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THE POINT OF NO RETURN

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He saw the Fairy sitting on the hollyhock; sat where a leaf stalk joined the main stem. By God, he thought; not hallucinations. He closed his eyes; putting his hand to his moistened forehead.

"Good morning to you, Sir," a voice said.

The voice was tiny - ridiculously tiny; yet amazingly clear; as if it came through one of those miniature speakers that you put into your ear. A female voice, speaking with perfectly diction yet with a slight, elusive, and charming accent. He opened his eyes. The Fairy still sat there.

"Sir! Close your mouth!" the Fairy exclaimed - laughing delightfully. "It looks like the Cavern of Cughtagh."

He knew nothing of the Cavern of Cughtagh, but the voice held such infectious humour, he had to smile.

"That is very much better, Kind Sir," the Fairy smiled. Then: "But I must now away. Goodbye."

He stared at the spot where she had been. He put his finger hesitantly into the space. Nothing. Nothing there. He felt the anxiety wet his forehead again.

"Gerald. Gerald!" Edith's voice called - her voice had that fussy, over-solicitous tone that he hated. "Gerald? Where are you, Dear?"

He went back to the house. Edith was waiting by the conservatory door.

"Gerald; it is time for your rest," she enjoined. "We don't want you ill again."

"Yes, Dear," he acquiesced.

He knew this was the only way to keep the peace. She dictated; he submitted. It had been that way since the first week of their marriage. Then his work. Her constant pushing. Her "ambitions" for him. Forcing him into a business he hated. Oh yes; he had made a go of it. Even a success. But at what price. At what price. His nervous breakdown.

He went to his room; glad of the excuse to get away. The experience in the garden had made him feel ill. He removed his slippers.

"Do you want your milk-drink before you lie down, Dear," Edith called.

He made no answer. He knew he would have the confounded milk-drink, whether he wanted it or not.

By the next morning, he'd almost forgotten the Fairy. It was when Edith started fussing and the only escape seemed to be the garden that he remembered.

"I feel hot, Edith," he said. "I think I'll take a walk in the garden."

He hurried out of the conservatory door before she had time to object. He made his way along the path by the roses then through the gate in the trellis. The hollyhocks presented a soft blaze of colour against the wall. He approached nervously. He had to know. He had to know if the hallucination would occur again.

"Hello, Good Sir."

He jerked his head towards the voice. She sat on the hollyhock just to his right. Sitting as she had sat the day before. He stared in consternation.

"Oh; you do frown, Sir," she chided. "Yet you can look so nice when you smile. Persons are so strange. A smile makes you all much more presentable; yet you all frown so much." She put a pretended reproof in each 'so', and smiled charmingly at him above the small petal with which she fanned her face while she spoke.

He had to smile, despite his confusion and anxiety. She was such an exquisite creature; beautifully formed; and with features so fine that allowed him to discern every expression - which, at that moment, was one of beaming benevolence.

"Now, Good Sir," she said brightly. "Now that you are better disposed, shall we pass the time of day. Tell me of your situation. Do you like being a Person?"

He grinned. He was totally absorbed. All thoughts of hallucinations had gone completely from his mind.

"I... I'm not sure," he said - his surprise making him laugh out the words.

"Well now, Sir," she said. "Fancy not knowing whether you like or do not like being what you are. Surely you must have thoughts about it. Surely so."

"It's...it's not so much being a person - if that's what you say I am," he answered, finding himself slipping easily into her mood and style of speech. "It's not so much that..." He hesitated. "It's.. it's all the other things."

"But surely, Sir, all the other things must be part of being a Person."

He beamed. She was incredibly lovely. "Well... I… I suppose so. But sometimes one wishes for better things."

"Oh, one can always wish, Good Sir," she said, "and - sometimes - Fairies can grant wishes for those about whom they may have fondness. However, it is knowing if one's wish is really what one really wishes. That is the difficulty, I think. Would you not think so, too?"

He nodded at what seemed to be a profundity: "I… I suppose so." He hesitated. Then - emphatically and with a growing confidence. "But there are things we can know and feel very certain about."

"Ah, my Good Sir," she smiled. "But it seems we are - more often than not - certain afterwards rather than before."

She had a delightfully quick wit and what appeared to be a tantalisingly flirting way with her; yet he felt there lay a deep and serious intelligence in all that she said, He grinned wryly. "Wise after the event?"

She nodded: "Yes, Sir," she said - her delightful smile then fading into a attractively serious expression. "What is done is done. That cannot change. Not even Queen Meg could change that." She paused as if pondering a sudden thought. "Although - perhaps - she could let one return...?" she then said. Again she paused: "But how would one really know what one wanted not to do, unless one had already done it?" she said thoughtfully.

He grinned; completely enchanted. There were so many things he wanted to say. He wanted to ask about Queen Meg. Who was she? He wanted her to explain the seeming conundrum in her last statement...

"Gerald, Dear. Are you there?" Edith called out from beyond the trellis.

"Blast!" he said under his breath and almost choked on the knot of annoyance that Edith's unexpected voice always produced. He turned back to the hollyhock in confusion. His companion had gone.

"Gerald, Dear," Edith said as she opened the trellis gate. "Were you talking to someone?"

"No... No-one…," he said nervously evasive, "I wasn't talking. I'm… I'm just looking at the hollyhocks." He felt a surge of anxiety again, but then he saw the fan shaped petal lying on the leaf where the Fairy had placed it a moment before. He felt joyous. She was not… She was not an illusion.

"Are you all right, Dear?" Edith questioned.

The next morning proved to be difficult. Edith raised the incident again. "No, Gerald," she insisted. "I know your voice after all these years. I am not mistaken. You were talking. And if no-one was there, then you were talking to yourself."

She said she ought to call the doctor. Perhaps even his walk in the garden might be too much exertion. He mollified her by promising to come straight back if he felt weary, then managed to escape into the garden without further ado. Oh how he wished he could escape from her - completely.

His Fairy sat waiting on the hollyhock. "Do you remember what we said yesterday? About having certainties," he asked eagerly. She nodded. "Well... I have one..." He was about to say he wish he was free of Edith, but stopped. It seemed too brutal an expression. He searched for a less direct statement. "I wish..." He faltered. "I wish I wasn't married," he blurted out.

"Oh!" Her expression became thoughtful. "I could speak to Queen Meg," she then said brightly.

He woke to a call announcing breakfast. He stretched. It was a beautiful morning. He rose then went downstairs. He sat at the table. Something hovered at the back of his mind. What was it...?

"Here you are, Dear," she said, placing an appetisingly full plate in front of him - thereby pushing aside his niggling thought. "Must feed you up! Very important event, today!"

"I feel like running," he said with a smile.

"What!" she exclaimed in pretended shock. "You don't want to marry Edith!"

"Of course I do, Mother," he laughed. "Of course I do."

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Written by: William Kenneth Jones
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