“I was once told to always keep one eye open. You never know what delights and dangers can be hidden in plain sight. Read on to see just what I’m rambling on about.”
Welcome to Mistle’s
“Snow is falling … Do-dah-do-do!” Callum sang to himself whilst walking into the city. He did enjoy walking out to do his Christmas shopping when it was snowing like today.
Callum turned into a side street he always used a shortcut. There was an antique shop, music and furniture stores and sadly a few boarded-up shops between. One of the latter caught his attention. Yesterday all the windows and the door were boarded with plywood. Today the windows were beautifully shiny and the wooden façade was freshly painted in shiny mahogany. A bronze sign on the door read ‘Welcome to Mistle’s. Please come in.’ It’d become a new wine bar overnight.
“I hope you’re looking to buy that derelict old hole. If such an eyesore,” grumbled an old lady wandering by pulling her shopping trolley.
“Looks perfectly fine to me.” Callum frowned, feeling confused. Sure, it was derelict yesterday. Somehow it was as good as new, and open today. “Ah, well, they must have started decorating inside and painted the outside this morning,” he decided, dismissing the whole thing as he set off.
The day only got stranger. Without wanting to, his feet carried him to the café’s door and took him inside.
A twittering of robins reached his ears as the door closed behind him. The wine bar was full of whimsy. It had a warm, cosy feel thanks to the mahogany chairs, tables and bar top. The open fire only added to that feeling is it crackled in the old fireplace opposite the shiny bar. The silver birch trees twinkling with fairy lights along the walls and over the tables, the mistletoe growing on the ceiling and the magnificent life-size reindeer statues bred the whimsical feeling. An iron cauldron sat on the corner of the bar surrounded in wispy white steam and a fruity aroma added a touch of magic too.
Callum gazed about, wondering what made him come in. Each table was adorned with a little Christmas cottage emanating gentle light. There was only one customer in a corner booth. His table was loaded with glasses, it seemed he had a voracious appetite for wine today. Callum focused on him and froze in wide-eyed awe. The customer was no more than four-feet-tall sitting down. What was visible of his rosy face was very rounded and friendly-looking beneath his thick white beard.
“That’s Jaicor. He’s a dwarven groundskeeper as Santa’s workshop in Lapland. He’s upset because he let Blitzen escape through a hole in the hedge. That reindeer is such a naughty boy!”
The friendly feminine voice caused Callum to flinch. Catching his breath, he faced the bar and succumbed to fresh shock. The bartender with her shimmering tawny hair, pointed ears and tall, elegant figure had to be an elf. She looked adorable in her green pinafore dress. “I-er — Hi, I’m sorry he’s having trouble. You did well, opening this pretty place so fast.” Callum managed, trying to process everything he was seeing. “Mind you, nobody seems to see your beautiful bar.”
The elf chuckled cutely. “I’m Mari Mistle. It’s nice to meet you, Callum. Mistle’s is invisible to most people. Come and see.” Stepping out of the bar, she directed him to the window and pointed across the street. Reflected in the furniture store window was the boarded-up and derelict building Callum remember seeing here yesterday. Yet he was standing in a beautiful wine bar.
“But — I … Wha … What’s going on, Mari?” he spluttered in total confusion.
Jaicor the dwarf chose that moment to belch loudly. “Wassail! Hehe, scuse me. You should-hic ‘ave some wulled mine. I-hic weckon et might ‘elp you understand bwetter,” he slurred.
“Humph, yeah, it’s really helping you do better isn’t, Jaicor.” Mari shook her head and returned to the bar. She took a ladle of hot, red liquid from the cauldron and poured it into a gold-rimmed wine glass. “Here, Callum. Try this.”
“Thank you,” Callum accepted the glass and took a sip. His palette sung with the rich fruity notes of good red wine. The plum flavours were spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg among other things. As those flavours passed, he was hit square between the eyes by a blast of alcohol, leaving him feeling dazed and quite warm inside when he finished choking. “Bloody Nora! If he’s been drinking this; no wonder, he’s drunk! It’s delicious but wowee! It’s strong.”
