Illusions of Grandeur

Note: Illusionist Paloma Louisa Santiago has been entertaining people for years and wants to follow in the footsteps of David Copperfield but is distracted by real life problems. Her son, Miguel has been getting into trouble starting fights in school and her young daughter Dora is proving to be a handful—and she has one more child on the way.

"Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called "The Pledge"; the magician shows you something ordinary, but of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn"; the magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now if you're looking for the secret... you won't find it, that's why there's a third act called, "The Prestige"; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before. "--Cutter, 'The Prestige'

Chapter 1—Doing It by Herself

Paloma Santiago had always been able to take care of herself, but with two children to rear on her own without much help from anyone, not even her family. Her family hadn't always been supportive of her career choice as an illusionist. Though she wasn't a well-known magician like David Copperfield, she was still quite skilled at what she did. Her work was her only release from the everyday toils that she and her family were facing. Miguel, her eldest son, had begun getting himself into trouble by instigating fist fights between himself and other boys. He usually won the brawls, and ended doing a lot of damage, but it landed him in detention every time. Detention had little or no effect, and Paloma had tried everything to discipline him. Nothing was taking any root within him and she secretly felt that she had failed. It was becoming more difficult to deal with Miguel's behavior as well as her youngest, Dora. Dora didn't listen to anyone or anybody. Paloma didn't know what else to do, beyond prayer and her discipline. She tried reproving them. She tried "commando parenting" as well as simply ignoring them (since she thought they were trying to gain her attention in the wrong manner).

Absolutely nothing she did would dissuade them from acting out, and she was reaching the end of her rope. Just as when she thought there were no other solutions…one appeared right in front of her nose.

Chapter 2—Trust In Love

Right after her latest performance, Paloma was feeling a bit drained when she accidentally ran into a stagehand that was moving props out for the next show, which happened to be a rather late-running comedy show for the "happy hour" crowd.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you like that. Hey, you're Paloma Santiago, the one and only prestigious prestidigitator.", the young man said, with a flourish. She was surprised the word "prestidigitator" didn't trip up his tongue like it would so many other people, and to use such a multisyllabic word was impressive as well. She could tell this young man, even though he was slightly awkward, was intelligent.

"Yes, that I am. And you are ?", she asked, curiously, eyeing his typical backstage attire. He was wearing all black so as to blend in with the black space surrounding the plots when they had to be moved inconspicuously. She admired his hair color, a natural blonde, his straight teeth, posture, as well as his ice-blue eyes. They were surprisingly magnetic and not at all cold.

"I'm just Edward, Edward McNeal. I've been doing this for years now, but never did I think I'd run into you. You know you have a lot of gumption and pizzazz. Not a lot of women I know could ever think they'd become as great as Copperfield. I think you will someday.", McNeal said with a gentle smile. Although she hated admitting it, she felt she was starting to fall in love with the stranger. He seemed to have a stable head upon his shoulders, and was quite strapping at that. One moment she was distracted and a large 2X4 nearly fell on her. He had pushed her out of the way and onto the floor. Seeing he was on top of her in a rather provocative position, he blushed, laughed nervously and left without even saying goodbye. She got up and said rather tentatively, "I hope I see you again, Edward."

Chapter 3—Throw Kids Into the Mixture, Blend Thoroughly

It was another hectic day, but instead of looking completely sapped by the end of the day, Paloma had a radiance about her that was supernatural. Her energy seemed to encompass the auditorium itself and others were taking notice. Her children especially could tell there was something different about her, and they would soon figure out the reason for that.

"Mom, who's this dude ?", Miguel questioned, eyeing the tall blonde suspiciously.

"Oh, this is Edward. He works in props, backdrops…", Paloma said, dreamily.

"Sometimes in lighting tech and sound effects.", Edward added with a certain sparkle in his eyes.

"Are you in loooove with him ?", Dora asked, cutting directly to the issue at hand. Paloma turned dark red and covered her daughter's mouth.

"I'm sorry. She has a tendency to be outspoken, and quite precocious for her age.", Paloma said, feeling very exposed momentarily.

"It's alright. I know how kids are. Hey, what would you guys say to a VIP trip behind stage ? I'll show you how it all works, and you can help if you like.", Edward said, being accommodating as ever. It was apparent he had dealt with kids before and naturally gravitated toward them (and vice versa). He seemed to understand them and speak their language. For the first time in a long time, it looked as though Dora and Miguel were behaving, and actually listening to authority for a change.

The kids really took to Edward rapidly and supported their mother's increasing love for him. The two hadn't started dating as of yet, but both of the kids knew why.

