The one good thing about always telling the truth was that you could never lie to yourself. At least that's how Cedar Wood saw it. Ever since she was carved her father always dreamed of her carrying on the family story. Becoming a real person, being able to cry, and feel, and be. Cedar didn't mind becoming real. She didn't mind lying (even though she had no interest in it), but she didn't like the idea of not being able to be her own person.
Her father always told her that being a real person was a dream come true for all puppets. You could go where you want, be who you wanted, see whatever your heart desired. You were free.
But was she really?
Even though at the end of her story she would be real, she would still be a puppet, dancing to the strings of someone's whims. Just because her limbs were of flesh didn't mean she had any more freedom than when she first started. How could her father not see that?
It didn't take long for Cedar to reach her father's workshop, it was located not too far from the school, across the enchanted forest. It was school tradition for the second year students to return to their parents the weekend after Legacy Day. Some students would return home to a royal celebration in honor of their family mantle being passed. Others would have a huge feast throughout the entire village. There would be updates of MyChapter profiles and the next week the halls would be filled with chatter. The other first years couldn't wait until their Legacy Day…and sometimes Cedar felt like she was the only person who was confused about hers.
She reached her father's workshop and knocked three times. She closed her eyes and waited. There were nights when she and her father would stay up and listen to the crickets sing, and watch the stars above. Her father always looked so humbled when night fell and the stars twinkled overhead.
"Someday Cedar, you'll know what it feels like to be real. To feel the wind on your face, and the rain on your clothes." Her father's skin was as dark as the wood he was carved from, and his smile would sometimes glitter. His smile widened. "You won't be anyone's puppet anymore."
The door to the workshop opened and there stood Pinocchio, tall as a red wood and as sturdy as any cottage. It's strange how one little puppet could grow into such a handsome man (that's what all the townspeople said to them both whenever they went shopping).
Her father smiled. She felt bile rise up into her carvings (she didn't even know puppets could feel that way). She stood tall and proud, she already knew what her father was going to say, and looking deep into his eyes, she couldn't lie to him…even if she wanted to.
"Papa, I know what you're going to say, and yes I signed the book…but that doesn't mean I'm going to follow the story."
And like a chair without a leg, her father's smile fell to the floor. "Cedar, I don't understand."
Cedar walked into the toy shop and place her bag down by the door. "Papa, you've always wanted me to follow your story and ever since I was young I just went along with it because that's what was expected of me."
No, that's what was expected of all of them whether they liked it or not. No matter what their story was, at the end of it they were simply someone else's puppets, dancing to a tune that had already been played.
Cedar told her father of Legacy Day, or Raven's courage, and of her own doubt.
Pinocchio shook his head. "I don't understand. Don't you want to be a real girl? Don't you want to have a Happily Ever After?"
Cedar threw her hands in the air, "Whose Happily Ever After? Papa, how can it be my Happily Ever After if I don't even get a say in it? How am I any less of a puppet at the end of the story than I was at the beginning? I'm just following someone else's idea of who I should be."
Pinocchio placed his hands on his head, too shock from what he was hearing. "But Cedar, sweetie, I-I just…It's too dangerous, those stories are there to protect us…to keep us-"
"Attached to someone's strings?"
What was so terrifying about being free? Her father always told her how wonderful it would be to without strings, but now she realized he had never lost his.
Cedar closed her eyes and tried to remember the sound of the crickets' song; unpredictable, sharp and without direction. That's who she wanted to be. She wanted to have her own story, cut loose from any puppeteer who dared to pull her limbs. Raven's courage, her one act of rebellion solidified Cedar's resolve, that one dream she and her father had wanted since that first Once Upon a Time.
"I won't be anyone's puppet."