Twenty Years Ago
A moment after takeoff the airliner shuddered and rolled, like a great beast mortally wounded. Tara looked past her terrified mother-in-law and out the window. The wing flexed and shredded apart. The fuel burst into sheets of flame. Tara heard metal shriek overhead and knew they would die.
But Terra Luna, she thought, Terra might have a chance! Tara ignored the screams, the heat and the roar of the airliner breaking apart as she tore off her daughter’s shirt. There was no time to think, or grieve; no time for a last kiss. She didn’t even get to look into her daughter’s astonished eyes. With all her strength, Tara hurled her little girl through a narrow gap overhead. Choking black smoke rolled into the cabin, but she saw – or thought she saw – two tiny wings against a patch of blue sky.
“Fly, faery, fly!”
Saturday, October 31
Ian MacTamick swirled his Scotch, frowning at the ice. Although he looked forward to many American novelties, on his first night Stateside he wanted the rich golden whiskey from his own distillery. The other party guests were drinking some trendy sweet muck that — oh, God forbid – looked and smelled like candy. It’s this awful music that’s making my ears bleed, Ian thought. The bargirl couldn’t hear me say ‘neat.’
Ian smoothed his kilt. I’m the only person here tonight who isn’t in fancy dress – I wear this every day!
The short “vampire” by the balcony railing finished his stinking cigarette and ground out the butt with his heel.
“Great party, huh?” the small Count wheezed, exhaling rum and Coke.
“Right now I’m too jet-lagged to know. I came straight from the airport, and I didn’t even have time to put on a – what d’ye call them here? – a costume,” Ian replied.
“You wear a skirt to fly? Is that extra-comfortable, or something?”
“It’s a ‘kilt.’ The plaid identifies my clan. This is what I wear at work back home.”
“So you’re a real British guy, huh? That’s great!”
Ian drew himself up to his full six and a half feet, and squared his wide shoulders.
“I am a Scotsman, of Clan MacTamick.”
The short vampire grinned through his makeup, and held out a black-gloved hand.
“You must be Ian! I’m Barry Davie, a friend of Jamison. We play rugby together. I knew some of his family from Britain were coming to the wedding. I just didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”
“I’m the first. I want to spend some time with Jamison and his fiancée.” And I wanted to get the hell off the same island as Brigid. “I’m piping at the wedding, and Lindsey wanted to hear me first, by way of audition.”
“Barry says you’re a great rugby player.”
“Well, I’ve played since I was a boy.”
“Are you on a team now?”
“I’m the tighthead prop and player-coach on our distillery team. We play against other breweries and distilleries in Scotland, and sometimes in England. It’s not a professional team.”
“But you play a lot, right?”
“More than a dozen matches a year.”
“What kind of record do you have?”
“We win most of our matches.”
“Excellent! The Harriers practice on Sunday and play Tuesday evenings. Wednesday we’re all banged up and hungover, but it’s worth it. Between you and me, we could use more native rugby players. We’re half Americans, and the all-Brit teams have been kicking our asses. So, can we expect you at practice tomorrow?”
“That’ll be up to Jamison. I’m keeping my schedule open to suit his needs. It’s his wedding coming up, after all.”
Barry started to say something, but a distracted gleam came over his chalked face. Ian turned to see what he was looking at. The dance floor was jammed with costumed couples. A tall, voluptuous red-haired woman was dressed as a Vegas showgirl. Her skimpy costume showed off her tapered legs. She danced with a petite girl in a fairy tunic and butterfly wings. Though she was no more than five feet tall, the little fairy was as curvy and buxom as any woman Ian had ever seen. Instead of shoes, she wore tiny green velvet slippers. She wore a crown of fresh flowers in her curly blond hair and her wings shimmered in rainbow colors.
In spite of their difference in size, the two girls were obviously comfortable dancing with each other. The redhead leaned down and whispered something to the fairy She laughed and Ian thought to himself, Damn this loud trashy music – I wanted to hear that laugh.
Ian looked down at Barry and asked, “That girl in the fairy wings – d’ye know who she is?” But Barry’s dreamy eyes were fixed on the redhead, who was half a head taller than he. Ian laughed for the first time since setting foot in America.
“Barry, my friend, ye are ambitious indeed, if it’s that redhead you’re after tonight.”
Barry licked his lips. “Imagine what she could do with those legs. Can you picture it?”
“I know what she can do with those legs. When we were twelve she gave me a kick that nearly crippled me for life – the worst rugby foul I ever took, and she was so cute the ref didn’t call her on it. She’s got a temper to match her hair.”
“You know Fiona Finnie? I’ve been watching her from afar for months.”
“I’ve known her all my life. Fiona’s my cousin, on Mother’s side.”
“Is she, um, seeing anybody?”
“She’s not married, and I’d have heard if she were engaged. As for ‘seeing anybody,’ you’ll need to find that out yourself. We haven’t spoken in a while. She’s lived in America for years.”
The song ended and Fiona turned her attention to a bearded pirate behind her. A large man dressed as Brutus approached the fairy and spoke in her ear. She shook her head and took a step back. Brutus leaned in on her and spoke again. This time the fairy clenched her hands on her hips and turned away. Now Brutus had an ugly look on his face.
