The Opening (from Chapter 1 - Ye First Mistake)
Once upon a time, in the magical land of Pine Glen, California, lived a girl named Casey Peabody - that's me. I still live in Pine Glen, and okay, it isn't really magical. At least it wasn't until the princess came - and then, the magic that happened was a lot different from what you read about in fairy tales.
The whole princess mess began on a typical Saturday morning for the Peabody family. And even if someone had told us what was coming, none of us would have believed it.
No reasonable person would.
The Princess Arrives (from Chapter 2 - Ye First Meeting)
It wasn't until after dinner that Saturday night that I thought about the rusty box again. I set it down in front of Dad and told him I wanted to test his strength.
He shuddered as he examined the rusty thing. "I don't even want to touch that without getting a tetanus shot first. What is it?"
"One of Gran's bargains," I explained.
Dad gingerly picked the box up. "Whoa -- heavy. What kind of metal is it?"
Duke tried to crawl under the sofa but he was too big to squeeze more than his head under it. We could still see his furry butt sticking out.
"What's up with him?" Shane asked.
"He's suffering from an incurable case of weirdness," I said. "Open it, Dad. You're big and strong."
He is, too. He manages his own construction company and does a lot of heavy lifting to help build houses.
There was no sound when Dad shook the box, so he tried to look through the tiny holes on top. "Nothing inside. But it sure has some heft to it."
"Open it, dear. Please," Gran urged him.
He grunted and made silly faces as he pulled the lid, then tried to twist it off. "Get me my screwdriver, Shane, will you? Maybe I can pry it off."
Dad ran the screwdriver under the edge of the lid but it still didn't budge. "This thing's been rusted shut for a long time."
Gran smiled. "Good! It really is old."
"It must have spent a few years in the rain," Dad said.
"Maybe it was buried in the ground," Shane suggested. "Like pirate treasure."
At eleven, Shane still hasn't outgrown his pirates-castles-and-wizards phase.
Dad put a thin coating of oil around the lid and tried twisting it off again. "Okay, I think...yeah, it's starting to loosen up!" he announced.
I got a tingly feeling at the back of my neck, like something important was about to happen. Duke whimpered softly.
"Shush, you silly dog," Shane said. "You're afraid of a box?"
"I think he's afraid of what's inside," I told him. I was starting to feel afraid myself.
Then the box began to shake. Dad's eyes opened wide as it jiggled in his hand. "What the heck's going on?"
Bam! He dropped the box like a hot potato. The lid flew open and a brilliant golden light momentarily blinded me. I gasped - and so did everybody else. Duke's whimpering grew louder as a thick cloud of golden fog filled the room.
"Dad?" Shane's voice quivered.
"I'm here, son." Dad tried to comfort him.
Then an unfamiliar girl's voice cut through the fog. "Who is it that speaks? I command you to tell me at once!"
I was trembling as the fog began to dissolve. Little by little, I could make out the form of a girl about my age, standing smack in the middle of our living room. We all stood around her, gawking like idiots.
From the first moment, I never had any doubt that she was a princess, or at least somebody dressed up like one. With her long golden curls, sky-blue eyes and creamy peach skin, she looked more like a storybook princess than one of the modern royals I've seen in magazines. They're usually dancing at clubs or sunbathing on the beach. This girl wore a long gown of pink satin with billowing blue brocade sleeves. Her entire dress was trimmed in gold braid. Pink pearl earrings adorned her tiny earlobes. But it was her crazy headgear that proved she was a princess: a glittering tiara, studded with what appeared to be real diamonds, rubies, emeralds and blue stones. Sapphires, I guess.
"My, my!" Gran murmured. "It's a -- " She didn't even try to finish the sentence.
"Dad!? Shane's voice was shaky.
Dad spread his arms out wide, as if to protect us. "It's okay. Everything's okay," he said, but he didn't sound convinced.
As the fog slowly faded away, the princess turned her big, beautiful eyes on us.
There was something rising up in my throat, something like a scream that was so big, I didn't dare let it out. Duke, however, didn't try to choke back the reaction. He gave out a huge, eerie howl.
"Dad!" Shane was in a complete panic now.
"It's all right," Gran said in an even voice. "Let's just all take a deep breath."
"Silence!" the strange girl cried out.
"Dad?" Shane asked. "This isn't happening is it? She couldn't have been in the box, could she?"
"Of course not. It's just a ..."
Suddenly, the princess clapped her hands over her eyes and screamed. "Oh, help! I shan't look! It hurts too much!"
"Maybe the light hurts her eyes," Gran suggested.
"Nay!" cried the girl, parting the fingers of her hands. "'Tis all too ugly! Your foul garments and this hideous chamber! Get you away! I must return to my castle post-haste."
Dad shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. "See here, miss, this is our house. And there's no castle around here."
The girl uncovered her eyes again. "You call this a house? 'Tis a hovel!"
"Huh?" Shane asked.
"She means it's a dump," I explained.
"Silence!" shrieked the girl. Duke hugged the floor in fear and finally managed to disappear completely under the couch.
"Bow down! Bow down at once! I command it!"
Dad stepped forward. His voice was firm now. "Look, I don't know what kind of a joke this is or who's behind it." His voice was firmer now. "But we don't bow to anybody in this house."
The Princess Goes to School (from Chapter 11 - Ye New Guy)
When Egg and I got to school the next morning, all eyes were on us as we walked down the hallway. We might as well have been walking the red carpet at one of those Hollywood award shows. The attention was understandable - the princess had totally outdone herself. This time, she wore a short gold skirt - originally a tablecloth - with a triangle of lace tied around it at an angle. She wore a lace blouse, a piece of green velvet ribbon around her neck, and yesterday's gold belt was today's headband. The ribbons tied around her legs were emerald green.
My face was bright red.
"Check out the legs." That was either a chipmunk speaking or it was Maddy.
"Yeah - she has awesome legs." That was Tino.
"I'm talking about the dorky ribbons."
Tino was all innocence. "What ribbons?"
I gave Egg a sharp jab in the ribs. "Everybody's staring at you," I whispered, hoping Egg would realize how outlandish she looked.
"Of course they're staring. They always do. I am the princess." He raised her head even higher and smiled at what she thought were her admiring subjects.
And I'm your lady-in-waiting," I thought. Waiting for you to disappear.