The Girl Who Laughed

The Girl Who Laughed

A Story by Thea Sebastian
"

When Mya embarks on a magical mission, her goal is to help an ailing princess. But perhaps in doing so, in freeing the laugh that has been cruelly stolen away, she will even find her own...

"

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Or the story of:

A LAUGH

A DOOR

& A UNICORN

 

Panofle watched the countryside whizz by. Trees and bushes and wildflowers became a constant stream of color, soft, pale and butter warm. The smell of summer lilacs drenched the car.

“We’re almost there.”

The way was growing familiar now. Mya could recognize the red farmhouses and golden bales of hay and multicolored signs, glinting dully in the summer sun. It seemed that little had changed recently. The houses were still squat and mossy. The gates were still open. The sheep still munched boredly on dry grass and weeds.

Without quite noticing it, she hugged Panofle a bit closer. “Are you scared?” Mya asked quietly, her voice just a soft whisper. In reply, the stuffed unicorn said nothing. She nodded. “So am I.”

More houses drifted by. It seemed that they were moving into a town now. As she and Panofle watched, a general store and tiny school rose into view. She shivered. The world felt like a movie, partially fantasy and partially real. Although she had seen everything before, it looked, well, different now. Everything looked different now.

“How long has it been?” Maryanne Mammoth asked. Three years older than Mya, tall, blonde and beautiful where Mya was short, mousy and brunette, Maryanne was now squashed right beside Mya, playing unconsciously with a loose curl. Watching her, Mya tried not to be envious.

“Five years.”

Maryanne blinked, the twirling briefly stopping. “That’s a long time.”

Mya nodded. It was.

“What’s it going to be like?” Maryanne asked.

“What’s what going to be like?” Mya replied.

“Living with Him.”

“Who?”

But before Maryanne said a word, Mya already knew quite well. “Your dad.”

Mya thought for a moment, her gaze on the glass window. Then she shrugged. “Weird.”

Maryanne nodded, starting her twirling again. She always twirled when she was nervous. “Do you want an Oreo?”

Mya glanced at the package. The cookies had been crushed during the long trip. Hours of jostling and jumbling had turned the crunchy crackers into so much brown dust and gooey cream. She took one anyway. “Thanks.” When she bit into it, fat crumbs tumbled onto her shirt.

To be sure, she remembered Him well. He was a tall man, a stern blend of dark mustache, olive skin and brooding eyes. His posture was always ramrod straight.

“You shouldn’t slouch. It’s not ladylike.”

So He had said to her, watching her across the oak table. Her mother had just rolled her eyes. “Relax! She’s five.”

Hearing this, her father had frowned. He had forgotten about that. “Even so.”

He also never wore shoes inside. “It’ll ruin the carpets.”

Mya had frowned slightly, staring at the dark floorboards. “But my feet get cold.”

And so He had bought them slippers. They were cotton slippers, she remembered, the kind that a Chinese person might have. They were made of silk and had a pattern of blue songbirds. Looking back, she had quite liked them at first. Wearing them and a checkered tablecloth and a serene expression, she would simper and sigh over imaginary tea, pretending that she were a Chinese princess. One day, however, the game had lost its appeal. Her cousins had arrived unexpectedly, rumbling onto the gravel driveway. Not thinking at all, she had leapt up, dashing quickly into the sprawling garden. She raced down the pathway, her arms flung wide. And just when she reached the gate, He had appeared.

“Those aren’t for outside!” He roared. “Those are house slippers. Take them off at once!”

Saying this, standing just before her, His face had been grayer than a thundercloud, his eyes icy cold.

A hot blush rose to her cheeks. “I’m sorry.” The words sounded thick and muddled, stuck behind tears that refused to come.

With a sigh, He turned away. “Go put something else on. You’ll ruin them.”

So Mya she nodded mechanically and retreated inside. And after that, well, something changed. The slippers became just slippers. The imaginary teacups were stowed away. The magic disappeared.

“Is that the house?”

Mya looked up. It was everything that she had remembered. The sides had brown shingles and white shutters. The wooden fence was overhung with lilac and rhododendron. Beside a squat woodshed, an old maple arced nobly into the sky.

As they pulled in, Aunt Mammoth cut the engine. A brief silence fell. Then Peter Mammoth, who was sitting on her right, pointed at something and asked"“Is that him?”

“Silly!” Maryanne chided her brother, peering around him. “You know that it is. You saw him last week!”

“I did not!” Peter cried, just over five, blonde like Maryanne and equally stubborn. When they read fairytales, his favorite was Tom Thumb.

But he had. They all had. At the funeral, Mr. Jones had been a flagpole of pale skin and pressed lips. While the world had cried tears of misty rain and wind, He had bowed His head low and said nothing. While the mourners had shed tears of salt and sweat, He had stood slightly apart and stared at the rain.

Mya had noticed Him little. Although she had vaguely heard the angry voices and whispered remarks, her attention had been elsewhere. 

“Gracious! What’s He doing here?”

“What do you mean? He was her husband. He’s certainly got the right to come.”

“But that was years ago. I’m amazed that He remembered the way.”

“You’re being a bit harsh. They were in love.” There was a pause. “Once.”

The first mourner snorted. “I suppose.”

Staring at the rain, the flowers, the soggy grass, Mya had understood next to nothing. She had been too busy counting. One. Two. Three. Twelve. Twenty-seven. There were twenty-seven roses on the coffin.

“Where’s Mya now?” the second mourner asked.

“She’s with her aunt. You can see her there.”

“Poor thing! What happens to her now?”

“She goes with her father. What else?”

“Well, why not have her stay here? She likes Grapewood. Josie Mammoth can care for her.”

“It’s not her choice. The law’s clear.”

There was a sigh. “I’m surprised that He even wants her.”

“So is everyone.”

Still staring at the coffin, Mya had said nothing. After all, Cynthie White and Sylvia Edwards were always being surprised about things. For example, they had been surprised about the cancer.

“She should have had much longer. The doctor said nearly a year.”

They had been surprised about the rain.

“It was meant to be sunny! She would’ve hated this. She never liked the rain.”

And they had been surprised, of course, about Mr. Jones.

“He really shouldn’t have come.”

“But He loved her.”

“He called her crazy!”

“True. Then again, she was a bit crazy.”

Yes. Lily Jones had been hazy and crazy and bursting with life. And now, here and now, there was just rain. “Twenty-eight.”

“What’s that?” Aunt Mammoth asked, bending toward her, blonde hair swinging across her body. It was wet from the rain.

Mya cleared her throat. “There are twenty-eight roses there.” Saying this, she pointed at the coffin.

