August 28, 2012

Chapter 6 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 6

My mouth hangs open as Prince Ferguson saunters to the empty chair next to Faith. He gives her an obvious wink before seating himself and thanking the king. “The invitation to participate was such a thrill.”

All eyes turn to the king, except for Faith’s. She rolls her eyes and scoots her chair a little closer to the king, away from Ferguson. I can’t blame her.

Next to me, Felicity turns almost as pale as her hair. “Father, what does he mean by participate?”

The king snaps at another servant behind him. The man bounds out through the double doors as fast as the first one. “Since my daughters have refused to give away the whereabouts of their late-night escapades, I’ve had to rely on other methods.”

He pauses and seems to enjoy the curious, anxious faces all around him. Ferguson, however, flashes Faith his most winning smile like he’s done something amazing. From over Felicity’s shoulder, I try to catch Ferguson’s eye. I sort of saved his life this past summer; he could at least acknowledge my existence.

The king continues. “Prince Ferguson, whom you all know, will spend an evening in your common room, guarding your bedrooms.”

A small gasp comes from Felicity, but no one else seems to hear her.

“If he can tell me where you girls go, or what has happened to the other six of my little girls, he’ll have his choice among you for his bride. And you will be married.” The king pins his gaze to Faith, who holds his stare without moving.

Charity snickers softly. “Any guesses who he’ll pick?”

Chastity catches the whispered question and tilts her head, keeping a completely fake, innocent look on her face, like she’s trying to guess. She’s right. Ferguson hasn’t exactly been subtle about his choice. He’s practically modeling his perfect chin for her. I guess I should feel snubbed that he didn’t give anyone else a chance. Then I remember that this is Prince Ferguson we’re talking about.

A line of servants walk in, including the ones that left earlier. Each one holds a covered dish or some kind of serving tray. It’s amazing how fast they can move without dropping a dinner roll. I’m guessing the king isn’t a very patient man when it comes to food. Or anything else.

Plates of food land in front of everyone at the table. A big chunk of meat with four legs, a bed of greens, and some kind of foul-smelling white sauce. I lean closer to Charity. “What is this?”

The twin closest to me stabs the small animal with one of her forks. “I guess Father’s trying to punish us by skipping a few courses. He knows soup is my favorite part of the meal.”

I shake my head and prod the meat with the handle of my fork. “No, I mean what is this?”

Charity gives me a look. “Rabbit, of course.”

I drop my fork. It sings against the gold plate. Rabbit. I can just picture this poor thing, running away from dogs and hunters, through the woods and trying to find a safe place to hide. I’ve been hunted before. It kind of sucks.

Then I notice Felicity’s plate. A pile of fresh greens, no gross sauce, extra bread and butter, and—be still, my heart—a small heap of yellow corn. I swallow to keep from drooling on her plate. I don’t think princesses are supposed to drool. “Um…” I tap Felicity on the shoulder. She looks at me like I’ve done something offensive, but she’ll forgive me anyway. “How can I get some of that?”

Felicity beams at me, then tosses her hair back and calls a servant over to her. She mutters something, the servant nods and runs out of the room. Do they have to leave like they’re on fire all the time?

Felicity turns back to me, smiling like I just told her Ferguson is going to leave forever. “I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me. Having one of us refuse to eat game always seems to upset Father, but now that there are two of us, maybe he’ll be a little more understanding.”

“Oh.” My eyes flicker to the king. I’d rather not draw attention to myself. Especially if the king’s upset. But then I catch a whiff of corn and I relax. It’s totally worth it.

Soon, the servant returns with a plate identical to Felicity’s. He makes the rabbit disappear and he rushes through the double doors like the plate is about to explode.

While I unceremoniously shove food into my mouth, Faith turns to the king, who’s ripping into the poor rabbit in front of him like it’s a piƱata. I hope he doesn’t think there’s candy inside.

