by Dawn Knox
Angel Lips (Benedictine and Cream)
Previously: …The wedding is nearly over and now, Crispin wants to reclaim his life…
By the time the ‘firework’ display had finished, the bonfire had died a little—either that, or it had melted the incinerator and anything that was still combustible had fallen out. Crispin certainly wasn’t going to risk going to check. People started to drift away in small groups, chattering excitedly as they made their way to the masked ball. Crispin promised Lulu he’d see her inside the Gazebo once he’d completed a few more of his Best Elf duties. She was reluctant to leave his side but was finally persuaded to go, complaining that she wanted to dance and hoped he wouldn’t be long because she didn’t want to turn too many would-be partners away.
“If you want to dance with someone else,” said Crispin, “go ahead, I don’t mind.”
“Okay, well don’t be too long. Missing you already,” she yelled over her shoulder.
Crispin winced but at least his eardrums would have a brief opportunity to recover while he delayed going to the ball.
There wasn’t a great deal more for him to do now and he couldn’t believe the day was drawing to a close. Just a few more hours of trying to evade Lulu and he’d be free to go home, finish packing and disappear. Relief washed over him. But first, there was one thing he realised he’d forgotten and it would need addressing immediately.
Spanners’ photo booth had been set up next to the Gazebo ready for the guests but Crispin had forgotten to ask anyone if they’d provide the power by cycling. Sylvester had said he’d arrange something but Crispin doubted he’d remembered and he was reluctant to enter the Gazebo and risk running into Lulu.
This is ridiculous, he thought crossly, if I’m going to start a new life, I need to be a bit braver, I need to Elf up and tell Lulu I’m not interested. It would be kinder not to lead her on and at least he’d leave the Garden with a clear conscience, although not necessarily with intact eardrums, when she expressed her dismay. There would also be Queenie and Granny, not to mention Nina, to placate, once they realised Crispin had rejected Lulu. It was daunting indeed, but it was necessary. Like drawing a line under a chapter in the book of his life, he thought, as he neared the photo booth. He was surprised to hear voices coming from inside it. There was squealing and giggling, followed by a flash, then louder squealing and giggling. The curtain was thrown back and four Fairies spilled out laughing uproariously, followed by Sylvester, whose smile dropped when he saw Crispin.
“Just testing out the photo booth. It all seems to be in working order,” he said patting the machine.
One of the Fairies seized the strip of photos as it emerged from the slot and the others gathered around, shrieking with laughter.
“Look, Syl,” one of them called, “you’re at the bottom. Aren’t you cheeky?” This was followed by wild hilarity.
Crispin averted his eyes. He had a feeling that at least one of the photos involved cheeks—and not the now rosy ones on Sylvester’s face.
“Sort your tights out,” he whispered to Sylvester, whose costume was looking rather dishevelled.
“C’mon, Syl,” called one of the Fairies as they set off for the ball. The smallest one turned back and winked at Crispin.
“Comin’, Big Boy?” she asked.
Crispin sighed. What on earth was Sylvester getting himself into? And who’d keep him on the straight and narrow when Crispin had gone? For a second, he wondered if he was doing the right thing in leaving, and then it occurred to him that Sylvester did exactly as he pleased anyway and with his advanced skills in Pie Skology, it could be argued he was more suited to life on his own than Crispin. After all, Sylvester had persuaded someone to cycle all night and provide the power for the photo booth—and miss the ball. He seemed to be able to persuade people to do what he wanted.
Crispin hurried around the back of the photo booth to find out who was there and how Sylvester had persuaded him or her. He was surprised when he realised there was no bicycle, just a few bits of machinery with wires leading to a pair of legs. Euclid’s legs. He was skipping and Crispin could see the needle on a meter pulsating at the far right of the dial.
“Hello, Crispin!” Euclid said excitedly.
“Euclid, are you all right?”
“Don’t you think you ought to slow down or even stop while there’s no one in the photo booth?”
“Oh no, I can’t stop.”
“Oh no. I’m set for a world skipping record.”
“A world record? Who told you tha…? Oh, don’t tell me. Sylvester.”
“Yes, that’s right. I could be world skipping champ by midnight.”
“You know, it may not be a world record—more of a Garden record,” Crispin pointed out. Oh well, he thought, if Euclid decided to abandon his attempt and go to the ball, Crispin would just take over although he didn’t fancy skipping. He’d rather have cycled.
“It’s fine, thanks,” said Euclid, “I love a challenge.”
