In the magical city of Papyrus, where grimalkins did not shy away from attacking, and vampires from masquerading as gentlemen, there lived a girl.
Her name was Jeannie Avery, named after Jeanne d’Arc, and she loved fantasy. She would often pretend to be Captain Hook, or the Charming Prince, arriving just in time to save the ailing princess.
One minute she was the prince, the other, she was the villain. Sometimes, just to spice it up, she fancied herself the princess. The latter would of course, be able to save herself, ride magical ponies, and break many enchantments.
She was a tiny slip of a girl, with ivory skin and sparkling hazel eyes, yet she thought herself disgusting. Despite the role-playing. The truth was, she was a tad small-statured, thanks to genetics.
Her mind was often prone to self-deprecation. It told her she was too ugly, the hunchback of Notre Dame would have laughed at her. That it was her fault her parents had split up, that she should have tried harder. “How shameful!” she kept thinking, that she can battle legendary dragons in her room, but can’t diffuse a couple of arguments.
Since the split up, she became withdrawn, despite her mother Gloria’s attempts to reach out to her. Jeannie literally put a “Do not bother me, I’m in my quiet place,” sign at her door.
Although she loved her mother she did not wish to talk. She would have taken an oath of silence if she could, but she felt the need to talk to herself, so as to not go stark raving mad.
Gloria, blonde-haired and hazel-eyed, would bring her food, and leave it at her door. But the food went stale, every time.
“My dearest ‘Highness’, won’t you deem it proper and break your fast with your old mother?” Gloria would ask. She used fancy words, befitting medieval times, knowing her daughter liked to dress up. She was also hoping it might break her self-imposed exile.
“Oh! This cruel life! I’ll have to politely refuse, madam. This curse called divorce has pierced my heart!”
Then Gloria would lose her temper and yell, ”Eat already! Put some meat on your bones!”
Jeannie would be reminded of her body, particularly her short stature, and shout indignantly “I’m not hungry! Kindly leave!”
Every day was the same excruciating battle, the world turning gray. Well, part of the world. What mother and daughter did not suspect was that the city they lived in thrived with magic.
Peculiar witches were up on their brooms cackling madly at night. Goblins were selling their delicious fruit to naïve mortals and taking different jobs in the human world. Then there were the elves, beautiful yet deadly, scouting Papyrus.
It was not their fault that they lived in ignorance. The magical world was often very good at hiding itself, even if that meant they hid in crevices, to avoid detection like cockroaches.
One dreary day, Gloria became fed up with her fourteen-years old daughter’s dramatics and her possibly increasing depression. She decided to date again. For her, that was like the key to solving a Rubik’s Cube. Get Jeannie another father, one she could relate to, one who would, in time make her happy.
She exited her little apartment, going to a coffee shop nearby because she could not even think without caffeine. The sun was blazing. The blossom trees were forming an arch. She saw beautiful pictures of rose gardens, coupled with sparkling jewels. They were sitting inconspicuously inside the coffee shop.
“Eden’s Garden”, it said at the entrance, and Gloria let out a laugh, as she considered it a strange idea to mix flowers with coffee. However, if it was Belgian chocolate instead, she would be into this quaint little arrangement. Mainly because it reminded her of the color of her daughter’s hair.
She stepped inside with uneasy steps, feeling strangely drawn to the place. She was sweating profusely and her high-heels were cutting off her circulation, for sure. But she did not care. She went there for a cup of coffee, to boost up her courage so that she would approach the guys herself.
She looked at a couple of them, from the corner of her eye. She tried not to be picky, considering she was no beauty queen either. Yet she could not help being unimpressed. Ratface, ugly skull tattoo guy, sneering, mannerless Viking, she sure hit the jackpot.
As she was banging her head on the table, not caring about the stares, a slender, fit ‘man’ approached her. He was dressed in a dark, beautiful robe that sparkled and billowed around him. Gloria wondered if he came from a LARP session or something.