“Father,” Faith says, pulling her hand from Ferguson’s grasp. “What would happen to the prince if, say, he fails to produce a satisfactory answer to your questions?”

The king replies with syrupy-fake concern. “Dearest, we’ve worked out the details. Don’t worry. The prince is thoroughly motivated. Aren’t you?”

He lift his chin to address Ferguson, who seems a little put-off with having to compete with the king for Faith’s attention. “Oh yes, Your Majesty. Don’t trouble yourself. I think I can handle your lovely daughters.” He leans toward Faith. “Even if they are very determined.”


Faith persists. “But what would happen, hypothetically?”

Even though she asked her father, Ferguson takes it upon himself to answer. “Don’t concern yourself. What are six females against a prince?”

I almost lose a mouthful of greens. Did he just say that?

The king quickly raises a hand to silence whatever words are about to come from Faith’s mouth. “Prince Ferguson has signed a contract, which gives me permission to execute him if he doesn’t provide proof of his claim. But I’ve given him the whole evening and the key to your common room. There’s no leaving without his knowledge.” He pauses to brush crumbs out of his beard, then turns to his oldest daughter. “Your secrets will be exposed.”

August 21, 2012

Chapter 5 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 5

The girl hurries me through a pink room with a long couch that’s absolutely covered in bows. The pink room has twelve other doors. The one we take leads into a hallway lined with pink and gold tapestries and a vase of flowers in every window. It’s like a sugar plum fairy got a little slap-happy with her wand.

Finally, we end up in a dining hall. At least, that’s what I assume you’d call this room. You know, because of the mile-long table right in the middle of it. It’s carved from a rich, dark wood, with thirteen chairs around it—one at the head of the table and six on each side. Less than half the chairs are occupied, but the four girls in front of me all look the same as the young girl who led me here. They all have long, blonde curls and small, pointed noses. Long, white necks and perfectly dainty chins. I’m starting to feel out of place. Mom is as pasty as they come, but I inherited Dad’s small size and his dark eyes and dark hair. And with my round nose and narrow eyes, I’m not exactly a classic beauty.

The oldest girl, sitting the farthest away on my left, turns her head and raises an eyebrow. “There you are, Ivy. We were beginning to think you’d run away.”

The other girls giggle like she said something very funny, but I must have missed the joke.

At the height of my self-consciousness, the youngest girl lets go of my elbow and leaves me, taking the last chair on the right. Between her and the girl sitting directly in front of me, there are four empty chairs. I start to sit in one of them, since there are only three empty seats on the other side, (What can I say? I like symmetry.) but the girls all give me a look like I just said I’d love to eat some raw oysters. I’m guessing we all have assigned seats in this place. And I have eight to choose from. Wonderful.

So I pretend like I meant to come this way, but I need to stretch my legs a little more. Nothing like a nice walk around the dining room table. I circle around at a leisurely pace and try to look casual, but five pairs of eyes follow me around the room. I slow down when I get to the other side of the table, but the girl nearest to me—the older one who made the not-so-funny joke—frowns. “Stop this nonsense, Ivy. Father will be here any moment.”

Sounds pretty serious. I move to the next chair, then the next, but the older girl’s frown deepens and her pale freckles really start to stand out against her light-colored skin. So I take the only chair left, between a tall girl, about my age, with dirty blonde hair and another girl that looks remarkably like the one sitting in front of her.

The heavy wooden chair scrapes against the mauve and white-swirled tile and I have some trouble scooting the huge piece of furniture under my butt. With another loud screech, my knees are finally tucked under the table and I’m pretty sure I’m blushing. I smile around at the beautiful, confused faces, but behind my smile I’m trying to figure things out. Why are there so many empty chairs, if I’m late? And why am I sitting here, dark-haired and stumpy like I’m one of these angelic girls? Are they all supposed to be sisters? My sisters? Was I adopted or something?

Okay, that’s ridiculous. I wasn’t adopted. I know who my parents are. My real parents, anyway. This is probably what the pixie meant when he said he’d have extra fun this time. He’s messing with me.

