My prompt was the following: "You find a music box that, when played, brings a sugarplum faerie to life. She’s not friendly."
Under a Shining Light
The soft lights of the Christmas tree dabbed blue, red, and gold on Lorraine’s snowball-white sweater. She brushed a strand of brown wavy hair off her face, glancing towards the faint sound streaming down the staircase nearby. A rich, deep voice sprinkled with the sound of water as he sang in the shower. Lorraine’s freckled cheeks flushed as she glanced at the digital clock through the doorway to the kitchen. 4:43 p.m. Just one hour and seventeen minutes until her family would arrive for Christmas dinner with him. The man who had waltzed into her life over a year earlier as they finished their undergraduate degrees on the other side of Upstate New York. The man who had turned her life upside-down in a whirlwind of love and romance. The man she envisioned herself walking down the aisle towards. The man who her brothers would terrorize. Ooh, gosh. I hope that mom and dad control them, Lorraine mused, remembering when her four younger brothers had “appreciated” her first boyfriend years earlier. Water balloons, Vaseline, and Saran Wrap had all found a place in the grand scheme of things. Lorraine’s mouth twitched. Eric’s inability to turn his Vaseline-covered doorknob on the last morning of his visit had been pretty funny. But not this time. Thank goodness my parents are wise.
When the Krueger parents had granted permission for Brendan to spend the beginning of Christmas with the family, they tactfully decided to keep their rambunctious sons out of the house until dinner, to “let Brendan settle in with peace and quiet,” they said, eyes glistening. Yeah, they probably don’t think he can hold up to craziness like Eric could, Lorraine rolled her eyes towards the sparkling Christmas tree. An array of bells, reindeer, brightly colored balls, and construction paper cutouts met her eyes. Even though they behaved themselves when they met Brendan the first couple times. Granted, one of those times was prior to dating, when they visited campus, and the other time was at Graduation.
She fingered the smooth wooden box that lay in her lap, and bit her lip, a small smile tugging at her cheeks. Time to see the treasure that my Goodwill trip discovered. Her green eyes glanced over the chocolate brown tones of the box, the gold hinges, the black scrolled edges. After winding the key carefully, her fingernail flicked the metal clasp upwards, and the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” began lilting through the cinnamon-scented air. Three small ballerinas in lavender tutus slowly spun against the backdrop of a round mirror. Lorraine lightly touched the lavender tulle, admiring the delicate, mechanical movements of the dancers.
“Ex-cuuuse me! Get your fingers off my ballerina!”
“EEK!”Lorraine jerked backwards, the music box falling to the floor with a thud. The music abruptly stopped. A small fairy floated in front of Lorraine’s face. Her red and green plaid pencil skirt stopped shortly above her knee, and beneath her smirk a black turtleneck clothed her skinny torso. Her red hair was pulled into a high ponytail, and a slender hand was stuck on her hip.
“Wha—uh, oh my gosh, what are you?” Lorraine’s voice squeaked in confusion.
“Well duh, I’m the Sugar Plum Fairy. Are you really telling me that you don’t know who I am?” The fairy’s hazel eyes rolled to the textured ceiling of the living room. “Some people are stupider than I thought!”
“Lorraine, are you all right down there?” Brendan’s voice called out from the depths of the upstairs hallway.
“Brendan, this—“ Lorraine stopped suddenly, remembering how Brendan always gave her a hard time about fairy tales. Brendan knew well that Lorraine not only loved fairy tales, but believed that life was like a mysterious, fantasy-esque fairy tale (and hence, the existence of leprechauns, unicorns, and the Loch Ness monster were quite plausible). He would laugh, tap her nose, and never take her seriously. And if Brendan happened to drop this news to her brothers, then Lorraine could say good-bye to any credibility at home. Nope. I’m definitely not going to give him—or my brothers—ammunition to use against me, she decided. Craning her neck towards the hallway, she called out. “Hey dear, it’s alright, I’m fine. Something startled me, that’s all. Just finish showering and getting ready.” She turned towards the digital clock again. 4:52 p.m. “My family will be here in a little over an hour, so don’t take forever.” Lorraine heard a door upstairs close, and she turned towards the fairy.
