Her life was a story. In the story, she went to the wishing well, one day, to make a wish. She wished to be married to a handsome prince and to live in a castle overlooking the ocean in a land that was always in spring. And she wished for everlasting happiness and children to pass it onto. She even had a coin to toss in the well when others who made wishes had to be content with pebbles or rusty nails from old horse shoes. She made her wish with her eyes closed and her heart all pink and open. She waited and waited for her wish to come true and even when the sun was sinking fraction by fraction, its inky colours spreading and fading, she held onto her hope that she might yet be blessed.
‘God of wishes,’ she said, ‘please grant me my heart’s desire.’
The god of wishes, who, as all people know, lives deep down inside wishing wells where the water is cooled by the earth, heard her heartfelt plea and answered, ‘Yes, yes my child, go find your heart’s desire, it’s waiting for you.’ The god of wishes never fails to answer a wish in this way, but there is a problem. The god’s voice is small and light and quick and sounds like the breeze through long grass and it comes to people’s hearts, not their ears. She didn’t know this. She waited, as so many do, for a voice that was clear and unambiguous, that told her where to go, what steps to climb, what doors to open, to find what her heart was craving. All she could hear was the sound of the wind playing in the leaves and the forlorn drip-drip of water deep down in the well. She stood there and waited through a long cold night in the implacable darkness with her fear dancing around her playfully, darting in and out of form, and her hope dissipating sadly like air escaping a beautiful big balloon. When dawn came, she turned her back on the wishing well and its morning backdrop of watercolours and went home and locked her heart and its wishes in a box she kept under her bed. She had to squeeze and knead her poor heart so it would fit in its new metal container and it hurt and she was crying. The wind was blowing her curtains so that she might have been at sea on a yacht, the sails billowing, the ocean spray wetting her cheeks. She lay down on her bed and listened to the voices outside her window of other children’s happiness and she closed her eyes and wept because it sounded so much like her own sadness. She didn’t see the little bird that was sent to her by the god of wishes to untie the knot of her misconception. She didn’t even hear its chirping or the fluttering of its wings. She had closed her eyes and her ears and locked her heart away. And anyway, she was in so much pain that there could be no such thing as magic. The wind was just the wind and a bird was just a bird with no special light shining out of it and there was no way she could have heard its voice half-singing, half-imploring, it’s-the-wish-it’s-the-wish-it’s-the-wish-that-counts.
That little bird is still there today and its voice is unrelenting.