A SOLEMN PROMISE
A Tooth Fairy Tale for Tooth Changing Age
Something was staring at her.
It was too early in the morning for things to be staring at her.
Catherine opened her eyes a little. Not too much in case sleep leaked out of them altogether. She was very careful about that sort of thing.
‘What’s up?’ she said.
‘I’ve been waiting for you to wake up.’
The voice was coming from the windowsill. No voices had ever come from the windowsill before. Catherine scrunched one eye closed and opened the other one a bit more. Much better for seeing things when it’s almost completely dark in the room.
‘Who are you?’ she asked. ‘Where are you?’
‘Here. You are looking straight at me.’
Catherine’s working eye blinked, speeded up and stopped at a bubble of greenish light bouncing up and down in the slit between the slightly parted curtains. In a second she found herself sitting bolt upright, both her eyes wide open. She knew from her six years of experience that bubbles didn’t talk. Not the ones she’d met before.
‘Who …what…I mean how…’ questions were rushing past each other, falling in a heap behind her teeth and tying her tongue into a knot.
‘Don’t you recognise me?’ asked the bubble and Catherine thought she could see a little flash. ‘I’m your personal Tooth Fairy.’
‘Oh!’ Catherine was too surprised to say anything else.
‘I’m the one who collects your tooth when it comes out and leaves a shiny coin behind,’ continued the bubble, still bouncing off the windowsill.
‘You don’t look much like a fairy,’ said Catherine dubiously. She had books with pictures of fairies in them, and they all had heads and arms and pretty dresses. And above all, they all had wings.
‘And what is a fairy supposed to look like?’ asked the fairy. There was another little flash of whitish light.
A fairy with a temper, decided Catherine. She’s giving me “a look”.
‘You don’t have wings,’ said Catherine aloud, looking carefully at the strange moving light. ‘I can’t see any wings.
”Wings?!’ cried the fairy. ‘You’d have me flap about like a moth?! Of course I haven’t got wings. We fairies don’t fly, we glide. Much more elegant.’
‘Oh,’ said Catherine again, not quite sure what elegant was. Just my luck, she thought. A tooth fairy with attitude.
‘Pleased to meet you,’ remembering her manners, Catherine muttered in a voice Mum would have approved of. At the same time, her hand slipped quickly under the pillow. She remembered placing a tooth carefully under it last night. It wasn’t there. Neither was the coin. And the bubble was now sitting there on the window sill, if you can say that bubbles sit on anything, staring at her again. It was all very peculiar.
‘Do you…do you collect only my teeth, then?’ asked Catherine. Well, she couldn’t very well say What have you done with my tooth, and where’s my coin? could she now? It would have been as bad as asking Granny what’s she’s brought you straight at the door. Well, Mum thought that was bad.
‘Oh, no, not just your teeth,’ said the tooth fairy. ‘I visit all the children born in May. That’s why my name is Maya. I have eleven sisters and brothers and each of us sees to those born in her or his month. June and April look after the girls and boys born in June and April, and Augusta…you get the picture, don’t you.’
‘I get the picture,’ nodded Catherine thoughtfully. That fairy was after something and Catherine was sure she wasn’t going to like it. ‘What do you need all those teeth for?’
‘We use them as bricks to build our castle,’ said Maya.
Now, that was interesting.
‘I didn’t know that,’ Catherine pulled herself closer to the fairy, and wrapping her arms around her knees, prepared to listen. ‘It must be a big castle if so many of you are collecting teeth from all the children. Tell me about it.’
‘It could be a beautiful castle,’ answered Maya, turning all misty and soft. ‘It could be white and shiny, gleaming in the morning sun. It could be nice and big, with a room for each one of us.’
‘Isn’t it nice and shiny and big, then?’ asked Catherine.
‘No, I’m afraid not,’ said Maya. ‘It’s not bright and shiny enough because some of the bricks are not bright and shiny. And it’s not big enough, because the bricks are crumbling and we have to replace them all the time.’
Catherine swallowed. This story wasn’t turning out quite the way she would have wanted it to. ‘Well, ‘ she said, ‘what would you expect if you use old, good for nothing teeth for bricks?’
‘Oh,’ cried Maya, coming out in angry red blotches, ‘it’s our fault now, is it? Is it too much to expect a nice, shiny, clean tooth for a nice, shiny coin?’
Catherine blushed. ‘N..n…no,’ she muttered. ‘I never thought about it that way.’
She remembered something her Mum had said only last night. Something about putting more elbow grease into her brushing.
‘I did brush my teeth last night.’ she said, trying not to look at the fairy.
‘Hmmm…’ Maya’s red flares were a bit less angry looking now, but they were still there.
‘Maybe I could have brushed them for a bit longer,’ Catherine added quickly.
