Adelaide stepped off the bus and into the rain. It barely registered to him, the water lashing against his face, the disgusting cloying of the damp collar against his skin. It rained so often where he lived, it was like political corruption or economic recession– it had just become part of the scenery. Bitchface was de rigeur in Adelaide’s world– nature abhorred a smile.
He climbed the fifty seven steps up to his flat– the lift was broken (of course) and would probably never be fixed. Like the rain, it was just a fact. An immutable part of the universe, a law of physics: gravity, entropy and the broken lift.
He opened his fridge: he’d forgotten to go food shopping. Again. Oh well. He couldn’t afford anything nice, anyway: bread and soup and soup and bread, that was all he ate. Not even nice soup. Not even brown bread.
He slammed the door shut to find a woman– elderly, but still rocking it, noted the small part of Adelaide’s brain that paid attention to other people– beaming at him. He gasped and stumbled backwards, banging his funny bone against the tabletop. “Fuck!” He shouted and then felt strangely guilty for swearing in front of the stranger. He rubbed his elbow. ‘Great,’ he thought, ‘Now it’s going to feel weird for hours.’
“Let me help with that,” cooed the old lady sympathetically and then from nowhere she produced a wand and, a little theatrically, waved it over the affected area. Instantly, the ache stopped. “You’re welcome,” she trilled.
“You’re the one who caused me to bang it in the first place!” snapped Adelaide. “Who the fu– hell are you, anyway?”
The woman’s smile didn’t falter, but her brow furrowed just a little. “Oh, Adelaide, don’t you recognise me? I guess it has been a while.”
And then Adelaide realised. “You’re my Fairy Godmother.”
“Yes!” She beamed, twirling around and waving her wand so that little sparks flew about the kitchen; where they landed, tiny blue flowers sprouted. Adelaide couldn’t help but feel that this was both unnecessary and unhygeinic. He did not look forward to pulling forget-me-nots from out of the kettle.
His Fairy Godmother seemed to be expecting something from him so Adelaide responded, “Okay.”
She waited a few seconds for something a bit more substantive but when she realised it wasn’t coming, she launched into her spiel. “I know you’ve been dreadfully unhappy, Adelaide–”
“You can say that again,” he interjected, somewhat smugly.
“–but I’m here now, and I’ll make everything right.”
Adelaide, sensing a chance to act superior, leaned back against his kitchen counter and folded his arms. “So, what are you going to do?” He sneered, “Promotion? I hate my job. Win the lottery? I’d just have to pay it all in taxes. Invite to the ball? I hate everyone and I don’t dance. You’ve met your match, lady.” He was enjoying this.
“I know, I know,” she nodded, somewhat patronisingly, “You’ve presented a very difficult case, Adelaide. It’s my job to make you happy, but you’re only happy when you’re miserable.” This had been said to Adelaide a lot– he even wrote it on some of his dating profiles, before he deleted them because he remembered that he loathed other people. “Obviously, I can’t use my magic to make you miserable– that’s against the rules– but nothing I can do will raise your spirits. It’s just your nature.”
Adelaide smirked broadly and then quickly hid it behind a snarl. “Well, then, I guess I’ve beaten your system, eh, lady?”
“Not at all,” she countered, grinning like the Cheshire Cat on ketamine, “You see, this morning, I finally puzzled it out. I realised what I can do,” and suddenly she was right up in his face, her smile taking up the entire lower half of her face, her eyes wide with manic glee. “I can change your nature.”
The silence that followed was so pregnant, people kept offering it their seat on the bus. “What?” Adelaide asked, suddenly very worried and not afraid to show it.
“I’m going to change your nature,” repeated the Fairy Godmother, barely able to suppress her pride at the thought. “There’s nothing in the rule book that says I can’t! Frankly, I don’t know why we don’t do it more often– it’s a lot less economically disruptive than making everyone rich.”
Adelaide stared at her, not listening. “You’re going to give me brain damage?”
“No, I’m just going to drastically alter your personality.”
