and squinted at it. How in hell did anybody know that?
“Uh, yes... how... who are you again?”
“LaLana. Regarding your gown. We’ll need you to come down to the shop for measurements and coloring.”
“How... how do you know that? That I need a dress that is,” I asked.
I looked toward the living room. Maybe he called it in?
“Just a second,” I told LaLana, carrying the cordless into the living room. Boyfriend still lay fast asleep on the sofa, sci-fi magazine spread across his chest. No way in hell, I thought.
“When can you come in?” LaLana asked. “What about this evening, around dusk?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, okay, I can do that. Do you need a down payment?” I asked.
“Oh, no. It’s all taken care of, Miss Daray. All you need to do is come in for measurements.”
“Okay.” I scribbled the address down but neglected to ask for a phone number. I realized it the second I hung up the phone. I tried re-dial but no luck. No information came up on the computer either.
I stood for a long moment, contemplating the sleeping figure on my couch. I shook my head again. Not bloody likely, I told myself.
As the sun dropped low behind the New York skyline, I found myself wandering the streets of The Village, looking for the Faerie Ball or anything similar. Once the sun fell below the horizon, the light changed to grey and purple, shrouding the streets in shadow. I walked up and down the block looking for an address or sign or any doorway that wasn’t locked up tight and dark.
Lights began to shine from the storefront windows, a warm yellowish glow that, had I not been preoccupied with finding the right place, would have made me think I’d gone backward in time. When I finally did locate the sign hanging above a wooden door, that thought blasted my mind back against my skull.
* * *
“Wow!” I burst out, without thinking. “This place is incredible! I mean, really! Who makes this stuff?” I fingered some gossamer material that felt like nothing I’d ever touched before.
“The Faeries make it!” She laughed and I guessed quite correctly, she was LaLana.
“No, I mean really. Who makes it?”
“We do. Right here, in the back. We hand-spin the materials.”
“Oh.” I sounded as dumb as I looked. This was going to cost the boyfriend an arm and a leg. Second thoughts popped up their unwanted heads and I began to back out of the shop.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to afford anything like... this. I’ll have to find someone else. Thanks for your time though. Your stuff really is gorgeous...”
Someone got to the exit before me. He stood back against the door and spread his arms across it, I thought, in a rather comically threatening manner.
“Look,” I said, trying to maintain composure. “I know you’re probably in need of customers what with your expensive hand-spun materials, but you cannot hold people hostage until they buy your wares.”
The tall, thin, blonde, longhaired guy didn’t move. There was something funny about him but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was because he had waist-length baby fine hair. Maybe it was because I wanted waist-length baby fine hair.
I looked back at LaLana who just kept up that smiling expression as though looking at a very slow child. She moved toward me, extending her arms for a possible hug. I stepped back.
I hated phony hugs. I liked big bear hugs. She didn’t hug me though; she merely put her hands on my shoulders and spun me toward what appeared to be a little fitting room with heavy, velvety dark red curtains.
“I will not be forcibly tailored!” I cried as she shoved me inside. I would have turned around and gone right back out, but something caught my eye. It hypnotized me in a fraction of a second, not to mention forcing all of the breath in my body out of it with one giant spasm.
“Oh.” I moaned. “Oh, oh, Ooooh! No, it can’t be, it just can’t be! Oh!” I had to put my hand on it. Then I had to put both my hands on it. Then I had to strip my entire set of clothing off and pull it on as fast as I could move.
Copyright © 2008 by P. I. Barrington