Copyright 2006 Alicia Blade. Sailor Moon copyright Naoko Takeuchi.
Readers be warned: This story is an Alternate Universe in every sense of the word, including some severe out-of-character-ness. The author is exercising artistic license and hopes you will enjoy regardless. This story has many references to fairy tales (mostly Grimm). Though you shouldn't need to have any extensive knowledge on the subject, if you find yourself confused by any fairy tale references, please let me know and I'll try to clarify. An enormous thanks goes to Phantasy Star for her excellent editing and critiquing! Note: "Brier Rose" is the original name for "The Sleeping Beauty" or "The Sleeping Princess."
This story has many references to fairy tales (mostly Grimm). Though you shouldn't need to have any extensive knowledge on the subject, if you find yourself confused by any fairy tale references, please let me know and I'll try to clarify.
An enormous thanks goes to Phantasy Star for her excellent editing and critiquing!
Note: "Brier Rose" is the original name for "The Sleeping Beauty" or "The Sleeping Princess."
The House on Thornrose Lane: A Grimm Tale Chapter 1: Puss in Boots
"Listen," said the cat, "there's no need to kill me when all you'll get will be a pair
of poor gloves from my fur. Have some boots made for me instead. Then I'll be able to go
out, mix with people, and help you before your know it."
from Puss in Boots
Chapter 1: Puss in Boots
"You are never going to believe what happened in chemistry!"
Serena closed her locker and glanced at her best friend, Melvin, from the corner of her eye. He stood tottering excitedly from foot to foot, barely an inch taller than Serena's petite form. "Did you blow something up?"
Melvin scrunched up his nose. "Of course not. Chemistry's my number one subject."
"Right," she muttered. "Okay, I give up. What happened in chemistry?"
Pushing coke-bottle glasses higher on the bridge of his nose, Melvin announced proudly, "We picked lab partners!"
Rolling her eyes, Serena slung her backpack higher on her shoulder and fell back against the wall of lockers. "Melvin," she said patiently, "remember that talk we had about things people just aren't interested in, like your lepid—lepid—"
"Lepidoptera collection? And the fact that you study for forty hours a week and have a 4.2 GPA? Melvin, I care about you and all, and I'm glad you're so excited about your lab partner, but—"
Shaking his hands in front of her to stop the lecture, Melvin blurted, "It's Darien!"
The words she'd been thinking dissipated with the mention of his name and she found her heart beating noticeably quicker. "Excuse me?" she squeaked.
Nodding proudly with a huge grin on his acne-scarred face, Melvin continued, "Told you this was exciting."
"Melvin, how did you—Why did you—? Darien Shields?"
"Of course! Don't you see, Serena? This is perfect! What better excuse to feed him information about you?"
Going pale, Serena quickly shook her head. "Oh no, uh-uh, you will do no such thing! Do you hear me, Melvin Edward Gimmerson?"
Melvin grimaced. "I hate it when you call me that."
Scowling down her nose, Serena placed her hands on her hips. "I'm serious! I don't want you to mention me or drop hints or anything."
"But Serena, why not? You've only had a crush on him since fifth grade! This is the perfect opportunity. I have it all figured out. First I'll tell him about how amazing and pretty you are—"
"No, listen! Then, when he's really intrigued, I'll make up some story about your older quarterback boyfriend from Italy coming down with mad cow disease and now you need a date to homecoming and voilà! Date achieved!"
Closing her eyes, Serena hit her head a few times against the locker, then sighed. "Melvin, what part of that huge 4.2 GPA brain of yours thinks that is a good idea?"
"Well, scientific research shows that the cerebrum of the brain—"
"Never mind. Just… no. I am not going to try and get him through a series of blatant lies, and I'm certainly not going to have you doing all the lying. Besides, you're a terrible liar."
"So what, then? Are you going to spend your whole life waiting for him to come and sweep you off your feet? This isn't a fairy tale, Serena."
Serena bristled. "I know that."
