Last night I replied to the letter Celeste had written to "the fairy," which I knew about two days previously and had done nothing about, despite Elodie's repeated reminders.
I used to love writing these letters for Elodie and Juliette. I vividly remember wanting to recreate the magic I'd felt during my childhood. My mother didn't disguise her handwriting like I do but it still never occurred to me or my sisters that she'd written them. Our fairy was called, Fairy Loose Tooth. She lived at Cobble Corner, Fairyland, and her letters always thanked us for the latest tooth, and described which piece of jewellry they were to be set in.
When I was growing up we went to beautiful places, like Cornwall, and my mother would say say that if we looked hard enough we'd see fairies there. When I stopped believing her I told the same stories to my little sister, Dani.
The last time I talked about fairies to my children, it was in a beautiful place near Southwold. We were on our way back to our holiday cottage from Ipswich hospital where Juliette had just had a routine check up. There was a grassy dip under a tree close to the beach, and I could almost see the fairies dancing there in the sunshine. Elodie, Juliette and Pierre soaked up the magic, and they believed me. I believed me.
Three days later, Juliette died. In the foggy weeks afterwards, Saz gave Elodie a glittery fairy figure in a leather box. The fairy became her talisman, her touchstone perhaps, for innocent times still alive with possibility. Recently she passed it on to Celeste. Unbeknown to either of us, Celeste has been sleeping with it under her pillow.
Celeste's letter was poignant. She's not a little girl that fits into a standard mould, and she's the youngest girl in her class. This seems to make things hard for her in school at times. I should have replied to the letter straight away. I want to give her the answers, fill her with confidence that the good will survive, to go on spinning the magic that Elodie remembers and wants Celeste to have, but I'm disenchanted. Prayers aren't answered in this world, and children die. I've been robbed of the enchantment I believed in for 34 years.
I'm not cynical, but I need magic to be where I can see it. No more blind leaps of faith or escapes into fantasy. Actually, this is liberating. I watch my children dancing long past their bedtimes as Elodie's finger hovers over the iPod, and feel such a surge of joy. I see their hard work and happiness as they plan and cook for a charity cake sale in memory of their sister. I'm watching Elodie gradually get better from a horrible illness. I feel the love they have for each other, and for Steph and me. These things are golden, and I take none of them for granted. All we have is right now, and that's good enough for me.
I answered Celeste's letter. I didn't promise to give the unkind girls a fairyland-style rollicking as I might have done in days long gone. I told her to try and remember what a gorgeous person she is. Special, loved and without limits. She's written out a careful reply (the fairy had complimented her on her handwriting too) and as I kissed her good night she told me what she'd asked in the letter. I gave her my answer, and she looked sceptical.
"I think I'll wait and see what my fairy thinks," she replied.