"I know we're probably too old for a babysitter, but you two really need to have time to get to know each other.", Miguel said, with a friendly nudge to his mother's ribcage. Paloma was at a loss for words, and she turned slightly pink once again. She thought it was a tremendous idea though.

"How about this weekend then ?", Paloma asked.

"It would be my pleasure to escort you anywhere you wish to go.", Edward said, with a dramatic bow. The children practically howled in laughter, and Paloma tittered like a schoolgirl. They were all splendidly pleased with their mother's newfound joviality, and prayed it lasted forever, if they were lucky. So far in life, none of them had ever been "lucky", but they knew that the bonds of family kept them united.

Chapter 4—Surprise Proposition

After countless dates ranging from the extravagant to the everyday, Edward and Paloma realized that they were both hopelessly in love with one another. They could be apart on any given day, but preferred each other's company if loneliness ever set in. One night, after Paloma had been filming a show to be aired globally, she had been interviewed by a local news station soon afterward. She was still percolating with radiance and the glow surrounded her wherever she went. People could tell a difference. It wasn't that she didn't perform with love and flair, but now it seemed to come naturally from her almost as if it was effortless.

After the interview and getting a notification from David Copperfield himself, she was rather touched by his words.

"You might not be 'big league' like I am, but I am certain one day…you will rival me. Even then, we magicians are always friends. Keep on dazzling them !", the bulletin read, attached with it was an 8X5 glossy photo with his autograph which read, "Never stop sparkling" and his autograph. She would keep that in her dressing room so she would constantly be inspired by it.

As Paloma was sticking the autograph of David Copperfield into her corkboard with a pushpin, Edward had appeared quite suddenly without Paloma noticing.

"Greetings, gate !", Edward said, cheerfully. Paloma rasped and grasped at her heart and turned around, practically shouting,

"Edward ! Don't sneak up on me like that…", she said, warning him. Her ex had often done that to blindside her for no reason, and she even flinched.

"Paloma, I would never hurt you. I don't know what you went through in the past, but…", Edward said, tenderly caressing her hand. She wept slightly and dried her eyes.

"I'm sorry that I was frightened. Some things I have simply tried to repress. I just have to remember, you're not the type of guy.", Paloma said as Edward wiped the remainder of her tears away.

"I actually came here to ask something of you.", Edward said, his voice soft and poetic.

"What's that ?", Paloma said as she enjoyed the closeness and serenity of his embrace.

He crouched down on one knee and held an open jewelry box with the most spectacular solitaire ever seen.

"Marry me…You bring me the best kind of magic any man can ever wish for; love.", Edward said, his icy-eyes full of hope and promise.

"Oh, Edward, of course ! You know I would. No matter how many times you ask !", Paloma said. Edward placed the ring on her finger, twirled her about, and brought her close to his lips. The kiss seemed to be endless but his watch gave out an annoying beep.

"Just when I thought I could enjoy the liquor that is your kiss…Destiny calls.", Edward said, sounding a bit like a prima donna. Paloma chuckled. She would wait for his call at home, since she had the kids at home to tend to, but they were being taken care of by the local babysitter.

"I'll see you later, my dear.", Paloma said in Spanish, which he completely understood, and went about his work for the latest evening show.

Chapter 5—Adjusting to Married Life

The children weren't as reserved about Edward marrying Paloma because they liked him so much, but they didn't realize their life was about to change at home. Dora wasn't used to seeing a man in the bathroom in the early morning, and it took her by surprise at first. Miguel was already bonding with him, and Dora, as much as she didn't want to admit it, wanted to play with her little brother rather than having her "new daddy" have all of the fun. Edward strangely sensed this, and included her in their games, though the games were quite masculine, but there was no reason she couldn't play them just as well as they did. (And she did, even better than they did, too.)

Paloma didn't want to have any more children, which Edward had explicitly understood, but this didn't mean they had no romance within their lives. The love-life the two had was rather passionate, and they were always very careful to use the proper precautions to prevent possible pregnancies. But suddenly, Paloma's life was about to transform in ways she never saw coming. Unlike some illusionists who dream of making it big, greatness was about to be thrust upon her and she would have to adapt to being famous.

Chapter 6—Just About as Big as Davey…

Paloma often called her role-model "Davey", for reasons unknown to everyone else. Edward often teased her about it, wondering if his little buttercup had a crush on the man. She would never reveal her reasons, but her blushing made it quite transparent as to what her true feelings were. Despite her crush on the famous magician, her love for Edward was the strongest force in the known universe and nothing would ever change that.

