The Magic Bookshelf
A Wish and a Fall
Norah was leaning out of the castle window and staring up at the starlit sky. She had left the party of elves, fairies and goblins back in the ballroom. Her party, supposedly. Right now, she needed peace and quiet.
But she wasn’t getting any.
Sir Cherrybottom was standing by the fireplace, doing what knights usually do to attract a lady’s attention. He was smiling, winking and swishing his long blonde hair.
A pixie dance number jingled up from the floor below.
‘So,’ Sir Cherrybottom said, ‘I understand we are to be married.’
Norah was silent.
‘It will be a splendid wedding, I’m sure,’ he added.
Still no response.
‘You know, there are many who would be honoured, whose only dream would be to–’
Norah cut him short. ‘I’ll marry you,’ she said, ‘if you can catch me.’ With that, she stepped up onto the window ledge.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘All you have to do is catch me.’
‘You must jest, my dear lady, to be sure. We aren’t–’
But there was no time to find out what they weren’t because Norah jumped.
To his credit, Sir Cherrybottom dived out of the window after her, but Norah was a great flyer, even for a fairy. She’d soon left him far behind and he returned sulkily to the castle.
Norah, meanwhile, swooped up higher and higher until the air was so thin she could barely breathe. Here, she stretched out her wings and glided. Elmere Castle and all the great spires of the city were little larger than pinheads below. While, above her, the stars shone brighter than ever.
Norah turned on her back and flew with her hands behind her head like it was the easiest thing in the world.
When this got boring, she started naming the constellations. ‘The Great Wand,’ she said confidently, looking at a zigzagged line of stars above. ‘The Three Trolls,’ she added, spotting three bright stars to the east. ‘The Big . . .’ The name of this next one was just on the tip of her tongue when a falling star blazed by overhead.
Norah closed her eyes and did what any self-respecting fairy would do.
She made a wish.
Nothing happened. Not that she’d really expected anything to. Still, she thought, it’s always worth a try.
She brushed her silvery brown hair from her face and turned to head back home.
The castle grew larger in the distance, but just looking at it made her feel heavier. Her mother would be waiting for her, arms crossed. There would be the inevitable, ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?!’ But just as she was thinking this – of how boring Esmeralda was with all her rule-following, and of how unfair her mother could be – she felt herself dip like a kite in the wind.
That’s weird, she thought. Maybe I’m tired. But then she felt it again – swoosh – and the air was changing, the way it does before a thunderstorm. Can I really have missed the signs? she wondered.
She flew faster. But the faster she flew, the more the air resisted her. I’m going to make it, she thought, I’m just tired, I’ll be fine.
But the wind disagreed. It gusted against her with all its strength. The castle was so close – close enough to see the fae folk dancing behind the windows – but Norah couldn’t get any closer.
Then, with a spark of lightning, the wind dropped, the stars blazed, and the world turned upside down. The sky became the city, the city became the sky, and Norah fell down to the stars.