On Sunday we had a very sharp morning, 40 F, and for the first time in many months Teddy and I went to the Mall! This was an excuse to wear one of my favorite outfits that must be at least a decade old otherwise called sustainable fashion. The knitted dress is from Max Studio and the jacket is from INC. A couple of years ago, I noticed that the pleather collar was wearing away so I got some fur fabric from Amazon and our local tailor stitched on top. I was so happy at my inventiveness.
As we wandered around the Mall, I noticed that everyone else was wearing high summer clothes but my lizard DNA keeps me cold under 80 F. The very nice lady in the perfume shop thought I looked like a princess – I guess she hadn’t seen many but I will take the compliment. In the next department store I decided to try on a ‘prairie’ dress and I took off my jacket for Teddy to hold. He said, “your jacket is disintegrating all over your chest”. It looked like a Brown Pox!! The ‘prairie’ dress was a bust – I looked like a tired old woman in the Dustbowl Depression which was not the look I was going for… Just needed a goat and a chicken.
Goodbye, Farewell to my favorite jacket. You served me well on cold trips to Scotland/Oklahoma/Colorado.
It was a grand day out, nonetheless, and I felt much less anxiety about being out in public, now that we have both been vaccinated. Almost everyone was wearing a mask and keeping their distance. Teddy bought his summer cologne, Dior’s Fahrenheit, which always smells good. Our lattes from Nordstrom tasted like the best coffee we have ever had. Everything is new and interesting again. Purdah has made the simplest things tremendously exciting.
Now we need to get the whole world inoculated and keep our fingers crossed for herd immunity.
The first prototype vaccinations for smallpox are believed to have occurred in the 16th century but the first vaccine is attributed to Edward Jenner, an English physician in 1796. The 60 years in the title refers to my own history of vaccination. They eradicated smallpox in 1972 but I still have the mark from my inoculation. Can you imagine how brave the first people to accept the smallpox vaccination were or was the sight of death enough for acceptance? I was provoked to write the post on finding out that people have not been showing up to their vaccination appointments in Texas. It’s the only free healthcare I have ever received in the USA! I was so relieved to receive the 2nd vaccination last week – just two weeks until full inoculation.
As a baby boomer, vaccinations have readily accepted by me because most of us saw what happened when you didn’t get inoculated. Childhood deaths from illnesses that most of us have forgotten were common. The ravages of Polio were there for all to see in the survivors – limps and calipers or an iron lung. Teddy had Scarlet Fever twice; his adoptive mum feared for his much longed for life. She and my mum had their own battle with Tuberculosis or consumption. My mum was sent to relatives in the country and my mum in law spent months in hospital. Newly adopted Teddy’s Granny had to look after him while she was in the sanitarium. It was a strange blessing as they bonded in a special way. I think he was always her favorite. My mum and I were unable to return back to the USA in 1967 because my mum was diagnosed with TB for the third time. This time they had an antibiotic treatment – streptomycin – and she fully recovered but mentally collapsed with the end of her American dream.
Vaccination has become a taboo subject in recent times with the much-refuted claim that a particular vaccine can cause autism in children. Perhaps seeing death and illness in your every day life made it easier for our parents to allow vaccination in previous decades. I can’t claim to know much about autism but I am certain that it was underdiagnosed in previous years. Every area in Scotland had a special school where children with mental and physical disabilities were lumped together for what was often a sub-standard education. It was a necessity when I was a child because at our little Catholic Primary School, we had two full classes of Primary 1 and there were 40 kids in each class. No teacher would be able to cope with special needs children in addition. I can still remember a little boy, called Andrew, who undoubtedly had ADD or something similar – that diagnosis was not used then. We could tell that he couldn’t help himself but it was so upsetting when he disturbed our learning cycle. The teacher had the patience of a saint.
WHOO-HOO – SECOND COVID INOCULATION!
Vaccinations were staggered as they are today and the last, I recall at school, was for TB when we were about 13 years old. Both Teddy and I tested positive that indicated that we had TB or the antibodies – both of us had been vaccinated earlier than usual because our mum’s had TB. Years passed, Teddy and Bunny married and had our honeymoon in Peterhead to meet my new relatives… A couple of years later we booked a caravan holiday to south of France. Unbelievably, there was a typhoid outbreak in La Sud and we had to get new vaccinations just before our trip. We were vaccinated on our bums but then had a 24-hour bus trip to our destination – oh how we ached!
