Rachel went to the front door and wrenched it open. On the stoop was an older woman with curly black hair, hoop earrings, and a floral print robe. She gave Rachel a quick scan. “Oh my, do servants here often answer the door in their pajamas?”
“We don’t have servants. I’m Princess Rachel.”
“Are you? Well, I’m Carlene, a representative of Princess Summer Camp. I’m here to get you ready.”
“I wasn’t aware anyone from the camp was coming today.”
Carlene pushed her way in. “Quite all right. Your parents may have forgotten to tell you. That’s not the first time that has happened.” She looked around the hall, casting a critical eye on the tapestries and suits of armor. “Oh, how very last millennia. I do hope your clothes are more up-to-date than these furnishings.”
Rachel frowned. She already didn’t like this woman.
Tim appeared, rubbing his backside. “Oh, hello.” Spotting Carlene, he extended a hand and smiled. “My name is Tim.”
Carlene recoiled and looked at Rachel. “Is this your grandfather?”
Tim narrowed his eyes. “No, I’m a babysitter.”
She looked to Rachel, who nodded.
Whipping around, Carlene flashed a smile. “Well, isn’t that special?” With a quick movement, she reached into her robe and retrieved a handkerchief. Wrapping it around her hand, she shook Tim’s.
“This is Carlene from Princess Summer Camp,” Rachel offered with an eye roll.
Carlene added, “I’m here to ensure Miss Rachel is ready for camp.”
“That’s my job,” Tim shot back.
She looked sidelong at him. “Somehow, I doubt you do that for a living like I do. Pray tell, what do you do for employment?”
“I’m a wizard.”
Her eyebrows went up. “That’s a skill, not a job.”
Rachel resisted a grin. The way Tim does it, I’m not sure that it is either.
“What do you know about getting a Princess ready for summer camp?”
Tim glanced at the ceiling. “I know she needs clean underwear.”
Carlene gritted her teeth and sighed. “What she needs is riding equipment, a ballroom dress, grooming equipment, makeup, and perfume, to name a few.” She flashed her card in front of Tim.
He read it aloud. Carlene Fourntnoi, Specialist in Princess Preparation And Matchmaking (SPPAM). Your future is just a prince away.”
Rachel cringed. “SPAM? You’re kidding.”
“That’s S-P-P-A-M. Don’t forget the extra P. It makes all the difference.”
Tim tried but failed to conceal a smile. “I’m sure it does.” At that, he broke out into snorts of laughter.
Rachel also tried not to laugh but whispered to Tim, “What are you, six years old?”
“I’m young at heart,” he answered.
Carlene continued to move about the room, looking behind the tapestries and pinching the throw pillows. “Now that we have that out of the way, let us see what Ms. Rachel has, and we can get her things together.”
“I’m not sure I believe any of this,” Rachel whispered to Tim.
He cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind, Ms. Fourntnoi, I should probably contact Rachel’s parents and confirm your appointment.”
She sighed and replied with an exasperated tone, “Oh, very well then. But if we don’t get started soon, I won’t be able to help her prepare. I have another appointment at three.”
“This won’t take long,” Tim replied. He waved Rachel over toward the kitchen. “Get a bowl, preferably the largest one you can find, then fill it a third of the way up with water.”
“Just do it. I’m going to contact your parents.”
Rachel grabbed a large bowl, set it on the dining room table, and filled it with a pitcher.
Tim stood over the bowl and closed his eyes. “Water to water, face to face, make a connection across time and space.” The water glowed blue briefly, then swirled.
“Is it supposed to do that?” Rachel asked.
“Yes, the spell is searching for water on your parent’s end to connect to, then it will set up a connection.” Suddenly the bowl flashed green, then turned vaguely orange, and the King appeared, staring down into it.
“YIKES!” he exclaimed. “Tim, why are you in my Tequila Sunrise?”
A woman’s hand appeared on the King’s forehead. “Dear, why are you talking to your cocktail? Are you sick?” asked the Queen’s voice.
The King waved away the Queen’s appendage. “No, dear, Tim’s communicating through my drink. Take a look.”
The Queen’s face filled the bowl. “Oh, hello, Tim. Hi Rachel!”
Rachel leaned over and waved. “Hi, Mom.”
The King reappeared. “Can we make this quick? What’s the problem?”
Tim explained Carlene’s appearance at the door.
“Oh, yes, I forgot about that. Fourtnoi should be allowed to work with Rachel to get her ready.”
“Okay, thanks for the update,” Tim replied. The bowl stopped glowing and returned to normal. He looked up at Rachel. “Well, there you have it. It’s legit.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. Ms. Fourtnoi lifted the visors on the suits of armor in the foyer and sniffed inside.
Tim spoke first. “Rachel’s parents forgot to tell us about your appointment. Please forgive the confusion.”
