I stood rooted to the spot, too captivated by what I’d just observed to even take a step closer to my object of interest that moment. It’d happened yet again that day; with the latest occurrence being the most mesmerising. It also carried a message.
I didn’t know then that it was going to impact my future.
It’d not been very long since I’d shifted to my new apartment, situated in a narrow and insignificant byroad branching off one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city. With almost zilch time and breathing space for satisfying attempts to find suitable accommodations, I’d managed to find another one as quickly as possible. In stark contrast to my previous cubby hole of an apartment, the new house looked elegant and welcoming. I’d developed an instant liking towards the house. Love at first sight, I called it as.
The place had been well-maintained, although vacant for three years. After some nosy inquiries in the neighbourhood, I’d garnered strange details about the house being haunted. Vicious rumours had left it unoccupied for years. I’d been equally scared and amused. Yet, I hadn’t given in to such furphies, more due to the fact that I needed a roof above my head badly then.
I’d moved in soon after and began enjoying my stay. The house seemed to love me back with an unspoken vehemence. Whenever anxiety pangs about my plight drowned me in its quagmire, random voices echoed in my head pacifying me. It was weird yet deeply comforting. I felt connected to those four walls at a level beyond reason, yet, couldn’t exactly point out how or why.
A month passed and our bond nourished.
I didn’t notice it all along. Or, did I? I wasn’t sure. But, I didn’t seem to remember seeing it neither during the first time I visited the place nor during my month-long stay. But, when it materialised in front of me that Sunday morning, as I sat down near the balcony with my hot cuppa, the wall that faced me wasn’t empty anymore, much to my disbelief. I was shocked to see my reflection staring back at me, instead of the plain blue wall. I dropped my cup and the ceramic gave way splintering it into pieces. The hot beverage stained the floor.
I ran out of the room and locked the door.
Sorry, we didn’t mean to startle you.
We wouldn’t harm you.
That’s the entrance, you know.
The soothing voices inside my head turned into a cacophony of consolations and apologies. It snowballed into a pounding headache. My sleeping bag came to my rescue that night as I dozed off to a disturbed sleep in the living room.
The place was lit up with the sun shining over the horizons, when I was jolted awake at susurrations all around me. It felt to be in the middle of an invisible group having hush-hush conversations. I scanned the place and pulled myself up to check if the ginormous antique mirror, that I’d seen, was a dream.
An eerie silence invited me inside the room and with quick strides, I filled the space between the door and the balcony. There it was, as real as stars. I gasped at my reflection in the mirror, almost expecting something to be shoved out of it. Instead, I saw teeny-weeny spots of light flittering across its surface. The feeling of fear was overtaken by an increasing inquisitiveness at the oddities.
The fashion designer in me was drawn to the display of colours – bright, flashy, and constantly overlapping to create spectacular hues.
I walked closer to the mirror to take a look at the thick frame forming its perimeter. As I touched the intricate carvings on it, I realised that the mirror was telling me a story. A story that I attached no meaning to, until I became a part of it.
Zillions of thoughts clashed inside me which ultimately questioned the sanity of my decision to have shifted to the house. No wonder the scuttlebutt had it that the house had been jinxed.
The minuscule lights began to steadily grow in number every day. So did the silent whispers. Two weeks passed, as I made up my mind to leave the place at the earliest possible.
And then, it happened one morning.
A huge rainbow with thick bands forming a riot of colours appeared on the mirror, to my bewildered astonishment. I’d seen a rainbow before, but never like the one I was gawking at, then. Violet was a multihued shade of purple put together in a crescendo. Indigo and Blue was a brilliant spread. Green was a restrained piece of art, painted to perfection in one stroke. Yellow and Orange glistened harmonious to each other, followed by a fiery Red.
I stood rooted to the spot, unable to move a muscle, overwhelmed by my close proximity to the kaleidoscopic arch of colours shining from the mirror. A delicately handsome butterfly hovered near its thick mahogany periphery.
“Hola, lady! Princess Myra wants to meet you,” the tastefully winged creature squeaked.
I wanted to meet her. That queer human who had barged into the abode of my good old Meeka.
Talking about Meeka, I wouldn’t call her just a mirror. She’d been my saviour when I’d needed one. She’d been my way out of the mundane Fairyland, christened as Arcdale, that I belonged to.
