By now I’m sure you are wondering why this story didn’t start out “once upon a time”. Truth is, I’m not a very traditional fairy-tale princess. Never was. Don’t care to be. My parents want me to “walk in the old ways”, but I am quite convinced that satin slippers are a little more than slightly out of style. So are silk gowns and pointed princess hats.
And princes are extinct.
You know how parents are. They just don’t seem to realize that times have changed since the day my Mom kissed a frog. Imagine me telling my friends how my parents met!
“Yeah, my Mom was sitting by an abandoned well crying because she lost her gold ball...”
“Her gold ball. Princesses have always played with gold balls.”
“Sheesh. That is so weird. I mean, if I were a princess I’d be going to gold balls, not playing with them.”
And you can see how it would progress.
“Sick! Your Mom kissed a frog?”
“She had to. Her dad told her to.”
“So? I wouldn’t have done it. That is so, like totally weird. There’s plenty of cute guys out there without needing to go around kissing frogs.”
Yeah. Like I said, being a princess isn’t cool anymore. Everybody’s got their own ideas about what a princess is or does, and my parent’s ideas don’t match up. Of course Mom and Dad are totally oblivious. I guess they're still lost in their “happily ever after”. But “happily ever afters” just don’t happen anymore. And “once upon a time” was way to long ago. I am just totally ready to get out of my parents fairy-tale and into my own reality.
Of course, like any dutiful princess, I tried talking to my Fairy GodMother to see if she would fix the problem.
“Be content,” she said. “Most girls have it much worse than you do. You have a long family history of happy endings, you are as beautiful as the dawn, as sweet-smelling as roses and if anything ever goes wrong a charming prince will come rescue you.”
“What good is being as beautiful as the dawn, when I’m stuck in a dress that looks like all of my friend’s curtains sewn together, and covers me from neck to toe-nails, plus a veil. And why in the world would I want to smell like roses? Only old ladies wear that kind of a scent now days. Vanilla and coconut are much more culturally acceptable. For crying out loud, what in the world do I want a charming prince for? To fix his dinner? If I get into any trouble, I’ll just get out again on my own. When I want to get married, there are plenty of good-looking boys to choose from.”
“But Rosebud,” my Fairy Godmother looked so distressed as she paced the room, scattering fairy-dust everywhere. “You can’t just marry anyone. You have to wait for just the right prince to come and sweep you off your feet.”
I sniffed and turned my back on her. “Those kinds of princes died out with the dinosaurs.”
“Some people still see dinosaurs every once in a while.” She laid her hand on my shoulder. “Just be patient, Dearie. Hand on to that Eucharis Lily I gave you and I will help you find a prince.”
“Keep your stale fairy-dust to yourself,” I snapped. “Along with your out-dated advice. Both of them make me sneeze. As for that stupid locket, I’ll give it to the first guy that asks me for it.”
“Oh, don’t do that!” Fairy Godmother cried. “If you do, Rosebud, you’ll never get it back again!”
“Why should I care?” I turned fiercely on her. “I don’t want it. The only thing it has ever done for me, is to mark me as a behind-the-times stuck-up snob."
“No. No,” Fairy Godmother soothed. “A reserved princess, of much too fine a breed for these insolent young curs.”
“What if I want to marry one of these ‘common curs’ as you call them? I’m tired of fairy tales, and I am going to write my own story, my own way. You’ll see.”
There was silence for a second as my Fairy Godmother looked at me anxiously. “You really are going to write your own story, your own way? May I see it?”
“No,” I shut my lips tightly.
“How does it start?” She asked wheedlingly. “Just tell me how it starts. Does it start ‘once upon a time’?”
“No,” I answered again.
The Fairy Godmother covered her face and moaned. “It’ll never come out right, Rosebud. It won’t come out right. Get off to a wrong start and you can never get it to end right!”
I tossed my golden head, and my tiara flew across the room and slammed against a wall. “Oh yeah? Well, I don’t believe in ‘happily ever after’, That’s a fairy-tale for babies and old people and it just doesn’t happen anymore. Now life is all ‘happily right now’ and a lot more exciting that way. If I ever meet a dragon I’ll just fight it myself. Maybe I’ll even rescue some wimpy remnant of a prince. I believe in equality of the sexes.”
Fairy Godmother stood aghast. “How can you say that?” she gasped. “Such a thing is treason against the very fairy tale into which you were born!”
“Well the fairy tale is over. Reality is here.” I sat down and pulled off my satin slippers. “You can tell Dad that he won’t be able to trace my dancing habits to the holes in my slippers. From now on it will be flip-flops for me! And as for you—get out of here and quit messing up my life with that irritating fairy dust.”
