‘Clap Your Hands if You Believe’, a short story

Bronze Tinker Bell by Diarmuid Byron O'Connor [photo: Wikipedia]

Bronze Tinker Bell by Diarmuid Byron O’Connor [photo: Wikipedia]

The sign on the door says ‘Miss T Bell – Consultant’. I pour the third of the four glasses of wine required for courage before I go on stage, then hide the glass at a knock on the door.

“Yes?”

“Miss Bell, can we come in?”

I wave them in and three members of the chorus settle on the couch in my dressing room, tidying the beech leaves of their skirts.

“What do you want?”

“I’ve read that all fairies were angels in another life,” says the petite blonde. “But Celandine over there has read that fairies are spirits trapped between heaven and earth. Miss Bell, please tell us the real story of Peter Pan, not the pantomime version.”

“Ooh, I wish I could meet him,” says the third, wide-eyed fairy, who winds her auburn hair around a finger.

Oh dear. I swig half the glass of wine in one gulp. Should I tell the plain truth or embellish it?

*

Why am I always doing things for him? He never does what I want to do.

I turn my back on the wooden walls and with my right toe I prod at the neatly piled fabric underfoot: pink pyjamas with a scratchy pattern around the neck, a hair ribbon the same blue as the sky in Neverland.

Ugh, glad I don’t have to wear these. The ribbon’s okay I suppose, at a pinch, but it’s the size of a rope.

I smooth down the maples leaves of my skirt. It’s my red favourite skirt and I’m wearing it with my best cream rose petal wings.

I climb out and stand on the top of the box. No sign of Peter, so I scramble into the cool clay hole next to me. It has an arm sticking out of its side, bent at the elbow. Butterflies fly around the outside, but inside it’s plain white with a sprinkling of dust at the bottom which dances prettily in the light. Aah ….aah…..

“….achooo.”

“Tinker Bell,” says Peter. “Come out of the jug.”

Oh, that’s what it is. A jug. Wonder what it’s for. It’d look nice in my bedroom.

“Tink……”

Oh well, bye jug. Better try the next box. Ooh, it’s a tight squeeze ……ouch…… I’ve got a splinter in my elbow. It’s Peter’s fault. He never knows where he’s left anything and expects me to find it for him. This is the seventh bedroom I’ve searched and they all look the same: sleeping children, toys everywhere, no shadow.

“Found anything?” Peter’s muffled voice comes from outside.

“No,” I shout, cursing my voice for sounding so whiny. I clear my throat, “urrgh hmn,” then try again.

“No.” It still sounds more like a mosquito than a bee.

I can’t decide whether it’s good that he relies on me so much. I push my shoulders back and re-arrange my maple leaf bodice. What a tangle of things there is in this box. One grey sock with a hole, a long knotted piece of fabric with green and yellow stripes, and scratchy grey shorts with a blue stain. Boys’ clothes. I check the pockets in the shorts, only a furry sweet. And then I see it, screwed up with some checked handkerchiefs: Peter’s shadow.

“It’s here. I’ve found it.”

“Great!” Peter opens the box. I stand with my hands on my hips and stick out my chest, but he doesn’t look at me. He picks up the clothes, throws them on the floor, swoops on his shadow with a laugh, then bangs the box shut.

I’m on the wrong side. I put my shoulder against the wall and push: nothing moves.

“Peter, let me out.” Nothing. “Peter. Okay, this isn’t funny any more.” Silence. “Peter, I’m warning you.” I take a deep breath and scream until the blood rushes to my cheeks. Then I sit down with my arms wrapped around my knees and clench and unclench my fists.

I hate him, I don’t really. Peter is the most unreliable boy. But cute ……what’s that noise? Sounds like the forest pigs in Neverland grubbing for tree roots to eat. Someone’s crying.

“Boy, why are you crying?” says a girl’s voice.

Who’s that? The girl who wears those huge pink pyjamas? She’s awake. That’s bad, no-one’s supposed to see us.

“I can’t fix my shadow back on,” snuffles Peter.

“I’ll sew it on for you, my little man,” the girl replies.

Hey. He’s my little man. I jump up and scream and batter the wooden wall till my knuckles bleed. Don’t you dare help him, you… giant. He’s mine. And you…. don’t you dare like her, you big oaf.

“The only sound I hear is the tinkle of bells,” says the girl. “Sweet.”

“That’s me. Peter let me out of here now. Aaah… that’s better.”

The box opens and two white faces stare down at me.

“You #+! Peter you really are +#+%^,” I shout.

“Oh, a fairy,” says the girl.

“Of course I’m a fairy, you dimwit.”

Peter frowns at me. “Tink, be nice.”

“Ooh, she’s so delicate. I wish she was mine.” The girl holds out her hand as if she expects me to step onto it. I turn my back.

“Peter, tell her to get lost,” I say.

“Is she speaking in fairy language?”

“Peter tell her, no way am I going to be her fairy. I don’t want anything to do with an ugly lump like her. No way.”

“What?” asks the girl again.

“She’s not very polite. She says she’s my fairy.” Then Peter turns his back on me and they whisper.

Talk, talk. Why should she have a fairy? She doesn’t know where we come from……….. she doesn’t know the only thing that can save a dying fairy is children clapping their hands to show they believe in us. Oh no, what now? She’s kissing him. No, Peter don’t …..oh, he has.