“Little flower, don’t hurt your beautiful face”, he told her while giving her a rose, which she could have sworn was not there a second ago.
“I-Um”, Gloria stammered bashfully.
“Yes, my precious rose. Shall I call you I or Um?” the disguised elf asked her, a bit mockingly.
“You can call me Gloria”, the woman said a bit taken aback by his…flirting? Mocking? Both?
“And I am Zacharias. Tell me beautiful Gloria, do you believe in magic?” he asked his teeth showing.
“Do you?” Gloria asked while raising a mocking eyebrow.
“I asked first,” Zacharias told her playfully.
“You can say I believe in it,” she told him while sighing “Because I’m going to need a little magic to help my daughter.”
Meanwhile, a waiter came by. Gloria ordered an espresso with sugar and cream on top, while Zacharias went for a black coffee, with absolutely no sugar.
“What ails your little child?” Zacharias asked in wonder “Does she have chickenpox?”
“The black plague, then?”
“What, no!” Gloria shouted a bit taken aback by his otherworldliness and odd questions. He spoke like a medieval prince.
“She...her father and I divorced recently, and she is not eating. She’s locking herself in her room and refuses to talk to me. I just...feel so powerless,” Gloria told him.
“Ah, achieving power. A noble cause. One that I am most familiar with.” Zacharias murmured, “And how would you like to obtain that power?”
It almost seemed like he was making a bargain, of sorts.
“I, I was thinking of dating again. And marrying someone else so that Jeannie could have another father. Her biological father wasn’t a good person,” Gloria said, pursing her lips.
“I see,” Zacharias answered, pity glimmering in his emerald eyes, “I am at your service!”
“Pardon?” Gloria asked, taken aback.
“I can help achieve your magical dreams, Gloria. To make sure that you, little rose, and your little daughter would live happily ever after,” he said charmingly, showing his pearly whites. His voice was sweet like caramels.
“I don’t know...” Gloria responded feeling out of sorts, and a bit intimidated by his presence. He seemed so sure of himself and so charming, intoxicatingly so. Yet he spoke like he was from another world. ‘Jeannie would love him’, she thought.
“I, I think we should get to know each other better first,” Gloria said, making her decision.
“Spend even more times in your glorious presence? Count me in, as you mort-, I meant young people say.”
She had an odd feeling that he meant mortals. But that was insane! Right?
“Pardon me for asking, but why are you speaking as if we were in the Middle Ages?” Gloria asked.
“Honestly, I am a huge fan of that period. You could almost say, I lived in it,” he responded, in a voice like melted chocolate.
For the following days, they met in secret. Gloria didn’t want to tell Jeannie about her project yet. She thought that, if she told her about her potential new father, there might be consequences. Like her and Zacharias not being a good match, and getting Jeannie’s hopes up.
She also had to juggle her work with her relationships. Her small jobs as a florist, and a waitress, did not bring many benefits.
True, she had a roof over her head and food in the fridge, but the bills were piling up. Though by some miracle, she always managed to pay them, just in time. That did not mean she had any idea how she did it.
The only ray of sunshine was that her ex-husband was a raging alcoholic. The court had deemed him completely unfit for taking care of Jeannie. His mother-in-law had half-jokingly called him “Beelzebub of Boozeville.” She loved her mother. She should visit her more often.
This time she met with Zacharias at the cinema. He was looking at the popcorn machine as if it was an alien contraption.
“My good sir, is this popcorn some sort of delicacy around here?” Zacharias asked in a bewildered tone.
“Umm, sure,” the seller said, not taking his eyes of an indecent magazine.
“Very well, I’ll have seven of them. Chop-chop.”
“He’ll have one,” Gloria said.
“Three, I insist,” Zacharias said, ending the ‘silly’ argument.
Lest assured, he did not shy away from eating three packs of buttered, salty popcorn. ‘Good thing he’s paying’, Gloria thought.
