First submission in years. Trying my hand at this again.
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Chapter 1: The Hidden Letter
All children can fly, and this is indisputable. Though I suppose it is horribly difficult to care for flighty infants. Therefore, it’s only natural that the first thing parents do upon leaving the maternity ward is whisper into their baby’s ear that they ought not to fly. How would it look to the neighbors, you see? Children are so very impressionable at that age that by the time they are in the crib, they are far too ashamed to fly, convinced it was an act unbecoming of them.
There is a place, however - far from the eyes of neighbors. An island where children dance upon clouds of nine, where motley pirates cut through the brush, and where Mermaids sunbathe near sapphire lagoons. All children visit there once or twice; but no more than twice, for after twice the thrill is gone, and the island fades off the map. This year fate would thrust a young girl into a thrilling adventure upon those magical shores for the very first time.
Of all the children delivered by the storks, there were perhaps none more incredulous than Agatha Poppet. Agatha was a child who, from the very start of things, learned to doubt. She didn’t believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny; she didn’t believe in gnomes or fairies; According to Mrs. Poppet, she didn’t even believe in bedtimes. But of all the things Agatha doubted, there was nothing she believed in less than herself.
It all began when Agatha lost her very first race, and was born five minutes after her sister, Abby. Agatha was a twin, you see – which is to say she was a person, twice. She was very kind and well-mannered, but both sideways and vertically she viewed herself as the lesser of the two. This defeat birthed a crippling doubt that followed the poor girl right out of the womb. Because of this, Agatha was a timid child, yet Abby was supremely bold. Agatha had difficulty catching onto things, while Abby was far ahead of the curve. Agatha was hardly noticeable, and Abby was the bell of the ball. All her life, Abby was the picture of everything Agatha wanted to be, but thus far, all Agatha managed was to look the part.
Agatha woke that morning in a bed she and her sister shared, but she was alone. Abby had gone off to her friend’s house where she was to spend the weekend. Agatha, on the other hand, turned down the invitation as she knew it was extended to her as merely a curtesy. Sarah was Abby’s friend, and apart from Abby, Agatha had no friends.
Agatha’ family lived in the city – building 14, right around the corner from Maimie’s Bakery and Custom Cake Shop. Agatha glanced out her window which perfectly line up just so, that she could see the light of dawn spilling down Main Street. She opened the window and a sweet aroma of raisin bread carried in with the breeze. “Good morning, Abby,” she said, depressingly. “If you’re even awake yet.”
Mrs. Poppet must have heard Agatha, for she soon called out to her. “Agatha!” she said a loud voice. “Hurry down, sweetheart, breakfast is ready.”
Agatha sat at the table this morning as Mrs. Poppet checked her profile.
Breakfast was Agatha’s favorite meal, and as there was no Abby, Agatha thought she might get twice the servings. Her hopes were quickly dashed when Mrs. Poppet placed her plate down in front of her. Not only was her portion average, Mrs. Poppet had forgotten the hash brown – Agatha’s favorite.
“Mother,” Agatha complained. “You forgot my hash brown.”
“Agatha, sweetheart, get your elbows off the table,” said Mrs. Poppet, while holding the phone to her ear with her shoulder. Thanks to the war, Agatha’s mother was always busy, and her father was forever a ghost. I could speak on the romance of how they met, but it would only serve to shatter your heart. Besides, Mrs. Poppet requests we stick to the essentials, and we agree.
Diana Poppet was a business woman – one of those fancy types, you know? She was a striking beauty that had all the glamor of a model, yet all the utility of swiss army knife. You see, she was also a cook, a plumber, a maid, a teacher, a nurse, a disciplinary, a fashionista, a philosopher, a confidant, a seamstress, a coach, a child psychologist, a janitor, a nutritionist, and not to mention, quite a good singer. If one should ask, she would happily show her certifications on a wall of intellect which memorialized all her scholastic achievements. The only thing that stood out more than Mrs. Poppet’s intellect, was her frugality.
Mrs. Poppet was not frugal with money, rather, time. Agatha knew this as her mother would often complain about how fast Agatha was growing up. “My, my, where did the time go? You shall soon be a lady,” she would say. Being that Diana was a business lady, her views on money was most paradoxical. “Time is money,” she often said. “What sense is there wasting time to save money? I’d much rather waste money to save second here and there!”
