(a Magical Midlife Mom flash fiction story, told from Melissa's point of view)
“This is a bad idea,” I scolded Regan. “Gabriel would not be pleased.”
My teenage daughter Regan stroked Lucas’s thick, black fur. At a glance, the canine looked like a large dog breed, but once he fixed his focused stare on you, you knew he was a wolf.
Most people didn’t know he was also a human, a fae shifter.
Regan straightened from petting her boyfriend to address me. “It’s a matter of security. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
Lucas barked in agreement.
I wasn’t convinced. “I don’t think Gabriel considers the petty theft of Halloween decorations from our front porch ‘a security threat.’”
“But someone’s got close to us without us knowing it. You have to take that seriously.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure it’s just a couple of neighborhood kids grabbing stuff. A simple Halloween prank.”
Regan projected her voice as if she were at one of her debate tournaments. “Then why haven’t we caught them on our doorbell camera?”
I hated to admit that she had me there. Whenever we checked the footage, the video mysteriously wobbled out of focus. By the time it fixed itself, the items were gone.
Even though the fae were notorious about mucking up technology, I shook my head. “Why would a fae care about the tea lights that light our pumpkins? Or the purple solar lamps that line the walkway? It’s not exactly grand theft.”
“I don’t know,” Regan said, stubbornness creeping into her voice. “But Lucas and I intend to find out.”
Lucas growled, again backing his girlfriend.
I stifled a yawn, glancing at the clock. It was almost midnight, and I had to work tomorrow. “It’s your lost sleep. I’m not staying awake to confront a bunch of bored middle schoolers. Good night.”
“Good night,” Regan called. She opened the door, letting Lucas slink out into the night to find a hiding space. She herself spread out on the couch, hunkering down for the night in case she heard anything.
I went straight to my bedroom in the back of my tiny house. If Regan and Lucas wanted to play amateur detective, that was their business. I cracked my window open, letting the cool autumn breeze flow over me. Regan often messed with the thermostat, keeping the house too hot for me. I preferred sleeping in the cold.
As soon as I’d changed into my pajamas and my head hit the pillow, I was out.
* * *
In my dreams, I wandered through the Stronghold Salem office, preparing for my long day. I tossed and turned, unable to shake my thoughts from my day ahead. I spent a good chunk of my restless dreams typing endlessly on a keyboard, my computer screen perpetually blank.
The dream version of me glanced up from my desk at the intrusion. The voice sounded strangely out of place.
But when the voice didn’t repeat itself, I shrugged and continued typing.
This time, I knew the voice wasn’t coming from my dreams but somewhere in the real world. My eyes blinked groggily awake, staring into the soft moonlight coming from the window. It was still the middle of the night.
“Regan?” I asked, but the door to my bedroom was still shut.
“No, it’s me, Ms. Hartley.”
A shadow stirred at the foot of my bed. A flash of pink hair caught my attention, framing a small, cherub-like face.
Adrenaline shot through my system. I jerked into a sitting position, a scream bubbling in my throat.
It never escaped my lungs. As I inhaled, the shadow darted forward on glistening wings and slammed a hand over my mouth. I inhaled the scent of morning dew and stared into the eyes of what appeared to be a small child.
“Please don’t scream,” the mysterious fae said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. I just have a problem.”
I pushed aside her hand, scooting away from her. I considered crying out anyway but realized that Regan would come running in first before Lucas. Childlike appearance or not, I had no idea who this fae was, and I wouldn’t put my daughter in danger unless absolutely necessary.
“Who are you?” I demanded in a hiss. “And why did you break into my bedroom?”
Tears formed at the corners of her eyes. “I’m so sorry. I never meant for it to come to this.” As her shoulders shook, bits of glitter formed around her in a haze.
“A pixie? I asked.
She nodded fervently. “I know that taking things without asking wrong, but my sister and I just love all the little lights humans use this time of year. They look really great around our huts. We knew you were a kind human that probably wouldn’t mind if we took a few.”
I gaped at her. “You’re the one stealing from my front porch?”
“We were going to pay you back, honest! We don’t have human money, but we were going to leave you this tonight.” She reached behind her back to grab something.
My heart raced, worried it might be a weapon, but she only pulled a little canvas bag off her belt. Opening the drawstrings, she displayed more glittery dust inside.
