PRW Runner-up Tour: My Lady’s Wish by Melody Winter
A wish can come in many forms: from a person’s fear, desire, greed, or the willingness to help others. But, the wishes which come from the heart are the strongest and easiest to grant.
I wasn’t a typical person to grant a wish, far from it. Not many people knew my kind could grant them. It was always the leprechauns who took the praise for wish granting. But you needed to catch one to get your wish, and they were notoriously good at not getting caught. Me, well, I wasn’t as difficult to catch as a leprechaun, but the only person I could grant a wish to, was the person to whom I’d confided a secret. Maybe that was harder, for it was our nature not to trust anyone.
I was of shabby appearance, wild, ever-searching eyes, a tangled beard, hair of knots and twigs. I was small, three feet tall, and wore brown clothes from my goblin head to my pointed toes. But I was not a goblin—a mischievous, good-for-nothing, irritating goblin. I was a brownie, and proud of it.
I was a busy brownie. Shrouded in invisibility throughout the day, I only allowed myself to become visible at night when looking after my household. There was never time to waste with cleaning to do: pots to wash, clothes to mend, and animals to feed. All I required in return was a chair by the fire and a night-time bowl of porridge and honey.
I was treated well in this house. It had always been the case. The last owners were horrible, they treated me like a slave, and I was lucky if they left me a stale chunk of bread to eat. With my old family, the thought of freedom often pulled at my bones and played on my mind. I dreamt of being free, never again having to clean, and care for others. But now I was glad I’d never gained my freedom. I liked my household now. I liked the people in it, one in particular.
My freedom would have parted me from the woman I loved—the lady of the house. I’d spent the last nineteen years of my life looking after her in some way or another. I was her playmate when she was young, her confidant as she grew up, and her admirer now she was a woman. I would do anything for her. With ruby lips, flushed cheeks, hair as golden as the morning sun, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. What a contrast we were—beauty and the brownie.
Two years ago, her parents died. A carriage accident while they were on a trip to the city. My lady was inconsolable, for she was their only child, and now she was without family. I was needed more than ever as she struggled to manage a household, for with limited money, there was nothing left to hire staff. I was the only person she had, albeit a brownie.
Not only were my brownie skills around the house required at this time, but I was a shoulder to cry on for my lady. We spent many hours talking, reminiscing about her childhood. Eventually she began to laugh again. I’d missed her laugh, so clear and pure, like a chorus of birds singing on a summer morning. And it was when she began to laugh again that I realised I was in love. I recognised the child she was before her parents died, but her grief matured her, made her the adorable woman she now was.
One night, when I read to her in the library, leaning against the high shelves of books, I wanted to tell her how I felt. But I couldn’t. I was fearful she would send me away. I yawned, the warmth from the blazing fire making me drowsy. I don’t recall what happened next, only the unreal situation I awoke to.
I was been kissed. I had never been kissed before, never felt the tingles of passion that coursed through my body from such a simple gesture. I’d imagined, oh how I’d imagined how soft lips would feel against mine, how hands would feel against my flesh, but this first kiss was more than I expected.
My cheeks burnt, hopefully undetected through all my facial hair.
And still, soft lips pressed against mine, so tender, and then they swept away. I opened my eyes, believing it to be a dream. It wasn’t. My lady’s face was close, her lips mere centimetres away from mine. She smiled before returning for another kiss.
“My lady?” I mumbled, wanting to enjoy the feel of her lips against mine, but too confused to do so.
She drew away, all the while watching me.
“Your lips are so soft,” she said. “Quite unlike I expected.”
I frowned, pushing my tiny body to my feet. My lady sat back on her heels, but made no effort to stand.
“Can you feel it?” she asked.
My frown deepened. Had I been whisked away to some mysterious land while I slept? Were the pixies playing a cruel joke on me with their magic? Was I dreaming?
“My lady. I fear I do not understand. Can I feel what? And why were you kissing me?”