“So,” she whispered conspiratorially, “If you’re really the Sugar Plum Fairy, where’s your fancy tutu? Where are your ballet slippers?”
The fairy, now sitting atop a globe-shaped ornament with a wintery mountain scene painted on it, kicked out her leg gleefully. A black high heel glimmered in a Christmas lights, which were half the size of the fairy. “Tutus are so for losers,” the fairy declared. “Nope, as soon as I could, I moved out of the Land of Sweets and got a decent pair of clothes. Now,” she said, scooting off of the globe and onto a tree branch, “enough talk. It’s time to lay down the rules.”
“Wait, what rules?” Lorraine scrunched up her face. “And how did you get out of the story? And why were you in the music box?”
The fairy began stepping across the branches nonchalantly. “Oh, I got fed up with being The Perfect Sugar Plum Fairy, so I did a little mischief here and there. I got thrown into prison, had my title rescinded, worked a fabulous jail break, changed my whole life, and found a good music box to live in. When I’m in the music box, some innocent little kid usually lets me out and I can wreck some real havoc during Christmas.” The fairy’s red lips smiled. “You know, simple stuff: stealing the cookies for Santa, eating the candy out of stockings, leaving coal amidst the presents, that kind of thing. It’s really quite fun,” she mused thoughtfully.
“You horrible little creature! How dare you?” Lorraine hissed. “Fairies are supposed to be good and happy, and you’re a monster! Get out, get out of my house!” Her hand moved towards the fairy, who nimbly jumped up the branches and into a felt stocking ornament.
“Lorraine, I thought you said things were okay,” Brendan walked into the room, a nervous smile on his face.
“Yeah, oh, definitely. I’m perfectly fine,” Lorraine rushed to say, trying to ignore the smirk on the fairy’s face as it peeped above the stocking. “Come on over, dear.” She patted the seat on the couch next to her.
Brendan ran his fingers through his hair and adjusted his green sweater. “Uh, okay. How are we doing on time?” He sat down, and Lorraine snuggled up against him, inhaling the clean scent of his shampoo.
“Mmm…” she glanced over at the clock. 5:16 p.m. “It looks like we have a little over half an hour. Then dinner, late Mass, and maybe opening a few presents,” she grinned at him. Brendan returned her smile, and slipped off the couch and onto the floor.
“Since they’ll be here in a bit, there’s something I want to give you first.”
“Really? I love presents!” Lorraine squealed, jumping in her seat. Brendan ran his left hand across her green, fuzzy-sock clad feet, while his right hand plunged into his pocket.
“Lorraine,” he said gently, looking into her eyes, “I love you so much, and I want to keep loving you better. He drew out his right hand, and held up a glittering diamond ring. “Will you marry me?”
“YES!” A huge smile broke over Lorraine’s face as she threw up her arms in delight.
A boyish smile broke out across Brendan’s face as he reached for Lorraine’s left hand, holding the ring up in the glow of the Christmas lights.
The glittering diamond flew out of the man’s fingers and sailed into the depths of the prickly green branches of the Christmas tree. Lorraine gaped at the tree, her silence revealing the depths of her shock. Brendan’s face fell, incredulity and outrage filling his voice.
“How in the world did that happen?”
A shining ray of light floated into Lorraine’s peripheral vision. “Merry Christmas,” a sickly sweet voice said. The Sugar Plum Fairy brushed her hands together. “That was my finest piece of work yet. Have a happy New Year, sweetie,” she smirked at the stunned woman.
“YOU!” Brendan lunged at the fairy, who floated just above his reach.
“Oh my,” she mocked. “Did I make you upset? Oh, now I just couldn’t do that, could I? I’d better be going. Time to find my next Christmas victim.” The fairy fluttered towards a small crack in the front doorway, and flew out into the night.
Brendan’s blue eyes flew back to Lorraine. “Well, maybe I do believe all your fairy talk.” He sighed. “Time to find the ring.”
Lorraine gulped, recovering her voice. “Um, thanks? That was weird. Yeah. Let’s do this.” She scooted next to Brendan, who was crouched in front of the tree. “At least the presents aren’t under the tree yet.”