I try to relax and lean back in my chair. I run my moist hands down the rich wood carvings of the chair’s arms. The table setting looks like it belongs in a furniture store—a huge, flowery centerpiece, matching plates, and enough forks to make a certain little mermaid’s collection look embarrassingly small. No plastic cups in sight, either. It’s pretty, but it’s not home.

The double doors on the other side of the room fly wide open. The girls in front of me don’t turn around to look. They don’t even blink when the doors hit the walls with two simultaneous bangs. A tall man in a fur-trimmed jacket marches in with a scowl on his face. A train of men, dressed in black and brown (some of them holding musical instruments) scamper behind him like shivering, shaking Chihuahuas. The tall man comes around to the head of the table and I notice the crown resting on his brow. He’s a king? Does that make us… princesses? Immediately, he turns to his left and stares at the empty chair. The one next to the nine year old. His scowl grows colder.

“Faith.” He whips his head to address the oldest girl with the freckles, sitting to his right. “It seems another of your sisters has disappeared. Where is Grace?”

He speaks the last three words slowly, but his voice is hard and deliberate. One of his daughters is missing? Another one? Six of the chairs at the table are empty. They couldn’t possibly belong to six more princesses that have all gone missing. Who has twelve daughters?

I look to Faith for some kind of explanation. The chairs can’t all be for members of the same family. And what does the king mean by “missing”? Maybe Grace is just late getting to the table.

But Faith lowers her chin to her chest. Somehow, she still maintains that regal air while she stares at the empty plate in front of her. “I don’t know where she is.”

The king pounds his fist into the table and one of his forks falls to the floor. The happy chiming sound of delicate metal on marble explodes through the silence. The king pretends not to notice, even though one of the servants behind him looks horrified at the loss of a utensil. “I hope you girls have reconsidered.”

The other four girls hold completely still. I feel like I’m hiding in a wax museum and I don’t dare to move, either. I’m supposed to be blending in, I remind myself. Who cares what’s really going on in the messed-up family? But my eyes move from girl to girl, and then back to the king. My heart beats noisily inside me and I wipe my palms on my jeans.

When the king’s eyes fall on my, I’m sure I’m going to crack. At least, I would if I knew where his daughter had gone. His gaze bores into me, drilling holes into my brain, like he’s hoping to take the information by force. I hate to think it, but if he pulled stuff from my brain, the king would be really disappointed.

He stares at me for another minute. I feel like I’m not getting enough oxygen, even though I’m still breathing. A heavy weight pushes against my lungs. The pressure builds. I'm going to scream, I know it. Nobody can take this kind of torture.

Then he moves on to the tall girl next to me. Her hair is paler than the rest of the girls. “Felicity, please tell me. Where have your sisters gone?”

His voice is gentler now. Pleading. My heart breaks a little, until I look up at him. The king’s face is as hard as Plexiglas. Except for his eyes. Something about his eyes is just as desperate as his voice. Even they’re blue and buried under thick blond eyebrows, they prick a soft spot in my chest. They’re the eyes of a father.

Felicity lets her white-blonde hair cover her face. “I don’t know. I’m sorry, Father.”

The king turns his eyes back to me. “Please, Ivy. Tell me where my Grace is.”

I swallow hard and try to keep eye contact long enough to get a full sentence out. “I wish I knew.”

The king’s eyes harden a bit before moving to the girl to my right. “Charity? Chastity? Perhaps one of my twins heard something in the night?”

I realize the girl next to me and the girl sitting across from her have the same impish look and wild eyes. Something in those eyes flares like blue fire when they both answer. “No, Father.”

The king has to skip over four empty chairs to talk to the last sister. I still can’t imagine the whole table surrounded by that many blonde girls. “Please, Mercy.” He pleads with the youngest girl, the one that was worried I’d be late to dinner. But she doesn’t seem scared. Her perfect little face is smooth like porcelain. “You and Grace were so close. Tell me where she is so I can bring her home.”

