As soon as I heard the tornado warning, I decided to pack my suitcase. Sure, I live in a castle and it’s mostly stone but it’s pretty old and I had never been there during a tornado before. It might not have been so bad if I had company, but since Mom and Dad retired to Florida, I’ve been living here by myself and I just wasn’t prepare to weather a tornado alone. I’d rather go somewhere safe, thank you very much, and leave the castle to stand or fall without me being under at the time.
I called Mom for advice and she suggested that I go and visit some friends of my Dad’s in the next town. They were out of the path of the tornado and their castle had plenty of room, so apparently they were happy to invite me to join them for a night or two. Mom said they had an excellent library so if worse came to worse, I could just hole up there and pretend that I had a lot of research to do. It wasn’t even a lie, my graduate studies kept me at the books most of the time. After all, a thesis on the power of the modern princess is hardly going to write itself – and I do want to get rid of the stereotype of helpless little flibbertigibbets flitting around magical kingdoms. We’re not like that at all. We’re just as kick-ass as the next girl – maybe even more so in some cases!
I threw my suitcase in the trunk and then hopped in my convertible to drive to Dad’s friends’ castle. The Daltons were expecting me by 5 so we could have dinner together and, given the 90 minute drive, I just barely had time to swing by the liquor story to pick up a bottle of wine to bring with me. The first half of the trip was fabulous. But when I was about 20 minutes from their castle, it started to rain, and, of course, I couldn’t manage to get the convertible top to go up. By the time I pulled up in front of their place, my hair was stuck to the sides of my face, my mascara was pooled under my eyes, and my clothes looked like it had been painted on. This was not the image I had hoped to present.
I knocked on the door anyway, of course. What else was I going to do? I wasn’t about to drive back into a tornado zone just to freshen up, they were going to have to take me as I was.
I think that Mr. Dalton was a little alarmed at first but he let me in anyway, and showed me to my room so I could get ready for dinner. It took three towels, a hair dryer and about twenty minutes work, but I managed to make myself look somewhat presentable. After all, I didn’t want them to think I was being disrespectful.
The dinner was a little awkward, but fine. We had the usual sort of fare, roast duck, creme brulee – the kind of things that everyone serves princesses (What I wouldn’t give to have someone serve me french fries every now and then!) and we had the usual sort of entertainment – the Daltons trying to set me up with their son. Jeremy seemed like a lovely sort of fellow but I am really not in the market for a partner at the moment so that got old quickly. I persevered though and made it all the way to brandy in the drawing room. After about an hour, conversation was steering back around to what a great catch Jeremy was, so I decided to head to bed early, feigning exhaustion from stress and from my drive. Sometimes that ‘fragile princess’ stereotype can be put to good use because they didn’t even question my tiredness, Mrs. Dalton just escorted me to my room and wished me good night.
I got into my pajamas, brushed my teeth and settled into bed, but I couldn’t seem to get comfortable. The mattresses were luxurious but I kept feeling like something was digging into my hip as I lay on my side. There was nothing twisted into my pajamas nor in the sheets so I tried to ignore it and just go to sleep but it wasn’t happening.
You know how, once you are tucked warmly into bed, you hate to get out? You’ll lie there in relative discomfort, having to pee or maybe needing a drink, too uncomfortable to sleep not uncomfortable enough to get up. That’s how I was for about half an hour. Eventually though, I had to get up and investigate. I tore off the sheets, and ran my hand along the top of the mattress.
I finally felt the lump at about hip height in the centre of the bed. As soon as I found it, I realized what was going on. Oh, damn them, us princesses have to put up with so much crap all the time – we can’t even get a decent night’s sleep. I flipped up the mattresses to find the pea beneath and go confront the Daltons. They were friends of my Dad’s they should know better than to test me.
The dumb thing though? It wasn’t even a pea! It was a peanut, still in its shell. That was no princess test, even a King would delicate enough to feel that. What a bunch of morons. I grabbed the peanut and stormed out of the room to find them all waiting expectantly at the end of the hall.
“You weren’t asleep very long Alysha.” Mrs. Dalton was smiling away at me like she had uncovered a treasure.
“No, I didn’t sleep at all.” I spoke through gritted teeth but they didn’t seem to notice.
“Didn’t you find the bed comfortable?” Jeremy asked, with a kind of feigned innocence that young men usually save for their Moms. Mr. Dalton stood behind his wife and son, just beaming with excitement, he didn’t have anything to add, apparently.
“No, I mostly certainly did not find the bed comfortable and I believe you know why.”
All three of them tried to adopt a neutral expression and failed miserably.
I held the peanut out in the palm of my hand. “This is NOT a pea. This is no way to test a princess. ANYONE would have a problem with a peanut in their bed. Imagine if I had an allergy!”
Their sheepish looks just made me more annoyed. “I can’t believe you would insult my family by testing whether I was real! And I think it is ridiculous that in this day and age you just assumed I would be okay with being tested out for marriage. Jeremy seems like a great guy but I’m not looking for a partner, I’m still in school for heaven’s sakes. I think it would be better for us all if I just left.”
They all looked horrified and started talking over each other.
“Mom! I told you this was stupid…”
“We didn’t mean to insult you dear…”
“We weren’t testing you per se…”
Finally, Jeremy shushed both his parents and turned to face me.
“Alysha, I’m sorry. I don’t know what we were thinking. Please don’t go anywhere. Let us help you get the bed back in order so you can get some sleep.”
His apology was sincere, his parents were nodding like two bobbleheads behind him, and I really didn’t want to head out into the night in my soggy convertible, so I agreed to return to the room. After all, a princess does have to know when to be gracious.
If they decide to offer to bring me my breakfast in the morning, I may even leave the details of tonight out of my thesis.