Author: Jeanne (a.k.a. kindagay)
I am sure that you are familiar with the story of Cinderella; you have heard about the wicked step-mother, the horrid step-sisters, even the fairy godmother; you know all about the great ball that was organised in the hope that Prince Charming would find a suitable wife. You were probably not, however, aware that the Prince's parents had a back up plan. If the Prince had not met and fallen in love with Cinderella at the ball, it had been arranged that he should marry the only daughter of King Ira and Queen Sheila of the Sunny Dale. Of course, as is the case with many arranged marriages, the princess, whose name was Willow, was not in favour of this plan.
Princess Willow was not at all what you would expect a princess to be, and certainly not what a princess ought to be. She was terribly uncomfortable in the elaborate corsets, gowns and jewels that she was made to wear; she detested having to squeeze her feet into tiny, delicate shoes which nipped at her toes. She was constantly restless from having to sit all day being elegant and lady like and was prone to wandering off in search of adventures and games to play, only to return late in the evening with her clothes torn and muddied and her shoes either damaged or misplaced.
"It is simply unacceptable." Willow's father had commented exasperatedly one afternoon when the princess had been found climbing trees in the orchard. "Willow is a princess, and she should act like a princess, not like a rambunctious boy. When she was a child people were willing to turn a blind eye to her behaviour, but now that she has turned sixteen it can no longer go unchecked. I fear that marriage is the only solution, I am certain that a good husband shall put an end to her boyish tendencies."
"Yes dear." The queen agreed, knowing that, no matter how ludicrous this idea was, trying to discourage her husband would be futile.
"Oh, bother!" Willow, who had been listening at the door, stamped her foot in frustration and ran down the stairs towards the servants' quarters.
Being that it was the middle of the afternoon, all of the servants were busy preparing for dinner and so the servants' quarters were completely empty. Willow wandered into the kitchen, but unfortunately everyone was far too busy to even notice that the princess was there; everyone that is, except the stable boy, Alexander, who was sneaking around trying to steal apples and carrots for the horses.
"Alexander." Willow called to the dark haired boy, who instantly dropped the small red apple that he had just picked up. "Alexander have you seen Tara anywhere? She is not in her room and I do so need to speak with her."
"Oh, it's just you; I thought you were cook scolding me for taking her precious fruits. Can I give this apple to Chestnut?"
"What? Oh, yes of course, as long as you keep that horrid beast far away from me."
"He's no beast, he's the gentlest horse I have ever met."
"Well then he must just not like me very much. Never mind that now though, I need to find Tara."
"I saw her sneaking into your father's library a short while ago."
"Thank you Alexander." The princess turned on her heel and set off for the library.
Tara Maclay was the daughter of Willow's nurse; the two girls had known each other since they were eight years old. When Willow's first nurse had resigned from her post, she advised the King and Queen to replace her with a nurse who had experience of caring for a boy, as well as a girl. Elizabeth Maclay arrived from a neighbouring kingdom six days after word of the nurse's vacancy was spread, with her two children, Tara and her older brother Donald, in tow. Being a kind and generous King, and considering the fact that, following several tales about the mischievous princess, nobody else had shown any interest in the position; Ira had immediately employed Elizabeth as Willow's new nurse and had even offered free accommodation, for her and her children, at the castle.
From the moment the young princess had met Tara she was fascinated by the timid girl. It was something about her smile, Willow had surmised, she had a beautiful smile. And nice eyes too, deep, twinkling blue eyes and long soft golden hair. Several seconds after making her initial conclusion, Willow amended her thinking, it was not just her smile; it was everything.
Ever since that very first day Willow and Tara had been practically inseparable. This had delighted the King, who believed that, by spending time with another young girl, Willow would learn to behave more like a proper little girl. Of course, that had not been the case; for whilst Tara had encouraged the princess to pay more attention to things such as music and art lessons; so too had Willow's nature caused Tara to become much bolder and more adventurous than was acceptable for a girl. They complimented each other so perfectly that they quickly became the very best of friends. So close was their relationship that it did not matter one dot to them that one was a princess whilst the other was the daughter of a servant; when they were together, they were equals.
"Tara! Tara! Tara, my dove, where are you?" As she searched desperately amongst the stacks Willow wished, for the first time in her young life, that her father did not own quite so many books.
"My lady, hush. I am right here, but you must hush or we shall both be in trouble, neither one of us has leave to be in here."
"I fear that being found where I ought not to be is the very least of my worries. I am already in so much trouble; Tara my father has gone quite mad."
"My sweet Princess, I am sure it cannot be so bad. Tell me the problem and we shall deal with it together."
Willow dropped down onto the loveseat next to Tara, resting her head in the girl's lap as she had done so many times before.
"My father means for me to be married. All because I was climbing to pick a peach in the orchard, it is a ghastly punishment if you ask me, not that anybody would ask me of course."
"M-married? But, when? To whom?"
"I have no idea, as soon as possible and to someone horrid I should imagine. Father said that a husband shall make me act more like a princess. Oh Tara, whatever shall I do? I would simply hate to be a boring, girly princess, I like me just the way I am."
"As do I my sweet." Tara absently stroked her fingers through Willow's soft red hair. "Whoever shall I grow old with if you are married?" Tara mused sadly.
"My beautiful dove, do not ever speak that way, I shall not marry, not ever. You and I shall always be together Tara; I give you my word as princess of this kingdom."
"But, you cannot disobey the King, even if he is your father."
Willow and Tara fell into a dejected silence for a short time, each contemplating the unfavourable implications of the Kings' proposal. Quite out of the blue the princess sat up, filled with a sudden rush of determination and conviction.
"Tara, is it not true that I am very well known for getting myself into various scrapes and troubles?"
"Yes, that certainly is the case."
"And is it not also true that I am rather proficient at getting myself out of said scrapes and troubles?"
"You do have many years of practice my sweet." Tara chuckled as Willow stood up with great purpose, her 'resolve face' firmly in place.
"Then I, Princess Willow Rosenberg of the Sunny Dale, shall endeavour to remove myself from this terrible predicament in which I am currently found, in the most effective manner that I can conceive of. I trust that you, my most faithful and beautiful companion, shall assist me?"
"Of course my princess, you know by now that you need not even ask."
A small commotion outside the library doors disturbed Willow and Tara from their discussion.
"Come Tara, let us vacate to your sleeping quarters where we shall not be disturbed, we need to devise a plan."
The two girls promptly departed the room through a secret back entrance, which was cleverly concealed behind a large dummy bookcase, making their way, hand in hand, down a stone staircase and towards Tara's room.