Gertie and Bridget have early mornings
Since it was a weekend, Bridget skipped her morning run around the Flories Boarding School racetrack in favor of jogging out into the surrounding city of Wespire.
The city was recovering from a late night, and besides the rumble of buses and the smell of coffee and bacon, there was little sign of life around Bridget as her sneakers hit the pavement.
She had planned her run before she left, and at the giant book pavilion she took a right and ended up in one of the smaller parks Wespire had to offer. It had several paths diverging through thick trees, and little lamps hanging from overarching branches to light the misty gray morning. Bridget liked running there because the dirt path was flat, well lit, and devoid of company except other runners in the morning. The aesthetics weren’t bad, either.
Bridget was listening to one of her running playlists from her phone, not paying attention to her surroundings until she almost ran into someone.
“Excuse me-?” the short woman called, stepping onto the path in front of Bridget.
Bridget dodged at the last moment and skidded to a stop just past her.
“Sorry!” the stranger said, moving to stand beside Bridget.
Bridget sighed, and removed her earbuds. “It’s ok,” Bridget said, still panting from her run. “Is something wrong?”
The woman glanced up into a tree. Bridget followed her gaze, and could barely make out a black smudge in a branch before something wet stuck to her ankle.
“What-?” Bridget lifted her pant leg to reveal a green frog, sitting comfortably above the line of her sock. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head and she bit her bottom lip in an effort not to squeal.
“It’s a frog,” the woman said, indifferently.
“No kidding.” Bridget made a face as she picked up the frog, hoping it wouldn’t pee in her hand, and placed him back on the path.
He ribbited in irritation.
“Okay.” Bridget took a deep breath and looked back at the woman. “How can I help?”
“A crow stole my bagel,” the woman said, pointing.
Bridget looked up at the tree again, and could see the black shape flapping around.
“It’s in a plastic zip top bag, so it should be safe for a little while. I’d climb myself but…” The woman gestured to her outfit. Heeled boots, a very wind-vulnerable skirt and a branch-catchable scarf.
“Yeah, no problem,” Bridget said. She walked to the base of the tree, ignoring the green frogs dotting the large roots, and jumped a bit to get a hold on the first thick branch. She pulled herself up and stood on it so she could lean on the trunk to stare at the rest of the tree, trying to formulate a plan of attack.
Bridget grasped the nub of an abandoned branch as a handhold and pressed her foot against the trunk. She pushed off and grabbed the next branch with her free hand. She pushed off the trunk with both feet and got her other arm around it. She pushed herself up and swung her leg over the branch.
“You’re doing great!” the woman called up.
Bridget panted and smiled down in response.
The trunk twisted at a diagonal, and Bridget was able to run up, leap, and catch the tall branch at the end. She hung from it for a moment before pulling herself up.
I’m certainly getting more of an arm workout than I expected this morning, Bridget thought. She paused to look at the view. The city in the early morning was beautiful. The pastel colors of the sky reflected on buildings that stretched higher than the trees, and from this vantage point she could see the spires of the magical art museum glistening in the sun.
A few more branches, and only one or two slip ups, and she had reached the crow’s perch.
The black bird examined her with beady eyes. It held a plastic bag containing a sesame bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon in his beak. The top had been torn at, but the zip top remained unopened.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Bridget said, knowing the bird couldn’t understand. There was no magic around it that her magical eye could see. The zippers on her workout jacket had little metal bobbles at the ends to make zipping and unzipping her pockets easier. She pulled one of these free from the pull tab and held it up for the bird.
The crow eyed it. Bridget watched as it moved its laden beak forward and realized it couldn’t both hang onto the sandwich and take the shiny bobble. She moved her free hand under the sandwich bag.
She heard a sigh come out of its nose holes.
The bird dropped the bag with a shriek and grabbed at the bobble. The tip of his beak scraped Bridget’s fingers, and she dropped it, her other hand clasping around the bagel.
The crow took off, cawing in delight at its new prize.
Bridget looked at the bagel in her hand and realized she wouldn’t be able to hold it in her hands. If only her pockets were big enough. She turned the bag over and held the bottom in her teeth, not wanting her mouth where the bird’s beak had been, and climbed back down the tree.
She skipped the last branch in favor of dropping to the ground, and held out the prized bagel in triumph, trying to hide the exhausted slump of her shoulders.
“Thank you!” the woman said, grabbing out for the sandwich. As her hands grasped it the crow dove back in.
“Look out!” Bridget said, swatting her hand at the bird.
It ignored her, instead landing nimbly on the woman’s shoulder.
It took a moment for Bridget to realize what was happening. “No,” she began.
The woman smiled mischievously.
“No,” Bridget repeated. “This is one of those ‘character tests’ isn’t it?”
“And you passed!” The woman seemed oblivious to Bridget’s frustration.
