Anyone who lives with a cat will know how truly irritating it is to be wakened from a sound sleep by the moist thrust of a cold nose in the ear. The ingratiating purring and ear licking that follow do little to alleviate the shock, especially when one has been kept awake past the usual hour by the nocturnal conversations of overenthusiastic treefrogs.
Therefore, I was quite annoyed at first when Taffy awoke me in her usual impertinent manner... until I recalled our visitor and bolted upright, suddenly awake. She jumped down from the bed and trotted toward the door, mewing and twitching her tail plaintively. I grabbed my robe and hurried down the stairs after her, fearing some catastrophe. Probably the elf has gone home and Taffy is simply missing her, I thought to myself.
When I entered the study, I stopped in the doorway, confused. It was nighttime and the sky outside was a deep indigo lit by a silvery half-moon, but sunlight seemed to be coming from the little house on the side table. It was as if green, filtered sunshine was pouring in from the other side of the dollhouse and coming out through the windows and the front door, which stood open. But it couldn't be because I had blocked up the other side with foam board, not to mention that it was night.
I must be dreaming, I thought. Yet I knew I wasn't dreaming. The carpet was rough under my bare feet and the blank face of my computer monitor, which had been abandoned the previous day, stared at me with a reflected green glow reminiscent of my publisher's face if I didn't get back to work on my book.
The elf was standing in front of the house in the nightdress I had made for her. She had brought out a little table and the two Windsor chairs, and placed the blue teapot and cups out. She curtsied prettily and then with a flourish she poured some of the brew she had made into one of the cups and held it out to me. I was quite touched by her hospitality; she seemed to feel the need to return the favor of the previous morning and provide me with tea. So I bowed and took it with trembling fingers, fearing I might drop and spill it.
The cup naturally held only a few drops, but the liquid inside glowed with a tiny yellow lights like fireflies dancing on water. I must admit, I hesitated a long moment before drinking it. I didn't want to seem ungracious but I certainly had my doubts as to what effect it might have. After all, I didn't know anything about this little elf other than that she seemed appealing. How did I know that she wasn't up to mischief? What if this were some kind of poison or malicious spell?
The elf lifted her tiny, pleading face upwards and said something I couldn't understand. Taffy made encouraging noises as well, twining herself around my feet and looking up with eager and impatient amber eyes. It was Taffy's eyes that convinced me to go ahead and drink. After all the years we've been together, I still can't refuse Taffy when she looks at me that way. She has been the best companion I could possibly have, and since she and the elf seemed to understand each other, I decided to trust them.
It tasted a bit like flowers; not perfumey (which is awful) but like nectar (which is lovely). If you have ever sipped the nectar out of a head of pink clover you will have a good idea of what it tasted like, only more so. The lights in it seemed to sparkle on the tongue, which was an odd feeling until you got used to it. Then they seemed to dance into my limbs and make my hands and feet and even my hair tingle with magic.
I began to feel slightly giddy, so I closed my eyes for a moment. There was a rushing sound in my ears. Then I had the very odd sensation of falling inside myself, as if I were folding like a telescoping umbrella. I reached out for the table to steady myself and found myself falling upon it, but rather than knocking it over I fell right into the arms of the elf, who had caught me.
She smiled into my face, which was suddenly full-sized. I could see now that she had little freckles spattered across her nose and a dimple in her chin and that the tips of her ears were slightly pointed. She set me down gently in one of the chairs. The rest of the room loomed around us, as cavernous as the big train station in the city. The computer monitor looked like a shiny billboard on top of the desk.
"It worked!" she exclaimed. "I didn't think it would, but it did!" Her voice was clear and soft and I could understand every word.
I searched for my voice and finally found it. "What happened?"
"I'm so sorry to surprise you like this, but I didn't have any way to warn you. Taffy said that you would want to help if you could, but you couldn't understand me and I couldn't think of any other way." She looked at me rather wistfully. "I'm in a desperate situation. I hope you won't be angry with me. I've turned you into an elf!"