Marshmallows from Heaven
This chapter has been modified so it will make sense on its own.
Tim stepped out of the classroom between homeroom and first period for a drink of chlorine flavored water from the fountain. He wondered how Joan would react to the rest of the story. Though it wasn’t a normal fairy tale, she seemed to like what she had read so far and had even accepted the way he had written the Chaz character. Of course, it wasn’t based on her actual boyfriend, and she’d know that. Tim was sure Joan would never put up with a guy like the one from the story. He felt sorry for insulting the real Chaz, but he just couldn’t take a Prince Charming character seriously.
Tim was more curious how she would respond to the Joan character. He had made her typically fairytale-ish, especially at first. It struck him as funny, because she was not like that at all. Joan didn’t seem the type to depend on anyone. She was smart and strong, and he liked those things about her. But she had asked for a fairy tale, and the passive princess was a standard feature. Tim, of course, couldn’t even stick with that. The Joan in the story became more like the real Joan and ended up being the hero. It was more interesting that way.
Students were filing into English class by the time he got back. Joan met him at the door with a skeptical smile.
“Save me, Prince Chaz?” she quoted from the story. Joan didn’t like the idea of being so helpless, even though that was probably the situation for most fairytale princesses. “Do I look like I need saving?”
“I did have you fight the dragon,” he offered as appeasement. “You were the true warrior.”
Joan had actually liked that part of the story; in fact, she had enjoyed reading the entire thing, but it had not gone at all like she expected it to. “But the Chaz character was such a jerk. You stuck me with a jerk for the rest of my life.”
“It ended with the words happily ever after, just like you requested,” reasoned Tim as he pleaded his case.
Joan laughed. “It did, but it’s not what I wanted, and you know it.”
“Maybe you didn’t place your order clearly enough,” Tim joked, deflecting responsibility for the story back onto Joan despite the unavoidable fact that he wrote it.
They turned down their aisles and spoke across the line of desks.
“Okay, Mr. Literal,” she said and paused. They stood facing each other with her desktop between them. If she could really live in such a story, what types of things would she like? This was fun, ordering a story the way you would order a pizza with all the favorite toppings.
“May I please have,” she began as she imagined the delicious possibilities, “a perfect kingdom in a perfect story. Hold the weird stuff. I want to marry Prince Charming, and I want to be happy myself. Throw in a castle while you’re at it.”
Tim caught on to her joke and smiled. “Do you want a drink with that?”
“How about a pet unicorn?”
“Sure thing,” he said.
When they sat, he turned his attention to his notebook. What on Earth could happen in a perfect kingdom? Stories were based on problems; they relied on the fact that everything was flawed. Conflicts gave stories meaning. A perfect world would be boring, but then if it was boring it would not be perfect. Tim smiled as his brain did a little twist around this thought. It would mean perfection, by definition, was flawed. He liked this idea.
* * *
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a beautiful princess. Princess Joan dwelled in a kingdom on the clouds. Floating between the mountaintops, the perfectly white stones of the castle walls gleamed against the perfectly blue hue of the sky. No other clouds ever sullied the sky above the enchanted castle, nor blotted out its sun. If ever a person needed to leave the kingdom, magical rainbow bridges would appear between the cloud and the mountain tops. But this rarely happened because the kingdom was perfect and everyone there was perfectly happy to remain. They never interacted with the earth.
Nothing unworthy could ever stay on the cloud kingdom even if it managed to sneak over the rainbow bridges. Anything soiled or undesirable sank through the cloud and fell. So only the whitest, purest marble could be used for the castle. Only the purest, whitest birds could land. Only perfect things could exist here.
Princess Joan was the perfect picture of beauty in this perfect kingdom. Her dark hair stood out perfectly against the gleaming white of the palace, so framing the perfect features of her delicate face it seemed as if she carried her own portrait. Her heavenly blue eyes perfectly matched the perpetually perfect blue of the sky.