This is the short story I wrote as an answer tothe flash fiction challenge set on the Terrible Minds blog.
We were invited to press shuffle on our music playing device (my iPhone) and write a story with the song title that came up. I shuffled up Ne me quitte pas by Nina Simone. Here’s my (slightly more than) 1000 words.
Ne me quitte pas
Once upon a time.
Yes, you read it right. I’m starting this story with once upon a time. I have to. I have no choice. If I wrote this as it happened, if I remember it happening, make it real again, I’ll stop breathing. I imagine I’ll fold up like when you make one of those paper crane things, random folds, the paper disappearing, waiting to see what shape will emerge, only I’ll keep on folding and folding until I’ve disappeared completely.
Once upon a time there was a flying chariot. The standard kind of thing, seats too close together, not enough space for your luggage, people that recline their seats while you have your tray table down, attendants with the thickest reddest lips you’ve ever seen. You’re basic fairytale nightmare.
But there was one person on that chariot that was fit to burst with excitement.
The faded, stained chairs, the frayed seatbelts, the magazines that had been thumbed by a thousand other fingers, they were magical.
Cocooned in her seat the diminutive Rebecca. No, something more fairytale, Gretel, no Rapunzel, no. What is it with fairytale names for crying out loud, none of these are going to work. Heidi! Yes.
Cocooned in her seat the diminutive Heidi was wide eyed at the newness of everything around her. This was her first trip away from her home kingdom. The flying chariot was taking her across the sapphire blue ocean to an enchanted land. Heidi had to gather all her most important things, her courage, her sense of adventure, her wonder and a dry pair of socks.
When the flying chariot arrived at the enchanted land Heidi knew she would discover new and wondrous foods, some creamy, some rich, some unidentifiable and perhaps dubious. The people would be strange, their voices musical, whispery and unintelligible.
Heidi was so excited she had not slept in days. The balance of her excitement was made up by fear. And perhaps a little light headedness from lack of sleep. Oh and a glass of wine.
But excited, so excited.
Heidi was fascinated by the other people accompanying her on her journey to the wondrous land. She could see fairy couples, happy and in love, hands clasped, leaning so close together they made almost one person. There was a loud voiced troll two rows behind her, frightening some of the other travellers and stealing the attention of the lipsticked attendants.
The seat beside Heidi was empty. It seemed that everyone had found their place, the carriage was due to depart at any moment.
Then Heidi heard a voice, in the musical whispering language of the enchanted land. It was close, in her ear.
A pixie with a face like gathered grey velvet appeared, sparkling green gems sat deep in the velvet, looking kindly upon Heidi.
‘I’m sorry I don’t speak French.’
Heidi really should have learned that phrase in the musical whispering language. It would really have made the next three months considerably smoother. Seriously.
The pixie smiled and moved slowly, awkwardly and perhaps a little painfully and settled into the seat beside her.
The pixie lifted her frail hand and stabbed herself rather sharply into her chest.
The pixie named Celie smiled.
She gathered the scarlet scarf that lay in her lap and twisted her fingers in its folds. The attendants fluttered around the Celie pixie. They spoke softly to her in the musical language, they brought her things, a pillow, drinks, a little bag of nuts.
The butterflies disappeared.
I was certain that wasn’t iced water in Celie’s glass.
Her little hands fluttered and tried to tear at the foil package of nuts. She wasn’t strong enough to open the pack. The nuts were trapped.
Defeated she placed the little packet on the side of the tray table and turned her attention to the gin. Heidi had a feeling there were more mini bottles secreted about, the glass never emptied for the entire journey.
Heidi did her best not to sit and watch the Celie pixie but was drawn to her. Carefully she reached forward and took the packet of peanuts. Heidi tore the corner off the packet, a peanut spilled out and was lost in the deitrus on the floor. She pushed the packet back on to the side of the tray table and turned away toward the window.
Even Heidi knew what that meant.
The remainder of the journey progressed with gentle, almost conversations, tiny shared moments. Heidi and Celie both reached for their magazines at the same moment. They smiled at one another.
Their arms bumped on the shared arm rest.
When Heidi got up to use the facilities Celie smiled kindly. As Heidi moved past, the scarlet scarf fell to the floor.
As Heidi waited and debated whether she really should be using the facilities after the giant troll, she overheard the lipsticked attendants talking about Celie.
They felt sorry for her, pitied her. Celie was a regular. She journeyed back and forth to the enchanted land regularly. Very regularly. Once upon a time. Yes again. Once upon a time there had been a Mr Celie pixie, but now there is only Celie.
Celie no longer had a Mr Celie but she did have a handsome and successful barrister son in Heidi’s kingdom, and a busy and rude daughter in the enchanted land. And now she shuttled back and forth across the sapphire blue ocean again and again.
Heidi decided against using the facilities when the angry troll emerged in an almost visible odour cloud. Heidi scooped the scarlet scarf from the floor at Celie’s feet and returned it to her lap. In her sleep, Celie wrapped her fingers in the scarf, she held it tightly.
Heidi squeezed into her own seat. This meant she could watch her companion, unobserved.
The grey velvet creases had softened as Celie relaxed. Heidi wondered if she was dreaming about Mr Celie, whether she dreamed about him often.
Time, like the carriage, flew. Heidi became aware that they had arrived in the enchanted land, the other travellers had departed, Celie was waking and it was time to leave.
Heidi and Celie walked side by side from the flying chariot. Every so often they would catch each other’s glance. They smiled, friendly, warm.
The person waiting looked like a firefly, an angry firefly. She had two little hellions bouncing around behind her, they made a fearsome amount of noise.
The firefly exploded in a stream of what Heidi had always thought was a musical and soft language. When the firefly used it the language was sharp, urgent and pointy.
The grey velvet of Celie’s face drooped, the emeralds clouded over. She whispered something too quiet for Heidi to hear.
Heidi stopped, put her hand gently on Celie’s arm.
‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’
Celie grabbed Heidi’s shoulder, hard. Heidi had no idea this gentle little pixie was capable of such strength. The emeralds flashed, green fire.
Behind her, Heidi knew the firefly and the hellions were coming nearer. The emeralds clouded over again. Celie dropped her hand, limp by her side.
‘Ne me quitte pas.’
The firefly swooped, Celie was swept away.
Heidi picked up the red scarf and began her adventure in the enchanted land.
It wasn’t for another three months that I would find out what that phrase meant. What Celie whispered to me as her daughter and grandchildren descended.
‘Ne me quitte pas.’
‘Don’t leave me.’