“Well, why don’t you stop and take that cloak off, it looks like it’s getting in your way.”
“Good idea,” said Euclid, undoing the clasp at his neck and flinging the cloak aside without stopping.
“And the mask?” suggested Crispin.
“Oh no, I’ll leave that on. It is a masked ball, after all.” He adjusted his colourful mask and carried on skipping.
“Right,” said Crispin, “well, I’ll leave you to it.” Euclid seemed happy enough. “I’ll bring you a jug of water,” Crispin called as he left. The needle on the meter was almost fused to the extreme right of the dial as Euclid skipped on relentlessly, probably producing more electricity than the photo booth actually required. At the rate he was skipping, he could probably have powered the Old Priory.
As Crispin entered the Gazebo in search of a jug of water for Euclid, Frank Fowle was at the door, wearing the ‘Seucrity’ tee-shirt he’d worn at the New Year’s Ball. No one had had the courage to inform him of the error then, and obviously no one had acquired more courage in the meantime.
Crispin decided it didn’t really matter, after all, no security was needed, just like there hadn’t been any need for it at the New Year’s Eve ball. Sadness suddenly washed over him. Of course, there was no need for security because everyone in the Garden got on so well and soon, he’d be far away from all his friends.
Oh well, if it means I get my life back, it will be worth it, he thought resolutely. Memories from the New Year’s Ball brought one particular face back sharply to him and he closed his eyes and savoured it. Bella. But it was too painful to remember her and as he opened his eyes, the beautiful face melted away and was replaced by that of a masked Frank—just inches from his nose. He leapt backwards in fright.
“You all right, Crispin?”
“Just a bit tired, that’s all.” He hoped the tears which had overflowed from his eyes at the memory of Bella would be hidden by his mask.
“I’m not surprised,” said Frank, pushing his finger up his nostril, “you’ve worked so hard to make everything go with a swing. It’s the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Mind you, it’s the only wedding I’ve ever been to. Still, everyone’s saying what a wonderful job you did. Tsk, tsk,” he looked down at his tee-shirt. “Oh dear,” he said, “just look at that.” He pointed to a greasy smear just below “Seucrity”.
“It’s all right,” said Crispin, “I’m sure no one will notice.”
“Good,” said Frank, removing the finger from his nostril and spitting on it. He rubbed the saliva into the stain, increasing its circumference and spreading it into the letters, “Sausage roll I dropped at the New Year’s Ball,” he explained as he made the dirty spot even larger. “Never mind, after a few more wears, it’ll be due for a wash. I expect it’ll come out then.”
“Er, yes,” said Crispin.
“Anyway, I just wanted to say ‘well done’,” said the Troll, and with that, he slapped Crispin on the back, almost felling him.
It occurred to Crispin that this would be the last time he’d see Frank and despite what would undoubtedly be a bruise on his back from the congratulatory slap, he would have nothing to take with him to remind him of Frank, nor of his friends. One of the group shots Spanners had taken earlier would have been perfect but they wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow and anyway, with all those amazing masks, you couldn’t see anyone’s face. He’d just have to make a conscious effort to remember everyone and store their faces in his memory.
Then, he had an idea. He turned back to Frank and pretended his eyes were a camera. He looked intently at the Troll, memorised his face and blinked to simulate the shutter. As he wove his way through the dancers towards the bar, he decided he’d take an imaginary photo of as many people as he could, and say his mental farewells. Luckily, most people had abandoned their masks and were dancing, so he was able to take lots of memory shots. His courage nearly failed him when he heard Lulu’s voice above everyone else’s and realised she was close by, but he was resigned to seeing her before the end of the evening and letting her down as gently as he could. He steeled himself.
Klaus was teaching Jubbly a Bavarian folk dance as Crispin reached them.
“Should you be hopping about like that in those platform shoes?” he asked Jubbly.
“I’ve got my flatties on now,” he said, poking one ballet slipper out from beneath his skirts.
Crispin blinked and took a mental photo of them with linked arms, swinging round and round. Jubbly’s pink ringlets flying out with centrifugal force.
“Goodbye,” whispered Crispin beneath his breath.
Arnold the Snail was seated in an inflatable paddling pool to contain the slime. Bartrum had insisted the health and safety precautions had been taken to protect the dancers, who couldn’t be expected to risk life and limb in mollusc mucous. Crispin thanked Arnold for rescuing the rings but there was no reply. His eyestalks were drooping and when Crispin bent down, he saw that the eyes on the tips were closed. He’s nodded off, thought Crispin patting him fondly on the shell. I hope someone keeps an eye on him, that slime’s likely to overflow before the ball’s over and he might drown. And who, Crispin wondered, would clean up the mess tomorrow?
