by Mackenzie Belcastro
Once upon a time there lived a boy named Jean-Paul. He was a rather short, squat boy. That is, compared to all the others he went to school with in his homeland of Alefia, otherwise known as the land of the fair. His parents never understood why he looked the way he did. And, out of love, they did their best to fix him.
His mother was an especially sweet woman, but she was also living proof that sweetness is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to proper child rearing. One day, she went to the best herbalists in the land and asked if they could please provide her with some potions that would rosy up Jean-Paul’s bleak cheeks, clear his spotted skin, and grow his slits-of-eyes so they could be round and lovely. The herbalists greatly respected Jean Paul’s mother, for she was one of the fairest of the Alefians—and also, notably, married to the most powerful Alefian of all.
She said her thanks and left, returning home to surprise her son. She was very excited, and so was Jean-Paul, at first. He took the potions from his mother and ran to his bathroom. The burbling red was most intriguing and so he opened it first, dabbing it delicately onto his cheeks. It would remain for a full twenty four hours, so said the crystal bottle it came in. The other two bottles promised the same. The peach coloured liquid cleared his skin, and the green one, which had to be applied with a dropper straight into his eyeballs, did, indeed, grow them to be round and lovely.
He looked in the mirror and said, “Now Jean-Paul, they will love you.”
Well, he went to school the next day, and they did not.
“You’re still fat. Even with that stupid makeup on your face,” one said.
“And you’re still short,” another said, looking down at him from great height.
So the next day, Jean-Paul’s mother returned to the herbalists and asked if she could please be provided with two more potions for her son. One that would make him lean, and another that would grow him to great heights, such that he could be even taller than the rest of the rude boys and girls in his grade. Once again, the herbalists obliged, for they wanted to impress the beautiful woman and her powerful husband.
The potions were black and red. The black was to make him lean when poured into a bath and bathed in. The red was to make him tall, when drunk straight from the bottle.
“Tend to these both,” his mother said, “And you still have your potions I gave you the day before, right?”
Jean-Paul nodded and she smiled, pleased.
“Good. Tend to all five.”
So, he went to his bathroom, took a bath in the black potion, drank the red potion, and repeated the process from the previous night with regards to the other three.
Once again, he looked in the mirror and said, “Now Jean-Paul, they will love you.” Only this time he added, “They didn’t today, because you forgot to tend to everything. But now you have. So you are fixed.”
Well, he went to school the next day and still they did not.
“You may be tall, thin, clear-skinned, rosy-cheeked, and doe-eyed now,” one said, “but you still dress like a short, fat boy.”
His clothes, it was true, did not fit him.
So he went home, resolved to get the right clothes to make them love him.
“Oh my, Jean-Paul,” his mother had said when he pointed out he would, indeed, need finely sewn garments in order to be lovable, “I can’t believe I forgot that! Of course. Let me get them for you.”
His sweet mother went to the finest tailors in the land with her son’s new measurements in hand and asked for them to please create him something extra special and luxurious, something that would wow the kids in his class and make them love him. The tailors, like the herbalists, obliged for she herself was so lovely. And they created them extra quickly, too. In a matter of minutes, in fact—so that she could bring them home to Jean-Paul and he may have them for tomorrow.
“Now you shall be perfect,” his mother said to him when she presented him with his new clothes. “But you must make sure you don’t forget: take all the potions and wear these clothes. That’s what you need to do.”
Jean-Paul was very tired now of taking all these potions, and so he told his mother he would do it all in the morning. She nodded, pleased, and kissed him goodnight.
Well, the next morning Jean-Paul was still very tired. He looked at all the potions lined up on his bathroom counter, and then he looked at the many outfits hanging up beautifully now in his armoire—each with at least four pieces to them. He pulled one outfit off the hanger and brought it to his bathroom and then looked at it all again, then back in the mirror.
He didn’t want to do any of it.
So, he yawned and went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up, just in time to go to school, he went to his bathroom quickly, looked in the mirror at his real self and said, “They will have to love me. For this is just how I am.”
Well, when he went to school, they did not.
And so he decided that instead of trying to impress his schoolmates he would move to a place where people accepted him. This he told to a fairy in the garden after school that day.
“That place,” she said, “doesn’t exist.”
“Well then,” he said, “I guess I will have to make it.”
And so began the planning for Adalira.
Mackenzie Belcastro is a writer from Toronto. Her work spans from short fairy tales, to fantasy fiction, to non-fiction memoirs and profiles on contemporary artists. She’s inspired profoundly by Lewis Carroll and Angela Carter. Presently, she’s working on her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter @mack_belcastro