Sometimes she is there, sometimes not. It all depends on which way the wind is blowing and the mood of the storms as they brew beyond the world’s borders.
It looks like an ordinary market; soap and overpriced candles, tin butterfly jewellery and yesterday’s dried-out hotdogs. You can’t quite put your finger on your sense of dissatisfaction, though–what was it you were searching for? Graphite seashells masquerading as artist’s pencils, pictures hiding inside to be set loose like bottled genies. Cloche jars of palest green glass poised to cover small treasures and seal them in time.
They wait just as you do. She knows that you have always been waiting for the magical something to set you free.
You’re in luck, for she’s here today. The white-haired woman sits in her stall at closing time, her smile joyous and a little secretive. She knows something you don’t. The clothes she sells, you see, are made of things not quite of this world. The golden jacket hemmed and belted with fabric of midnight-blue, scattered with twinkling gold stars: butterflies flitting lightly across the lapels of a shirt that is the colour of autumn leaves: a confection of a skirt all pink lace and black velvet bows stolen from a witch’s gown: cream lace dresses layered in chiffon that flutter and sigh even though there’s no breeze.
She smiles and laughs as she encourages you to try them on. Yes, yes, she says–see how this one moulds to the hips, how snug it fits on the shoulders?
You feel lighter on your feet, no?
The women who try these clothes begin to crave the strangest things, she whispers, fixing you with her silver-green eyes. The golden jacket inspires a taste for powdered moonstones. That ruched copper skirt there? A maddening desire to dance to the sad, sweet music from just beyond. No, I don’t hear it either, she says. But then again, I’m not wearing the skirt.
And the blue and green gown that shimmers like fish-scales under morning light that you’ve just slipped over your head–tell me.
Salt air and whalesong and the light kiss of a seahorse.
How interesting, she replies, smoothing the gown over mermaid curves.
They all leave with something, whether they buy the clothes or not. A scrap of lace, a ribbon of crepe is so easy for her to tuck away under a strap or into a pocket.
Life is never quite the same after that. No, it’s unlikely that you’ll find her again, particularly if you insist on looking for her. A little friendly advice–don’t. It will only break your heart. Or worse.
The faerie tailor works east of the wind, south of the moon, and doesn’t pay heed to the compass of this world.
Keep safe your gown of seafoam and sprite dreams. She made it just for you, long before you were even born. Listen carefully to the waves and the silver of the rising sun as it caresses the morning. They will whisper to you when it is time to slip it on and then you will wait no more.
Suzanne J. Willis
Suzanne is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and her work has appeared in AntipodeanSF and anthologies by Fablecroft Publishing and Misanthrope Press. She works full-time and writes in the spaces around it, all the while wishing it was the other way around. Suzanne lives in Melbourne, Australia with her patient partner and pampered pooch.