I never saw my fairy godmother again. She went out of my life in a poof of purple smoke, shaking her head and muttering, “It’ll never come out right. Get started all wrong and you can’t ever end it right!”
Flip-flops did make life a lot easier. And my room was no longer inches thick in fairy dust, which meant that they didn’t get dust-logged as I walked from the bed to the bathroom.
I went to the beach one day with some friends and they helped me shed my exaggerated princess gown for some hotpants and a tank top. I felt a little bit naked at first, but I’d always wanted to make the change, so it came pretty easily. No longer was I “as lovely as the dawn”, but now I was right down, nitty gritty hot. Or so they said.
Bleached my hair a more trendy color of blond. Golden hair isn’t worth what it used to be.
Came home and sat down to watch the new reality TV show.
Enter Mom. “Rosebud, honey, why don’t you read a book or something.”
“Like what? The Princess and The Pea? Hanzel and Gretel? Rapunzel? That stuff isn’t even real!”
Mom looked at me disapprovingly from underneath her princess hat. “That stuff you’re watching isn’t real. If you don’t want to read, you could go for a walk in the garden.”
“No thanks,” I yawned. “With my family history, I might get attacked by a dragon.”
“No such luck,” my dad (a.k.a. The Frog Prince) sighed, coming in from the other doorway. “I’ve been out everywhere looking for one.”
“What do you need a dragon for, Love?” Mom asked, kissing my dad on the end of his nose.
“Am I getting warts again?” Dad chuckled. (Parents have such outdated senses of humor.) “Well, I was trying to think of a good test of skill for the winning of Rosebud. You know she’s fourteen and I haven’t had a single marriage proposal for her yet?”
“Maybe that’s because I’m not in trouble,” I sneered.
“We can fix that, if you don’t fix your attitude,” Mom countered. I had to admit the kind of prince who would save me from grounding would be just my kind of guy.
“What have you been up to?” Dad asked, twiddling a strand of my hair. “Looks like we need your great grandma’s friend Rumplestiltskin to come spin this straw back into gold.”
Suddenly Mom looked at me hard. “What has become of your gown? Flip-flops were one thing, but this is another. Honey, do you know how long that princess gown has been in the family?”
“Too long,” I muttered.
“Rosebud, Rosebud, what has gotten into you?”
“Reality has hit,” I snapped, jumping to my feet in anger. “I am sick of this stupid fairy-tale way of life. It doesn’t work anymore. Got it? I hate having fairy dust inches thick in my bathtub, and polishing this stupid Eucharis Lily and wearing clothes that look like they should hang from my windows, and waiting for a prince that’ll never come and always having to do things the same old ways they’ve always been done.” I was in tears by now. “Do you have any idea how old and stuffy the name Rosebud is? It’s so long and there’s only one way to spell it!”
Mom and Dad exchanged worried glances and sat down on the couch, pulling me down between them. “Honey, Rosebud is a beautiful name that dates all the way back in our family....”
“To the time of Sleeping Beauty. I know. She slept for a hundred years and the name got stale.”
“It also has a meaning,” Dad added. “We picked the name Rosebud because it means Innocence and Purity. All fairy-tale princesses have names that mean something.”
“Oh yeah,” I retorted, “Like Cinderella. Real attractive name there.”
“The names these days are so trite,” my dad continued, ignoring me. “Jordan—boy or girl. Nicki, Sidney, Britney, Britni, Britny and Brytni. And the boys! Every other one is named Josh!”
“It’s better than being named Cuthburt the Green,” I muttered under my breath.
Mom looked hurriedly at Dad, afraid I had hurt his feelings. He hadn’t heard his name.
“Your Mom and I just want what is best for you. Times are changing for the worse, and we want to preserve our little princess so that someday we can give her away to the right prince.”
“Meanwhile I’m supposed to just lay back and go to sleep for a hundred years.”
“Did you lock the attic door?” I heard Mom hiss over my head. “Remember that old spinning wheel is up there!”
Dad nodded, then turned back to me. “If that’s what it takes, yeah.”
I stood up again and tossed my head. “Well, I’m not really into hibernating, so I’ll pass this time. Sorry, but I don’t really feel like being an old fashioned princess anymore. You can lock me in a tower if you want, but I will just cut off my own hair and climb down. Just get off my back and get real. Things aren’t the way they were in the days of knights and fair ladies. And don’t call me Rosebud again. The name’s Riley.”
“Which spelling?” Dad asked dryly. Then he took me by the arm and marched me up to the tower and locked the door on the outside.
Guess I’d talked a little too big, because when I hung my hair out the window it didn’t even reach halfway down the side of the wall. Not even one sixteenth of the way to be honest. In fact, it only reached about two feet down the wall, which meant the idea of climbing down it was pretty ridiculous.