What was so magical about these Fairylands anyway? Why did these humans go all gaga over the mention of it? I never understood.
Coming back to Meeka’s plight, she panicked at the existence of a company in the house, which had been abandoned for three years, and fled the place. It took me a month to convince her to return. As anticipated, Ira panicked when Meeka reappeared. Gosh, we had a whale of a time freaking the human out. My little friends tried to hint her that the house was indeed not haunted in a spooky way. Ha! Humans and their stereotypes!
But, the lady’s bizarre attitude intrigued me. She’d slowly accepted the aberration in her world as a part of life; as if that was the norm of the land she lived in. And, that piqued my curiosity.
Though she was making plans to leave the place, they were not as strong as those of the previous residents. They’d run out of the place, right the next day, when we homed in on the grim and remote apartment to create a portal to the mortal world.
My admiration for Ira gradually rose and culminated at a point where I could no longer wait to meet her. Yes, I wanted to let her into our land, Arcdale, a lovely valley around a rainbow. Well, rainbows form a perpetual part of the scenery our land boasts of, unlike that on the Blue Planet where the humans celebrate the sight of it.
She’d find our paradise a feast to her eyes, I was sure.
But, the most alluring reason for my planned rendezvous with her was the fashion designer persona of hers. Over the past few weeks, I’d seen her skilfully work on fabulous designs, her nimble fingers adept at producing extraordinary work.
Ah! How I love those classy outfits of the other world.
Yikes! How I hate the monotony of our land’s garb. Large flowing gowns, typically sensuous and lavishly embroidered, with meticulously nuanced laces, gleaming beads, delicate tassels, and what not! I didn’t want to look like I go to balls everyday.
Duh! Fairylands and their stereotypes!
I sent word with Dewy to invite her to Arcdale.
“Love your name, Dewy. Cute!” I managed to tell the charming butterfly floating beside me.
I was gradually coming to terms with what was happening around me. The hour gone by, after meeting Dewy, could easily be the most enchanting in my entire life. Fairyland. Princess. Arcdale. Rainbow. Fairies. Pixies. Gnomes. Elves.
The last I remember hearing those words was when I’d volunteered for a reading session for kids. All the fairytales I’d read to them made me long to belong in them. A part of my heart chose to remain amidst those pages of the book hoping for Utopia to engulf me. My life had been very far from it. Hopeless. Jobless. Penniless. I’d passed each day praying for a miracle.
And lo! There I was, walking beside a talking Lepidopteran, in a magical land. I pinched myself often to believe what met my eyes.
At a distance, I could see a splendiferous palace atop a hill, between the clouds, which seemed like an inspiration from Walt Disney’s logo. Dewy told me that the royal clan of Arcdale resided within the walls of that magnificent structure. Right alongside the palace was a huge rainbow which I’d seen through Meeka. Well, the mirror introduced herself with a name. Apparently, she wasn’t the only out-of-the-world companion I was living with. The disembodied voices inside my head were indeed from my invisible room-mates, Pari, Melia, Plum and Mini. The tale of fairies began to unfold from that minute.
As I rambled through the wooded valley with colourful mushrooms dotting our paths on one side and strange flowers and rich vegetation on the other, I was basking under the warmth of the majestic morning rays. The air was abuzz with life. Dazed leprachauns in a variety of colours were busy clambering over the rainbow. A family of elves were seated cross-legged near a tree. They threw surreptitious glances at me and scrammed to their dwellings. I appeared as an abhorrent creature in their perfectly crafted land full of life. How I longed to belong in them!
“You seem lost. All okay?” Dewy rested on my shoulders. Her voice oozed out genuine concern.
“I’ve never felt so fine,” I replied and took a deep breath. The myriad fragrances of the land filled my lungs enlivening my otherwise sombre spirits.
A pixie zoomed past spewing me with what looked like teensy flowers. My skin turned a pale brown for a moment or two and returned to normal.
“Zaina!” Dewy squeaked and darted towards her, chasing her away. She flew back to me in a while and apologised.
“She’s quite a poltergeist. The youngest and the most untamed of the lot,” she huffed.
“Never mind. She’s so adorable,” I said, looking at her sniggering at Dewy.
A billow of clouds floated past us suddenly, making me relish their velvety softness on my skin. I was feeling quite fuzzy after my experience hitherto in Arcdale. Too bemused to think straight, my mind began conjuring up what was waiting behind the palace doors.