"Ah, I'm sorry, Sere. It's not…I meant… you know, it could happen. Fairy tales come true. Then again, so do horror flicks, but you know…"
"There he is!" Serena inhaled sharply and Melvin didn't need to turn around to know that junior Darien Shields, the heartthrob of Crossroads High, was walking down the hallway. Pursing her lips, Serena tried to both cower into the unforgiving lockers as well as keep her eyes trained on him for as long as possible. She didn't really need to look at him, of course, having long before memorized his stature, the way his shoulders moved when he walked, the cool undertones in his otherwise warm cerulean eyes, the messy hair that always seemed just enough out of place to be sexy without appearing unkempt.
She gulped, the tiniest bit of an embarrassed blush reaching her cheeks, and watched him pass. He didn't notice her, she noted with equal parts disappointment and gratitude. She was sure she would have to change schools if he ever knew how she gawked at him every time he was in sight.
At the end of the hallway Darien was met with a handful of his friends and they rolled out into the courtyard, disappearing from view. Serena finally let out her breath and the world sparked to life again.
"You are going to wait your whole life for him to sweep you off your feet, aren't you?" Melvin asked from beside her, and she mentally chided herself for all but forgetting that he was still there.
"Of course not," she said, not sure who she was convincing, and threw a brilliant smile at Melvin. "I'd take just about any prince, really. He's just the closest I've found so far. Come on." Threading her free arm around Melvin's elbow, she headed toward a different exit of the school.
"Say, how did you manage to talk him into being partners with you anyway?"
"I didn't," answered Melvin, pushing his glasses up again. "He asked me."
"Maybe he wanted to partner with you because you'll ensure that he gets a good grade," Serena suggested, ticking off reasons that the popular Darien Shields would ever want to partner with her geeky outcast of a best friend.
Melvin tilted his head back to look at a cloudy sky. "At first I thought that, too, but Darien has the second highest grade in our class, after me, of course, and the fifth highest GPA in the school."
Serena frowned. "Melvin, where do you find all this out?"
"Isn't it common knowledge?"
"No, it's not. Besides, if either of us is going to stalk him, shouldn't it be me?"
Ignorant of her teasing, Melvin answered defensively, "I'm not stalking him!"
"Maybe he wants to be with someone as smart as he is so he won't get taken advantage of. I hate it when I have to do all the work in a team project."
"Honestly, Serena, when has that ever happened?"
"Hey, it's happened! Well, at least, it could happen. If I were ever paired up with a bigger procrastinator than myself."
Scoffing, Melvin turned toward his driveway, three doors down from Serena's. "Want to come in for a snack? Mom said something about bagel prune bites this morning."
"Noooo thank you," said Serena, sticking out her tongue in disgust and turning toward her house, but Melvin calling her name made her turn back to him.
"I almost forgot! You left this at my house yesterday." After reaching into his backpack, Melvin pulled out a thick blue book with gold embossed lettering on the spine.
Serena gasped, grabbing it from his hands. "I didn't even notice it was missing!" she squealed excitedly.
"Probably too busy dreaming about Mr. Shields." Melvin was met with a half-hearted glare, but smiled widely and asked, "By the way, is there anything you want me to ask him about tomorrow? I can at least play detective, can't I?"
Giggling, Serena cradled the book in one arm, and reached her free hand up to tug on one of two identical blonde ponytails on top of her head. "Sure! Ask if he prefers 'Prince Charming' or 'Knight in Shining Armor.'"
Serena watched Melvin disappear into his home, shaking his head at her. She turned on her heels and headed toward her own home, her eyes glued to the beautiful book. It was her prized possession, given to her by her grandmother for her sixth birthday: an antique copy of the Brothers Grimm's Fairy Tales, published in 1857, and still in great condition. At least, it had been when she'd been given it. Over the past nine years, Serena had read and reread the stories. Now, the pages were slightly torn and most of the gold embossing on the cover had been rubbed off. She didn't mind though; it was still the most beautiful book she'd ever laid eyes on.
The cracked spine opened immediately to "Brier Rose," her favorite of all the tales and one that she had memorized word for word.
