Once Upon a Time
Jessica and Mark bounced up and down on Mark’s bed shouting, as they did every night, for their Daddy to tell them a story.
"Stor-y, stor-y, stor-y" They chanted in perfect unison as they jumped. Mummy watched from the doorway, leaning gently on it, smiling to her self. Daddy could never resist their children’s pleas; he was far too soft on them. They should have been in bed ages ago.
"Hey, guys, stop it and I’ll read you one story. But only if you stop… right…NOW!" As he said ‘now’ both children dropped onto the bed and sat as still as statues and as quiet as church mice.
A gentle laugh escaped Mummy’s lips. Daddy certainly had them well trained! Jessica and Mark crawled under Mark’s Action Man duvet, lying across the width of his bed, their heads poking out one side of the duvet and their feet out the other. Daddy perched on the little chair to the side of the bed. It was far too small for such a well-built man, but Mummy had seen him there so often that he actually managed to look quite at home there. He surveyed the bookshelf, trying to find a story to read them.
"NO!" they chorused.
"NO!" they chorused.
"The little mermaid?"
"NO!" they chorused, "We want sleeping beauty!"
Daddy smiled. They always wanted sleeping beauty, and he had to admit it did have the best ending.
"OK, OK, sleeping beauty it is! Now, are you sitting comfortably…yes? Good! Then I’ll begin….
"Once upon a time there was an extremely handsome Prince, who lived in a fantastic castle in the centre of the Kingdom. He had everything he could ever have wanted: Gold, jewels, clothes and a truly magnificent convertible that was the envy of everyone in the Kingdom. But he wasn’t happy. He was lonely, he didn’t realise at the time just how lonely…"
Daddy paused and glanced up at Mummy. She gave him a reassuring smile.
"His name was Prince Patrick and he used to walk around the castle all day ordering the servants about, because he didn’t know what else to do with them. He wasn’t very good with people. His mother, the most beautiful Queen the Kingdom had ever had, had died when Prince Patrick was not much older than you two are now, and that made his father very…grouchy…"
"And that made Prince Patrick very grouchy too!" Interrupted Mummy. Daddy raised an eyebrow at her.
"Who’s telling this story?"
"Sorry" She grinned, and motioned for him to continue. He nodded his head in thanks and turned back to the children’s expectant expressions.
"Anyway, there was only one person in the castle that Prince Patrick really liked. In fact he was in love with her. She was a beautiful young maid called Holly…"
Daddy always liked that bit, but he knew that Mummy would be glaring at him so continued swiftly.
"The Prince loved Holly but she wouldn’t return his affections. You see; she did love him, but she didn’t believe that he really did love her. That made the Prince very unhappy indeed, especially when she started to become friends with the Kingdom’s Prime Minister; a horrible slimy little man called Robinson, who also claimed to be in love with her. The Prince and the Prime Minister both tried to…er…woo Holly. And didn’t like each other at all.
"Then one day a mysterious man came to work at the castle. He was an evil Warlock, except nobody knew that at the time. They thought that he was normal. But he was anything but."
Daddy tried his hardest not to spit those words; the very thought of the man made him feel sick. The children had asked Daddy one day what the evil Warlock's name was. Daddy hadn’t been able to bring himself to say it. He’d told them that anyone who said the name would be struck down with a really itchy case of Chicken Pox. They never asked again.
"The Warlock also loved Holly, but she didn’t love him. He decided that he’d have to use magic on her to make her love him.
"So he put a spell on some flowers and sent them to her. But the spell wasn’t strong enough and it didn’t work. And he got very angry.
"Next he put a spell on a book of love poems and sent them to her. But the spell still wasn’t strong enough and it didn’t work. She still didn’t love him and he got very very angry.
"Then he put a spell on a teddy bear and sent it to her. But the spell still wasn’t strong enough, and Holly was getting angry that he kept trying to trick her into loving him.
"The Warlock refused to give up though and hatched a thoroughly evil plan. One night when all the inhabitants of the castle were asleep he crept down to Holly’s room and kidnapped her. He took her off to an abandoned part of the castle where he knew no one would ever think to look for them and where no one would be able to hear her scream."