I held the staircase railings to ascend when a strange kind of energy soared through me. The entire place was quite magical. As I dawdled across the serene marble floor, buying myself time to be prepared to face a Princess from a wonderland, I quickly took a peek at my reflection in a huge mirror similar to Meeka.
I was aghast at that sight. A woman with a messy bun, wearing a patchy old jeans and loose purple T-shirt, stared back. That was definitely not how I planned to visit a Shangri-la. A long satin mermaid dress embellished with beads, gems and laces, probably?
As I wallowed in self-pity at my less-than-ordinary existence, the Princess descended from the staircase at the middle of the palatial hallway lined with amazing artwork. She exuded an impeccable aura that demanded respect out of one’s own volition. Her jet-black hair was let loose and a floral tiara adorned her head. Her clear skin let out a faint glow. For all the riches to her name, she was dressed simple in a plain turquoise column gown.
Ira, the fashion designer, peeped out and tried to analyse every possible outfit that’d suit her, when she broke the ice with a poem in her mellifluous voice. Ah! I fell in love with her that second.
“There’s nothing cheers a fellow up just like a hearty greeting,
A handclasp and an honest smile that flash the joy of meeting;
And when at friendly doors you ring, somehow it seems to free you
From all life’s doubts to hear them say: ‘Come in! We’re glad to see you!’
Welcome to Arcdale, dear Ira!”
As I sat there in front of her, expecting anything between ‘Hello’ and ‘That’s beautiful!’ or both, my guest from the other world stood stock-still. I wondered if I made a mistake by coming across too friendly to that earthly creature. After a while, with Dewy fluttering incessantly around us, she came back to her senses and replied with a ‘Huh?’
“Is that all, Ira? I welcome you with a favourite poem of mine and all you do is ‘huh’ me!”
“Huh…I mean…sorry Princess, didn’t mean to disappoint you but you took me by surprise by your amicable welcome song. I got blown away,” she finally managed to reply. I felt appeased.
“Hmmm…That’s from the poem by Edgar Albert Guest, an American poet.”
“Wow, you’re educated…I mean…have you gone to school like us…I mean…you can read and write like us…I mean…ummm…I think I’d better shut up,” Ira concluded her confused speech.
I laughed like never before. A hearty laugh which ended in hiccups.
“Can you stop ogling at me like that? To reply to what you tried to ask, yes, I hold a degree in English Literature. Not exactly a degree, but, I’ve completed my graduation, just for the love of it. I was that invisible student for three years in a college in your world, travelling in and out of Meeka every day. She was placed strategically to aid me flit between Arcdale and your world. I suppose Meeka was the reason that the previous occupants of the house took flight. Her sudden presence freaked them out.”
“That answers a lot, thank you,” Ira mumbled and adjusted her bun.
Her outfit and her appearance. Ah! I fell in love with her as I observed what she was wearing. A pair of jeans and a tee. How casually was she dressed and how comfortable she looked. So unlike me, in a long gown, like a doll on display.
I broached the reason behind her invitation to Arcdale.
“I need your help.”
The Princess was one of a kind. My love for Myra grew immensely as she expounded the reason behind her interest to see me. I was overwhelmed at the opportunity that’d presented itself, when I was going through the roughest phase in my life. A brilliant ray of hope shined above me.
She wanted me to be her Fashion Artist for the Fasho-Fest event organised for all the wonderland womenfolk. Selection rounds had been conducted and she’d emerged as one of the top five contestants entering the grand finale along with Cinderella, Goldilocks, Luna Lovegood and Snowhite. I was spellbound at the thought of a beauty pageant held to recognise the most beautiful among the beautiful. Oh my!
What’s beauty, anyway? Despite being a fashion designer, I’ve always believed that beauty radiates from one’s soul and from not one’s skin, which I kept telling to the gorgeous Princess.
I didn’t have a clue about the look and style of the other participants, apart from what I’d read about them. But, I was sure that Myra was going to steal the show, with that sweet and innocent heart of hers.
As I learnt more about the event and got involved with her professionally, my respect for her grew in leaps and bounds when she told me how she loved the outfits of ordinary beings like me.
