Losing her mother was hard on Joanna. Naturally. It would have been easier if Stacy died. Pete hated to think it, but it was true. Something, some part of Stacy’s mind just up and left, and what remained had no cause nor capacity to care for a child.
Stacy received the best care she could get in the capable hands of her parents. Pete couldn’t care for her without going mad, without wasting away himself, and he couldn’t do that to Joanna. Their daughter needed the chance at a happy life. With Stacy, Joanna would always be in danger. Would always be a caretaker. Stacy agreed to the divorce in a rare moment of lucidity, and with that Pete took Joanna far away.
“I hate it here,” Joanna said the moment she arrived at the new place. It was an old and eclectic thing, this old house. It bent and warped in so many places it had the look of a twisted cactus. Pete had it inspected several times over, unconvinced that it was in good shape, but all the contractors said it was as strong as an oak. There was something special about it.
“You’ll grow to love it,” said Pete. “My aunt and uncle lived here for decades. I used to … I loved coming here.”
In truth, Pete barely remembered the place. He could breathe the strange aroma of exotic spice and his mind would form sensations of joy, wonder, excitement matched only by dreams–but no concrete memories came.
The inevitable question: “Why did you love coming to this stinky place?”
The best example Pete could come up with was, “I felt like I was living in a storybook when I came here.”
Further questions, but Pete left it at that. “Take your bag to your room upstairs. I think you’ll like it.”
Joanna sighed, but she was interested in seeing where she’d be building her fortress of solitude in the coming years, so she obeyed and climbed the twisted staircase, bending first right, then left, then it was a straight staircase like in a normal house. Joanna frowned and looked down the stairs, over the railing to the main floor. No, it was never a spiral staircase. She must have been tired.
When she arrived at what would be her bedroom, neatly-folded stacks of what appeared to be bathrobes were piled all over, like a shrine around a mushroom-looking bed.
And on the bed was a little man with a long pointed nose and flappy ears like a beagle.
“Hello,” said the man. He had a helium-sounding voice and wore rags for clothes. He sat with his long-fingered hands folded over his lap, like he was waiting for something to happen.
“Hi,” said Joanna.
“What’s your name?”
“Joanna Quirke. What’s yours?”
“Goodie,” said the man.
“Your name is Goodie?”
The man nodded, his ears flapping. “You’re a Quirke? Are you my new mistress?”
When Joanna explained the “house elf” to her father, Pete grew worried that his daughter was having an episode or a phase that she should have grown out of long ago. She explained that she needed to keep “Goodie” a secret, because he wasn’t supposed to serve “muggles” or the “Ministry” would come after him. Apparently Pete was a “muggle.”
“Are you not a muggle then, sweetheart?” Pete asked, trying to be playful but deep down worrying about his daughter’s psyche.
Before Joanna could answer, a great whoosh could be heard from outside, followed by a rapping on the door that sounded like it was being buffeted by windy rain. Then as quick as it came it was gone, except for a sealed letter with bright green writing on the back of it, which slipped through the mail slot and landed flat on the floor of the strange house.
Today’s three random prompt categories were, “Fanfiction,” “Magical realism,” and, “Best example.”
Don’t pretend you’ve never written Harry Potter fanfiction.