My shoes click against the stone floor while my imagination runs full-speed. Where does this cave lead? Is there something at the end of the tunnel? Are there nasty monsters that can pop out of nowhere and eat unsuspecting girls?
No. There are five other girls ahead of me, still having a good time, from the sound of it. But maybe the monsters are turned-off by the chatter. (I know I am.) I force myself to laugh, warding off anything scary that might be nearby. I sound more like a weeping goat that’s being tickled. Hopefully, the monsters don’t like goats.
I follow the turns of the cave, grateful there aren’t any forks in the path. I can always follow the sounds of the princesses, but I wouldn’t put it past the pixie to mess with my senses. The last fairy tale had an enchanted forest that would keep you lost forever instead of letting you find a way out. I shiver against the warmth of hundreds of candles. This cave isn’t like the forest. It’s not. Just think of something else.
The echoes of voices die down. Are they getting too far ahead? Have they split from the main tunnel? Are they out of the tunnel? Panic rises from my belly. I break into a run, wishing I’d followed them sooner.
My shoes aren’t ideal for an evening jog, but thank goodness I didn’t pick spike heels. I snort a laugh. As if I’d ever be caught wearing spike heels.
I strain to hear anything over my shoes striking the stone below. But I’m not about to slow down. The heat from the candles warms my lungs from the inside. I start to sweat.
Then, suddenly, I’m out in the open. Not out of the cave, but in a vast, open area surrounded by the same stone and the same candles. Like a room within the cave, only the room is bigger than my house and it has a massive lake in it. No, not a lake. A river. It’s about ten feet across and other side are lights, music, and brightly-dressed people. Five colorful dresses and some guys dressed in black. It’s hard to tell, but I think there are—horses? What kind of fairy tale is this?
I look around for a way across the river. A stone bridge is my first choice. Swimming in this dress seems a little impractical. I cross the bridge slowly, trying to take in the scene in front of me without looking like a gaping idiot. The couples all dance to the waltz-like music being played by a quintet of strings. They spin around on an open dance floor surrounded by trees. Except these trees aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen before. They shine and sparkle like they’re made of glowing gems and polished gold. Even the bushes shimmer. But that’s nothing compared to the servers. They hold trays of food and offer them to the dancers between songs. But they’re not your typical bowtie-wearing caterers. What I’d thought were horses are actually centaurs. Bare-chested, shiny-coated centaurs with silver platters of finger food!
I stop at the end of the bridge, the river swirling behind me. This isn’t like anything I expected. I guess fairy tale princesses really know how to throw a party.
While I stand there, slack-jawed and mesmerized by the shiny objects, someone nearby clears their throat. “Princess Ivy?”
I’m not used to being called princess-anything, so unfortunately, I don’t snap out of my stupor right away. I say “unfortunately” because the guy standing in front of me is completely gorgeous. He offers me his hand. “I’ve been waiting for you.”