To be guided by a Porcelain Hand
From the earliest memories of my boyhood she has always sat there, quietly reading in the center of chaos. My grandfather’s collection of books could no longer be contained on the library shelves, so now they grow in stacks like trees. They are the wisest of any tree, for they know mathematics, astronomy, latin, geography, biology, and grammar. They can tell you how to dance or sing, how to listen to God and speak in foreign tongues. They posses tales of brave knights and fearsome dragons, they keep the secrets of lovers, and spill the misdeeds of the sinful.
As a child I eagerly anticipated visits to grandfather’s house so that I may wander through the forest in awe. And if I was lucky, I’d catch a glimpse of the fairy perched in the big red armchair. Like a Queen of the forest she spends her days in her flowing white dress trimmed with lace, and a silver tiara studded with glimmering jewels.
My first encounter with her would have been the summer before my third year at the Stradford Academy for Boys. I had visited the forest before, keeping near the entrance out of fear of the maze like qualities of grandfather’s collection. But that year I desired to read a very particular book, so I ventured farther into the forest. Soon I became lost and tried to turn back, which in turn only lead me deeper.
In my desperate state, she shone like a light from the heavens, with locks of gold and a painted face. She smiled gently, caressing my book, as it lay open in her lap. She looked to be a child of sixteen, much older than myself. Yet she was far prettier than any girl I had ever laid my eyes upon.
Calling out I asked her for directions, but she gave no response. So I spoke more forcefully, clearing my throat of timid tones and introduced myself. But again she ignored my presence, and continued to read.
Upon closer inspection I come to the conclusion that such a person would never be able to answer me even if she wanted to, because such a delicate porcelain face did not have the gift of speech. Cursed to stare endlessly with glass eyes and to eternally smile gently with her frozen red lips. Even her gloved hands betrayed her, unable turn the pages of her book.
So I took pity upon the child and plucked the book from her hands, surely someone as she could still listen. My eager voice carried through the dense forest as I read to her and the two of us became engrossed in the story. By nightfall the beckoning voice of my mother lead me back to the world. Recounting to her the fairy in the library forest, my mother laughed lightly and kissed my head.
Every summer since then, I read to the fairy, narrating with great enthusiasm the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, recited Ode to a Nightingale, and shivered with the tale of Frankenstein. When I glanced up from time to time, I saw a very attentive and gracious listener.
As I became a young adult, with the obligations of family forced upon my plate, I visited my grandfather’s less and less often. By age twenty-five I married a lovely young woman by the name of Catherine Coleridge, and forgot about the Fairy entirely until news of my grandfather’s passing.
Being one of his few grandchildren and his favorite among them, I inherited his estate and moved in that spring with my wife and three children in tow. In the years that followed, the only room that remained as it had was the library. It would be always untouched by my wife’s fancies and whims.
I spent many hours in that library reading with the Fairy. Her face was ageless unlike my own, her gown always as white as fresh snow, and her smile was just as enchanting as I had first seen. She watched over me the next forty years, and as time haggard me, she listened to my sorrows and pains.
So here I sit with seventy-nine years lived and lost, closing the worn covers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I stare at my leathery hands awhile, and realize that I am not the ten year old child I had hoped to be.
The sun is dimming in the tall windows, casting trailing shadows about the room. My companion rests comfortably in her chair staring at her own hands, possibly contemplating over the eternity she holds.
I can feel a wave of exhaustion come over me, and take a few steps back in the direction of the world beyond the books, only to be stopped by a sweet voice calling my name. I turn to face the Fairy. The light of the setting sun illuminates her face with a life that I had never seen before.
“You look so tired.” She smiles.
“That I am.” I reply.
“Then why not rest here? I shall read you a story.”
She leans over the side of the chair and plucks up a book from the stack.
“That would be very kind of you, I think shall take you up on your offer just this once.”
She pats the chair cushion, and for once I settle into the chair with her. I watch her through droopy eyes as she open’s the book.
“Have you ever read the tale of Peter Pan and Wendy?”
“I cannot say that I have.”
“It is my favorite by far.” She grins brightly.
As she reads, my eyelids grow heavier, and my body lighter, as though I were flying through the sky on my way to Neverland, leaving my heavy past behind. I can feel the clouds and her soft caressing hand as we soar in search of blissful eternity.