“Gah-hic, you ‘umans always were lightweights,” Jaicor responded.
Mari gave him an angry look. “I’m sorry, just ignore him.”
“It’s okay. I know he’s having a bad day. So, what is this magical place?“ Callum smiled as he took a much smaller sip of his mulled wine.
Mari came and sat on a stool beside him. “In every town and city, there’s a café, restaurant or bar for those not human. It always resides within an abandoned building to stop humans finding it. If the building becomes occupied, it moves. Mistle’s is my little shelter for the magical beings in our city.”
“I think I understand. However, I’m not magical in any way. How was I able to see and enter your place?”
Mari set her lively sap-green eyes on him and blushed. She opened her mouth to speak and groaned as the door opened with a twittering of robins, Callum heard when he came in.
Callum turned his gaze towards the newcomers and gasped. Two guests had arrived. The one with the golden-blonde hair and pretty, red festive dress had to be another elf. The other was tiny by comparison, she was flying on the set of glittery dragonfly-like wings. “Ah, come on! Fairy’s too.” he felt himself say.
Mari squeezed his shoulder and stood. “Hello, Tinley. How’s the decorating going?” she asked.
“Hi, Mari. I think, for once we’ll be done early.” Tinley smiled at Callum.
“That’s great! Fluorida, lovely to see you. How’s the tooth collecting business.”
“Suffering! The human’s new toothpaste and low sugar diets are making it hard for us to get donations. They don’t seem to put teeth under pillows anymore either!” complained the fairy landing on the bar beside the cauldron.
“Pity. You do such great things with teeth as well” Mari poured mulled wine for Tinley and a small goblet of honey-like liquid for the fairy.
Tinley put her hands on her hips as she focused on the dwarf. “Hey, Jaicor. Blitzen’s back home. No harm was done but Santa requests you get your sozzled backside over to see him, pronto.”
“Weally-hic. Blitzen’s fine?”
“Yes, he’s quite alright. Deering is looking after him now.” Tinley said. “Now, get up and go and see Santa!”
“Al-hic-right.” Jaicor clambered to his feet. Staggering around the table, he caught his foot in a chair, slammed into a reindeer statue and fell flat on his face.
Fluorida tutted, “Drunken fool.” She finished her drink and flew over to him with a silver wand in hand. “Give me a hand, Tinley. He’ll be lucky to make it out the door, like this.”
“No kidding!” Tinley hauled the dwarf to his feet. “If you throw up on me, I’ll make you the angel on top of one of my trees this year, I warn you!”
Callum watched the fairy gesture with her wand. A blue flash lit up the seating area and the trio vanished. It was then Mari sat beside him again.
“Sorry about that,” she said with her eyes on his. “The reason you could see this place was because I let you. I watched you go by every day and couldn’t help noticing how you’re always singing carols and other nice songs. You seem, such a lovely happy gentleman. I…”
“Thank you, Mari. That’s so sweet of you to say.” Callum smiled at her.
Mari shook her head and looked a little worried. “You don’t understand. I broke at least a hundred and fifty laws letting you come in here. When you leave, I will have to enchant you so you forget everything you see today. Unless…” She stopped and wiped her eyes.
“Unless what?” Callum focused on her. “It to be a shame to forget Mistle’s and you. It and you are quite lovely.”
A sparkle came to Mari’s eyes. “Then there’s a chance.” Without warning, she reached over and kissed him.
Callum couldn’t believe his lips. He felt a voracious desire to kiss her back but refrained. Could he, should he even have a relationship with an elf? “That was … Magical,” he managed, feeling stunned as they parted.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist doing that. You see, I … I love you.” Mari swayed a little on her stool having come over bashful. “The only way you can leave with your memories and still come back to see me is if you love me too. We can sign a trust bond and then you’ll be allowed into the magical world. What do you say?”
Just a few minutes ago, Callum had been on his way, Christmas shopping. Now an elf — a real elf was admitting her love to him. “I – wow! I’m honoured that you’d choose a human to love over another elf. I think I need some time to digest everything, but…” He reached over and brushed his nose against hers as they kissed again. “I feel we’re at the start of something magical together.”
Have a great day!