“Oh, brownie, do not fear anything. For do you not know I love you. I’ve loved you for so long. I couldn’t stop myself from kissing you. You were asleep, your nose wriggling, and your ears twitching. I couldn’t resist.”
My frown dissolved into raised brows of disbelief. “You love me? Me?”
“But I am a brownie. You can’t love me.”
“The Seelie court. There is a law that doesn’t allow it. No human and elf, be it pixie, goblin, fairy, or fae, can fall in love.”
She folded her arms and scowled. “Well then, I suggest you speak to these Seelie court people and tell them to mind their own business.”
I grinned, quite the wrong reaction really, but I could imagine my lady telling Queen Titania and King Oberon what she thought to their rules. I didn’t dare imagine what their reaction would be though.
“My lady, even though your love for me is the most precious thing I will ever receive, we cannot be together.” I stepped towards her, our bodies the same height as she remained on her knees. Placing my hand on her cheek I whispered my deepest secret. “I love you so much, but cannot ever let my love be true.”
“But . . . . but—”
“Shhh . . .” I shook my head as she pressed her cheek against my hand. “You must forget about loving me, and find a man to whom you can love and who can love you in return. Our love is not allowed, and as such we should never speak of it again. I must help you forget, and so from now on I shall be invisible to you. You will not see me again. I will be here, for I will never leave you, but you will never see me again.”
“No!” she panicked, pulling me towards her. With her arms wrapped around me she kissed me again, and I responded, knowing this was the last ever kiss I would ever have. As tears pooled in her eyes I forced myself to disappear. Fading gradually, I left her in the room and fled to the kitchen where my own tears were released.
Day after day, night after night, my lady begged me to show myself to her. She had an uncanny ability to know where I was, and followed me around the house. I ignored her begging, I ignored her tears, even though they broke my heart. She would get over it, she would eventually find a handsome man to love instead.
I’m not sure when or why the turning point occurred with my lady, but when it did, it came with the force of a wild hurricane.
Different suitors called every week. First one man, then another. She sang as she wandered around the house, and made no effort to talk to me. She was punishing me, that I knew, but I worried about her. I feared for her safety, for her choice in men was questionable to say the least.
And then she spoke to me. She ended three months of silence and decided to tell me she had found love with a man. He was keen to move in with her, and for them to start a family. She told me to be nice to him, for wasn’t she only doing what I told her to do? It wasn’t the man’s fault. He had done nothing wrong by falling in love with her.
Oh, how I wished it was all as easy as she said.
They did marry.
He did move in.
He had cruel eyes, and a greedy lustful soul.
He was taking advantage of my lady.
I hated him.
I even thought about leaving, for no brownie who loves the lady of the house should have to listen to her screams of pleasure which regularly came from the bedroom. My large ears picked up every moan and groan, and I took to stuffing cotton balls in them to drown out the noise. It didn’t work. I could still hear them.
Every morning she ventured to the kitchen, flaunting her dishevelled appearance, letting me know, as if the screaming hadn’t been enough, what they’d been up to all night. She always had a flush on her face which I had only ever seen on her when we used to race each other in the garden many years ago.
And her conniving husband wanted rid of me. I often heard him cursing me, shouting his dislike of having a peeping-tom around. He left clothing around the house. Random items which I refused to pick up. He knew if I accepted a gift of clothing from him I would be granted my freedom and disappear. If I took the gift of clothing I could go where-ever I wanted, live my life as I chose. There was only one condition: I could never return to the household or family who presented me with my gift. I would never see my lady again, and that was the reason that kept me here. I couldn’t leave her.
After a month of marriage things in the house changed. My lady’s husband began staying nights in the city on business. He left late, and returned early the next morning. Arguments started, doors slammed. Where there once had been screams of pleasure, there where now screams of anger. Many times I wanted to run to my lady and protect her from her husband, but I couldn’t help but recall the way she flaunted her love for this man, and how she broke my heart. When I became invisible to her, I did it for a reason, to protect her from me, to ensure she moved on in life. She decided to ignore me and take up with a man completely unsuitable. I argued with myself. One moment I would want to interfere, the next, keep well away.
