By: Traci Kenworth
Bailey was stuck inside the pages of a storybook. No matter what scenery she wandered into, she only escaped that story to be placed into a new one. How long had it been since she’d been home? Days? Months? Years? She couldn’t tell if she aged to keep track of time.
Once, she’d glanced into the looking glass in Wonderland, but even that image had lied. She hung her head, fists clenched. Who had done this to her? And why? The fairy tales her mother had read her as a child spoke of spells and curses. Was that what this was?
She stared at the thick, clotted pages, its line of prose endless. Where would it take her now? A hint of dust clung to the book and made her sneeze. What if she tore the page? Would that seal her fate? Or break the tale?
She bent down near a spring and cupped her hands together while she caught some water. The clear, sweet taste refreshed her. The flow of the water as it splashed through the rocks on the bank calmed her thoughts. She was here. Best to enjoy her journey. Besides, if a curse had been cast, there existed a way to break it. Didn’t all the books say so? The movies too?
Bailey pushed to her feet and smelled something peculiar. Wet. Damp. Like her grandmother’s root cellar. She followed the scent. It got stronger as she headed in. The grass parted and she turned, putting her hands up as a lioness came into view.
The lioness stared at her a minute. She stared back. Sweat dripped down her back and legs. In storybooks, lions were either vicious or like gods. Which one was this?
The lioness broke the stare and motioned to a table set beside a small cottage. “Come. Have some tea.”
Tea? With a lioness? Had anyone ever done this before?
“I won’t bite,” the lioness said.
“H-how can I be sure?”
“Why would I want to hurt you?” The lioness headed toward the table and took a seat at the head of it.
Bailey moved toward the table, her legs shaky. “I’m a girl. And you’re a lioness.”
“Yes, yes, I know that. But beyond that. Why would I?”
“Don’t you eat humans?”
The lioness gagged on the tea she sipped. “Goodness, no. I’ll be your guide, child.”
“To help you find your way home.”
Bailey took a seat. “Then there is a way?”
“Oh, there’s always a way. You just have to pay the price.”
She leaned forward. “What price?”
“You must learn the secret of the storybook.”
“That doesn’t sound like a price.”
“The price is in the doing. What will you give to go home?” The lioness reached for a raspberry scone.
The lioness savored a bite of the scone. “I would be careful with your answer. You just might find that everything is taken from you.”
“But I’ll be home?”
“If you learn the secret.” She finished the last of the scone and gestured for Bailey to have one. “Oh, how delicious they are.”
Bailey nibbled at hers. What was food when she could be home with her family? She pushed back from the table. “How do I begin?”
“You’ve been in the story world for a while. What have you learned?”
Bailey tilted her head. “I’ve learned to never follow a rabbit down a hole. Don’t trust a flying monkey. That a prince can break a curse with a kiss.” She sat straighter. “Is that it? Do I need to have a prince kiss me back home?”
“Those are good lessons, but not quite right. Think, my dear.”
With a sigh, Bailey hugged herself. “I’ve learned that a beast can be tamed by love, wolves who disguise themselves as Grandmothers will be felled, and witches who eat children are to be avoided at all costs.”
“You’re clever but not thinking of your own story.”
Bailey drew back. “My story?”
The lioness smiled. “Of course.”
“But I don’t have one.”
“Oh, everyone has a story. They just have to solve the puzzle of it all.”
She frowned. “The puzzle? But how can I solve it?”
“That is part of your journey.”
“But where do I begin?”
“At the start, of course.”
The beginning? But where was that? The lioness talked as if she should know this. The last thing Bailey remembered was Mother Goose and her struggle to feed all her children. Before then?
Did she have a family? She couldn’t remember. Maybe she’d always been part of the fairy tales. She shook her head. No. There was Mother and Father. The twins and the baby. She belonged with them. In the land of?
Praege. Yes, yes. The beauty there was beyond words. Her house was gray with purple shutters. Her room, small and violet. She had lots of stuffed animals on her bed with a splurge of pillows. She could smell her mother’s cooking pot roast with lots of carrots, potatoes, and celery. Her mouth watered in expectation. How did she get back there? She must solve the puzzle. What action would lead her home? She glanced past the fancy table and its teatime treats. If only she could see a clue.
“I don’t see a way out.”
“Then perhaps there’s a way through.” The lioness sets her teacup down. “How did you get here?”
“Through a mirror.” She sat straighter. “Is that it? I must find the mirror, I came through to escape?”
She frowned. “It’s not the looking glass. I saw that this morning and nothing happened when I held it. It has to be bigger. People sized. But where would such be?” Her gaze widened. “Maybe it’s the Evil Queen’s mirror. No, it’s almost big enough, but not quite.” She pushed her hair out of her gaze. She snapped her fingers. “The mirror in the hall with the three blind mice. That one’s big enough.”
“What brought you here?”
“I was—lonely. I saw the cat stalking the three mice and wanted to help.”
“The mice or the cat?”
“The mice, of course. Just because they’re blind doesn’t mean they should suffer a nasty death.”
“Why were you lonely?”
“My mother had grounded me. Too much daydreaming, she said.”
“And have you learned?”
“Then you may go.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean you had to leave here.”
“But the mirror”
The lioness smiled. “The door home was in you all along.”
A bright light spilled before Bailey. The pages of the book turned to home. She could see her mother in the kitchen. She rushed forward, leaving the fairy tales behind.
Traci Kenworth writes all genres of YA as well as the occasional historical romance. She lives in Ohio with her son, daughter, and four cats.
She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. It was through her writing that she was saved from a dark period in her life. She is forever grateful to God for this way out of the darkness and into the light.
Her experiences become a focal point for the heroes and heroines in her stories. They share a common trait with her; they are survivors. Their stories give the reader that most welcome gift – hope.
Some other things she enjoys: genealogy, riding horseback, and, of course, reading.
Website: Where Genres Collide
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