He poured a large jug of water for Euclid and carried on with his tour of secret goodbyes and memory photographs.
“I hope that’s not gin, Crispin,” said Bartrum putting an arm around his shoulders, “I really have to take my hat off to you, young Elf, you excelled today.
“Yes,” added Mrs Bartrum, “it’s been such a wonderful wedding, I can’t wait for the next one.” She winked at Crispin, “Perhaps you and that loud bridesmaid?”
“Oh no,” said Crispin, “definitely not.”
“What a shame, I was so looking forward to another wedding.”
“Perhaps it’ll be young Wilmslow next,” said Crispin nodding at the young Gnome who was sitting at his parents’ table, glowering.
“Oh yes,” said Mrs Bartrum brightly, “perhaps.”
“I should be so lucky,” grumbled Wilmslow, “I’m never going to meet anyone if I have to sit with my parents.”
Bartrum sat down again and Crispin blinked, taking a mental photo of the family. Proud dad, prouder mum, and one sulky teenager between them.
“Goodbye,” he whispered as he walked away.
“Crispin! Where have you been all evening? I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” boomed Lulu.
“We need to talk—privately,” she yelled, taking his arm and steering him outside. Several people winked and nudged Crispin, giving him knowing looks.
“Before we talk, there’s something I need to tell you,” said Crispin. He felt quite pleased with himself for taking control although admittedly, he hadn’t actually told her he didn’t want to be with her—yet.
“No,” she insisted, “let me speak first before I lose my nerve. I know how much you like me but it’s only fair I tell you I don’t think it’ll ever work—"
“No, you’re a wonderful Elf and I hope we can be friends but, well, the truth is, I find you a bit, well… quiet. I know it’s not your fault but I need someone with more, well… oomph. Of course, if you could find a bit of oomph, I could reconsider?”
“Oh, no!” said Crispin, “I’m definitely a hopeless case. I’m completely oomphless. You’re better off without me and I’m sure you’ll soon find someone with more oomph.”
“Thank you, Crispin,” she said and planted a noisy kiss on his cheek, “you really are a special Elf. I didn’t think you’d take it as well as you have. Now, what did you want to tell me?”
“Umm…” Crispin crossed his fingers behind his back, “umm, I just wanted to say how lovely you look today.”
“Oh, Crispin,” she sighed, “are you sure you can’t find some more oomph? Perhaps there are evening classes you could go to…”
“No,” he said emphatically, “I’m a lost cause. Anyway, you’d best get back inside, you’ll miss all the fun. I’ve just got to give this water to Euclid and I’ll come in too.”
Lulu strode back into the Gazebo, leaving a very grateful Elf behind her. Crispin couldn’t believe his luck although her criticism of his lack of oomph stung slightly but at least he was now free. But free for what?
“Oh, if only Bella were here,” he said softly to the night, “how could I have let her slip from my grasp?”
Crispin had the strangest feeling that someone was watching him. He turned around to check, but he was definitely alone. Above his head, there was the barest whisper but when he looked up, dust blew into his eyes and by the time he’d blinked it away, there was nothing above him but the starry sky. As he wiped his face, he noticed there were tiny, sparkly bits over his cloak but he had no time to wonder about it, because people were pouring out of the Gazebo, led by the newly-married couple. A jingling of bells heralded Stanley pulling the knitted carriage through the trees. He drew up by the Gazebo and Jubbly opened the door.
“Bouquet! Bouquet!” the crowd shouted and the bridesmaids rushed into position behind Nina, who threw her bouquet made of flowers and sweets over her shoulder. Lulu and Wendy collided in mid-air, with the result that the bouquet hit the Wooden Robin, bowling him over. Lulu did a rugby tackle and got to the bouquet first, leaping to her feet and holding it triumphantly aloft. Crispin clicked his eyelids and took a memory photo of Lulu with the bouquet and Wendy picking up the shaken Wooden Robin. She helped him straighten his tights and smoothed his green bib, which had flipped over his head.
Nina hugged Crispin tightly. “Thank you so much, Crispin, I’ll never forget all the effort you put into making my day absolutely perfect.”
