After our wonderful day at the beach, Dare and I spent the night making love. When we finally fell asleep, we cuddled close to each other. I had never snuggled with another person in bed before. I would have told you I was not a snuggler, but apparently I was because I slept better than I had ever done before.
Dare and I were still tangled up as morning came. Half asleep, I cuddled closer to him and ran my hand over his soft skin. Except that what I encountered wasn’t skin. My eyes popped open and I screamed.
“What the hell!? Who are you? Where’s Dare!?” I lept out of bed and backed up against the wall. The being in my bed got up more slowly.
“Wait Natasha,” he said. “It’s me. Dare. Let me explain.”
I recognized his voice, mellow and sweet like Dare’s, but something else triggered in my mind. I felt my knees going weak.
I slid down the wall and started rocking like a scared kid. He didn’t have to tell me who he was. I knew. It was D’Arcy. It had to be.
I was rocking and sobbing, “this isn’t real” over and over when D’Arcy picked me up. He was still in his toy form and I shied away from him.
“Sh, Nat, shhh. It’s ok. I’m here.”
“How can that be?” I finally managed to get out.
“Magic,” he said. This caused me to pull away from him. I stood up against the wall again, still needing its support.
“There is no such thing as magic,” I said. My hands were trembling, so I clenched them into fists.
“Natasha. How can you look at me and not believe in magic?”
I looked at him. His little orb was glowing a soft blue color. His toy clothing had changed a bit, but then it had never really been the same throughout the time we’d known each other. Maybe it changed as he did.
“So your experiments finally worked?” I managed to say, refusing still to acknowledge that it may have been magic.
D’Arcy grabbed my shoulders. “Look at me,” he insisted. “I’m real. I’m standing here right in front of you. That’s not science.”
“Ok. Then explain this magic to me. You said that magic is just science that hasn’t been explained yet. Explain this. And while you’re at it, tell me where you’ve been!” I thought of all of the time I’d spent without him, and I started to get angry.
“It started in the lab at the university,” he began. I nodded. I remembered that he had said he’d discovered something. “I was testing Fairy dust. Ruby and her friends donated it. She thought I was disgusting asking for it. Apparently fairies consider the dust like fingernail clippings.” I didn’t smile at this, so he continued.
“My experiments weren’t really getting anywhere. I was becoming discouraged. You weren’t being very helpful either,” he admonished me.
“Nothing was working,” I said softly. “I didn’t believe we’d ever find out how to bring you to life.”
“I know. But I had enough belief for both of us. I kept going. And then I stumbled on something. I really wanted you to see it. I hoped that you could help me further my discovery.”
“What was it?” I asked, intrigued despite myself.
“Nothing. I came to find you at the coffee shop and that’s when I saw you with Alesondro. I was on the verge of discovery, and you were kissing our roommate! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. If I wasn’t a Fae Toy, I would have lost the ability to breathe at that moment. It felt like someone had stabbed me.”
I felt terrible anew in the face of his anger. It leached a little of my own away. He had gone away because I hurt him. I was partially to blame for his disappearance and I had always known it. “I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I shouldn’t have kept our relationship from you.”
“No. But it would have felt like that anyway. I hated seeing you in love with Alesondro. I listened to you tell me how he made you feel and I knew…I knew right then…that I loved you. I loved you not like a friend. If I had been a man, I would have punched him. I would have challenged him to a duel with you as the prize.
“I loved you! And you were in love with someone else. I had to get out of that shop. I couldn’t leave fast enough. I sort of lost myself as I left. I don’t remember a lot of what happened. All I know was that I began to run down the street and when I ran out of breath, I stopped.”
“Toys don’t breath,” I whispered.
“I know. But men do.”
I didn’t understand. How had he changed? He said he was on the verge of discovery, not that he had found a way to change himself. “How did it happen?” I asked.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” he said. “It was magic.”
“There’s no such thing,” I said automatically.
“Natasha! There is. I’m standing here as proof. It wasn’t a potion or elixir or scientific medical cure. It was pure magic!”
We were both silent as I let that sink in. He hadn’t discovered anything. It had just happened. Ok. But there had to be an explanation.
“Why are you not a man now?” I asked.
“It doesn’t last forever,” D’Arcy said. He sighed. “When I get stressed or tired or even angry sometimes, it goes away. Pop, and I’m suddenly a toy again. You don’t know how hard I have to concentrate to stay a man! I’ve been so scared while we’ve been dating. I knew you might not be able to handle this.”
That made me pause. “You would have kept this from me?”
“I don’t know. I thought about it.”
