Sleeping Beauty Variations
1. The Fairy of the Crystal Fountain
Her tears are expensive. One by one, they drop like silver sixpences between silken steps. Her face rarely crumples, although despair is her understudy. Sorrow has made her precise, her twirls and balances never splash over the basin. A begrimed engineer keeps her operating via an underground system of pumps and valves and he pockets all the loose change. Her youthful confidence was dismantled long ago, after her favourite cavalier was turned to stone. Her limbs are fragile, made of spun glass. Her legacy a smudge of mascara preserved on a scrap of cotton wool.
2. The Fairy of the Enchanted Garden
She is the dappled sunlight that plays upon the flyblown crab apples littering the lawn. This cultivated enclave is all hers this afternoon. She covets every blush pink petal shed by the lofty Aurora roses. She likes to think she has the best music. As a child, she was once photographed perched on a mulberry bush, playing a role in a famous hoax, fooling Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At dusk she is the zephyr drifting through the open French windows, her perfume mingling with the sapphire fug of Abdullah cigarettes. She tries not to think of the future and drinks neat gin from an acorn cup.
3. The Fairy of the Woodland Glade
We feel calm in the shade of her arms, watching them waft to and fro. They offer us a glimpse of the kissing gate and the ha-ha beyond, where the sheep graze. She first rehearsed these steps in a drafty church hall only a week ago. Her soft feet pick their way over the velvet moss covering the gnarled roots of the hollow oak. She is noticeable for her graceful long neck above sloping Victorian shoulders. Distant cousin to Giselle, she has romantic notions and tells everyone that she lives with a young woodsman of polished torso, in a makeshift hut lined with deerskin, but it has never been proven.
4. The Fairy of the Song Birds
Chatterbox. Always dressed in canary yellow. No one can shut her up. Her jazz hands annoy everyone. She thinks she's cleverer than the rest because she can bourrée backwards. She does not realise how soon a sparrow turns to dust. Her variation is short, like her. She is inclined to be scatty and once left her birdcage on the top deck of a bus. All the fairy cavaliers thinks she's fair game, especially the one who doubles as 'Puss in Boots' at Aurora's wedding.
5. The Fairy of the Golden Vine
The difficult one, an exotic import, Vaganova trained. Inclined to storm in at a gallop with fleshy legs, eager to jab an accusing finger at her ex-husband and various lovers, lined up at the back of the stalls circle. Her revealing tutu is a Firebird hand-me-down. Ambitious but also lazy. She claims she can do anything at breakneck speed, including the Rose Adagio in patent high heels and little else, trying out each prince in turn. Weary of being a matinee Aurora, she suns herself on the terrace, feeding grapes to her cavalier. An overseas expedition would be nice, or better still, a telegram from that American impresario.
6. The Lilac Fairy
A tall spinster, playing the role of Aurora's favourite aunt. Her real name is Violet. Lady in waiting, resigned to wait forever. Matron of honour with a magic wand or Sherpa for Prince Florimund. From the wings you can see her dowager's hump. Her wig is powdered grey with the settled dust of Stalingrad. Accompanied by a timpani section dosed with laudanum, she executes majestic steps, while the courtiers, a row of heady blooms, all nod in unison and keel over, one by one. She is the workhorse, carting the whole edifice along.
Carabosse (the wicked fairy) is just a coda
She should be the seventh fairy, the most gracious of them all, but after the first rehearsal, they took away her pointe shoes and her part was given to a pensioner. Oh, the indignity—and then the invitation never came. She always hated the tableau of those greedy winged gatecrashers gathered around the cradle, bestowing their blessings on that spoilt baby princess. She once bribed a seamstress to sew poison ivy onto the bodice of the Lilac Fairy's costume, but her plan was foiled when the production was mothballed.
She used to cohabit with Catalabutte for a number of years, before his drinking became a problem and she found out he wore a wig. These days her feral entourage is her only company. She recruited them from 'The Nutcracker', when the Mouse King retired at the end of Act 1 and for some reason they all turned into rats, not that she minded. There are some perks to the job. The Lilac Fairy goes everywhere on foot, whereas she has wheels. A very nice black barouche, draped with rags, straight out of a tale by J Sheridan Le Fanu. She fancies making it her home, if she can find somewhere to park it, off-road.
Epilogue: In the dressing room of the Prima Ballerina Assoluta
Princess Aurora is waiting for the call, powdering her face. Soon she will be poised in the wings, listening for the last sigh of the Garland waltz so she can prepare to leap onto the stage like a sixteen year old. As majestic as the Matterhorn, everyone is spellbound by the graceful slopes of her arabesques and only a select few know about the nose job at her peak. The glittering first nights are always hers, while the fairies, stuck at base camp, flit back and forth in her limelight and soon burn up. She cannot remember exactly how many princes she has exhausted during her reign, they are all roped together in her mind. The lucky ones are awarded a lush red rose. Her technique has faded to a mezzotint, but her artistry always shines through, like the blade of an ice pick, carving out new snow. Everyone is waiting for Margot.
lives on the south coast of England and writes poetry and short fiction. She has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and used to work in the archive of Punch
magazine. Check out her poetry here