Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Three Hundred and Ninety-three: One life to live

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“Katy!” Noelle screamed at the same time Edie yelled, “Oh no!”

Paddie moved with silent ease. He dropped down on one knee and placed the sword next to Katy’s mouth.

“She’s still breathing,” Paddie said.

The little boy looked up at Noelle. Paddie looked so tiny and frail. In his hand, he held a foggy sword, proof that his best friend was alive. Noelle could only gawk at him.

The reality of their situation hit Noelle like a ton of bricks.

She’d gone along with the adventure at hand. She’d been caught up in the mystery. She’d focused on solving the difficult puzzle. But when this towheaded little boy looked up at her, Noelle saw for the first time what was going on.

She, Paddie, and Katy were stuck inside the school.

They were no different than the child ghosts.

The thought made Noelle angry.

“I have one life to live,” Noelle whispered. “I am going to live every minute of it until my last breath.”

“Noelle?” Paddie asked.

When she looked at him, he was crying.

“I don’ know what to do,” Paddie said in a whisper.

“Yes,” Noelle nodded. “Yes, you do.”

Paddie’s eyes went wild. Noelle stood up straight.

“Edie,” Noelle said.

“I’m so sorry Noelle,” Edie said. Tears fell from her eyes. “You have to know that I love Katy, and I would never do anything and …”

“Enough,” Noelle said in imitation of her father with their dog, Buster. “We don’t have time for that.”

Edie sucked in a breath.

“Go on. Help your sister,” Noelle said. “She needs you.”

“But the doorway and …” Edie said.

“Look,” Noelle pointed up to where the Blue Fairy was mobbed by child ghosts. Edie paled. “She needs your help.”

When Edie took off toward the Blue Fairy, Noelle dropped to her knees.

“You remember when Scooter died?” Noelle asked Paddie.

“I was so sad,” Paddie said. “Katy cried and cried.”

His wet face. His big blue eyes and halo of blonde hair made him look like an angel from a holiday commercial.

“We live,” Noelle said. She pointed to Paddie and then herself. “We die.”

“Dogs too?” Paddie tipped his head to the side.

“Dogs, Katy, our parents, cats, everybody we know,” Noelle said. “We live. We die.”

Dawning awareness came over Paddie. He nodded.

“We are the only ones who can open passageways to the other side,” Noelle said.

“We’re the ones who go through them,” Katy said with a mumble.

“Katy!” Paddie yelled. He hopped to his feet and jumped around for a moment before dropping down to her again. “Are you okay?”

“My head hurts,” Katy said with a nod. She sat up. “When I tried to do it, and it didn’t work? I thought — Daddy’s human part that opens the doors.”

“What do we do?” Paddie asked. “I don’t know how to do it!”

“That’s because we haven’t done it, yet,” Noelle said with a nod. “But we can. We have to be able to because someday, hopefully, a long, long, long time from now, we’ll have to go through the door.”

Noelle looked at Paddie and Katy. They were nodding at Noelle’s logic.

“Come on, Katy.” Noelle leaned down and pulled Katy to her feet.

“But what do we do?” Paddie asked. He hopped up next to Katy.

“I think we just do it,” Noelle said.

“I’ll try,” Katy said. She slapped at her skirt in an attempt get the dust off. She flipped her hair back, adding a swipe of dirt to her tired face. She smiled at Paddie. “We have the sword.”

Paddie held it up.

“It’s a human sword,” Katy said. “That’s why gran-daddy Perses gave it to you, Paddie. It belongs in the hand of a human.”

“I’m the only one who can use it,” Paddie said.

Noelle nodded. She looked up at the door she had drawn.

“Do we need another door?” Noelle asked taking the pastel from her pocket.

“I think we just need to do it,” Katy said.

Noelle nodded.

“We will demand that the door open,” Noelle said.

“The sword can sort out who should be there,” Paddie said with a nod.

“We’ll do it together,” Noelle said. “One …”

“Let’s hold hands,” Katy said. She grabbed Paddie’s free hand.

“Two,” Noelle said as she took Katy’s other hand.

“I’m ready,” Paddie said. He pointed the sword at the door.

“Okay,” Noelle said. “Here we go.”

