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Kingdom of Androstrica: Home of the Rebellious Royal
This place is as unbearable as a lesson when my tutor has a salivary gland issue, thought Penelope bitterly. She stared out across the grounds, gazing longingly not at the rigid pruned hedges or lavish fountains, but at the massive wrought-iron gates responsible for restricting her happiness. She turned away from the white balcony, tired of looking at the one thing in her life she couldn’t have: freedom. She shivered, imagining her parents’ reactions if she somehow managed to escape. Would they invade every home in the kingdom? Send every menacing member of the royal army storming the shops and church services in Androstica until they found their precious little girl? The image of frail Mr. McPherson being bowled over by men with swords and the King and Queen’s orders was unsettling. What would they do – search for me in his kegs of gunpowder? Penelope shivered, despite the warm August sun setting beyond the peach trees in the courtyard below.
“Your highness?” Penelope, startled, gasped and whipped around to see Allman, the head butler and possessor of the world’s pointiest nose standing at the French doors. Allman cleared his throat delicately and announced, “Dinner is served in the main hall, miss. Your parents request the pleasure of your immediate company.”
“I’ll be right down,” said Penelope curtly. She nodded once and the little man floated away.
Another night in the castle. Another carefully and perfectly planned menu, carefully and perfectly prepared, for the perfect and careful family. Another night of pulling back the luxurious, supple sheets and climbing into a bed bigger than most villagers’ bedrooms. Can I really survive this? Penelope knew she shouldn’t be complaining, for problems were obviously more real than what was only discussed in hushed whispers by her father and his councilmen. She longed for the life of a commoner, to belong.
“Not like I’d know the difference,” she muttered under her breath, flicking a ladybug off the ledge. It spun wildly in the air for a moment and then righted itself, zipping away from the danger, its six black spots gleaming in the sun.
“What was that, your highness?”
Penelope jumped again. She hadn’t realized Allman had returned. Damn, he’s quiet. “I...uhh…I don’t want fish?” she stammered. “I just dropped an earring, be right down!” Allman looked at her the way a teacher glares at a class that has been throwing erasers at his back all lesson, and retreated back into the castle.
It was at that precise moment, seething at the back of the presumptuous butler and reveling in the awesome power of the massive ripe-tomato sun, that Penelope made her decision. She spun on her heel, marched into her spacious room, and proceeded to strip her lake-sized bed of its lustrous sheets. She flew to the window, knotted the sheet around the cherub banister on the balcony, and forced her eyes to look anywhere but down. At least Rapunzel had decent hair and a guy with transportation, thought Penelope as she awkwardly maneuvered herself around to the other side of the balcony. Then, Is this irrational and impulsive? Yep! The mere thought of doing something her parents would disapprove of so much was enough to make Penelope steel herself and begin the descent.
She gripped the sheet with white knuckles, raised her left hand in a salute to the soft light above, then immediately clutched the sheet with both hands as she swayed precariously in the air. Without thinking any more, she shimmied like an inchworm down the sheet, eyes fixated at the bruised sky above. She kept moving, counting to sixty and then naming all the ancestors of her family to distract herself. When she finally touched solid ground, she dramatically knelt down to kiss the freshly watered grass. Penelope glanced quickly back at the castle, oozing luxury and privilege. It might as well have oozed disease and corruption for the amount of happy feelings and memories she felt emitting from the gray walls.
She smirked and tossed her raven colored hair. “Yeah, I’ll be right down, all right,” Penelope giggled. “But you might want to keep my dinner warm. I’ll be a little late tonight.” And a hop, skip, and a jump (and a close-call with the Dobermans) later, the ex-Princess Penelope of Androstica encountered the first living thing outside of her bubble-like estate: a little red ladybug with exactly six little spots gleaming in the sweet moonlight, leading the way to the sleepy village and an awakened future.