He glanced at her, eyebrows lifting. “Seriously? Each year, your family’s Christmas tree accumulates more ornaments! Bells, globes, paper cutouts, felt gingerbread men, beaded candy canes, shining lights…”
His voice cut off as Lorraine plopped a kiss on his cheek. “Come on, dear. Let’s get started.” She plunged her hands into the tree’s branches, and frantically feeling around the ornaments.
“Lorraine, let’s do this systematically, okay? I’ll start on the top at the other side, and you comb through that section.” Brandon hauled himself to his feet, and began running his fingers across the tallest branches.
“Mm…’kay dear,” she muttered, her face lost in the gleam of ornaments. The minutes ticked by as they shuffled through the tree. Voices silent, the couple focused on their task. Move ornaments over. Check behind the lights. Find the ring.
The front door flew open, bringing in a gust of cold air, masculine howls, and shouts of greeting. Lorraine, her head still stuck in the tree, jerked upwards at their voiced. Brandon sidestepped to give her more room. Crash.
“Mom’s ornament! You moron!” One of Lorraine’s brothers ran into the room, pointing his finger aaccusingly at Brendan. Laying on the floor near Brendan was Mrs. Krueger’s cherished ornament, a glass star that glistened as the shards cut into the carpeted floor.
“Ugh,” Brendan groaned, running his fingers through his hair. He looked up to Mrs. Krueger, who had moved into the room with her family. “I’m really, really sorry, Mrs. Krueger. I feel awful.”
Mrs. Krueger’s bright face contorted as she tried to force back tears. “It’s…it’s going to be all right. Just an ornament.”
“From her engagement,” Lorraine’s brother continued to glare accusingly at Brendan.
Lorraine jumped to her feet, and grabbed Brendan’s hand., while glaring back at her brother. “Jude, it was an accident. He didn’t mean to, Brendan was just trying to help me find something.”
“Duuude, what’s that thing?” One of the boys—who looked to be in his early teens—pointed towards Brendan’s shoulder. A shiny gold globe ornament dangled near his neck. The top of the globe sparkled and glittered.
Lorraine gasped. “Honey, you found it!” She kissed him on the cheek and looked expectantly at the ornament.
Brendan smiled broadly, and lifted Lorraine’s left hand. Pulling a gold circle off the top of the ornament, he placed it on her fourth finger. He looked at the family. Mr. Krueger stood silently, his blue eyes inviting Brendan to speak. Mrs. Krueger’s glassy eyes started to scrunch up. The four boys looked confused. “Guys, Lorraine and I are engaged to be married.”
Mrs. Krueger began bawling her eyes out, reaching for her daughter. “My baby’s getting married! I’m so happy!”
Brendan shifted his weight from one foot to the other, glancing awkwardly at the Krueger men. Mr. Krueger thrust his hand out. “Congratulations, Brendan.” The young man smiled, and glanced at the four brothers.
“So, guys, we’ll be brothers now.”
“Yeah,” the teenager-looking one replied. “And you know what that means?”
“Um, we’ll play video games?”
The four boys shared glances. Jude triumphantly shouted out. “Last man to the table cleans up the ornament!” With that, the Krueger boys and their father rushed out to the kitchen. Brendan glanced at the two emotional women who were now sitting on the couch, chattering excitedly about wedding details. Well, that’s a quick turnaround. Guess I better get this mess cleaned. Brendan focused on his work, picking up the larger shards one by one, and placing them on the tile fire place. Unbeknownst to him, a light glimmered outside the window.
The Sugar Plum Fairy sat on the windowpane, chuckling to herself as she watched the man work. “Well,” she reflected, “It’s not all bad, since they’re engaged. Man, I’ve gone soft over the past few years.” Standing up, the fairy turned her back on the Krueger family, and looked over the street. “Hmm…what else have I never done before…” Tugging her ponytail, the fairy thought hard. “Ah, that’s it!” Her eyes shone in the lights of the wiry reindeer who were decorating the yard across the street. The fairy began to fly towards the yard display eagerly. “Little light-up reindeer, want to fly tonight?”