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1 – Wherein A Princess Prefers Adventures to Naps
Once upon a time, in a land called Bookania, there lived a princess who hated taking naps. Indeed, whenever she realized that her mother or nurse were preparing for one, she would take that as her cue to slip away and hide.
And so she was doing at the start of my story. Some visitors had a arrived, and Momma had said that it was naptime, and so the young princess took that as her cue to make herself scarce. Slipping from the room, she wandered though the halls, looking for a place to hide.
Something easier said than done with her short legs.
Still, she managed to slip into the old, abandoned hallways of the castle, where she knew she would be safe for quite some time, for they contained all sorts of dust-filled rooms and broken furniture to hide behind. It sometimes took her parents all afternoon to find her, when she hid here.
She bypassed the first few doors that she passed, knowing that they would look there first, and then pushed open one that she’d never entered before.
“Hello there, Maryanne.”
The young princess drew up short as she saw her grandma standing in the middle of the room. Her breath caught in her throat as she stared at the woman. Her grandma was going to take her back to her momma for certain?
“Is it nap time already?” Grandma asked.
Maryanne stuck out her lower lip, considering how to answer her grandma’s question. According to her momma, yes it was naptime, but as far as Maryanne herself was concerned…
Up went Grandma’s eyebrows as she stared down at her. “Oh,” she said. “I see. Well then, I suppose you can sit with me and hear a story?”
Maryanne stuck out her lip a bit more, and then slowly nodded. If her grandma was offering a story, then that meant that she wasn’t planning to take Maryanne back to her momma. Not yet, anyway. And Maryanne liked stories, anyway.
So, Grandma scooped her up and carried her to a dust-covered sofa, where she sat down and snuggled Maryanne into her lap.
“Do you see that wall, over there?” she asked, pointing to the exposed wall that stretched before them.
Maryanne nodded. Of course she could see it. It was there, plain as day. Her Aunt Madeleine had clearly painted it. Maryanne didn’t know when, but it was her aunt’s work. A lovely forest clearing stretched across the wall, looking real enough to step into with its flowers, trees, and birds. Oh, and bunnies. Lots and lots of bunnies, all gathered in a circle around Aunt Madeleine herself, who was sitting in the center of the painting. This painted Aunt Madeleine was just a child herself, which meant that this painting was probably very, very old. Maryanne wasn’t sure how old but very.
And, in her lap, was yet another bunny, but this one was different than all the others, for it had two horns sticking out of the top of its head – as though it wasn’t a bunny at all, but a deer! Maryanne had never seen anything so funny.
“When I was first married to your grandfather, I was often very lost and alone,” Grandma began. “And that’s when I found this room, and that painting. Have you ever heard of a Jackalope before, Maryanne?”
Maryanne blinked as she pondered the word “Jackalope,” and she somehow knew almost immediately that Grandma was talking about the funny bunny in Aunt Madeleine’s lap. So, Maryanne pointed to the painting. “Dat?”
“You have heard of it before?”
Maryanne just shook her head. “Wuds in head,” she explained, tapping her head. “Dus know.”
“Ah, right, of course, your gift.” Grandma nodded slowly, smoothing Maryanne’s hair. “Yes, that’s a Jackalope. I used to have a book, back in Fronce, about a young princess who found one. Apparently, it’s supposed to grant wishes, and I have had many wishes throughout my life. I wished that I might be pretty, like my sister, wished that your grandfather might love me, as a husband ought. I wished that my family would get along…”
She released a long, heavy sigh.
“I still wish a lot of those things,” she concluded.
“Oh.” Maryanne drew back to stare up at her grandma. “But yo ah pwetty.” She thought so, at any rate. She liked the way that the silver streaked through her grandma’s black hair, at the lines that creased the corners of her eyes and mouth, telling of her ready smile.
“Not everyone would agree with you, though, sweetheart.” Grandma shook her head. “But, thank you.”
“How yo fin’ a dack-yope?” Maryanne then asked, not sure that what her Grandma had said so far counted as an actual story, which is what she’d promised.
“Oh.” Grandma shifted, and then hugged Maryanne closer to her. Maryanne complied by laying her head against her Grandma’s chest. “According to the story, the princess had to sit by herself outside, in a very special place, all night long. And, in the wee hours of morning, the Jackalope came to her, and offered her the wish. Except, the only thing she wished for was the companionship of the Jackalope.”
“Yes, and so the Jackalope became her companion all her life, coming to her whenever she summoned it, and sleeping with her on her pillow. It brought her good luck, too. She married the most powerful king of her day, who was kind and good and loved her. They had seven sons together, and each one of them was kind and good and handsome, each becoming a grand hero in his own right.”
