Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, on the top of a grassy knoll surrounded by a moat, there lived a princess in a castle.
Dear reader, please don’t make the mistake of assuming that this princess was locked away in the castle. No, no, no.
She was there because she wanted to be. Because she loved that castle with all of her heart. She carefully pruned the rosebushes every morning. She made sure the walls always shone with a fresh coat of glistening white. She loved her castle.
In fact, reader, she loved the castle so much, she never left its confines. She was perfectly happy to remain inside, thank you very much.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but if I was to remain inside all day, cooped up, I would feel pretty sad.
But that wasn’t the case with the princess. She found the solitude enjoyable; even preferable. She would spend her days reading her favorite books, lying on her comfy bed, the silk curtains draping over the top, and engross herself in reading.
And that was how she spent her days.
Until one day, the prince appeared.
Unlike most other princes in fairy tales that you read, this prince was not overly handsome, nor was he adept in any sort of physical activity, nor did he possess any charms that could sweep any girl off her feet.
But he was a prince, nonetheless. And all of the connotations that go with it.
He had honor. Pride. A conscience. And like all princes in fairy tales…he fell in love with the princess at first sight.
If this were any other fairy tale stacked in the musty libraries of the world, the prince would rescue the princess from her tower, grasp her in his arms, and ride off into the sunset with his trusty steed.
Unfortunately – or fortunately – this fairy tale is not your average fairy tale.
Dear reader, please try to understand. The princess had not seen a prince up close from the day she was born. Naturally, she would’ve been scared. Naturally, she would’ve locked herself away in fright.
If this had been your ordinary prince, he would’ve set off in search of greener pastures. Perhaps there might’ve been another princess in another castle. There are no shortage of high places, you see.
But, for some reason, the prince decided to stay.
No one knows why; that particular verse is lost to the annals of history. What is recorded, however, is that the prince was successful. The princess haltingly came out of her castle. We can imagine the smile on the prince’s face when the princess finally decided to peek her head out of the wooden door. It must’ve been a huge smile, wouldn’t you think? Yes, it would.
And so the prince got acquainted with the princess.
The more the prince got to know her, the more he realized that this princess was special.
She didn’t like sweet romantic things like most princesses would. Instead, she preferred to lounge by the river, her eyes trained on perhaps everything else other than the prince.
But, he knew it was just a matter of time.
And slowly, flinchingly, like a lost bluejay finding its nest, as the days passed the princess sat closer and closer to the prince and farther and farther away from the river.
When she finally leaned her brown-tressed head on his shoulder, fitting perfectly into the nooks and crannies of his inner neck, he knew that she was his.
It didn’t matter to him that she never really said much. It was enough to smell her rose-infused scent, to look at her dreamy eyes even when they weren’t looking at him.
And so the days passed. A season passed, then another, then another. And before the two of them knew it, an entire year had gone by in their wake.
Even though people say that love is limitless, the prince finally knew it was time to leave.
He spent a lot of sleepless nights – outside, since the princess did not permit him to sleep with her – thinking about what to do. He asked the stars for their sage advice. He sat next to the rushing water, seeking to divine the meaning of its torrential flow. He even attempted to read about the subject, something he did not do so very well.
After taking everything into consideration, one sunset, with the river as a background, he asked the princess to go with him.
The princess looked at her castle, with the white paint and the small rosebushes planted along its perimeter.
She looked at the prince, his unassuming face thrown into relief by the last vestigial rays of the reddening sun.
Her heart torn, she teetered on the brink, unable to come to a decision.
Then, the prince understood that she would never be completely happy. Not without her castle. Not without the small rosebushes, not without the white paint that glistened in the moonlight.
He also knew that, one day, he would pass on. He would have stolen from her the one solitary ray of happiness that she would get to enjoy if she left with him.
He knew he didn’t want that to happen.
The princess didn’t need to say anything. He knew, and he accepted her choice.
The last night before his departure, the prince and the princess spent the whole night awake, doing nothing, saying nothing, but looking into each others’ faces as though they wanted to save their respective memories of each other for eternity. Until the end of time, perhaps.
Before he mounted his steed, he gazed upon his princess’s face for the last time. Her milky-white complexion stood out in contrast with the night; her two hands, folded gently in her lap as she looked out of the highest window of the highest tower, waved a gentle goodbye.
Dear reader, please know this: this fairy tale does not say anything about whether the prince ever returned or not. It also does not say if the princess ever left her solitary castle. Perhaps it did, once upon a time. However, now, the ending of the tale is best left to your imagination.
I wish I could end this tale with a “Happily Ever After”. I wish I could provide some closure to you, dear reader. And to the prince and the princess themselves. But alas, there remains too much to be seen, too much to be discovered. Only remember this: maybe, just maybe, and we can have the faintest sliver of a hope, that when this fairy tale was first written, it did contain the words, “Happily Ever After”.