Princess McBride was a fairy. Well, actually, she was an actress in a car commercial (“The XVCalibre – it’ll whisk you away like magic!”). A starving actress, practically, who had just had a horrible day on the set. The sleazy director, Jason, was a yeller, the wardrobe mistress and her staff all quit at lunch, and then finally, after they finished, she found that someone had stolen her clothes. Jason sympathized, backed her into a corner and made her promise to have dinner with him, and then kissed her without a mask. He gave her ten bucks for cab fare. It cost fifty to get home, but she was so determined to escape him, she left the set, wearing the costume and the glittering amethyst jewelry of the XVCalibre Car Fairy.
So that’s how, two days before Christmas, she wound up taking the subway home. At least everyone on the train averted their eyes. She was trudging that final block home when she tripped over a man wearing a leather jacket and jeans, sprawled across the sidewalk under the broken streetlight.
“Gosh, are you OK, mister? Sorry!”
Mister was not OK.
Princess knew she looked luminous in her glittering gown and borrowed jewelry, but she suspected the dazed look on his face was something else. She wrapped her purple scarf around her face and mask twice, and pulled up her opera gloves. Even through the thin fabric, she could feel his forehead was hot. Did he have COVID? Had he collapsed here in the street looking for a doctor?
“Wha? Where?” Mister’s eyes crossed and with a moan, his head fell back to the sidewalk.
His color did not look good, and it was freezing out here. COVID or no, she wasn’t going to let him die out here. It was too bad her phone was in her jeans pocket, wherever her jeans had been spirited off to. She gingerly felt inside that leather jacket, and found a phone, but it was out of batteries.
“Great,” she said. “This day just keeps getting better and better.”
She struggled to get him sitting up, and he groggily got to his feet with her help, but it was like manhandling a giant puppet into her elevator. She held her breath so as not to breath anything, and pressed the fifth floor button while propping him up on a wall. He opened his eyes for a second, shook his head, and closed them again.
She was almost bursting at the seams by the time the elevator doors opened and she wrestled him into the hall. She took a deep breath through all the layers of fabric, and helped him to her apartment, fishing the spare key from under the welcome mat and holding him against the wall with the other.
And then they were through the door. She wanted to say she helped him to the couch, but it was more like she shot-putted him, and he collapsed in a heap on it, teeth chattering. He opened his eyes again.
“You’ve got the ‘rona, don’t you, buddy?”
“Wha? No, I d-d-don’t. C-c-could I get a d-d-drink of water?”
A drink of water? She had this sick, but very handsome, man on her couch. She was probably going to catch Corona, and die alone under the Christmas tree like her mother predicted when she refused to come home for the holidays. She glanced at his left hand. No ring. Then she hated herself for caring whether this poor dude was available or not. If she was going to catch the virus, she probably got it man-handling him up here. She might as well see this whole Nurse Nightingale schtick all the way through. She got him a glass of water.
He sipped it slowly and the chill seemed to pass. He looked at her as if his eyes couldn’t quite focus. “They told me there might be chills, fever and muscle aches, but I didn’t believe them about the hallucinations.” He looked her up and down from head to toe. “You’re sparkling, fairy lady. You’re a blaze of light.”
The little LED lights from the Christmas tree caught on the amethyst ring on her finger, and she laughed. “Oh, no, it’s just a costume. So, you’ve got COVID, huh?” She backed up a step, but there wasn’t room in her small apartment for two steps.
“No, I got the vaccination.”
“Wow! You must have buckets of money!”
“No.” And now he laughed weakly. “I’m a doctor. I just got the second shot yesterday. I’m Jim Healey.”
Oh. A doctor! A gorgeous, handsome doctor on her couch. Her mother would be proud.
“I’m Princess McBride.”
“Excuse me, did the hallucination go auditory?” He shook his head.
“No, my parents just had an odd sense of humor.” They stared in each other’s eyes for half a minute.
He broke the spell first. “Well, Princess, I should call a cab and get out of your hair.”
“Oh, no! Do you have to go? It’s so cold outside, and well, do you have anyone waiting for you?”
“No, nobody there,” he said sadly.
She couldn’t let gorgeous Dr. Brown Eyes go so easily.
“Then stay. You can be in my bubble now. Let me give you a warning . . . I can open a can of soup, but that’s about it. No feasts here.”
“No feasts needed.” He closed his eyes and nestled into the sofa. She covered him with an afghan, and put a fresh glass of water on the end table. There was no way she was going to tell her mother on the Zoom tomorrow morning that there had been a doctor on her sofa all night. Her mother would make comments, and she didn’t want to jinx things. But she had a feeling, a little light in the pit of her tummy, that fairytales could come true.