“I adore the stuff you women wear. I gathered enough about them during my college years. There’re two rounds in the finale and I’m clear as to how I’m gonna present myself. I need your help with arranging what I need. From your world, you know, and choose the best for me,” she winked and I knew she was upto something.
That was how I found a cool shopping mate in Princess Myra, with Meeka being the entry pass to the world I belonged to. Our shopping expeditions became a routine I looked forward to, everyday. Our bond ripened and matured into a sweet and sour friendship. We loved each other as much as we argued with each other on our opinions, especially regarding fashion.
Never once in my entire life until then had I imagined that I’d find my BFF in a Princess from a dreamland. We became mates for eternity.
Days raced past in her company and the finale arrived. Dragons, pixies, ghosts, fairies, unicorns, elves and every possible creature of the bewitched world were present at the event. The members of the organising committee and the major sponsors, Wizarding Association for the Welfare of Weirdos, were seen running hither and thither in last minute panic.
Meanwhile, behind the vast screens that separated the audience and the participants, we waited in pregnant silence. Numerous thoughts flooded my mind. We’d picked the choicest of attires and adornments for her. I was dressing her up for the first round. I silently prayed that I wouldn’t fail, yet again. The fear of failure increased the fear of losing her companionship. She looked up at me from the table, and smiled.
“Even if I lose the title, I wouldn’t lose you,” she stated matter-of-factly.
Drat! I chided myself for my thoughts. I sometimes forgot that I was dealing with an other-worldly creature that could see through my mind.
She rose up as her name was announced. Off she click-clacked to the runway in a pair of electric blue slim jeans and yellow cape top. Her hair was let loose and beaded jewellery punctuated her ravishing looks. I could hear ‘oooooohs’ and ‘aaaaaahs’ from the audience as she basked in everyone’s attention. She became an instant hit even among the participants who were seen flaunting their gaudy dresses, struggling to carry them off with grace.
I knew that moment that my fairytale friend was going to ace the event.
Ira became my soulmate.
The days of preparation for the grand event brought us closer. We shopped, laughed, argued and cheered together. Her profound personality was magnetic. Her outlook towards life taught me a lot. Her fortitude was my greatest admiration.
Never once in my entire existence had I imagined that I’d find my BFF in a human from the mortal world.
As I got ready for the last round in my most favourite clothing of the day, accentuating my looks with carefully selected ornaments by Ira, she exclaimed cupping her face that stunning was an understatement. I knew enough about her to gauge her exaggerations.
I hugged her and left for the ramp. A deafening silence ensued, followed by a thunderous applause. My heart swelled with gratitude for the human backstage.
The last round also involved a question from the organisers to every participant. Once the noise died down a bit, the anchor, Hermione Granger, struck a conversation with me on my apparel choice for the finale. I requested her to bring Ira onto the dais to give a befitting explanation about it. Moments later, as I shared space with her on stage, a nervous Ira gave her first Fairyland speech on her favourite subject, fashion.
“She’s wearing a peach Organza Sari with glossy golden blouse. The sari has intricately woven motifs all over, and is bordered with mirrors and satin laces to add to its charm. The accessories are kept simple to accentuate the Princess’s beauty in this attire.” Ira blushed.
“Whoa! Sublime! Glorious! Let’s get to the question of the day. Tell me, Princess Myra. What, according to you, is beauty?” Hermione asked.
“Beauty is a characteristic that radiates from one’s soul and not one’s skin. When what contains a personality is beautiful, it essentially emanates an aura around.” I replied with confidence.
I turned to Ira and threw a kiss. I could see her eyes well up in approbation. I held her hands and walked back amidst standing ovation.
I felt numb with pleasure, caressing the sash that hung loosely on my torso. After an entertaining day, we were back at the palace grounds sauntering through the sparkling bushes populated with gnomes.
“Miss Universe, how’re you feeling right now?” Myra called out.
The introverted me fumbled for a suitable reply.
“Is this all some wild dream that I’m going to wake up from?” I blurted out what was troubling me.
“Ha! No. Come up with a name for your Fashion Boutique. Let’s actualise your real dream in your world.” She announced to the winds that whooshed past us.
I closed my eyes. She held my hand. The next thing I knew was that I was standing in the middle of a large store filled with clothes of a brand called Ira-Myra. A portrait containing a familiar face from a faraway land grinned at me.
Was it all a dream?
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