Mr. and Mrs. Pimms were very normal, no-nonsense kinds of people. Well, Mr. Pimms was, anyway. Mrs. Pimms looked
like she was a very normal, no-nonsense kind of person, but the truth
was, Mrs. Pimms had a secret life. One complete with all kinds of
nonsense that contained no normality whatsoever—at least as far as Mr. Pimms would have been concerned. Mrs. Pimms, you see, was a witch.
Her days were filled with potions and
magic, scrying and hexing until five-thirty in the evening on the dot when Mr.
Pimms, without fail, Monday to Friday, walked in the door of their suburban
cottage. The weekends were tricky. But Mrs. Pimms always managed to get a spell
of work done—work of the un-normal kind—in between Mr. Pimms’ Saturday round of
golf and Sunday’s afternoon nap. Indeed,
Mrs. Pimms found herself intensely grateful for Mr. Pimms’ definitively regular
routine, without which she would get very little done, not to mention be
considerably prone to panic attacks.
And Mr. Pimms would have continued knowing nothing of
his wife’s secret life if all had gone according to plan. Which, of course, it didn’t.
It happened on a Tuesday—a strange
occurrence in and of itself, because nothing seems to ever happen on
Tuesdays. Mrs. Pimms was bottling a
tincture of newt’s eyes and raven’s blood for Mrs. Gargery’s gout when the
light thud of the front door knocker made its way to the back room. (Mr. Pimms never went in the back room, which
he took for a sewing room, believing it to be Mrs. Pimms most sacred
space. He was considerate that
way.) Mrs. Pimms popped a cork on the
small glass bottle, dusted her hands on her witch’s apron (which looks exactly
the same as a non-witch’s apron), and went to the door.
‘Mrs. Pimms?’ a small voice
belonging to a very small little girl asked, looking up at her shyly.
‘That’s me,’ said Mrs. Pimms kindly
and gently. ‘What can I be doing for
‘Could…’ the little girl paused, and
then took a deep breath as though the air would fill her with courage. It appeared it did, for she then asked,
‘Could I come in and talk to you about something?’
She said it quickly, and all at once as
though it were all one word, but Mrs. Pimms caught the question.
‘Of course, child. Come in, come in,’ she said opening the door
wide enough for the wee little tyke to make her way into the living room. The child went into the room and stood there,
looking at the floor and twisting her fingers together. Naturally Mrs. Pimms knew just what to
do. ‘I’ve made a batch of my apple spice
cookies. What are your thoughts on
having some of those in the kitchen?’ Mrs. Pimms asked.
The little girl lifted her face with newly
bright eyes. ‘Yes, please,’ she said
with an eagerness that belied her shy demeanor.
‘Let’s see if I can rustle up some cocoa
too,’ she said, and the child practically beamed following Mrs. Pimms to the
After the child had a received a healthy
dose of cookies and a mug full of cocoa, Mrs. Pimms asked, ‘And now, do you
think you can tell me what you wanted to see me for?’
The girl nodded. ‘Mrs. Pimms, I wanted…’ she paused and shook
her head, and Mrs. Pimms worried that the cookies and the cocoa hadn’t done the
trick. But then the girl said, ‘Mrs.
Pimms, I’ve got to know something before I ask my question. Are you a witch?’
The question coming from so small a child
took the woman by surprise. It wasn’t
that it was all that much of a secret amongst women that lived in her suburban
village. Many had been to her for a
tonic or a tincture, usually coming around when they felt their waist lines
expanding (and always wondering that if Mrs. Pimms could make their waists shrink, why she herself was so plump). But still, it wasn’t something that was
readily discussed. And Mrs. Pimms liked
it that way. Still, she never denied it
when anyone asked. ‘Well, yes, child, I
do seem to fall into that category.’
‘Oh good,’ the child said breathing a sigh
of relief. That also surprised Mrs.
Pimms. ‘Then I can ask you my
question. Mrs. Pimms do you know where I
could find a fairy?’
Mrs. Pimms’ eyebrow raised
slightly. She was not a woman often
surprised, but then she had never been asked to find a fairy before. Light poisons for the wayward husband and
heavy sedatives for the desperate housewife (it is only fair to point out that
the witch never provided any of the heavy sedatives), that she was used to. But
not the whereabouts of the Fae.
‘Well, now,’ began Mrs. Pimms, at
quite a loss. ‘How’s about you tell me
your name, child?’
‘I’m Mary,’ the girl replied
chipperly, firmly believing that she was on the cusp of her greatest desire.
‘Mary, that’s a right nice
name. My name too, as it happens.’ Mrs. Pimms was stalling (though her name
really was Mary).
‘Oh, Mrs. Pimms!’ said Mary, who
wasn’t about to call a witch by her first name, ‘do tell me where we might find
a fairy. Its dreadfully important.’
‘And why would finding a fairy be so
dreadfully important, Mary?’
Mary squirmed slightly in her
seat. ‘The thing is, Mrs. Pimms, it’s my
mother’s birthday next week, and I would really like to bake her a cake. Her favorite lemon cake. I heard her talk about it once, how much she
liked it when my grandmother made it for her ever so long ago. I wanted to surprise her. But when I asked my grandmother how to make
it, she said it had been so long ago that the fairies must have taken it. So I thought if I came to you, and you could
tell me where I could find a fairy, I might be able to make my mother’s cake
after all. What do you think, Mrs.
Pimms? Could you find one?
‘Well, Mary, I have to tell you straight out
that I’ve never had cause to find a fairy before,’ Mrs. Pimms said
matter-of-factly, though kindly, knowing what a crime it was to let down a
child, but feeling as though she couldn’t help it all the same.
Mary’s eyes began to brim. ‘Never, Mrs. Pimms?’
Mrs. Pimms shook her head.
‘But you could try, couldn’t you?’
Mary looked at Mrs. Pimms with such wide
eyes and earnest expression, that Mrs. Pimms didn’t have the heart to explain the
child’s grandmother’s propensity for exaggeration. In fact, as she thought more about it, she
didn’t have the heart to disappoint the little girl at all. Besides, she had always wanted to have a
small chat with one of the fair folk.
Why not now? And who was to say
the Fae wouldn’t have a lemon cake recipe off hat?
‘Well, why not?’ Mrs. Pimms said, with a
warm shrug of her shoulders. ‘The least
we could do is try. But no promises,
‘Oh, Mrs. Pimms. Thank you!
I won’t expect any promises,’ Mary said with a grave seriousness
weighted with the expectation of promises.
Mrs. Pimms chuckled lightly. ‘Alright, child. Let’s find a fairy.’
(To be continued next Sunday…)