This is my first offering for Pay It Forward 2015. It’s a short story that I’ve written for Pam Chartrand.
Not only is she a wonderful friend, she’s an awesome human being. She also gave me the impetus I needed to go back to Inglewood Hamlet (the town featured in my book of fairy tales, When Love Blooms) once more.
So this is for Pam, with love and gratitude.
The Beautiful Sound of Song
Once upon a time, there was a small country by the name of Inglewood Hamlet.
There were four borders to the country, marked by the cliffs, the fields, the sands and the waters. Inside a tower that was located on the very highest point of the cliffs, there lived a Princess named Pam. One day, Pam’s life changed forever.
When she thought back on it, Pam decided that out of all the moments from the day her life had changed, she would remember the birdsong most of all. It had been a harbinger of the change she had been so desperately wanted. She had thought she was happy with her lot in life, but that was before she had seen the bird.
Pam had woken early, her handmaiden had brought her breakfast on a little silver tray and she had dressed in one of her most luscious gowns: gold brocade with details in silver. It had no petticoats so it fell to the floor. She loved how it would sweep along the ground, almost as if it were whispering to her while she walked.
She had taken a cup of strong tea made from camomile blossoms and ginger root out into the garden. Her handmaiden, a lovely girl by the name of Anna, would have her breakfast ready upon her return. It was always this way.
Every morning, Pam awoke, dressed, went for her walk with a cup of tea and she would look at the wall, wondering what was beyond it. Then she would return to her tower to break her fast and she would read for the rest of the day. It had always been this way.
Being a Princess was an easy job, but frightfully boring. She spent her days in her tower, surrounded by a wall which was almost as high, with only Anna for company. Anna was a kind soul and good company, but she longed for her Prince. That was the whole point of the Princess gig, after all.
Her job was simple: amuse herself until her Prince came along. That was all well and good, but in her experience (which was albeit very limited) most men needed to be given direction. She had lived in her wall encased tower for forty years. She was now well past the accepted age for a Princess, but she didn’t care. She still wore her small tiara, despite the fact that she should be wearing a crown and ruling by now.
The country of Inglewood Hamlet was a small country that did well, even without a ruler. They had had a King and Queen and a Prince before, but they had all disappeared. Pam was the only one left in the royal line to rule and her country didn’t need her. So not only was she imprisoned in the tower, when she got free, she would merely be a figurehead, nothing more.
It was as these thoughts ran around inside her head that she herd birdsong. She stopped, looking for it. Though she had trees and a garden inside the walls of her tower, they were too high for most birds. It had been years since she had seen any wildlife. The wall was higher than any bird was willing to fly, higher than any squirrel or chipmunk was willing to climb, so there were no animals in her walled tower garden.
That’s why even the sound of birdsong was alarming. She looked around and finally located the bird, a male blue jay. He stood on the edge of the tower wall, serenading her with song. She stood there with her eyes closed, the tea in her hand forgotten, and just listened to the beautiful sound of song.
Her eyes snapped open when the song stopped. The blue jay was still there, but something was happening to him. A light started glowing from his feathers, as if he were made of the sun itself. The glow intensified until he a ball of light, brighter than the sun itself. She shielded her eyes but kept looking. Pam had never seen anything so beautiful.
With a soft pop, the light disappeared, but in its place was a man.
He sat on the edge of the wall, clothed in leather breeches and a poet’s shirt, both blue in colour. She put he hand down and lay the teacup on the ground. Pam could only stare at him. He had a strong chin with soft layer of stubble upon it and long dark hair that hung to his shoulders. He had blue eyes that were so clear and so bright, they seemed to be looking right into her.
“Pray, what did you do with the bird, sir?”
“Oh, he’s right here. Why don’t you come up and fly with me?”
She laughed even as the sound of his voice stirred something in her. “I have no wings. Why don’t you come down?”
“Would that I could, dear lady. I would break my legs if I jumped from here and the wall is too tall to fly down into, I would never be able to fly out again. There is a magic that prevents this, shimmering over the top of the tower.”
“Fly? You were the bird that sang so sweetly?”
“Then are you a shape shifter?”
He cocked his head to the right as if thinking of how to respond. “Does it matter?”
Pam thought about it for a moment. “No, just sing for me again. It was so beautiful.”
“Come up here and I shall. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
Blushing, Pam asked him: “What do they call you?”
“I am Gregory. I’ve heard the maiden you live with call you Pamela.”
“Pam, please, there’s no need for ceremony here. If you’ve watched us, why are you only showing yourself now?”
“I was afraid, dear lady. There are not many who would have me as I am. I was afraid of showing myself to your maiden.”
“Ann would have loved to hear you sing. Are you sure you cannot come down here?”
“No lady, look.” He picked up a stone that sat on the walls edge and threw it at the opening at the top of the tower. Something sparked in the sky and it was gone. Then the sky shimmered as if made of water. “It is as I’ve said, there is a barrier.”
“So you mean to tell me that this is the reason no Prince has come to my aid?”
“Why do you need the help of a Prince? You merely have to help yourself to break free of this life and live the life you want.”
“How am I to get up there?” Pam asked. “It’s so high, you ask the impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible if you believe. You have to believe, Pam. Grow wings and come fly with me.”
“It’s that simple?”
“Yes. You just have to believe.”
“There must be more to it than that.”
Gregory shook his head. “You are talking to a shape shifter, a being once thought to be mythical yet here I am talking to you. Come on Pam, believe.”
The third time he said the word, a breeze came down to run its fingers along Pam’s skin and through her hair. She shivered with wanting and closed her eyes, wishing that she could find a way to lift herself up into the air, that she could find a way to sit beside Gregory.
She wished with every fibre of her being but it was not to be. She was saddened that she would not get her happily ever after.
“Pam, open your eyes.”
Pam did so, and nearly screamed: she was floating off the ground and a curious light was emanating from her skin. “What magic is this?”
“You’re just like me, Pam.”
“No, I can’t be.”
“You’re unique and beautiful. Grow your wings. Believe in yourself.”
Pam did the only thing she could do: she closed her eyes and did as Gregory told her. She took in a deep breath, taking in the scent of the breeze that had so enticed her. She took in another breath and it was as if her blood had become the air itself.
Her whole body had become lighter. She reached out to touch something, anything, and realized that she didn’t have fingers. Opening her eyes, she saw that she had wings. It was as if she was floating on a cloud of light, so bright was the light that emanated from her.
When she reached the top of the wall, she slid through the layer of magic that was there as if it was water. She felt it slide along her skin and then a hand grabbed hers. Gregory looked into her eyes. “I won’t let your fall. I won’t ever let go of you.”
“Nor I. I’m yours for life, if you’ll have me.”
Gregory pulled her closer to him and Pam’s body swooned with need for him. “That’s a good thing as blue jays mate for life.”
There was a blinding flash of light and a blue jay danced in the air in front of her. It pulled at her hair playfully and sang at her. Pam laughed and let the breeze run through her body until she glowed briefly bright and then transformed.
Pam let out a song of her own. Finally, she knew freedom. She finally knew love. Gregory let out another burst of birdsong and Pam let out her own as she followed him through the air and towards her future.
So the story goes…