My lady started visiting the kitchen when he was in the city. She sat at the table and begged me to show myself. She wanted to talk. She needed me. I ignored her, unwilling to talk. It was for the best I remained invisible and silent.
Over the following weeks his trips to the city became more frequent, as did my lady’s appearance in the kitchen. I could stand it no longer, and it was on one of those nights, when my lady’s tears had fallen for hours, that I decided to find out what the problem was. Why were they fighting? Why was she unhappy?
Never one to pry unintentionally, I entered my lady’s bedroom. She was staring out of the window, and therefore had her back to me. The room was gently lit by the rising moon, but it also cast dark foreboding shadows. I stayed at the door, ready to make a hasty retreat if necessary.
“I know you’re there,” she said, not turning.
I froze, my ears flattening to my head. I didn’t breath.
“I can sense you are near.” She spun around and looked straight at me. “Show yourself to me, please. I . . . I need to talk to you.”
My nose itched, a nervous twitch. It had been several months since she’d seen me. She had been surrounded by a handsome man, not a dishevelled brownie. I was no comparison. I was ashamed of the way I looked.
Taking a deep breath, I willed myself to be seen.
Her wide eyes surveyed me as I appeared. After meeting her initial gaze, I looked at the floor, embarrassed by her scrutiny.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“I’ve stayed in the kitchen as much as possible my lady.”
“Your husband. I’m sorry, but I do not care much for him. He shouts at you and it angers me. I am best staying in the kitchen.”
“But I’ve needed you. For the past month, longer, I have begged you to show yourself. I’ve been in the kitchen. You’ve ignored me.”
“It was for the best, my lady. Your life is with your husband. I cannot interfere.”
She huffed at me. “Since when did you get all prim and proper? I remember when you kissed me.”
My eyed widened at her angry tone. “I’m afraid I remember the situation a little differently. It was you who kissed me.”
“And then you disappeared. I’ve never seen you since.”
“It was how it had to be.” I needed to protect her, force her away from me. The fae would never have approved. They would have hurt her.
“You broke my heart.”
I stepped back, my mouth falling open.
“But . . . but, a brownie cannot break hearts. It is not possible.”
“Believe me. It is.”
A silence hovered in the air, only broken by the swish of my lady’s night gown as she walked halfway across the room. She stopped and sank to her knees, beckoning me with a curled finger. Unable to refuse her request, I hobbled slowly towards her as she spoke. “I need your help. You are the only person who can help me.”
“Help you? How?”
“My husband is a cruel man. I am trapped in a loveless marriage. He accuses me of loving another. He says I am incapable of loving him fully. He belittles me, telling me I know nothing of love.”
I growled, an involuntary noise, but fitting all the same.
Her eyes pooled with tears, but she straightened up and took a deep breath. “Of course I know what love is. He’s standing right in front of me.”
“My lady, please. You cannot torture yourself this way. You must try to work things out with him. He is your husband, not me.”
“He has other women,” she blurted out.
“What?” I snarled. Stepping back from her, I cursed his very existence. How could he ignore her to be with other woman? He was lucky to have her as his wife. If she was my wife I would never treat her that way. I would worship the ground she walked on.
“It’s why he’s always away. He spends many nights with them, returning drunk and smelling of cheap perfume.”
I clenched my fists, a plan beginning to form in my mind of what I would do to him when he returned tomorrow morning. It wasn’t pleasant.
I couldn’t kill him, another law. But, I could hurt him, try to make him leave, scare him so much he fled from the house never to return.
“We have to get rid of him. He doesn’t love me. He never has. But you do, and I love you.” My lady smiled, her eyes widening as she examined me with the unabashed curiosity of a child. Her words where ones I’d shied away from for months, but to hear her say them now . . . it was too much. I couldn’t ignore her any longer. I had to help.
“You do love me, don’t you?” Her voice carried the lilt of doubt, the insecurity I’d forced upon her.
