My Life as a Fairy Tale
Or How the Queen Wanted to be a Princess Instead
by Alex Newman
Once upon a time a hard-working middle-aged queen stood at the window of her palace and sighed. Her children were happy, the kingdom in good order, but the king had just revealed he was no longer in love with her, and must seek meaning, purpose and passion elsewhere.
While he was off riding around the countryside on his white horse looking for windmills, the queen was home raising the kids. The prince, an easy-going young man, dutifully studied and helped around the house when he wasn’t playing video games. But the princess had difficulty adjusting to the king’s absence, alternately clinging to her mother or berating her for some social infraction.
The queen steeled herself against the harping:
“Don’t smile so wide, people will notice your big teeth.”
“You’ve changed the furniture around, I’ll just change it back.”
“You should thank me for cleaning the fridge.”
No matter how hard she tried, the queen could do nothing to please the princess. When she mentioned it, the princess stared at her blankly: “But Mother you’re the only person I speak to like this.”
Within a year the court physician was summoned for an examination and declared, though not publicly, that the princess had an anxiety disorder.
Many people offered suggestions – she’s tired said one, she’s sick said another. Even the king weighed in from afar, and with considerable input from his concubine, that the daughter needed a better regimen of vitamins.
The king’s mother thought the princess should come live with her: “No wonder she acts like this — I’m told you scream all the time.” (That would be from the king.)
The queen requested books on the subject from the court librarian. These she found a little confusing; her sister, who taught school in a far-off kingdom suggested that the princess was just being a brat. At times, the queen was inclined to agree.
When the queen wasn’t berating herself for having had that glass or two of wine while pregnant with the princess, she read widely– WebMD, the Mothers of Anxious Teens Facebook page, and the books they recommended. But the more she tried to be understanding the worse things got.
So when she met a handsome carpenter with a sailboat and a fondness for excellent food and wine, she embraced the distraction. Never mind that the carpenter dropped his Gs on gerunds. Never mind that he was rude to the waiter in the tavern in the next town. Never mind that his personal story changed every time he told it, or that he was never in doubt and often wrong.
He was nice to the queen. He didn’t yell at her, and he didn’t tell her that she needed to fix her hair, or her smile, or her personality. And the sex was good.
They were happy together.
For a while.
The queen tossed aside work commitments, stopped trying to improve life in the kingdom, such as free computers in every home, and parks in every neighbourhood. No more worrying about state affairs.
She even stopped worrying about her family. For what had that done?
Once she met Sailor Man, the queen found new things to occupy herself. After losing weight on “the-king’s-left-me” diet, her clothes no longer fit. So she purchased new ones, with help from an obliging salesman at a very high-end department store in a nearby kingdom. She cut her hair and opted for colour – and highlights. She maxed out the king’s credit cards.
She took up bicycle riding and cross-country skiing. She even took up Pilates — in the privacy of her castle and with the help of youtube sensation Tantric Lady.
She sailed on her gerund-dropping friend’s long, slim race boat and liked it so much she asked the court librarian for books on sailing terms. On Tuesdays and Thursdays after lunch, she practiced tying knots. On the water, she begged to take the tiller and sometimes made suggestions on trimming the sails. She had meals with the sailor’s friends, mostly men who liked rum and cut their own hair; she sampled new dishes and tried to cook them, tasted many delicious wines.
The princess rolled her eyes when the queen spoke on the phone with the sailor, saying she sounded like a Valley Girl. The prince kept playing video games.
Thanks to the sailor, who had a surprising taste of high culture, the queen resumed her previous habits of opera, ballet and art, things she’d let slide when married. She frequented outdoor cafes – drinking Mochachinos which she found much too sweet and Campari which she found strangely addictive — wore large dark sunglasses and a particular shade of red lipstick. People passing wondered if she might be Audrey Hepburn, never guessing she was the queen.
Whereas before she’d been the hardest working queen around, now she was having the time of her life. As a wise friend once told her: queens work hard, princesses have fun.
In fact, the queen was having so much fun she even stopped worrying about what the king was doing, or with whom.
This new freedom coincided with the king’s sister telling her in hushed tones that her brother was bored of his concubine. Every time the call display showed her sister-in-law’s number, the queen knew she was in for a round of “You wouldn’t believes …” but the queen didn’t pay much attention because it no longer interested her.
Besides, the king was getting on her nerves. When he arrived at the castle to pick up the princess – usually unannounced – he would linger at the front door, then stride past the queen to the kitchen at the rear of the castle, stand at the wide kitchen window overlooking the garden, blow his nose, and drop the Kleenex in the waste bin under the sink.
The queen noted these peculiarities but said nothing. The less she said, the more he tried to get a reaction, which was very different from her tearful, begging behaviour when he first left.One time on his way out the door with the princess, he commented to the air that she looked good. The queen wasn’t sure who he meant.
Although the queen had found a measure of peace with the king gone, she’d been growing restless. Perhaps it was the Sailor and his inability to think laterally or his overindulgence of fine wine. It also turned out he had no sense of humour, causing the queen to wax nostalgic for the king’s wit and intelligence, although her sister, friends, and therapist all cautioned against meandering down that particular memory lane.
Life would be so much easier if she could just walk away like the king had, jump in the carriage and start a new life in Mexico. She decided to see if everyone could manage without her around to fix things. So she took a holiday – lying in a hammock on the beach, drinking mojitos and reading murder mysteries. She even had dinner, but nothing more, with several handsome men.
She played the slots, and a round of blackjack. She bought jewellery from boys on the beach. Nobody recognized her because this kingdom was far from her own.
So this was life as a princess, she thought smugly as she settled deeper in the hammock. But occasionally she’d look out over the cerulean sea and wax nostalgic about the people who depended on her, her family even if they didn’t admit it, the good people of her kingdom, her two book clubs, church choir, and Monday night bowling league. She wondered how they were managing, although she wasn’t quite ready to give up being a princess.
Eventually, the murder mysteries started sounding the same, the jewellery tarnished, and the handsome men pressed for more.
So she came home.
Upon her return, the prince looked up once, then twice from his video game, to say: Wow. You’re tanned.
The princess just snorted: I knew you’d come back, you can’t stay away.
Published May 11, 2023
Little Old Lady Comedy