He got ready for work. He favored the night shifts, the time that was given to magic, to hope, and to dreams. The time, when even the impossible felt possible. And the cherry on the cake was that he loved his job. What was there not to love in being a professional storyteller?
It was a love that had been passed down through the generations. But for him, love for stories symbolized his mother. Even so many years after her death, he vividly remembered the way her face lit up when she was telling stories, with her gossamer pink-purple scarf wrapped artfully around her neck – her trademark look – and the storybook lying closed in her lap. Yes, always closed. Whether it was a story, old or new, she never had to look or read from the book. It was simply magical. It was inevitable that he follow in her footsteps.
Oh, there had been plenty of resistance from the men in the family; story-telling was the women’s forte, he was a Prince and not a commoner, he had a kingdom to run…They told him to focus on facts and not faces. They told him to pay attention to figures and not fables. He did what he must, but his heart would beat, for the expressions of joy, of love, of fear and tears and awe on the faces of his listeners. He lived for the moments when as he narrated the stories, they followed the ebb and flow of his voice and told him, more than their words ever could, by their expressions, how much they loved his whispered words. And, inevitably they would beg him for one more. Always, one more.
He wrapped the scarf his mother had knitted for him and picked up the book. It was not just a scarf; it was his mother’s love wrapped around him. Every time he put it on, he could feel her fingers brushing the sides of his neck as she adjusted the scarf. It had all his favorite colors. The long stripes of red and blue alternated between white and green. And in between each color strip was an invisible thread of pure love. He was sure the warmth came not from the wool but from the invisible threads.
The book had been hers and had all her stories. It was well-thumbed. The brown leather, worn soft from being held and touched and turned, a thousand times. He smiled as he remembered, not just being lovingly touched and thumbed by his mother but also at times by curious little hands as she waved the book in front of them. How could the book, then possibly hold on to its coarseness in face of such tender handling? The edges were worn. The gold calligraphic lettering on the cover was fading. He knew each crease and smudge on that book. They were his friends and he lovingly visited them often.
These days he was partial to a particular hospital. Oh! He could have chosen any town and any hospital he wanted and he often did, but this one had captivated him for the past few months. Not because it was the newest one in town, but because it had newborn babies. Children who had been abandoned.
‘How can they not accept with utter reverence the most beautiful and precious gift from the might Gods?’ he always wondered.
Every time he thought of the abandonment it made him so angry. He could never comprehend the compulsions behind such a sacrilegious act. It was during one such moment when he had been ranting, his mother had said, “Don’t try to understand their compulsions, my son. When their time comes, they will have to answer for their actions.” She caught his face between her cool and gentle hands, leeching away the heat from his cheeks and calming his ragged breath that he hadn’t even been aware of. She continued as she looked deep into his eyes, stormy grey now, that would settle to a deep blue as he relaxed, “You are a Prince. God has chosen you for a specific reason. It is your duty and,” she laughed as she said, “I know your pleasure to take care of these babies. To be there for them when their own have forsaken them.”
The newbies needed him and Lord knew, as much as he needed them, to whisper to them great stories of love, sacrifice, bravery, and loyalty. The sheer magic of the stories and the animated manner in which he narrated them, made them laugh or cry. It filled their tiny hearts with great ambitions, not of success but of being the best friend, the bravest heart, the team player. Even when they understood nothing, they slept peacefully, knowing that he was there.
Lately, however, there was another reason he favored this hospital. It was because she worked here. From the moment he had seen her, he had fallen in love. Oh! Not for something as mundane as her looks; to a regular man her looks were average. But he was neither a regular man nor did he think she was average. For him, she was scintillating.
What he loved, was the sparkle in her eyes when she looked at the kids. The way she would caress a cheek and coax a smile or a gurgle. The way she smiled down at them as they lay, in their bassinets, pumping their legs and waving their hands. The way she would laugh, like a bumbling brook, when one of them caught her golden strand in a tiny fist closed with all their might, refusing to let her go. The way she nestled a restless bod against her bosom and crooned. The way she fussed when one of them was ill.
She loved them, so he loved her. It was as simple as that. Or was it?
Oh! I am sure you have seen him weave his magic. Have you ever seen a child sleeping and wondered why the child laughs, cries, or makes faces while sleeping? What do you think is happening? It is him, whispering his mother’s stories into their ears.
But alas! He who weaves such magic can’t have this miracle in his own life. For you see, he is on the other side of the realm. He can see her but never have her. She is a mortal nurse and he is the Prince of the largest magical kingdom of all, The Kingdom of Dreams.
Lead Image COurtesy – Pixabay