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Once Upon a Fairy Tale

by Kristen Kells, 17, Manlius, New York

Once upon a time there lived a young woman. This young woman was unique for many reasons, but perhaps the most interesting of them was the fact that she was best friends with Blanche Brown. That young woman is I. My name is Melinda. You don't know me, but I'm sure you know Blanche, better known as Snow White.

Yes, that's right. The one with lips red as blood, skin white as snow, and hair black as ebony. The one who was thrown out of her house by her jealous evil stepmother and who went to live in a house full of seven sweet little men. The one who was poisoned by a beautiful apple, then saved by Prince Charming, and who now spends her days as the most wonderful, beautiful, caring, and loving princess in all the land. Tough life, huh?

Not that I'm jealous or anything—well, not that jealous. Sometimes it's just so hard to be best friends with the most perfect princess that has ever reigned. I'm not really known as Melinda. I'm known as Snow White's best friend, M-something. And people always seem to be surprised that I'M the best friend. They always get this look of shock, then slowly recover and politely say, "Oh really? Well, that's lovely," all the while wondering what in the world happened to Cinderella or Aurora so that I would have to take their place?! What follows is the same every time—my face turns beet red, and it becomes one of those awkward momements where no one knows what to say.

I say, "Well, it was nice to meet you," then turn around and usually end up doing something catastrophic, proving to them that I really don't have the grace to be a princess's best friend. The most recent incident ended with my tripping over a peanut shell while attempting to avoid a puddle of water, then falling into that very puddle right as the car carrying none other than the love of my life was coming. Sadly, the direction I fell happened to be directly in the path of the car, causing it to come to a screetching halt and the handsome young man inside to lean out the window to see the reason for the sudden stop. It's really just one of my many embarrassing moments.

So you're probably wondering how an ordinary girl like me became best friends with a girl like Blanche. Well, we go wayyyyyy back to when we were little girls. I had this little fort in the sand dunes of the beach that I had filled with all my paints, pictures, and glue (I was a crafty child). It was where I went to escape the world. It was while I was there one day that I heard a child crying. I went in search of the noise and found a beautiful little girl huddled against a boulder. Curious, I ventured over, asking what was wrong. She informed me her name was Blanche Brown, and she was crying because her stepmother had been mean to her. I ignored the name, as it meant little to me at the time, but spent the rest of the day with her in my hideaway. It wasn't until days later that I realized that she was in fact the princess Snow White. It didn't change our friendship, though. From then on, we met in the same place every day for the next ten years. I was the first one to realize the day Blanche was missing. It makes me sad to think that I was not the first one to know of her return. Prince Charming did THAT for me. From that day forward, things were just never the same again.

Now we are both young women. Blanche is married to the most handsome man in the world—a rather fitting position for the most beautiful girl. We live in a charming little coastal town in southern Florida. It has a small population, but tends to draw a large number of tourists. I spend my days here as a party planner. Currently, my big project is planning the royal ball being held in honor of Blanche's birthday. Actually, that's where I'm off to right now. I'm supposed to be meeting Blanche at my office and I'm a good ten minutes late.

I walk into my office and immediately feel overwhelmed with the massive amounts of blinding coral fabric samples for gowns, decorations, and food choices that Blanche decided to usher in. And there in the middle of it all stood the Princess herself, bossing people this way and that, insisting that everything be absolutely perfect. After all, it is HER birthday.

"Finally!" she exclaims as she sees me attempt to walk in. "I was wondering where on earth you were! Now, tell me, who are you bringing? We'll need to make sure your gown and his shirt match."

This is the part of balls that I dread. The date. Somehow, I never seem to be able to get one. This year I hope to perhaps bring Marvy.

"MARVY!!" Blanche screetches. I guess my thoughts haven't been entirely to myself after all. "Why that would be a dream! You've been in love with him for years!" And then in perfectly typical Blanche style, she has to add, "But tell me, does he even know you exist?"

See, that's the part that worries me. I mean, he's seen me plenty of times, quite often right in front of him as I fall. But, sadly, I don't think he does know I exist. Problem is, I could never admit that to Blanche."