Aunt Mammoth nodded. Then, straightening up, she turned to Mya and she asked gently"“Are you ready?”

Mya stared straight ahead. Was it really twenty-seven? It was hard to be sure. “I’d like to stay a bit.”

“But it’s raining.”

“I’d just like to stay a bit.” Maybe it was twenty-eight. She wanted to count them again.

“Okay.”

Another moment passed. Mya counted. She recounted. Then Aunt Mammoth said"“Panofle looks cold.”

Mya paused.

Aunt Mammoth nodded firmly. “Just look at him. He’s almost shivering.”

Mya looked at the little unicorn. He did look cold. “Okay.” She turned from the coffin. “We can go now.”

So they did.

“Do you need anything else?”

Mya blinked. She was standing on the porch now. Her aunt was standing beside her. Her father stood at the door.

“I’ll be back soon.”

Mya glanced at her aunt. She was starting to fuss again. She did that at times.

“We’ll visit next weekend.”

“Okay.” There was a wet kiss and hug. Then an engine roared to life. Before she knew it, Aunt Mammoth and her cousins were gone. 

“We’d better get you moved in.”

Mya nodded. Her father looked larger than ever, larger, paler and thinner. She told him so. “You’re awfully tall.”

He ignored this. “You can have the room upstairs. It’s bigger than the old one.”

She had liked the old one. It had smelled wooden and sweet. When her mother stepped inside, the floorboards creaked a bit, rather like they were singing a song. But when he put her bags on the new bed, she said nothing. She just set Panofle down and said softly"“What do you think?”

“What was that?” Mr. Jones asked, pausing in the doorway.

“I was talking to Panofle.”

Mr. Jones frowned. “You’re nine. That’s a bit old for dolls.”

Her response was immediate. “This isn’t a doll. It’s Panofle.”

Mr. Jones looked at her. He looked at Panofle. By now, Panofle was missing one eye. The other was hanging by a thread. He sighed. “I’ve got some calls to make. I’ll be downstairs.”

Mya learned the house rapidly. She learned the stairs and cupboards and kitchen. She learned where to find the cereal and milk and fruit. By the time that Aunt Mammoth returned, she was an expert.

“What’s he like?” Peter Mammoth asked curiously, taking a bite of Cookie Crisp and milk.

Mya shrugged. “I dunno. Nothing special.”

“He doesn’t like mum very much.”

Mya nodded. It was hardly a secret that Mr. Jones hated Josie Mammoth.

“Why?” Peter asked.

Maryanne had the best answer. “Maybe she reminds him of Lily.”

Peter, however, remained unconvinced. “What about Mya?” he asked. “They look even more alike.”

This was hard to dispute. Everyone said that Mya was a miniature Lily. Their laugh was the same. Their hair was the same. Their smile was the same. They even had the same eyes.

Mya just shrugged, stirring her cereal. Maybe Maryanne was right. Even so, it was more than that. Her father had never liked Aunt Mammoth.

“Maybe it was because they were so close,” Maryanne said, pouring more milk into her bowl. She had always liked Rapunzel. It was easy to see why.

“Who?” Mya asked.

“Lily and mum.”

Mya still said nothing. Yes, that was part of it. Her mother and Aunt Mammoth had always been best mates, sisters, friends, conspirators in life. When Lily had needed advice, she had always turned to Josie. Mya could still remember the telephone conversations on the stairs, her mother red and shaking and crying into the receiver.

“Josie’s behind this.” That was what Mr. Jones had said over and over again. While Lily packed her bags, throwing blouses and scarves and storybooks into a cloth suitcase, he had folded his arms and repeated those words again and again and again.

Lily had disagreed. “No.” Though she had sounded tired, her voice had been firm. Mya, standing in the doorway, remembered that. “This decision is all mine.”

In truth, it had been inevitable. There was too much between them. There had been for a long time. And that was even before the Laugh. That is, the Laugh that had Destroyed Everything.

Mya stirred her cereal around and around. The Cookie Crisps had grown soggy. She hated soggy cereal.

“Do you want to go play Indians?” Peter asked.

Mya shook her head. “Not today.”

“Maybe we can play kickball.”

“Don’t have a ball.”

Peter sighed. “What can we do?”

Mya had no answer.

“Fine. We’ll just sit here,” Peter groused, pushing his bowl away. Mya still said nothing.

“What’s wrong with her?” Peter complained later, buckling his seatbelt.

“Shhhh!” Maryanne hissed in reply, her gaze darting to Mya. “She’ll hear you!”

“We’re in the car,” Peter pointed out. “She can’t possibly.”

He was right. He and Maryanne were in the car. In fact, Aunt Mammoth had already started the engine. What Peter had forgotten, however, was that a window was cracked.  

“She’s no fun anymore!” Peter complained.

“Can you blame her?” Aunt Mammoth asked gently. “She just lost her mum.”

“But she doesn’t laugh at all!” Peter said.

“It’ll take time.”

“How much?”

Mya never heard the answer. Before Aunt Mammoth could respond, she turned away.

Lily had always been laughing. She had laughed at everything. Birds. Trees. Flowers. Sunshine. Life. And it was laughter that had killed her.

“It wasn’t really the cancer.” Mya had tried to explain this. The cancer had been an afterthought, a creation of doctors and hospitals and chemical textbooks. Lily had died because her head had just, well, filled up. Too many ideas. Too many songs. Too many smiles. For some reason, nobody would understand that.

Nobody, that is, but Panofle. “But you do,” Mya had whispered to the little unicorn. In reply, Panofle had nodded. He understood completely.

Laughter had killed Lily Jones. And before that, it had killed her marriage. That time, however, the culprit had not been her, but Mya.

Mr. Jones had been stressed those days. He was commuting constantly, shuttling to the law office and back. He said that he would make partner soon.

“That’s lovely,” Lily said absently, adding a punch of salt. She was making a spinach quiche. Her favorite fairytale was Beauty and the Beast. She especially liked the dinner scene.

“You don’t care,” Mr. Jones complained.

“I do.” Saying this, Lily frowned. “Should I add peppers?”

“This is wonderful! Think about the pay increase.”

Lily sighed. “Think about the extra hours.”

“Lily!” Mr. Jones admonished.

“Let’s not do this now.”

“Why not?” Mr. Jones demanded, not caring that Mya was at the door.

Lily sighed again. “You’re never home anymore.”

“It’s for us,” Mr. Jones said stubbornly.

“It’s for you.”

For a while, everything seemed to be going well. But as the announcement grew closer, the law office grew worried.

“Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Manley think that I don’t have a family,” Mr. Jones said, leaning angrily against the Formica counter. “They’re worried that I don’t have"” He paused. “Balance.”