My jaw dropped. “You were going to give me pixie dust?”
“Sure. It’s much more valuable than the lights we took. Don’t you like it?”
I shook my head, half wondering if I was still asleep. I knew all about pixie dust, having been blasted in the face with it a few times. Pixie dust had the power to absorb other fae magic. You could literally wield any magic with it. It was highly sought after in fae circles.
“Can you even legally give it to me?” I asked. “I thought pixie dust trades had to be regulated.”
“Among other fae,” the pixie said. “It’s our magic. We’re allowed to give it freely as long as the recipient is in good standing with Queen Mab.” She paused. “You are in good standing with the queen, aren’t you?”
“I work for Stronghold. Of course, I am. But still, why not just leave it on the porch? Why wake me up in the middle of the night?”
Her lower lip trembled. “You have to call off your wolf. He’s got my sister trapped in your garden shed.”
Ah, now all the pieces were falling into place. Lucas must have spotted them stealing more lights off my porch and cornered one. I got out of bed, opening the door to the hallway.
“C’mon. Let's see what I can do.”
My creaky door woke a sleepy Regan on the couch. She raised her head, her hair tangled in knots and a line of drool running down her face. She looked like I probably did at this time of night: dead to the world.
“Waz goin’ on?” she grumbled as I stalked toward the back door.
“Lucas caught our thieves…”
“Borrowers,” the pixie cut me off.
Regan flinched at her in surprise, seeing her fly behind me for the first time.
“Borrowers,” I corrected for our guest. “And I need to go sort things out.”
A disoriented Regan followed me outside, both of us slipping on flip-flops before stomping across the grass toward the aging garden shed.
Lucas, who had been growling at the structure, dashed over to us when he saw us leave the house. He had his hackles raised and teeth bared.
The pink-haired pixie cried out and flew up higher in the air.
“Enough,” I told Lucas. “It’s just a few pixies. They’re harmless.”
Lucas got a good look at the pink-haired pixie but continued to growl under his throat.
I bopped him on the nose. “She’s giving me pixie dust in exchange for the stuff they're taking. It’s more than a fair trade.”
He yipped in confusion at that.
I ignored him, marching over to the garden shed and throwing open the door. In a flash of sparkly dust, a second pink-haired pixie whizzed outside and flew upward to meet the first one.
“Sister! Are you okay?”
“Yes. The big bad shifter didn’t hurt me.”
I cleared my throat to catch their attention. “The big bad shifter wouldn’t have chased you in the first place if you'd have asked for the lights. Tell me, is it common for pixies to just take what you want and pay later?”
Both guiltily wrung their hands. “Not exactly…” they admitted in unison.
“Right. So next time, if you want something from me, knock on the door and ask. Or better yet, come into the Stronghold office. I have an office budget that I can use at my discretion.”
“Really?” one of the pixies asked.
“Sure. Just don’t tell a bunch of other pixies. It’s not that much money.”
“Yay!” The two pixies danced around each other. “Thank you, Ms. Hartley.” One of them threw the pouch of pixie dust at me. I would have missed it, but Lucas leaped up and caught it gently in his teeth.
“Goodbye!” they called as they flew away.
Regan watched all of this with wide eyes. “Am I still asleep?”
“I wish,” I grumbled. I turned to Lucas. “Can you take that back to the Stronghold office and put it on my desk? I’d rather not have a powerful fae substance just hanging around my house.”
He grunted and headed for his doghouse, which had a fairy ring in the back that would whisk him straight to the office across town.
Regan followed me meekly back into the house. “It’s never a dull moment around here.”
“Tell me about it. I’d rather just get egged like all the other neighbors.”
Regan gave me a sly grin. “I’m sure I could make that a reality.”
I wagged a finger at her. “If you or Leah do anything to my house, I swear, I will ground you from debate practice for a month.”
Regan raised her hands in self-defense. “Just kidding. It was a joke. You don’t have to be so testy.”
I grumbled as we settled back inside in our bedrooms. This time, when I went to bed, I closed the window. Better to sweat it out all night than deal with another pitiful pixie trying to swipe my Halloween decorations.
Read more of Melissa's magical adventures in the fae world in the Magical Midlife Mom series.