So I sat in my room and stewed for about an hour. And I choked on fairy dust and got to feeling sorry for myself. That’s when I decided to run away. Or move out, which really sounds a little more modern and mature. And the thought hit me that my bedsheets would probably be long enough, if I tied them together, to reach to the ground.
So I stripped my bed cheerfully for the first time in my life and began to tie my sheets together. I was so interested in what I was doing that I didn’t hear my mom come in. At least, not until she was standing right behind me. Then she said, “Rosebud, what are you doing?”
And I stood frozen to the floor, like a guilty nave caught with my hand in the Queen’s tarts. Slowly I turned around and swallowed hard.
“Just taking off my sheets so that I can wash them,” I answered, and for the first time in my life, I lied. I don’t think Mom could tell I was lying, but she looked very hard at my Eucharist Lily and shook her head.
“What’s wrong?” I ventured, wishing she would either leave the room or tell me she’d figured me out.
“Your Eucharis Lily looks a bit tarnished. Have you been cleaning it every morning?”
“Of course,” I lied again.
I was sure I must have been blushing. My parents always told me that princesses are always truthful, and if I ever lied my tongue would split in two halves and be forever forked, marking me as a liar. But I could feel that my tongue was still in one piece.
Bot Mom was looking harder than ever at my necklace. “If it weren’t’ too foul of a thing to do, I would swear that I just watched your Lily get a rust spot!” Her face was very puzzled. “Rosebud, are you sure you’ve been polishing it every day? You know that if you let it go to pieces by not taking good care of it, it won’t be worth much to your Prince someday.”
“Mom, I already told you I polish it every morning.” I could feel it burning against my chest. Whew, would Mom ever stop making me tell lies? Of course I couldn’t stop myself, once I’d told one, so it was up to my Mom to quit asking me questions that I had to lie to. And she wasn’t taking the hint.
“Well,” she said slowly, reaching out a hand for my sheets. “Hand me your linens and I’ll take them downstairs to be washed. Meanwhile, I brought you some sewing to do.”
I must admit that I detested sewing more than I detested anything else. And I detested it more than ever when I saw what my Mom had brought me to sew. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised, as upset as she was about me having “lost” my old princess gown. Now she wanted me to make a new one.
“And I can’t let you out of your room, until it’s finished and you have something more decent to wear.” That’s what she said. And I knew she meant it. Not only that, but she was carrying away my ladder down the steep walls of my prison.
There are many things my mother doesn’t understand. Like I said, when she grew up millions of years ago, being a princess was fashionable. And wearing princess gowns meant you were cool. But not anymore. Kids were constantly stepping on the edges of my gown to make me trip and tugging on my sleeves and teasing me about my clothes. That was before I picked out my own clothes. After that, they seemed to accept me a little better. So I had no intention of ever putting on a princess dress again.
I thought fast. Just as Mom was heading out the door with my fire escape, an idea came to me. Pretty obvious, but it waited to come till the last minute anyway. “Mom,” I said sweetly. “I might take a notion to sleep a hundred years after all, so could you please bring me a clean set of sheets?”
Mom looked at me sharply. “Have you been in the attic?” She fussed, bundling the old sheets into a tight ball.
“Not today,” I answered evasively, “but I do feel terribly sleepy. Please won’t you bring them? I’ll make my bed all by myself.”
Mom nodded, closing the door behind her. I heard her mumbling to herself as she went down the stairs, “Maybe she’ll turn out all right after all.”
Of course Mom was wrong. Mother’s usually are. No sooner had she brought the clean sheets then I tied them together and looped them out the window. I wasn’t really sure what to take with me—everything seemed too royal and too big to get out the window, so I just tossed down my flip-flops and started to climb down after them.
“Funny thing” I heard my dad’s voice coming through the window. “Funny thing, but Rosebud sure doesn’t seem to understand that we are trying to help her. Wonder why she thinks of us as the enemies? I wish she knew all of the evil things that lurk out there, just waiting to grab her.”
“No you don’t, dear heart,” Mom argued gently, “That’s why you won’t let her find out for herself.”
Halfway down the wall, the knot I’d tied at the top gave way and I spent the rest of the descent getting wrapped up in yards of sheets and finally landing with a thud on the ground, in my mom’s flowerbed. That was not a good thing to do, so I quickly jumped up and looked around for somewhere to run.
It was then that I noticed a guy standing by the garden wall, laughing at me. So I blushed, and tried to tilt my head up and look dignified.
“Quit laughing at me, I am a princess.” For some reason, I had forgotten for the moment that I didn’t want to be a princess any more.
The boy looked at me amusedly. “Sure, and I’m the knight in shining armor come to save you. Looks to me like you’re a run-away if anything.”