“Uh, oh,” Barry said. “Looks like Tinkerbell needs help.”
As the fairy stepped off the dance floor, Brutus grabbed her fragile-looking wings. She turned pale and gasped. Barry slid open the balcony door and shouldered past a couple dressed as 1920′s gangsters. He confronted Brutus, who let go of the wings. The fairy staggered out on the balcony. She stepped up on the bench and threw her leg over the railing.
Ian came to life. He reached out his long, thick arms and caught her around the waist.
“Put me down right now! Let go of me, cuffer, or I’ll kick you inside out!” Her delicate, high little voice sounded odd screaming threats and insults. Ian lifted her off the rail.
“It’s alright, lass. I’m not the one was after hurting ye. Ye should be more careful, that’s all — we’re twenty stories up.”
At the sound of Ian’s Scots accent, the fairy went still. Ian set her down gently. He turned just in time to see Brutus wrap his hands around Barry’s neck and force him to the ground. Ian saw a red flash behind Brutus. The fat bully groaned and dropped to the floor in the fetal position. Fiona calmly walked around to face him from the front and gave him another kick in the same spot. As Barry got to his feet, Fiona grabbed Brutus by his arms and dragged him away. Barry picked up the fallen creep’s legs and they made it a team.
The fairy looked looked Ian up and down, from his chestnut curls to his boots.
“You – you’re a Scots Giant!,” she said, in her breathy little voice. “I’ve heard the stories of your people, but I never expected to meet one – a real Scots Giant!”
“Ah, well, I imagine it looks that way to ye, lass, but I’m no more magical than ye are,” Ian said dryly. “I’m Ian MacTamick. I distill whiskey. Are ye all right? You’re safe. My cousin Fiona and that little vampire lad did for the ugly bastard in the stripes and hat.”
“He’s a Brutus.”
“He certainly is a brute, and it’s high time he got what he deserved.”
“No,” the fairy said, “I mean his character is ‘Brutus.’ From the Popeye the Sailor cartoons.”
“Hmmph,” Ian said, “I think I missed those.”
“Brutus is a big bully who gets beaten up by a much smaller man when he gets out of line.”
Ian looked over his shoulder as Fiona and Barry returned to the party. “I guess life imitated art tonight, then.”
“I think my wing is damaged. Oh, no. I feel a bit weak. Can we sit down?”
Ian helped her to a padded chaise lounge on the other end of the balcony. The fairy’s face went from pale and drawn to beet red. Ian felt himself blush, to, when he realized she was facing the manly bulge at the top of his kilt. He quickly turned to one side.
“Can I get ye a drink of water, or some punch?”
“A cold drink would be nice. May I please have a glass of the pineapple punch? It doesn’t have alcohol. The red punch is spiked, but the pineapple is OK.”
“Just rest here a minute,” Ian said, “I’ll be right back.”
“Actually,” she said, “Do you know where the lady’s room is?”
Ian opened another sliding glass door, which led into a darkened room. He turned on the light. “In here on the other side of the bed, there’s a little bathroom.”
The fairy peered into the bedroom. “Will anybody come in here?”
“No,” said Ian. “This is mine when I visit Jamison. You’re welcome to use it. Would ye care for a bite to eat with your punch?” Ian asked. “Jamison’s got quite a spread laid on tonight.”
The fairy paused on the threshold of the bathroom. “Why, thank you, kind Sir, that would be most lovely,” she said.
She’s a bit daft, speaking to me like some lord of the manor, just because I’ve got my plaids on.
“As ye wish, my Lady,” Ian said, bowing.
She broke out laughing – the laugh that Ian wanted to hear before – a high, clear sound that warmed and brightened the room.
“Don’t be silly! I’m a faery, not a Lady,” she said, giggling so hard she bent over. “A Scots Giant should be able to tell the difference!”
Ian grinned at her. Daft, of course, but she is a lady, I’m sure. I wonder where Jamison met her.
“Very well, Your Highness – I’ll be back in a moment.”
Terra Luna stood before the bathroom mirror, twisting herself right and left to examine the place where ‘Brutus’ manhandled her. Her upper right wing was dull red instead of rainbow-colored. It throbbed. Not broken, though, or it would hurt much worse. She flexed her wings twice. The right one barely moved. Oh, dear. She took a deep breath and retracted them. It was slow going. Her bruised wing was swollen and it took an effort to close her skin. The pain was stronger than she expected. She heard Ian’s heavy step as he returned to the bedroom. Her face was streaked with tears. I mustn’t show how much that cuffer on the dance floor hurt me. Terra Luna dampened a washcloth and wiped her face just as Ian called out, “I’m back.”
Emerging from the bathroom, Terra Luna took a cup of punch from Ian.
Don’t show how much I hurt.
“Are ye all right?” Ian asked. “Ye don’t look well.”
I guess it shows.
“My back is sore where that Brutus grabbed me. Do you have any aspirin?”
“O’course,” said Ian. He grabbed a giant suitcase and rooted around in it for a moment. “Here”, he said, handing her a bottle, “it’s English, but strong enough despite.”