“Ahhhhh,” Lily said, her tone noncommittal.

“What rubbish!” Mr. Jones said. “I told him that I have an idyllic family life.” Once again, he paused. “Maybe if you’d just come to some events"”

Lily shook her head, wiping her hands on a dishrag. “We already talked about this. It’s too hard on Mya. She’s too young.”

But in the end, they agreed to try. When the company Christmas party rolled around, Mya was bundled into a velvet frock and Mary Janes. And not two hours later, they were there.

Oh! How the world glittered! Lights and people everywhere! She was just five then. She raced between the genteel men and women. She jousted sugary strawberries and played toreador with napkins. But small children can only take so much. As the night wore on, she grew tired and irritable. By the time that the speeches started, she wanted to go home.

“Shhhh!” Lily whispered urgently. Young Mya was growing more and more restless. Something was going to give. Unless, that is, Lily thought of something and fast.

“Under here!” Lily said. Possessed with an idea, Lily Jones grabbed Mya and ducked underneath the banquet table. Mya giggled. What fun! A long tablecloth had turned the table into a magical tunnel.

“It’s our wigwam!” Lily explained softly, brown eyes gazing brightly at her daughter. “But you must be very quiet.”

“Why?” Mya wanted to know.

“Because the evil Panglocks will hear us. Listen! They’re out there now.”

Mya froze. She was quite scared of the evil Panglocks, so she stayed perfectly still. But after a while, even the threat of evil Panglocks was unable to silence her. The ecstasy of the table and tablecloth wigwam was too much. And the sight of a disembodied loafer playing footsy with a disembodied high heel, well, that was icing on the cake! A bark of laughter spilled from her lips.

Outside, there was a painful silence. Mr. Manley had been delivering a poignant, important speech, recapping the previous year. Hearing the laughter, however, he ground to a halt. There was some whispering. Then the tablecloth was ripped off.

“Mrs. Jones!”

And there, of course, sat Lily and little Mya. Mr. Manley sneered. Mr. Jones turned the color of a ripe tomato. Mrs. Jones just shrugged and calmly crawled out.

A nearby lawyer gave a harrumph. “If you don’t mind my asking"” Judging by his tone, he apparently cared little if she did. “What on Earth were you doing under there?”

Lily was about to reply. But before she could, little Mya piped up. “The evil Panglocks were going to get us!”

Lily nodded soberly, not phased at all. “What she said.”

Mr. Jones turned even redder. Murmuring broke out. Another man said stiffly"“You do realize that this is the Ritz Carlton. I can’t imagine that the management would approve of such"” There was a painful silence. “Games!”

That did it for Lily. “Yes. As a matter of fact, I do realize that. And Mr. Cleveland, you do realize that you’re married, don’t you?”

The man blinked rapidly. A jerky head gesture appeared to be agreement.

Lily nodded. “Good. Then perhaps you should stop playing footstie with Mrs. White.”

Now it was Mr. Cleveland’s turn to blush.

“Could you please have a seat?” Mr. Jones begged his wife. But Lily had had enough. Firmly grabbing Mya, she turned pointedly to the exit. “I think that Mya’s about ready to leave. She’s bored to tears.” And bravely lifting her chin, she gave the room a cool glance. “Enjoy your meal.”

And with that, mother and child swept from the room. Mr. Jones followed them out.

“Lily!” He hissed. Don’t do this! You’re making a scene.”

Lily glanced at her watch, glancing at the driveway. “Josie will be here any moment.”

“Lily!” Mr. Jones said again.

Lily shook her head impatiently. “I won’t do this now. I won’t! It wouldn’t have killed you to"”

At that moment, the Mammoths pulled up. Uncle Mammoth stepped onto the pavement. He was bald and overweight and hairy. But just then, he was everything that Mya wanted to see. She gave a great shout of joy. And then she did something that nobody would never forget. She opened her arms and yelled"“Daddy!”

And then she raced directly at Uncle Mammoth.

At that, there was a noise behind them. It seemed that some of the lawyers had been enjoying a quiet smoke. One of them was Mr. Carlyle. He gave a little snort, stubbing out his ciggie. “An idyllic home life.” The words were flat. Then, with a grunt, he shook his head and turned away.

They had fought that night. Mr. Jones and Lily fought often, of course, but this was different. And when Lily packed her things the next day, this time for good, few were surprised.

“You laugh too much,” he told her.

“You never laugh at all,” she replied.

And after nine years, that had been that.

Mya blinked. It was raining outside now. A crack of thunder sounded, shaking the entire house. She shivered. During lightening storms, Lily had always come to her. She would crawl underneath the bedcovers, wrapping her arms around her daughter. And as the rain and wind beat down, she would spin stories about fairies and castles and hidden doorways and forgotten worlds. But now Lily was gone. The stories were gone. The hot chocolate was gone. And so Mya did the only thing that she could. She clutched Panofle to her chest, curling her arms tightly around the little unicorn, one eye still missing. Then she slipped into a dreamless sleep.

Close to midnight, something woke her. She would never know exactly what it was. Perhaps it was a certain sound. Perhaps it was a certain scent. In any case, she sat up suddenly and looked intently around the room. At first, everything seemed to be in order. Narrow bed. Drab blanket. Empty desk. Discarded clothes. But after a moment, however, she perceived a strange glow. Yes! There it was! It was coming from the closet!

Now a rustling noise became audible. The glow grew even brighter. There was a breath of warm wind. A clap of thunder roared. And then"“Panofle!” Mya gasped.

It was surely Panofle! But the little unicorn had grown immensely. He was now the size of a Shetland pony, glittering a brilliant white. Seeing her, he whinnied softly. Follow me.

Mya instantly sprang up and grabbed her sweater. Then she jammed a baseball cap onto her curls.

Panofle looked at her patiently. Are you ready?

“Yes!” Mya said, nearly shaking with excitement. And so they set off.

In a moment, they crept downstairs and outside, picking their way through the tall grass and gravel walkways and overgrown rosebushes. At long last, they arrived at the old maple.

“Why on Earth are we here?” Mya demanded, wiping some rainwater away. Her sweater was really quite thin. “What is so special about"”

And then she saw the door. Set snugly into the gnarled trunk, it was made of black metal. A few weeds nearly covered it entirely.

Mya instantly dropped to her knees and brushed the little vines away, soon locating the latch. To her surprise, it gave readily. On the other side, a yawning staircase descended into pitch blackness.

“What do you think?” Mya asked excitedly, peering into the dark. “Should we go?”