As our vacations got more exotic, so did the vaccinations. Teddy had to get the Yellow Fever vaccine for a work trip to Africa. In between all that you kept up with your tetanus vaccinations, especially if you lived in an agricultural area like we did. Then we moved to Egypt in 2002 and I felt like a pin cushion. Most of the childhood vaccines had to be repeated as illness such as polio are still endemic in third world countries. We also had rabies vaccines which I am not sure were entirely necessary but it gave me free rein to work with street animals so another blessing, perhaps. A tiny kitten nearly killed me with septicemia from a bite, so I guess death is always lurking around the corner in one form or another. The only thing we didn’t have to worry about in Egypt was terrorist attacks! You had to be careful on boats in the Nile in case you got Nile water splashed in your mouth. Bilharzia is a very common disease; my Egyptian friend’s Dad was dying of liver failure caused by Bilharzia, a parasite you can ingest when drink untreated Nile water.
I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT SOME OF THESE VACCINES FOR EGYPT WERE???
So, we reach 2021 and by some miracle scientists were able to create a vaccine at Warp Speed. There hasn’t been much time for trial but it is a global pandemic of unimaginable scale. Almost 3 million people worldwide have died of Covid-19 but the true number is probably much higher. Herd immunity is a long way off, so turn up for your vaccine appointment! My eyes have gone square from looking at the TV and Internet too much during this weird time but I loved this funny video that I found some months ago. Yes, cat fur and hot dog water sounds just fine to me…
To my complete astonishment, a long-lost cousin found me through this website. She had Googled one of our ancestors and found ‘Postcards from Kerry’. I am a few years older than her but we share the same great grandparents – the Pinkmans – my maternal grandmother’s family. My cousin was brought up in England, north of Liverpool, as was my Nana. It was such a lovely surprise to be able to reconnect. Over the years my aunt and I had been musing on why we had lost touch with that branch of the family and now we are all in contact again.
One of the first photos that my cousin sent was the sepia print above. I think I had seen this photograph before my Nana died in 1974 but had forgotten what my great grandparents looked like. My Nana, Kathleen, is 4th from the right between her brothers and this is the earliest photo I have of her. Her face reflects her soft and gentle nature, although she had a fun feisty side too (I inherited that…) I was looking in vain for a resemblance between us but then I saw a glimpse of her only great grand-daughter, her namesake. Nana died long before she was born as most of our family married a little later than conventionally acceptable in those days.
Nana was the oldest girl in the Pinkman family and lived a life very different to mine as a child. They lived a comfortable middle-class life in a three-story house steps from a beautiful beach. There was a governess and music lessons. Then both of their parents died within a short time of each other. My working theory is that it could have been the last flu Pandemic in 1918 but who knows? Nana looked after the younger children until she was past marriageable age. She joined a convent as a novice nun but left to marry my grandfather Daniel McHugh, who was also older, then they moved to the farm in Ireland.
My cousin and I emailed about some of the family mysteries. The whole family (in the photograph) were ethnically Irish and their original name was McGuire. We are unsure if they anglicized their name to Pinkman or the authorities. Irish settlers were not warmly welcomed in most countries, including England where there were signs on pubs saying “No dogs or Irish”. Ironically my Celtic accent makes me very popular now…dogs like me too.
For some reason Nana was most unwilling to share details of her parents to me or her children despite my interrogation. “What was your Mummy like, Nana?” “Little girls should be seen and not heard” was the frequent response. There was a family disgrace which I blogged about in this post Our Irish Family Secret. Despite that, I remember my Nana’s fondness for her younger brother. Another family member revealed that the family spoke Irish Gaelic at home, which was a surprise. My DNA and records confirm that we are from the Midland region of Ireland – Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim and Cavan. Our McHugh family farm had land in both Sligo and Leitrim.
Our family has been enhanced by this family reconnection; it brought back lovely memories of meeting all my great aunts and uncles in England when I was younger. Looking at the photograph, I think of the sadness that was to follow. My great grandma was a little stouter than I expected but had a sweet face. Great grandpa looked uncannily like one of my Iberian ancestors on the other side – Dark Irish, perhaps?
