TUESDAY: Ivelissa’s Book

BY PAUL STANSBURY

Copyright is held by the author.

“TELL ME the story again, Papa,” said Elina, “like you did when I was a little girl.” She paused, bending down to pick a blossom of Sweet William. Lifting the soft blue-lavender petals close to her face, she inhaled their pleasant fragrance. She held it out for her father to smell, then tucked it behind the ash blonde tresses above her ear.

“You’re still my little girl. You always will be,” William said, wrapping his arm around his daughter. He drew her close, kissing her on the forehead. “Can you wait until we get there? Right now, I would like only to enjoy our walk. If we’re quiet, we may see a deer.”

Their path, paralleling a small creek, led them upstream between steep ridge slopes. They continued walking for some time, listening to the birds flitting through the treetops and the occasional rustle of leaves made by some foraging squirrel. They did not speak again until they arrived at the waterfall, a horseshoe ledge of limestone about ten feet above their heads. The water tumbled over the edge, dancing momentarily on the rocks below before resuming its course.

“Your mother believed places like this were full of energy,” said William. “Let me go first.”

He stepped over to the grassy bank and sat down, feet dangling in the air. Scooting over the edge, he descended, stepping on exposed roots and stones until his feet were firmly planted on the gravel of the creek bed. Elina followed.

“Used to be there were some old railroad ties set into the bank to form steps. They rotted out and washed away years ago,” he said. “You know, I’m not exactly a young man anymore. With the steps gone, that bank seems to get higher and steeper every time I come here.”

“Please, Papa. You said you would tell me the story when we got here. Now please, before it’s time to go.”

“All right, all right. You could say I was a confirmed bachelor,” William started. He looked about, finally settling on a fat length of tree trunk lurking along the creek bank. “Still unwed at forty-five years of age and with no prospects, I had certainly given up on marriage.”

Elina moved close to the waterfall, sitting down on a smooth table of bedrock comfortably beyond the reach of the splashing water. She opened her backpack and pulled out a dog-eared book.

“I see you remembered to bring Ivelissa’s book. It always reminded me of Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’. There were words I understood and then there were those that baffled me. And it was the same way when she spoke at first. Her fairy talk, I called it. But she was a quick study and in no time at all she could carry on a conversation like she had lived here all her life. She tried to teach me her strange lingo, but I never could catch on. You, on the other hand, picked it up as soon as you could talk.”

“Papa, the story.”

“OK, OK, indulge your old man. It was some 20 years ago. I was a bit leaner back then and I still had still had some hair on the top of my head.”

“I think a bald pate makes a man look distinguished,” laughed Elina.

“As I was saying,” William continued, “I was renting a small cottage on the edge of town. It backed up to a large field of fescue dotted with copses. I had hopped over the rock fence for a walk. I was spry enough to do that sort of thing back then. It was a late May evening. The sun was a fat red coal on the horizon and the fireflies were on the rise, flashing to attract their mates. The birds were singing their twilight songs. I approached a thicket of honeysuckle, hoping a soft breeze would come up to carry its sweet aroma my way. I was almost there when I heard a faint rustling sound, like a feather would make brushing your ear. It was not like any sound I had ever heard. It wasn’t coming from any distinct direction but seemed to flow around and through me. This was immediately followed by a tingling sensation. I looked up. Beyond the honeysuckle, an iridescent haze coalesced, wispy like the morning mist. It filled the space before me like a curtain made of damselfly wings, stretching beyond my field of vision. It glowed pink in the last rays of the sun.”

“That must have been something to see,” said Elina. “Weren’t you just a little scared?”

“Whether from fascination or fear, I was unable to move, watching the thing creep inexorably toward me. As it advanced, to my surprise, I could tell it was very thin with a smooth surface. Like a soap bubble, colors swirled on its surface. I could see through it, but everything looked a bit jumbled and out of focus. Just as it reached me, it meekly evaporated. In its wake, your mother, my beloved Ivelissa, stood before me, her Jabberwocky book in hand. She was so beautiful and not much older than you are now.”

“And was it love at first sight, just like in the fairy tales?” asked Elina.

“On my part, most certainly. I thought she must surely be a fairy princess, come to beguile me.” He paused for a moment before asking, “While you two were having one of your private chats in that fairy talk you used when you didn’t want me to know what was being said, did you ever ask your mother what she felt that day?”

“Of course,” answered Elina coyly.

“What did your mother say?”

“She said you were the most beautiful man she had ever seen.”

“Pish posh. Most likely I was the first man, of this world anyway, she had ever seen,” William said. Tears welled up in his eyes. “I miss her dearly.”

“As do I,” said Elina. “I wish she was here with us.”

“I wish that book could have warned her about the accident,” William said bitterly.

“Me too, but that’s not how it works.”

“Your mother and I came here often before you were born. This place was important to her.” He looked at his watch. “Are you sure about the book?”

“Mom trusted the book, and look what happened,” said Elina. “She travelled between universes to find you. Wouldn’t you say it all worked out for the best?”

“For me, it did. I cherished every minute of my life with your mother. I’d like to believe the same was true for her . . . and you.”

“Then you must trust and we must follow her wishes.”

“I know, I know,” said William, shaking his head. “Oh, how she tried to explain it to me. She was always going on about parallel universes and how sometimes they brushed up against one another; convergences, she called them. And when that happened, if the universes were very much alike, one could simply step from one universe to another, as she did from her universe to this one. And if that wasn’t fantastic enough, she had this book with a timetable of when such things happen. If you knew how to read it, of course.”

“It’s not a timetable,” said Elina. “You make it sound like the book is a bus schedule and you can look up when the next universe arrives. The book enables us to interpret and recognize the harbingers of convergences.” She stood up and walked over to her father. “And most importantly, the book reveals to us in which universe we will find our true love.”

“That is the most confounding aspect of the whole thing,” said William. “It sounds so nonsensical. She wanted desperately for me to comprehend, but my poor brain was just not up to it. You must know, I couldn’t figure out the Father, Son and Holy Ghost thing much to the chagrin of the poor nuns and I fear I’ll never understand how a book can do everything your mother claimed. Perhaps if Stephen Hawking had been walking through that field instead of me, she would have found someone who could have understood. Me, I just wanted to believe I had found my fairy princess.”

“And who is to say in her world, she wasn’t a fairy princess?” Elina whispered into his ear.

“Well, you have a point there,” William said, looking at her face. “You remind me of her.” He stood up, pulling Elina close. He hugged her, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“And do you regret that she came here to find you, her true love?”

“Of course not!”

“The point is,” Elina said, touching her hand to his cheek, “you put your doubts aside and accepted her beliefs because you loved her, and for that, she loved you all the more.”

“Yes, she did. Maybe I didn’t want to believe that the book could do what she claimed because I was afraid if it was true, there was a chance it would tell her to leave me. I thought I couldn’t live if that happened, finding love so late in life. It never occurred to me a drunk driver would take her away. And now there’s you.”

“It’s time, Papa.” Elina kissed him on the cheek, then walked back to her spot on the rock.

Though he had not heard it in 20 years, William immediately recognized the faint brushing sound and felt the familiar tingling sensation. He knew the moment had finally arrived.

“Good by Papa. I love you,” Elina called. Behind her, the veil of damselfly wings appeared.

One comment

  1. Cindy Long

    Paul Stansbury’s Ivelissas imaginatively creates the sort of women and girls that are uncommon in fairy tales. These female characters are doers; they have their own minds and take action. A refreshingly clever read.

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