Before Panofle could reply, her decision was made for her. Another clap of thunder sounded, making her start suddenly. Perched precariously on the brink, the little movement was just enough to upset her. In an instant, she pitched forward into the inky blackness, barely having time to give a cry.

The next moments were a blur. She had a vague sensation of falling. Then she was hurtling along a smooth chute, a giant wormhole seemingly made of ebony glass and wet earth. Faster and faster and faster she went! Colors and lights and bits of earth whizzed by! And then, WHOOSH! Mya shot into the air, tumbling awkwardly, heavily onto a grassy slope.

When she opened her eyes, there was moonlight. Mya frowned. Was she home? There were millions of stars overhead, tiny, silver pinpricks of beautiful light. She cautiously raised herself onto her elbows, peeping over her chest. And when she did so, she knew that she was far, far from the gnarled maple and the big house. Instead, she was lying in a soft, grassy meadow, apparently surrounded by a pine forest. Farther away, a jagged castle jutted into the sky. Brightly illuminated windows gave it the appearance of a storybook palace.

Just then, there was a gentle whinnying behind her. “Panofle!” Mya cried and threw her arms around the unicorn. “How glad I am to see you!” She had been scared that the unicorn had been left behind!

Do you think that I would miss an adventure like this? Panofle asked grumpily, licking her face.

Mya laughed, leaning her head against his fur. “I suppose not.”

Feeling him beside her, a bit of confidence flushed her face. Taking a deep breath, she arose and turned toward the castle. “Well, I suppose that we had better check it out.”

Panofle seemed to agree. And so the pair set off.

When they arrived, Mya was surprised to find complete and utter chaos. Cooks and maids and butlers bustled to and fro, all in a terrible dither.

“What on Earth is the matter?” Mya asked.

Snatches of the story were gradually revealed to her. “It seems that something has been stolen,” Mya said to Panofle, her expression serious.

What? Panofle asked.

Mya shrugged. The cooks had just given her a bit of lunch, a simple affair of soup and bread and hard cheese. She was feeding the leftovers to Panofle. “I’m not quite sure. I’ll find out.”

Given the general confusion, Mya found that she could slip unnoticed through the castle. So it was that she reached a long and winding corridor with a brass door. When she approached, the door was open. And for just a moment, she spied a lush chamber within. Gold! Jewels! Sparkles! And in the middle, there was a raised bed.

Mya gasped. How awful! There was a girl lying on the silken coverlet, staring dully at the ceiling. Her skin was deathly pale.

“Who are you?” a voice asked suddenly.

Mya started. Just now, a worn butler stood before her, his face creased from frowning so much. “If you please!” Mya gasped. “I was just looking. What is the matter with her?”

“Don’t you know?” the butler asked, looking wearier than ever. “That’s the Princess Elizabeth.”

“Is she dying?” Mya wanted to know.  

The butler shrugged. “She just might. That is, if they can’t get it back.”

“Get what back?” Mya asked.

But then another servant appeared. “Gerard! You’re wanted.”

Gerard hurried off.

While the maids were having supper, more details were unveiled. “You always knew that it was possible,” the first maid was saying. “But not to our Lizzie! What has she ever done to anyone?”

“Come now!” a second maid said, taking another helping of stew. “What does the Evil Queen care about that? Who knows why she does these things?”

“What things?” Mya asked them, her eyes wide.

The maids frowned at her. “Silly question!” the second maid said. “Everyone knows about the Evil Queen and her evil scheme. Why, she’s done it to dozens and dozens and dozens of young ladies and princesses!”

Mya, who had been in this world just a day, was growing impatient. “Done what?”

“Stolen their laughs, of course!”

Mya blinked. “What? But how is that possible?”

“Oh! Who knows?” the maid said breezily. “Magic of some sort. What does it matter? The point is that it’s gone.”

“But can’t someone get it back?” Mya asked.

“Silly thing! All manner of folks have tried. Princes and knights and Lords and peasants. They embark on fancy quests and journeys, always hoping to find the Evil Queen and her lair. But they never succeed! How will we be any different? No,” the maid said, shaking her head. “All hope is lost!”

When Mya told Panofle about this, she had a thoughtful look in her eye.

What are you thinking? Panofle asked, knowing that look quite well.

“Do you think that we ought to try?” Mya asked.

You heard the others. It won’t be easy. Panofle paused. We may not even survive.

“I know that,” Mya said. “But you should have seen that girl. The poor princess! She looked so pale and miserable and dull. We simply must try to help her.”

And so Mya and Panofle left the next day. They were given the same rations that all questers received, a compass, a map, a woolen cloak and food. The stable boy, giving them the items, looked rather glum. “Yeh won’t find her.”

Mya was busy saddling Panofle, so she chose not to respond.

“And even if yeh do find her"”

“Do you have a smaller saddle?” Mya asked.

“Which yeh won’t, o’ course"”

“This really is too big.”

He found one. “She’ll kill yeh.”

Mya blinked, finally looking at the boy. “Well, thanks.”

The boy nodded. “Yeh must’ve heard the stories. They say that she eats people fer breakfast! The eyeballs for breakfast and the brains for lunch.” He assessed her critically. “Although, teh be fair, yeh are rather small. So I can’t imagine that yeh’ll be much o’ a meal.”

Mya shrugged. “Well, good. Maybe she’ll spare me then.”

The stable boy shook his head. “Naw. Not a chance. She’ll kill yeh anyway.”

Mya sighed. “Very well. Do you have more advice for me?”

The boy considered. Then he nodded. “Avoid the Marble Pass.”

“Why?” Mya asked sarcastically. “Will someone try to skewer me alive?”

“No. It’s jest pretty muddy this time o’ year.”

Mya smiled. “Thanks.”

So she and Panofle set off. They traveled all day, sleeping underneath a leafy elm. Just before sunset, Mya broke into the bag of provisions, consuming a loaf of bread and some cheese. They were awake before dawn the following day.

As they travelled, the landscape grew steadily hillier and rockier. At times, they had to scale boulders that had fallen onto the path. Other times, they had to forge icy streams that were lined with slippery rocks. One night, Mya was just falling asleep when she heard a faint hissing noise. She squinted into the blackness, searching for its source, her heart already starting to pound. For a moment, she saw nothing. Then the moonlight caught something long and gleaming black. It had sharp ends that were oddly curved and ridged. Heart beating even faster, her gaze slowly traveled upward. There was something white above the black thing. No, make that a great number of white things.

And they seemed to be, well, looking at her. “Do you feel like you’re being watched?” Mya asked Panofle, pressing closer to the shaggy unicorn.