“Yes, my Best Elf, you’ve gone above and beyond. I’m indebted to you,” said Doggett, giving Crispin a dose of the tingles as he shook his hand. With a lump in his throat, Crispin clicked his eyelids, freezing their faces in his memory.
“Three cheers for Crispin,” shouted Doggett and as the crowd roared their appreciation, Queenie hugged and kissed him thanking him for making her daughter’s day perfect and Granny had tears in her eyes as she clung to him and kissed his cheek, leaving a pink, sticky candyfloss smear but at least her dentures stayed in her mouth.
Finally, when all goodbyes had been said, Nina climbed into the carriage, closely followed by Doggett, and with a flourish, Jubbly shut the door.
“Stop!” shouted Nina and the door flew open. “We nearly forgot,” she said, dragging the Doves’ basket to the door and raising the lid. One dozen white Doves who’d been cooped up all day, took to the air in an angry flurry, flapped frantically and flew off.
“Hooray!” yelled the crowd and once again, Jubbly shut the door. With a stamping of feet and jingling of bells, the knitted carriage pulled forward and the cheers grew louder.
Crispin decided to go home and finish packing. The ball would be ending in about half an hour but no one would miss him and he was desperately tired. As he walked, he replayed all the mental photos he’d taken during the ball. At least he’d had a chance to prepare himself, which was more than he’d allowed Sylvester, who knew nothing about his intended departure. He wondered if he ought to tell Sylvester when he got home—if he got home tonight. Crispin sighed. He definitely couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to Sylvester. But suppose he didn’t get home until after everyone was up tomorrow? Crispin had to steal out of the Garden without anyone seeing him or he’d surely be stopped.
Finally, he decided to write Sylvester a letter in case he didn’t come home before Crispin left in the morning and it might be nice to leave a small photo of himself too. Would Euclid have stopped skipping? Crispin doubted it. There were still ten minutes to midnight and Euclid desperately wanted the Garden skipping record.
Crispin turned around and went back to the Gazebo. He slipped into the photo booth and smiled at the hidden camera.
“Yes, you can!” shouted Mr Lambert, trembling with fatigue and emotion. He fluttered his wings, sending a shower of silver dust swirling down onto Bella. Still, she hovered some way from the photo booth.
Bella had gone straight home after the group shots in the clearing, slipping away unseen while everyone watched the fireworks. It was too painful to see the loud bridesmaid with Crispin and she couldn’t bear the thought of them dancing together at the ball. Still dressed in her costume, she sat at home wishing things had been different. Wishing she’d not been so naïve at the New Year’s Ball and wishing she was the one in Crispin’s arms tonight.
Mr Lambert thought his heart would break too. She looked so lovely in her midnight blue dress with silver trim and filigree silver mask. She’d sprinkled him with silver dust and when he sat in her hair, he shimmered when his wings trembled. He couldn’t believe that anyone would prefer that loud-mouthed bridesmaid to a beautiful Angel. Bella was perfection. He called Crispin all the dreadful names he could think of, made up a few new ones and imagined what he would do to him the next time he saw him. And then it occurred to him there was no time like the present. Bella’s hair had fallen over her face while she cried, and she no longer needed him to hold her fringe back. He flew out of the window towards the ball to seek out the one who’d rejected his beautiful Bella. How fortunate that when he arrived, the Elf was standing on his own in front of the Gazebo. The loud hussy was walking away from him but the Elf made no attempt to follow. In fact, Mr Lambert was struck by his expression. He looked as sad and lovelorn as his Bella. Hovering above the Elf’s head, he was just in time to hear Crispin’s softly spoken love declaration for Bella. Could it be true? It certainly looked like it was. Overjoyed, he’d flown home at top speed, losing most of his silver dust on the way and he relayed the wonderful news to Bella.
“Are you sure, Mr Lambert?” she’d asked, her sad eyes full of hope. He’d nodded and urged her to dry her tears and go to the ball but by the time they’d arrived, the newlyweds had left and Crispin was nowhere to be found. Bella sat silently on a tree stump. She was past crying.
Mr Lambert was distraught. He couldn’t believe his efforts had been in vain but the Elf definitely wasn’t there. It was time to give up. He fluttered gently in front of her urging her to get up and follow him home, comforting her with talk of finding Crispin tomorrow.
Bella stood, a figure of dejection, but before she turned to make her way home, she gasped and pointed.
“Mr Lambert,” she said excitedly, “I think that’s him… Isn’t it?... It is him, isn’t it? He’s going into the photo booth. Ooh, Mr Lambert, Mr Lambert, shall I follow?”