"Well, we've crossed paths a few times," is how I choose to respond. She buys it, and soon moves on to the next trivial task that claims her attention, leaving me to dream of my marvelous Marvy in peace. I'll tell you quickly about him, because with Blanche, who knows how much "me" time I'll be allotted today. He's tall, and blond, with dashingly good looks. He's actually a movie star. He and Blanche dated a little in high school, which really broke my heart. He's just so dreamy, I can't help myself!

"Oh Melllliiiinnnnndddaaaaa!!!" Blanche interrupts my thoughts yet again. "What are you oggling about? We have a ball to plan!" Oh yes, that wonderful royal ball.

*

It is now one day to the royal ball and counting, and I still have no date and still have much to do in planning. I still have Blanche's birthday gift to finish (I'm giving her one of my decoupage masterpieces), and did I mention that I still have a date to find?! My heart is set on Marvy, as unlikely as that might be.

Currently, I'm racing through the Town Square on my way to work. It's the middle of spring, and with the ball coming, it's prime tourist season, making the town crowded with families and their cameras, hoping to get a glance of their prized princess. I am attempting to cross a busy street when I think my chance with Marvy has finally come. There he is, on the other side of the street, standing discreetly by the platinum fountain built in Blanche's honor. The sunlight is reflecting off the metal and blazing off of his beautiful blond head. I could stare for hours. I guess I've stared a little too long while I am in the middle of the street because suddenly I hear a frantic honking noise from the car that is coming straight towards me and of course manages to completely splash me with mud. I jump to the sidewalk and pray Marvy didn't see. But he did! He's waving to me! Oh joyous day! My heart is suddenly beating about a million times faster, my hair suddenly seems a little bit frizzier, and my mouth seems a little bit drier. I take one step towards him, about to open my mouth when someone racing past me pushes me aside. I see a girl with long blond hair run by and jump into my Marvy's arms and embrace him. I arch my neck to see who the lucky girl is and see Clara McCrul. My archenemy. You know the type—blond, perky, cute, cheerleader, angelic in every way. She fits the stereotype perfectly. She also happens to be the meanest girl on the planet and made growing up a living hell for me. She was always jealous that I was Blanche's best friend. Now it is my turn to return the jealousy.

Crushed, miserable, and now more dateless than ever, I head to work. I step into my office and am greeted by the blinking light on my answering machine. Pushing play, I hear the first few messages.

"Hi! This is Penelope. I'm hoping you could plan my daughter's sixth birthday party? I'm—" Skip. Don't they realize I'm a little bit better than spoiled six-year-old birthday parties?

"Melliinnndaaa!! I can't decide on what color gown to wear! The pink clashes with the red of the déecor! Call me IMMEDIATELY! Thi—" Skip skip skip.

"Hello, Melinda, this is Clara." OK, now my attention is taken. "I'm in need of a wedding planner and wondered if you would do the job. It would make Marvy and I sooo happy. I know how much you like Marvy, and how could I blame you? Obviously I still like him too! Well, just call me back, darling." Evil. That girl is purely evil. Stunned, I fall into my chair and the tears start rushing down. Married?! He's getting married to that DITZ?

I turn and run out the door and race to the palace. Damn these tourists! I finally manage to make it past the guards, as I'm barely recognizable with my blotchy face and streaming mascara. I sprint up to Blanche's quarters, which of course would have to be on the fourth floor, burst open the door and find Blanche and Charming in the middle of one vile makout session. Again, I turn and run, horrified, humiliated, and depressed all at the same time. Why is it that everyone seems to have a happy ending but me? Why can everyone else find love, and happiness and peace, but me? Am I really asking that much? Apparently.

I continue to run, not really knowing where I'm going, just going where my feet take me. It's when I hear the sound of lapping water that I finally slow to a stop. Of course I would come to my childhood Eden of privacy and peace. I haven't been here in years. It seemed like once Blanche returned with a Prince to marry that it was just too childish. I had realized it was time to grow up. Now I wish I never had.