“THREE!” the children yelled in unison.

Nothing happened.

“Now what?” Paddie asked.

“You have to ask for the door to open,” Edie’s voice came from above them

“Oh right,” Noelle said. “I got so excited I forgot what we were doing.”

Katy giggled.

“Ready?” Noelle said again.

“We’re ready,” Katy said with a hop.

“Now,” Noelle said.

“OPEN!” the children yelled together.

The Sword of Truth began to vibrate with ever increasing intensity. There was a loud humming noise coming from the sword.

“I can’t hold it!” Paddie yelled.

Keeping their eyes on the door Noelle had drawn, Katy and Noelle went to help him hold it. But the vibration was too much for them.

“Watch out!” Paddie yelled a second after the sword left their hands.

The Sword of Truth flew like an arrow until the point of the sword landed in the middle of the door Noelle had drawn. The door flew open and banged against the wall sending vibrations through the building. There was an enormous sucking sound from the other side of the door.

The sword floated in the middle of the opening for the door.

“Let go!” Edie yelled to her sister.

The fairies let go of the child spirits. The child spirits flew past the sword and through the door with an enormous “Whoosh.” On the other side of the door, they saw the children greeted with much love and great joy. They heard voices cheering! Happy dogs barked! Delighted cats meowed in greeting! The children who had been lost we finally home!

The children’s spirits moved so quickly that Edie and the Blue Fairy got caught up in their flow. Their tiny wings and small form couldn’t fight the river of energy moving to the other side. They were simply too small to fight the rush of spirits. They were sucked toward the other side. They hit the Sword of Truth with a solid “whack” and stuck.

“Ow,” Edie said. Her tiny back was stuck to the blade of the sword with her head pointed toward the ground. “Aife?”

“I’m here,” Aife said in a muffled voice. She was stuck face first against the blade of the sword. “Edie?”

“How do we close it?” Paddie asked.

“We tell it to close,” Katy said.

“Let’s say, ‘Time to close,’” Noelle said with a nod. “Ready?”

“Ready!” Paddie and Katy said in unison.

“TIME TO CLOSE!” the children yelled in unison.

The door slammed closed. The Sword of Truth with its stuck cargo dropped to the ground.

“Ow,” Edie said again. “Paddie, can you help a fairy out?”

Paddie ran to get the sword.

“Tell it to let go of us,” Aife said.

“Let them go now,” Paddie said.

Paddie shook the sword, and the fairies flew across the room. They hit the opposite walls with a slap. Expecting them to be injured, Katy and Noelle ran to help. The fairies were laughing hysterically.

“That was fun!” Aife said with a laugh.

Edie giggled.

“Fairies,” Noelle said under her breath.

“How do we get out of here?” Paddie said with a tug on Noelle’s arm.

Noelle pointed to where they’d come. The passageway had opened.

“Go!” Edie said.

“I’ll go first with the sword,” Paddie said.

He dropped down and was gone. Katy followed. Noelle took one last look at her creation. Smiling, she crawled through the passageway. Katy and Paddie were hugging each other in the darkened classroom. Noelle joined their hug.

“I think I heard voices.” Sandy’s voice came from outside the door. “In here!”

The door to Paddie’s classroom opened with a bang. Sandy, Jill, and Delphie ran into the room. Noelle, Paddie, and Katy were hugged and tickled and kissed for what seemed like forever.

“Um,” Noelle said. “Can I go to the bathroom?”

The adults laughed. Katy, Paddie, and Noelle ran off to the bathroom. When they returned, full sized Edie was passing out sandwiches and juice. Her full sized sister, Aife, was opening bags of potato chips next to the drinks. Katy and Paddie got their food and saved a place for Noelle. She sat with them. The adults hovered around like bees to a sunflower.

“It takes a while,” Paddie said in a low voice.

“What does?” Noelle asked in the same low voice.

“Before they ignore us again,” Paddie said.

“Then we’ll have another adventure!” Katy said.

Paddie and Katy laughed while Noelle wondered what she’d gotten herself into.


Wednesday morning — 4:55 A.M.
New York City, New York

Sissy woke up slowly. She was in her own bed in her own room in Ivan’s apartment. The apartment was silent. No one was up and moving around yet.

