Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fairy Tales For an American Goddess

“You have to come with me to meet my uncle’s new boyfriend,” my best friend, Lyla, begged as soon as I opened the passenger door of her silver Mustang.
“Oh, sure. Just what I need, to spend my evening with a bunch of boring, old people,” I told her, not even trying to hide the sarcasm.
“My uncle is only ten years older than us, and he definitely doesn’t hang out with boring people. Besides, there’ll be lots of single men there!”
“Yeah, but will any of them be straight?” I winked at her, acknowledging my defeat.
We sped across the city, chasing the sunset. Lyla was determined to get there quickly.
“Seriously, if you wreck this thing and kill me, I’m going to come back and haunt your ass for all eternity,” I told Lyla with one hand gripping the oh-shit handle.
She just laughed and eased off the gas a little.
“We aren’t going to die. Uncle Chris just wanted us there before sunset. Something about the Midsummer’s Eve or a solstice or something.”
“Ugh,” I moaned. “I hope this isn’t some weird Wiccan celebration where they expect everyone to dance around a bonfire naked. I am not doing that again.”
Lyla stared at me, started to say something, paused, and then continued to stare.
“What?” I asked defensively. “Ren Fest my freshman year at school. I’ll have to tell you about it sometime. Lots of mead, a gorgeous Scottish drummer--it’s true that they don’t wear anything beneath those kilts, ya know?--Ahh,” I sighed. “Good times, good times.”

We pulled into Lyla’s Uncle Chris’ driveway just as the sun’s last rays disappeared. The air was heavy with humidity but calm, still staunch with the heat of the day, but no longer oppressive.
“It looks like we missed the sunset,” I whispered, trying to keep the joy out of my voice.
“Whatevs,” Lyla opened the front door without knocking, walking in to an empty living room.
“So much for all those handsome, single men,” I muttered.
“They’re probably out back,” Lyla said. “Stop being so snarky. Come on.”
Lyla opened the French doors that led to the back patio, and we were greeted with wafts of magnolia and jasmine interspersed with citronella and freshly mown grass. To my intense relief, there wasn’t a bonfire, and as far as I could tell, all of the people nearest me were fully clothed.
But there was one man toward the center of the group who, while still fully clothed, seemed to emanate sexual energy. He stood on the raised stone circling the hot tub, his white linen chinos and unbuttoned Cuban shirt rustling in the breeze that just sprang up. His eyes were closed but his two delicate lips were joining and parting in an inaudible intonement. His blond hair bleached white in the moonlight, his smooth chest beginning to heave with the intensity of his prayer. And he began to glow.
A cool light, pouring from his head to his bare feet, washing the crowd around him, the chanting audible now but still incomprehensible. Was it Latin? Greek? Swahili? I found myself drifting through the crowd, mesmerized and unable to resist his call. Still he continued on, more rhythmic, the people around him swaying to the beat, tribal drums pulsing in tandem. And suddenly, he raised his arms and lifted his face toward the heavens.
“Thank you, oh Great Ones, for entrusting me. I will do my best to teach her what she needs to know,” the young man shouted to the sky. Then all was silence.
At last, he opened his eyes, a color Caribbean lagoons would fight over, leapt down to embrace me, and leaned back as if to get a better look at me.
“Well, hello, Goddess. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Oh, my God,” I whispered. “You’re a fucking fairy!”
“Well, technically, yes,” he laughed. “I am a water sprite. But you, my Goddess, should just call me Jala.”