The answer comes quickly and it sounds a little bored. “I don’t know where Grace is.”

The king stands, toppling his chair over with his broad shoulders. “Very well. If you won’t tell me willingly, I’ll find another way. But you won’t like it.”

Charity mutters something under her breath. It sounds like “manipulative old goat”.

The king nods to one of the servants behind him. The poor trembling man dashes out the double doors, his black ruffles bouncing around his neck. The princesses all follow him with their eyes, but keep their heads lowered. Seconds pass and I’m ready to scream again. Where are the lost princesses? What is the king planning? And where is the frilly man going?

The king seems smug, now that the frilly servant is off doing his bidding (whatever that may be). None of the softness is left in those blue eyes. It’s all ice and anger and an unsettling gleam that reminds me of the twins, Charity and Chastity.

Footsteps pulse in the hallway beyond the doors. Everyone watches the open doorway. What has the servant brought back?

But it’s not the servant. It’s a man, dressed in a cape and vest. A man with a sword and perfectly perfect teeth. He bows with a flourish of his hand and I gasp out loud. I recognize this guy, and his stupid hand flourish. He’s Prince Ferguson of Spiddle.

August 14, 2012

Chapter 4 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 4

When I wake up, my first thoughts are about the awful things I want to do to that pixie. I didn’t get to say goodbye to Mom or pack for the trip. She’s going to freak out when she can’t find me. This is the last thing I wanted to do to her.

My second thoughts are about the garden I’m in. At least, I think I’m in a garden. I’m lying in a flower bed and birds are chirping, but I’m on my back, looking up at the white marble that surround the raised beds. On an unrelated note, I have a raging headache. I look up at the vaulted, light blue ceiling and rub my temples. “Was the pain necessary?”

This is the weirdest garden I’ve ever been in. Not only is it indoors, but it’s excessively…cute. Two butterflies chase each other around the spray of pink and white flowers. A bunny hops out from behind a speckled toadstool, and I swear it winks at me. The bunny, not the toadstool. “What is this place?”

I climb onto my feet and brush the dirt from my jeans. With a short jump, I’m off the raised bed and walking around, trying to get my bearings. Last time, I threw myself into things and was way too impulsive. I won’t be making that mistake again.

A butterfly lands on my shoulder and a light wisp of air brushes my cheek as it stretches its wings. Blue and white diamonds pattern its underside and the tops of the wings have pink and yellow polka dots. I’ve never seen a butterfly like that. I’m pretty sure they don’t exist. It flitters off on its own and joins the other two butterflies in the flower bushes. Yeah, I should definitely figure things out before I do anything.

The four walls are painted blue like the ceiling, to look like a summer sky. A low, stone bench sits at the end of a grassy path. A cluster of white lilies line the wall behind it. And of course, it’s hard to miss the gigantic statue in the middle of the room. A white stone girl in a flowing dress has one arm extended. A stone bird is perched on her finger, its mouth open like it’s singing.

The real birds are singing loudly enough, it makes my headache feel ten times worse. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. The smells of spring grass and fresh berries fill my senses. I swear I feel a breeze brush lightly against the back of my ponytail. This place is way too weird. I need to stay focused.

“Get in and get out,” I tell myself. It’s the best advice I can think of. “Don’t get involved, and don’t mess anything up.” Also good advice.

Behind me, a door opens. Funny, that I hadn’t looked for an exit. But the doors are camouflaged, now that I noticed them. They’re painted the same as the walls and have ivy crisscrossing all the way up to the ceiling. A pretty blonde girl in a pale pink dress scurries into the garden. She’s pretty young, maybe nine years old. Her eyes light up when she sees me. “There you are, Ivy! Hurry, or Daddy will get there before we do.”

I stare at her. She used my name. No, I must have heard her wrong. “I think you’ve got the wrong girl.”