“Well, yes.” I admitted. “And you do look like you could be my knight in shining armor. Can you tell me which way to go?”
He looked annoyed. “Don’t know that I want to be your knight in shining armor. I don’t fancy chicks that wear old lady jewelry. I suppose your pretty particular about that old-fashioned piece of metal, aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not. I’d like to get rid of it. In fact, if you’ll show me how to get out of here, I’ll give it to you.”
“You can go any way you’d like to get out of there. Come over here and I’ll help you hop the fence.”
So I trotted over to the fence and my new acquaintance grabbed me under the armpits and helped me jump over. When I was standing on the other side next to him, I couldn’t help imagining him in a visor and plume.
“Now where?” I asked eagerly.
“We can head down this alley,” he answered and took me by the hand. A chill went up my spine. I could hear my mother saying: “A prince should never take you by the hand until he goes down on one knee.” By which she meant, he shouldn’t touch you until he is ready to marry you. But times have moved on, and guys these days can’t decided whether or not they want to marry you until they have touched you. And then I got excited, because I was thinking that maybe I would have my own style of happily ever after without my parents help or rules. And without my fairy godmother’s fairy dust.
And the thought came to me that if I gave this guy my Eucharis Lily, perhaps he would marry me. It seemed reasonable. After all, my Eucharist Lily was supposedly the greatest thing I owned.
“What’s your name?” He asked, as we passed through the crowded alley. I’d never been back in so dirty of a place before, but I assumed he knew where he was going.
“Riley,” I answered promptly. “What’s yours?”
“That’s a nice name,” I smiled sweetly at him, hoping I was looking as winning and beautiful as was necessary to capture his heart for ever after.
“Hmmm,” he said. “It works at least.” Then he eyed my necklace again. “I still can’t believe you’ve still got one of those mummified locket things. All the girls I know lost theirs a long time ago.”
That stung, so I said quickly, “Well, its not because I didn’t have opportunities to give it away or anything. I just haven’t found the right guy yet.”
“You one of those antique-style girls that actually plans of saving that thing for Mr. Right? What makes you think he’s gonna be so excited about it anyway?” He stopped and turned to face me, a sneer evident on his face.
“My parents always wanted me to hang on to it, but it does make me stick out like a sore thumb, doesn’t it?” I sighed, toying with the chain.
“Yeah, really. Well, I don’t have any time to waste here. If you want to hang onto that silly necklace that’s your choice, but I’ve got other things to do.” And he started to walk away.
“Josh, wait!” I cried, running to catch up with him. I realized that I’d forgotten to pick up my flip-flops when I came down the wall, and now I was barefooted. “Josh, I’ll give you the Lily. I’ll give it to you if you’ll stay with me!”
He paused for a minute. “What do you mean if I’ll stay with you?”
“Just that. You can have my necklace if you won’t go away and leave me by myself.” I was on the edge of tears. I guess I thought he was my Prince Charming, and I couldn’t imagine what I had done wrong to chase him away. Unless it was that I hadn’t offered him the necklace yet.
“Give me the necklace first and then I’ll decide.” He reached out a hand, and I tremblingly unhooked the silver Eucharist Lily and laid it in his hands.
And then I felt helpless.
He turned it over and over in his hands, examining it, and I saw with shame how dirty it was.
“Be careful with it!” I cried, suddenly apprehensive.
He looked at me scornfully and then tossed my locket on the ground and stomped on it.
And that’s how my Eucharis Lily came to be trampled and so dirty it wasn’t even recognizable. That wasn’t my idea of taking care of it. Nor did he exactly fulfil my idea of staying with me. After grinding the necklace into the dirt, he stuck his hands in his pockets and strode off. I ran after him and tried to keep up with him for a while, but he didn’t even seem to hear me when I called his name. And when he stopped to talk with another girl, I stopped trying to make him remember me.
I went back and tried to salvage my mutilated Lily, but it was too late. There was nothing left worth having.
And now I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I could go see if I can find another prince—maybe eventually I’ll find one who will stay with me ever after. I can’t give him anything—I don’t have anything to give. I don’t want to go back to my parents. They won’t understand, and they will probably just tell me “told you so”. I guess things just don’t work the way they used to. New methods breed new results.
I hate for my fairy godmother to read my story. She always said that if I start it wrong, it would end all wrong. And she’ll tell me that I shouldn’t have scorned her protective fairy dust, and cast off my princess gown and slippers.
I can’t believe that following all those old stuffy rules would make my life come out right. I don’t want to live like a cobwebbed princess, and I don’t care if it is too late to take it all back. Guess I’ll just keep trying on my own.
Thus says the Lord:
“Stand in the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths
Where the good way is, and walk in it
And you shall find rest for your souls.”
But they said, “We will not.”