“Whoa, hold on,” I gasped. “You really are a … a fairy? A water sprite?”
I stared at the man named Jala, trying to figure out what game he was playing, figuring I would end up the butt of the joke by evening’s end. But he just smiled at me and led me over to Lyla and her uncle who were standing by a beautiful stone birdbath nestled in a small copse of trees.
“Goddess, I believe you know Lyla and her uncle, Chris. When I met Chris last month, I knew he had been in contact with you. I could still feel your power. But I didn’t think it would take this long to find you! Oh, Goddess! I am so thrilled you are finally here, safe and whole!” Jala embraced me again.
“Jala, it is Jala, right?” I checked for his nod. “Jala, I’m not a goddess. I know who my parents are, and they definitely aren’t Zeus or Juno. I think you must have me confused with someone else. I don’t have any special powers. I can’t fly or leap over tall buildings. I don’t have x-ray vision!”
Jala chuckled, “I called you Goddess, not Superman. And you do have special powers. You just haven’t realized it yet.”
“Missy, it’s so good to see you again,” Chris said as he grabbed me up in a big bear hug. “I’m so glad Jala has finally found you. He’s been wearing me out in our “quest” to find you!”
“Chris, will you please tell Jala that I’m not a goddess. I’m just your average, every-day woman--nothing special,” I begged him.
“But, honey, you aren’t average. I’ve always known there was something special about you. Now I just know what it is!” Chris said.
“Lyla, please help me,” I turned to my best friend. “These guys are crazy. Tell them, please!”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re right. You’ve always been a little different,” Lyla laughed. “Should I fall to my knees and worship you now?” Lyla’s laughter filled the air as I stormed off. A sudden gust of wind whipped my blonde tresses across my face, and thunder rumbled in the distance.
Why are you getting so upset? I asked myself as I meandered through the crowd toward the back doors of the house. I needed a drink and a bathroom, and the order didn’t really matter to me. As I passed through the kitchen, I paused long enough to grab a wineglass and the bottle of Moscato I knew Chris had in the back of the fridge. I bypassed the long line for the hallway bathroom and slipped through Chris’ bedroom to the master bath.
I climbed up on the huge vanity, legs stretched out with my feet dangling over the empty sink. I leaned back and closed my eyes, warmth trickling down my cheeks, chest tightening.
Why are you getting so upset? I asked myself again. What are you afraid of? That this is a joke? People have played pranks on you before. Besides, Lyla wouldn’t do this to you. So, some people will laugh at you. That’s nothing new. So why the tears?
Because, I turned to answer my reflection, what if they’re right?
And since my Sybil had no response, I grabbed the bottle of wine to pour myself a much-needed glass of clarity. But then I burst into hysterical laughter.
“So much for being an all-powerful, all-knowing goddess. I can’t even foresee ten minutes into the future!” I mocked myself in the mirror. Feeling lighter from the laughter, I freshened up and planned to return to the party. I glanced in the mirror one last time.
Or worse, what if they’re wrong?…“Oh, shut up, Sybil.” And off I went in search of a corkscrew.

“Chris, I owe you a bottle of Moscato,” I whispered in the ear of the bronzed Adonis lounging ever so coolly in a plastic lawn chair. Now, I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if I had learned that he was a god. Tall, dark, and handsome just aren’t adequate enough to describe Chris. And even though signs of a wild and crazy youth were starting to show, his sincerity and charisma made him more attractive than ever.
“Think nothing of it, doll,” Chris leaned back and kissed my cheek. “Are you okay? We didn’t mean to scare you. Lyla’s really sorry about upsetting you.”
“I’m fine,” I told Chris. “No, really. I don’t know what was going on with me. But I’m feeling better,” I laughed as I showed off the half-empty bottle of wine. “Besides, it wouldn’t be a party without a little drama!”
I glanced around at the dwindling crowd, only a fraction of the earlier revelers remained.
“Speaking of, what happened to the party? Where did everybody go?”
“Honey, I think your little storm scared most of them into leaving,” Chris teased.
“People left because I got upset?” I asked, mortified again.
“No, people left because it looked like a big storm was about to crash down on top of us. Of course, they just think it was an ordinary summer storm, but Jala told me that this was just a hint of your powers coming through. He wants to talk to you again, if you’re up to it. He’s probably over in the corner next to the birdbath,” Chris said. “That’s the good thing about dating a water sprite; if I ever misplace him, I just have to find the nearest source of water! Oh, and a shower with him is truly a magical experience!”
“Oh, TMI, sugar!” I giggled and crossed the yard to confront my destiny.