I kick off my stilettos and throw my aching, blistered feet into the sparkling blue water, feeling calmness almost instantly. The tears again start to fall as I examine my pathetic life. I'm 23-years-old, still ridiculously dateless, more importantly boyfriendless. I spend my life planning for other people's dreams to come true, and currently find myself going insane over a royal ball for my best friend, the princess who is too busy making out with her own icky husband. Never have I felt so alone and lost.

This is how I spend the rest of my day, spread across the now-abandoned beach watching the coral sun slowly sink into the ocean. I am sitting here watching the sun set, knowing I should turn my cell phone back on and re-enter the world, when I see something peculiar on the horizon. What looks oddly like an old-fashioned pirate boat is heading straight towards me, rocking back and forth with every wave. I turn my head, shaking away the idea. A pirate boat? I look down the beach for a movie crew and cameras, yet having the instinct that there aren't any. Again, I look out into the horizon. What in the world would a pirate boat be doing here?

*

Slowly, I rise to my feet, and squint into the falling sun to peer at the large object coming towards me. The outline becomes more pronounced every moment, and soon I am shocked to discover that indeed, a pirate ship is approaching me. It is massive, with three towering masts waving three brilliantly white flags. It reminds me of something from Peter Pan, an old-fashioned pirate ship that no one ever really thinks exists. Within a matter of moments, the ship is merely yards away from where I stand. As I watch it approach, I can almost feel something odd about it—I mean, more than the fact that there is a pirate ship in front of me. No matter how hard I look, I don't see a single person aboard.

It is as I am staring intently at the approaching ship that it suddenly starts intensly rocking back and forth. It takes me a few moments before I realize that it is quickly headed straight towards where I stand on the beach. I have only seconds to leap out of the way before the vessel clumsily clunks upon the sandy bank. Up close, the boat is amazing. It is made of a rich dark mahogany engraved with beautiful markings that appear to depict scenes from the sea. The front of the boat has the top half of a mermaid that manages to look crazed and calm at the same time. There is even a tiny pirate flag waving out of her hand. Is this really a pirate boat? And if it is, where on earth are the pirates?

I hear a noise that sounds oddly like someone kicking against the side of a hollow wall. I walk around the boat, searching for the site of the noise. As I turn the corner, I see a leg struggling over the side of the boat. It looks a little like a fish out of water, clanking and flopping wildly against the wall. Soon, another leg appears, and both begin flying wildly around together.

"Hello?" I call out, in the bravest voice I can muster. "Are you OK? Do you need any help?"

"Oh!" A male voice speaks with what seems much effort. "Oh, no, no, I'm, ah, all right, I'm, ah, just trying to get—" and suddenly the body that goes with the voice falls quite ungraciously in front of me, "—down." I find myself starting at a young man now covered completely in sand, dressed from head to toe in orange with the exception of a blue belt around his trim waist and a giant black pirate hat that sits upon his messy mop of curly brown hair. It looks like I have found my pirate. His face is unshaven, but in a gruff, manly man kind of way. His chocolate eyes glow as they take in their new surroundings. Apparently mine are glowing a little too long with curiousity, because soon he starts to look a little uncomfortable. (I guess you could say I have a little bit of a staring problem.)

"Um, hi, I'm Melinda. It's nice to meet you Captain—?" I feel completely foolish. I am talking to a pirate who manages to become shipwrecked on a perfectly calm day. This day has certainly taken an interesting turn."

"Hey! It's a pleasure," and with one grand sweeping movement, he sweeps off his hat and bows low to me. Does he think I am Blanche? No one has ever treated me like this before. No one ever even acknowledged me! I have to admit it is kind of charming. "My name is William Crab. Well, William 'Soft Shell' Crab really, but ah, I guess you really didn't need to know that. Actually, I shouldn't have told you that. Now I'm even more embarrassed than I already was after getting shipwrecked and then falling out of my boat." His face becomes furiously red out of embarrassment, and I hear him mumble, "Oh, wow, great first impression. Really, really great."

