The Princess and the Waterbed

by | May 6, 2012

This post was imported from an old blog I used to have.

Creative Non-Fiction Class

The final story I’m sharing here is slightly out of order in terms of the class timeline, but it is also my favourite piece from the class. I found the assignment daunting: tell a non-fiction story within the frame of a specific form not typically used for this kind of writing. She called it a Hermit Crab Essay. A story crawls out of its original shell and finds a new home elsewhere. The form should be unusual for non-fiction, but should fit the subject matter appropriately (I’ve worded that poorly, but I can’t find the class syllabus with the actual assignment). (March 2011)

From the author statement I submitted with my piece:

I had a really great time working on this assignment. I was terrified at first, not sure what form to use or even what I wanted to write about (no surprise there, that’s how most of my assignments begin). I considered a number of different topics, to the point that I completely stressed myself out. I planned to start writing on Saturday, and finding myself unable to come up with anything I decided to have a nap, desperately hoping something would occur to me in my sleep.

Out of nowhere a story from my past popped into my head, something I hadn’t thought about in years. As I lay in bed (not sleeping) the details began to come back to me and I was struck by the appropriateness (and assignment-worthy inappropriateness) of telling my childhood story using a fairy tale narrative.

I thought about how traditional fairy tales are often dark and a bit scary, and also how they have been watered down and Disney-fied for children. I thought about how witches and monsters are pretend, and that some of the people we encounter in real life can be much scarier. I thought about how much I was loved, and the fact that I had a generally happy and safe childhood. I thought about that child-like resiliency that adults often forget children have. I thought about taboos, sex and sexuality, the house I grew up in, and my Flitter-Bit Strawberry Shortcake toy.

It didn’t take long for me to get motivated. I sat down at my computer and banged out the fastest and easiest first draft that I’ve managed to write for this class so far. I read it over. I worried that it would freak out my classmates during peer editing. I decided that it probably wouldn’t, and if it made them uncomfortable, too bad. I liked it. I was pleased.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom not too far away, lived a King and Queen and their only child.  The Princess was a happy girl, but sometimes she got lonely without any siblings to play with.  She spent a lot of time reading books and making up exciting adventures for her toys.  When the Princess was allowed to play with the other children in the court, they seemed to enjoy the games she invented, and even though she was a bit bossy and always insisted on making up her own rules, the Princess was well liked.

There was a large bedroom in the basement of the castle, and the Princess had recently been permitted to move from her tiny room upstairs down to the new bedroom.  Leaving behind the bright colours and nursery-rhyme wallpaper made her feel grown up.  The new bedroom had high windows that looked out into the courtyard and had a ledge just wide enough to climb on.  The Princess now had a huge dresser and a closet large enough to hold all of her toys.  But the best thing about the new bedroom was the enormous waterbed.  It had a headboard with shelves for the Princess’s prized books and a lovely oval mirror in the centre.

The Princess and her friends loved to climb up onto the dresser and leap onto the waterbed.  They had to squelch their screams of joy because they knew that if the King and Queen discovered them jumping on the bed they would be in a lot of trouble.  Sometimes the Princess would have the other children lie down on the bed and she would climb even higher, to the ledge of the windows, and jump from there, making everyone giggle with the massive waves created by her landing.

One winter day the King and Queen received an invitation to a Ball where children, even good little Princesses, were not allowed.  On occasions such as these the King and Queen usually selected a young Noble to stay at the castle with the Princess for the evening.  But this was a very popular Ball, and all of the kingdom’s young Lords and Ladies had been spoken for.  Rather than exploit their royal favor, the King and Queen invited the son of a trusted royal family from a neighboring kingdom to watch over the Princess that night.

The Prince was a handsome young man of sixteen.  The Princess had never met him before and was quite shy when he arrived.  The King and Queen left him with instructions, cautioned the Princess not to pester the young Prince too much, kissed her goodnight and left in their carriage for the Ball.

The Prince smiled at the little Princess and asked her questions about her studies and her interests.  She offered to give him a tour of the castle, and led him by the hand through all of the upstairs rooms, pointing out things that might be of interest.  Then she took him down the tower stairs to show him the entertainment room.  She finished the grand tour in her bedroom.  The Prince was impressed by the large waterbed and proceeded to sit and then lie down on it, rocking a bit to make waves.  Hoping to keep his attention, the Princess started to show him her favourite toys, but he didn’t seem interested.  Instead he suggested that she play with her toys while he worked on his homework in the entertainment room.

The Princess was crestfallen.  She liked the Prince and wanted him to play with her.  She was hoping he would be like her favorite Lady-In-Waiting who always brought the latest albums to play on the record player, turning them up loud while they danced around the entertainment room together.  The Lady-in-Waiting never ignored the Princess to do homework, although she sometimes spent a long time on the telephone with her boyfriend, a Knight.  But the she would always confide in the Princess afterwards, telling stories about the Knight: how he was a total jerk or how she found him incredibly sexy.