After the deep freeze in Texas, many of our tropical plants died. Most of mine survived because I have ruthless green fingers. Almost all of the plants that I have put in are precisely for our climate area, sub tropical forest. Our soil is poor, drought and flood are common and so if a new plant dies, I don’t plant it again. The azaleas are not indigenous but they have more blossoms than they usually do. I guess the freeze provoked some growth.
This fern was just cut down a few weeks ago and yet there is still new growth! I love my lichen covered boulders – it usually indicates that the air quality is good. The trees in our forest act as giant filters against truck happy Texas.
Our mountain laurel has three new growths – if I am very lucky they will turn into purple blossoms with a gorgeous scent. The leaves are covered in yellow pollen but they are quite healthy despite that.
Our crimson dwarf crape has survived! They are trimmed every year but should have glorious deep red blossoms in a couple of months. Thank you Mother Nature for the beautiful mood boosting gift.
On a final humorous note, I had a mad half hour after our gardener trimmed all the dead branches, trees and put down new cypress mulch. He also put down some bull rock, as you can see below, to edge the lawn. The architect of our house wanted a wavy driveway which is difficult to traverse. Teddy often gouged the lawn with the big tires on the Dodge Challenger so we added some bull rock. In this part of the world the pebbles are mostly the same sandy color but these ones were almost white. I panicked as landscaping has to follow a set of rules. Initially I thought of calling the gardener and asking him to replace them at my expense. Then I had a crazy idea to replace them with older bull rock in the backyard. After pacing and panicking, I decided that I would hose down the muddy footprints. As I did that the stones miraculously turned a sandy color… I felt like such a fool because they were just covered in rock dust! Can you imagine if I had called Adelfo? He has called me Karen for 16 years and finally I would have turned into one!
“How are you?” is such an innocuous question that we hear all over the world. Right now, I bet we all tell a white lie. I went to the supermarket today, met the checkout staff who I have known for more than a decade. “How are you?” she asked, smiling behind a mask. “I am good, thank you, how are you?” “Good, good…” she responded. It certainly wasn’t entirely true on my part and knowing how awful her job has been recently, I doubt that my favorite lady at the shop was good either. 2021 hasn’t worked out so great for Texans, or anyone, so far. Our bushes and trees are a visible sign of the death after our big freeze. They droop sadly, just hanging onto life or perhaps not.
Just like everyone else my mental health has taken a beating. There was a little red letter day last week when we were contacted by the Houston Health Department to schedule our appointments for Covid-19 vaccines. The only problem was that it was one of the mega vaccination sites in downtown Houston which is about 40 miles south of us. Teddy and I decided to book a hotel the night before so we wouldn’t panic about getting there. In Houston it is not the time or distance that is a problem but sheer volume of traffic. You can’t tell if a journey is going to take one or two hours, especially with any breakdowns or accidents on a packed interstate.
The furthest I have driven in the past year is to our own town center, about 20 minutes away. I last did that journey about 6 months ago and since then my journeys have been no more than 10 minutes. Driving was a skill that I came to me late in life because of anxiety. Medication finally allowed me to tamp down the fear to pass my test when I was 45, here in Texas. We decided that Teddy would drive my car down to the hotel and I was so afraid that I lay horizontally in the passenger side so I couldn’t see the traffic. Horse blinkers would have been more comfortable.
The hotel was in the most awful location but close to the gigantic stadium used for the mass vaccination. It had seen much better days but it was clean. There was no food or drink available. Was the water even safe after the boil order following the big freeze? The air conditioning sounded like a WWII bomber. I was so cold that I went into bed fully clothed, including my fleece jacket. Things improved slightly when we found a nice Italian restaurant that delivered a gluten free pizza and a bottle of wine. Medication kicked in and I fell into a disturbed sleep. My husband had to conduct a zoom meeting with colleagues in the far east at 8 pm – just one more thing to add to our disquiet.
The next day we set off for our vaccinations. We could see the stadium across the road from our hotel but we had to go in the opposite direction, making a U-turn under the Beltway to approach. We followed the signs for VACCINATIONS and entered an arena that was truly a military operation. There were thousands of National Guard, Houston City workers, Sheriffs and cars full of people getting vaccinated. Health is a great leveler – bashed up little Honda Civics alongside fancy Bentleys and myriad trucks. We had received texts confirming our appointment times – Teddy got a barcode but apparently my phone is too old to get them…
I am full of awe for all the people working at that vaccination site. Somehow, they kept us all moving, made sure we were who we said we were and told us we were getting the Pfizer vaccine today. You could see everyone was a bit shell-shocked at the scale of the operation and we all said, “Yes, sir or ma’am”. I had brought all our medications but no one asked for anything, other than ID. We finally reached the vaccinations area and it was given by a very young medic from the National Guard. As I lifted up my sleeve, I noticed how much muscle mass I have lost in my arms. Ah well, at least I lived long enough to get the vaccine.
