This is just a short, silly little story I wrote a while ago that was gathering dust in my desktop. Hope you enjoy!
My mother and I once argued in the middle of a boutique, and it wasn’t going her way. “You don’t need another dress,” she said, pulling folds of pink satin out of my hands.
“I want this one NOW!” I had screamed. I was adamant that I was a princess and that this dress was perfect for my many adventures in my kingdom behind the sofa. Mum was stubborn, but no match for me. She let go in frustration and I took the dress into my arms, hugging it like a doll. The owner of the boutique—an old woman with decades of wrinkles carved into her face—came towards us. She smiled, revealing her crooked yellow teeth.
“Find anything you like? Everything here is handmade.”
Mum sighed and pulled out her silver purse, clicking the clasp open in front of the till. I had won.
“No refunds or exchanges,” the old woman added.
My mother hesitated for a second before handing over the cash. I squealed in joy and skipped out of the shop, barely stopping to hear the old woman chuckling softly to herself.
At home I swayed in front of the mirror, the dress pulled on over my clothes. On closer inspection it wasn’t particularly beautiful. The colour had faded and the sequins on the belt were falling off. Nevertheless, I was caught up in the fleeting delight and had found my best tiara—shiny plastic with cheap jewels—and my white elbow length gloves to go with it. I pranced around the room, knowing I was the prettiest princess in the entire kingdom.
“Time for bed,” said Mum. She crossed my room and pulled the curtains across the darkened window.
“But I’m not tired! I’m a princess, and princesses don’t sleep when their mums tell them to.” I folded my arms and sat on the floor with a pout.
“Well, if you’re a princess, then I’m the queen. And you must always follow what the queen says,” she reasoned.
“Which means that I’m the king.” My father poked his thin face round the door, pushing his glasses up his nose. “And the king says it’s bedtime.”
I whined and beat my fists on the floor.
“But as you’re a princess,” continued Dad, “You can keep your dress on.”
I grinned as he hoisted me up under the arms, tucking me beneath the covers. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Can I turn the star on?”
He nodded. I bent down to the side of the bed and flicked on the switch. My pink star-shaped night light came on.
“Night sweetie,” said Mum. They switched the lights off and left the bedroom, closing the door behind them.
My heart raced in the darkness. The night light shone its pink glow across one half of the bedroom. It wasn’t enough; it was just a little light. Strange shadows cast themselves across my room, bent in awkward shapes and crooked figures. I hid underneath the covers, hands sweating inside my royal gloves. I could shout for Mum and Dad, but then they’d scold me for being scared. I was too old to be afraid of the dark, which was unfair because it was the dark—anything could be hiding in there. I whimpered in the sanctuary of my covers and waited for exhaustion to put me to sleep. A faint buzzing broke my fear.
Below me, a couple of green-bottled flies buzzed around the night light, entranced by its pink glow. I shooed them away but they continued flying around until one of them perched on top of the light. Its shadow extended across the floor and looked like a crooked ghost about to gobble me up. I snapped the night light off and heard the buzzing fade away towards the window, but now I was in the dark again. I sprang up from my bed and switched the bedroom light on.
A very pretty princess stared back at me through the mirror, but she had a wonky tiara. I straightened it and began twirling, dancing at my own royal ball. I had servants at my beck and call, a million and one different dresses to try on, and dainty slippers made of glass and gold. I twirled and sashayed across the ballroom, waving at my audience.
The room spun around me. I stopped dancing and stumbled to the door, opening it to the hallway. But the hallway wasn’t there. I stared into the pitch black emptiness and stepped through the door, wondering if the hall light had turned off. But the more I walked, the more I realised I wasn’t at home. I couldn’t feel the carpet beneath my feet, and when I stretched my arms out, the walls were not there. In fact, the entire house had disappeared.
A heavy stone sat in my throat. On shaky legs, I ran into the abyss in front of me, hoping that Mum would be in there somewhere. I saw a path ahead of me, where weeds grew between slabs of concrete. Confused at how I could see the path, I looked down to see that my frayed dress glowed a gentle pink. As I slowed down, the light faded. So I kept running until the dress shone brighter and brighter, racing through empty streets where my footsteps echoed into the void of darkness.
The entrance sign for the neighbourhood park was half buried beneath grass and litter. The park itself was empty; even the surrounding houses had been lost to the dark. A deep silence shrouded my ears and my body clenched in fear.
I wandered into the lonely park and sat on a wet bench, the call of the wind whining in the distance. My legs ached and I panted heavily. There was no light anywhere and my dress started to fade again, but I had no energy left to run.
But it wasn’t completely dark. I looked up and expected to see the moon, only to behold the entire galaxy spread out above me. It was so beautiful: wispy clouds of stars all awake at night like a twinkling painting.
“You finally showed up.”
I jumped up, a squeak leaving my lips. A young man sat beside me on the bench. Surely he wasn’t there before? He had dark curly hair and a round face with big eyes. He wore a brown leather waistcoat, jeans that were torn at the edges, and scuffed boots. A strange hat sat on his head, like a cowboy’s.
“But it’s too late now, isn’t it? They’ve run off because you took so long. Well, I guess that’s princesses for you.”
“Who ran off?” I asked.
“The horses, who else?” He folded his arms and sighed, looking up at the sky with wary eyes. “Now I don’t know how we’ll get back.”
I looked around the gloomy park but couldn’t see any sign of a horse nor hear the sound of their hooves. This bizarre man didn’t make any sense.
“I want to go home,” I whined. ”I can’t find my house.”
He chuckled and adjusted his hat on his head.
“Princesses don’t live in houses, what a silly thing to say!”
My face became hot and tears trickled down my cheeks.
“But I’m not a princess! I just want to go home, it’s outside the park.”
“No way am I going back onto those streets,” he said, sitting cross legged on the bench. He looked eagerly at the sky. “We’ll just have to wait for the horses to come back. Don’t worry, they usually do.”
I stepped in front of him with hands curled into balls, my face wet and cross.
“Take me home NOW!” I tugged at his sleeve. “Now, now, now!”
He pulled away from my frantic yanking and looked down at me with curiosity. “Wait, Your Highness, I have to take you back to Farallon! You’re acting very odd.” I whined even more but he would not budge from his seat.
If I want to get home, I thought, then I’ll have to pretend to believe him.
“If I’m a princess, then what are you?”
The man cleared his throat, straightened his hat, and stood tall.
“Deputy Chief Wrangler of the Farallon Central Ranch,” he said with his chin up. “I’m in charge of looking after the horses.”
“You’re not doing a good job of that then, are you?”
He looked crestfallen and sat back down again.
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I just don’t understand why you’re taking me back to… to Farallon?”
The Cowboy took a deep breath and clasped his hands. He bit his bottom lip.
“His Majesty told me to take Your Highness on a ride around the planet, as a treat, but I lost control and Your Highness flew away too quickly for me. I’ve been chasing Your Highness for forever and a day, and found you on this miserable-looking planet. It’s all my fault… I’m going to lose my job!” He grabbed his cowboy hat and sobbed into it, wiping his nose on the felt brim. I patted his shoulder with a satin-gloved hand and looked down at the dress. It no longer glowed, but I could make it out in the light of the stars.
I guess really am a princess, I thought. I always pretended to be one. Maybe dreams can come true with a pretty dress and a plastic tiara.
“So if we can find the horses, we can go back home?” I asked.
The Cowboy’s moist face appeared from behind his hat.
“It’s not just that…” He coughed and lowered his head to my level, looking around at the empty park before whispering, “I’m afraid of the dark.”