Before Panofle could answer, something toppled onto Mya. It was a thin strand with a sticky, supple texture. As she brushed it away, realization suddenly dawned. With a scream, she dove aside. BAM! She was just in time! Just as she rolled behind the tree, the giant spider struck, its pincers slamming into the earth where Mya had been.

“Panofle!” Mya yelled urgently, but Panofle was right behind her. As the spider readied itself to attack again, she scrambled behind a giant boulder. A silvery web instantly followed her, splattering across the jagged rocks and grass.

Pressed tightly against the rock, she could hear the spider growing closer and closer. As it walked, it spewed more and more silvery threads. When she risked a peek, she saw that they were carpeting the ground like dew.

Running would be no use. The creature could easily overtake them. And there was no chance that they could fight those pincers and fangs. Even so, Mya had an idea.

Gathering all of the strength that she had, she dashed from the rock. She darted to the left, provoking a shrill shriek from the spider. Then she raced the other way, darting around a tall tree. The spider followed quickly, shooting rays of gooey web.

When she had cleared the tree, she instantly headed for another. The spider pursued her, thundering across the clearing. She could feel it growing closer. Its breath poured hotly across her. Its pincers reached toward her.

Now another tree was cleared. The spider grew even closer, trailing yards of web. By now, Panofle had caught on. So the pair raced between the trees, spinning the spider around and around. And just when Mya had lost her energy"

Just when the fangs were driving toward her"

WHOMP! There was a crashing noise. The spider tripped on its web, toppling headlong to the ground. As its pincers thrashed and waved, Mya and Panofle drew back. As she did so, Mya realized that her head and neck were covered in sweat.

For a moment, they watched the beast grow more and more enmeshed. And then, just like that, POOF! The giant spider disappeared.

Mya blinked. “Did you see that?”

We must be getting close, Panofle replied grimly, his gaze on the horizon.

Mya shivered and nodded. He was right. Only the Evil Queen could have conjured such a horrible beast. Glancing at the mountains ahead, jutting sharply into the gray sky, she wondered what the next obstacle would be.

The found out the following day. When they rounded a sharp bend, Mya nearly toppled headlong into a yawning gulf. Only a quick intervention by Panofle saved her.

“Good heavens!” Mya cried. The chasm was so deep that it seemed to have no bottom. Perhaps it descended into Hell itself. “What will we do?” There seemed to be no way that they could cross it!

After searching a bit, however, they spotted a grove of trees not too far away. Making his horn into an axe, Panofle felled one of these. Luckily, it perfectly spanned the gulf.

Mya gulped. “Now just to cross.”

Stepping onto the makeshift bridge, she could feel the cool, empty air beneath her. She took a step, stopping to catch her balance. She took another and another. A short while later, she was most of the way across. Her step developed a bit more sureness. She had almost made it!

“Look! We’re almost there!” Mya yelled joyfully. “Just a little bit"”

And then it happened. Her step went slightly astray, causing her to teeter and totter precariously. And then, quite suddenly, she was falling! The air rushed around her. She screamed and scrambled desperately for purchase, the chasm yawning to meet her.

And then, miracle of miracles, she had done it. Her arms were wrapped tightly around the log. All the same, her breathing was labored. Her shoulders felt bruised. And her grip would only last for so long.

“Help! Help me!” Mya cried.

But what could poor Panofle do? He had no hands. What good were hoofs and horns just now?

Pull yourself along, Panofle said.

“I can’t!” Mya replied, feeling her grip slip a bit more.

You must. One hand at a time. You can do it.

Mya closed her eyes. He was right. And so she eased her grip slightly, letting one hand slide further along. Then she quickly hugged the log again. Then she eased the second hand to join the first.

So she eventually reached the other side. When she finally touched firm land, she dragged herself up. Her body was aching all over and her wrists were bruised. For a long time, she simply lay there, breathing heavily. Then, out of nowhere, there was a creaking noise. As they watched, the chasm closed up.

She must be getting worried, Panofle said.

Mya just nodded. She was too tired to respond.

For a few days, there were no obstacles at all. The mountains eventually disappeared, fading into low foothills and grassy knolls. Soon a dark forest appeared on the horizon, one so deep and dark that it always seemed to be night.

“I can’t see anything!” Mya cried softly, entering the dense vegetation. But Panofle solved this easily. With a shake of his head, his horn glowed even brighter and whiter than ever. Like an electric flashlight, it brightly lit the path ahead.

Thus they progressed through the impenetrable forest. How long they were there, Mya had no idea. Without sunlight, they had no sense of day and night. There was simply the stretch of path ahead, brimming with eerie shadows and soft rustlings.

Mya began to grow depressed, fearing that they might never emerge. She stuck even closer to Panofle, winding her hand into his mane. “I don’t like this very much,” she whispered, glancing fearfully around her.

In reply, Panofle snorted gently and licked her hand. She smiled. And then hugged him impulsively. “At least I have you!”

Panofle snorted again.

A few hours later, they heard a tinkling noise.

“Is that water?” Mya cried. Their water was running out. Even the very sound made Mya feel parched.

Be careful, Panofle warned her. It could be a trick.

But Mya was too thirsty to care. “What trick can it be?” she asked airily. “It’s water! I must have some!” And so she raced into the brush.

When they reached the pool, it was everything that Mya had imagined. It was big and smooth and dark, the water clear and calm like black glass. She gratefully dipped her hands into it, splashing the water into her mouth.

“Isn’t it delicious?” she said happily. “Oh! How thirsty I was!”

She continued to drink and drink. But as she straightened up, having quenched her thirst, a tiny bug flew into her cheek. A moment later, another one appeared. Then a strange buzzing caught their attention.

What is that? Panofle demanded nervously.

With a sinking heart, Mya already had an idea. A instant later, her suspicions were confirmed. All at once, a cloud descended on them, a cloud of buzzing insects! A swarm!

“Run!” Mya screamed. But it was too late for that. Their path was completely blocked. And then the cloud descended!

There was only one option. Together, girl and unicorn dove into the glassy lake. By submerging themselves completely, taking short gulps of air, they could escape the little bugs.

As Mya bobbed and treaded water, her mind raced. What would they do now? Oh! If only they had never left the path! But that thought was no good now. She had to think! Well, what did insects hate? Fire. But they had no fire.

“Ick!” Mya said impatiently. How could she think when her feet kept getting caught in the muck? Indeed, slimy muck fairly coated the bottom of the pond! Ugh! How gross and slimy it felt between her toes!

All of a sudden, Mya stopped. “Panofle!” she cried. “That’s it!”

Creeping to the shoreline, Mya covered Panofle and herself in the thick, black, ugly mud. Then she used her coat and sweater to make them masks. Once they were finished, they braced themselves and made a run for it.

