I reached into my jacket pocket, cursing under my breath, and ordered another cup of coffee. We weren’t supposed to smoke in Café Blue Moon and I wasn’t going to risk being asked to leave. My interest in the sidhe took priority over comfort. My impatience was an obstacle that I would stalwartly ignore. Annoyed, I tore up a paper napkin, meticulously ripping it into confetti-like shreds. I would not allow myself to ruin this.
This interview was hands down the best opportunity I’d had in years. It was a fairy tale in the making and I was about to witness it, to be a part of it, to reach out and touch that fleeting magic. While everyone knows about the sidhe (how to avoid them, what to do if they talk to you), very few have actually met them, face to face. I’d been waiting half my life for another glimpse into their world.
Two tables away a mobile phone rang, buzzing out a pretty Irish jig. My chest tightened. I wanted to dance upon the tables, to sing and laugh till I collapsed in a weary heap.
Restless, I shuffled through my notes.
The interviewee-to-be was Leah Adams, an ordinary stay-at-home mother of Polish descent. She had been foolish enough to bargain with the sidhe — and then try to cheat them. They’d taken her husband and children in recompense. Poor thing. The newspapers were already calling her the ‘Modern Mayor of Hamelin’, though none had managed to secure an interview. None yet. Not till me.
“Touch wood,” I murmured, as I reached out to rap the wooden table. No sense in trying fate. I noticed that I was still tapping my fingers, so I clenched my fists and laid them on my knees.
I wondered what the sidhe she’d met had looked like. Had they had quick crimson smiles, sky-blue eyes and hair so pale that it vanished into the mist? Had they made music when they spirited her family away? Music so beautiful that you could drown in it, as you danced and danced to that endless beat...
When I looked up, Leah Adams was standing in front of me.
She was blonde, fragile, red rings around her eyes. I stood up, wearing my professional smile. Didn’t want to scare her away.
“Mrs. Adams, I presume? I’m Jessica Strauss, from the preternatural edition of the Telegraph. It’s truly a pleasure to meet you. You have no idea how grateful I am for this interview.”
She mumbled appropriately, shook my hand mutely, then sat down. I tried to seem concerned - harmless even - but I could feel my expression slipping.
“I am very sorry for your loss.”
I counted down the seconds till she responded. Almost thirteen. This interview was going to get very frustrating very soon.
Then — hallelujah — she spoke.
“Are you really sorry? I sincerely hope not.”
I froze, wary and silent. Her eyes were distant and she spoke as if from a dream.
“Did you know that I’ve had over a thousand letters asking for an interview? I’ve been offered over twenty publishing deals to tell my story. I turned them down. All of them.”
I back-pedalled furiously, wondering where she was going with this, wondering if I was about to lose my interview. Had the grief unhinged her?
She frowned. “Tell me, Miss Strauss, do you know why I accepted your interview?”
I figured my boss had offered more money than the rest, but that probably wasn’t an appropriate response. A nervous headache was coming on.
“No,” I replied, “I don’t.”
Leah Adams chewed nervously on her lower lip.
“When I got the letter from the Telegraph they mentioned that you’d encountered the sidhe before. I thought that maybe you’d understand. I thought that you might be the only journalist in the world who’d be able to write out my story.”
Her voice was rising, getting firmer with each word that crossed her lips.
“They took my family away just like in the fairy tale. Just like the Pied Piper. They played a song which I cannot describe, but it dug deep inside and exposed everything. Changed everything.”
She was talking faster and faster. I devoured every word, captivated.
“We chased after the music — Becca, Jo, Rob and I. But I couldn’t keep up. Before I knew it the melody was gone and I’d lost that beauty forever. I cried, tore at my hair, there was no price I would not have paid to hear that song again.
“I didn’t notice that my family had vanished till some hours later.”
She grasped my arm with thin, bony fingers. Twisting. Drowning.
“Tell me, Miss Strauss, are you still sorry for my loss?”
Her hands were shaking. So I offered her a cigarette (none of the waiters were watching) and answered her story with my own.
“I met the sidhe when I was just out of school.”
My words were short, curt. Describing the experience realistically was impossible, so I simply didn’t bother trying.
“I’d gone hiking with some friends and stumbled into a fairy circle. They had the most beautiful food, the most beautiful music, the most beautiful smiles. I laughed, I cried, I danced with them. I was still dancing three days later when the search party found me.”
My fingers tapped a vibrant rhythm across the top of my notes.
I turned off the professional smile.
“Do you mind if I begin the interview now?”
She shifted in her chair and looked me in the eye for the first time. “Of course not.”
So I flipped the notebook to a blank page and scribbled down a line. It was a good sentence to begin an article with — strong and catchy, it captured the essence of this story.
She would do anything to hear that music again.
I wasn’t sure which of us I was describing.
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About the Author
Ariella is one of those poor, starving university students — the type who lives in shadowed rooms filled with thousands of books, emerging only to attend class. She spends most of her time valiantly writing essays, but occasionally gives in to the urge to write something else. This is her first published story; her second is forthcoming in CSFG’s eighth anthology, Masques.
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Copyright © 2009, Ariella Adler. All Rights Reserved.