So when the Prince went upstairs to get his schoolbooks, the Princess slammed her bedroom door, threw herself onto her waterbed and began to pout.  She hoped that the Prince would feel badly and come to rescue her.  It didn’t take long for her to get bored, but she was a very stubborn little Princess and continued pouting for at least twenty minutes.

Eventually the little Princess could stand it no more.  She climbed down off her bed, inched open the door and tiptoed down the carpeted hallway to the entertainment room to spy on the Prince.  She thought he looked very handsome sitting on the couch bent over his books and papers on the coffee table.  She wondered if he was sexy.

Spying got boring too, so the Princess made just enough noise so that the Prince would look over at her.  She smiled a sneaky smile at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied innocently.

The Princess darted towards the coffee table, snatched up the Prince’s pencil, and giggling, ran away.  She headed toward the tower stairs and the Prince jumped up to chase her.  She screamed as he laughed and roared like a monster.  He caught up with her before she reached the top. He grabbed her, picked her up and started to carry her back downstairs.

The Princess kicked and squealed, “Let me go! Let me go!” but the Prince kept roaring.  He carried her into her bedroom and threw her down on the bed.  He growled, “Give me back my magical pencil you little witch!”

The Princess was delighted.  She held the pencil high, shook her head back and forth and screamed. “Never!”

The Prince grinned and replied, “If you won’t return my magical pencil I will have no choice but to… TICKLE YOU!”

He jumped onto the bed, trapping the Princess between his legs and started to tickle her mercilessly.  “I am the tickle monster!” he cried.  The little Princess was very ticklish and she screeched and squealed and squirmed beneath him, but kept a firm grasp on the pencil.

“Stop! Stop!” The Princess finally cried, out of breath from giggling and screaming. The Prince stopped and smiled wickedly at her.

“Will you give me back my pencil?” he asked.

“Yes! Yes!” she cried. “Take it!”

The Prince snatched the pencil from the Princess’s fist and rolled over beside her on the bed.  They had made waves in the waterbed.  “That was fun,” panted the Princess, still out of breath.  She felt funny.  Her body was sore from being tickled, but she also felt a warm tingling feeling inside.  She liked it.  When the the waves started to fade, the Princess got bold. She climbed on top of the Prince and started to tickle him.  He grinned at first and playfully swatted her hands away, but after a moment he lay back on the bed and closed his eyes.  Rather than squealing or screaming like the Princess, the Prince let out a low moan.  Suddenly, he threw the Princess off of him and jumped off the bed.  “That’s enough,” he choked.

Once he left the room the Princess felt terrible.  She didn’t want the Prince to be mad at her.  She went upstairs to the kitchen and made two peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  The Queen’s homemade strawberry jam was the best in the land.  The Princess poured two glasses of milk and carefully carried everything down the tower stairs to the entertainment room.  The Prince barely glanced at her when she entered.

“I’m sorry for tickling you,” the Princess said, “I made us some sandwiches.  Are you hungry?”

They ate in silence and, when it was almost bedtime, the Prince told her to go and get ready for bed.  The Princess asked him if he would tuck her in.  He nodded.

The Princess washed her face, brushed her teeth and changed out of her clothes into her nightie.  She crawled into the center of her enormous waterbed, got under the covers and hollered, “I’m ready! You can come tuck me in now!”

The Prince stood in the doorway.  The Princess smiled shyly at him.  “Will you lie down with me until I fall asleep?” she asked.

The Prince seemed uncertain, but he turned off the lights and lay down on the bed.

“You can get under the covers if you want,” she said.

He lifted up the blankets and slid in beside the Princess.  He was lying on his back.  The waterbed was warm.  The Princess turned towards him and snuggled up to his side.

“Goodnight,” she said.

“Sweet dreams, Princess.”

– – –

The Princess woke up suddenly with a pain between her legs.  The Prince was stroking her hair.

“Shhh, it’s OK,” he whispered.

As her grogginess began to wear off she realized why she was hurting.  The Prince had pushed up her nightgown and his hand was under her panties.  Something was inside her.  There.  The Princess was scared.  She tried to move away from him, but he held her tight.  She started to sob.  “No, shhh, it’s OK,” he said and kissed her on the cheek.

“I want my mommy,” the Princess sobbed, “Where’s my mommy?  I want my mommy to come home.”

The Prince removed his hand from under the blankets, but the Princess kept crying.  The Prince continued to whisper, “I’m sorry, shhh.  It’s OK, shhh.  I didn’t mean to hurt you.  Don’t worry.  Shhh, go back to sleep.”  He held her, stroking her hair, kissing her cheek and whispering to her.  The Princess closed her eyes.

 – – –

In the morning, the Princess woke up with the sun.  She squinted and looked around her room.  The Prince was gone.  In the bright morning light the night felt like a dream.  When the King and Queen asked if she liked the Prince she simply said, “He’s OK, but I like the Lady-in-Waiting better.”

The End