This story is by Joanne Helppie and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
It’s not my fault I was born a princess. My parents, the King and Queen, had a lot to do with it. I didn’t ask for this.
“You are obnoxious, obstreperous and completely lacking in the most valuable traits of any princess — obedience and meekness. We have certain expectations that are not being met.”
My father always used the kingly “we” and just assumed the agreement of my mother. His face was red and very round, his brows coming together threateningly over his nose. His crown was slightly askew. My mother, the fairest in the land, sat primly beside him, filing her nails, her hair flowing down her back, over the throne, and out the door. Her crown sparkled, exactly placed on her lovely head.
“It’s my life!” I’d howl at him as I was dragged back, again and again, from unsavory places — the forest, a protest march, the dance floor. My crown was heavy and cold and decidedly uncomfortable. Yet I was forced to wear it so anyone seeing me would know my station.
“We,” my father said, very firmly and again using the kingly ‘we’, “inform you that you must choose from which format you wish to be rescued by a prince. You’re old enough to be wed. You’re old enough to become happily ever after.”
“And you have plenty of choices — to be rescued from dragons or from witches or the big bad wolf. Or you could be rescued from a giant or demons or an ogre. But no evil stepmother rescues, I’m afraid.” He took my mother’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Your mother’s stories are too good to trade her in for a different model.”
My mother smiled serenely. Then she began powdering her nose. What was she thinking? Her thoughts were a mystery everyone, including me.
“Why do princes have all the fun?” I shouted at my father, stamping my feet and throwing my crown.
He had had an exciting life with climbing a beanstalk and robbing a giant and being knighted, then becoming a prince by royal fiat and sent on a quest to kill a dragon and save my mother. It just wasn’t fair!
I screamed again, “Why do princes get to have all the fun?”
“It is decidedly unprincessly to shout at me,” my father said, frowning and considerably miffed. “Your mother and I agree that something must be done!”
He looked to my mother, his brows raised questioningly, for help.
My mother took my hand and drew me away from the Throne Room. “Come,” she said.
“It’s unfair! I hate him! I’m going to run away!” I ranted. I kicked my battered crown down the hall. Its cold metallic clanking as it rolled along made me want to stomp it into the ground.
“Sweetie.” My mother hugged me. She always smelled of summer sunshine and other good things. “Do the unexpected. Never disagree.”
She really was the fairest in the land. Everyone said so. “Write him a thoughtful letter about what you’d like to see happen for you. And remember, strategy is everything. I can help you with that.”
Later, relaxed and happy, the King sat on his throne, smoking his pipe and listening to his three fine fiddlers. “Your mother just told me the best story!” He grinned.
The Queen, always tranquil, smiled. “Perhaps your father would find it amusing if you were to read him a letter about your feelings. Kind of like a story, only better.”
So I read the letter that I’d prepared at my mother’s behest, stating my case:
Dearest Father, King of the Universe and All of Creation including the Earth, the Sea and all the Skies, even beyond the clouds and all Imaginings. Even beyond usual Traditions,
I glanced in his direction. Was he even listening? My mother sat like a judge at a trial, assessing my every word. She was the fairest of them all and she was paying close attention.
What does “happily ever after” even mean? After what? I need to know. The Before. I need to know about the Before in order to know if Ever After will work for me. Where does the happiness come from? Perhaps it defines the Before?
What if the Before is an evil witch with a spell when I prick my finger or eat a poisoned apple and I fall asleep only to be awakened by a kiss from a Prince — with halitosis?
What if my happiness involves a dragon not eating me in the Before, but will that constitute enough of an After for me to be happily ever in?
I thought to myself, Why did you get to choose and Mother did not? Was that fair? I was glad Mother was concerned about my future. She was listening intently.
The King leaned forward, chin in his hand, trying to concentrate. His crown was slipping over his brow but at least his face wasn’t red and he wasn’t frowning.
I can’t see putting myself through the hassle of dealing with a witch if the After is affected by some awful Prince who thinks he’s God’s gift to women!
“Of course, I don’t mean you and Mother.” I hastily added, “You both just got lucky.” He patted her hand and gave her a soft smile. She looked at him thoughtfully.
Why aren’t there more choices? Work with me here.
A Prince who I’ve never met slays a dragon and claims me as his wife forever. What if he’s boring? Or stingy? Or a meany? Or the Dragon wins and either has me for dessert after dining on the Prince, or he decides he’ll keep me as one of his trophies. How are those my only options?
So there’s a huge fight between a Prince and a Dragon or some other beastly creature with me as the prize and I’m supposed to be happy that the choice was made for me? I don’t think so! How can this be fair?
I once more looked at my Father, the King, my pleading gaze on his face, trying to will him, just this once, into agreement. I wanted justice.
I think I’ll be happily ever after my law degree.
Sincerely, and with love if you let me go to law school,
My father gave a small cough, then turned and looked into my mother’s eyes. “You’re the fairest person I know,” he said. “What do you advise?”
She smiled at him and laughed. “I’m so glad you asked me.”
And so I did live happily ever after, with my law degree and company: The Queen, the Princess, and Associates, L.L.C.
And I, myself, have fought corporate dragons and won the love of a fair prince who was once a frog.
He even tells good stories.
Anna P. Wright says
Your story was so much fun to read. Great humour throughout. It flowed well and I particularly enjoyed the pastiche of every fairytale cleverly woven into the plot.
You’ve come a long way from the first draft of 300+ words and just the letter.
I loved the back story to the original starting point you had in workshop.
All the best with the contest Joanne.
I look forward to reading more stories from you in the future.