Terra Luna swallowed two with some of her punch. Ian loomed over her, looking puzzled.
“But wait, lass, I dinna see that bastard touch ye. I thought he just grabbed your wings.”
“Uh, well,” Terra Luna stammered, thinking fast, “the wings were on a harness – it’s how I could flex them.” I hope he believes that.
“Where are they? There was good craftsmanship in ‘em. I hope they weren’t ruined.”
“I folded them away,” she said vaguely. “Let’s go back out on the balcony.”
They sat down together on the chaise lounge.
“I very much appreciate your helping me, kind Sir,” she said.
“It was my cousin Fiona and that little Barry Davie who did for ‘Brutus’. I just took ye off that railing – ye would have died, we’re that far up!” Ian gestured to the skyscrapers of Atlanta, lit up for the night.
“It was foolish. I was scared, and in pain, and I just wanted to get away.” I’d have flown, not fallen, of course. But – maybe with my wing hurt, I might have fallen indeed!
“A toast to your very good health, Princess,” Ian said, raising his glass to touch her cup. They drank.
“And another toast,” Terra Luna said, “this one to the Gentle Scots Giant who came to my rescue.” They drank again.
Ian handed her a plate from the buffet.
“Oh, wonderful!” cried Terra Luna, “chocolate-covered strawberries are my very favorite! And you brought me pineapple, and cherries and cheese, too.”
The two of them sat side by side in the moonlight.
“I know Jamison sells Scotch that his cousins make,” Terra Luna said. “Are you part of that?”
“Aye,” Ian said. “I work at MacTamick’s Distillery.”
“Do you make the whiskey?”
“Well, partly. I buy the barley that supplements what we grow ourselves. The Head Distiller and I inspect it all before it’s used. I do the malting — wetting down the barley so it sprouts; that’s what malt is, ye know. I test the water we use – it comes from wells on our land.
“My biggest job is judging the samples. Our whiskey is not blended. We make one batch at a time. To keep it all tasting the same, without fixing one batch by mixing it with another, that’s tricky work. We MacTamicks have been making whiskey and selling it under our name for more than 300 years. Our business is built on our reputation.”
“How much do you sell in America?”
“A few thousand cases. Jamison thinks there’s a market for more. After the wedding, I’ll tour around, meeting customers and talking us up. Jamison would like to drop some of his other business and import more MacTamick’s. It’d be grand for us if we sold more here.”
“Tell me, what do you grow on your land?”
“Grow? In the lowlands we grow barley, for our whiskey. The Highlands aren’t suited to grain. We’ve got a few hundred sheep.”
“Is there any wildlife?” Terra Luna asked eagerly.
“Some deer and rabbits and any number of birds, crows mostly. There’s a bit of a brook, with some trout.”
“You don’t hunt them, do you? The deer, I mean.”
“Ah, we take a few in the season, o’course,” Ian replied. “If we didn’t, they’d overgraze the hills and the herd would starve. We’d have landslides, too, with the grass all eaten down, and the roots pulled out after. There’s no more wolves in Scotland, ye see. Man’s the only predator left.”
Terra Luna nodded. “Yes, it’s the same over here; the predators are almost gone, and it’s very sad. It’s one thing for an animal to die, hunted down in the natural way. But it’s worse to be shot. A rabbit with a wolf chasing it has a chance. At least it understands what’s happening. But an animal shot suddenly, not even knowing it was in danger, that’s cruel. It has no time to grieve for its life.”
On any other occasion, Ian would have called such an idea sentimental and daft; in Terra Luna’s voice it sounded wise.
“Truly, lass the Scots Highlands is a fine, dramatic place with wonderful views, but for all o’that, they’re cold, dry and almost barren. Your Georgia is livelier, with your deep woods and so much wildlife.”
“Oh, yes,” said Terra Luna. “If you know where to look, there are animals everywhere. I live outside Atlanta and we have more creatures around us than most people imagine. Do you know that in Georgia there are tortoises who dig long tunnels they share with dozens of other creatures? It’s how snakes survive the winter cold, and where other animals hide from fires. We still have bears roaming about, and coyotes and even a few panthers. The animals that were here before us endure, as long as some of us still care to protect them.”
“Well, I’m going to be here in Georgia for six weeks, at least. I’d like to see more of it than Jamison’s office and flat.”
“Oh, Ian, I’d love to show you where the old forests survive,” said Terra Luna eagerly. She began to describe the hills and mountains of north Georgia, which she knew intimately. Ian forgot about his drink; the sound of Terra Luna’s voice was refreshment enough.
They were so intent on each other that neither one noticed Fiona and the little vampire watching them through the door.
Fiona laughed. “Well, Barry, it looks like my cousin made a new friend. I know her; she’ll be good for him – he’s usually such a stuffed shirt. Frankly, I was surprised to see him at the party. It’s not his usual thing. A quiet business dinner, with executives in tweeds and a contract to sign – that’s Ian.”
“Your fairy friend looks OK,” said Barry.