“Look, Natasha. I loved you. I loved you so much I was willing to let you be with Alesondro just because you were so happy with him. But even then I couldn’t stay away from you. I figured if you were married to him, you’d move here. So I took a job here. I hoped that I’d see you. Just a little. It would have made me happy just knowing you were happy.
“But when I did see you, you weren’t happy. You were mixing elixirs at the potion shop and you looked so fragile. Titania is a friend of mine. She told me you were new in town and were trying to raise money for your own alchemy work station. She said you were a tolerable brewer.”
I laughed. Titania hadn’t believed that a human could brew as well as a Fairy or witch. It took months to prove to her that my elixirs were good enough to sell in her shop.
“I started going to Titania’s shop just to see you,” D’Arcy continued. “You never noticed me. Then Titania told me that you were a magician. She thought this was funny since you didn’t have any real magic. She said you did petty illusions, but that you were entertaining to watch. I started going to your shows or watching you do illusions for tips in the park.”
I thought of all of the timed I’d done street performances for pennies in the parks around town as I was starting out. I had never once seen Dare. “Never saw you until I was doing gigs at Performance Park,” I said.
“I know, but I saw you long before then. I’d go to the Festival park and you’d be there doing tricks for small crowds. I’d play chess or games or roller skate, but I’d be watching you.”
“So you stalked me.”
D’Arcy smiled and nodded. “I’m not ashamed of it. I was hurt that you picked Alesondro over me, but I wanted the best for you. I was making sure that you had it. After a time, you were happier. You seemed to like what you were doing.”
“I do like what I do,” I agreed.
“But I just couldn’t leave you alone to live your life. I wanted…no I needed…to be a part of it.”
“So you arranged for me to get the gig at the hospital.”
He nodded. “I gave your name to the Director. She’s the one who booked you. I just hoped that you would take the job.”
“I see,” I said.
“Do you?” he asked.
“No. I don’t.” I had spent all that time on my own without any support and he’d been there all the time. I thought of my lonely nights at the university. I thought of the times I was trying to pay bills and doing anything to scrape change together for ingredients for elixirs so that I could buy what I needed to do my magic act. It was hard for me to believe he’d been alive all that time and I hadn’t known.
I had wished for him so often, but he hadn’t appeared. He was the reason I stopped believing in magic…real magic. He had just disappeared and I couldn’t make him reappear. “Why didn’t you come back to me when I needed you?” I asked.
“Nat, I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought you were happy with Alesondro!”
I started to cry. “I wished for you. So much!”
He gathered me into his arms and I cried on his shoulder. The way his shoulders were shaking, I think if he’d been human at that moment, he’d have been crying, too.
Later, when we were both more composed, we sat down on my lumpy couch. He had managed to switch back to a man. I kept looking at him and wondering if it was him as Dare I loved, or him as my best friend D’Arcy.
“You keep staring at me,” Dare said, breaking our uncomfortable silence.
“I guess I’m still having trouble reconciling who you are.”
“I’m D’Arcy. I’m also Dr. Fitzwilliam, called Dare by his friends.”
“Why not go by D’Arcy?”
“Well, I figured out that it was a girl’s name,” he smiled at me. “No one recognized that it came from that book your sister read to us.”
“Ah. So why not use that as your last name?”
“I’m not sure. I guess I just liked the name Dare. It fit the situation I was in. I had to be daring to figure out how to live as a man. Having people see me was disconcerting at first. It took awhile to get used to. And then I had to get my degree. Like you, I went back to the university. The Fae helped me get in and finish what I had started. And finally, I wanted to be daring enough to approach you. So, Dare became my name.”
I wasn’t sure if things would ever be the same between me and D’Arcy again. When he left my house that afternoon, he kissed me on the cheek. He promised he would see me later, too.
“We’ll figure this out,” he told me. “I believe everything will be fine.”
“I hope you have enough belief for both of us.”
He smiled. “I do.”
The next day I went about my normal routine. I tended my garden. I mixed up a few elixirs to replace those that had sold out in the shop. Then I headed out. I was doing my act in Titania’s lobby when Dare slipped into the shop. He smiled at me and nodded his head, but then he went over to the rocking chair in front of the fire and took out a book.
I kept doing my routine, but part of my awareness was centered on the gentle rocking of the chair. I could feel his presence even though he wasn’t watching me. And I recognized that the feeling was familiar. I think I had always felt it, even when I hadn’t known he was watching me way back in the days before I had made a name for myself.
He left before I was finished. He didn’t say goodbye to me, but his eyes caught mine and he smiled. I smiled back and flourished a bouquet of flowers. He winked.
After I was finished and had changed, I went over to talk to Titania. “You knew all along,” I said.
“Of course, dear. You have that look about you. You had known magic even though you were not able to practice it.”
