Monday, September 24, 2012

Once Upon a Summer Day

Once Upon a Summer Day

One sunny day in New York City, a girl named Danielle sat on a bench outside the library, reading a book.  Danielle was 10 years old.  She had short, curly, light brown hair, beautiful jade-green eyes, an older brother named Henry, and a book obsession.  She was rarely seen out of the company of one of her favorite stories, and her favorite place was the library.  Today she was reading Once Upon a Fairy Tale, a collection of stories from different time periods and places.  Henry, 3 years older, walked up.  “Danielle, it’s 5:30 and we’ve gotta get home for dinner.”  She ignored him.  “C’mon, drop the book and get up.”  Reluctantly, Danielle took one last look at the picture of the medieval princess in the illustration, wished she could just slip into the story, closed the book, tucked it under her arm, and followed Henry home.  That night she fell asleep reading, and dreamed she was there, at the medieval town, helping defend it from the enemy warriors fast approaching...

            Danielle opened her eyes.  Her first thought was that she was still dreaming, so she tried opening and closing her eyes.  No, her surroundings were just as strange.  She was lying on a strange bed in a stone cottage, surrounded by strange flowers and herbs, and a man and girl were fussing over her.  “Where- where am I?”  The girl stopped dabbing strange-smelling paste onto her bruised leg- Bruised? Danielle wondered- and placed the jar on a table.  ‘Father, she awakens!”  Awakens?  Things were getting very strange here, and Danielle felt like she’d seen the girl somewhere before...  The man rushed over.  “Are you quite alright?  I am Arthur Wishell, and this is my daughter, Genevieve.  You had quite a tumble.”  Danielle looked questioningly at him.  “Tumble?”  Genevieve looked surprised.  “You were found unconscious at the bottom of Rocky Hill.  Wouldn’t you call that quite a fall?!”

            Danielle had a vague idea of what had happened.  It had happened once in a book she’d read, though she’d never thought it could really happen.  Danielle thought, however ridiculous it might sound, that she might have somehow been transported into the book, and she was determined to get back.  In the meantime, however, Genevieve had suggested that they go down to the marketplace to sell the day’s harvest, and Danielle, who had never seen a medieval market before, would never have dreamed of saying no.  On the way, she saw children with their parents, gathering eggs or hanging out the laundry, and she missed her family more than ever, but then a merchant called “Fresh fruit!” and waved a particularly juicy peach in the girls’ faces, and Danielle was distracted.  The marketplace was a whirl of color and sound, with merchant selling things like beautiful, rich cloth, expensive-looking jewelry, and bustling, noisy livestock. Genevieve traded some eggs for a bushel of corn, a plump chicken for a bag of wheat, and a pretty bit of weaving for a bushel of blackberries. Danielle was delighted, rushed over to the nearest merchant, and tried to trade her watch for a pretty silk handkerchief. Unfortunately, the man had no idea what the watch was, and was unwilling to make the exchange until Danielle produced a charm bracelet from her sleeve as her final offer.  

            The next morning, Danielle was trying to figure of how to get out of the book and back into the 21st century when Genevieve came in.  “Excuse me, but my father thinks he might know how to help you get back to- to- wherever you came from.”  Danielle stopped shaking the book and drops it on her foot.  “Ow.  Really?”  “Yes,” replied Genevieve.  “He believes that the sorceress may be able to help you.”  “The sorceress?” Danielle asked, taken aback, but Genevieve was already in the kitchen, starting on breakfast. 

They walked down to the market, this time going past all the cheery bright shops and bustling noise, into a gloomier, dismal place.  There were fewer houses and much less noise, and Danielle wasn’t pleased when they walked up to the door of a spooky old shack and knocked on the door.  A voice said, “Come in,” and they entered, and for once Danielle was pretty sure she was not the only one who felt uncomfortable.  “Greetings,” said the voice again, “what may I do to help you?”  Danielle, who had been envisioning the sorceress as a grouchy old witch, perhaps stirring a cauldron of ominous-looking green slop, was surprised to see a young woman with raven-black curls and piercing green eyes looking back at her.  A teenage girl Danielle thought she could recognize as Princess Helena from the story-the story she was hopefully about to leave, thought Danielle.  Mr. Wishell took the young woman into the attic to explain what they needed done, leaving the girls alone with the princess, who was looking curiously at Danielle.  “Who is this strange maiden?” the princess asked Genevieve.  “I have never seen the likes of her before.”  Danielle shifted uncomfortably as Genevieve tried to explain her situation politely without revealing too much.  She was beginning to rather dislike the Princess Helena, who had seemed an appealing enough character in the book, but was now more bossy and talkative.  “Back at the palace we would never have had to wait this long for a simple beauty potion-and as it’s not really needed I probably should have simply stayed behind...” it went on and on and on, until Danielle was sure Mr. Wishell and the sorceress would never be back...  “Danielle!  Please come up!”  Mr. Wishell called, and she wasted no time obeying.    

The sorceress handed Danielle a cup of something that tasted like extra-sweet apple juice, and said, “When you have finished the glass, close your eyes and picture where and when you want to be. Be sure not to think of any thing else, or there could be unintended side effects.”  Danielle finished the cup in a few long gulps, and was picturing Woodlawn Rd., on a bench outside the library at 5:30 on a Sunday afternoon, when Helena’s voice drifted into the back of her mind, complaining, irritable, and she felt a whirling spinning sensation- and the next moment she was sitting on a bench in front of the library, and Henry was saying ‘Danielle, it’s 5:30 and we’ve gotta get home for dinner.”  She followed him quietly for a bit, but then a strange sight caught her eye.  A young teenage girl in a red velvet gown and her brown hair done up in a bun, was standing next to the library shouting at the poor librarian who was trying to go home.  “Take me back to the palace immediately, or I shall have you executed!  I am a princess, you know!”  “Oh, no,” Danielle groaned.  It was Helena.