I can't help but smile. Whoever this mysterious pirate is, he is doing a pretty good job of cheering me up.

"So, what are you doing in Fletch? Are you here for the Ball?" I inquire. Apparently, I just confused him more.

"Fletch? Ball? Where am I exactly? I guess you could say I got a little off course." He has never heard of Fletch? Who is this man? Does he live cut off from the world?

"Well, you're currently on the southern tip of Florida, in the town of Fletch, the royal kingdom of Blanche Brown, or as you might knoew her, Snow White. And you have actually arrived the day before her royal birthday ball." I don't feel the need to tell him that I am Snow White's supposed best friend, and that I am planning the ball, and that I am still pathetically dateless, and, oh god, now I've taken to rambling in my head. I get only deeper in my insanity.

"Snow White? You mean she really exists? WOW!" Does he truly not know about Snow White? Have I honestly just met someone in this world who isn't going to judge me and ask me a million and one questions all based on Blanche?

"Ya, she truly exists. Lives right up in that castle there." I point to the expansive castle sitting high on the mile-high sandbank they created just so Blanche could have her "castle on a hill." His eyes just about pop out of his head in shock.

"Wow. This is way better than sailing. So, uh, how do you get invited to this ball?"

It is now that I see the heavens shining down on me. I swear I hear angels singing hallelujah in the sky, and the mermaids suddenly jumping for joy. Has my ball date really just literally landed at my feet?

"Well, I guess I could take you, if you really wanted to go—" I can feel my face becoming famously red again, my heart starting to beat insanely fast. Oh god, what did I just do? I mean, he's a far stretch from Marvy. What would Blanche say?

I am calmed by the flash of the most charming smile I have ever seen, and find my stomach suddenly fluttering. "I would be honored," William responds, once again sinking low into a bow, and somehow, beginning to sink into my heart.

*

So the night of the ball has finally arrived. Thank God too, I don't know how much more of Blanche's obsessiveness I can take. I'll have to stand a few more hours I guess, as Blanche and I are getting ready for the ball.

We're sitting in the royal salon, surrounded by the best that money can buy, pulling at my hair, violating my face, and making my nails look the same nauseating color as chewed bubble gum. It's currently hour four of this rubbish, and I'm assuming you can tell just how much fun I'm having. Especially after I told Blanche about my exciting new pirate. I'll give you the quick run-down.

Blanche and I were getting our gowns fitted as tight as physically possible to our bodies (at her request, of course), when I brought it up. I told her about the thrilling encounter I had with William. I never should have brought it up.

"NO! A pirate? With the name of William 'Soft Shell' Crab? My, does he sound strong. And he got shipwrecked, you say? I didn't even know the weather was bad yesterday. Well, he sounds perfect for you. I can't wait to meet his interesting man! I hope he's at least attractive."

So you see, I'm not exactly entering this ball with much confidence. Sure the palace looks great; the ballroom is a mass of red, gold, and orange, and sparkles from head to toe with rubies specially encrusted into the chandelier and rose petals scattered across the floor. My dress looks pretty good—the turquoise sets off my blue eyes nicely enough—and my curly black hair isn't a wild mess as usual. Yet, it's not enough to settle my stomach.

After the hours of preparing, it's finally time. I stand with Blanche and Charming at the door, greeting all the over-dressed guests. I hate the looks people give me when they look me over then look to my right and see no date. Again, I don't measure up as the best friend.

About an hour and a half into the meet-and-greet, people have started dancing, and most of the guests have arrived. Well, except for William of course. Blanche and Charming left me at the door long ago, and currently are waltzing around the room. Once again depressed and lonely, I spy some appetizers looking awfully appealing and turn to head down the stairs. As I start towards my food friends, I suddenly hear a "Thump! Thump! Oww! Bloody hell!" then turn and find William standing up from where he had fallen going up the stairs. The room falls silent, and William's face turns beet red, and a sheepish embarrassed smile creeps across his adorable face.

The whispers behind me start to buzz, as the town is aghast with this newcomer. I decide to step up to the plate and take control.