“She looks better than OK; see her chattering away to Ian? She’s talking about her wildlife, I bet, loving a new audience for her stories about coyotes and whatnot.”
“Well,” said Barry, “now that you know she’s OK, will you dance with me? After all, I held up my end when we got rid of Brutus. Literally.”
“Alright, my little hero,” said Fiona, ruffling his slicked-back hair. “I’ll dance with you. Mind you keep up with me. I don’t slow down for any man.” With that, she took his arm and steered him onto the dance floor.
“Are you going to drink the other glass of punch?” Terra Luna asked, her voice a bit thicker. “If not, I’d like it. I’m very thirsty tonight.” Without waiting for Ian to answer, she grabbed the glass and drained it. She set the it back on the table hard; it fell over and rolled towards the edge. Ian caught it and put it back upright.
“C’mon Giant, let’s dance,” she said, getting to her feet.
“Ah, lass, the music in there isn’t to my taste.”
Terra Luna looked up into Ian’s face (even seated he was taller).
“Please don’t tell me you’re the kind who watches from the side!” Terra Luna giggled. “I thought a true hero was always ready to show a Lady how he can dance.”
“Well, Princess . . . if ye’ll hold on a second, I’ll find us something more appropriate. More suited to the moment.” Ian went into his bedroom and came back with a radio. He turned the knob and found Eric Clapton’s “Little Wing” starting up. “Princess, would ye care to dance?”
Terra Luna giggled again. “Indeed, I would, Sir, but you must stop calling me ‘Princess.’ I’m just a Faery.”
Ian wrapped his wide arms around Terra Luna and she rested her head on his chest. They swirled in time to the music. “If I canna call ye ‘Princess’, well, what’s your name, lass?”
“I don’t believe I should tell you. If indeed you are my destiny, you should have to figure it out.”
“Am I your destiny, then?”
“I think so,” Terra Luna murmured.
“And because o’that, I canna know your name?”
“Not just yet.”
“When do I get to know ye, for real like?”
“We won’t know until that moment,” Terra Luna said, unexpectedly serious.
“Little Wing” ended. The radio started “Moondance” by Van Morrison. Ian let go of her and they began to sway and bob to the otherworldly melody.
Terra Luna hiccuped.
Isn’t it strange, how I’m not bothered at all. Big men usually make me nervous, but he can touch me and even put his arms around me. I feel warmth and safety and . . . and something else.
Ian felt grand.
It’s bloody silly I am to think it, but it truly is a marvelous night for a Moondance. And the moonlight really does shine in her hair.
When “Moondance” was over, Terra Luna gave Ian’s hand a squeeze.
“Would you please be a dear and get me more punch. I’m as thirsty as can be tonight, aren’t I? Maybe bring me two?”
“No sooner said than done, dear,” Ian said. He went into the apartment, and Terra Luna giggled to see people move out of his way as he crossed the dance floor, a head or more taller than anyone else and twice as broad. In a moment he was back with the drinks and Terra Luna drained them both off. She gave a small hiccup and covered her mouth.
“I’ve got an idea!” Terra Luna said, her high voice wavering a bit. She jumped up on the bench. From there she was almost eye-to-eye with Ian. “Now, we’re the same height, see? So come over here, right now! If I’m a Princess, you have to obey me.”
She held out her arms and closed her eyes to signal for a kiss, but before Ian could bring his lips to her, she leaped onto him and wrapped her arms and legs around his chest. Her weight was so slight that Ian hardly noticed it; he folded his arms around her, one across her back and the other under her bottom – just in case. They kissed, and the taste of her mouth was unlike anything Ian had ever known: honey, fruit, spice and flowers. A power and a need rose up in Ian’s blood, which he had never known before. All in an instant, he knew for the first time in his life what it was like to have a vision.
Terra Luna’s heart beat like a hummingbird; her wings pulsed under her skin; fire ran through her body; and her Faery senses took in all of Ian at once. His scent was the spoor of a hunting animal; his breath was fiery and sweet and his strength was poised between passion and gentleness.
The party vanished for them and they were alone under the moon.
The sliding door opened and the party noises returned Ian and Terra Luna to the real world.
“Ian!” called out Fiona from the doorway, hand-in-hand with Barry Davie.
Ian turned so red his freckles disappeared. He let go of the fairy, and she slid down the length of his body, landing lightly on her feet. Ian closed his eyes and let out his breath in a heavy rush. Terra Luna giggled and reached up to pat him on the chest.
“Lulu!” said Fiona. “Have you been drinking? You know that’s no good for you.” She turned to Ian. “Ian, you thick stump, you gave her alcohol, didn’t you? Seemed a good idea at the time, I bet.”
“I never!” cried Ian.
“He got me the pineapple punch, Fifi, not that awful smelling red stuff,” said Terra Luna, slurring her words. “It’s wonnnderful.”
Terra Luna giggled again and then hiccuped.
Fiona grabbed Ian’s arm and yanked it hard enough to pull him down to her eye level.
“Are you the biggest twit in Atlanta tonight, or what? That awful Robert Price spiked the pineapple punch an hour ago! Look, I’ve known Terra Luna four years, and she can’t handle alcohol. Not even a little bit. Not . . . one . . . drink! It makes her giddy and she can’t stop giggling. Like now.”
