High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

All the Ripples

I was halfway home before I remembered Harry. I should probably go back, I thought. He’s my ride. I had rushed out of the gym in such a panic that I wasn’t thinking clearly. I slipped off the shoes and ran like the wind.

My mind was such a jumble of thoughts and feelings that I didn’t actually notice my feet slapping the pavement until I saw the creek path up ahead in the moonlight. I leaned into the turn and felt the earth under my heels. And then I started laughing. I couldn’t believe I was wearing a dress—at full speed! I glanced up the creek, where the full moon was reflected in the water, and my mind calmed. I looked back—there was no one chasing me. I slowed down and caught my breath, and when I held my arms out to the side to cool my sweaty pits, I realized I had been clutching only one shoe to my chest. How had that happened?

Sylvia had screamed, scaring me half to death, just as Jeff was leaning down to kiss me! “Who is that? Who is that?” She was literally clawing her way towards us through the crowd. Apparently she had figured out what the heck was going on…but she still didn’t know who I was.

From the stage, Debra and Donna were pointing down at us and screaming, “There she is! There she is!”

“I think I’d better go,” I said sweetly, to Jeff, who was still holding me tightly. I ran through the crowd to the gym’s side door, where Mrs. Armor, my Latin teacher, was standing with a group of students. I paused among my classmates to twist off the amazing shoes—I didn’t want anything to happen to them, or to my ankles as I ran. “Veni, Vidi, Redii Domum,” I joked as I backed out the door. They all laughed, and pulled the door shut as I turned to run the mile home.

The bolt of fear that had shot through me when I saw Sylvia was gone; now my heart pounded from running. I trotted back up the creek path and peered up the street I’d just run down, but the other shoe was nowhere to be seen. For a moment I fretted about what to tell Harry, but I knew that he loved me and things would turn out all right. But that thought led to the next, like electricity in a step-up transformer: I also knew, in my heart, that Jeff loved me!

This time I danced down the creek path, twirling so my dress flew out and the crystals caught the moonlight. I skipped, I started running again, loving the cool earth on the soles of my feet.

The soles of my feet. When I hit the bridge, my steps rung like thunder and I stopped to still the noise and catch my breath. The soles of my feet on the wood, on the path, on the earth, grounded me. I had taken this shortcut when I was a child, and after things changed, I always slipped off my flip-flops when I walked by the creek. I had brought all my sorrows to this bridge, and cried so many tears over the edge. The trickling sound of the water and the cool shade of the leaves above had always made me feel better. I always found myself able, after a visit to the creek, to set my mind right about things.

I peered down at my toes, sticking through the railings of the bridge, and thought about how Harry had talked about the soles of my feet. Had he really said 'souls' or had I just heard it that way? Being barefoot did always calm me down. I was barefoot on one particularly bad and cold Sylvia day, many months ago, when I had cried my dreams out loud. “I want my life to be better,” I had wailed to a clotted winter night when my tears fell on the river's blanket of ice. “I know this is silly,” I had called out to no one, “but I want my parents back. I want love back.” I gripped the cold railing. “I don't care how, but I want love all around me. I want love all around me!”

I took some deep breaths and felt joy flow through my body like the water through the reflection of the giant moon. I noticed all the ripples were moving in one direction. I turned and finished my flight home.


From: Ashley <ash-prince gmail.com>

To: FTR <info fairytalereality.com>
Date: Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011 08:51:22

Subject: Nevada etc.

Hi Kristen,

Attached is the final installment of my story! But I just got off the phone with Nevada, and there is something interesting I want to share that is not in the manuscript.

I helped Michael put a friend of hers from college back in touch with her; he is kind of “putting the gang back together” to help tell her story for your project. Anyway, while they talked, she put some pieces together that she had to tell me about: it couldn't have been stomach flu that kept her away from the prom, since no one else had it, not even her childhood friend (I can't say his name; he's kind of a somebody now) who held her hair back while she threw up!

As we talked, the memory returned to me of Sylvia baking muffins for the prom committee the Friday night that Harry called. She never baked. (And I remember thinking that as I cleaned up the mess.) The next morning as they left for their mani-pedi-fest, she was carrying a tray to drop off at the gym for the prom committee. I noticed one muffin that had “good luck” written on it — I assumed at the time it was for Debra or Donna 
— but why was there only one of them? Now it’s all come clear: Nevada says The Girls presented it to her very sweetly. (Poor Nevada, to be poisoned more than once. It’s no wonder she wants to put those days behind her!)

We’re going to have to confront Sylvia about this one of these days...!  She’s currently in a twelve-step program so there may be hope.

