AN: Okay, so, this is a fairy tale. It's not really based on any one tale; it's more like a weird mixture of a bunch of them. The friends are out of character a bit, though I tried to keep some of their superficial qualities intact. There will be no Ross and Rachel at the moment, as I just can't figure out where to use them. Sorry!
This is a story about wanting what you can't have, about having what you don't want, and about happiness everlasting.
It's a story about love. And it begins as many stories of this kind do: with four little words…
Once Upon a Time
(Part I of II)
Shimmering white and standing ominously upon the highest hill in the land, was the Castle MacDougal, home to the King and Queen of Greenwich.
The land was lush and green and filled with abundant fruit and nut trees and pure, fertile soil that produced more food than anyone could need.
The village of Greenwich was a humble one, and all the peasants of the land worked long and hard to earn their penance. But for as long as anyone could remember, fifty percent of their earnings would always go to the King and Queen. No one ever complained, for fear of being captured and imprisoned by the King's elite royal guard for speaking their mind.
Books were banned in the village. A peasant that was caught reading would be imprisoned. (The Queen had convinced her husband that this was the only way to ensure loyalty.)
It was not always this way. Before the Prince was killed, the Kingdom was a wonderful, joyful place, and the people and the village was as beautiful as the land that held it.
The Queen fawned over the Prince, and was highly critical of any woman who attempted to win the Prince's heart.
Then, five years ago, the Prince left Greenwich to visit the neighboring Kingdom of Tribeca. Two days later, a large fire overtook the village, and the Prince was killed.
The King and Queen never recovered from the Prince's death.
And so it was, that the Kingdom fell under a dark cloud.
And it is here that our story truly begins…
The house was small and humble, with stone walls and a thick, thatched roof. Inside, there existed only one room, containing a small cot, a fireplace, a sturdy wood table, and two matching chairs. A copper kettle sat in the fireplace, and a small lantern sat over the table.
The table was covered with stacks of thin, ivory papers. At the table sat a young man. He was flipping through the pages slowly, his face a picture of concentration. His bright blue eyes sparkled, as they scanned line after line, and his lips were turned up into a small smile. His sandy brown hair hung loosely in his face, and occasionally he would run a rough hand through his hair, in an attempt to move it out of his face.
The front door of the house swung open, and a thick, dark-haired young man trudged in.
"Chandler, what are you doing? Are you trying to get into trouble?" the dark man said.
"One cannot stop reading simply because the King proclaims it, Joey," Chandler smiled, and pulled off his wire-rimmed glasses, "We must keep our minds active."
"But you'll be punished for sure!" Joey whined.
"Perhaps. But I refuse to let my brain turn to mush. You'd be wise to do the same, my friend," Chandler stood, and patted Joey on the back.
"I don't need books to know that I am alive…who has time for books these days anyway?"
"Well, not all of us has your gift with the fairer sex, Joey," Chandler sighed.
"If you'd ever take your nose out of that book, you'd see that there are plenty of young women who would love to capture your fickle heart, Chandler Bing," Joey laughed.
It was true. Chandler was rather handsome, and had made a name for himself as quite a talented candle-maker and glassblower. Many families in the village were hoping that their daughter would be the one that caught the young man's eye. But Chandler found most of the women in the village dull, often maudlin, and usually uneducated. They could talk only about themselves, and Chandler had determined that he had nothing in common with any of them. He wanted to be in love, the way that people were in love in the stories he read. He wanted to marry a girl who would challenge him, and stimulate him mentally. He was of the belief that physical beauty was temporary, and artificial—it was what was in a woman's heart and mind that mattered most.
Clearly he was going to have to leave Greenwich to find such a girl, to find such a love.
As striking as it was on the outside, Castle MacDougal was three times as elaborate on the inside. Every room was filled with fine art, beautiful sculptures, rich fabrics and the finest furniture money could buy.
Every room, that is, except one.
The Princess' room was simple, compared to the rest of the castle. On her bed, she preferred an old worn quilt, hand stitched by her Grandmother, to the silk bedding that covered all other beds in the castle.
Her room was filled with books and papers, as well as treasured heirlooms and gifts, and a worn violin.
The room was tidy, but held within it a warmth that the rest of the castle lacked.