"Once upon a time there lived a king and queen," she murmured whimsically to herself, "who very much wanted a child. Then, one day, the queen gave birth to a little girl and the entire kingdom rejoiced. They named her Brier Rose . . ." She turned a couple pages. "Brier Rose touched the spindle of the spinning wheel and fell into a deep slumber. The kingdom slept along with her and for one hundred years they dreamt while thorns grew up around the castle. . . . When the prince saw the princess lying asleep, he fell immediately in love with her and couldn't help but to kiss her with love's first kiss. Brier Rose opened her eyes and fell in love with the prince before her. . . . And they lived happily ever after."
With a huge grin, Serena closed the book and hugged it to her chest for a moment. Contented, she slipped it into her bag, its usual home, and turned down her driveway, stretching her arms up over her head with an enthusiastic yawn, the bag dangling from her fingers. "Ah, and that makes a lovely seventeen hours before I have to go back to school." Swinging her arms, she began to go over her options for an after-school snack. She'd narrowed it down to either Doritos or Oreos with milk when she reached her house and heard a low mewing from the bushes in front of the porch. Pausing, she furrowed her brow and crouched down in front of her mom's Japanese maple and spotted a small gray kitten sitting calmly beside the trunk.
"Hello, there," Serena cooed at the cat, who blinked at her with wide, reddish eyes, his large ears turned forward. "Are you lost?"
Serena could see a red collar around the kitten's neck with a tiny silver bell and a charm that she hoped would have an address on it. Holding out her hand, she beckoned to the kitten in her sweetest coaxing voice. For a long while, the cat only sat with its tail curled around its paws, analyzing Serena with a calm, studious gaze. "Well, come on," Serena said with the tiniest hint of agitation. "I'm not going to hurt you. Come out of there."
Finally, the cat stood and stretched its back, holding its tail up with an air of pride, and sauntered toward Serena on dainty white feet.
"Well just take your sweet time," Serena murmured when the cat finally got close enough for her to sweep it up in her arms. Instantly the cat began purring and Serena held it against her chest with one hand—it fit nicely in her palm—and checked the little silver charm with the other. "Ah, Puss in Boots, is it?" she said, reading the name on the tag with a chuckle. "I've always wanted to have a cat with that name. So where's your family with the good taste?" She turned the charm over, delighted at first to see that there was an address, but her excitement quickly fell. "Thornrose Lane? But that's on the other side of town! How did you get all the way over here?" Puss in Boots looked up at her innocently, before tapping its wet nose against her chin as if requesting a nice scratch behind its ears. Serena complied with a sigh. "Fine, but at least let me drop off my stuff, okay?"
A minute later, Serena was walking out her door with the kitten held complacently in her arms, having rid herself of the weight of her book bag. She'd considered calling Melvin and asking him to make the long trek with her, but she knew he'd be busy studying and didn't want to distract him.
It was a forty-minute walk and Serena was grateful for the cloudy September sky, which she noted was the same light color as the kitten's fur, and showed no sign of rain. She hoped there would still be daylight by the time she had dropped the kitten off and was heading home.
Finally, Serena found Thornrose Lane, a road that had once been beautiful and busy. Now it had fallen into disrepair—not enough for the city council to worry about, but enough to make Serena nervous as she counted the numbers on the houses. The kitten seemed to grow restless as they walked along, meowing into Serena's ears and pawing at her hair.
"Almost home," Serena said, finally spotting the house that matched the address on Puss's collar. She cringed; the house looked more like a shack.
The yard was enclosed with a short wooden fence that was missing a few planks and looked like it was slowly being pulled apart by blackberry bushes. Where there had once been grass, now only dandelions grew. Moss covered the roof and gutters and the ground was covered in worm-eaten apples from one lone tree. She looked down into the cat's round, red eyes, and felt a tinge of guilt. "Can't blame you for trying to run away," she said, giving Puss one more scratch around the collar. "But maybe wait until you're a bit bigger, alright? It's a big, scary world out there. And you never know when you're going to run into an ogre."
Sighing, she trudged up the walkway, kicking a few stray apples out of her path. Before knocking on the door, Serena checked the little mailbox attached to the wall, hoping that perhaps she'd gotten the wrong house and Puss really belonged in that cute yellow one with white shutters across the street. Serena's breath snagged when she read the little painted sign above the mailbox, not because of the numbers (which still matched Puss's collar), but because of the name she read there.