It was hard for one to disagree with her as she seemed so sure about things. Why, at this very moment she was talking on her phone and typing on her laptop, turning worksheets into spreadsheets, while folding bedsheets at the same time. She was quite mythical in her duties, albeit stretched a bit thin. Even Mrs. Poppet couldn’t do it all, you see? Something would always get by: The lone sock stuck to the ceiling of the dryer, the unread military letter resting on the counter, and of course, the occasional daughter left unattended.
“No, no, no!” exclaimed Mrs. Poppet, “You must push those numbers higher! Next week is peak season – you know what that means! Yes, exactly. Divide and multiply – that’s right, subtract then add. Tax by percentages.” At a single glance it was clear that Mrs. Poppet had more than she could carry and was now juggling to make do, but Agatha didn’t care – she wanted hash browns. After all, isn’t it so very like a child, to act, well, quite childish?
“Mother,” Agatha whined. “Listen to me!”
“I’m working right now, sweetie!” said a voice, identical to Mrs. Poppet. Éclair glided her way over to the table, and Agatha scowled, folding her arms at the parrot. “Cheeky bird!” Agatha huffed. “Now, now, Agatha,” Éclair squawked. “Now, now.”
Éclair was a fancy, old bird - a Scarlet Macaw who came under the employment of Mrs. Poppet as a childminder shortly after Agatha was born. Before this, she was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, but the Queen was far from amused at the things Eclair would repeat after having been said in confidence, and so she left the window open. Conversely, Mrs. Poppet thought it would save so much time to have someone parrot all her motherly advice so that she’d only need to say it once. And Mrs. Poppet was never so cruel as to leave the window open, which, till her last day, was something Éclair would always praise her for.
Agatha finished her incomplete breakfast begrudgingly, but also completely. Nothing was worse than having Éclair nag her repeatedly all because she didn’t clean her plate. It was at this time Agatha began to wonder what Abby was doing. As she washed her plate, Agatha imagined all the fun Abby and Sarah were sharing without her. She tried hard not to show her jealousy, but she was undoubtedly green all over.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” said a voice. Agatha thought it was Éclair, though having glanced over she saw Mrs. Poppet, now lying on the couch with a soft smile. At which point she made her way from the table to the couch, we shall never know, but all accounts say it happened within the blink of an eye. Agatha was more than surprised to see Diana sitting still and staring right at her as if to say you have my full, undivided attention.
Mrs. Poppet was much less glamorous now, in fact it was honestly striking how different she looked - like night and day. Diana had worked through the night, and just at the sun rose, she was preparing to fall into a deep slumber. Agatha quickly dried her hands and rushed to her mother’s side for this rare chance of having her full attention. Agatha stared at her mother like a curator gazing upon the Mona Lisa – speechless.
“My sweet, little girl,” Diana said in a barely audible voice.
The world was quiet now as Agatha held her mother’s hand. “Are you going to sleep now?” Agatha said, sadly. “Yes, dear. I am so very tired,” she replied. “But I have your lunch and dinner already made. All you need is to warm them up. You can do that, right?”
Agatha’s anxious mind jumped. “But, what if I mess up?” Agatha said.
“It’s quite alright, sweetie,” Mrs. Poppet replied. “It’s just like last time.”
Agatha nodded, sadly.
“What’s wrong, Agatha?” her mother asked.
“When is Abby coming home?” Agatha whined. “I miss her.”
Mrs. Poppet smiled softly. “I have an idea. How about you and I go on our own adventure this weekend?” Agatha’s eyes widened with joy, and she could almost feel herself lift off the seat, but then doubt brought her back. “What is it?” Mrs. Poppet asked, thoroughly confused.
“What if they call you in for work again?” Agatha said.
Mrs. Poppet sighed. She did not enjoy seeing how sensible her child had gotten at such an insensible age. It hurt her so much that a flame sparked in her eyes – the very same flame that sparks in a lioness when her cubs are threatened. “Pick one event,” she said, resolute. “At the very least, we shall do that thing no matter what!”
Agatha smiled. “Can we drive to the park?” she asked.