“Aaaaah,” screeches the girl.

Good it hurt. And don’t think I won’t pinch you again, you boy-stealer. Oh no, now they’re flying. Don’t hold her hand.

I scream, but they fly out of the window so I follow.

*

Bad news. We’re still flying and the giant’s still with us. Hoped she might have fallen out of the sky by now. I decide to get rid of her, so I fly on ahead of the others until I spot the lost boys down below on the island.

“Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy,” my words float down to them. Tootles fires and the Wendy drops from the sky like a boulder.

Yes!

I hide.

*

The lost boys dance a jig when Peter says he’s brought them a mother. But when he sees the Wendy’s body, he’s furious. I dance my own jig, swishing my maple leaves around my tanned thighs. But then the Wendy wakes up and Tootles tells on me. Traitor.

So I keep out of the way, sitting on my favourite branch in the sycamore tree, high above the clearing, watching the boys build a house around the body.

Good, she’s sleeping in there, not underground with us.

While the boys are hammering and sawing, I collect some bright red berries and split them open to gather the sticky white itchy stuff inside. I fill an empty walnut shell to the brim and tip it into the Wendy’s pillow.

There. She’ll want to go home when she starts itching.

*

Next morning I step off my Queen Mab couch leaving the bedspreads in a heap and rub my bare toes across the soft Margery & Robin carpets.

Today is a bad day, she’s moving in here. The itching powder didn’t work. But this is my home, not her’s. And the horrible boys are helping her. “Mummy” this and “mummy” that they say. The Wendy fusses around like she’s Queen Mab. But at least they don’t fart in bed now she’s here. My best friend Eloise will help me get rid of the Wendy. We’ll lift her onto a leaf and float her out to sea.

*

It’s been an exciting day here. Peter had a fight with the lions and won, of course. And the Wendy has floated out of my life forever. I love my life…

There’s a knock at the door.

“Ssssh, Tink. It’s me, Eloise.“

My heart sank at her voice, it was the tone she used when she wouldn’t let me borrow her lavender wings. The Wendy is alive. She woke up and swam back to the island. Aaaah……… I hate her.

*

A few nights later the Wendy is telling yet another story. She thinks she’s a regular Jackanory.

“Wendy, let us go home.” Everyone shouts at once.

I swirl in circles on tiptoe and my skirt sails high above my bare legs. I check to see that Peter’s watching but he’s looking at the Wendy.

“If you want to go,” he says quietly, “Tinker Bell will take you.”

No sooner do we reach the grass above than we are jumped on by pirates. The lumpy old men carry away the Wendy and the boys. I retreat underground but Peter’s still asleep so I let him be. Then there’s a rumbling noise and Captain Hook steps into the light. Luckily I catch the gasp as it flies from my mouth. He stares at Peter, pours something from a tiny blue bottle into Peter’s medicine bottle, and leaves.

Weird. Why didn’t he try to kill Peter? Peter mustn’t know the Wendy has been captured. But ……he’ll want to know about Slightly and Tootles ……… won’t he? So I wake him.

“Where’s Wendy?”

“She’s fine.”

“I don’t believe you.” He jumps up and takes the top off his medicine bottle. ”Wendy’ll want me to take my medicine first.”

“No, don’t,” I shout.

“Why should I listen to you?” And he lifts the bottle to his lips.

I can’t let him drink. It’s hot as it goes down my throat, hotter than those tiny red fruits with the spicy white seeds inside. Ugh. Spit it out. Uh oh…can’t… fly… whoooooh…

“Tink, what’s the matter?” cries Peter as I spin around the room. “Are you going to die? Did you drink it to save me?”

I nod.

“Why?”

Silly ass!

I collapse on my couch.

Haven’t the strength to fly anymore. Perhaps I’ll get better if I know the children clap their hands…

I hear Peter telling children everywhere to clap their hands and they do, except some hiss which is not very polite. It’s working, my light no longer needs a new battery.

“Rest now, Tink. I’ll fight the pirates.” Peter flies off into the darkness and I curl up under the bedspreads.

*

It’s great to be flying with Peter again. The children are miles behind. S’great they’re going back at last. Peter’s having a massive sulk though. Ah…. here we are.

Peter asks me to close the bedroom window. He wants the Wendy to think her mother has shut her out, like his mother did to him, so she’ll come back to Neverland.

Two-timer. We’re finished.

But before I can argue, Peter picks me up and puts me in his pocket.

“Look, it’s Wendy’s mother,” he whispers.

I peep out. She’s just like her daughter: a big lump with fat ankles. And she’s crying.

Peter sniffs too. “Come on, let’s go. Wendy can stay with her silly mother,” and he flies away. I curl up in his pocket and try to sleep but can’t help feeling that I’ve lost.

*

“So, you see, Peter did the right thing in the end,” I finish.

“Where is he now” asks the blue-eyed fairy.

“Neverland. Catriona’s doing his spring cleaning. She’s the Wendy’s great-great-great granddaughter.”

I close the door behind them and rescue my wine glass from the cupboard. “Salut, Peter.” I down it in one.

© Sandra Danby
2003: shortlisted in ‘Words’ magazine’s short story competition

If you like this, try these short stories:-
Useless
Magic and Mischief
A Little Drop

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
CLAP YOUR HANDS IF YOU BELIEVE a #shortstory about Tinkerbell by @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1T