The children gasped as they always did at this point. Daddy knew it was because there is something inherently creepy about being stolen away from your bed as you slept. He looked up at Mummy, and caught sight of a glimmer of fear in her eyes too. But just as soon as it was there: it was gone. Mummy felt safe. She had Daddy to protect her.
"All that night the evil Warlock tried to convince Holly to fall in love with him, and even though she tried really hard to escape she couldn’t. When the sun came up in the Kingdom people began to realise that Holly and the Warlock were missing. The Prince and the Prime Minister were very worried about her and they started to search the castle from top to bottom, and enlisted all the castle employees to do the same.
"It was Robinson who found her first. He was clever…" Daddy admitted grudgingly "…and managed to talk the evil Warlock into opening the door and letting him inside. But the Warlock realised that he was being tricked and put a spell on him to make him very weak and sleepy. Robinson tried to fight the Warlock but he fell down some stairs and broke his arm."
Daddy said it with a definite sneer. Mummy shook her head at Daddy. If she were telling the story she would at least give Robinson some credit for trying to rescue the heroine.
"Holly managed to hit the Warlock with an ornament. WHACK! It went as it hit him…"
The children erupted into cheering. Mummy tried to stop her self from looking pleased that the heroine got one over on the bad guy. Daddy shouldn’t be encouraging violence.
"The evil Warlock realised finally that Holly would never love him no matter how much magic he used. He tied Holly on to a bed and stood over her and said:
"None of my magic works on you because you are already in love with another man. But if I can’t have you than he can’t either!"
"He found his most powerful book of spells and conjured up one to make Holly sleep for a very, very long time. And her eyes closed and her body went limp…"
Daddy’s voice started to wobble as he spoke. Even though he knew the story well it always made him upset to think of what that evil bast…Warlock was trying to do to the beautiful heroine. He took a deep breath to steady himself before continuing.
"Prince Patrick found where he had taken her just in the nick of time. He rushed in and saw the woman he loved lying down on the bed and realised what the Warlock had done. The Warlock tried to run away when he saw Prince Patrick arrive but there was only one other door in the room. The Prince was blocking the other. The Warlock ran out of the door but he didn’t realise that the part of the castle they were in was abandoned because it was unsafe and bits had fallen down. There wasn’t a room on the other side of the door and the Warlock fell to his death."
The children began cheering again. Mummy and Daddy looked at each other, they didn’t like the Warlock but his death always made them feel uneasy.
"What about Holly?" Jessica asked impatiently. Daddy smiled at his little girl, and made the ‘shush’ signal, waiting for her and Mark to calm down before continuing.
"Prince Patrick went over to Holly. He was terrified because he didn’t know how to save her, if there was anyway to reverse the spell. She was so still, so peaceful, it was hard to believe that she wasn’t just sleeping normally. The Prince thought that he’d lost her forever. That he’d never get the chance to prove to her how much he loved her, and make her his princess.
"He leant over her to kiss her goodbye, and as soon as they’re lips met, Holly opened her eyes…"
Daddy swiped a tear from his eye. Mummy had long since given up trying to hide her tears.
"You see, the evil Warlock’s spell just wasn’t powerful enough. Holly and Patrick loved each other so much that not even the evil Warlock could keep them apart. And by saving her Patrick proved to Holly that it was true love after all. The End."
"Now come on sweethearts, time to go to sleep!" Mummy said, coming in to the room and lifting a very sleepy Jessica up into her arms.
Mark twisted him self around under the duvet so his head was now on the pillow. Daddy smoothed the duvet out before bending down and kissing his son on the forehead. He followed Mummy and Jessica out of Mark’s room and into Jessica’s room, where Mummy was putting their beautiful little girl to bed. They each kissed her goodnight and were about to leave the room when they heard her call out:
"Daddy you never said it!" Daddy looked at her bemused.
"Didn’t say what darling?"
"You didn’t say the ending right! At the end of the story you have to say it!" Daddy though for a second about what Jessica could mean. Then he realised she was right, he’d missed off the most important part.
"OK Jessie darling…" he cleared his throat, "And they all lived happily ever after." Jessica smiled contentedly as Mummy and Daddy turned out the light and left the room.
"Is that so?" Said Mummy, stretching up and kissing Daddy.
"Oh yes," he replied, "they lived very happily indeed!"