Meanwhile, I’m so excited to hear about the staged reading! I can’t make it since my due date is the week after – and since it’s twins they might be here early! Harry was tickled that you thought to ask him to read his own part, but he’s away in Uganda speaking on civil rights issues. He said he’s got some friends in the business who might be available,though  — shall I connect you?



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cancer Sucks

Jeff and I talked as we danced, catching up as quickly as if it had been weeks, not years, since we’d been as sweet on each other as peanut butter and chocolate. “I heard about your dad,” he said. “Cancer sucks.”

We flirted, suddenly feeling like grownups. I worried about Nevada with her stomach flu, who everyone thought would be Jeff's queen tonight—was I intruding? Jeff said they were just friends, but had been wondering if something might happen with her tonight, which put me off a bit. But he was so much happier it was me. He reminded me of our vow, in second grade, to get married when we were twenty. I pretended to be shocked but of course I’d remembered it all these years. Twenty is too young, of course, but it had seemed so grown-up when we were seven.

I told him about Harry, but we couldn’t spot him in the crowd. Jeff said he had to thank Harry for wrapping me up like a Christmas present.

Look at me, I’m totally giddy writing this. I have seen so many couples fall in love and then break up. I still think it was some sort of miracle that our dreams of each other were reliable. Jeff grinned at me like an idiot for the rest of the song, and I grinned at him right back. Even my feet were smiling. His dimple deepened. He said, “I’m thinking about kissing that lipstick off your face.”


From: <crankingitout@gmail.com

To: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
Date: Monday, 20 Jun 2011 12:11:12

Subject: cadwallader

hey k ~

been a long time, i’m so sorry i’ve been so awol... somewhat settled with a ton of things to do, still i can’t wait to tell you i met up with cadwallader in nyc and its trippin’ me owwwtttt...!

remember he’s the guy who says he was “one of snow white’s dwarves?” guess what, he’s talking about nevada le blanc! his friend (another ‘dwarf’ went to black forest high and he went to her house, then went to the prom. he’s pretty sure it was food poisoning, not stomach flu. he's got a heck of a story, i'll call you later.

meanwhile meeting lots of theater folks here, all hungry like us but enthused about the project...shouldn’t be too hard to pull a reading together with what we’ve got.

and meanwhile meanwhile, think we should do a kickstarter or indiegogo for some funds?

i have a draft of the waltz song, in which jeff/ashley dance and sylvia/harry fight.



From: FTR <info@fairytalereality.com>
To: <crankingitout@gmail.com>
Date: Monday, 20 Jun 2011 2:41:52

Subject: re: cadwallader

First of all, can we talk tonight? I can’t wait to hear your story!

Second, do you think we could get this together in six weeks? I’d love to do a run-through in early August if that works for you. I know someone who works at a big-name theater school and we could rent some space for cheap.

Third, yes, we should definitely do some crowdfunding, but if we’re putting up a show in six weeks it will have to wait. (Tighten belts, get credit cards out...)

Fourthly, still haven't gotten to hear the Fairy GodWhatever song... I know you've been busy with the move, but...?

And finally, I was playing around with some NEW dialog for the waltz sequence and had some virtual actors run the lines. The music’s terrible... but do you think it has potential?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Fairytale Catfight Waltz

As Jeff and I melted into each others’ arms, only half-aware that we were becoming legendary ourselves, Harry sauntered up to the shell-shocked Sylvia.

“My presence didn’t cheer her up much,” Harry told me later, after he tracked me down back at the house. “Of course, I came in all smooth, all ‘Sylvia darling, you’re looking trim…ish. Swellegant party. Shall we dance? I can lead OR follow.’ At first she didn’t recognize me. Thought I was some PTA mom, maybe we had worked together on some committee. I said no, we had only met a few times; mostly knew each other from the phone. Then—it was great to see her face, think of Katherine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner but not so gorgeous—she figured it out.”

“‘Harry!’ She goes. ‘Why...who...what are you doing here?’” (Harry did a marvelous and over-dramatized Sylvia impression.)

“‘I thought we might dance,’” Harry said he said. “‘We can talk. I can lead or follow.’ I grabbed her around the waist, and waltzed her around the floor…actually, it was more like we wrestled…and she kept craning her neck over the crowd to try to see you, to find out who the heck—HAH!—stole her daughters’ crown. But I held on tight, because I had a few things to say to her.”

Over the years, our friends have recounted stories of being in the crowd at the prom and witnessing this epic lady fight/dance wrestling match/royal ass-kicking as the two plowed through the crowd in time to the music. They overheard Harry saying things like:

  • “You may have kicked me out of your life, you wicked witch, but you couldn’t kick that sweet kid out of my heart.”
  • “When she was born, her mother entrusted her spirit to me, and that meant something. But it seems you made it your job to destroy it in every way.”
  • “She was such a carefree child, but now she carries the cares of the world. Of your world, to be specific.”
  • “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her tonight—she was a shadow of what she once was, of what she could be.”

