Once upon a time-
You aren’t really going to open with that line?
It’s fairy tale form, and it is beautiful, he answers earnestly. Anyway. Let’s begin again. Once upon a time, there lived a lilac lady. She loved to wander on the hilltops just outside the small city where she lived and worked.
It doesn’t sound very fairytalesque.
The lilac lady is industrious and self-sufficient. He touches her elbow, gives it a loving little squeeze. She bursts into a sunny smile.
Alright. I want a turn telling the tale. All good fairy tales need some drama; two narrators should do it. Hmm. So the lilac lady was very statuesque and also very employed, though she enjoyed her wanderings out of doors whenever possible, but she was not moping around waiting for a prince. How am I doing?
Superb. We should add another character.
Fine. The lilac lady had a lover.
Yes. Not a prince, though! He was an artist and he drove a funny little contraption, something between a bicycle and an air scooter.
You thought my scooter was funny? And wait, why not the airship? He looks a little bewildered. She relents.
Fine, an airship. The finest, most billowy, most beautiful, marshmallowesque airship there ever was.
What about the air resistance and those dastardly winter winds?
Well, this story begins in spring, so the airship is doing just fine billowing about. Also, it’s a fairy tale so this airship has been hand painted by the artist. He’s put an entire symphony on the side, a beautiful score by an ancient composer that people all over the city can read and turn into music as it floats over them. It is faster and more maneuverable than all the other airships put together, too. It balloons out over the port so that everyone can see it from afar. Its main purpose is to transport grand pianos to and from the Capital.
Alright, I could get on board such an airship. In fact, I wish I really had it instead of that ugly gray thing I’m currently piloting-
That beautiful gray thing you’re currently piloting. I love gray.
Right, I forgot. And I definitely want to forget that old scooter; don’t assign it to our hero. It will cut out on him at the worst possible moment and he’ll have to sell it for scrap. What next?
Well, they need to meet.
And how do they meet?
He gives her a painting lesson. On the hilltop.
No, before that. They’ve met before.
Oh, we want that in the official tale?
Yes, it’s so much more romantic. His cheek warms against hers.
She smiles softly. Alright then. They meet near the port, though you could hardly call it a real meeting. He passes her on the sidewalk after he has safely steered his marvelous marshmallowy airship in. Their eyes lock. For her it is an eternity, but then the spell is broken and the crowd mills between them. Then she notices something on the ground. Excuse me, she calls after him. You dropped your notebook. He doesn’t hear her and thus he does not turn around to see who has called to him, and because the street is full of people heading to work, he is soon lost in the crowd.
She sighs with pleasure as he caresses the nape of her neck with his fingers. What then? He inquires, kissing her temple.
Well, she takes the notebook home and persuses its contents, feeling like she is intruding. But she can’t help it, as she must find if there’s anything written inside hinting at his identity. He has not provided any clues, other than the initials L.M. inside the front cover. No contact code, no address.
Indeed. And the notebook is unusual: it doesn’t have technical notes in it. On every page but the last, there is a small drawing or painting. Not, as she would have expected, technical drawings. But there are people, buildings, scenery… the man is an artist and these are his sketches. She carries the little book around with her for a few days in the hopes of spotting him again, but the city is not quite small enough for her to run into him once more during this time.
Meanwhile the painter is on his own quest. May I continue the story?
Of course! She takes his hand and gives it a squeeze.
He wandered around looking where he might have dropped the sketchbook. He retraced his steps all over town, inquiring at all the municipal buildings, at the cafe, in all the shops, at the port. No book.
One night, the lilac lady went to her friend’s place for tea, she tells him.
And they met again.
Yes, they met again. The friend was in reality a benevolent elf in disguise. No, wait. A fairy. Yes. Every fairy tale needs a fairy. At least this one does.
So he was just sitting there, taking his tea, calm as you please. He smiles and wraps his arm around her.
And when she entered, even though she was now clothed in muted colours he exclaimed, you’re the lilac lady! She frowns briefly. Actually, Lee, I never thought about it at the time, but how did you recognize me?
Well, you see, earlier on the very same day he dropped his sketchbook, the artist had spotted our lady in the cafe two tables away from him. He saw her put on a lilac hat. It framed a radiant and warm and kind face. She was talking with someone there, someone he already knew. It was the good fairy you mentioned, our mutual friend Sal. And the lilac lady passed the hat over to her. He considered walking over and joining them, but suddenly he was struck by an attack of shyness and fled.
You never told me this!
I’m telling you now. Why do you think I was so distracted on the street? There you were again; I felt lightning in your eyes when you looked into mine and then the crowd broke us apart. I knew I could ask Sal about you, so I let myself be carried away. But I’ve never felt anything like it before.
So the artist really didn’t hear the lilac lady call after him.
Trust me, I had no idea at that moment that I’d dropped my sketchbook. I only noticed that it was missing much later, when I wanted to draw your face in it from memory, that look of yours when our eyes held the whole world. I was convinced I’d left it back at the cafe, or somewhere else. No, he didn’t hear the lilac lady when she called after him, or else he would have turned around. He would have have stopped time.
Maybe it’s better that he didn’t. Time went on, and neither the lilac lady nor the artist can regret that.
Maybe you’re right. When the artist dropped by the good fairy’s house, his intention was to ask about his sketchbook, and also about a certain someone. She invited him in for tea. Another guest was coming over in a few minutes, she said. Why not stay and meet her? So he stayed, and before she could ask about her, the lilac lady herself walked in.
Love at third sight?
At first and second too. But in fairy tales, things tend to turn out well on the third try, he replies. At the very least, on the third occasion you were very, very interested in learning how to paint the views from the hilltops.
Once upon a time, the lilac lady kissed her lover.
Story © 2015 Clio Em.
Read all the other Airships stories here: clio-em.com/airships