By the time that they reached the path, they were covered in little stings. By and large, however, the muck had worked. So they flew along the open road, dashing through the inky forest. And within a few hours, they had escaped the dark wood.

When they burst into the daylight, they knew that they were close, since the ground was covered with firs and powdery snow. The chimneys of a nearby town puffed smoke into the air. And high, high on a nearby hill, a pearly castle jutted into the wintry sky.

“Does that belong to the Evil Queen?” Mya asked when they stopped in the town.

At the inn, their waiter nodded glumly, handing them two bowls of soup. “Aye. That it does.”

Mya nodded, raising her spoon. “That’s where we’re heading.”

The man nodded. “I figured as much.”

“Why?” Mya asked.

He shrugged. “Why else would you come here? This town ain’t got much to offer visitors.”

Mya looked around. The town consisted of sixteen houses and a pub. To be fair, he had a point. “Do you have any advice?” Mya asked.

“Sure,” the man replied.

“What?”

“Don’t go.”

Mya frowned and stirred her soup. “Besides that.”

He sighed, grabbing a rag to mop the counter. “Well, you can’t reason with her.”

“What do you mean?” Mya inquired.

“She won’t give those laughs up. You know, the ones that she’s stolen. Why, they’re the only chance that she’s got.”

“Chance for what?” Mya asked.

“To be human.”

Mya blinked. “Do you mean that she isn’t human?”

The man frowned. “Don’t you know the story?”

Mya shook her head mutely. And so, putting down his towel, the waiter took a seat on a nearby stool. “Well, the truth is that the Evil Queen wasn’t always so evil.” He paused. “And she wasn’t always a queen.”

“So what was she?”

“She was a statue. As the story goes, she was carved by the most talented sculptor in the land, a man who lived not far from here. She was commissioned by the royal palace, apparently as a wedding gift for the queen, but she never got there. Before that happened, you see, the carver had a change of heart. After five years working day and night and night day, he had carved something so exquisite and so perfect that he fell completely in love. Abandoning his career, he took the statue to a remote castle and began to worship it.

“At first, this was enough for him. But as the years passed, he began longing for more. Admiring her was good, but not enough. She needed life. And so he set off. He scoured the countryside for someone who could help him, the most powerful and cunning witch in the land. And when he found her, he begged her to help him.

“The witch was reluctant. As you know, it is quite unwise to bestow or take away life. It violates fate. But the carver was quite adamant. He would die without his lady, his love, his angel! He would do anything to kiss her once! To kiss lips that could kiss him back! Moved by his passion, the witch finally agreed to help.

“The first step was to give the statue hair. For this, the carver had to find a beautiful maiden and steal a single curl, something that he could do while she slept. Then he must dip this into a certain potion that she gave him. And then he had to lay it against her skin. By daybreak, the witch said, the statue would have a beautiful head of hair.

“The carver did everything that the witch told him to, stealing an ebony curl from the most beautiful and innocent maiden around. And as the witched had promised, his statue grew a fine head of hair. He was elated.

“‘Tell me more! Tell me more!’ he cried.

“The witch nodded. ‘Now you must find fingernails and toenails and do the same. Then it will be teeth.’

“Well, the carver did all of this and returned. ‘Now what?’ he asked.

“‘Now for eyes. Find the sharpest eagle and steal from it. For a nose, hunt the strongest wolf.’

“The carver did all of this and returned again. ‘Now what?’

“The witch looked at the bottle. They were starting to run low. ‘Well, now she is almost human. She just lacks two things. That is, a heart and a mind. For a heart, find a mother hen, the kindest and most caring of all. For a mind, find a wily fox. But before you do this"’ Here the witch stopped.

“‘What?’ the carver asked eagerly.

“‘Before you do this, you must realize that this is, in fact, the last step. Once you do this, you cannot go back.’

“‘What do I care of that?’ the carver scoffed. ‘I have no doubts at all!’

“‘Is that so?’ the witch asked mildly. ‘Because you must remember that a living person is quite different than a statue. She will have likes and dislikes that you cannot control. She may not even love you back. And here"’ She indicated herself. ‘You have a woman whose love you can be assured of.’ The witch, you see, had fallen for the carver long ago. Seeing his passion and devotion, she had lost her head and her heart.

“But the carver was insensitive to this. ‘I cannot stop now!’ he cried. ‘I must have her! I must!’

“And so, taking the last of the potion, he found a hen and a fox, following her instructions perfectly. With trembling hands, he dipped them in potion and laid them against her. For a time, it seemed that nothing would happen. And then, all at once, there was a strange noise. The statue stirred slightly. She drew a sharp breath of air. And then she opened her eyes.

“‘Good heavens!’ cried the former statue. ‘You are an ugly thing! Whatever might you be doing here?’

“‘Oh queen!’ the carver yelled, elated. ‘You speak! How beautiful is your voice! I am a man who loves you, a man who loves you more than anything! Say that you love me back!’

“The queen laughed. ‘What! Me? Love you? You must be mad!’ With that, she laughed him from the palace, not to mention her hear, forever.

“Well, as the years passed, word of the queen’s beauty and perfection spread. All the same, she was not happy. Wondering why this was, she finally sought the old witch.

“‘Woman!’ the queen cried impetuously. ‘I command that you say what it is wrong! I am more beautiful and more powerful than any woman in the land. And yet I am not happy!’

“The witch nodded. ‘This is so. That is because we forgot something. Although you can speak and sing and breathe, you cannot laugh. We never gave you a laugh.’

“‘Then give me one now!’ the queen said. ‘You must!’

“The witch shook her head. ‘I cannot. The laugh is something that you must find for yourself.”

“As you can imagine, the queen was anything but pleased to hear this. Even so, no amount of storming or threats would move the witch. And so the Evil Queen was forced to depart.”

“So is that why she’s been taking other people’s laughs?” Mya asked.

The man nodded. “She’s desperate. Week after week she takes off, travelling far and wide to find the most beautiful, merry laughs around. But no matter how many she takes, not one will stick with her. And so she carries on, stealing more and more each month.

“But doesn’t she know that the girls are dying?” Mya asked. “After all, no girl can live without a laugh!”

“She doesn’t care,” the waiter said, picking up his rag again.

“But why not?” Mya asked.

Hearing this, the man frowned slightly. “Let’s not forget. This woman has the heart of a chicken. How much can you expect?”

Panofle snorted.

“What?” Mya demanded.

He has a point.

When Mya and Panofle set off, then, it was with a heavy heart. As they approached the castle, Mya had no plan and little hope of success.

“It looks like Princess Elizabeth may just be a lost cause,” she said sadly.