The journey home was less frenetic but I still stayed horizontal. When we were about 4 miles from home, I finally sat up with some of the stress of the whole experience abating. I went straight into the shower and all the clothes went in the wash. Then I went to bed and stayed there for a couple of days. Most people don’t feel too bad after the first jab but everything hurt – my eye sockets, every muscle ached and I was cold. They say that a strong reaction is a good thing but mine might have been equally due to anxiety.
I saw a heartwarming piece on CNN about a grandmother who was so frozen with fear, even after being fully inoculated, that her doctor gave her a prescription for a hug from her granddaughter, who was masked. That’s how I feel. A tiny amount of my fear has gone but I feel no desire to leave our hibernation at home. Future vacations fill me with panic. For a moment, I wondered if I should ask for an increase in medication but I think time will be enough. Step by step we will emerge from this year of dread. We won’t feel fabulous as soon as we are inoculated; each time we hear about a variant we may tremble.
On the other hand, I will enjoy my first coffee with a friend, wearing make-up and sitting in a restaurant in time. Now we have to vaccinate the world. I am beyond grateful to have received just one shot. Thank you to all the scientists and other staff who worked on the Vaccine program in a global effort. I think it is okay to say a little white lie and keep smiling. Know many of us feel the same and you can share your feelings with someone you trust. Perhaps me?
My friend Ruth, aka rkontheroad, nominated me for Outstanding Blogger Award. I am always honored to be nominated for an award and this one was new to me. Ruth’s blog Musings from the Mountains is full of the most fantastic photography. She has had an amazing life, living around the globe and now settled in Colorado. Our lives have segued in some ways with our love of travel, writing and volunteering. Thank you for the nomination, Ruth!
Ruth’s questions for the nominees
1 Why do you blog?
At first, I created the blog to provide a conduit to my book, Memoirs from Cairo on Kindle. Once I started to connect with other bloggers, I shared travel posts and eventually very personal posts about my mental illness. One friend advised me not to share so much but I felt it was therapeutic not just to me but to my readers who felt less alone with a stigmatized illness.
2. What themes do you blog about?
Generally I blog about travel (fond memories), mental illness, fairy stories, fashion and my ancestry. There is no real rhyme or reason, just following the strange patterns in my head. I enjoy vlogging too, especially during this Pandemic. After a while it feels like other bloggers you connect with are real friends – and they are. We find each other through shared interests, passions or beliefs.
3. What do you like to read?
My favorite genre is fantasy/science fiction. When I was younger, I read most of the books in our local library, even other genres. I have belonged to book clubs over the years and I like that it introduces you to books you would never have chosen. I feel it is my personal mission to introduce people to really good science fiction and fantasy. My choice one year was The Martian and everybody loved it! My illness or perhaps my medication for (OCD, depression and anxiety) sometimes affects my ability to concentrate and read a whole book. It is a real loss in my life but I read other blog posts or article of interest on my laptop make up for that. That’s why I am on/off with blogging – I have to have the muse.
4. Who or what is a person or event that has influenced your life?
I had to think long and hard about that question. In truth, it was my mum. My mum also had a mental illness and a bad relationship with alcohol. Although she has been dead for 18 years, she still affects my every step. I loved her and she loved me but we both resented each other at times. I admired that she had immigrated alone to the States in her early 20s, traveled from east to west. When she returned to Scotland, alone with me, she worked as a private detective for an agency that got taken over by the famous Pinkerton agency. Life was much harder after her major breakdown and it has probably molded me into a caretaking person. She was a beautiful, smart and kind woman whose illness/alcohol use made her narcissistic and critical at times. That contrasted hugely with the funny loving mummy that I lost.
5. What’s one thing that’s important to you in your non-blogging life?
This was easier – my husband. We have been married for over 38 years and had our ups and downs. For the most part we are a very good match and really make each other laugh. He is incredibly supportive of me and I know he always has my back. I always wanted to marry someone who was genius smart, good looking and incredibly funny. He still makes me laugh so much that my body farts without control which makes me laugh louder. Despite that he still thinks I am his baby bunny…albeit with digestive problems.