Terra Luna sat down on the chaise lounge, hiccuped once more and began snoring.
“And then she passes out!”
“How was I to know any o’this?” Ian protested, removing Fiona’s hand from his arm. “I’ve at this bloody fancy-dress farce just an hour meself. I’m drinking MacTamick’s,” – he waved his Scotch glass – “and when did ye ever know me to go for fruit juice! As for Tara here –”
“Terra Luna!” Fiona interrupted.
“Terra Luna, then. We just met. She never said a word about having no capacity for drink.”
They both looked down at the little fairy slumped on the chaise lounge. Barry Davie placed two fingers against her neck and then took her by the wrist.
“What are ye doing ‘Count’?” Ian growled.
“That’s ‘Doctor Count,’ to you.” he replied with dignity. “Doctor Barry Davie, of the Emory University Medical School, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Your friend will be fine. She may have a headache when she wakes up.”
“How much punch did she have, Ian?” asked Fiona.
“Five glasses, at least.”
“Well, for a non-drinker of her weight, that is a lot of booze, in such a short time. She should get some solid food in her, and drink some water.”
“She only eats fruit,” said Fiona.
“Well, find her some solid fruit, then,” said Barry, “and as much water as she’ll drink.”
Fiona knelt down in front of Terra Luna. “Lulu, darling,” she said softly, “wake up, there’s a dear.” She tapped her friend on the knee.
Terra Luna opened her eyes and saw the blurred faces of Ian, Fiona and an undersized Dracula staring down at her.
“Ohoooo, I need to go to the bathroom real bad,” she mumbled.
Fiona reached down and helped her onto her feet. “C’mon, Lulu, I’ll help you.” The two of them went off together, with Barry following in his cape and boots. Ian started after them, but his cousin Jamison, dressed as Robin Hood, stopped him.
“Ian! I’ve been looking for you. It’s time to do a little business,” he said, stepping on the balcony with a scrawny Batman and a pudgy Superman. “These gentlemen are with Southeastern Spirits and Wine – Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Birnbaum. They wanted to meet you.”
Batman, Mr. Cartwright, shook Ian’s hand.
“I’ve always admired MacTamick’s. Smooth, very smooth,” he said. “I doubt I’ll have a hangover tomorrow.
Superman, Mr. Birnbaum, also shook Ian’s hand.
“Don’t worry. He’ll have a hangover. He’s gone through half a bottle. Me, I just sip the stuff. But we both appreciate MacTamick’s. We love handling premium quality spirits. Of course, MacTamick’s needs more ‘buzz’.”
“It’s 101 proof already,” Ian said, nettled.
“He means, hardly anybody but Scotch connoisseurs has ever heard of it,” Batman explained. “In the States, ‘buzz’ means people talk about it a lot.”
“We could sell twice as much, if there was more in the budget for advertising,” said Superman.
“The first thing we want to talk about is an American ad campaign,” explained Batman.
“The first thing?” Ian said.
“Well, we’d expect a bigger discount per thousand cases if we raised overall sales and put up matching money for ads,” said Superman.
“And we’d also like more consistency in deliveries,” said Batman. “Here it is Halloween already, but the holiday season shipment hasn’t arrived.“
“That’s bad,” Superman chimed in.
“I’ll call Edinburgh and look into it,” said Ian. I’ve been off the bloody plane two hours and met the girl of my dreams tonight, and these pushy blokes want me to approve an advertising budget and speed up deliveries.
“You do know that 38% of your American sales are tied to the December gift-giving season, don’t you?” said Batman.
“Well, I know it now,” said Ian. “People give it as presents, then? They do back home.”
“Oh, yes, MacTamick’s is well known as the gift for the discerning Scotch enthusiast. At least, where it’s available. We haven’t cracked Mississippi yet,” said Superman dolefully. “We need to talk about that, too.”
“Gentlemen,” said Jamison. “I assure you that Ian MacTamick will crack Mississippi as it has never been cracked before.” He chuckled.
“Oh, aye,” said Ian. “I canna wait.”
Fiona reappeared, with her faithful little vampire still trailing behind.
“Excuse me, Ian. I hate to interrupt this meeting of the Justice League, but Lulu needs a little more time before she can get going. Barry here – did you know he lives in the building? – has a collection of American rugby memorabilia, and he’s offered to show it to me. Could you be a dear and see Terra Luna home? Seeing as how you got her drunk in the first place, you know. She’s staying at her Nana’s cafe tonight, over in Little Five Points.”
Behind her, Barry grinned up at Ian, showing his fangs.
“Of course, Fiona,” Ian said. “And you’ll have to tell me all about Barry’s fine collection. Why, I’m sorry I canna join ye.”
“I’m not sorry at all,” Fiona said blithely. “You’d only be in the way. Come on, Count. Let’s go check out your casket.”
They disappeared. Batman and Superman looked after them.
“Who was that girl?” said Batman,
“Some ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ you are. That’s Fiona, from Jamison’s office.”
“What, you can see through her costume?”