She closed her eyes to remember.

Last night, she’d been talking to Wanda when Ivan, Mari, and Otis had arrived. While Giovanni made dinner, Mari insisted on making drinks. She poured champagne for the adults and made something she called, “Fairy Fizz” for Sissy, Charlie, and Honey. Sissy hadn’t been sure about the Fairy Fizz, but Mari said it was harmless and certainly not illegal for under aged kids.

“It’s just a fizz,” Mari had said. “Try it. If you don’t like it, I won’t be offended.”

Sissy thought it was the very best thing she’d ever tasted. She swore her fizz tasted like fresh berries from Delphie’s patch. Charlie said his tasted like sour cream and onion potato chips. Ivan took a sip of hers and said it tasted like chocolate ice cream. Honey liked it so much that she switched to drinking Fairy Fizz. They’d laughed at the magic of it all.

Sissy smiled remembering the fabulous meal and great company. After dinner, and another Fairy Fizz, they had danced. Not ballet, of course, Ivan and Sissy were too ill for that. But Sissy and Charlie had danced a slow Venetian Waltz like they’d done when they were five and seven years old. It wasn’t perfect or even close to perfect, but it was very fun. Everyone had danced to the Salsa. Ivan had twirled her around and around. Otis and Mari had showed off with a sexually charged tango. MJ and Honey had danced upright as he held her close.

Sissy had felt fantastic. It was the first time in such a long time that she didn’t feel either severe pain or the heavy weight down of pain medication. Last night, she’d been happy. Last night, she’d been able to move without pain. On her way to bed, she’d heard Honey ask if the Fairy Fizz’s effects would last.

Sissy had been too tired to listen to the answer. She’d fallen into a sweet, sound sleep. And now, she was awake. She got out of bed and stood up. She wasn’t pain free but she was better.

“The Fairy Fizz only takes away your fear,” Mari said from just inside the doorway.

Sissy yelped in surprise.

“Sorry,” Mari said. “I wanted to be here when you woke in case you need more medication or air.”

Sissy didn’t know how to respond so she just looked at Mari.

“You didn’t take it last night,” Mari said.

“You mean I won’t feel pain anymore?” Sissy asked.

“Oh, no,” Mari said with a laugh. “If it worked like that I’d bottle it and sell it for millions.”

“Do you need money?” Ever practical Sissy asked.

Mari laughed. Sissy scowled at her.

“I’m here to make sure you’re all right,” Mari said before Sissy could ask. “How do you feel?”

“I feel okay,” Sissy said. “Can you hang on for a minute?”

Mari nodded. Sissy rushed into the bathroom. She returned a minute or so later.

“Thanks,” Sissy said.

“No problem,” Mari said. “How do you feel?”

Standing on one foot and then the other, Sissy assessed her body from the top of her head to her toes. She nodded to Mari.

“Why is that?” Sissy asked.

“The Fairy Fizz works on anxiety,” Mari said.

“But I’m not anxious, I’m in pain,” Sissy said. Just thinking about her pain made Sissy sit down on the bed. “Sometimes terrible, awful, horrible pain.”

“Yes,” Mari said. “And how do you feel about that pain?”

“I don’t want to feel it,” Sissy said.

“That’s a kind of fear, right?” Mari asked.

Sissy didn’t say anything for a minute. She felt frustrated that Mari didn’t seem to understand what Sissy was saying. Sissy scowled.

“The hardest thing for people to do is to be in the moment,” Mari said. “Fairies suffer the same way. We’re either making plans for what we’re going to do or thinking about what we just did. It’s particularly true for chatty fairies, such as myself.”

“My sister, Noelle, thinks a lot about what she said or should have said or didn’t say,” Sissy nodded.

“Exactly,” Mari said. “When we’re healing, especially early in our healing — like you are — our minds play tricks on us. We become afraid of pain, so we don’t do the things that help us to heal.”

“Like what?” Sissy crossed her arms defensively.

“Like laughing,” Mari said. Her voice was kind. “Like using your sauna. Like stretching.”

Sissy scowled.

“We all do that,” Mari said. “I have been very hurt by men, particularly human men. They have done horrible, horrible things to me, violent things, nightmares to the modern mind. I was terrified to even speak to a human male. If I met one, I’d do something cruel and horrible. Then, Otis comes along and …”

“You seem really happy,” Sissy said with a nod.