With as much grace as I can muster, I lift my long skirt and attempt to give him an encouraging smile before I take a deep breath, take his hand, and turn and face my now very attentive audience.

"So, everyone, I'd like to introduce you to an unexpected visitor to Fletch. This is Captain William Crab. He's visiting us from—" I turn back to face William. I realize I don't know exactly where he is from.

Once again showing me the extent of his charm, he reaches for his hat and pulls it off as he sweeps low into a bow.

"Good people, I come to you from a land very far away. And where the tale of the beautiful Snow White is still a fairy tale and a land where we still wait for a fairy tale of our own to happen. Miss Blanche, it is an honor to be in your court." William walks with me by his side as he speaks, until he has come to Blanche, where he again bows low. I catch Blanche's eye and saw her smile of approval and flush of pleasure. She loves being the center of attention. William fit right in.

"We are honored to have you, Captain Shell. My dear friend Melinda had told me of your arrival. I'm very pleased to have you join us." Blanche is all composure and elegance, of course. William looks over at me, apparently surprised that I am a "dear friend" of Blanche's, and that I have told her about him. Again, I feel my face flame. "So, shall we let the real dancing begin?" The Princess looks over at the band as the music begins to play. Soon, Charming again sweeps her off her feet and William and I are enveloped by hundreds of other waltzing lovesick couples. Suddenly, I don't know exactly what to do, I am suddenly standing not-quite-right, my dress seems a little too tight and everyone around me is definitely too close. I glance at William, and see him playing with a little string on the cuff of his shirt, looking about as unsure as I. I watch him take a deep breath.

"So, I'm not really a good public person—I always get really nervous dancing in front of people." His face is now equally as red as mine.

I give him a shy smile. "Well, we could go down to the beach. There's a patio there."

"Sounds perfect." His eyes are twinkling when he looks at me. ME! He is looking at ME and smiling! Once again, I feel my heart flutter and feel the sudden urge to giggle hysterically. In my attempt to abstain from giggling, however, I end up choking on my own air. In a very sexy way, of course. William reaches for my hand and begins to lead me towards the doorway. We weave our way through the throngs of people until we finally reach the balcony. I don't think one person even notices our departure, not that I'm usually a head-turner as is. We begin our descent down the thousands of stairs in silence. Well, I guess I should clarify. There are no words spoken. My head has a million and one thoughts running at the speed of an Olympic sprinter. We are going to be down on the beach. Alone. In the moonlight. I know how romantic it is down there. I decorated it myself! I have made sure it is a lover's oasis. It is just that never in gazillion years did I expect to be down there myself! With a BOY!

*

The patio is feet away from the water. The moon is full and bright, and reflects over the perfectly calm ocean so that it appears that someone has sprinkled diamonds and glitter all around. There are thousands of candles (5,461 to be exact), and there is a lush canopy of white organza that has been strung over their heads, with vines of gardenias wound within. It smells of rich flowers and salt water, a perfume that no matter how hard you try you can never recreate. There is the slight lull of the lapping water blending with the hushed music from the ball above. It is truly something from a fairy tale. I have to admit that I am impressed with my handiwork.

William turns to me, and bows low. "May I have this dance?" he murmurs in what I now consider an extremely sexy voice.

I try to give him my most charming smile, and shaking like a mad woman raise my hand to his. "I would be honored." He draws me close and we begin to dance. I feel my eyes close and my head nestle into his neck. I decide that this can't really be happening, so I decide to pinch myself. Not that I really want to wake up if this is a dream, but it's best not to get my hopes up.

"OW!" William suddenly steps back, wincing in pain. "May I ask why you just pinched me?"

Oh God, oh God, oh God...please tell me that that didn't just happen. I wonder why I hadn't felt my pinch. Well, I guess this is really real. I feel my face flame up. It is definitely not supposed to happen this way.

"Oh William, I am so sorry. I'm so embarrassed. I meant to pinch myself. I thought that this was so perfect that I must be dreaming." I smile meekly. Good thing it is dark out.

