“White Lies” by Maureen Bowden

We’d like to present a new Feature Story here at Metro Fiction. Please check the Welcome page for more information about us. This week, Lexy grapples with whether or not the Tooth Fairy is real.

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “White Lies” by Maureen Bowden:

Lexy’s front tooth fell out the day before her sixth birthday. Her mum told her to leave it on her bedside table, under the nightlight, where the tooth fairy could find it. Next morning the tooth was gone and a shiny pound coin lay in its place.

Lexy showed off the gap to her friends when they arrived for her birthday party. ‘The tooth fairy paid me a pound.’

During ‘Pass the Parcel’ Sam Lewis whispered to her that the tooth fairy wasn’t real.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “She took my tooth and left me a pound.”

“It’s just mums and dads. They polish up a pound to make it shine and they chuck your tooth in the bin.”

“Why do they do that?”

“Dunno. Molly told me. She’s nearly ten and she knows a lot of grown-up stuff.”

Lexy frowned. “But it’s lying,” she said, shaking her head. “Mum and Dad always say it’s wrong to tell lies.”

“Yes, but this is a white lie, so that’s okay.” Lexy understood the concept of white lies: like being told that Santa Claus wouldn’t bring any presents unless you were good. Everyone knew that he always brought presents but she could see the motive behind that one. The rationale behind the tooth fairy eluded her. “Don’t let them know that you know it’s not real,” said Sam, “or you won’t get any more pound coins.” His grin revealed that he’d amassed a stash, and Lexy considered it good advice.

The party was over when Nanna arrived for an overnight stay. She’d brought her a Disney Princess jigsaw for her birthday. Lexy was a bit old for Disney Princesses. Her favourite present was the Justin Bieber CD that Auntie Jo bought her. Nanna had never heard of Justin Beiber but she was kind, and Lexy loved her, so she gave her a kiss and told her that the jigsaw was her best present. She supposed that was another white lie.

Nanna spotted the gap. “Did you have a visit from the tooth fairy?”

“Yes, she gave me a pound.”

“Good, she never misses a tooth,” said Nanna. “When you get your grown-up teeth, look after them. Keep them clean and don’t eat too many sweets. Then they’ll stay strong and white like mine.” She smiled, revealing a mouth full of huge, white teeth. Lexy thought they were scary. She was surprised that Nanna still believed in the tooth fairy. She hoped her teeth never fell out because she didn’t have a mum and dad to polish up a pound coin for her.

Lexy was allowed to stay up later than usual because it was her birthday. She was sitting on the floor doing her jigsaw when Nanna had her first glass of whiskey, and her second. That was when her teeth started wobbling every time she spoke. It worried Lexy. She decided she’d better mention to Mum and Dad that Nanna’s teeth were loose so that they could play the tooth fairy if they fell out.

When Dad took her to bed she mentioned the wobbly teeth. He laughed as he tucked her in. “Don’t worry Lexy. That was just the whiskey.” She couldn’t see what the whiskey had to do with it. She had tried to warn him but he hadn’t taken the hint. He read her a chapter of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire after she persuaded him that she wouldn’t have nightmares about Voldemort, and then he kissed her goodnight.

She did have a nightmare, but not about Voldemort. She dreamed that the tooth fairy was banging on Nanna’s window, crying to get in. Sam Lewis was shouting at the fairy to go away, she wasn’t real.

Lexy woke to the sound of Nanna snoring in the spare room. She knew she would not go back to sleep until she had checked on those teeth. She turned on her nightlight, opened her bedroom door so the light would shine down the landing, and she crept to the spare room. Opening the door she peeped inside, and almost cried out, “I knew it.” On the bedside table, in a glass of water, Nanna’s huge white teeth were grinning at her. Poor Nanna would be so disappointed in the morning if the teeth were still there instead of a shiny pound coin. She decided what she had to do.

Back in her own bedroom she lifted her piggybank from the shelf above her toy cupboard, pulled the stopper out of the bottom and emptied the contents on her bed. She sorted through them until she found the shiny pound coin. Then she put the rest back and returned the piggybank to its shelf. She crept back to the spare room and then the six-year-old surrogate tooth fairy placed the coin on the bedside table and removed her nanna’s dentures from their glass.

She examined them. There were bits of Nanna’s gums on them! It must have hurt when they fell out. She tiptoed downstairs to the kitchen, dropped the teeth into the pedal-bin, wiped her hands on a piece of kitchen towel and chucked it in after them. She went back to bed and fell asleep, satisfied with a job well done.

Maureen Bowden is an ex-patriate Liverpudlian, living with her musician husband on the Island of Anglesey, trying to avoid the onslaught of two grown-up children, nine grandchildren and a former foster-daughter. She retired from the Inland Revenue after forty-two years and she now indulges in writing for fun. She has had several poems and short stories accepted for publication. She also loves music, Shakespeare and cats.

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