“Yes!” Mrs. Poppet replied.
“Can we play a game?”
“I dare someone to tell us no!”
“But, of course!”
“Mama, May I?
“Yes, you may.”
“Hide and Go Seek?”
“I warn you, I’m as good as a hound!”
“What about ice cream?”
“I’ll even let you have the cherry on top,” said Mrs. Poppet. Mrs. Poppet struggled to keep her eyes open, and so she pulled her daughter close and embraced her. “You are my darling girl and I love you more than the world. I’d love to do everything on your list,” she yawned. “But you must pick one, you see? To do them all – well, I’m afraid there’s just not enough time.”
Agatha sat up to see that her mother had drifted off to sleep. Agatha placed a blanket over her mother and put her phone on silent. She knew that Mrs. Poppet would never have the time to do any of the things on her list, but she quite enjoyed the fun of imagining such a world.
The rest of the day was as drab as one could imagine for a young girl. Agatha watched television, painted a bit, and even practiced her cursive. All this was done as a silent as a ghost note, so as not to wake Mrs. Poppet, and in the evening, Éclair made Agatha take her bath and brush her teeth. After the shower, something curious began to happen. Agatha got a strange notion that Abby had entered the house. We say strange because neither we nor Éclair heard a thing, but twins share such a mysterious bond, that we must take her word for it.
Agatha rushed into her room and cut on the lights, only to find the window had blown open! She quickly closed it shut before Éclair came gliding in and perched on the bed post. Even more curious was that her bed, which she had left a mess, had been made up in the same neatness Abby would always make it.
“What on earth is going on?” Éclair squawked.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Agatha replied.
That’s when Agatha saw it. Placed upon the dresser was a letter. She was sure it was not there that morning, but there it sat now, as if waiting for her. Agatha opened the letter, and to her great surprise, it was indeed a letter from Abby!
My dearest sister,
I am filled with both shame and excitement this evening. I must confess that I have lied to you, as well as our mother, and I pray for your forgiveness, but it was for good reason. You see, I simply could not risk mother stopping me after finding out the truth, and I dared not ask you to share in my deception by lying on my behalf. That being said, I have not gone off to spend a weekend with Sarah. In truth, I have departed on a far grander adventure. Brace yourself, sister, for I have taken my effects and flown to Neverland!
“Neverland?” Agatha whispered under her breath. The word was vaguely familiar. Agatha began to recall several pictures her sister sketched a day before her departure of a strange, little island. Abby would draw an elaborate picture, only to erase it moments later and try again. According to her, the Island had changed again, as it was ever-changing. At the time, Agatha didn’t give it a second thought, but now was different.
Agatha frantically search through the pictures on their desk until finally, she uncovered it. “Here it is!” she exclaimed. Agatha ran her eyes over it, then jumped quickly back to the letter.
Three days ago, whilst cleaning our room, I came across a most curious discovery. I found a pair of creatures, no bigger than my hand, sleeping within my slippers. They were Fairies! And as it so happened, they were twins like you and I! How grand is that, Agatha? I caught them both in a jar, and when they settled down, I made them tell me all about their magical home. What I heard at first, I could hardly believe, and so I know you will think me crazy, but, after a sprinkle of their dust, I really did fly!
“Fly?” Agatha shook her head, disapprovingly. “Oh, Abby, what are you going on about?”
How I wish I could tell you everything, sister. As God as my witness, I will the moment I return. Until then, always remember: All children can fly, Agatha, including you. The decision is yours, of course, but I would very much like it if you’d join me here. Find me beneath the second star to the right, or simply gaze at a mirror.
Your loving sister,
Abby Alyssa Poppet
Ps. I’ve left one of the fairies in a jar beneath your bed. If you choose not to follow, then please release it with my apologies.
This was all so much to take in, and to be quite honest, Agatha wasn’t sure she believed it. A magical island, Fairies, and flying children – what nonsense! Agatha pondered seriously over the possibility that this was all part of some elaborate rouse orchestrated by her sister for a good laugh. But then, Abby wasn’t the type. Thus, Agatha Poppet took a rare leap of faith and did something that set the course for her entire story – she turned off the lights.
And sure enough, there was a faint glow beneath her bed.