Rose tapped her fingers on the steering wheel anxiously while waiting for the light to turn green. "Come on," she muttered to herself impatiently. Suddenly her cell phone began blaring a song that was now overplayed on the radio. I need to change that ringtone soon, she thought. She didn't even glance at the name on the screen because she already knew who it was. "Hey, Megan," she sighed.
"Where are you, Rose? You're gonna be late," her friend warned her. Just then the car behind her honked their horn. The light was green.
"I'm not far. I got stuck at the hair salon. The woman didn't know what she was doing, and my scalp is on fire." Rose tilted her head to relieve some of the pain. Then lightly touching her blonde tresses, she could hear them crunch now that the product had dried.
"Well, they're about to move us outside. You have five minutes!" Megan abruptly hung up the phone.
"Why are you even my best friend?" Rose asked the black screen. She pulled into her high school parking lot and found an open spot near the back. Once parked, she grabbed a white graduation cap off of the passenger seat and rushed out of the car. She was already dressed in her matching white robe as she ran to the school auditorium. As she ran, she put her phone on silent and shoved it into her dress pocket.
When the auditorium was finally in her sights, she saw students begin pouring out of the doors. She smiled in relief. I made it! She waited outside the door until she saw the gap where she belonged and easily slipped into formation. Her breathing finally returned to normal when they took their seats in folding chairs set up on the football field. She glanced into the bleachers hoping to see her aunts, but the stands were too crowded to pinpoint them.
Rose took her place in the front row and held two pieces of paper tightly in her hands. As school staff began their speeches, the young man sitting beside her in his blue graduation robe leaned in and whispered, "Nervous much?" He pointed to her wrinkled papers. "You've got a death grip on those things," he chuckled.
Rose leaned in to respond, "This day is not going my way. I couldn't find my speech this morning, I was almost late getting here, and yes, I'm nervous. I'm so nervous I think I might puke."
"You've given speeches before. You're good at them."
"I know, but this is different."
"You'll be great. You're always great," he smiled.
"Thanks, Harry," she smiled back.
Rose's attention turned to the woman on the stage when she announced, "And now a speech from our valedictorian, Rose Le Soleil."
Rose smiled and took a deep breath as cheers, horns and whistles bellowed all around her. She felt her face grow warm when she looked over the podium at her peers as well as all the parents and teachers sitting in the stands. The speech she had prepared was etched in her brain after having gone over it so many times, so she barely even had to glance at the ruined papers once she began speaking. There was no quiver in her voice as she addressed them, "My friends, I'm sure all of us can remember being told at one point in our lives to treasure these years. And I think that we have. For the past four years I have watched my peers as they laughed, learned, played and loved. I have watched us grow into the adults we are now. I will always treasure these years. But now it's time to move forward. And I can say with certainty that each and every one of us will not only treasure today, but we will treasure all days. Life is a gift. Use it to make a difference in someone else's life. Use it to make a difference in the world. When you leave this place today, don't be sad that it's come to an end, but rather be joyful that your life is just beginning! Be joyful and treasure the days ahead."
An uproar of applause and cheers arose like a wave as Rose shook the hand of her principal and stepped off the stage. She sat back down in her seat and Harry shouted over the noise, "See? I told you; you're always great!"
The rest of the ceremony passed in a blur. Soon Rose was taking her gold tassel and moving it to the opposite side of her cap before tossing it into the air. She hugged everyone near her. Megan found her and embraced her. "You were so good!" she complimented. "I was afraid you wouldn't make it in time."
"Thanks. I made it just in time."
"Like always," Megan laughed.
"Like always," Rose teased herself. She was well aware of her reputation for always being late.
"Are you coming to my party tonight?" Megan asked.
"Yeah. I might be a little-"
"Late?" Megan interrupted with a grin.
"Yes," Rose rolled her eyes. "My aunts want to take me out to celebrate. I should actually go and find them now." She scanned the crowd once more for them.
"Okay, well call me when you're on your way." With that, Megan disappeared.
"There you are!" Rose's aunt called out from behind her. Her eyes were red from crying.
"Aunt Clarice, you said you weren't going to cry." Rose reached out and hugged her.
"No, I said I would try not to cry," Clarice corrected. "You did such a great job, sweetheart. I am so proud of you."
"I am too, Rose," said another of Rose's aunts, Cadence. Clarice and Cadence were twins in their early forties with dark brown hair and green eyes. Her third aunt, Madeleine was their older sister and looked much like them, and Rose found herself wondering where she was.