“Yes, like your daddy.” And here Grandma smiled. “At least I had one son of that description. Perhaps my life hasn’t been as terrible as it might? Still, I do wish that he and his own father would get along. And … and that his brother might come back to us – or we at least find out for certain what happened to him.”
“Oh-tay.” Maryanne patted her grandma’s arm, she hoped to reassure her. “Know wha? I’m donna fine yo’ a dack-yope, and I’m donna wis’ fo’ dat fo’ yo’.”
It was a very, very long minute before her grandma answered, and she had to kiss the top of Maryanne’s head first. “Oh, you dear, sweet thing,” she finally declared. “Oh, you remind me so much of your father, somedays. If you ever find a Jackalope – and maybe it is possible, now that magic has returned to Bookania – make your own wish. Don’t worry about me. I have found happiness enough in my life. Though I have a fair guess that finding your uncle would go a long way to make your daddy happy, and … hello, Robin!”
Maryanne’s head shot up from her grandma’s shoulder, and she twisted around to see her momma standing in the doorway. Her heart sank straight to her toes.
Her momma, however, looked quite relieved, giving a very loud sigh before she spoke. “Camilla, oh, good, you have her,” she declared, stalking forward and scooping Maryanne up from Grandma’s arms. Maryanne considered protesting and fighting, but knew from experience that it wouldn’t do any good. Her momma was very strong, and she could be very stern when she scolded. Even worse, she might fetch Maryanne’s daddy, and he was even stronger, and he would be very disappointed with her on top of that.
Maryanne didn’t like it when her daddy was disappointed. He always seemed so much more tired when he was.
“It’s nap time,” Momma declared. “Why do you always have to turn this into a game of hide and go seek?”
Maryanne stuck out her lower lip and laid her head against her momma’s shoulder, trying to evade a scolding – she could hear in Momma’s voice that it was about to happen. “I sowwy.”
“And you only just started doing it, too,” Momma continued. “Why now, of all times?”
“She’s a bright, intelligent child, Robin,” said Grandma, standing and putting a hand on Momma’s shoulder. “And she’s growing up. Every child does it. Perhaps this is only a phase that she’ll grow out of, but I think she inherited a spirit of adventure from both you and Eric.”
Momma gave another long, heavy sigh and relaxed a bit, running a hand through Maryanne’s hair. “Of course,” she said. “What else would you expect? Oh, but she’s going to be such a handful of trouble, and I just…” She paused to kiss the top of Maryanne’s head. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her some days.”
“You seem to be doing fair enough so far,” Grandma declared. “And it seems to me that you and Eric seem to have energy enough to keep up with her.”
Momma again paused a moment before answering, and when she did, some of the scold was back in her voice. “Well, it’s her nap time. I need to get her back to her nurse.”
With that, Momma turned away from Grandma and left the room, much to Maryanne’s disappointment. She had hoped that Grandma would convince Momma that naps weren’t necessary at all. If anyone could do it, Grandma would – Momma always listened to Grandma.
“I know you don’t like naps, Anna, and I really wish that I didn’t have to make you take them, but you get grumpy when you don’t,” Momma explained. “It don’t have to be a long nap, really it doesn’t, and you’re going to be able to enjoy things so much better once you’ve had one, I promise.” She gave another sigh. “Some days I think we should make your daddy take naps, too, but he’s such a terribly stubborn man. And you are so much like him…”
Maryanne frowned. There wasn’t going to be any talking Momma out of a nap at this rate, but maybe…
“Momma, tan I yook fo’ a dack-yope?” she asked.
Momma faltered. “A … what, sweetheart?”
“A dack-a-yope,” Maryanne repeated, frowning with frustration. Her fairy godmother had given her a complete English vocabulary, but hadn’t bothered to make her tongue capable of saying all the sounds necessary to speak it. It gave her a lisp that was apparently cute, and often helped her get her own way … but usually it just made it very hard for people to understand what she was trying to say.
And she tried, very, very had.
“Gamma says it gants wis-is,” she explained.
“Oh?” asked Momma. “And what would you wish for?”
Maryanne frowned, considering how she might explain the conversation with her Grandma. Finally she just shook her head. “It a see-kit.”
“A secret?” Momma repeated, sounding amused. “It must be important, then.”
Maryanne nodded. “Veh-wy.” Yes, it was best this way, that her momma not know what, exactly, Maryanne wished for. That way she wouldn’t get her hopes up and then be all disappointed if Maryanne didn’t find the Jackalope. Momma was so sad when she was disappointed.
“All right then,” said Momma. “Maybe after your nap, but for now, just enjoy your sweet dreams about what that wish will be if and when you find a dack-a-yope.” Then she kissed the top of Maryanne’s head again and laid her in her crib. Maryanne squirmed, but Momma just pulled the blanket over her, told her to be good, then told the nurse to make sure she stayed in bed, and was gone.