“I’m a gentleman. I don’t use my X-ray vision like that.”
“She’s an artist, isn’t she?”
“Freelance, on the side,” said Jamison.
“We definitely need to work her into the campaign,” said Batman.
“You mean she could do the artwork?” asked Ian.
“I mean, she could model for the ads,” said Batman. “Imagine those legs ten feet long on a billboard!” Superman giggled.
“You know, boys,” said Jamison, “Ian and Fiona are old pals – ”
“Cousins,” growled Ian.
“ – and he’s just the fellow to work out a deal to get her to do your artwork and star in the ads both. He’ll consider it an honor,” added Jamison mischievously. “Tell you what – Ian’s needs to sleep off his jet lag. How about the four of us have lunch on Monday – 12:30 at Aunt Pittypat’s?”
“Suits me,” said Batman. Superman nodded.
“Great. Now, I’d like you to meet my new freight forwarder. She’s here, dressed as Alice In Wonderland. Let’s go find her.”
Jamison guided the liquor men back into the party, leaving Ian alone on the balcony. For a few moments, he lingered, enjoying the night view, so different from Edinburgh. One skyscraper was a dark, rich red. Gas jets burned in the twin cupolas of another tower. One of the tallest buildings was round, with a revolving top.
I always meant to see more of this place. This time, I’ve got to do more than just take the Tube to Jamison’s office and then come back to his flat.
I ought to check on the wee ‘fairy’.
Ian crossed the balcony into his room. Terra Luna was sprawled on the love seat.
“Wake up, little fairy lass,” said Ian.
Terra Luna didn’t move.
“Come on, it’s time to go, Terra Luna,” he said, louder this time. He touched her shoulder lightly. No response.
“Wake up, lass, it’s past time to go home. Fiona told me to take you.”
Terra Luna snored again. Ian reached out and shook her slightly.
“No!” muttered the little fairy. “No, Nana, I don’t want to get up yet. I don’t feel good.”
Ian gave up. He left the room in search of Jamison. The party was winding down; most of the dancers were gone and the music was turned down to encourage the others to leave. Jamison was helping a thirtyish blond Alice In Wonderland into a long overcoat, while Lindsey – Jamison’s fiancee – bandaged the hand of a man in a gorilla costume.
“If you think this gets you out of tomorrow’s practice, think again,” said Jamison. “A little scratch from a broken beer bottle is nothing to a real rugby player.”
“I’ll be there,” said the gorilla in a Brooklyn accent. He held the door open for ‘Alice’ and followed her. “Hi, I’m Vinnie Gaskins,” they heard him say as the door shut. “Would you like to share a taxi?” His voice trailed off.
“Who’s he?” Ian asked, momentarily distracted.
“Vinnie? He’s a bodybuilder from New York. Newest guy on the team. Poor fellow, he relocated after an awful divorce. Told me he wanted to try rugby because he needed a game where he could really hurt someone.”
“Is he any good?”
“No. But he has hurt a few men. Mostly our side, alas.”
“Ah,” said Ian. “Listen, about Terra Luna, she’s passed out in my room, on the divan. I couldn’t get anything out of her. Where does she live?”
“In a giant nature preserve, an hour and half north of here.”
“Wait one bloody minute! Fiona told me she lives with her Nana in some place called Little Five Points. I know damn well that’s in Atlanta.”
“She’s got a Nana in Little Five Points, where she stays sometimes. But she lives in her own forest.”
Ian considered this fact. Hesitantly, he asked, “Is she some kind of heiress, then?”
Jamison looked thoughtful.
“I don’t know. Fiona says she inherited the place, so I suppose her family must have been well-off. She’s been an orphan since she was a small girl. I think she must be cash-poor/land-rich, because she works several jobs. Besides selling at a farmer’s market, she waitresses in her Nana’s cafe. And she paints. But Fiona says that’s money going out, because she buys the top brands in art supplies, but she never sells anything.”
Ian was fascinated to hear so much about Terra Luna, but right then he had more urgent questions.
“Do you have her Nana’s address? I could borrow your car and take her home. It wouldn’t be anything to carry her.”
“Not for the Edinburgh Caber Toss Champion twice-running, no, it wouldn’t. But, sorry Ian, I don’t even know her Nana’s name for sure. It’s not Hurst, I do know that.”
“Terra Luna’s last name.”
“Oh. Well,” said Ian, returning to the subject at hand. “How do I get her home? I mean, to her Nana’s?”
Jamison considered for a moment. “I guess you don’t,” he said finally. “I know roughly where the cafe is, but I’m in no shape to drive and I don’t remember the address. Moreland Avenue, somewhere. Do you want to call Fiona?”
“Right, Jamison, we’ll call Fiona, and she’ll happily give me the number, because I’m sure Count Dracula has finished showing her his etchings by now.”
“It’s a collection of American rugby memorabilia, and he does have one, but you’re right. If you interrupt Fiona tonight, she’ll require payment in the form of several teeth.”
“So what do I do?”
