by Mary E. Lowd
A Deep Sky Anchor Original, December 2022
Ella didn’t like apples, but she’d been trying to wiggle her loose tooth out for an hour. Now it was almost bedtime, and if she didn’t eat something with a big CRUNCH, then she wouldn’t get to introduce the tooth fairy to Santa Claus. So, she took the crunchiest looking apple from the kitchen counter — one of the horrible green ones that her mother liked — and sank her teeth into its sour flesh.
Bingo. She spat out the mouthful of apple into her palm… and her tooth too!
Ella slipped her tooth into the envelope that she’d already prepared with a letter inside and the words TOOTH FAIRY in scripty letters on the front.
“What’s that?” her mom asked.
“I lost a tooth!” Ella proclaimed proudly, waving the freshly sealed envelope. “I’ve got to go put this under my pillow!”
“Okay,” Mom said. “But hurry back. It’s time to set out the cookies.” She got out the special plate that they always used on Christmas Eve for Santa.
Ella ran to her room and placed the envelope carefully under her pillow; then she ran back and eagerly helped pick out an array of cookies for Santa — two Oreos, a snickerdoodle from Grandma, and the gingerbread man that she’d decorated herself. She wanted to put out even more — Santa needed to be kept busy, so he didn’t leave before the tooth fairy got her letter — but Mom insisted four was enough. So, with a stroke of inspiration, Ella added a stick of gum from her personal stash. Santa would have to stick around longer to chew the gum.
Once the plate of cookies was placed on the mantel, and Ella’s head was on her pillow, everything was in place. Tonight would be the most magical night of her life — she was going to introduce Santa Claus and the tooth fairy! If only she could stay awake for it…
* * *
If only her little girl would fall asleep, Charlene could work the magic for her and finally go to bed herself. Instead, she heard Ella tossing and turning, occasionally giggling to herself in her dark room. So, Charlene watched another episode of CSI and tried not to think about how tired she’d be tomorrow. Maybe she could sneak in a nap when they got to her sister’s house.
When it finally seemed safe, Charlene slipped into Ella’s dark room, slid her hand gingerly under the little girl’s pillow, and pulled out the tooth fairy envelope. Usually, Charlene would simply hide the envelope with the other envelopes of Ella’s teeth in the back of her sock drawer, unopened, but she’d seen Ella secretively writing something after decorating the envelope that evening. So, this time, she tore the envelope open, and inside she found a letter:
Dear Tooth Fairy, I read a book about you, and I think you have a lot in common with Santa Claus. 1) You both travel fast. 2) You both like children and work hard. 3) You are very generous. So, I lost my tooth tonight, so you could meet Santa Claus. I know you will fall in love. Please invite me to the wedding, because I introduced you. OK? Love, Ella
Charlene blinked at the letter a few times, trying to figure out what to make of it. While she thought about the situation, she worked on her evening’s Santa Claus duties — she slipped all the prepared goodies into Ella’s stocking, returned the Oreos and snickerdoodle back to the cookie jar with the other identical Oreos and snickerdoodles. She ate the gingerbread man. It tasted like love. Her daughter had made it for her — even if her daughter didn’t know it.
Finally, it was time to prepare a return envelope from the tooth fairy. As was usual, Charlene put a couple quarters, nickels, and dimes into the envelope. Also a sheet of stickers.
Should she write a letter back? What would it even say?
Charlene got out a piece of paper and sat down to write.
Dear Ella, Thank you for thinking of me! Santa Claus and I had a nice time tonight, but I'm not looking for anyone to marry. Besides, he's already married. He and Mrs. Claus are very happy together. However, as you mentioned, I do work hard, and it can get a little lonely. Would you like to be pen pals with me? Love, TTF
Charlene stared at the letter for a long time before folding it into thirds and tucking it into the envelope. It could be hard to talk to her daughter. The girl was always lost in the clouds. Charlene wanted to be a part of those clouds. She wondered what surprise her little girl would come up with next.
For now, Charlene slipped the envelope, heavy with coins, under Ella’s pillow. Ella made magic for her every day. It was nice to be able to give a little magic back.
Tonight, Charlene would fall asleep and join her daughter in dreaming about a rotund man in red crushed velvet dancing with a spritely woman sporting translucent, fluttering wings.