Practical Pia wishes for her own pixie man to have and to hold on to, but she doesn’t expect to wake up with him a couple of hours later. Peter has been dumped by his human girlfriend and is only too glad to salve his bruised and shaken feelings with a miss who welcomes his pixie grip.
It’s lucky that Pia is up for a challenge, because Peter is a challenge and a half.
Peter is determined to marry Pia immediately. The vicar, who happens to be his grandfather, has other ideas.
While Peter and Pia begin their long and fruitful marriage, Peter’s ex-girlfriend, Barbie, faces a life-altering situation.
Meanwhile, Peter’s younger cousins, Salix Peter Grene and Joe Bakewell, pursue their own hopes, and Judit Creed, artist’s model and dancer, entertains her favourite soldier in the dressing room.
Windhill, Sydney. 1940s
Barbara Hanover had known about elves for as long as she could remember. Sylvie Cowrie and her cousin Meredith Oak were in her class at school, and Jacobi le Fay often kicked a football around the oval with her brother Johnny.
They were elves, or maybe half-elves and she accepted them just as she accepted Julia Conti whose dad was Italian and Josh Levy whose Uncle Moshe had funny dangly bits of hair.
When they got to twelve or so, everyone started changing. The girls got taller than the boys, and annoying things happened to bodies that used to be reliable. A few painful spots popped out on Barbie’s chin.
The elves changed, too, but not in the same way. They never got spots or lumpy bits, but Meredith Oak got into trouble for throwing a spoon to her cousin, and Sylvie was given detention for eating cake when she should have been writing an essay. There was a lot of enquiry about where she’d got the cake, because it wasn’t from the school lunch menu. Sylvie wouldn’t say.
When Barbie was fifteen, Jacobi le Fay gave her a rose and asked if she wanted to go to the pictures with him. Barbie wondered where he’d got the rose, since he hadn’t had it when he came back from kicking a ball with Johnny. It was the first time anyone had given her flowers, although she wasn’t sure if one single flower counted. She put it in a vase in her bedroom.
Mum and Dad talked about it and said she could go to the pictures, but only if Johnny went, too. The boys talked about football, but they agreed to her request for a comedy rather than a western, and Jacobi got her ice cream at the interval.
One day, when Johnny was having a bath after a muddy accident at the oval, Jacobi waited for him in the living room with Barbie. He was neat and clean as always.
He never seems to fall over and slide about in the mud, and he smells nice, like lemonade.
Barbie told him she wanted to go to art school. She thought it would be nice if she and the other girls could draw him at art club because he didn’t have any spots or bumpy bits. He looked…nice. She said so, awkwardly.
“I hope it’s not a life drawing class,” Jacobi said.
“I mean…Could I keep my clothes on?” He blushed.
So did Barbie. “You are awful, Jacobi.”
“You’re not. You’re…I mean, I like you.”
“I like you, too,” Barbie said. It was all right to say it if the boy said it first.
Jacobi, still a bit pink in the cheeks, told her he had something secret to show her. It was called disclosure.
Barbie was wary about having a boy show her something secret, but it turned out he just wanted to demonstrate exactly how Sylvie and Meredith had thrown things and got cake at school when they were younger.
It was called conjuring, and it was something to do with being an elf. She didn’t tell him she’d already known he was an elf.
Jacobi often showed her secret things after that. When they left school, he started calling to take her to the cinema more often, even without Johnny, and sometimes he kissed her in the dark. It was so nice, but Barbie was still set on going to art school. She sent away for booklets and talked to the careers adviser she’d had at school.
The best one was at a place called Appledore in Victoria, but her parents refused to let her go.
Barbie went to work for a man her dad knew, sitting in a typing room with three other girls. She saved her money and went on drawing as much as she could.
When she was nineteen, Johnny got a place at Appledore University to do medical studies. They let him go, and eventually, they said she could go, too, if Johnny kept an eye on her.
Jacobi was teaching her how to drive his car. He offered to drive her to Appledore, but of course, her parents said no, she had to take the train to Melbourne and then catch a bus. Then Johnny, who’d been home for the holidays, agreed to go back with them, and it was all right again.
Jacobi kissed her goodbye while Johnny fidgeted because he wanted to go and sort out his classes.
“Have fun, Barbara Allen, but not too much,” Jacobi whispered.
He sometimes called her that.
She hugged him, inhaling his sweet, familiar smell. “I’ll see you during the holidays.”
“I’ll come and visit you as often as I can.”