But you are still going, Panofle pointed out.

Mya shrugged. “We can still try.”

And so they did. When they reached palace, a manservant magically appeared.

“Please do come this way,” he said politely, giving them a bow. “The Queen is expecting you.”

Mya blinked. “Is she?”

Indeed, tea was nicely laid out. And seeing them, the Evil Queen smiled. “A visitor! How rarely I have them. Do make yourself at home!”

Mya did so. The food was good, and they were quite hungry. Even so, as they ate, there was something strange about it all. The Queen had a certain, well, Look. When they were shown upstairs, Panofle complained.

There is something fishy about this.

Mya yawned. “She’s just being a good hostess. Don’t be so suspicious.”

But Panofle was. And although she refused to admit it, Mya agreed. There was something strange about the Queen and her hospitality. What it was, however, Mya had yet to discover.

On the second day, the Queen said again that they should make themselves at home. They could go anywhere, she told them. Well, anywhere but the South Wing.

“Why?” Mya asked curiously.

The Queen refused to answer, quickly changing the subject. And so the matter was dropped.

And on the third day, Mya learned the reason that they were being entertained so warmly. While she was roaming the grounds, she overheard a conversation between two guards.

“Orders are to keep her here,” the first guard was saying.

“But why?” his companion asked. “What could the Queen want with a peasant girl?”

“Hush! This could be the girl that the Queen has been seeking! Someone with"”

“The perfect laugh,” the second guard said, nodding his head. “I understand now.”

And so did Mya. She looked at Panofle, feeling her pulse kick up. “So that’s what she has planned! She’s planning to steal my laugh.”

Panofle was nervous. We need to escape.

But Mya was determined. “No, not until we’ve rescued Princess Elizabeth. Besides"” She glanced at the guards. “I doubt that we even could.” It was a sobering thought.

When they met the Queen for supper, Mya was more subdued than usual.

“Is something wrong?” the Evil Queen asked innocently.

Mya nodded and put down her tea. “As a matter of fact, there is.”

“What?”

“If I make speak bluntly"” Mya stopped suddenly, trying to remember what the Queen was called. Though it had been three days, she still had no idea. “What is your name?”

“Queen,” the Evil Queen said promptly.

“No! I mean your name. Like, what do your friends call you?”

The Queen just stared at her. And slowly but surely, a thought occurred to Mya. “Queen, do you have any friends?”

The Queen still said nothing.

And so, just like that, Mya jumped up. “Do you really want a laugh?”

The Queen was taken aback. Then she said simply"“More than anything.”

Mya nodded. “Okay. Then you’ve got to do exactly what I say.”

“What?” the Queen demanded eagerly. “I’ll do anything!”

“Good. We’ll need some pens.”

“Pens!” the Queen cried to her footmen. “Fetch pens!”

“And we’ll need two hundred invitations.”

“Invitations! Invitations! What are you waiting for?” the Queen yelled at her servants. Then she looked at Mya expectantly. “Now what?”

“Now we plan a party.”

“A party!” the Queen said in surprise. “I’ve never had one of those.”

Mya nodded. “I wouldn’t expect so. But I’ve been to dozens.” She glanced at Panofle. “We can help.”

And so they did. They wrote two hundred invitations to the party, making each invitation golden lettering on a creamy backdrop. It would be held, they decided, the following Saturday at seven o’clock. And it would be located at the beautiful, ornate, spacious castle of"“What about Rosie?” Mya asked, her pen hovering over the page.

The Queen blinked, looking up from where she was opening a package of envelopes. “What do you mean?”

“Well, your name can’t be Evil Queen. That’s just silly. What about Rosie?”

The Evil Queen tried it out. “Rosie.” She turned the word over like it were a sucking candy. “Rosie. Yes, I like that.”

Mya smiled. “Good.”

As the day approached, they worked tirelessly to ready the place. They hung lights through the gardens. They draped garlands on the trees. And at long last, the guests began to arrive. Royal carriages pulled up, spitting lords and ladies and fine gentleman into the manicured gardens. As Rosie watched them appear, she smoothed her gown nervously. “Do I look okay?”

Mya smiled. “Don’t mind that! Think about what you’re going to say.”

So Rosie did. And when the guests had arrived, she made her grand entrance. She swept onto the white balcony, looking dazzling and divine and completely radiant. And just as she made her grand entrance, FWOMP!

Her dress caught on the balcony threshold. All at once, unable to stop herself, she pitched forward onto the ground. As she did so, her dress rode up slightly. Mya leapt forward to help, but she quickly got entangled in the petticoats, making her fall beside the queen. The two footmen met with a similar fate. And when Panofle accidentally stabbed the fat footman with his horn, catching him right in his tender, not to mention rotund, derriere, the situation went from bad to worse.

When the Queen was uncovered, almost lost underneath her petticoats, there was a paralyzed silence. The assembled guests held their breath, glasses frozen in midair. But then, somewhat unexpectedly, something momentous happened. The Queen laughed. The Queen laughed. And when she did so, the spell was broken.

“I did it!” Rosie cried, laughing still harder. “Do you see that? I’ve found it!”

This was, of course, exactly what the witch had meant. You can steal eyes. You can steal teeth and lips and a nose. But you can never steal a laugh. As the witch had said, that you must find for yourself.

The Queen, not so evil anymore, instantly turned to Mya. “What a fool I’ve been! Take these.” Saying this, she handed a brass key to Mya. “Set them free!”

Without being told, Mya knew exactly where to go. She raced into the castle and to the South Wing. And when she came to a bronze door, sure enough, the key fitted perfectly.

Inside, the sight was breathtaking! There were jars and jars and jars of translucent, shimming gas, swirling around frantically, pulsing to escape. And on each jar was written a name.

“Genevieve White,” Mya said, reading the first jar. Then she opened the lid. In an instant, the laugh screamed out, flipping and tumbling and turning about the room like a bird just free from its cage. Then it departed to rejoin its owner.

“Maryanne Smith. Eleanor Reese.” So Mya went from jar to jar, setting the laughs free. And then, at long last, she came to the Princess Elizabeth. With a smile, she unscrewed the lid and watched the laugh disappear. “Go to her!” Mya called, smiling from ear to ear.

Once this ceremony was over, Mya nodded with satisfaction. But just as she turned to leave, a strange sound caught her attention. Well, that was odd! She was quite sure that she had finished all of the jars. But when she looked again, she saw that there was one left, tucked into a far corner. With a frown, she reached for it, gently dusting off the lid. And when she did so, she found two words that caught her completely by surprise. On the lid, no different than any of the others, was the name Mya Jones.