"Grimm, J.?" she whispered to herself, looking down at Puss in Boots, who seemed to be watching her with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "That's cool. I guess your name originates from more than just your little white feet," Serena murmured, slowly raising her hand and knocking.
She could hear a creaking inside as light footsteps padded toward the door. She heard the clunk of the deadbolt and then the door opened a few inches, a gold chain attached to the doorframe keeping it from opening farther. An old man barely taller than Serena stood on the other side, looking down at her with dark brown, almost black, eyes, one of which he held a single thick lens to, magnifying the eye that peered at her.
Puss meowed once and then began to purr loudly, nuzzling Serena's neck.
"Erm, hi. I think…." Serena said hesitantly, "I found this cat and…."
The man harrumphed and the door closed. Serena could hear the clinking of the chain, before the door opened again and the man stepped aside with a sweep of his arm, which seemed more a force of habit than welcoming.
"Guess you'll be wanting to come in for tea."
"Um, no, that's okay, really," Serena said obligingly, and yet her feet carried her into the small living room anyway. "I just want to return your cat and I'll be on my way. Before it gets dark," she added hastily, jumping when the door slammed and the man bustled over to an old-fashioned cooking stove that sat in the corner, piled high with dirty cast iron skillets. He cleared the clutter and filled a copper teapot with water from an equally dirty-looking faucet, setting it on top of the burner.
Shifting uncomfortably on her feet, Serena set Puss down on the carpet. The cat meowed and looked up at her, nodding slightly as if grateful, and the action seemed so strangely human that it gave Serena goose bumps. She took a moment to survey the room. It took up almost the entire house, it seemed, with only one open door leading off into a back room, which she assumed was a bedroom. Furniture was sparse, only a couple of near-empty bookshelves and a writing desk that contained stacks of books so high they probably once filled the barren shelves. A round rug covered most of the wooden floor, looking as if it had never been vacuumed, and so shredded that she guessed Puss had used it many times to test out his young claws. There were no pictures on the walls or curtains on the windows, and no tables or chairs except for the one chair that sat before the desk. She guessed that the old man ate his meals with his books.
Then the man began speaking and she started nervously.
"He's always bringing home young, idealistic things like you, you know. Thinks he's helping."
Pursing her lips, Serena stepped back toward the door and folded her hands behind her back. "Thanks for your hospitality, but I think I'll just…."
The man sighed, ignoring her, and shifted through a shoebox full of little packets. Serena guessed they were teabags. "Just that ever since we came back, he's seemed awfully lonely. I offered to send him home, but I think he feels some sort of obligation to me. Always trying to find one more guardian, one more princess, one more sorcerer." He paused and looked up, holding the monocle up to his eye again as he looked at her. "He doesn't seem to get that there just aren't princes or princesses or magicians or guardians here. There isn't much of anything here."
Puss meowed and Serena was surprised to find him right at her ankles, looking up at her with those wide red eyes. She found herself feeling sympathetic toward this old man all alone with just his books and his cat, but she tried to shake the feeling off, believing that most hermits preferred it that way.
He was a nice looking man, though, with a much cleaner appearance than his dwelling. He wore brown tweed trousers (that had probably never seen an iron) held up by gold-buckled suspenders, and a white shirt that buttoned to his collarbone. Serena briefly wondered if he had grandkids, or kids at all. Remembering the name on the mailbox, she wondered if he ever read fairy tales to them.
The teakettle whistled and the man busied himself pouring the steaming water into two little porcelain cups. He was balding on top of his head, Serena noticed, and his single eyepiece dangled from his collar, ready to be used at his convenience. When he held one of the cups toward her, she took it and held it but didn't drink.
"Thank you, but I really should get going."
The man was holding up the little eyeglass now, looking at her again, almost suspiciously. "There's something about this one, though," he murmured, then frowned and spoke louder, "You don't know why he brought you here, do you?"
"Puss in Boots?" Serena squeaked. "Actually it was me who brought—"
"Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be stuck in a fairy tale?"
Serena blinked, her palms sweating. Licking her lips, she shakily nodded her head. "Every day of my life," she whispered truthfully.