“Between you and me, I’ve never been this happy,” Mari said. “He says the same thing. I mean, it’s new, you know, but … I hope to spend the rest of his life with him.”

Mari smiled.

“You wouldn’t have been able to do it if you were afraid,” Sissy said.

Mari nodded.

“How did you get unafraid?” Sissy asked.

“He healed me,” Mari said.

“He’s tried to heal me,” Sissy said. She lifted a shoulder in a sad shrug. “It doesn’t stick.”

“Your body is still healing,” Mari said. “Your injuries are severe and were life ending.”

“He and Jill helped me,” Sissy said with a nod.

“I’d like to help you with your fear,” Mari said.

“I have a bad eating disorder,” Sissy said. “That means I can get addicted to stuff. Plus, my dad was addicted to almost everything and …”

Sissy stopped talking when Mari gave Sissy a sweet smile.

“You’re saying that everything I did last night I can do, but I’m afraid to do it,” Sissy said.

“Because of the pain,” Mari said. “There’s no question that you’ve suffered a terrible injury. And with the rape trail and all that nonsense — it’s been a lot. Certainly, a lot more than any average girl could handle.”

Sissy sighed and looked at her feet.

“But you are not an average girl,” Mari said.

“I’d like to feel better,” Sissy said. She was surprised that there were tears in her eyes when she looked at Mari.

“Did you feel better last night?’ Mari asked.

“Yes, but …” Sissy said.

“But?” Mari asked.

“You’re not going to always be here,” Sissy said. “I’m a big girl on my own in the big city.”

“Yes, I see that,” Mari made a point to look around.

“You know what I mean,” Sissy said.

“Actually, I do,” Mari said. “You can’t rely on my help being here all the time. Lucky for you, you only have to be determined to get through the fear.”

“Oh,” Sissy said. “How do I do that?”

Mari smiled.

“Why did you smile?” Sissy asked.

“Because you are an amazing girl,” Mari said. “Now, tell me this — what makes you happy?”

“Dancing,” Sissy said. “Ivan. My brother. Sandy. My friends. Buster, my dog.”

“Yes,” Mari said. “What if you tried to create one happy moment every day? You could write it down.”

“How would that help?” Sissy asked.

“Because you’re going to be afraid,” Mari said.

“Afraid of being hurt,” Sissy said.

“Exactly,” Mari said. “Happy moments are the best cure.”

“Like last night,” Sissy said.

Mari smiled.

“If you weren’t sick, what would be your first thing to do in the morning?” Mari asked.

“I’d go in the sauna, probably,” Sissy said.

“You’d warm up to dance,” Mari said.

“But …” Sissy started.

“Why don’t we try it together?” Mari asked. “I’m just now asking your brother and Ivan the same thing.”

“How …?” Sissy asked.

“I am a complicated fairy,” Mari said. “Come along, my dear, let’s see what you can do.”

Mari turned and walked out the door. Sissy watched her go but didn’t move from her bed. She heard Charlie’s door open. His limping footsteps continued down the hallway. She heard Ivan’s door open. His footsteps moved toward her room. He peeked in her door.

“You’re still in your pajamas,” Ivan said.

“I guess I’m not much of a believer in fairies,” Sissy said.

Ivan grinned at her.

“She’s right, you know,” Ivan said.

“I know,” Sissy said.

He smiled at her, and she blushed.

“I’ll see you there,” Ivan said.

With full confidence, he closed the door to her room. She knew this was a test. No one would ever blame her or be mad that she didn’t show up to see what she could do. No one in their right mind would expect her to do anything. Sissy sat on the bed for another moment. 1970’s disco music pulsed down the hall in the dance room. Laughing, MJ and Honey made their way down the hall. The door to Charlie’s room opened with a bang.

“Hey!” Dale said as he walked down the hall. “You didn’t say you were going to disco!”

She sighed at the monstrously huge task of recovering that lay in front of her. Shaking her head, she got up off the bed. She stood for a moment, feeling her feet on the ground.

Shrugging at herself, she decided to change into her workout clothing.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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