“It doesn’t matter that I passed!” Bridget’s voice dropped to a murmur. “They’re illegal!”
“What does the government know about this?” the woman asked, placing her hand on her hip. Suddenly, another frog hopped in front of her, croaking upwards. “Hush, you! I’ll deal with your lot later.”
Bridget stared down at the frogs and up at the woman again. “Are they...did they fail?”
“More or less,” the woman said, opening the bag and taking a bite of her bagel sandwich.
Bridget watched in horror.
The woman shrugged, swallowed, and said, “Some didn’t even try.”
The woman looked up at Bridget and saw her alarmed stare. “Don’t worry. I won’t change you into anything. You passed!” When Bridget didn’t look any happier, the woman sighed. “Look, I’ll give you a wish. Whatever you want.”
Bridget looked down at the frogs. “Change them back, no,” she looked back up at the woman. “All of them. Any of them.” Bridget pressed her fingers into her temple, fighting a headache and trying to think of every possible case. “I wish that, any living thing that you’ve changed against their will, you change back into their preferred form.”
The woman huffed through her nose. “I was going to do that eventually.” She reached up her hand and snapped.
Bridget’s normal eye saw a flash of light, but her magic eye saw nothing.
Suddenly, Bridget was surrounded by people. All were panicked. Some sat on the nearby park benches, others had immediately pulled out cellphones, one was throwing up, and a group were gathering in anger around the woman, shuffling Bridget off to the side.
“I was late to a doctor’s appointment!” One man said. “I didn’t have time to help you!”
“I actually tried! Why would you still change me?” a woman whose finger bled from a large bird bite yelled.
The crow cawed back at her.
“What did my dog do to you?” one teenager asked. Her labrador barked in agreement in what sounded close to a ribbit.
“He insulted me,” the woman said, glaring down at the dog.
Talking to animals, impossibly powerful magic that Bridget’s eye couldn’t detect, tests of morals…
“You’re a fairy,” Bridget said.
The woman’s eyes flicked from her mob back to Bridget. “Yes.”
The crowd began shouting and booing again at this revelation.
Bridget watched the scene take place, feeling not quite a part of it, when she noticed a man who hadn’t been there before. A man whom her normal eye couldn’t see; a man with an invisibility spell over him. Bridget frowned, glancing over him with her magical eye. It was when she landed upon the badge at his belt that she realized that one of the fairy’s victims must have called the police.
She hadn’t meant to warn the fairy, but something about the way she had focused on a space where there was nothing must have tipped her off.
There was another flash of light, and the crow was now flapping in place. On his back, now the size of a doll, was the woman. She wore the same modern clothing, and seemed quite out of place riding an animal.
The invisible cop pulled out his gun.
“Freeze!” he shouted, audible even under the spell.
The fairy’s crow just screeched and started to fly away.
The policeman pulled the trigger, and a net propelled out of his gun. It missed the bird by feather lengths as the fairy shrieked a spell.
The officer flashed and his invisibility spell fizzled. The fairy’s victims ran up to him, but he was frozen in place.
The crow flapped into the branches, over the trees and out of sight, taking the fairy with it.
The policeman’s backup arrived, but too late to catch the fairy. While they took statements, and tried to free their comrade, Bridget slipped away, not wanting to be thought of as an accomplice to the fairy.
As she headed back to school at a walk, too tired to resume her jog, a black crow landed on a railing next to her.
“I forgot something,” the fairy said from its back.
Bridget fought the urge to sigh and roll her eyes, not wanting to have to hop all the way back to school. “Yes?”
The crow gestured its beak forward and Bridget held out her hand. It dropped the bobble, now with a noticeable glow.
“You used your wish to help people,” the fairy said. “That was very good of you. I don’t want to leave you with nothing, so whenever you know what you want to use your wish for, hold this between your thumb and third finger, and make a wish. No matter where I am, I’ll grant it.”
Bridget knew better than to reject a gift from a fairy. “Thank you,” she said, running the bobble through her key ring so she’d always be carrying it.
“Have a great rest of your weekend!” the fairy called as her crow took off.
Bridget made it back to Flories school in under an hour and went straight to Gertie’s building. Holding the fairy-powered bobble in her hand had restored the energy her excursion had cost her, and she was nearly bouncing.
Bridget knocked on her sister’s door. There was a groan from the other side. After a few moments, Gertie answered, in her pajamas and her hair sticking up at odd angles. Bridget could see Ziggy, their ghost dog, still in bed, whining at her presence.
“Do you know what time it is?” Gertie asked, rubbing her eyes.
“Nine-thirty,” Bridget said incredulously.
“It’s a weekend.”
Bridget struggled to repress a grin. “Can I come in?”
“Can’t it wait?”
Bridget sighed. “I saw a fairy.”
Gertie perked up, her eyes growing wide. “Come on in. I’ll make some tea.”