Once upon a time. That seems a good way to start a story. Once upon a time… there was a beautiful princess. Little though she was, her head was in the clouds and her feet barely brushed the ground. This is her story.
Like all princesses in fairytales, she dreamed of a handsome prince who would wake her with a kiss. High in her ivory tower she built upon this dream as she grew up.
Her prince would gallop an ebony black stallion along an endless white beach and sweep her into saddle and ride off into the golden sunset.
She dreamed of an Audrey Hepburn dress – the one she wore in My Fair Lady at the ball where the common Covent Garden flower seller transforms into a princess. And like the endings of all fairytales and love stories, her dreams ended at happily ever after. That was never questioned.
Our princess lived in her dreams and seldom if ever came down to earth. But as in all dreams, sooner or later, the dreamer must wake, and wake the princess did. It was a hot day, in the middle of summer and she burst in from school her heads a buzz with stories of which she was always the center.
She ran into the royal bed chamber to find it empty. A letter on the bed and the cupboard stripped bare of the King’s clothes. Her feet hit the ground with a dull thud. The King had done a runner.
She ran through the palace coming to rest in the grand ballroom – a splendid place where many a gay party had been held. On a normal day, you could here echoes of the music and laughter among the dusty sunbeams and in the mirrored walls catch a glimpse of jeweled ladies and their partners dancing among the shadows. Not on this day.
This day our princess stood gasping for breath that never seemed to fill her lungs, and though she stood quite still, the room spun and spun around her. With a gigantic crash the sparking chandelier fell to the marble floor scattering shards of diamonds across the floor. It looked for all the world as though million of tiny rainbows were falling to earth around her feet.
Beautiful, were it not for their sharpened edges that rained like tiny arrows shattering the mirrored walls distorting the reflections of the princess who was no longer dreaming. She watched mesmerized and uncomprehending as the palace of her childhood collapsed in ruins around her feet.
And then it was all gone. As if it had never been. For few seemed aware that a great tragedy had not just befallen this place. In fact most seemed unaware that anything had happened at all. The market was still filled with people happily sharing gossip and bargaining for trinkets.
Just then the King came by in a horse drawn chariot and she turned to him desperate for reassurance. Surely this was just a dream and he would take her home back to the safety of the palace walls and everything would be perfect, just like always.
The King took her in his arms and it seemed as much for his comfort as hers. She drew back and for the first time the strong King, the wise one, the man on whom her world rested seemed to age before her very eyes. She saw the lines of sadness and loneliness etched there by years of toil and responsibility, she felt for the first time the weight of the crown he had to bear.
“Love is fickle thing” said the King. “Like water it is hard to keep hold of and trickles through your fingers onto the floor to evaporate in the heat of the sun leaving no trace of where it has fallen.”
Days went by as the princess took to walking in the hills and along the beaches looking with new eyes upon this strange world where nothing is what is seemed. A real life Alice fallen through the cracks into a world beyond imagining.
One night she turned to look at the stretch of sand she had wandered across. Her feet were truly on the ground now and she left deep footprints in her wake. She gazed at the hungry sea edging up the sand to eat at the marks erasing them from history. Was she as transient as the marks she made upon the world? Was she, the princess, the center of all her tales, as transient as that?
“No.” she shouted across the darkening sky, “No. I will have my happy ever after.”
The first thing she did was buy herself a pair of the biggest, rose-coloured glasses money could buy. Sadly, even these could not shield her from the realities of the world outside the crystal palace. Here there was no protection from the slings and arrows of fortune. Yet somewhere out here, in the wild world was a prince who would give her back all she had lost.
Into the forest she ran, throwing caution to the wind, fleet of foot sure that her prince waited for her just over the next rise. When she sank exhausted in the roots of ancient oak she rested her head on the mossy earth and her tears sank deep into the ground.
As she slept the earth held her in her arms drawing her dreams down into her depths. When she awoke in the cold clear light of dawn the heavy burden of her dreams were gone.
She took one step and then another away from the place they were hidden into the world that waited.