Michelle is confused, tormented. She’s known all her life that she’s different. The media is swamping the world with disturbing news of change. In England there’s a tale of a giant angel stopping a clash between rioters and police. In the US it’s vampires; Ireland, fetches.
Michelle has a unique gift. She knows she’s a good person and feels it’s time to use her gift to do good, to serve humanity with kindness. But she’s worried, never having used this talent before. Dreams and momentary visions have haunted her, promising powers beyond belief, tormenting her for cowardice and delay. Colleagues have shown concern at her withdrawal and long silences.
Her ID badge declares her an Adoption and Foster Placement Officer. Right now that means dealing with two children who lost their parents only yesterday.
Michelle kneels in front of the silent twins sitting hand-in-hand on a reception room sofa. A boy and girl, six years old, shocked and crushed by trauma. ‘Hello, Jinny and Tam. I’m Michelle and I’m going to take you to Glen Afton Children’s Home.’ Neither twin looks up. ‘I’m going, we’re all going, to do our very best to make you as happy as can be until we can find a new family for you.’ She pats their knees. ‘Come on, your things will all be in the car by now.’
The boy says, ‘We want to go home.’
Visions of the burnt wreckage from which so little was collected, not even favourite cuddly toys, swamp Michelle’s mind. She can only say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Her heart breaks. This is it. Time to take control: do good. ‘Would you really like to go home, for things to be the same and to have your mum and dad back?’
Now she has their attention. A flicker of hope in their eyes. Her heart thumping with indecision, Michelle nearly stops there but the children’s plaintive eyes override her fears. She tilts her head to one side. ‘I could make that happen. Is that really what you want?’
‘Yes,’ say Jinny and Tam together.
‘OK…’ Michelle slips off one of her shoes. ‘Have you heard of the shoe fairy?’
‘I’m the shoe fairy. And … and I’m going to make everything better.’ She waves a hand over the shoe. The twins clutch each other as it grows and grows. Michelle stands and says, ‘If you get in, climb over the side and lie down, I’ll close the shoe with my magic. Inside will be your real world, mum, dad, everything back to normal.’
Tam says, ‘Rodge as well?’
Jinny says, ‘Our dog. He died too.’
Michelle nods. ‘Everything will be back to normal. Get in quick, before anyone comes.’
The twins scramble off the sofa, climb into the shoe and lie down, hand-in-hand.
A sweep of Michelle’s hand closes it.
‘Up you get, you two.’ Mum’s head comes round the bedroom door. ‘Swimming lessons this morning, remember.’ She’s spiky-haired from sleep, dressing gown hanging loose. ‘Chop chop and remember to brush your teeth.’
Tam almost flies from his bed, duvet sliding to the floor. ‘Mum!’
She’s caught in his tight hug. She says, ‘Wow! That was the fastest you’ve ever got out of bed. Time to wash and get ready. I’ll get breakfast.’
The twins run into the bathroom, looking around, drinking in the old and familiar. Jinny grabs the toothpaste. Tam lifts the toilet seat. Jinny says, ‘I had an awful dream about smoke and a fire…’ She wrinkles her nose. ‘But I’ve forgotten nearly all of it.’
Tam looks all around the bathroom, at the walls and ceiling. He frowns. ‘But it was…’
Mum shouts at Rodge to get off the stairs. Dad passes the bathroom, dodges in and plants a kiss on the twins’ heads. ‘It’s Mum taking you this morning. See you later. I’m leaving early today.’
Breakfast over, cereal flakes scattered and used in a flicking game on the kitchen table, their mother places rucksacks of towels and swimming costumes by the back door.
On his mother’s shopping list Tam has scrawled a picture of a burnt toy staring in horror. Jinny looks at it. ‘What’s that? It’s horrible!’
Their mother calls, ‘Hurry, you two!’
She takes them the short route, across the park and playing field. There’s no wet mud by the duck pond today, only the baked crusts of it curled in the sun and crunching underfoot.
Ahead, near the swimming pool building, car doors slam amid the shouts of children and barked instructions from parents.
The twins stamp on twigs to snap them, and follow their mother. Jinny skips nearly all the way. Mum’s shouting at Rodge who’s rolling in something.
Jinny’s run to Mum and is being picked up and whirled around. Their mingled shrieks of delight cut through the still air.
Tam dawdles, holding back. There’s a tear in his eye, he’s pale, biting a lip as he looks at the field and trees, stares into the blue sky. He stops, rigid, eyes wide, and whispers, ‘But, Mum, you’re dead and we’re in a shoe.’
©Gary Bonn: 2017