“Yes, yes!” squeaked Mr Lambert, “Quickly before he disappears again.”
And she’d run to the photo booth but now, she hovered uncertainly outside.
“I’m not sure I can, Mr Lambert,” she whispered.
“Yes, you can!” he shouted again and to his relief, she gently drew back the curtain and slipped inside. There was a terrific flash, which seared Mr Lambert’s eyeballs.
Crispin couldn’t believe it. He’d arranged his features into what he thought was a friendly, yet wise sort of smile—the way he wanted Sylvester to remember him. He held his breath, ready for the automatic photographs to be taken, when suddenly, the curtain opened and Bella—his Bella—was beside him.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” he said, taking her in his arms.
“Nor I, you,” she said holding him tightly.
The photo booth flashed four times but neither Elf nor Angel noticed; they were too busy staring into each other’s eyes.
It was many hours before the couple emerged hand in hand from the photo booth. There had been so much to talk about. Mr Lambert had satisfied himself that all was well and had then flown home to bed. The tap, tap of Euclid’s tiny feet had long finished and the Gazebo was in darkness. Only Frank Fowle hadn’t made it home after the ball and he was snoring on his back outside the closed Gazebo door as if still providing ‘Seucrity’.
Crispin and Bella walked with arms entwined to the Alpine Garden, where almost twenty-four hours ago, Doggett and Nina had shared a special pre-nuptial sunrise. And now another couple would watch the dawn break over the Garden.
Later, they would share breakfast and Crispin would unpack the rucksack waiting for him in the wardrobe. There was no one he’d rather spend the rest of his life with than Bella.
And nowhere other than the Garden, that he wanted to be.
About the author
Dawn’s two previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’ and ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ both published by Chapeltown Publishing.
The Crispin Chronicles
Links to the previous chapters:
Chapter 1 – Her Ladyship’s Garden - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/04/the-crispin-chronicles-1-her-ladyships.html
Chapter 2 – The Letter from OFSGAR - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/The%20Crispin%20Chronicles%20-%20The%20Letter%20from%20OFSGAR
Chapter 3 -The Sweet Smell of Success - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-3-sweet-smell-of.html
Chapter 4 – A Visit from Peggy the Pram - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-4-visit-from.html
Chapter 5 – Nightly Disturbances - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-5-nightly.html
Chapter 6 – Just Desserts - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/05/the-crispin-chronicles-6-just-desserts.html
Chapter 7 – A Little Girl at Large - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/06/the-crispin-chronicles-7-little-girl-at.html
Chapter 8 – The Halloween Party - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/06/the-crispin-chronicles-8-halloween-party.html
Chapter 9 – A Glimmer of an Idea - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/07/the-crispin-chronicles-9-glimmer-of-idea.html
Chapter 10 – Doggett Sees the Light - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/07/the-crispin-chronicles-10-doggett-sees.html
Chapter 11 – Doggett’s Blues – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/07/the-crispin-chronicles-11-doggetts-blues.html
Chapter 12 – A Genie out of the Bottle - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/08/the-crispin-chronicles-12-genie-out-of.html
Chapter 13 – The Christmas Beast - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/08/the-crispin-chronicles-13-christmas.html
Chapter 14 – Bellarella - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/08/the-crispin-chronicles-14-bellarella.html
Chapter 15 – The Stag Omen - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/09/the-crispin-chronicles-15-stag-omen.html
Chapter 16 – The Wedding Carriage - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/09/the-crispin-chronicles-16-wedding.html
Chapter 17 – A Wild Stag Night - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/09/the-crispin-chronicles-17-wild-stag.html
Chapter 18 – Wedding Preparations - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/10/the-crispin-chronicles-18-wedding.html
Chapter 19 – Even More Wedding Preparations - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/10/the-crispin-chronicles-19-even-more.html
Chapter 20 – One More Sleep - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/11/the-crispin-chronicles-20-one-more-sleep.html
Chapter 21 – The Wedding Dawn - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/11/the-crispin-chronicles-21-wedding-dawn.html
Chapter 22 – The Wedding Ceremony – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/12/the-crispin-chronicles-22-wedding.html
Chapter 23 – Married at Last – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/12/the-crispin-chronicles-23-married-at.html
Chapter 24 – The Vengeful Butterfly - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/12/the-crispin-chronicles-24-vengeful.html
Chapter 25 – The Eternal Flame - https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2021/12/the-crispin-chronicles-25-eternal-flame.html