“I guess Terra Luna stays with us. Leave her on the love seat. It’s just her size, isn’t it? No harm done. I mean, I saw you two hit it off, but I know you wouldn’t take advantage of her. Anybody else, maybe I’d worry, but not with you Ian,” Jamison said. As an afterthought he added, “And neither Lindsey or I will mention it to Brigid.”
“Jamison, lad,” said Ian heavily, “You can say whatever you want to Brigid. I tell ye right now, she and I are through. I hope that doesn’t upset ye, but ye had to know sometime. We’ll speak of Brigid soon, but not tonight. I can help clean up a bit, if ye need me, but I’m postponing all drama, explanation and discussion until tomorrow. Late tomorrow.”
“I’ve got a cleaning crew coming in early. I’m not planning to do a thing tonight. Just spread a blanket over your little fairy girl and she’ll be fine.”
“Alright, if you say so. Goodnight, cousin.”
“Goodnight, cousin. And welcome back to America.”
Ian returned to his room and looked down on Terra Luna. Gently, he untangled the crown of flowers from her hair. She did not stir. He started to toss them in the trash, but instead he put them on the dresser, careful not to let the petals fall off. Why did I do that? He stretched her out full length and found a pillow for her head. Ian admired her tiny little slippers. Mother would say that’s the mark of true beauty – dainty feet. He took them off and received a shock. Terra Luna had only four toes on her feet. Like my older brother, and not like anyone else I’ve ever seen. Or heard of.
For a long time, Ian stood over the little fairy, looking down at her beauty and wondering about her. She was as unlike Brigid as if she were another species. Finally, when he could no longer stay awake, he took the little throw blanket off his bed and spread it over her.
Should I close the balcony door? Nah, Jamison keeps his flat too warm – must be Lindsey’s influence. I like the room cool at night. He undressed and got beneath the covers.
As he took a last look at the bright moonlight streaming into the room, he wondered.
What is my brother doing tonight? And where is he?
Ian slept restlessly until the moon rose over the building and went behind it. As the room darkened, he fell into a deep slumber. He didn’t awaken when Terra Luna sat up, drowsy but badly in need of the bathroom. She pushed the little throw blanket off and got to her feet, still unsteady from the punch. Careful not to make any noise, she closed the door behind her and turned on the light. She took a moment to look in the mirror and was alarmed to see that her eyes were bloodshot, her hair in disarray and her face puffy and red.
Oh, dear. Sometimes I think the city is just too much for me.
Leaving the bathroom, she shivered.
My lovely cloak is . . . oh, goodness, I don’t know where Lindsey put it! She looked at the long shape of Ian’s body under the covers. Silly Scots Giant, leaving the door open in this weather, after tucking me under a little thing that wouldn’t keep a kitten warm. Terra Luna sidled up to the balcony door and tried to close it. It made an awful grinding squeal. Terra Luna stopped at once and Ian only stirred.
It’s his fault I’m stuck here in the cold with my head aching. I ought to take his blanket and let him wake up with the little throw.
Shimmering translucent wings appeared from Terra Luna’s back. She stepped onto the balcony and spread them wide, but the pain made her retch. She retracted her wings and went back inside.
I can’t fly yet. And my head’s not clear enough anyway. I need to rest a few hours more, at least. I suppose I’ll have to make the best of it.
Terra Luna raised a corner of Ian’s blanket and gave it a tug to see what he would do. He slept on. Carefully, she slid into bed and snuggled up behind Ian’s broad back. She was relieved that he wore shorts. As softly as possible, she fit herself to the curve of his body. She was not familiar with men, and certainly had never been close to such a large one. His body radiated warmth and the chill soon left her. She blushed to think of what Fiona would do, if it were her in this situation.
Well, not with Ian, she’s his cousin, but still . . . I’ll never be able to tell Fifi about this without her saying something like, ‘Well, it’s high time . . .’
Maybe this isn’t a good idea. What will I do if he wakes up?
But before she could decide, she fell asleep.
Ian did not awaken, but he dreamed so intensely that it was like nothing else he had ever experienced, awake or asleep.
He sat against a magnificent oak tree on a bright Spring morning, in a meadow of soft green grass and brilliant wildflowers. Bees flew back and forth among the flowers, making the meadow hum. A shimmering blue and green butterfly fluttered down from the oak to land on Ian’s shoulder. Her delicate wings brushed his face. She smelled of flowers and something else, woodsy and woman-like. As she rested on his shoulder, Ian felt awe and a sense of peace that he had never known. Her gossamer wings spread, catching the sun.
Without warning, she left Ian and flew to a patch of yellow and black flowers swaying in the breeze, where she joined others of her kind sipping nectar and basking in the sunlight. Disappointment filled Ian’s heart. He longed for her to return, but she was happy among the other butterflies.
Nearby, hungry birds called out to one another as they hunted. Ian was overtaken with fear for the safety of the wondrous little butterfly. Her fellow butterflies sensed their danger and took flight, scattering in twos and threes.
His butterfly returned to him. Ian held out his arm and she perched on his hand for a moment before gliding to another patch of flowers. She flitted between them while Ian watched out for the birds. He desperately wanted to reach out and take her, to keep her safe, but he knew if did so his great strength would crush her. Besides, she was a wild creature and the meadow was her home. What could Ian offer her that was better than the tree, the meadow flowers and the company of her own kind?