6. If you could go back and choose a different career, what would you do?
Speech Therapy. I longed to do something in the para-medical field. My family were very insistent that I spoke clearly with a neutral accent. No slang dialect was allowed in our house. At high school I joined drama and debating clubs and realized the pleasure in making your voice heard. I was rather shy as a young teenager and the whole school was asked to write an essay for a Glasgow wide competition. I chose to write about social equity, corruption in the Catholic church and other ambitious topics. My teacher asked me to read it aloud in class and I blushed red. At the end the whole class applauded – it was overwhelming and eye opening. I came second in the school competition to someone who wrote about Scottish Nationalism, a very popular subject at the time. The English principal whispered to me that I should have won. The topic cost me dearly as one of the rigidly Catholic assistant Headteachers refused to give me a referral to college. Our bank manager gave me one. This is why it would have been a joy to help people use their voices to the best of their ability.
7. What would you rather be doing right now, instead of writing your answers to these questions?
Despite the pandemic, there is nothing I would like to do other than answer the questions. Scots are like the Dutch – they don’t do anything they don’t want to do! I have kindly demurred many awards, mostly because I have already been nominated for them. This was a new category and I was delighted that Ruth asked me. To be honest, the pandemic has stopped me talking to so many people. I chat briefly at the grocery store but my Scottish accent sounds like Klingon behind a mask. This post has given me the opportunity for a wee gabfest, as they say in the old country. On a final funny note, I phoned one of my neighbors, during our deep freeze in Texas, to ask if I could take out her wheelie bin. In her New York accent, she queried, “What now?” and I had to go through all the alternatives – big green thing for the rubbish, yellow recycling, trash can, garbage. It was hilarious – and that was without a mask…
America is in the news again, and not for a good reason. Even in subtropical south east Texas, we do get snow every few years. Millions of Texans were without power or water in sub-zero temperatures with two freezing events over a period of 4 days – the snow was the least of it. Our houses are not built for the cold, nor are our bodies which acclimated to the intense heat of summer. Our power went out for 18 hours, we had a gas fire and we were so cold. Usually when we get snow, it is fleeting and we have fun but this year our state was unprepared. There is no excuse – our power grid equipment should be insulated for our extreme heat and occasional extreme cold.
My husband and I both contemplated how we felt; discouraged by our country, our state and getting older. I checked on neighbors, some of whom are elderly or ill. In retrospect, I realize how lucky we were to have a different energy company than the Houston metropolis (and water system). All our freezer food is in the trash but we can afford to buy more. On Tuesday, I went to the store but it was back to quarantine days – empty shelves and too many people in a pandemic. All were wearing masks and considerate of distance. We all looked as though we were in shock. What next – locusts??
Don’t you love my coordination? Ancient pajamas that are too big, industrial rubber boots and my New Mexico jacket. I am leaving black sunflower seeds out for the birdies and squirrels. This is yet another reason why I shouldn’t have cut my hair so short…
Kiera opened her eyes and couldn’t believe the vista in front of her. She was lying on a sumptuous canopied bed covered in golden silks looking at an oasis. She sat up and saw some wild camels drinking at the pool. Suddenly there was a shimmer and Shula El Masri appeared. He smiled broadly at her and Kiera realized that she was unclothed. With a blush and laugh, Kiera pulled the golden silk up to hide her modesty. “It is a bit late for that, isn’t it”, chuckled Shula. She met his twinkling green eyes and smiled as broadly as he had. “Is this a mirage, Shula?” asked Kiera. “No, this is my home in the Sahara. I whisked you here before you woke up.”
Kiera clapped her little hands with joy – the wonders of a Djinn suitor! Lovemaking with a Djinn was a sublime experience. She felt that they were both transformed into the four elements – fire, water, air and earth. “What do you see in me, Shula?” asked Kiera very aware that she was an older fairy. “I love your essence, Habibti (darling). Your kindness, your laugh, your warmth and those blue eyes”. Shula explained to Kiera, that as a Djinn who was able to shapeshift into any creature, his perception or vision was different from hers. It was though he could see her every molecule and loved her entirety. “Ana uHibbuka (I love you) Shula” responded Kiera with happy tears in her eyes.