The Princess sat on her large bed, deeply engrossed in her new book. Her bright blue eyes gleamed with excitement over each word she read. Tucking her long ebony hair behind her ear, her cheeks flushed with excitement as she read each word. So engrossed was she in her book, that she did not hear her handmaiden enter.
"Milady, the Queen is asking for you," the handmaiden whispered.
The Princess started, and placed a delicate hand over her heart.
"Phoebe, you startled me!" The Princess cried.
"I'm sorry, Milady, I—"
"Oh don't be silly, it's fine. I'm not my mother, you know," The Princess smiled and slid off of the bed.
"Oh yes, I know," Phoebe smiled knowingly, and followed The Princess out of the room.
"What could my mother possibly want to see me about?" The Princess wondered.
"She did not say," Phoebe replied.
"I cannot believe she even remembered I was here," The Princess added bitterly.
"Yes," Phoebe nodded sadly.
If the Queen had ignored her daughter before The Prince's death, she barely acknowledged the Princess' existence at all now. Not that the Princess cared. Without her mother constantly pestering her, The Princess was able to spend the majority of her day reading.
The Princess and the handmaiden entered the Throne Room, to find the Queen once again nagging at the King.
"We clearly need more troops in town, Jack. The peasants are becoming belligerent! I heard from a very reliable source that there are books being traded in the market."
"Yes, Judy, I am sure that there are. But we have many other things that we must focus on. One or two books will do no harm."
"One or two? Perhaps now it is one or two. But soon it will be three, and four, and before you know it, people will be reading! And educated people cause nothing but problems," Judy turned as the Princess approached.
"Ah, Monica, finally. I assume you were wasting your time with books again?"
"Books are not a waste of time, Mother," Monica sighed.
"You are a woman, Monica. You have no need for such things."
"What is it you need, Mother?" Monica groaned.
"Your father seems to think that we need to find you a husband soon. I believe this will be next to impossible, but if we must force a man to marry you, we will. This is for the good of the Kingdom."
"The good of the Kingdom? I have no desire to marry some snot-nosed, spoiled Prince!" Monica fumed.
"What you want has nothing to do with this. When your father and I are departed, someone will need to run this Kingdom! You certainly cannot! Your only job is to sire a son."
Monica rolled her eyes, quite aware that any argument was futile.
"We will begin seeing young Princes in twenty one days," The King said softly.
"Fine," Monica huffed, and spun around on her heel, before storming out of the room.
"I cannot believe her!" Monica fumed moments later, as she and Phoebe made their way down the main corridor, "What is so bad about marrying for love? Finding a man who will not treat me like a child, or a precious jewel that is not to be touched? I cannot imagine spending my life with some…some, spoiled, arrogant Prince!"
"What will you do Milady? You know that you cannot defy the King."
"I—I know," Monica sighed heavily, as they walked into Monica's bedroom, "But I need to get out of this castle."
"Again? Milady, if you are caught again, the Queen will—"
"Oh who cares what my witch of a mother thinks. I want to go to the marketplace!"
"Fine," Phoebe sighed, "but I insist on accompanying you—"
"And," Phoebe interrupted, "you will disguise yourself."
"Deal," Monica sighed, and dashed into her dressing room.
"See? Isn't this better? Sunshine, beautiful young maidens…"
"Alright Joey, I think you have made your point," Chandler sighed, as they walked through the marketplace.
"I know that you were enjoying your 'book'," Joey whispered, "but you need to get out once in a while. It isn't healthy to stay indoors all day."
"I am outside all the time," Chandler argued, as he straightened his glasses, "I work in my shop many hours a day."
"Work, does not count!" Joey exclaimed. He turned to see that Chandler was no longer next to him. He stopped and turned around, noticing that his friend had stopped to stare at something several feet away. Joey walked back to where Chandler was standing, and followed his gaze.
Chandler's eyes were on a young maiden. She was walking through the marketplace, her eyes wide and sparkling.
He had never seen so much…life in a person's eyes before.
The maiden stopped at a small cart, and picked up an apple. She began conversing with the man behind the cart, and though Chandler could not hear the conversation, it appeared that they were arguing.
Monica left Phoebe next to the candle shop, and wandered toward a fruit stand. She was fascinated with all of the colorful people that wandered through the marketplace. There was no one like this at the castle. She sighed, and realized that her life was as dull as it was lavish.