I found Jala standing with both hands palm-down a few inches from the surface of the water, his face upturned once more, his eyes closed in ecstatic bliss, the water below his hands swirling in steady concentric circles. Not wanting to disturb him, I turned to go, but before I had even taken a step, Jala opened his eyes.
“Please, Goddess, stay with me. I need to explain things to you.”
“Jala, I just think this whole thing is a little ridiculous. You can stop calling me Goddess. Your little prank backfired because apparently I’m a crybaby,” I said.
“Oh, Goddess, I’ve handled this all wrong. This isn’t a joke. I am so sorry that I upset you. I was just so excited, and if you’ll give me a chance, I think I can do better this time.”
“Okay, okay. Tell me what you think I need to know.”
“Actually,” Jala said as he moved back over the birdbath, “I think I need to show you something first.”
The water in the stone basin was calm and clear. I peered in, half-expecting to see some vision of my future, but I only saw my shadow, not even a reflection in the dim moonlight. Then Jala placed both of his hands over the water as he had before, and the water began to stir. Slowly at first, the whirlpool moved of its own volition in long, luxurious laps. But then, I could feel the energy start to pour off the water and the pace quickened. Roiling like a whitewater rapid, the water in the middle began to rise, slow and steady, pulsing with its own rhythm. The water split into two liquid ropes, entwining, rising higher, slippery serpents synching into a single pedestal much like the stone basin two feet below. Directly in front of my eyes, I watched as the water rose again, spinning into a perfectly formed lily floating gently in the waves. And then the lily shifted into a swan, elegance in miniature, its long neck outstretched, ripples echoed out as its beak dipped down for a drink. Suddenly, the bird took flight circling above my head, liquid wings flapping against an unseen air current. Then just as quickly, it exploded like a firework and burst into a million droplets, raining a fine mist onto my face. I shrieked like a school girl, peals of laughter ringing out into the night.
“Oh, Jala!” I cried out. “That was amazing! Simply magical!” I stood in awe of the glowing creature before me. I didn’t doubt even for a second that he wasn’t quite human. Besides the glowing skin, Jala just gave off this vibe of otherness. Not scary weird, just different.
“How did you do that?” I asked. “Will I be able to do that? How many other fairies are there? Is everything real? What about dragons? And unicorns? And…oh, my God. It’s true,” I gasped, starting to come to terms. “Everything I thought was a fairy tale is really real. Isn’t it?” I asked as I plopped down in the closest lawn chair.
Jala laughed as he pulled his own chair alongside mine. “Well, to answer your last question first, yes. Almost everything. Dragons are almost extinct. I’ve never seen one, but I’ve heard they are pretty vicious. Unicorns are pretty rare, too. Most humans can’t see them, but they tend to stay well away from people if they can. I know there’s a pretty big herd up in Wyoming and some down in the Amazon, but for the most part, they just do their own thing. As for fairies, I don’t know, probably a few thousand world-wide. A full-blood fairy can live for centuries, but I don’t think the females can have babies for much longer than ordinary humans. My grandmother is 372, but she looks just a little older than me! But I’m just a half-y. I’d guess that there are thousands of humans that don’t know they are half-fairy, millions with a trace of fairy blood. Not everyone gets a power though, and some that do put a lid on it so it won’t come out. They can’t believe or don’t want to. They end up so miserable because they can’t be themselves. It’s really sad. But that’s not why I’m here,” Jala said, reaching over to grab my hand. “I was sent to guide you and protect you, Goddess. You may not be able to do what I can since you aren’t a water sprite, but we’ll discover your powers together.”
“What do you mean by guide and protect?” I asked. “Am I in danger?”
“You can think of me as your own personal trainer. I’m going to help you get into shape spiritually and physically, help you tap into your powers and harness them, take you on journeys, help you grow into the best Goddess that has walked the earth since Athena.”
“Um, you didn’t answer the danger part,” I accused Jala. “What kind of trouble are we talking about?”
“Well,” Jala hesitated, “there may be some…things after you. But I think you’ll be safe here. I laid down some protections here, and I’ll do the same at your place, with your permission, of course.”
“Okay, you really aren’t going to answer me fully, are you? What kind of journeys are we talking about? You know I have a job, right? I can’t just take off on a whim. I have responsibilities, you know? I have a cat, and I have dart league, and I volunteer at the food pantry at least once a month. I play Bunco with my mom when they need another player. I just don’t have time to go traipsing across the country, let alone the world, on some make-believe adventure,” I explained to the water sprite, my daily obligations intruding on my alcohol-fueled excitement of just minutes before.
“We aren’t going anywhere right now. But I’m sure we will before long. Do you have a passport?” Jala asked.
“No, I’ve never been anywhere to need one,” I said, my previous excitement starting to return. “Do I need one? For when? Are we going to Greece? Or Rome? I’ve always wanted to go to Europe!”
Jala laughed, “Well, I think it will be easier if you have one, and it’s best to be prepared. We’ve got plenty of time to go through the proper channels, but if something comes up, I’ve got a cousin who works for the State Department who can probably speed things up a little.”
“A bureaucratic fairy?” I teased.
“He just has a trace of fairy blood, wood nymph in fact. He doesn’t have any real powers, but he’s always had an affinity for books and paperwork. He’s trying to get into the National Archives or the Library of Congress or somewhere where he’s more in contact with texts. So much is computerized these days,” Jala said.
“He’s a wood nymph and he likes books?” I questioned. “I would’ve figured that since a book is basically a dead tree that it would hurt him or something.”
“You are so wise, my Goddess,” Jala beamed. “Yes, true wood nymphs don’t much care for books, but my cousin is only part-wood nymph. It’s a little odd, but the trace of fairy blood often allows them to do things a full-blood wouldn’t or couldn’t do.”
“Like?” I prompted him.
“Like be a master woodcarver. Or even how I can draw energy from a swimming pool. The chlorine would be toxic to my water sprite kin. That kind of thing.”
“I love how you tell me I’m so smart one second, and then turn around and tell me how completely wrong I am!” I joked.
“You are smart, Goddess!” Jala exclaimed. “You can’t expect to already know everything! But I can tell your knowledge is going to be useful and make my job much easier.”
“I still don’t know what to think,” I said. “Part of me is so excited, but part of me thinks you’re just crazy, and another part is just buzzed as hell!” I said, holding up the now-empty wine bottle.
“Well, I think it’s time to rejoin what’s left of the party and get you another drink!” Jala said, grabbing my hand and pulling me to my feet.
“Hey, speaking of,” I said, “Chris said something about me causing the little storm earlier. You and I both know that I didn’t do that. I can’t do that,” I insisted.
“I know no such thing,” Jala said. “And you’ll soon find out how much you can do!”
“When?” I asked my water sprite guide.
“Patience, grasshoppah, patience,” Jala laughed as we walked back across the yard.

