The Apprentice Fairy Godmother

Apprentice

The Apprentice Fairy Godmother

by
Cheryl Sterling

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Chapter One

 

“Hey!  This isn’t what I had in mind when you said you were sending me to Earth.”

Georgia Rhodes directed her comment upward, as if to close the distance between herself and her instructors at Fairy Godmother University.  When she didn’t receive an immediate response, she looked down in disgust at the bright yellow bucket and the stringy, dirty mop she clutched.  A bright blue glove encased her hand and burned her skin as if it had been plunged into boiling oil.

“Aaaargh!”  She whipped off the glove and threw it on the floor.  Resisting the urge to claw at her skin, she swore, took a deep breath and plunged her arm into the scummy, gray water.  If it would wash away some of the residue—

On second thought, the water looked more dangerous than an imminent rash.  She pulled free and wiped her palm on her smock, noting its repulsive mustard yellow and puce green print.  Not flattering colors for any complexion, but a disaster against her olive skin – not that she cared what she looked like most of the time.  But, why was she wearing too tight black pants and cheap sandals as well?

“Where are my clothes?” she barked.  “This is not funny.  I own an appropriate flowing gown.  How am I going to bond with a baby when I look like a nightmare?”

Stupid Fairy Godmother University. Okay, she’d admit she hadn’t been the most exemplary student, and she’d made her own rules when she didn’t agree with the school’s, but was this any way to treat a soon-to-be graduate?  After all, for her final assignment, she’d chosen the ugliest of the three babies she’d been shown, hadn’t she?  Her unique talents would be of more use to him than those of her boring classmates.  What was his name?  Jason?  Michael?  Damien?

It didn’t matter.  How could she guide him through his predestined short, little life while she wore clothes that looked like a dog had thrown up on them?

Why be a Fairy Godmother in the first place if this is the way I’m treated? So what if I break family tradition?  Mom will understand.

She absently scratched the back of her hand and gave herself a mental shake.  Fairy Godmothering blood ran deep in her veins, and she’d be damned if she’d let a little setback throw her plans awry.  All she had to do was find little Jason-Michael-Damien –

Where was he?  Had he been born yet?  This certainly didn’t look like the pictures of hospitals she’d been shown.

Georgia looked closer at her surroundings.  Stone tiles gave way to carpet while rows of desks disappeared into darkness.  The only light came from a few windows and the front door.  The place seemed deserted.

Had her instructor, Professor Cindi Ehlers, made a mistake?  Granted, she was a featherhead, but she should know a hospital from an office building.  Wasn’t she on the Fairy Godmother Draft Board, matching available Godmothers to new souls?

“Where am I?” Georgia asked the emptiness.

“Where do you want to be?” replied a voice from behind her.  A deep, decidedly masculine voice.

Georgia whirled.

A man faced her, one eyebrow raised in amusement.  He’d just entered through the door.

Not a man.  A mortal. The breath washed out of her.  A true mortal.  She’d only seen them in textbooks.  She’d studied their various forms, but she almost always thought of them as infants – fresh souls in need of lifetime protection.  Not at all like the man before her –  tall and strong, with dark hair and tanned skin.

His eyes were tawny.  A light golden, honey color.  She’d expected brown.  They tugged at her, hypnotic, a warm beacon at the end of a long, turbulent storm.

Shock rumbled through her.  Is this what mortals were like?  This compelling?  Creating an overwhelming need to be nearer, to touch them, to make them happy?

No wonder the art of godmothering had never died.  When would she have learned this?  Did they hand out the secret with each diploma?

Stunned by the enormity of the unknown connection between her species and mortals, Georgia staggered backward.

“Hospital,” she rasped, fighting for normalcy by answering his question.  “I need to get to the hospital.”

“Are you hurt?” the stranger asked, puzzlement chasing away his amusement.  He stepped toward her.

She followed his gaze to her arm, which blazed red with scratch marks.  Quickly, she hid it behind her.  “This?  No.  There is to be a baby – ”

“You’re pregnant?”  He stared at her midsection.

Her hand flew to her stomach.  Granted, she wasn’t the slimmest student attending F.G.U., but she wasn’t overly endowed, either.  Unless Professor Cindi had changed more than her clothing. . .

She hurriedly checked.  No, everything appeared to be the same.  Georgia narrowed her eyes at the stranger, some of his glamour falling away at the insult.

“Do I look fat?” she huffed.

He visibly squirmed under her gaze.  “No.  Not at all.  My mistake.  I apologize.”

Hmmm.  He seemed sincere.  The last year of her curriculum had concentrated heavily on human culture, so she knew how much they lied to get what they wanted.  Still. . .his eyes, all tawny and warm, projected enough honesty for her to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“All right,” she conceded.  “An easy enough mistake, that, considering I’m wearing this hideous thing.”  She lifted the voluminous folds of the smock.  “But someone is having a baby today, and I’m supposed to be there.”

Because this place is where she’d been sent, and he was the only one around, she took an educated guess.  “Is it you?”

Was he Jason-Michael-Damien’s father and her destiny lay in accompanying at the child’s birth?