Although Sylvia had figured out that this tall, flamboyant lady was actually Harry in disguise, she didn’t realize it was me in disguise who had ruined her plans until later. At first she didn’t know what Harry was talking about, and couldn’t quite grasp that he’d seen me that night. She threatened Harry: “How dare you accuse me of all of this?” Harry laughed. Ana Sueño was standing right above them, looking down from the stage, when she heard Harry say, “How dare I? How dare you! You’ve tied her down with all of your menial tasks; you’ve denied her the gorgeous unfolding that is the right of a girl in her teens!” (I will never forget that line, and it has made me a better mother.) Of course, Sylvia denied everything. “What are you talking about?” She even said, “I love her like my own daughters,” which of course made Harry snort. He spun her around the dance floor, and spelled it out like only a barrister-drag queen could: “You have stifled her will, abused her rights, made her your slave, and deprived her of her much-needed beauty sleep!” When Harry tells the story, he says Sylvia wouldn’t even look him in the eye. “I told her she could kiss my big, hairy ass (and later he mentions it isn’t really all that big or hairy) and kiss her reign of terror good-bye!” Ana says it was like watching Bette Davis and Joan Crawford fighting, and she wasn’t even sure which one was which. She calls it the Fairytale Catfight Waltz.

Meanwhile, across the dance floor, I was totally oblivious to all of this, aware only of Jeff’s strong arm under mine, his hand firmly holding my back, and the way we seemed to fit so well together. With the tall shoes on, I could look him right in the eye. Green eyes. Flecked with gold. He said he thought I looked familiar.

And then, just for a moment, the magic faded away. I thought he knew who I was, but alas, I was just a mysterious stranger who arrived at a convenient time, to save him from the unpleasant fate! I struggled with my feelings, both upset with him and attracted to him, wondering what to do.

“You’re blushing,” Jeff said, noticing that I’d stiffened up. Fortunately I remembered what Harry said about me having the power. Rather than blurt out my identity, rather than feel insulted, I smiled brightly and decided to make him work for it.

“Of course I look familiar, I’ve watched you grow from a boy who likes bugs into the man you’re just beginning to be.”

“You’ve watched me?” Excellent. Just the reaction I’d hoped for. Behind his eyes, I could see his brain searching for files….“I still like bugs,” he mumbled.

“Paper airplanes ring a bell?” He shrugged. “Spaghetti bracelets? Lego racers?” His eyes wandered up and to the right, as eyes do when the brain searches for a memory. “Finger paintings?”

“Of naked ladies?” He asked, eyes starting to sparkle again. I nodded.

“We got in trouble,” we both said it together. Suddenly he lit up like I was Santa Claus.

“Ashley Stain Helens!”

“Siegfried Jeffrey Prince!”

“Shhhh, no one knows my real name,” he said, looking around.

“I’ve kept your secret all these years.”

“My honeybunch,” he grinned, hugging me. “I still have the macaroni necklace you made me! But...” he held me at arm’s length for a second. “But...you look so different from in Calculus class.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “Yeah, I don’t usually dress up for math.” Then my worrying nature kicked in: Maybe he likes the make-up, not me. Yeah, that made sense. Yeah, obviously; how could I have been so stupid to think otherwise? The vines of doom reached for me, even in my moment of destiny. This couldn’t really actually be happening to me; I’m dreaming, I must have fallen asleep on my book back at home. I pulled away.

But he grabbed my hand. “Ashley, that not it, I swear. There’s something else about you tonight. You look radiant. Amazing. Happy. You look like yourself. Even though you’re wearing a dress. Even though you grew up without me noticing. And I can’t tell you how happy I am that it’s you. I was wishing and praying that something wonderful would happen tonight. I like Nevada, I love Nevada, she’s great, she’s beautiful, and something might have happened, but seriously, everyone thinks we’re the class couple because we liked each other in ninth grade… but I love her like a sister, we’re good friends, and we both want something real.”

Something real. As much as this was all pretend—the glitter, the big hair, the fog machines—the fantasy of it all had actually coaxed something I’d always imagined into reality. I couldn’t answer, I just put my cheek to his, and it was warm, and we danced. I closed my eyes and I could feel our two auras sort of settling in together. I could feel the ankle straps of the amazing shoes pull against my skin with each step. I could feel the cool taffeta of my mother’s dress slide around my body like a blessing. For the first time since I’d lost her, I felt ready to dream about being like her one day. I sent her and dad a silent prayer of thanks for sending Harry to me tonight, for sending me love.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What’s A Girl To Do?