Mya froze, her heart slamming in her chest. For a moment, she did nothing at all. She simply stood perfectly still, listening to the silence and the air and her heartbeat. Then she took a deep breath and opened the jar.

All at once, there were a sensation most peculiar, one of swirling and fluttering and flying and floating. And then, well, she did something that had not done in months.

What is so funny? Panofle asked suspiciously, appearing at the door.

But poor Mya was powerless to respond. She was laughing too hard.

By the time that they had rejoined the party, Mya had pulled herself together, though tears still streaked her face. When she reached the Queen, she touched her arm and said gently"“We need to talk.”

When the Queen stepped aside, Mya told her that she needed a favor.

“Anything!” Rosie cried.

“Send me home.”

The Queen frowned. “Send you home! But that’s madness! You’ve only just arrived. And we have so much to do!”

But Mya was adamant. No, it was time to go home. And so, with a sigh, the Queen agreed. Mya would leave at daybreak.

They arose before dawn and had a good breakfast. Then Mya met the Queen outside. “What now?” Mya asked.

The Queen waved her hand and a door magically appeared. “You have just to step through. When you do so, you will find that you are home.”

Mya nodded and stepped forward eagerly. Just as she did so, however, a second door appeared. She froze. “Which one is it?”

The Queen shrugged. “Only you can say that.”

Even as she said this, another door appeared. Now there were three doorways, shimming faintly in the morning light. Mya could have cried with dismay.

“But how do I know?” she said, her voice catching. Each of the doors looked perfectly identical. But while she stood there, looking rapidly between them, she heard something distinctive and rather strange. Behind the middle door, there was a laugh. It was a laugh that Mya knew well. It was a laugh that she had heard before.

It was a laugh that had brought her hot chocolate, pouring it into a snowflake mug with a red Santa.

It was a laugh that had come to her when it rained hard, making the thunder and lightning never seem so bad.

It was a laugh that had spun her fairytales and taught her that even ordinary girls, ones with mousy hair and freckles and crooked teeth, could be princess. All that you had to do was believe.

Without another thought, Mya plunged through the middle and into the void beyond. And when

she opened her eyes, she was in bed.

Very, very cautiously, she looked around the room. Everything was in order. She was in the big house, wearing her pajamas and no coat. Narrow bed. Drab blanket. Empty desk. Discarded clothes. It was all there. Anxiously, she reached under the bedcovers, searching for Panofle. But no, he, too, was there. They were truly home.

At that moment, her door burst open. “Are you okay?” Mr. Jones asked quickly, darting inside.

Mya blinked. “I’m fine.” She had never seen him look so scared.

“Good. I just thought that I"” He stopped. “Well, I thought that I heard something. And when I heard that laugh"” He stopped again, realization setting in. “What were you laughing at?”

Mya frowned. “I didn’t laugh. I haven’t made a sound.”

Mr. Jones stared at her. “Well, that can’t be right! I’m sure that I heard something. And if it wasn’t you"”

He looked at her. She looked at him. And then He slowly sank onto her bed, staring at her oddly.

“What is it?” Mya asked nervously, touching her face. Was there something wrong?

Blinking once, He shook his head. “No, nothing. It’s just, well, your eyes.”

“What about them?” Mya asked. Then she remembered what Maryanne said. “I have her eyes.” She said it dully, looking away.

But to her surprise, Mr. Jones shook his head. “No. You have her smile. You have her laugh. But those eyes"” He cleared his throat. “You have my eyes.”

At that, he abruptly stood up. “Meet me downstairs.”

Mya blinked. “Why?”

“I have something to show you.”

“But"”

Before she could finish, her father was gone. Not knowing what to expect, she grabbed Panofle and headed downstairs.

He was waiting in the kitchen. There was a backpack slung over his shoulder.

“Are you ready?” he asked expectantly.

Mya nodded. “But where are we going?”

He smiled. “You’ll see.”

They walked onto the porch, stepping onto the welcome mat. But when they did so, Mya hesitated.

“What is it?” Mr. Jones asked impatiently.

“I haven’t got the right shoes.” She was wearing her house slippers.

Her father glanced at her feet and shrugged. “Oh, nevermind that! Just come with me.”

So she did. She followed him down the path and through the garden. At that moment, in truth, she would have followed him anywhere.

In a moment, they had soon reached the gnarled maple. When they did so, Mya slyly glanced at the base, seeing if she could detect where the door had been. This time, however, there was none. The door, even if it had ever been there, was gone now.

“Well?” Mya asked, looking at her father. “Now what?”

He smiled. “Now we climb.”

So the pair ascended into the leafy branches, scrabbling against the wet leaves and trunk. At the top, Mya was surprised to find a tree house.

“I had no idea that this was here!” she cried excitedly, her eyes gleaming.

He smiled. “It can be our secret. I came here when I was a boy.”

They crawled onto the little platform, dragging the backpack and Panofle with them. When they stopped to rest, Mya was positively glowing. “Do you think that"” She stopped. “Do you think that we might come here sometime? Maybe we could spend the night. Like a, well, sleepover.”

When the words had died away, she felt a blush begin. Oh! What would he think of her! He would hate the idea. How could he not? And now that she had said it, they would have to leave!

But Mr. Jones made no complaint. Instead, he just unzipped the backpack and said calmly"“What about tonight?”

And with that, he removed a little blanket, three packages of crackers, a flashlight and a book of ghost stories. Mya clapped with delight, her face lighting up. But then she quieted, a little frown on her lips. “You brought too many crackers,” Mya said slowly shaking her head. “There’s only two of us.”

He nodded. “I know that.” And with that, he glanced at the little unicorn. “The third is for Panofle.”

For a moment, Mya went very, very quiet. Then she nodded her head solemnly and looked up, her eyes big and brown in the softening rain. “Would you like to hear a story?” she asked.

“What’s it about?” Mr. Jones replied.

“An Evil Queen who really wasn’t so evil after all.”

Mr. Jones smiled. “I’d love to.”

“It’s a long one.”

He shrugged. “That’s okay. We’ve got all the time in the world.”

And at least for tonight, sitting in the tree house and listening to the pattering rain, they did. And so Princess Mya Jones began to tell her story. “Once upon a time…”

 

 

© 2010 Thea Sebastian


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Added on July 13, 2010
Last Updated on July 14, 2010
Tags: bedtime story, fairytale, short story, magic, laugh, princess, unicorn

Author

Thea Sebastian
Thea Sebastian

San Diego, CA



About
My name is Thea Sebastian. In age, I am not yet a quarter of a century, though I am quite close to it. As far as goals go, I would ultimately like to publish a book, run for office, become an expert s.. more..

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