The Kissing Bridge
Susan Murrie Macdonald
Megan Buckman glanced around, delighted by the sights, sounds, and smells that surrounded her. She had never been to a Renaissance Faire before. She’d wanted to go for years, but her ex-husband had always insisted that RenFaires were too expensive.
“Mama, look!” Seven-year-old Jessica ran off to the harper.
“Wait up, Jessie.” Megan followed her daughter. They listened to the harper for a few minutes. There was so much to see and do here; it almost overwhelmed the senses. All the beautiful costumes, the smell of turkey legs and sandalwood fans and flowers. And the music! Harpers, fiddlers, singers. An hour ago, she hadn’t known what a hurdy-gurdy was. Now she had a hurdy-gurdy CD tucked into her purse. “If I can’t get a story out of this,” she started to tell Jessie, but the girl ran off before Megan could finish her sentence.
“Look, Mama, the plumber!”
Megan looked where Jessie was pointing. Standing in front of a booth was a Little Person in Faire garb. Normally, she was bad with names and faces, but she recognized him because of his height. He was their plumber.
He doffed his feathered hat with a bow. “Good morrow, my ladies.”
Megan glanced at the booth, and found it was full of artwork. “Oh, this is lovely.”
“Gramercy, my lady.”
“You did these?”
She looked at the paintings. “Talent like this, and you spend your time fixing stopped up pipes and clogged toilets?”
“Alas, my lady, I earn greater recompense from the mending of other people’s privies than from my art.” His blue eyes twinkled. “Starving in a garret is highly overrated.”
“But this is gorgeous.”
“Everyone admires, few buy.”
“Mama, these ones are just like the beginning of Beauty and the Beast.” Jessie showed her a series of paintings, all painted to look like stained glass windows. They were scenes from various fairy tales.
“That’s where I swiped the idea from,” he confessed.
“This would be perfect for St. Margaret.” At his upraised eyebrow, she explained, “I write children’s books. I’m working on a biography of Margaret of Scotland. This would be perfect for it. And frankly,” she sighed, “I wasn’t happy with the illustrator the publisher assigned to my last book. Is there any chance you’d be interested in collaborating?”
“What was your last book?” he asked.
He nodded. “I bought a copy for my niece. The unicorns looked like draft horses.” He thought a moment. “Have you eaten yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Shall we discuss this over lunch?” When she nodded, he called to the man at the neighboring tent, “Hey, Tom, watch the booth for a bit. I’m going to lunch.”
“Darryl Phillips, at your service.”
“Megan Buckman.” A line from Tolkien popped into her head, and she added, “’At yours and your family’s.’”
He smiled up at her, recognizing the allusion. He led the way to the food stands. “I hope you’ll let me buy. I get a discount.”
They had to cross a wooden bridge to get there. Flowers adorned the bridge, and several teenagers in Faire garb sat on the railings.
“Kissing bridge, kissing bridge,” they called.
“What’s a kissing bridge?” asked Jessie.
“‘Tis a toll bridge, fair maid. One pays to cross the bridge like so.” Darryl took Megan’s hand and gently kissed it.
“That’s not a kiss,” called out a young man dressed like an Elizabethan lord. He grabbed the wench next to him. She joined him in a passionate lip-lock. In a bad Australian accent, he said, “That’s a kiss.”
Two years later, Megan and Darryl had produced four books together, and were working on a fifth. He had introduced her to musicians she had never heard of: Glenn Morgan and Livy Delafield, Golden Bough and Wild Oats. She introduced him to ‘30s and ‘40s black and white Hollywood movies. He introduced her to Chinese food. She’d never had it before, because her ex-husband didn’t like it. She rescued him from meals that went from the freezer to the microwave to the table (all without ever leaving the box). At first, he came to dinner once a month, then once every few weeks, and now he came over for dinner two or three times a week. He’d become the closest friend she’d ever had. And on summer weekends when her ex had Jessie, she helped him at his RenFaire booth.
“Look, a dwarf!” A girl about three or four ran into the booth, and her parents ran after her.
While her parents admired the artwork, she turned to Megan and asked, “Are you Mrs. Dwarf?”
“Alas, sweet damsel, I am not.” Megan sighed melodramatically. “He waits for his own true princess, and will not so much as glance at a sundial to give me the time of day.”
Puzzled, the girl stared up at her while her parents laughed. Darryl merely looked at her.
After they had bought a painting and left, Darryl said. “Time for a break.”
“I’ll watch the booth.”
“You need a break, too.” He led her toward the food vendors, but stopped at the kissing bridge. He pulled himself up onto the railing, so their heads were level. “Was that just Faire flirtation back there? Or were you telling the truth with that alas?”
Megan hesitated. “I didn’t want to risk ruining a good partnership – and more importantly, a good friendship – by getting what Jessie would call ‘all mushy’ on you.”
He reached over and kissed her. “Who says you’d be ruining anything?”
Susan Murrie Macdonald is a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She has also written a children’s book, R is for Renaissance Faire, and several short stories which have appeared in Alternative Truths, Heroic Fantasy Short Stories, Bumples, and Sword and Sorceress. She has written over 100 articles for Krypton Radio. You can check out her blog, Assorted Scribblings of a Minor Author, follow her on Twitter @WriterMacdonald, or visit her website, Susan Murrie Macdonald: Wordsmith for Hire.