As the crowd cheered, the most incredible thing happened: Jeff looked straight at me. He was glancing all around the room, making eye contact with his adoring fans, and when his eyes lit on me, they came back. It was like “oh, it’s you, hi,” And then, “what? Woah!” And then he was just smiling at me, his teeth like shooting stars in the changing light, his mouth open, his eyes puzzled, his eyes happy, and me just grinning like an Elmo doll. Then everyone on stage was staring at me. Then everyone in the crowd was staring at me. Then I felt my cheeks starting to get hot and my heels starting to sweat.

The coach, oblivious to my excitement, wiped his brow again and went on. “So, uh, moving along here...the choice of prom QUEEN seems to have been a more difficult one...Nevada LeBlanc, our front-runner, bowed out of the race at the last moment with a bad case of the stomach flu.” He glanced again at Sylvia, nervously. “Aaaannnd…between the two remaining candidates, we have, um, a tie.” Debra and Donna stopped hugging each other and started glaring at each other, not noticing the coughing and fidgeting of the crowd. “Three votes each.” Their cluster of giggling girlfriends squealed and clapped and whistled.

But Jeff ignored them. He leaned into to the microphone in front of Coach to say something. A hush fell over the crowd. His dimple was gone; he was dead serious. And then the most miraculous thing happened. He spoke out loud. He waved a little wave, and said, “Hi.”

The coach patted his pockets, reaching in here and there, pulling out bits of paper. Meanwhile, Jeff pointed at me and said, “How about you?” By all rights, I should have fainted right then and there. It was so romantic, so flattering, so scary. I felt like I was floating above myself, looking down on the scene.

“So. Um.” The coach glanced nervously at Sylvia again, and kept speaking, shouting really, since Jeff was breathing heavily into the mike, waiting for some sort of answer, as if anyone could have answered that question. I stood there, rooted to my spot, unable to stop smiling. “The prom committee, or, ahem, the ‘revered administration of the crown,’ you could call it, decided to let blind justice choose our queen.” The coach pulled out a shiny silver dollar and held it up. His hands were shaking.

“Yes, you,” said Jeff, again, nodding, beckoning me now with his adorable finger, and there came the dimple again. In the years since, I always deliver this line at this point in the story: “What’s a girl to do?” And everyone laughs at my seemingly rhetorical question. But at that moment, I really had no idea. The coin went up, up, up, and I took a careful step forward in my shoes that should have been in a museum. The coin came flying down but when the coach reached out he missed it; it hit the floor, ringing in the silence, bounced off the stage, and rolled into the oblivious crowd. Yes, oblivious; hardly anyone saw this but me, while I was seemingly floating above my body. Everyone was totally tuned in to Jeff, who stared at me with such intention I was mesmerized. My feet took another step or two for me. There was a smattering of applause. Debra’s face fell. She jabbed Donna with her elbow. They both stared at me. Suddenly, my knees seemed to magically transform into stuffed animals.

Someone out there yelled, “I vote for her!”

Then everyone started shouting. “Me, too!” “She’s the one!” Just when I thought my stuffies would collapse, people reached for me. Hands touched my arms, pulling me, pushing my back, gently, helping me get to Jeff. Hands guided me to the stage, practically lifted me up the stairs. The coach shrugged, and signaled to the band behind him to start playing again. Ana Sueño, last year’s prom queen, returning from college for this special moment, put something on my head as I walked past, but I barely noticed. Sparkling stars were shooting into the edges of my field of vision. All I could see was Jeff, reaching for my hands.

“Hello, gorgeous,” he said.

“Hello, yourself.” His hands were very warm and steady.

“You look fine,” he said, and I felt like I was in an old romantic comedy I’d watched many times with mom and dad.

“I feel fine,” I responded, as if reciting my line. But it was true. I did feel pretty fine, in a way I never had before. The cheering crowd parted as we walked down off the stage to dance, and the band started playing the dreamlike Fairytale Waltz that had been played at our school's prom since the legendary class of 1929.

There are moments in everyone’s lives where they feel as if the current of a greater story has swept them up; when suddenly, without warning, their lives converge with destiny, and somehow the confusion of everyday life dissolves, and they know just what they must do. This is how Jeff describes the moment he saw me and lifted that adorable finger. I felt that way, too, but in a strangely passive way. Like, it wasn’t my own actions that mattered in that moment, but people around me suddenly knew what to do. And that, I believe, is what made my life a fairy tale—not the coincidental details of shoes and godmothers and pu(m)pkins. The feeling I got to experience, of being chosen just for being who you are, is different in a fairy tale than in a hero’s journey. And this was my wonderful fortune.

Wonderful not only because Jeff “discovered” me…but because also, at this point, it was time for Harry to stand up to Sylvia.