"Thanks you two. I love you. Where's Aunt Madeleine?"
"She's waiting by the car. She didn't think she could handle the crowd. You know Aunt Madeleine. Do you want to just meet us at the restaurant?" Clarice asked.
"Yeah, that sounds good. I'll start heading to my car now. I had to park in the back."
Half the cars in the parking lot were gone now, and Rose could see hers all alone at the far end. She put her speech on the passenger seat and covered it with her cap. Before pulling out of the driveway, she gave her high school one last look and sighed. "Take your own advice, Rose," she said to herself, "Be joyful for the days ahead of you, and don't dwell on the past."
She pulled up to a red light and saw her aunts starting to pull away. Focusing all her attention on the red light, she didn't see the car barreling toward her from behind. It crashed into the back of her car with immense force, causing the airbag to burst out and knock the wind out of her. Disoriented and in shock, Rose unbuckled her seatbelt, stumbled out of her car and fell to the ground. She coughed between gasps for breath. "That's her!" she heard a man shout. She turned her head toward the voice and saw a man rushing to reach her. He was dressed in all black.
She pleadingly lifted her hand toward him and breathed, "Help."
But before he was too near, Clarice appeared beside her, almost in a flash. She tried to lift Rose off the ground. "Come on, Rose! Get up." Rose still had trouble standing, so Clarice stepped away for a moment and faced the man as though she was ready to fight him. What is going on? thought Rose. She watched as the end of a wand suddenly appeared in Clarice's hand, which she pulled out of her palm by grabbing the tip. Pointing it at the man, a green blast shot toward him. As he lay on the ground in agony, three more men, also dressed in black, leaped out of their car and rushed Clarice. She returned to Rose, who was now sitting with her back against her car. "Hold on, Rose! I'm getting you out of here."
In an instant they were somewhere completely different, somewhere Rose didn't recognize. A plethora of trees surrounded them, so thick that Rose couldn't see very far into them. She glanced at Clarice and noticed that she was different too - younger. Much younger. She couldn't be much older than Rose. Frightened, she tried to stand up, but she moved too quickly and toppled down again. "Oh, no, Rose," Clarice warned her, "Take it easy. Are you okay?"
"Who are you? Clarice? How did you get younger all of a sudden? Where are we? How did we get here? What's going on?" Rose asked frantically.
"Calm down, Rose. I can explain everything. Cadence and Madeleine will be here soon, and we'll go somewhere safe. Then we'll talk."
"No, you need to tell me what's going on right now! How did we get here? What is this place?"
"Okay, okay," Clarice agreed. "I look younger because I've brought you home – to your real home. And time works differently here." Suddenly Cadence and Madeleine appeared beside them. They were both young and beautiful as well.
"They're right on us," Madeleine informed them, "We have to get moving."
Clarice grabbed Rose's hand and pulled her along. "You all have wings?" Rose noticed. "What are you?"
"We're fairies," Madeleine told her, "and we're your protectors. We need to get you to your parents before Marina and her friends find you."
"Who's Marina?" Rose couldn't wait for answers, she needed information now.
Madeleine was growing impatient, "Marina wants you dead, Rose! Now just come with us for now. We aren't going far, and we'll let you know everything that's going on."
"Okay," Rose replied quietly. She followed her aunts to a cottage hidden deep in the forest. They went inside and locked the doors. While her aunts were whispering things at every door and window, she decided to look around. Everything was layered with dust. She blew some of the dust off a bookcase, causing particles to sting her eyes and nose. Then she read a few of the titles lined on the shelves: Guide to Baking, America's History and The Fall of Marina. She picked up the last book and opened it to the front.
Chapter One – The Fairy Race
Chapter Two – Marina the Mighty
Chapter Three – Marina's Decision
Chapter Four – Marina's Return and Princess Rose
Chapter Five – A Thousand Deaths
Rose closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. Princess Rose? She looked at her aunts who had now finished whispering at inanimate objects. "Am I dead? Or am I supposed to believe that I'm in some kind of fairy world?" she asked them, pursing her lips angrily.
"Rose," Clarice started, "we know this is a lot to take in, but you have to believe us. Do you remember the story of Sleeping Beauty?" Rose simply stared at Clarice, maintaining her sour glare. Clarice continued, "Well that's you sweetheart. You're Sleeping Beauty, and Marina is hunting you now that you're an adult. She wants you dead so she can have her revenge on fairies and on your parents."
