His head crests the edge of our regally-high queen bed at the exact moment I open my eyes.
“What’s this?” Not good morning, momma. No snuggles. Nate is my soft, cuddly teddy bear of a child. Not Quinn. He is a changeling, all sharp angles and quick looks. If I hadn’t seen his pointy, dark-haired head emerge from within me, I might suspect the fairies brought him in the night, switched him out in the hospital bassinet and whisked away my fair-skinned, red-headed angel.
He holds my wish box in his hand. A glance at the table at the foot of the bed reveals that he swiped it while I slept from its permanent spot beside the clock and under the picture from Bali.
“It’s my wish box,” I tell him in an early morning whisper.
“Do you put wishes in it?”
“Why? So they’ll come true?”
“No,” I smile at him. With another child a mother might lie, suggest that of course they’ll come true, like tossing coins in a fountain or blowing out the birthday candles, but you can’t lie to a changeling. They’ll only use it against you. “Sometimes I hope they come true, but mostly I write them down and put them in there so I can let them go.”
Some people call them God boxes. A little box into which one slips scraps of paper with quickly jotted longings, desires, wishes. I think the God box people call them prayers, but my life philosophy does not allow for deities that grant or deny fancily upcycled wishes and so I call it as it is. My wish box. The purpose is the same. To give it up. To set down whatever it is that my mind’s thumb rubs over and over, back and forth, like a cerebral worry stone. Brains are not oysters; they rarely make pearls out of grains of sand.
He lays his pink cheek against the silk of the comforter and picks at the pretty string twisted around the button that closes the box. “Tell me your wishes,” he commands.
“No,” I scold. “They won’t come true. Go and put it back.”
He sets the box back in its place, just a little off from its previous position. I can tell by the square outlined in dust. But he doesn’t release it from his hand. “Tell me one. Just one,” he begs, wide-eyed and innocent.
“Alright one. I wish that you will be happy in your life. Not all the time, but more happy than not.”
A sly smile breaks across his face and his eyes dart sideways with evil mischief. The innocent child disappears in less than a heartbeat. He is a clever, clever little elf and he knows it. “Now it won’t ever come true,” he prophesies in his wicked lilt. “You told.”
For the briefest of interludes, I am a helpless, human mother, frozen, frightened that he has cursed himself with his own fey magic, but then I smile at him from my pillow. I am clever too. I can work dark magic. What, you thought him a true changeling? No. It came with my blood.
“Only if you tell,” I throw his fate back at him and though he is only four I know he will catch it like a frog with his silver-coated tongue.
He giggles a challenge. “Maybe if I tell, I will be all the time happy.” And he is gone.