“Quite all right,” Carlene replied. She let go of the visor, and it snapped shut on her fingertip. “Ouch!” She jerked her finger away and stuck it in her mouth. After glancing at them, she regained her composure, pulled her finger out, and studied it. “Very well.” She turned to Rachel. “Let’s go to your room and see what you have for Camp.”
Trying hard not to grit her teeth, Rachel nodded, and together they began heading for the stairs. Once they reached them, Rachel noticed Tim slinking away to the kitchen. “Aren’t you coming too?”
“Not if I can help it,” he replied.
Carlene took hold of Rachel’s shoulders. “Believe me, dear, we are better off. The only thing men can do is swing blades at each other and fall off horses.” She turned and walked up the stairs. Tim stuck fingers to the sides of his head to make devil horns and waggled a tongue at Carlene’s backside. Rachel stifled a laugh but hurried to catch up.
* * *
“OH, MY GOD!” Carlene screeched when she reached the top of the stairs. “There’s a farm animal in your room.” Rachel glanced in to see Oscar passed out on the rug, lying in a sunny spot.
“Oh, that is just Oscar, my pet pig.”
Carlene grimaced. “You have a pig for a pet. Is this a joke? Who gives a princess a pig for a pet?”
“That was Dad’s idea. But not completely, though. He misunderstood that I wanted a wig for my birthday, not a pig.”
“You wanted a wig?”
“Ah well, I was going through my Lady Gogo phase.”
Staring at her with wide eyes, Carlene muttered, “Okay then.”
Hours later, Carlene tossed another dress on the growing pile of discarded outfits.
“Child, you don’t have much to wear, do you?”
“I have all I need,” Rachel groused back.
“For a garage sale, maybe, but not a cotillion.”
“Cotillion? What is that?”
“I’ll explain later. For now, what I have picked out should do. We will find some other things on the way to Camp.”
Shopping. Ugh, that’s mom’s hobby, not mine. She preferred to walk a trail rather than stalking the shelves at the mall. Taking a chance of being eaten by a witch was more appealing that browsing bargain racks. “If we must,” she replied.
“Come now, have the right attitude – you want to fit in, right?”
“Well, yes.” Tim’s words rang in her mind. Maybe. It wasn’t fitting in that worried her; instead, she didn’t want to draw attention to herself.
Being both a tomboy and an adventure hound, she suspected she had many differences from other “conventional” princesses. Makeup and dresses were foreign to her, and jewelry looked nice. But there was no way she would let someone punch holes in her ear lobes. A shiver ran up her spine at the very thought.
No, she enjoyed the outdoors too much, seeing what she could find and what was around the next bend in the trail. That sometimes led to trouble, but she had always found a way out.
I guess summer camp is no different than that idea – an adventure in the making.
Would she enjoy it? Who knows?
Carlene left for her next appointment, and not surprisingly, Tim reappeared.
Rachel gave him a glare. “Ah, I see you resurfaced.”
“Just wanted to see the scene of the crime.”
“What crime is that?”
“I’m no slave to fashion. know that.”
“Indeed I do, but I’m always leery of other people telling me what to do, especially regarding clothes.”
Rachel considered Tim’s ratty robe. “It wouldn’t hurt for you to listen.”
“On the contrary, I suffer immeasurably when I have to listen to others’ opinions.”
“I had the misfortune to hear someone rave about a pair of underwear with velcro in them.”
Rachel pinched her eyes shut. “Too much information.”
He looked over her shoulder at the piles of clothing and barely filled clothing trunks. “So, what are you going to take? You’re not going naked, are you?”
She cocked her head to one side. “Gee, that won’t make me stand out now, will it?” Then she pointed at the trunks. “That’s all Carlene said is acceptable at Camp. Not even sure how much of this still fits.”
“Better try it on. There is no sense taking stuff that doesn’t fit.”
An hour later, Rachel slammed shut a single trunk and looked at Tim. “Okay, all done.”
“So, how much are you taking?”
“I’ve got enough to get me through a week. After that, I’m in trouble. Looks like I’m going to be hitting the mall on the way to summer camp.”
“You have my sympathy.”
He smirked. “No, not really. Better you than me.”
“So, what will you do after I go off to camp?”
“I’m going to have to take care of Oscar.” A squeal erupted from the stairs, and they both turned. He sat there with a bowl in his mouth. “Good Lord, how often does he eat?”
“Seven times a day if he can get away with it.”
“What does he eat?”
“The better question is — What doesn’t he eat?”
Tim rubbed his beard. “Well, I don’t know. Is he willing to eat apples and cheese curls?”
“I don’t think that will be a problem.”
“Are you going to miss him?”
Rachel sighed. “Oh, of course, but I’m sure he won’t miss me.”
Oscar dropped the bowl and let out a high-pitched squeal.
“At least not as much as his next meal.”