I nodded. “Of course I do, it’s why I’ve been so worried. The Seelie court have powers beyond my control. They will know about us. They will come for me and deal with you.”
“Come for you?”
Again, I nodded.
“Then we cannot let them find out.”
I sighed. “They will find out. The magic which surrounds our kind is powerful, too powerful to hide from.” We stared at each other, words silently passing between us.
“We need to be clever,” I said. “There is only one thing I can think of which may assist us.”
“You have a plan?” Her eyes brightened, and she grabbed my hands. “We need a plan.”
“I don’t have a plan, but I have a wish.”
“A wish?” She leaned forwards, her breath tickling my nose.
“That night you first kissed me I shared a secret with you. If you can remember my secret then I can grant you a wish. You can wish for whatever you want.” My pulse quickened, the possibilities, oh there were so many. What would it be?
But she didn’t share my excitement. Her beautiful features crumpled. “I can’t remember you telling me a secret. I only remember how my heart leapt with joy when you told me you loved me. It’s all I’ve thought about since you said it.”
I laughed, placing my hand on her cheek, just as I had that night. “Oh, my lady, that was my secret I shared with you.”
“It was?” Her eyes glistened before she flung her arms around me, knocking me to the floor.
“Yes, yes.” I agreed between urgent kisses placed all over my face.
“Then we have a wish?”
I grinned, nodding.
“I know what we can wish for.” She sat up, her eyes constantly on me.
“I cannot wish for anything. It is you who must make the wish?”
“Then I’ve decided.”
I raised one bushy eyebrow.
She nodded, but didn’t speak. How I loved it when she teased me.
“Tell me!” I said, a smile pulling at my lips.
“You have one wish to give me. I know what it can be. It will end my unhappy marriage and in turn make me the happiest woman in all the land.”
I was suddenly worried about what she would wish for. “I will not kill your husband, my lady. That I will not do.”
“No, no, you don’t have to kill him.”
“Then tell me what you wish. For once it is spoken I cannot grant you any other. I only have one wish to give.”
Her gaze met mine. The full force of her beauty stunned me. If I could have my own wish, I knew what I would ask for. But it wasn’t mine, it was hers.
She pulled her golden hair behind her shoulders before dipping to whisper words I never expected to hear.
“I wish for you to swap places with my husband. It is you I want to be married to, not him. Make him the brownie and you the man.”
I stepped back, dumbfounded at her suggestion. Never had I imagined this.
Eyes so tender, softened even more as she planted a kiss on my cheek.
“I love you, Mr Brownie,” she murmured before holding my face in both her hands.
“It is a lot to ask,” I said. “And a cruel way to treat your husband for he would make a useless brownie. He is incapable of caring for anyone.”
She narrowed her eyes, words trembling on her perfect lips.
“I care not what happens to him, only to you, to us. It means we can be together.”
“I want for nothing else, my lady. You are on my mind every second of every day. My heart forgets how to beat when you are not near. And when you are near my heart sores like the swallows in the sky.”
She grinned, studying me with a sharp eye, and inquisitive gaze.
My ears wiggled, an involuntary action, one of nervousness. It made her laugh. Oh, how I loved her laugh.
Her slender finger lifted my chin so my eyes met hers.
“Grant my wish, and we can be together.”
A smile, one of pure joy, one I never thought possible, graced my lips.
“You wish for your husband to swap places with me?” I needed her final confirmation.
Holding her hands, I stood up before speaking the words to grant her wish.
“A swap to happen twixt me and your husband.” I turned around once, twice, three times. “Let the magic unfurl, my beautiful girl.”
My transformation started. My heart beat fast, and my body lit from within. A bright light shone out of my chest, encasing both of us in its blinding glow. Heat, so much heat. My skin fizzed, popped and stretched. Ears shrank, arms lengthened, my body grew.
When the light disappeared, my transformation was complete. I became accustomed to my new appearance; a man, a six foot man . . . and naked.
She threw herself into my arms.
I staggered backwards as my face was peppered with warm kisses.
