The village where I spent my boyhood years had an unwritten mantra amongst the children, it existed before my family moved there generations before and will continue long after I am dead. Be careful what you wish for. It was a law, a saying and a threat. It goes in accordance with another lore, which states that if a person pure of heart believes anything strong enough, it will come true. Almost like a wish. I never thought much of it before, but it became the forefront of my thoughts after a winter that changed my life. The night exceeds all scientific possibility and the village of Efrose still contains inexplicable mysteries which turn into stories.
In my youth, I was particularly fond of magic. It inspired an odd sense of hope and no one can deny that it holds a childlike wonder. The one trick that enamoured me was the disappearing act. I never saw a trapdoor or other cheap tricks; it was simple, a person was there and the next second by some divine miracle, they no longer were: magic.
My best friend at the time — probably the best friend I ever had, a better friend than any I’ve made well into my adult years — was a girl named Reina. That wasn’t her real name, there was another story. This story like all others entwine into each other, so I must bore you with some details.
Her real name was Olivia but she hated being called that, in addition to Liv, Ollie or any other rendition you can muster . One day by pure instinct, I called her Reina. She looked at me confused, like I was stupid. I got flustered quickly and felt a strong urge to explain myself. “My mum reads me a story about a strong princess who ran away with a knight. Her name is Reina — it means queen. So even if she wasn’t the queen of that kingdom, she was still a queen by name. That’s what my mum said at least. It just reminds me of you. Sorry.” I look down at my shoes when I noted that she looked sad due to the tears forming in her eyes, however, upon reflection it was quite the opposite.
She put her hands on my face, looking at me with those glassy eyes, and said, “you truly are an Angel.” Now would be a good time to mention that my eccentric parents named me Angel. She kissed my forehead and we proceeded to play like we always did. Shortly after that event the name stuck and everyone called her Reina.
We were inseparable. While the other kids in our class would tease me for expressing high praise for the magical arts, she would encourage it and remind me why I loved it. She made sure no one laughed at me.
At that age, I never understood why she would not want to return home, or why she had bruises on her body. I never understood why sometimes she would flinch when anyone came close to her. At that age, all I thought was that her life was awesome because she never had a curfew and would spend all day trying to play. She would spend days on end at my house or hide in the park. I understand it now. But it’s too late.
She was my partner in crime and on occasion my lovely assistant. The most notable case, brings us to the winter of 2000. We were 11, preparing for the school’s talent show. I remember the nerves, and how I would joke that Reina had a spidey sense for it. She had a knack of soothing me and on that night Reina simply said, “I believe in you.”
With that my nerves dissipated. “Believe in me but the magic is a trick, which we have practised to perfection.”
“Remember, if you believe strong enough anything can come true. Like Peter Pan and fairies. Believe in the magic.”
Backstage was a flurry of parents fussing over their children. Reina’s parents were not there so she gave her seats to my family. While the other kid’s parents primped them, she was alone. The teachers and parents often gave her sympathetic looks coupled with inaudible muttering. She smiled at me as though she couldn’t see them. “I really wish I could disappear sometimes,” she muttered to herself.
When the show commenced, it was a mashup of offkey singers and out of time dancers. We were the last kids to go on, not for our talent but because we were the only act that was different. It went as practised, we did our card tricks without a hitch, pulled a coin out from behind unsuspecting audience members ears, turned water into ice immediately and made a ring defy gravity by going up a string. Finally, time for the big finish: make my lovely assistant disappear.
We had it planned: there was a small space underneath the stage where Reina could hide, mimicking a trapdoor. We placed the box on top with a false bottom. She walked in the box with a large smile, her face shone brighter every time the audience would clap. She whispered to me just as I closed the door, “this is the happiest day of my life. Thank you for being my best friend.”
Upon hearing those words, I said to the audience, “I love Reina. She is my best friend.” The door was closed but I was sure she could hear me. The big reveal to the audience which showed she had disappeared resulted in a massive round of applause. I just imagined how happy she would be to hear it. The finale should have shown Reina reappear. Should have. “Now ladies and gentlemen. I need some help to get Reina back. Reina. Reina.” I made motions to encourage them to chant. Now everyone was chanting Reina’s name, including the kids that would ridicule us and even the teachers who knew of the trick. I opened the door to reveal Reina. But she wasn’t there. I closed it and tried again.
Panic struck me, maybe she was stuck, I thought. I dropped to the floor and removed the false bottom. The space was empty. There was no sign of Reina in the school or town of Efrose. Everyone searched for her but to no avail. Her parents never pushed to find her and moved out of the village not long after she went missing. The people soon forgot about her after that. Reina was a whisper in the wind and the village would never see her again. She had truly disappeared.