“I don’t believe in magic.”
“Nonsense. If you didn’t believe, he wouldn’t exist.”
“But that’s ridiculous. He appeared when I was a teen. The witch in Twinbrook said that Fae Toys appear when children bond to them enough or have need of them.”
“This is true, but the children have to will it to happen. They have to have belief.”
“Ok. So when I stopped believing, why didn’t he just disappear? That’s what I thought had happened.”
“I think you never stopped believing. And he certainly didn’t. He told me once that you had a fortune told…”
I thought about it. And then I remembered. We had had a fortune given to us.
The crystal ball that we had both believed was a fake had said something to the effect of “You will remember when you forget” to me and “You will gain when you lose” to D’Arcy.
“Ah,” said Titania when I told her about it. “That is potent magic. Your D’Arcy lost your love and gained his human form. His love for you was strong enough to affect the change in him. And you…well…what have you forgotten and what do you remember?”
What had I forgotten and what did I remember? I wasn’t sure. I left Titiania’s shop with a lot on my mind.
I still hadn’t worked it out by the next day. I hadn’t forgotten D’Arcy in all of the time that I had thought he had disappeared. I wished and wished that he would come back to me, but he never did. I hadn’t even forgotten my earlier beliefs in magic and the unexplained. Just because I no longer held the same faith as I once did, didn’t mean that I had forgotten those times. I remembered what it felt like to believe in magic. I had just lost that blind faith from my childhood.
I went about my normal routine while I pondered all of this. The thoughts looped over and over in my head as I gardened. Then I cleaned out my beehive and collected their honey. I was so distracted that I forgot to add enough smoke and one of the little suckers stung me.
You’d think that my inattention with the bees would have sharpened my mind as I was working at my alchemy station, brewing up a few new elixirs for Titania. Unfortunately, I was still distracted. I started mixing recipes that I knew by heart and my mind continued to spin. At that moment, I lost track of what I was doing and something went horribly wrong.
It had never happened to me before, but there was a sudden burst from my mixing pot and a flash of light. A puff of smoke wafted up, and I didn’t quite manage to hold my breath: I inhaled some of the foul brew.
I got woozy, and then I sort of blacked out. When I came to, my head felt funny. I was having trouble seeing. Something was definitely wrong with me. I reached up to try and steady my head. That’s when I felt something horrible! I had turned myself into a frog!
Ok, I hadn’t completely turned into a frog. I was still human shaped everywhere except my head. I couldn’t see, but I managed to grab my cell phone and hit the button to activate the voice caller. “Call Dare,” I said. My words came out a little funny, but the phone recognized them and Dare picked up.
“Natasha? What’s up?”
“Dare, I need you to come over. Something awful has happened!”
“What? What is it? Is it an emergency? Should I call for an ambulance?”
“No. Just come over,” I practically sobbed. “I’m in the garden.”
I wasn’t sure how I looked, and I really didn’t want Dare to see me with the head of a frog, but I didn’t know who else to call. I didn’t know any of the local witches. I was only sort of friends with Titania. If Dare couldn’t help me, I’d call Delia at my sister’s or Titania as a last resort.
Finally he showed up. He found me staring at one of the fireflies that hovered over my plants. It looked appetizing.
“Natasha! What happened to you?”
“I turned myself into a frog,” I wailed. “I don’t know how it happened. I know I said that brewing my elixirs isn’t magic, but I think this might just be more than a scientific side-effect!”
“Oh Natasha!” Dare started laughing. I glared at him, or at least tried to with my froggy eyes. “Oh Nat! I can’t believe this is what it takes for you to start believing in magic!” He chuckled some more.
“I don’t care what you call it. Fix it! I can’t stay like this!”
“How shall I fix it?” he asked, still chuckling. “If it is a side-effect, I will need some sort of potion to counter it…or it might just wear off. But if it’s magic….well, that’s different.”
“Stop laughing at me, and help me figure this out. I don’t want to wait until it wears off! What if it really is magic?”
“Well, in all of the stories, when someone is turned into a frog, they need someone to kiss them. Someone who is their true love.”
And that’s when I remembered. I remembered that I loved D’Arcy. I loved him first as a toy, then as a best friend. When I hadn’t known he was D’Arcy, I loved Dare. He hadn’t changed. I’d just forgotten what it felt like to be around him. He was still my friend. He was also my lover. And it didn’t matter that he had once been a Fae Toy. I loved him more than anything in the world.
“Kiss me,” I managed to croak out. It wasn’t the most romantic noise I had ever made, but I meant it more than anything else I had ever said, ever in my whole life.
And do he did. And I felt magic in the touch of his lips to mine.
“Oh, D’Arcy, I love you so much!”