‘Aha.’ agreed Maya. Some more red anger faded into green.
‘And, ‘ said Catherine, hoping that the fairy would stop being annoyed with her altogether, ‘I can make a really good job of it in the morning.’
A little flash of green told Catherine that the fairy was nodding ‘That would be a good idea. Just now we are short of bricks for the nursery.’ Maya sounded very sad.
‘Nursery?’ exclaimed Catherine. ‘For baby fairies? What do they look like? What colour are they?’
‘Oh, they are lovely,’ said Maya, and Catherine watched as gentle pink spread from the centre of the bubble. ‘They are just clear bouncy lights…’
‘Fairy lights?’ asked Catherine, all excited.
‘What else?’ There was a white flash and Catherine was sure that Maya gave her another one of her “looks”. ‘Now, what are we to do about this tooth? The babies will freeze in the winter wind if there are holes in the nursery walls.’
Catherine felt a lump in her throat: ‘What can I do?’ she said in a very small voice. ‘Shall I go and wash it in the bathroom? Give it a really good scrub?’
Now, bubbles don’t really have shoulders, but Catherine was sure that Maya shrugged. ‘Too late now. This tooth just isn’t any use and I wouldn’t dream of taking it back to the castle. And that means one whole night wasted. Have you noticed how much colder it’s got recently?’
Catherine didn’t answer. Warm tears were running down her cheeks. She also badly needed to blow her nose, but the box of tissues by the bed was empty. There was nothing else for it – she grabbed the end of the bed cover and wiped her face with it. ‘Maybe’…she sniffed finally, ‘maybe someone else’s got a good tooth for you.’
‘Hmmm… let me see.’ Maya was wriggling in place.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Catherine shyly.
‘Looking up the tooth diary, of course,’ said Maya. ‘Xavier’s got most annoying legwriting.’
‘Sorry?’ Catherine’s tears dried up as suddenly as they came. ‘Who’s Xavier? What legwriting?’
‘Oh,’ said Maya, still absorbed in what she was doing, ‘spiders write things for us in their air-light gossamer. Xavier is a nice chap but his writing… no, no one else is due for a tooth tonight. ‘
Catherine quickly grabbed the corner of the cover again. The thought of tiny fairy babies freezing in the wind coming through the holes in the nursery wall was too much. Her eyes were very wet again.
‘What can we do?’
Maya turned bluish and she wasn’t bouncing any longer.
‘Is there anything we can do?’ repeated Catherine, busy with the cover all over her face.
Catherine tried to keep quiet so that her sniffling wouldn’t disturb the silence. Maya needed a very long time for her thinking.
‘Tell you what,’ the fairy said finally, ‘I’ll have a look in the rules.’
Catherine had to keep very quiet for a very long time again.
‘No…definitely not’, Maya was talking to herself and Catherine was getting more and more miserable, ‘no…no…hmm. may be… no, no, ha, I didn’t know that….did you know that, Catherine, no of course you didn’t, how could you, oh, now, I wonder… yes, I think so, yes…’ Maya suddenly turned bright green and bounced off nearly as high as the curtain rail.
‘It says here that if you give me your promise that your next tooth will be perfect, I can use that promise as a brick until your next tooth is ready to come out. You know what that means?’
Catherine could feel Maya staring at her sternly. ‘I promise,’ she said quickly and nodded.
‘It has to be a very firm, solemn promise, or else it’s not going to keep the wind out,’ warned Maya. ‘And if your next tooth isn’t good enough, I never ever come again.’
Did that fairy know what she was asking? That meant brushing up and down in front and at the back, rinsing and gurgling, brushing again all around each tooth, and all that twice a day. A big thing in a six-year old’s busy schedule. Catherine would have to leave the warm and cosy bed at least five minutes earlier in the morning, and have as much less time in front of the telly or reading a story at night. One little tooth more or less… one little brick for the baby fairies… and all that cold wind blowing through…
Catherine firmly closed her eyes and clenched her fists.
‘I give you my strongest, hardest, cross my heart solemn promise that I will brush my teeth every morning and every night and that you will be able to use every one of them for the babies’ nursery.’ She opened her eyes and looked up. ‘Is that strong enough to keep the wind out?’
‘Oh, I think so,’ said Maya. ‘Thanks. I’ll wrap it into this spare gossamer I’ve got with me just in case. Right, I’ll be off now. See you in about a month.’
When Catherine woke up again, the sun was shining through the flowery curtains. She went over to the window and looked at the white painted wooden ledge. What was she hoping to find? Little bouncy bubbles of light don’t leave footprints behind. As her fingers brushed across the smooth surface, something a little sticky was clinging to them. She lifted her hand to the light and smiled at the finest piece of gossamer that she had ever seen.