Something Out of a Fairy Tale
This is a short story I wrote for a recent round of NPR’s 3 minute fiction. The prompt asked for stories in which a character found something that was not theirs that they had no intention of returning.
Look, I don’t know exactly why I’m here. I’ve already told my story twice, once to the homeowner, and once to the cops. I’m sorry? No problem. Record away. I’m not even going to bother calling my lawyer. I’m telling you what I told them – this whole thing is just a big misunderstanding. Is it okay if I smoke? Thanks.
I’ve been working in real estate for ten years. Lately, it’s been rough, with the market being so poor. It takes, like, twice the work to make the same commission it did five years ago. I was the last one in the office on Tuesday, and I was just about ready to lock up when I noticed the Post-It on the floor. What? Oh yeah, I absolutely knew it was Ella’s. Her handwriting is, I’ll just say, distinctive. Loopy cursive, predilection for multiple exclamation points. This address must have meant something to her, because there were five of the suckers, complete with little hearts for the dots, and it was triple underlined. The neighborhood was on my way home, so I decided to swing by and have a look. Don’t let the blond hair fool you – I’m not stupid. The second I saw the property, I knew it was a goldmine.
Not being in real estate, you probably wouldn’t understand why I reacted the way I did. To the untrained eye, the property doesn’t look like much. The house definitely needed some sprucing up. New roof, for sure, a coat of paint. Some landscaping love. But the setting! The ad just wrote itself: “Quaint bungalow set on six park-like acres. Backyard pond, gorgeous babbling brook. Right out of a fairy tale!” I went straight back to the office and did a little creative computer work. By ten that night, it was one of my listings.
Why did I do it? For the record, I did feel a tad guilty, especially when Ella gave the custodian an earful for tossing the Post-It. Of course she believed my story over his – we used to be inseparable. Went out for happy hour, clubbing, stuff like that. Then, we’re out dancing one night about three months ago, and she meets this guy. And elopes! Can you believe it? I mean, I even talked to him first! Now she never goes out, just stays at home mooning over that charming husband of hers. He’s so rich that she doesn’t even need to work anymore, she just does it out of boredom.
Wednesday I was supposed to meet Ella for happy hour, but she stood me up for the fifth time. I’ve been keeping track. Guess I had a little too much to drink when I decided to do take another peek at the property that night. No one was home, and the door was unlocked, so I went in. This is where things get a little fuzzy. Yeah, I know what the police report says. I raided the dinner table, broke a chair that was some kind of heirloom. Embarrassing. The owners found me passed out in one of the beds and freaked out. I didn’t mean to hurt or scare anyone. They seem like a nice family. Husband, wife, sweet kid.
Ella and I haven’t spoken since the story hit the papers. She did send me an email, one of the “all caps” kind. Called me an annoying perfectionist, said I was petty and low, worse than her stepsisters. Whatever. If I had to do it again, I’d do the same. Sometimes you gotta do what feels just right.