Name: Angela Brown
Genre: Middle Grade Fairy Tale Smash Up
Title: ONCE UPON A SUMMONS
While mom busied her fingers on the hem of my dress, I played a three on three, half-court basketball game in my mind. I had the ball, driving deep into the paint, ready to make the perfect layup when -
"Case, I need you to turn just a smidge, sweetie." Mom gently tugged the dress to the left so I'd know which way to move.
Now that I'd turned, I could see the dress better in Mom's full length mirror, or at least the parts of the mirror not draped in colorful silk and ribbons. A couple of sewing machines stood beside her drawing table where bundles of lace and fabric waited to be used. Tons of dresses filled her design studio. No surprise since the countdown was on for my sister's wedding, only four weeks to go.
I glanced to a corner where the wedding dress hung on a rack. Three other dresses hung next to it, all strappy, sparkly and identical, probably the bridesmaid's dresses. Exactly like my dress.
Wait, bridesmaid's dresses?
"Uh, Mom?" I lifted my hand up to my collarbone, feeling the straps and satin fabric against my palm, coming to what I hoped was the wrong conclusion.
"Yes, sweetie." Mom snagged a stickpin from the little stuffed red tomato beside her and slipped it into the dress hem.
"Is there a, uh, reason you're making my dress just like the bridesmaid dresses?" Mom hadn't said anything about designing a dress for me until this morning. I had tons of dresses in my closet to pick from. Actually, one dress was one too many as far as I was concerned. Give me a t-shirt and basketball shorts and I'm happy.
Mom took another pin from the tomato and worked it into the hem. Her hair swooped over part of her face, blocking her eyes from view. For the briefest moment, I thought I saw her hesitate.
When she sighed and dropped her hands into her lap, I knew something was wrong. "Case, there's something you need to know." She moved the stickpin holder to a nook in her sewing kit and patted the cushion beside her.
I stepped down from the stool, glancing from the dresses to Mom's face. She hooked her hair behind her ear so I got a better view of her eyes, brown like mine.
Dad often teased that I could fan people with my eyelashes. Mom said I was dad's little twin, from my high cheekbones and bright smile to my height. He called me his little banana pudding because my skin reminded him of the little vanilla wafer cookies. No one else called me that.
Like always, I couldn't tell what mom was thinking. But from the way her hands fidgeted in her lap, it wasn't good. "I don't mind," I said, hoping my question hadn't made her mad. "It's just, you know, people might think I'm a bridesmaid."
When I sat down beside her, Mom took my hands into hers. She looked me in the eyes then glanced away. "There's been a change of plans. You're going to be a bridesmaid."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Not okay. I don't really want to do this. It would've been nice if someone would've asked me. Isn't there a law against twelve year olds being bridesmaids? There probably should be. If I said any of those thoughts out loud, my two days left on being grouded would probably turn into two weeks. I exhaled, letting the breath go. Leslie had always been there for me. When mom and dad were too busy with work, she never let me down. Ever. She even made it to all my basketball games. I opened my eyes.
"It's okay, Mom. If Leslie needs me, I - I can do it." Going to my sister's wedding was one thing. With as many people as she was inviting, I could blend in with the crowd. But being in it, having to stand up at the front of the church, still as a statue...no, I wasn't looking forward to that.
I wanted to hop out of all that fancy satin and lace and get into something made of cotton. My skin crawled from the girly-overload. Good thing I had time to get ready. Four whole weeks. I could do it, for Leslie.
Mom pulled me to her and held me close. "I'm glad you understand, sweetie. You see, Jesse has a situation. He, well, I don't want you to worry about the details. We might end up with half the guests attending, maybe less than that, since he and Leslie had to move the wedding up to this Saturday. One of the bridesmaids is out of town and won't be back in time. You were the perfect choice to take her place."
I don't know or care about what Mom said after that. It all sounded like blah, blah, blah once I realized that a) I had come to the right conclusion and didn't really like it and b) three months of training and practice were about to go down the drain.
"But Saturday - you know what I'm supposed to be doing Saturday." I yanked free from Mom's hug and bolted to my feet. "The bridesmaid thing I got. Okay, fine. But this Saturday? My Saturday? This isn't fair, Mom. Why can't they get married the next Saturday? What's so important that - " My voice cracked. I fought back a sob as I ran out of the studio. Mom called after me saying something I didn't understand. My heels click-clacked against the hardwood floor and stairs until I reached my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.
I glanced toward my Justin Timberlake poster. He sat forward on a couch, elbows on his knees, gazing down at me. Any other day, I’d stare at his cute-but-kinda-bad-boy look, catch myself before drool dripped to the floor, then move on. Not this time.
I paced the length of my room, back and forth, until I stopped in front of my calendar. Marked with a big red circle, Saturday stood out. For three months, me and my friends practiced for the Sports Jam. We'd saved up our allowances and paid the entry fees ourselves. That was a whole lot of candy and potato chips I sacrificed just to end up missing it now.
Tears stung the back of my eyes. "Jesse has a situation. Whatever."
I stumped over to my bed and flopped on it, tugging Dad's volume of fairy tales out from under my pillow. Lorealia, my favorite book in all the world. Not that he knew I had it. I wonder why dad hid it in the first place? None of that mattered. I just needed to read someone else's happily ever after since Jesse and his situation stole mine from me.
“This Saturday was supposed to be my day. Basketball at the Sports Jam, not playing replacement bridesmaid,” I grumbled. And yeah, grumbling wasn't going to change anything. No one cared if it was fair or not. This Saturday wasn't mines anymore. That's all there was to it.
Wiping a tear from my cheek, I curled up on the bed, snuggled close to the book. When I flipped the cover open, my bed rattled. The headboard knocked against the wall. I hopped off with a squeak just as it stopped. The book did a shimmer-glow-bounce and thunked to the floor.
I jumped back. My bedroom door clicked loudly when the lock slammed into place. I gasped, but that’s it. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything.
The book flipped open. Glitter, like tossed confetti, shot into the air and showered down. The pages fluttered back and forth.
My legs trembled, no longer stuck in place. Wobbling backwards, I turned around and wrapped my fingers around the knob, twisting and pulling. I chewed my bottom lip then remembered the jolt of the lock jamming home. I balled my hands into fists and banged against the door.
“Mom! Mom!” She had to hear me. She had to. Please!
I stopped when a soft female voice called out. “S.O.S. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Fairy GIT to Fable Ranger. Please, we need your help.”
A Rose I Suppose
I spun around, finding the book open to the first page. The spoken words faded on an echo and filled the usually blank page with chicken scratch, all straight lines and hard angles. I barely made out, “Touch here to confirm.” A red dot hovered over the page, winking in and out.
I crept forward. Not because I wanted to. Some invisible hook, rope, or both pulled me closer to the book. Honestly, I wanted to run the other way or pretend it was all a dream.
Or a nightmare.