The tapping of the old man’s fingers against his worn keyboard filled the small room. A tabby cat sat in the corner, drinking from one of a half-dozen partially drunken mugs of tea scattered across the wooden floor and desk.
The old man stopped typing. He sighed before glancing out the window at the park stories below. Over the past decade, the people who came to the park to play, kiss, or draw chalk murals on the pavement had become muses for the old man. They also served as an unknowing audience when the old man wished he still had someone who smiled when he read his work.
But there were no chalk drawings today. There were no children playing. There were no families having picnics. The park was abandoned, leaving the maple trees alone to shed their colored leaves amongst the beige high-rises.
“Leaving it unfinished was a curse,” the old man read. His voice was no louder than a whisper, yet the green-eyed tabby stopped drinking his tea and perked his ears.
The old man sneezed, rattling the mugs on his desk and sending the tabby fleeing the room.
“Is sneezing how you humans say hello?” called a high-pitched voice from above his head.
Sniffling and rubbing his nose with a bony hand, the old man looked up, and his eyes widened. A purple fairy fluttered inches above his head. Sparkling dust fell from her translucent wings.
“No,” the old man answered.
“Really?” the fairy asked. “That’s how you humans have been greeting me all day. Well, that or screaming and swatting.”
Like a hummingbird, she darted in front of the old man’s face then waved a tiny green envelope clenched in her left hand. “Would you like to guess why I’m here?” she asked.
The old man shook his head. “Who are you?”
The fairy snorted. “I am a maiden who wishes to read the love letter I found lying on my doorstep along with a clover blossom.” She tugged on the envelope flap, trying to open it, but it remained closed. “As you can see, I can’t open the letter. And I doubt I’ll be able to until you finish writing my story.”
“I remember you now,” the old man said, his eyes falling to the mug sitting on his desk. “You’re the fairy living in the Forest of the King. You lead lost travelers in return for treasure.”
“Correct!” The fairy landed on the mug sitting on the desk. “Tell me, Mister Author, is he cute? Or rich? Oh! Will we go to a ball together? Will I get to wear a fancy gown?” She twirled and curtsied, grabbing at an imaginary skirt, before looking up at the old man with a smile. “Tell me! I must know who he is.”
The old man rubbed the tip of his thumb against the base of his ring finger. He frowned. His wedding ring had been absent a decade, but the habit lingered. “I’m afraid I can’t decide who sent your love letter,” he said.
“Can’t decide?” The fairy’s pointed ears flattened against her head. “You wrote my story.”
Slowly, the old man shook his head. “I started your story but never completed it. You were, and still are, a half-formed idea. Like most ideas, you will never be realized.” He turned back to his computer and closed his eyes, wishing his words were a lie. Again, he rubbed his thumb against the base of his ring finger. “The person who loved your story most is gone.”
He placed his hand back on the keyboard but didn’t type. He stared at the screen, tears blurring the words.
The fairy landed on the keyboard and bit the old man’s pinky, causing him to yank his hand away with a cry. He inspected the tiny bite mark as blood trickled from it.
“You will finish my love story!” She hopped from key to key as fairy dust fell from her wings. She stopped and looked up at the old man with a smug grin. “There,” she said, “now I’m in your story.”
The old man sighed. “You don’t belong in that world.” He lifted the fairy from his keyboard and placed her back on the mug. “You need a world written by someone who loves you. I’m not that person anymore. I’m sorry.” He hit the backspace key until all that the fairy had written was erased.
“You won’t help me?” the fairy asked.
“Fine! If you won’t help me,” she said, folding her arms, “I’ll find someone who will.” She took off and fluttered towards the door, green envelope in hand.
The old man watched her leave. “I wish you luck. She would have loved for you to be happy,” he said, turning back to his computer. He placed his fingertips on the keyboard, not bothering to wipe away the sparkling dust she’d left behind. “Just please be mindful of the cat.”
The silence was interrupted by the creak of the old man sitting at his desk. He rubbed the green Band-Aid wrapped around his pinky with his thumb before placing yesterday’s half-drunken mug of tea on the floor. Slouching, he turned to the computer and sighed. Specks of sparkling purple dust covered his keyboard.
The old man glanced down at the park three stories below. His eyes widened.
On the pavement between the hopscotch and monkey bars was a chalk mural of a purple fairy dancing with a green-eyed tabby cat in a suit and top hat.
The fairy, dressed in a ruffled ball gown, held a bouquet of clover blossoms. Her face held such a bright smile that the old man couldn’t help but smile back.
Sophia Netterfield was raised in Toronto but has since made the rainy West Coast her home. Sophia considers any reason a good reason to go for a hike and is mesmerized by the ocean. As a psychology graduate still figuring life out, she enjoys writing about themes related to personal growth and adores happy endings.