“THAT IS THE NUMBER ONE SYMPTOM OF BRAIN DAMAGE!” She flinched at his volume; he used the momentary distraction to push past her and bolt for the door. He’d taken all of two steps when the lighting in the room changed. Everything was suddenly bathed in red. The front door disappeared into the wall, the windows bricked themselves up and the floor turned to liquid, sliding itself up his legs and suddenly snapping into position as two shackles around his ankles. The begonias in the sink all wilted in unison. An unseen force spun him around to face the Fairy Godmother, who hovered near the ceiling, bathed in red light, a strange halo of swirling energy circling her wand, her eyes a deep scarlet with no visible pupils.
“I know you don’t understand, Adelaide,” she said, her voice still sing-song and caring, even as her appearance grew more demonic. “And you probably think you don’t want this. But you’ll see, once I fix you–” Here he tried to interrupt, but a piece of gaffa tape unfurled across his mouth. “–that I’m right. My way is better. You’ll like being optimistic, I promise.”
Adelaide screamed through the tape and struggled against the chains but to no avail; he scratched and clawed at the gag but then suddenly his hands were tied behind his back and the Godmother was raising her wand dramatically.
“Seratonin, dopamine, eye of newt and lizard’s spleen,”
Adelaide began to rise into the air, chest first, as though an invisible harpoon had speared his heart.
“Oxytocin, booze, endorphins, hobo blood and tears of orphans,”
Adelaide climbed higher, closer to his would-be saviour; her aura was blinding.
She yelled and her voice echoed around the room for far too long. Adelaide’s ascent finally halted, a few feet below her.
“Adelaide Brookes, are you ready to be saved?”
Adelaide shouted muffled curse words through the gag, but it was no good– she wasn’t listening. He suddenly went limp with defeat.
“Then welcome to the world of the positive!”
She swished her wand, then the strange, whorling energy on top unfurled itself and shot straight at Adelaide’s head like a laser. It passed through his skull as though it was steam and embedded itself in his brain.
Everything flashed bright yellow and then Adelaide blacked out.
He awoke to find the rain had stopped. Well good, said a voice in his head that he had never heard before. It sounded not unlike the Fairy Godmother. Adelaide shook his head and looked around– he was seated at his table, which had been set, including fresh flowers and what looked like a pot of honey. Honey was neither bread nor soup, so he was pretty sure he hadn’t bought it. He got up, stretched and then glanced out of the window. Blue skies. There’re probably puddles I could jump in! The voice practically sang with glee, Where are my wellies? Adelaide dismissed it but then something quite unexpected happened: the corners of his mouth turned up. He was smiling.
Over the years he’d sneered, smirked and even grinned maliciously. But he’d never smiled. It just wasn’t him. But as much as he told his mouth to resume bitchface, it wouldn’t obey. He was just too damn happy. There was a warmth inside him that bubbled and fizzed like sweet champagne; he wanted to dance though he could hear no music; his body pulsed with a strange giddy energy.
He tried listing all the many reasons to be miserable– ‘Taxes, war, Britain’s Got Talent’– but he could only get to three before the voice yelled Who cares?! and he found himself leaning over to smell the flowers on the table and mentally listing recipes that included honey. Except, he didn’t know any recipes. The voice in his head giggled, and Adelaide found himself chuckling, too. It just seemed so ridiculous– what kind of twenty-six year old didn’t know any recipes? We could obviously try honey toast, we already have the bread. Or, I guess we could make porridge, if we go shopping– and here the voice gasped– SHOPPING! He was positively giddy to go to the shops with his new attitude. It would be so much more fun! And he could find a whole new slew of items to add to his weekly shop. ‘But I can’t afford anything!’ moaned Adelaide’s old pessimism, although its voice was growing weaker by the second.
“Oh, I’ll find something new I’m sure!” beamed Adelaide, though he was bit disturbed to find himself talking to his own brain. He grabbed his keys off the table (taking a moment to appreciate the table cloth that the Godmother had laid out– where had he hidden that away? He’d have to look around and see what else he had stashed about the place) and marched out the door. Then, a few seconds later, he popped back in, grabbed one of the flowers from the vase, and stuck it in his lapel; and with that, Bitchface melted like a snowman in a tanning booth.