Chris turned as we came up behind him, and I could instantly tell how much he really cared for Jala. The odd little vibe I got off of Jala seemed to double when the two embraced. It was as if their affection was tangible, even almost visible, but then I figured that had to be the wine talking.
We all sat and talked and laughed and drank some more until our little party dwindled down to just Chris, Jala, and me. As I knew it must, the conversation turned to me again. I had been commiserating with Chris over the demise of my most recent relationship with Mr. Not Quite Right.
Douglas was a good guy. Hell, they had all been good guys. But usually within a few weeks, the spark just dissolved into friendship, and I would know that this one wasn’t The One. It had been the same with Douglas, too. Smart, funny, nice-looking, stable job, single, and straight. I had hit the freaking lottery with this one. But just three months later, he announced that he had taken a position with his dream firm in D.C., having applied for the job on a whim just days after meeting me. Of course, I didn’t have to pretend to be happy for him after seeing how excited he was. Not to say that I wasn’t a little disappointed to see the end of another relationship. But I had already had an inkling that Douglas wasn’t The One; the move just sped up the timeline a bit. I didn’t even consider moving with him, not that he’d asked me.
“So, here I am, single again and getting more decrepit by the minute,” I lamented. “I might as well go adopt a few more cats.”
“Oh, shut up, Missy!” Chris said as he threw an empty cup at my head. “You are wonderful and beautiful, and the man who finally wins your heart will indeed be the luckiest man on earth!” Chris looked at Jala and winked at me, “Well, the luckiest straight man, anyway.”
“Awww, you’re so sweet. I don’t know if I should hug you or punch you,” I teased Chris.
“I think I’ll opt for the hug,” Chris said as he pulled me to my feet and into his arms. “I don’t know what the future holds for you, sugar,” he whispered in my ear, “but I do know that you are something special. I told you that earlier, and I really mean it. Can you feel the energy, the power, that’s flowing between you and Jala? I can almost taste it! Or maybe that’s just your delicious perfume,” he sighed as he nuzzled further into my neck.
“No, I think it’s Jala,” I sighed back into his chest. “I could almost reach out and grab the bond between you two. I think I can use it if I just knew what to do with it.”
“Goddess,” Jala murmured as he placed a hand on each of our backs. I felt the surge of power radiate out from his touch, my body tingling from head to toe. When I looked into Chris’ wide eyes, I knew he had felt it, too. We both moved our arms to include Jala in the embrace, and as we reconnected, another shock rippled through my body.
“I think it’s time for another storm, Goddess,” Jala said, and before I could protest, he drew our trio in tighter. “I want you to use our energy to help you.” He glanced skyward. “See those clouds off to the west? Bring them to you. They are yours to command. They will obey you. You are the Goddess that they have been waiting for. You control them. You are their master. You have the power. You. Are. The. Goddess!
I closed my eyes, trying to visualize the clouds moving in over us, pulling from all sides, I couldn’t get them to budge. Please! I thought exasperatedly and raised both arms, directing the jumbo jet of clouds across the tarmac to the terminal. I felt the clouds give in to my urges, and then it was a race to see who could keep up. I drew in more and more clouds, the lighter ones darkening as the energy at my back pulsed and increased. I heard Jala exclaim, “Yes, Goddess!” but it barely registered as I whipped the clouds together, building them bigger, taller. I could feel my energy flowing into them, but I was getting more back from them in return. The air was buzzing with tension. I was standing on the edge of glory, and I knew that only my fear was holding me back. I am not going to be afraid anymore. I am not going to doubt my own powers. I. Am. The. Goddess!
I dropped my arms to my sides and pulled in the thunder, a low rumble, growling and growing, the windows rattling from its roar. I waved one hand across the sky, and the wind picked up the tempo, sending another chill down my back. I sent out another roll of thunder, and as I clasped my hands above my head, a spider web of light illuminated our strange little trio. I couldn’t help but smile as I dropped my arms and took a little bow, the spirit of ecstasy crossing my lips.
 And then, it began to rain.

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