Never did I ever imagine such a rush. My heart beat with the speed of a racing horse and I felt stupidly drunk. Drunk on happiness.
I frowned when she halted her kisses. “Oh, my,” she gasped, breathless. “You’re gorgeous.”
Her fingers twisted through my beard before moving to my shaggy hair.
“Oh, your eyes!” she shrieked.
“My eyes?” I felt the top of my cheek, everything seemed normal. “What’s wrong with them?”
Anther smile crossed her face. “Nothing. They’re beautiful, a deep chestnut brown. They are my brownie’s eyes. Kind, understanding, and full of love.”
I grinned, not waiting for her to kiss me again. I kissed her, the first kiss I’d ever instigated in my whole life. Lips met softly, a slow exploration of the other’s response. A joining of unity, a tender embrace. But, my lady was not easily pleased, and kissed me with more passion. Her hands meandered across my chest, exploring new flesh. And, as her hands moved lower I carried her to the bed before falling with her onto the sheets.
I had no fears, no doubts. She would be my wife in every way perceivable. It was time to prove our love for each other.
When morning came, so did the noisy return of the lord of the house. As soon as he stepped across the threshold the transformation occurred. His body crumpled, folded from within. His beard sprouted, matted and wild. His ears grew, and his body shrank.
The screams of terror, and wails of despair echoed in the hallway.
“What is this trickery? What has happened?” His shouts were of confusion, of disbelief.
As expected, he ventured upstairs, crashing and stumbling on every step, for not only was he drunk, he had two new massive brownie feet to contend with.
“Where is he?” he demanded as he burst into the bedroom. “Where is that snivelling disgusting creature?”
Though I stood right before him, my hand resting lightly on my lady’s waist, he seemed not to notice our closeness.
He swayed, and I realised how comical he looked. A drunk brownie was quite a sight. His nose was bulbous, bright red, and his ears twitched every few seconds. His feet were still causing him trouble as he struggled to control them. But the funniest thing about him was his hairy nakedness.
He lurched towards my lady, all three feet of him, and I placed myself between them, protecting her. I had no idea how we were going to control him. Perhaps we would need to move.
“I asked where the brownie was,” he repeated, jabbing a crooked finger at my thigh.
“You, sir, have drunk too much. You are the brownie. Why do you wish to know where you can find yourself?”
A deep frown pulled between his eyes, and for a split second he went cross-eyed.
“My clothes!” he exclaimed, suddenly realising his dilemma. “I need clothes.”
And that’s when it struck me. The perfect idea.
“Fetch his coat, please,” I said, turning to my lady. “The finest one he has. For nothing but the best will do for our brownie.”
My lady hesitated for a few moments.” But won’t he—”
“Why, thank you, sir,” he mumbled, tripping across the room to gaze out of the window.
My lady handed me a green velvet coat, one I was not too keen on giving to him, for I quite liked the colour green. It was a change from brown.
“Here you are sir,” I said, holding the coat towards him. “A gift from me to you.”
“Yes, yes!” His eyes lit up as he snatched the coat. Slipping both his arms into the luxurious material he hugged himself in the ridiculously overlarge coat.
I stepped back, prepared for the magic to take a hold. My lady gripped my hands, but stayed behind me, her chin resting on my shoulder as we watched him gradually disappear. He didn’t shout, scream, or wail as his body dissolved into nothingness. He just closed his eyes as if accepting his fate. I knew if I’d accepted a gift of clothing, be it in error or kindness, I would have gone screaming from this house, never wanting to leave.
But I wasn’t him. I wasn’t a brownie any more.
I was Lord Macfie, married to Lady Macfie.
It was perfect.
Love has a strange way of creeping up on you, surprising you with its sudden, uninvited arrival. Sometimes it fades, but sometimes it glows brighter than the sun. My love for my lady grew every day. I looked forward to growing old with her. I neither wanted nor wished for anything more, which was a good thing, for I’d already used my one and only wish.
It’s strange how things work out. For I’d had but one wish to give to another, but in doing so, my own wish came true.
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