To my surprise, William just laughs. His face breaks into a huge grin, and his eyes twinkle in the moonlight. He really is dreamy.

"Why are you laughing?" I ask, feeling a smile slide across my own face.

"Because you are just so amazing, and I had just been wondering if I was dreaming too."

I feel my jaw drop. I am amazing? I look around me just to make sure no one else is there that he could have mistaken me for. No one has ever told me I am amazing before. I've gotten "wonderful" a few times from Blanche whenever I make her parties look pretty, and I've gotten a whole lot of "interestings" and "specials" (usually by those with lack of better words to describe my weirdness politely), but never amazing.

"Me? Amazing? How in the world am I amazing?" I stammer, still in shock.

William reaches for my hand, and stares deep into my eyes, making my knees go weak and my heart melt. "I have met my fair share of women. Trust me on that one. Each one tried to impress me in some little way, whether it was with their silly low-cut dresses, or their lack of intelligence, or their faces that seemed to be plastered with make-up. And for each one of them, it was all an act. Not one of them was real. Not one of them was able to accept who she was, and be open about the fact that perhaps she was maybe just a little bit of a nerdy bookworm, or a little bit of a klutz. But you, you are the exception. Here you are the best friend to one of the most beautiful and famous princesses alive, and you're still you. You don't try to hide from who you are. You're funny, you're quirky, you're beautiful, you're friendly, and you're brave. I don't know many girls who would have the courage to introduce a stranger like me to a ballroom filled with the most prominent people in the world. I don't know many girls who would have taken it upon themselves to help a stranger fit in, to spend time with him when there are hundreds of other wealthy, handsome men to meet and dance with. So yes, Melinda, you are amazing. I am amazed by you."

And then, just like that, he wraps his arms around me and kisses me. Under the moonlight, under the stars. Under the canopy of organza and gardenias. And for the first time in my life, I don't have a single thought going through my head. Well, no, I do have one thought. I am thinking how blissfully happy I am to be there with him.

You might think that this would be where the story ends, but of course, there's always that one last surprise.

"Melinda," he whispers into my ear, "I haven't been entirely honest with you. I'm hoping it won't change anything, but if it does I will understand."

I step back and feel my heart suddenly stop. Oh great, I bet that I have just fallen in love with a convict, or serial killer, or pedafile. I knew this was too good to be true.

"Melinda—" He takes a deep breath before he continues. "I am a prince. I am really Prince William Crabbell, of Cartouk. I didn't tell you immediately because I did not want it to affect you. I knew of the ball and Blanche all along, but I wanted to come in disguise to find someone who would truly fit me. And I found you."

A PRINCE?! I am for the first time in my life, completely speechless. Now it all seems to slowly make sense. I vaguely remember Blanche's disappointment that a certain Prince wouldn't be able to attend, but as usual, I had tuned her out. Prince William—ah yes, the charming, handsome, entertaining bachelor who was told a year ago that he had to find a bride. The prince who had run away from home recently. The Prince who every girl dreams of marrying. The prince who is now standing in front of me, holding me, waiting for me with hopeful eyes.

"Oh, it changes a lot," I grin. "I'll be expecting an ending to match this fairy tale."

"I'll see what I can do." He smiles and leans down to kiss me again. I look at the clock and see that it is precisely midnight, and as expected and as planned by moi, the fireworks begin to explode behind us, in perfect fairy tale form.

I have a point to this story that I wish every girl and every boy can take with them. You might think, oh, what a lucky girl, but that doesn't really happen. And yes, I am a very lucky girl, a lucky girl who goes from being the most ordinary, klutzy, deoupage queen around to a princess who just happens to be ordinary, klutzy, and, I really must admit, very crafty. People still look at me like I don't deserve to be a princess when I trip walking up the stairs or fall into puddles, but really everyone deserves to be a princess, and everyone is in her own way. You may not marry a prince, but everyone has a fairy tale waiting for them. You just have to make sure you stick around to see it. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I promise that if you believe in that, then you too will discover your perfect fairy tale ending.


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