The dream ended and left nothing behind except a terrible longing.
Terra Luna dreamed, too.
She was a toddler snuggling contently against her mother, under the shade of their beloved oak tree in the meadow. Tonight she was going to fly!
While the clouds turned pink and orange in the sunset, Terra Luna and her mother gathered wildflowers. Her mother took the prettiest ones and made them into a crown, showing Terra Luna how it was done. When the crown was finished, she placed it on Terra Luna’s head and made one for herself.
The sun vanished and the night rose up. When the full moon lit the world, Terra Luna’s mother led her into the forest. Soon they came to the Circle. The music began, the torches were lit and the other Faeries called out their welcomes from the air.
Terra Luna toddled after lightening bugs with the other sprites while the grown faeries talked and planned. When the white moon was directly overhead, it was time to fly! The older children sat down to watch. Parents with babies tickled them until their wings unfolded. The music changed, from a steady beat to a swooping melody. On cue, the parents began to toss their babies high in the air.
“Fly, baby, fly!”
The babies shrieked with laughter and joy as they rose, fell, were caught, and were thrown again high in the air.
Then the parents of the sprites began. Terra Luna’s Mother picked her up and kissed her forehead. “Let’s see your wings, little one!” Terra Luna’s wings popped out, and her mother gave a mighty throw, sending her so high she looked down on the torches, the sitting children and the whole Circle!
“Fly, faery, fly!”
Terra Luna beat her wings with all the strength in her tiny body, but she still came down awfully fast. Before she could be afraid, though, a male faery caught her, hugged her and then hurled her to next faery waiting in the circle.
“Fly, faery, fly!”
Again she was caught before she could become scared. This faery, a plump older woman, patted her head and whispered, “Oh, you’ve got such pretty wings!” Then Terra Luna found herself in the air again. Part of her, the faery instinct for flying, knew that she just barely slowed her descent to the Earth. But the ecstatic toddler knew she was flying!
“Fly, faery, fly!” and she landed in the arms of another male faery, a young fellow who grinned at her and tickled her chin before he sent her back into the air.
“Fly, faery, fly!”
“Fly, baby, fly!”
And so it went, the sprites making their way around the Circle again and again as they were thrown, caught, praised, and thrown again, their little wings beating and beating. Some of the cleverer sprites – Terra Luna was one – discovered soaring. They could fix their wings and glide to the next adult, which was so much easier.
Then the flying game was over. The sprites were tired and fell asleep, drooping in the arms of their parents. Terra Luna was as sleepy as any sprite, but she was aglow with joy and fought to remain awake so the wonderful night would not end.
“Mama, can we do flying again?” she asked.
“Terra Luna, we will come here again and you will fly many times. Then one day you won’t need me to help you. You will fly as I do, straight into the sky, with no one to send you up. Your wings will get stronger and one day, little one, you’ll fly everywhere, and you’ll be one of the best and strongest flyers!”
“Very soon, little one!”
And then at these happiest of words, Terra Luna felt a terrible sorrow and grief, as if the light and sound of the world had been extinguished. Instead of nestling in her mother’s warm arms, she stood alone in the meadow in utter darkness and deep cold.
Then she awoke.
Her eyes were wet with tears. That was no dream. It was just like that, the first day flying in the circle. Oh, Mother, I miss you so much! If only you and Granny could have flown with me that horrible day.
Now she had a practical problem. Though her head still ached, her mind was clear. It was almost dawn and she was no longer curled against Ian – his arms were around her and one of them cupped her bottom. That was thrilling, but alarming. As Terra Luna untangled herself, her leg brushed Ian’s shorts, and she realized that he was going to wake up ready for lovemaking. That would not do. Even the gentlest of Scots Giants were prisoners of their male needs. Terra Luna didn’t know much about men, but she did know what they wanted from women. Mama’s kiss could always make me sleep if she willed it. Softly, Terra Luna arched her back to reach Ian’s forehead. The forehead, that’s where the kiss must go to work a Faery’s will. She inhaled the earthy, male scent of his hair and was nearly overcome. I didn’t know that a Scots Giant had such powers over me! Ian’s eyes fluttered. Quickly she kissed him above his brows. Sleep, you need sleep, deep and undreaming. It worked. Ian rolled on his back and began to snore.
Terra Luna got out of bed and put on her slippers. Her wings popped out through slits in her tunic. She flexed them a few times. They were sore, but well enough for a quick flight straight down to the parking garage. She raised herself onto the balcony railing and staggered into the air. Flying was more painful than she expected, but she only needed a minute to reach the ground safely (though she came down rather hard and her feet hurt).
As she got into her little car, she took another look at herself in the mirror. I really don’t know what to think about all this. Except that I must never, ever drink alcohol again. What would have happened if I hadn’t found nice people to help me? Faeries always have such troubles in the city.
Back in the apartment building a man at his breakfast table sipped coffee and thought.
I had just three drinks last night and I never do drugs. . . so, did I really see a girl with wings fly past my balcony just now?
I think I did.