Lucy took a deep breath in and held it. This time it would work. She could feel it.
She hit the button on her toy wand. The pink star lit up and the wand sang its muffled, pre-recorded track.
Lucy held her arms out like in the pictures and drew swirls in the air. When the artificial chimes rang, Lucy pretended to throw fairy dust. And when the stifled piano crescendoed, Lucy twirled until the room twirled around her. The song clunked away, slower and deeper, like a melting horse carousel. The air as her canvas, Lucy traced the name of all the cursed members in the circus, her name last, then curtsied as the wand song fizzled into complete dissonance.
It never sounded the same after that one time she dropped it in the bathtub.
Lucy held the curtsy until her knees shook, then flopped on the ground dramatically. She held her hands in front of her round, red eyes. Still gray. Still dusty. Still blocky, like she was watching the world move in mosaics rather than high definition which meant her eyes were still red, round and as big as apples.
What had she missed? She’d gotten the gestures right. Was it that wand? Lucy glanced at it’s scratches on the pink star gem and tape across the cracked handle. No, the wand was perfect.
And it wasn’t her. Lucy knew she was a fairy because, like the fairies in her picture book, she had wings: big, furry wings with spots like owls’ eyes. And maybe she didn’t have pretty hair, or any hair at all, but that was okay because Momma had a beard and Dad saw dead things and Brother had green scales. Everyone in the circus was a little different than what she saw in books and cartoons.
She rolled onto her stomach and dragged her “Pinocchio” picture book close. Her gloves were balled up in her dress pockets and Lucy fought to get them on. Momma made her promise to wear them when she read because the pages were too sharp for Lucy’s soft, gray hands. No one else had to wear gloves, but as was life for fairies.
She flipped until she saw the blue fairy. Maybe Lucy needed more sparkles. That was it. The blue fairy had a glitter dress made of stars and dreams. Lucy ran her hands over the gown and felt her face heat up. She’d never be able to wear a dress like that because her dust would cover the sparkles.
Even if Lucy couldn’t wear sparkly dresses like the fairies in her books, she could make it snow and that was pretty neat. Peeling her gloves off, Lucy rubbed her hands together over the picture. Gray specs flaked off her palms and peppered the page. It wasn’t fairy dust; just Lucy dust, and it was another reason Lucy had to wear gloves. Momma didn’t like it on the furniture and Dad didn’t like it on his ring leader costume and Brother didn’t like it on his computer. But the outdoors were Lucy’s domain. This grassy patch by the camper was her enchanted garden, the mushrooms under the rusted Honda shell; her toadstool village, and the raccoon she caught on their picnic table last night; her trusty wildlife companion. It had shrieked in terror at her glowing, red eyes, but she would win it over. The crushed up granola bar in her pocket assured her so.
A bell rang. Lucy scampered to her feet and left the picture book in the grass open, with the fairy still covered in dust.
Inside the camper was Momma. She picked up Lucy as gently as if she were cradling a baby bird. Lucy snuggled into her mother’s beard and grabbed one of her hands. Momma had such pretty hands; big like bear paws and strong enough to crush watermelons. The people that went to the circus liked her hands, too, because they always cheered really loud at the watermelon part of the show even if Momma couldn’t hear it. When Lucy was bigger, Dad told her she could be in the show and Lucy couldn’t wait to show off her magic wand and make all their wishes come true.
After setting Lucy on the folding table and adjusting the crooked bows on her antennae, Momma began signing, “We’ve got a surprise for you.”
“Surprise?” signed Lucy, touching her pinched fingers to the corners of her eyes, then popping them open like a present. Her legs flailed.
Momma patted the air, palms down, and Lucy tucked her legs under the table. Then Momma signed, “We did really good last month, so we had some money left over to get you something special. Cover your eyes.”
Lucy held her hands in front of her red eyes and stared at her palms. She could almost remember what it felt like to close her eyes, back before she had wings and gray skin, but it had been so long ago. She wasn’t sure if she had imagined the sensation instead. Her shoes slipped off her feet and Lucy held her breath as she felt new ones slip on.
There was a tap on Lucy’s shoulder, and she looked down.
“New sneakers!” she signed.
Momma lifted her off the table. When Lucy’s feet touched the camper floor, rainbows spilled out.
Lucy watched her shoes sparkle like radiant gems in fairytales, their glow reflected off her wide, compound eyes. She waited for them to go dim before she stomped, then hopped, then skipped around the camper. And as she danced, the light danced with her, and she brought the light wherever she stepped.
Lucy turned and ran into Momma’s arms. Finally, she had sparkles her dust wouldn’t cover.
Dedicated to Brianna Douglas who originally came up with Lucy and her family