Dragon suitably beheaded, Prince Charming galloped across the castle moat, brandishing his sword with practiced flair. If only a painter could capture me like this, he thought, picturing the scene: his white stallion frozen mid-leap, neck arched in a perfect curve and mane and tail streaming through the air, him astride in a resplendent scarlet tunic, with a stern profile and smiling eyes.
Wexford—his horse—cantered onwards without instruction, straight into the castle courtyard, his hooves clatter-clattering on the mismatched cobblestones. There he wheeled to a halt and stamped his foot twice.
“Never fear, Princess!” Prince Charming called out, uncertain whether she could hear him but feeling exhilarated at the returning echo of his voice. “I shall rescue you!”
He dismounted, giving Wexford one solid pat on the neck. Wexford ignored him, so Prince Charming ignored Wexford back. He shook his head and walked towards the stairs leading up to the main doorway. “Stupid horse,” he muttered, not paying attention to where he was walking. His suit of armour was so heavy he tripped on the first step and crashed down on his face. Wexford’s loud whinny sounded suspiciously like laughter.
Not to be discouraged, Prince Charming leapt to his feet and stomped all the way up the stairs, pushing the castle doors open and walking inside. Once inside, he stopped and looked around in surprise. He had been expecting an abandoned castle, overrun with weeds and the lazy cobwebs of large, content spiders. Instead he found a neat entrance hall, candles burning brightly in the lamps, and highly polished wooden furniture that gleamed so brightly he could see his face in the reflection.
But there was no time to waste admiring the décor. He had a princess to save! He could already imagine the reunion: her lying asleep on her bed, golden locks cascading over one shoulder, face upturned, waiting for a kiss. He’d walk into her room, lean down and press his lips against hers. Only that could break the curse upon her. Her eyes would flutter open, she’d take one look at him and fall in love. Wexford would carry them home to live happily ever after. Prince Charming smiled self-deprecatingly. The things a man had to do nowadays to find himself a wife!
The highest room of the tallest tower—that’s where Sleeping Beauty was. Prince Charming huffed and puffed his way up the stairs, using his broadsword as a walking stick. When he’d finally reached the top, he was so tired he had to sit down for a few minutes and breathe deeply. Then he got to his feet and walked the last few steps over to the narrow wooden door behind which waited his prize.
Prince Charming put his hand on the doorknob, then hesitated. He pulled out his travel comb and a small towel, wiped his face dry and combed his hair into a neat side parting so that he would look good for the Princess. He knocked out of habit, then pushed open the door and walked in to meet his future wife. Except there was one small problem to his great plan: the bed was empty.
Prince Charming walked over to the bed, stared down at the neatly pressed sheets in abject confusion. Where was she? The instructions had been clear, this is where the wicked witch had left Sleeping Beauty, ready to be rescued. But this bed didn’t even look like it had been slept in! That’s when he noticed the note on the pillow.
He picked it up. Was it a love letter? It didn’t look like the love letters he had seen before. It was not pink, and it didn’t smell like perfume. It smelled like old newspapers, and—when Prince Charming turned the paper around to stare at the back—he realized it was a piece of an old newspaper. It had a completed crossword on the back!
He turned it back around and stared at the no-nonsense handwriting. At least it was easier to read than the usual girly cursive.
Dear Prince Charming, the letter said. I am very sorry not to be waiting for you as you wanted me to. The thing is, I knew the witch was going to poison me so I took an anti-sleeping-potion beforehand. At first I spent a lot of time playing and teaching myself languages like ogrish. Then I got bored waiting for you to rescue me. So when I heard that Prince Dashing was captured by ogres when he was out fishing, I thought I’d go rescue him instead. I hope you don’t mind. If you want, you can wait here until I get back.
Lots of love, from Sleeping Beauty.
Prince Charming sat down on the bed and let the letter fall to the floor. Now what was he going to tell his parents?
Inspired by the wonderful 7-year-old Alexia.