In Which Mrs. Pimms Agrees to Find a Fairy...
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.
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 you, child?’
‘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 kitchen.
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, mind.’
‘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…)