"If this is real, then shouldn't I just prick my finger on a spindle and wait for a handsome prince to wake me with a kiss?"
"I wish everything in the story was true," Madeleine said, "but this is real life. It's no fairy tale."
Rose guffawed disbelievingly, "Well you're fairies, aren't you?" Her aunts were not amused.
"Rose, this is serious," Cadence spoke, "Your life is in danger. We don't know how Marina found you, but she did. And if we don't get you to your parents quickly, we'll all be killed."
Rose ran her fingers through her hair as she stepped toward a window. She spotted a crib in the corner. "Did we used to live here?" she asked, not turning to look at them.
"Yes," Madeleine told her. "We left here when you were two years old. Your parents didn't want to take any chances of you being found."
"Not that I'm ready to believe all of this yet," she said, spinning around to look at Madeleine, "but I think I need to know everything that's going on."
"Sit down," Madeleine told her, trying to dust off a sofa. Rose did as she said and waited for an explanation. "Marina was a fairy, but she became a witch. Witches are fairies that have fallen into evil. She used to be our queen and friend. Marina was so powerful and so good that she was known as 'Marina the Mighty' by everyone, not just to fairies. Then... something happened to her. We don't know what it was, but she suddenly became greedy for power, and being our queen wasn't good enough for her. She started talking about declaring war on your father's kingdom. So Clarice, Cadence and I warned your parents about her becoming a witch and her plans to overthrow them. Your father did the logical thing and gathered several warriors, fairy and human alike, and we banished Marina from the kingdom forever."
"She didn't put up much of a fight at the time," Cadence added.
Madeleine continued, "A few years later, you were born. Your parents were so happy. They threw you a huge party. People from all the surrounding kingdoms celebrated your birth and came to honor your family. But Marina came-"
"And threatened to kill me with a spindle," Rose said.
"No," Madeleine said. "She said that one day you would find each other, and you would become hers. She promised a thousand deaths and more. 'Your kingdom will be mine,' she told your father, 'as will all the others,' she warned the other kings and queens."
"That's when you brought me here."
Her aunts nodded in unison, and Madeleine spoke again, "But Marina's creatures hunted you every day, and your parents were so scared they would find you."
"So they asked us to take you to the other world," Clarice said.
"The other world?" Rose asked, furrowing her brows.
Madeleine explained, "A separate dimension from our own. We are able to travel there. That's how your story and so many others are being told there as fairy tales."
"And we've just been hiding out there for the past sixteen years?"
"Well, technically we've been there longer than sixteen years," commented Cadence.
Rose blinked in confusion. "What are you talking about? What does that mean?"
"Time works differently here," Clarice repeated.
"She's right," started Madeleine, "We've figured out that one of our seasons is equal to about one other world year. And you aged at the same rate you would have in our world. It took you seventy-two other world years to reach adulthood."
Rose's mouth gaped in shock. "So when did we get there?"
"In the nineteen-forties," Clarice told her.
"Why don't I remember anything like that? Shouldn't I remember things like that?"
"We cast spells on you so you wouldn't notice. We couldn't allow you to know anything. It would only put you in danger," said Madeleine.
"And as you grew, we cast spells on ourselves to make us look older too," added Cadence. "That way, you wouldn't suspect anything."
"Why didn't you tell me all this before?"
"We didn't want to upset you, and like I said, the more you knew, the more dangerous it would be for you. We needed you to blend in and feel like you belonged." Madeleine placed her hand gently on Rose's knee. "We love you so much."
Rose put her hand atop Madeleine's. "I love you all too." She took a deep breath and looked around the room. "So what do we do now? Are my parents far?"
"We're in a neighboring kingdom, so the trip may take us a few days," said Madeleine. She pulled a note card out of her pocket and looked at it. "We'll stay here tonight."
When evening came, the four women slept upstairs in a loft area. Rose couldn't sleep, so she stared out a window. Treasure the days ahead, she thought, yeah right. I can't believe I went from graduating high school this morning to being a fairy tale princess tonight. Megan is going to be so mad that I missed her party. A gasp escaped her lips as she remembered the cell phone in her dress pocket. She pulled it out and examined the screen. Black. She tried to turn it on, but it wouldn't. She sighed and placed the phone back in her pocket. She continued gazing up at the stars until she fell asleep.
Hope you enjoyed the first chapter! What you can expect to see in the second chapter: The ladies crash a royal party, Rose meets her prince charming, and Marina discovers Rose's whereabouts. Reviews welcomed. Thank you for reading.