"You must pay for that apple young lady," an angry voice broke into her musings.
"Oh, uh—my handmaid-er, friend has my satchel. I am sure that she will pay you when she catches up," Monica smiled sweetly.
"No money, no fruit," the man yelled.
"I am telling you the truth, sir! My friend will be along shortly!"
"Is there a problem, Gunther?" a friendly voice came from Monica's right. She looked up to see a handsome young man, looking down at her fondly.
"Oh, hello Chandler. No, this girl has no money is all," Gunther grumbled.
"Here," Chandler handed Gunther a coin, smiling.
"Oh, thank you, but really, my friend has the money," Monica stated.
"It is not a problem, miss," Chandler smiled, and Monica felt her heart jump.
"Well, I…I insist on paying you back as soon as we find Phoebe!"
"You do not accept gifts gracefully," Chandler raised an eyebrow.
"No, I do not accept charity, sir," Monica argued, "I have plenty of money—"
"Pardon me, but I was only doing the gentlemanly thing. If I have offended you, I offer my sincerest apologies."
"Were you implying that I am incapable of taking care of myself? Because I can—"
"Miss, I would never assume such a thing. It is clear that you have more spirit than the wildest stallion. I will keep that in mind should we cross paths again," Chandler bowed his head slightly, and shot Gunther a pained look, before backing away slowly. He turned on his heel, and began to walk away, his heart racing.
"Wait!" Monica yelled, and walked briskly toward Chandler.
"I must apologize, sir. I meant no offence. I suppose I am accustomed to people treating me as though I were helpless."
"You sound like the Princess," Chandler laughed, and Monica blanched.
"Oh, I mean no offence. I just wonder if that Princess up there," Chandler pointed toward the castle, "ever leaves her luxurious life behind those walls. She lives under the illusion that life in Greenwich is beautiful and wonderful. But life is rarely wonderful down here," Chandler sighed.
"You sound as though you do not like the Princess much," Monica struggled to keep her voice steady.
"I do not know the Princess. I would not know her if I saw her in the street. Not that I ever would," Chandler chuckled.
"If you do not know her, how do you know what she is like?"
"Well, I know that her father has banned reading and learning to keep his people ignorant. And I know that the Royal family lives in luxury on our earning, while most people here live in squalor."
"Wh-what if she did not—or does not know what is happening here?"
"Then she needs to come down from her ivory tower more often," Chandler sighed, then looked at Monica, "I have no desire to talk about the Princess. I—I want to know more about you," Chandler smiled, and began walking through the marketplace.
Monica paused for a moment, and watched Chandler walk away.
"I don't know that you do," Monica sighed to herself, and followed Chandler, her mind struggling to devise a story to tell Chandler.
"My parents were killed when I was a child. I was raised mostly by my Aunt Delia, who taught me most of my values, and gave me a sturdy education. She also taught me how make candles, and helped me open my shop." Chandler smiled, as he relayed the short version of his life story. He and Monica were sat under a towering Willow tree, on the lonely outskirts of the village.
"She sounds like a wonderful woman," Monica smiled, "I would love to meet her."
Chandler's eyes glazed over, and his smile faded, "She died. Last year," he whispered.
"I'm so sorry, Chandler," Monica whispered in reply.
"It's okay," Chandler smiled again, and looked up at the sky, "The sun is going down. I should walk you home."
"No! No," Monica controlled her emotions, and took a deep breath, "I should find Phoebe. I'm certain she is quite worried by now," Monica laughed, realizing that she had completely forgotten about her handmaiden. It was amazing the way the world simply fell away when she was with this man.
"Well, then allow me to at least walk you back to the village."
"Yes, fine," Monica nodded, as Chandler stood up and extended his arm. Monica grasped his hand, and allowed him to pull her to her feet. She wrapped her arms around his right bicep, as they reluctantly made their way back to the village.
"Joey, she is perfect! She's beautiful, and smart, and…perfect," Chandler sighed dreamily.
"Yeah, she was definitely something," Joey laughed.
"What? What is so funny?" Chandler arched his eyebrow.
"What was her name?"
"Elizabeth," Chandler shrugged, "Why?"
Joey chuckled, "Elizabeth? Try Monica. Princess Monica."
Chandler blanched. No. It couldn't be.
(End, Part I)