The man smiled and turned away, his friendly countenance restored. "Yes," he said. "Me too." Chuckling, he hobbled over to the single chair and collapsed into it, seeming a hundred years old in the dark room. "But I was once, actually. A grand tale. A world of grand tales." Serena watched as his dark eyes gazed up at the bare window, staring somewhere far away and long ago. He was entranced and she was hesitant to break the spell that had befallen him so suddenly, though the shadows in the room told her she should have already started home. She set her untouched tea down on an empty shelf.
"Everything there was full of color and song and life. Every damsel was beautiful. Every lad was courageous. There are days when I would give anything to go back there, you know. But it can't be." He returned his eyes to Serena, startling her slightly; she'd thought he'd forgotten she was even standing there. "I had to leave, you see. I had to leave in order to protect the stories. It was the only way. If I were to go back, everything would be in danger, and then… there would be no more tales." He trailed off, leaving Serena to fidget uncomfortably.
"Sir, it's getting dark, and I need to get home. My mom will be worried."
He nodded, his lips curving, but his next words didn't acknowledge her polite plea. "I would so like to know what's happening in that world, though. Perhaps… perhaps you would go for me? And then come back and tell me everything? Just… so I could know, one more time. I'll even write you a story, if you'd like."
Serena wanted to tell him she had no idea what he was talking about. She wanted to tell him he was delusional. She wanted to ask if she could help him find his medication. But she smiled as kindly as she could, remembering how her mother had always taught her to be kind to the elderly, and to listen to them because they had more to tell than anyone else.
She was beginning to think that this man had nothing to tell worth listening to, but she didn't say that, either, even in her own head.
"Sure," she said, finally. "But some other time, okay? When it's not so late." She wasn't really sure that she would ever be returning to this little hovel, even as she was saying that she would. She figured that the man would forget her by tomorrow morning anyway. She felt Puss purring against her leg and wondered if the little kitten would forget her, too.
The man chuckled quietly and held up his eyeglass to look at her one last time. "You're familiar with all the fairy tales, I take it. Puss only brings home the girls who know all about them already. Or maybe…" He paused and leaned toward her, squinting with speculation. "Maybe you're that one after all…. Has it been sixteen years already?"
"I have to go," Serena whispered, her heart beginning to pound.
"Yes, go, child. You're a good girl. You'll be fine. Don't stay away too long, all right? Don't stay away too long."
Nodding and with a sigh of relief that made her feel slightly ashamed, Serena reached for the doorknob. She almost felt like she should curtsy to the man before she left, or give him some sort of promise of returning, or at least a decent goodbye, but she was feeling too grateful to be leaving his presence. So grateful that she left the house too briskly, too rudely, opening the door with a great intake of air and letting it slam behind her just as the oddest feeling overcame her.
The feeling of being on a rollercoaster at the crest of a hill and plummeting while your stomach jumps up into your throat.
She squealed and backed up against the door, throwing her arm over her eyes as a bright light invaded them. She expected it to disappear, like lightning or the bright flicker of a light bulb right before it burns out, but the light didn't go away.
Squinting, Serena removed her arm.
It was sunny.
It was mid-day summer sunny.
But that was not the fact that had Serena suddenly trembling.
She was no longer on Thornrose Lane.
She wasn't even in a city. Or a town, for that matter.
The yard of sticker bushes and dandelions and the rotting fence were gone. Only the porch remained seemingly unchanged. Now, stretching out before her in every direction as far as she could see, were farmlands full of golden stalks that grew taller than she was. It looked like wheat, though the only wheat she'd ever seen was in a picture on a cereal box. The sky above was pale blue without a cloud in sight and the sun directly overhead signaled high noon. That blue soon became the only color Serena could see besides the golden yellow of the field. The land was flat, barren, and lonely, with only the tall, whimsical stalks of gold to decorate the landscape.
Serena gulped, her heart pounding furiously and sweat beading up on her forehead. Reaching her hand along the wooden door, she sought out the doorknob, closed her eyes, and turned.
But the knob didn't move. The door was locked.
BIG NEWS! I'm going to be published! My debut novel, CINDER, is scheduled for release in Spring 2012 under my real name, Marissa Meyer. Please see my profile for more details!