She did not buy anything because she disliked unhealthy temptations, and refused Zacharias’s attempts to butter her up with popcorn. ‘A bag of popcorn won’t win my heart,’ she told herself. Although it looked delicious.
“My little rose, I don’t know why you would abstain from good food. Perhaps you would like to taste my lips instead,” Zacharias said and Gloria turned beet red. Then she groaned.
“That was incredibly cheesy,” she said.
“Cheesy? The popcorn?” he inquired and she muttered, “It doesn’t matter.”
She was becoming a bit amused.
“Last time we did not get to talk too much with each other. Where are you from?” Gloria asked.
“North,” he answered in an amused tone.
“Yes, but where exactly?”
“In the Elven Kingdom,” he whispered in a homesick voice.
“Pardon?” Gloria asked, having not heard him.
“I meant from Manchester,” he responded louder.
“You don’t have the accent…” Gloria said unsure.
“That is because I travel abroad a lot,” Zacharias responded, a small smile on his face.
“And where are you from, beautiful Gloria?”
“Papyrus, raised and born,” she answered.
“How very interesting. I find this city completely…magical,” Zacharias said and then, the movie started showing.
It was Titanic. Zacharius laughed raucously when the characters started panicking and graded their jumping performance.
“This one looks like an eight, don’t you think so, Gloria?” he asked in a velvet voice.
Although she did not want to seem childish or disturb the other spectators, she responded “Nonsense, Zach, that’s at least a nine.”
Zacharias’s gaped butterflies in his stomach and a look of eternal adoration in his eyes. They were in love.
They started seeing each other more, and more. In the park, near the lake, at the mall.
They were inseparable, and Gloria truly thought he was the one. So one day, when the sparrows started chirping lyrically and Jeannie was entranced by a fantasy book Gloria bought, he visited.
Jeannie was reading chapter eight of “Adventures of an Elf Mage”, pretending she was the main character. Her mother, Gloria, called her from downstairs.
“Jeannie, come down for a second. I want you to meet someone,” she said.
“Tell them I am extremely busy!” Jeannie shouted.
“It’s not nice to keep people waiting!” her mother scolded.
“Well, have they made a reservation?” she asked.
“Pretty rude to enter into our ‘exclusive’ house without one,” she told in a disdainful tone.
“Jeannie!” Gloria shouted appalled.
Zacharias began to laugh and say “I like this child. She’s quite the spitfire.”
“I invited him, Jeannie. Come here!”
The girl huffed, put a bookmark at chapter eight, and closed the book with a thud. She absentmindedly smelled the fresh parchment. She adored it. Quiet as a church mouse she descended the stairs, eyebrows furrowed.
She jumped the last three steps and saw him, a strangely-clad man, with an aquiline nose and hair that seemed as soft as Jason’s wool. He had wiry, elegant eyebrows, and a mocking smile on his face. She pursed her full lips and clenched her teeth.
It seemed horrible for her, that her mother was trying to replace her beloved father. Whom did she love more than her dad, Charlie? Who read stories to her at candlelight and helped her through every horrendous nightmare. Before, before the addiction and the hits. Who was this stranger to think he can ever compare?
“Mother, I see you are dating…what is your name sir?” she asked vexed.
“Zacharias, little Jeannie,” he said charmingly.
“Zakario”, she said, giving him a silly nickname, ”Look, my mother does not like weirdness. And you seem out of this world weird. So how about you get out?”
“I’m afraid I cannot do that little one. Your mother and I are in love. And I dearly wish for us to be, family.”
“I wish for a pony. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen anytime soon,” she replied.
“Which color?” he asked.
Jeannie stared at him.
“Do you want it to be a thoroughbred? I can get you one for your birthday,” he asked.
“Make it fly!” she said, thinking she had given him an impossible demand.
“Done,” Zacharias said, smiling slyly.
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