She tugs at my elbow, pulling me toward the door. “Stop playing games and come with me. Our sisters are waiting.”

I swallow hard. Our sisters?

So much for not getting involved.

August 7, 2012

Chapter 3 of The Fairy Tale Twist (Draft 2)

Chapter 3

“Ivy, did you really think you could keep me away forever?”

I turn. The pixie gloats from on top of my dresser. He knocks over a bottle of lotion as he scoots off and flutters to the center of the room. He’s as smug as ever, wearing a green tunic worthy of Peter Pan.

Since arguing would be a waste of time, I ignore his question. Besides, it’s probably better if he thinks he’s in control. He’ll be in a better mood. “I want to make a deal.”

The pixie tilts his head and his mouth curls into that horrible smile. “I do love a good bargain.”

My eyes lose focus on the creeper in front of me and I flash back to my last fairy tale adventure. Black fur, fangs, and a poison-tipped tail. Can I go back to that?

I swallow back the fear and force my mind back to what’s happening now. I’m smarter this time. I can handle anything this jerk can throw. “I’m willing to go back to one of your fairy tales…” His eyes light up and I know I have his interest. “..if you agree to leave the rest of my family alone. Forever.”

There’s no sense in being specific. I’d rather the pixie not know about Mom’s pregnancy, if I can help it.
The little imp watches me and I struggle not to twitch. I haven’t lied. There’s nothing to worry about. But my face still feels tight and I know my casual expression looks forced.

“Why do you think I would go after your family?” The pixie’s voice is smooth and kind. As close to a lie as he’ll ever get.

“That’s my business.”

“And after such a horrible experience last time, what would make you want to go back?”

He floats to the carpet and looks up at me with unmasked suspicion. But there’s something else behind those piggish eyes. It takes me a second to recognize it, but now I’m sure. Eagerness. He’s ready to jump at the chance to have a willing participant.

I shrug and open my eyes wide like I’ve seen other girls do. The girls that always get what they want. “I made rookie mistakes last time. I want to prove that I can do it right.”

The pixie tilts his head back even more. “You’re not afraid?”

Who me? Afraid to be trapped in a dark, depressing castle surrounded by an evil enchanted forest again? Afraid of whatever wild, manic creatures the pixie can come up with? “No.”

He smiles. I don’t like that smile, and I’ve seen it way too many times. “Fine. But since you’re playing on behalf of your entire family, I have a condition.” He doesn’t wait for me to ask what it is. “The fairy tale will have extra players.” He shrugs. “It’s only fair.”

I’m about to object. There shouldn’t be any conditions; I’m volunteering. But then I remember that the pixie doesn’t know that. He thinks he caught me in a moment of weakness, that he can take me without any deal whatsoever. And he’s probably right.

I have no idea what “extra players” means. It doesn’t sound so bad, but his grin worries me. “You mean, more characters?”

He nods.

Well that shouldn’t be too hard. The last tale only had three other people in it. And a little more company sounds like an improvement. “Okay. It’s a deal.”

The pixie gives a girlish laugh, revealing pointed teeth that make my skin crawl. I start to feel drowsy. My body floats backward, toward my bed. My eyes flicker shut and everything goes dark. As I drift into sleep, I hear the pixie’s voice say, “This is going to be twice as fun!”

.i2Style{ font:bold 24px Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif; font-style:normal; color:#ffffff; background:#67b310; border:0px none #ffffff; text-shadow:0px -1px 1px #222222; box-shadow:2px 2px 5px #000000; -moz-box-shadow:2px 2px 5px #000000; -webkit-box-shadow:2px 2px 5px #000000; border-radius:90px 10px 90px 10px; -moz-border-radius:90px 10px 90px 10px; -webkit-border-radius:90px 10px 90px 10px; width:96px; padding:20px 43px; cursor:pointer; margin:0 auto; } .i2Style:active{ cursor:pointer; position:relative; top:2px; }