He stepped back in shock.  Several moments passed before he found the composure to say, “Me?  No.  Not at all.  I’m not even married.”

Hmmm.  So who was the father, and what was she doing here?

“Not a prerequisite, I’d say.”  She took another long look at him.  By outward appearance alone, why shouldn’t he be the father?  Dressed in a crisp, navy suit, everything polished and in place, he’d certainly know how to keep a baby clean.

“I assure you, it’s an impossibility.”  Disappointment flickered across his face.

The need to ease his pain welled in Georgia, taking her by surprise.  Was this part of the bond she would have with her mortal?  If so, she didn’t know how she’d survive ultimately losing him.

“Why?  You’re a handsome man.  Women should be swarming around you.”  And where was his godmother?  Why hadn’t she found him a wife by now?  Georgia had half a mind to turn her into the Fairy Practices and Spells Board for dereliction of duty.

“No.  Nothing like that,” he said.  “Look, I just came in for some papers, but I’d like to help.  Do you need a ride to one of the hospitals?”

How nice of him to ask, but she had no idea of where to go.  As soon as he left, she’d find a way to contact Professor Cindi and get to the bottom of this horrible mistake.

“Thank you, but I’ll figure it out.”

“Can I at least get you some salve for your itching?”  Concern darkened his eyes to amber.

Glancing down, Georgia couldn’t tell the difference between the damage she’d done and that of the glove.  Damn, if he wasn’t around, she’d whip out her wand and fix the problem.

“It’s the glove,” she said, indicating the offending item on the floor where she’d thrown it.  “It made me itch.”

He nodded.  “Latex allergy.  You might want to have them check it at the hospital when you get there.  Until then, I’ve got something that might help.”  He indicated for her to follow, and he headed to the back of the building, snapping on lights as he went.

“I’m Harrison Ford, by the way.”

Harrison Ford.  Why did it sound familiar?

Hmmm.  She liked the name.  Good and solid.  A little stuffy.  He’d do better as a Harry.

Her sandals made an annoying thwap-thwap sound as she followed him.  “I’m Georgia Rhodes.  Do people call you Harrison or Harry?”

He stopped and scrutinized her, as if seeking a flaw.  After a long moment, in which he seemed to find an answer, he said, “You can call me anything but Indy or Han.”

Injured hand?  Bewilderment washed over her.  “Why would I do that?”

He gave her another stretching look that ended with a shake of his head.  “The same reason someone might twist your name into cracks about red clay, rednecks and backwoods sheriffs.”

Red necks?  Hands?  Body parts must hold great importance in human culture.  None of what he said made sense.  Clearly, there were some serious gaps in her education.  She’d definitely have to ask Professor Ehlers about this.  Had she skipped a class where it had been discussed?  Truth be told, she’d skipped a lot of classes.  So boring.  Maybe if the school would condense the information into easy-to-read notes. . .

“Of course,” she said after a moment, groping for the right answer.  She didn’t dare risk upsetting him and lose the thirty percent this assignment counted against her final grade.

He moved around a corner and reached into a drawer.  “You have an interesting accent.  Where are you from, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Endure,” she said automatically, citing the city where she’d been born.  “Lower Endure, to be precise.”  Only the very wealthy or the very old lived in Upper Endure.  Georgia and her sisters (all older, all successful Godmothers, just like she would be someday) and her parents lived in the mid-reaches of Lower Endure.

“Is that in England?”  Harrison opened a small, shiny packet.  A blob-like thick cream oozed onto his palm.  He lifted her arm and began applying the lotion to her hand.

Georgia frantically tried to recall her Earth geography as she fought the rising emotion caused by his touch.  Is this what mortals did – make you go all hot and squiggly inside?  Would she react the same when she met Jason-Michael-Damien?

“Yes.  England,” she stammered.  “Is it near?”

Harrison glanced up, amusement twitching the corners of his mouth.  The scent of sandalwood drifted to her, warm, exotic and compelling.  “Not really.  Are you sure you’re all right?  You didn’t mix bleach and ammonia, did you?”

“No,” she said, knowing neither substance.  “I’m fine.”  Except for the warm tingling she could no longer blame on her rash.  “I’m sorry to be a bother.”

“You’re not.”  He tossed away the packet, opened a drawer and withdrew some papers.  “Are you sure you don’t need a ride?”

“No.  I’ll call someone.”  Best not involve herself any more in this mortal’s life.  Georgia wasn’t sure of the ramifications of staying visible to him (she’d chosen to occasionally go to the beach instead of attending her ethics lessons) but it probably wasn’t good.  She just wouldn’t mention her lapse to her instructors.

“If you’re sure?” he probed, his glance indicating he expected her to have a seizure or spontaneously combust at any moment.

“Quite sure.  Thank you for your help.”  She would have shook hands, but cream covered hers, and the awkwardness of doing it left-handed stopped her.  After a moment, she backed away, as if anxious to return to her mop and pail.

“Not a problem.”  He studied her for a minute then took his papers and walked away.

Georgia stood for a long time watching him leave, an emptiness in her she couldn’t explain.

 

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