Shula had prepared a light breakfast of dates, hummus and bread. Kiera ate with relish; her evening had been more energetic than it had been for years. She was content and warm but aware that they had to get back to the Texas School of Fairies. It was time to get back to work. No one seemed to have noticed their disappearance but they both emanated a subtle golden glow. Shula’s copper treatment for the blight combined with some old potions was working for most patients so there was some reason to celebrate. The survivors of the Fairy Blight, however, were faced with long term problems. The worst was wing drop – their wings desiccated and fell off. This left the fairies unable to live a normal life and they had to rely on others for their care. The Fairy Crafters had been working on prosthetic wings. They had used plant fibers, spider silk and balsa wood but it was as impossible as recreating a dragonfly’s wing.
As soothsayer, Kiera was again struggling with the feeling of despair in the school and the entire fairy world – the contentment in her personal life contrasted starkly. Shula noticed how bad she was feeling and asked her to join him in his suite again that evening. “I might have some good news…” Kiera shook herself out of her gloom and later knocked gently at his door. The suite was still transformed into an Egyptian scene but this time it resembled a blacksmith’s forge. Shula’s greatest skill was with metal so she was curious about what he had been working on. She gasped when she saw that he had constructed a fairy wing out of titanium, the lightest of metals. Titanium turns into a rainbow of different colors depending on what level of heat is applied to it. Shula held out prosthetic wing that was colored deep blue. “Stand back, Kiera dearest”. He blew a fiery breath on the wing and it changed color to fuchsia pink.
Kiera looked at Shula with astonishment – what skills this alchemist had. “I think this might work because it is light and flexible yet indestructible”, said Shula. They spent the rest of the night working on ways to attach the prosthetic wings. By morning they were bleary eyed but excited. They flew down to the infirmary to try the titanium wings one of the invalided children. It was attached by a brace around the chest area made of beetle silk, strong but soft. The first little fairy to try it was a Tumbleweed fairy with a mop of white fluffy hair. Her name was Teasle and like all Tumbleweed fairies was pragmatic and straightforward. Her first attempt was a little clumsy but after a few times she was flying around the patio outside the infirmary. “Don’t go too far,” pleaded Kiera. Teasle gently dropped to the ground her face gleaming with joy, then she ran to Shula and hugged him. “Do you like them?” asked the caring Djinn, while gently caressing her fluffy hair. “I love them but could they be a different color, please?” – everyone started laughing and crying. These prototype wings were a deep pink color but Tumbleweed fairies are unusually neutral in color. “How about a nice copper or golden color to match your outfit?” said Shula with a chuckle. Teasle grinned, her amber eyes sparkling; she was wearing mule hide suede pants with a matching fawn cotton sweater.
As the weeks flew past, lucky little fairies were attached with prosthetic wings of their color choice. Kiera’s old friend, Niloufar, a Persian Peri fairy, had brought her granddaughter to the Texas School of Fairies. Little Fariba had lost both her wings to the Fairy Blight. It was with the greatest of pleasure that Kiera fitted her with delicate bright green titanium wings; perfect for a Waterlily Fairy. As Fariba took her first faltering flight, Niloufar burst into delighted tears hugging Kiera and then Shula. Once the excitement was over, Niloufar and Kiera, spent the evening together. It had been years since they had met but chattered happily as though it was yesterday. “So, tell me all about this handsome Djinn, Kiera”, asked Niloufar. Kiera laughingly said, “I wondered when you would ask about Shula El Masri!” Neither of them knew any other Djinn and Fairy unions so Niloufar was fascinated by the details of the courtship. “I think Shula is my soulmate”, sighed Kiera knowing that this might be a fleeting affair. Niloufar’s beautiful emerald eyes looked sadly at Kiera and she reached across to hug her.
