The Fairy Place
By Elizabeth Smith
Editor's Note: This story is the fourth part of the Classified series.
Jade unbuckled the baby from the bicycle attachment and set him onto the grass. The two held hands as they approached the white door in a row of townhomes. Jade exhaled and closed her eyes. She rang the bell.
A woman opened the door. Her chin was creased, like a marionette’s.
“You must be Jade,” she said. “I’m Gloria.”
The women smiled as they shook hands, and Jade guided her son into the living room.
“I’ve heard so much about you.”
Jade blushed. “Good things, I hope.”
In his clumsy pronunciation, the boy called for Annabel from the bottom stair.
“I’m not sure when Brett will be back,” Gloria said, “but I can lend you my key—”
“Oh, no need. I’ve got my own copy.”
Gloria looked at the woman who would replace her daughter. She saw Jade’s impeccable eyeliner, her smooth skin, her sexy figure. Gloria puckered her lip.
A bright girl bounced down the staircase with a doll. “Lief!”
Jade sat in an armchair. “So how was it yesterday?”
“I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.” Gloria chuckled. “It was fine.” She looked out the window at the bicycle. “Do you live closeby?”
“Langford actually. We took the trail.”
“Is that tricky, biking with a baby?”
“He doesn’t know much different.”
Gloria nodded. “Brett told me you’re a hairdresser.”
“Yeah. I take clients in my basement.”
“You mean your parents’ basement.”
Their gaze met. “They watch Lief on the days I work.”
“It must be difficult.”
Jade tilted her head.
“Being single with a baby.” Gloria clarified.
The younger woman straightened her posture. “Yeah,” she admitted. “But it’s better than my alternative.”
Gloria glanced at the children, who played on the rug. Then she slipped into a shawl and placed a worn purse on her shoulder.
“Annabel,” she said. “Grandma needs to go now. Jade will take care of you till your daddy comes.”
Gloria gingerly bent down to kiss Annabel on the forehead before picking up a green suitcase and walking toward the door.
Annabel scampered behind and clung to her grandmother’s legs.
Brett’s phone hummed. He jogged across Fort Street before glancing at the text.
Hi. How was Salt Spring?
He pushed the crosswalk button as his thumb tapped the screen. Good. I worked pretty long hours. The ferry is late. Maybe forty-five minutes?
Sweet. We’ll be at Rutledge then.
Brett stopped in front of the shop. Love you.
He opened the heavy glass door. He took off his hat and shoved it into his jacket pocket. A sales clerk bounded toward Brett and greeted him with a pat on the shoulder.
“Paul! I was hoping you’d be on shift.”
“I haven’t seen you in ages,” the clerk said. “How are you and little Annie?”
“Great. She just started kindergarten. Crazy to think about it, really.”
Paul smiled. “So you’re seeing someone?”
“You see right through it all, don’t you?”
“With a haircut like that, you must be serious.”
Brett chuckled, and the two men walked to a display case. The clerk pulled out two black trays of rings, and Brett slowly compared diamonds. After a while, Paul opened a tall case along the wall.
“This collection is one hundred percent local,” he said as he brought a third tray. “Mined, designed, and set all in Canada.”
Brett examined the options and their price tags. He picked up a dainty yellow ring with three diamonds clustered together.
“Any chance I can get this in rose gold?”
“Yup. It’ll just take a few weeks.” Paul wrote on a notepad. Without looking up, he asked, “You want to get your band today too?”
“I still have my band.”
The clerk blinked. Before he opened his mouth, his raised brow told Brett of the cheapness, the disrespect.
Brett coughed. “Paul? Can I ask you something?”
“What did you do with your band after Lacey?”
Paul leaned on the glass top. “I sold it on UsedVictoria, if you can believe it. Places like here don’t buy back rings. Company policy.”
Brett frowned and scratched his cheek.
Paul continued. “Lacey, her ring is probably at the bottom of the harbor or something. We didn’t have it for real.”
“But you and Rachel had it. No question of that.”
Brett lowered his gaze.
“Keep the old rings, man. Your little girl might want them someday.”
Brett nodded and sighed. Paul studied his friend.
“I’ll order my band next time.”
Jade pumped the seesaw from one end. Annabel and Lief clung to each other on the opposite seat.
“Up down!” They giggled.
“Hang on. I need a little break.” Jade walked to the edge of the playground and checked the time. Almost an hour had passed since Brett’s last text. Dinnertime was fast approaching. She pulled two pouches of applesauce from her tote.
“Lief! Annabel! Come for a snack!”
Annabel slid down the damp slide, and Lief toddled from the sandbox. Jade looked around the busy park. A group of elderly women sat at the picnic table. Teenagers lounged on the benches and put on rollerblades. A man tossed a frisbee to a golden retriever on the lawn. But no one was by the willow tree. It hadn’t shed its leaves yet, so the grass underneath was probably dry.
The children gathered sticks as Jade led the way. At the base of the tree, Annabel stopped.
“Sweetie, there’s not really anywhere else.”
“No!” She tugged Jade’s hand.
Annabel flopped to her knees and sobbed. Jade glanced at two joggers passing by.
She offered the little ones the applesauce. Lief squeezed the contents of the entire pouch into his mouth. Annabel pushed hers away.
“Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
“It’s the fairy place.”
“Oh.” Jade crouched to meet Annabel’s gaze. “Uh, could you introduce me to them?”
The girl’s entire body shook as she cried. “You are not Mommy!”