One night after Paloma had given another performance to a full house in the small theatre where she often dazzled and awed the crowds there under the name of "Stardust". After a rousing standing ovation, Paloma went to her dressing room to change into some more casual clothing. Just as soon as she was done, she took a bottle of water from her refrigerator and heard a knock on her door. To her surprise, David Copperfield was standing outside of her door. Paloma's mouth hung agape, and she thought that to him, she probably looked like a slack-jawed yokel compared to the girls that worked with him on stage. She slapped her mandible back into place and stammered,

"Why, Mr. Copperfield, what a pleasant surprise ! What brings you to the Copa Coconut ?", Paloma questioned, curiously.

"I was in the neighborhood.", David said, emitting a generous laugh. She had never thought David would actually enjoy laughing, let alone chuckle so freely in the company of someone he hardly even knew.

"What did you want to talk to me about ?", Paloma asked, wondering why David would want to even have himself seen with a magician who couldn't even compare to him, let alone Penn & Teller.

"I was wondering if you would be so kind to open for me tomorrow night. You see, one of my crewmembers had to have some time off because he has a family event he needs to attend. It's really important. He's just become a father of two bouncing baby boys, and none of us were ever expecting that.", David said, straightforwardly.

"None of us ever do.", Paloma said with a giddy giggle. There was a burst of energy inside her, a cosmos twirling and gyrating about with every syllable that emerged from Copperfield's lips.

"Well, what do you say, my friend ? Would you be willing to help me ?", David questioned, pleading in a subliminal context.

"I would be honored. I never thought this day would come.", Paloma stated, her heart thumping rapidly in her chest. She graciously took her idol's hand as he led her to his limo and drove her to the large amphitheatre where his show would be performed.

Paloma had no idea how performing at the amphitheatre would compare to the Copa Coconut, but as soon as she walked out onto the stage under the hot stage lights; she felt her legs wobble a bit. She was able to keep herself on her toes. She had to develop her routine by improvisation, which she was used to doing, and the gargantuan crowd seemed normal. After she finished, she turned the stage over to the "true master of illusion" and waited in the wings as David continued to entertain the audience.

Paloma received a cell-phone call from Miguel, who was wondering where she was.

"Why are you so late ? Is something wrong ?", Miguel asked, with some worry in his tone.

"It's alright, nino. I'm doing well. You won't believe this, but I opened for David Copperfield !", Paloma said, in a whisper. Her voice was still exhilarated.

"No…way ! You're joking !", Miguel yelled over the phone. She could hear the small slap of his hand across his mouth so he wouldn't wake Dora.

"I'm not teasing you, Miguel. Look, I'll show you.", Paloma said snapping a quick photo of David as soon as he joined her in the wings. He was caught off-guard, but he chuckled at her momentarily.

"Holy Mary !", Miguel said in a whisper of reverence.

"I take it that's your son you've told me so much about.", David stated, quite obviously.

"Yes, that's Miguel. Honey, I'll be home in a bit…", Paloma said, before David said he would be bringing her home in his limo. That way, he would meet David, and boast a bit to Dora and Edward about the encounter he auspiciously had.

Epilogue

Even though Paloma never quite reached "superstar" status, she could say she had starred on the same stage as her idol. She had never forgotten that. With her husband, she was able to make ends meet and live a rather comfortable life. The children were more behaved, and even had the chance to star in one of her shows during the Christmas season. They had never been part of something so massive, but they would remember it for as long as they lived. With photos from behind the scenes, the kids kept their Kodak treasures close to them and looked back whenever they felt blue. This didn't happen often thanks to the family's new outlook on life. Paloma had stopped flinching whenever Edward had come up behind her to surprise her with a loving hug and she was more trusting when it came to him. She knew there were others that couldn't be trusted, and she used her intuition for separating them from those who were dishonorable.

Years passed and Paloma soon retired from the world of illusions to work in the Make-A-Wish foundation as well as other charitable organizations around her home. She didn't mind becoming a stay-at-home mom, but her children were quickly growing up. Miguel was following in his mother's footsteps and had also worked in commercial art as a backup if his work as a magician didn't come together as he planned. As for Dora, she had given of her time to become a "wildlife warrior", working at the local zoo and trying to raise awareness around her. She had traveled here and there, including to her hero's origin, Australia Zoo. She had come back with experiences that would last her until eternity, as well as the wisdom she needed to continue educating others about debunking myths about "fearsome creatures". She and her brother were moving up in the world, and mom and dad cheered them on through thick and thin. Whatever the future held for the two siblings, the parents looked forward to every second of triumph, exploration and discovery, wherever it led. Magic existed in a different form for all of them, even though it was part of their existence but it came in the form of something more astonishing; love. The strongest force in the known universe, something mystical and ethereal in and of itself. This constant concept would be around them in any and all events, and that was what made magic what it truly was. It is the same with everything else, and only the gifted know this fact well.

The End