Fariba, the little Peri fairy, and all the others with new wings stayed at the infirmary for a few weeks to make sure that they had truly convalesced. The day came when Niloufar and Fariba had to leave for their home in Persia; Kiera tearfully waved them off. Shula spotted Kiera sitting thoughtfully by the fountain. “Would you like to go to the Oasis, tonight, dearest Kiera?” “Yes, please Habibi.” Shula fashioned a golden shimmer around them and in an instant they were at Oasis dipping their toes into the cool water. “Kiera, said Shula, “I need to talk to you about the future.” Kiera’s big blue eyes looked at him with dismay but she understood without words that his time at the Texas School of Fairies was coming to an end. The Fairy Blight was a worldwide pandemic and his skills were needed elsewhere. Tears dripped down her cheeks and he kissed her on the forehead. “Would you come with me?” he asked. She looked at Shula with a tremulous joy. “We could spend years traveling the globe helping our species” said Shula. Kiera whispered “Yes, Yes…”
It had been weeks since Shula el Masri (Fire of Egypt), the visiting Djinn, had arrived at the Texas School of Fairies. He, the healers and Kiera, the Soothsayer, had tried a variety of copper treatments, recommended by Shula, for the Fairy Blight. It seemed to work best in conjunction with the older potions. Slowly but surely the little fairies were beginning to recover from the Blight. They were all still in the middle of a long battle against the disease but this is the story for every species on earth. We fear fungal, virus and bacterial illnesses and are incredulous of their power over us. There is no malice in a Blight’s intent, just a thirst to survive. Fairies understood the interconnections better than humans but they still grieved for those they had lost.
Shula and Kiera were exhausted – Shula with all the alchemical formulations and trials on patient fairies. Kiera was emotionally fraught, her shoulders dropped with absorbing the fear and pain of her students and their families. Shula always looked impeccable with a delightful bow tie but this was not his true appearance because he was a creature of fire and air. Every so often Kiera caught sight of a faint shimmering around Shula and wondered if this was fatigue. Kiera had slipped back into the easiest of outfits with little regard to her appearance. They were all getting closer to a realistic cure for this mutation so Shula suggested that Kiera join him in his suite, provided for dignitaries at the school, for a light meal and some rosehip wine. Keira was a little flustered by the invitation as she knew Shula did not need regular sustenance. Blushing, she said, ‘I would love that’ – Shula’ s green eyes flashed with pleasure.
She ran back to her suite and jumped into a bath scented with night blooming Jasmine oil. Then she chose an indigo blue silk robe embroidered with deep pink hibiscus. Her pink silk slippers matched. She walked past the Hall of Fairies, still resplendent with crimson and gold fabrics but empty… Kiera sighed with sadness but put a genuine smile on her face when she knocked on Shula’s door. He opened the door still resembling a Persian Peri fairy but had chosen to wear an emerald green velvet smoking jacket, subtly embossed with Arabic geometric patterns. ” Please come in my dearest Kiera”, said Shula which made her heart skip a beat. Then she gasped when she saw that Shula had transformed the frankly stuffy suite into a Bedouin tent, resplendent with Arabic rugs, silks for awnings and copper furniture. There were lounging cushions in red and blue velvet.
“It is so beautiful” whispered Kiera. “I feel like I have returned to Arabia, Shula!” “This makes me feel more comfortable in a foreign environment,” replied Shula with a smile. Over the weeks since the Djinn had arrived, he and Kiera had been chattering in both Arabic and English. They both spoke many languages but it helped them bond a little better. Kiera also enjoyed talking in a tongue that was once very familiar. It was obvious to anyone who watched them work together that they also had an unspoken language and were very intuitive. Shula had laid out some plates with pomegranate and walnut pilaf, herb tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, and Kiera’s favorite Baladi* bread. Shula poured two glasses of rosehip wine in delicate blue glasses, handed one to Kiera and said, “Mabrouk!” “Cheers!” returned Kiera with a laugh.
Shula was kind enough to join her in eating the delicious dishes. Kiera felt better than she had for many months, if not years. She had never married but enjoyed the company of male suitors from time to time. Now that she was older, it was a special pleasure to be courted by this handsome Djinn. It is uncommon for different species of magical creatures to have a romantic relationship but Kiera and Shula had a natural attraction to each other bound by the Blight. For months their conversations concentrated on the copper treatment and fairy medicine. This evening they started to reveal a little of their souls. Kiera told him about her Baja and Irish fairy forebears. “So, that’s where those beautiful dark blue eyes come from.” Kiera looked at Shula, the green-eyed Djinn, leaned toward him and kissed him on the lips. They were warm and welcoming with that now familiar shimmering. Shula pulled Kiera to him and they fell back onto the velvet cushions. It was a night to remember…
*Baladi is an Egyptian word meaning local. We had ‘baladi bread’ (a fresh delicious flat bread) and ‘baladi dogs’ (street dogs)