When my agent told me she had just the gig to cure my mid-career crisis, of course I guffawed. I told her I still felt like I was 20. She said: “Yes. Ill-humoured, under-fed, and over-caffeinated. You’re a train wreck.”
“Whatever. I look fabulous! These shoes are in, my friend.”
“Yes. If you are 20. You are not 20. You reek of mis-spent youth and you are 43. That is the opposite of fabulous. Frankly, you’re a cliche.”
“You can’t say that to me. I pay your bills with exactly this kind of awesome.”
“Indeed. Six months ago, you were paying my bills, your bills, and Derek’s bills. You had a dog. Today, you are going to sign this contract, and cancel your day-drinking date. Today, you are going to have a shower. You are going to watch a movie and go to bed early. Tomorrow, you are going to get up, have a good breakfast, find some clean socks, and put this on. You are going back to work, my pretty.”
‘Derek is dead.”
“Yes. And you are not. You are going to go home, sleep it off, put this on, and pull it together. You are alive.”
She handed me an elf suit.
“I dare you,” she said. That’s exactly what Derek would have said, too. So I said: “Fuck you, Sally.”
I took the suit. I did need a gig.
The next day, I followed her orders. I was still pissed, but I knew she was right. Sally is always right. She’s the brains. I’m the talent. We’re the original dream team. Long before boyfriends. Long before husbands. Long before heart attacks. She’s my rock.
I pulled myself into the suit. I let the magic engulf me. Slow, smooth, peaceful magic. Even the boots fit perfectly. I receded into the stillness.
When I came to, I didn’t know what day it was. I never know how long it has been. I just suddenly arrive, whole. Me. This time in an elf suit. I sort of giggled and felt the inside of the face press against my cheeks. Sally was right. It felt good to smile. I was warm. Protected. All my muscles had melted into the softness of the suit.
Then, there she was. Mid 40’s and beautiful. When she smiled at me, and held me up in front of her, I could feel where the bags had been under her eyes. She smoothed my plastic hair. She straightened my hat. I felt myself folded gently onto the mantel. I heard the fire crackling beneath me. I felt my legs crossed and my arms placed quietly in my lap. My body felt loved, dignified. I suddenly felt proud and full. I couldn’t help myself. I let it engulf me. Magic.
The front door crashed open.
“Hello!” A young woman’s voice shouted out. Boots were falling off. “Kaitlyn,” she said quietly. “Go get Grandpa. He’ll be in the den.”
A blond swirl of child tittered past the room. Tip toes. Grandpa’s laugh not far behind.
The woman in front of me twinkled, her face alive with joy. “Oh Elf. They’re here, ” she whispered. “They’re here!” She smoothed my hair again.
“I’m in the living room, ” she called out. “Come in, Elizabeth!”
Elizabeth stepped strongly into the room, peeling a thick woolen scarf from around her, and then stopped. It was like the air stood still too. She was frozen. And then just as suddenly the air returned as she gasped.
“Oh Marta. Marta, oh my word, that is the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen,” her hands covered her mouth, as she took in the room. “And the fire. You lit a fire.”
“No darling, your father lit the fire. And your father put up the tree while I was at work yesterday. I came home to this! The only thing I did was get this elf from the toy store!”
“Oh Marta. You have no idea. Thank you.” The tears exploded from Elizabeth, and she bounded across the room, embracing Marta.
“Oh my dear. I did nothing!”
“Oh Marta, but you have. You’ve done everything. You’ve brought my Dad back. This is my Dad.” Elizabeth pointed around the room. “Kaitlyn has never really seen my Dad. I thought he had died with my Mum, and then he met you. Oh this tree, this fire… this is my Dad.”
They embraced again, Elizabeth still teary with joy, and Marta silent, smiling. Elizabeth left the room in search of Kaitlyn, stopping for a big breath and to smooth her hair in the mirror.
Marta stood silent. Still. She breathed deeply, and smoothed the catch in her throat. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, she turned to me.
“Oh elf,” she whispered. “See this life with me. Help me believe. This life is a wish come true. This is all I’ve ever wanted.”
Written by: Adrienne Yeardye; Jupiter’s Hive