“You’re going to summer camp,” the King announced, then promptly cringed.
A shriek carried through the air like a banshee finding gum in her hair.
As he covered his ears, the King continued, “Really, you should try out for drama club or at least opera.”
“But I don’t want to,” Princess Rachel cried. “I want to stay at the castle this summer.”
“No dice, honey,” the King retorted. “Your mother and I have decided to vacation on Coconut Island.”
“An island? I’d love to go.”
“I’m sure you would, but this is a wedding anniversary gift for your mother, and I want it to be just the two of us.”
Rachel stuck out her lower lip. “You don’t love me.”
“We both love you, but we need to spend some time together – alone.”
“You’re together all the time at home anyway.”
Not in the way I want to be. “Waiting on you mostly. We’ve discussed this, and that is what we are doing.”
“What if I refuse to go?”
“Then you are going to stay with that fairy, Ferrella. She needs a live-in babysitter.”
Rachel’s eyes widened. “Good God, no! Those leg-munching fairy children will kill me!”
“Let’s be clear. Maiming is not the same as killing. Regardless, that is your alternative.”
She frowned. “Okay, fine, I’ll go. I won’t know anyone there.”
“All the neighboring kingdoms are sending their daughters; you’ll be making new friends.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Rosie isn’t going to be there, is she?”
The King pursed his lips. Good God, I think I’ll jump from the nearest tower if I have to hear about that girl again. “No honey, she has moved to Tocanus and is gleefully pulling off scorpion stingers.”
“Good, because I can’t stand her. In first grade, she – “
The King looked at his watch. “Gee, I’ve got to get your mother. It has been six hours; she should be done shopping now.” He started to leave, “By the way, we are leaving for the island tomorrow.”
“Wait! When does summer camp start?”
“In two days. Tim is going to look after you.”
“Tim? I thought he wasn’t allowed in the castle.”
“He is now. I changed all the locks on my liquor cabinet and have hidden all the snack foods.”
“But daddy . . .”
“Sorry honey, I told you we were planning this months ago. That should not be a surprise.”
Rachel’s head drooped.
King leaned down and kissed her on the head. “I know you don’t like change or doing anything new, but you can’t avoid it whether you want to or not. Learning how to deal with change is part of growing up.”
She stayed silent and stared at the floor.
“We’ll be by in the morning to say goodbye.” He glanced out the window at the rising sun. “Speaking of deadlines, that rotten wizard ought to be here by now.” The dull thud of a door knocker echoed throughout the castle. “Ah, that must be him.” He left to go to the door.
The door swung open, and there stood a stoop-shouldered gray-haired man wearing what looked like a tattered blue bathrobe covered with crescent moons and a soup pan on his head. The handle swung slowly from side to side as the man tried to make eye contact with the King.
“Uh, hello, Tim. What gives with the soup pan?” the King asked.
“I forgot my tin-foil hat.”
Well, that was as clear as mud. “Okay, come on in.”
Tim slipped inside and took off his ‘hat.’ “Hey, I love what you did with the place.”
“It’s no different than the last time you were here.”
“Really?” Tim paused and placed a finger on his chin as he thought. “Perhaps. If I remember correctly, I was running for my life, which may have had something to do with it.”
The King suddenly remembered the incident involving a mop and an ambulation spell. The crazy wizard might have done less damage with an axe. “Are you sure you can do this?” the King said.
“Do what?” Tim asked.
The King quickly suppressed the urge to choke the clueless magician. “Remember what we discussed—the need for you to babysit Rachel until it is time for her to go to summer camp.”
“Oh, that. Yes, I’m ready.” He reached into his robes and pulled out a bag of cheese curls. “See, I’m prepared.”
“Um, okay. Have a seat but be careful. The last time you left orange fingerprints on all the furniture.”
“Sorry about that. I understand that Rachel is going to summer camp in two days?”
“Do you want me to escort her to camp?”
“No, that is all right. I have someone else in mind for that.”
“And whom might that be?”
Tim recoiled. “Seriously, I don’t know why you’re letting a witch escort her to summer camp when I could easily do it myself.”
“Need I remind you what happened the last time you accompanied Rachel out of the castle? I spent three days being chased by angry monkeys.”
“Well, who knew that monkeys worshiped that golden coconut I stole – err – found?”
“Someone should have, and I expected it would have been you.”
Tim shrugged. “My monkey lore isn’t what it used to be.”
“Enough already. Drek will be here in two days. Have Rachel ready.”
Tim frowned. “As you wish, your majesty.” The King turned to go, but Tim added, “Say one other thing. What about Oscar?”
The King flinched. “Her pet pig? Oh no, I forgot about him. It’s too late to put him in a kennel. Could you look after him?”
“You want me to take care of a pig. Where is he going to stay?”
“How about your treehouse? No one will notice with the way you keep that place.”
“Hey, that is kind of insulting.”
“Of course, it is also true.” Tim sighed. “Okay, I will, but under one condition.”
“I get to use your swimming pool.”
The King looked at the ceiling for a moment. “The last time I let you do that, the pool drain was clogged with scales and hair.”
“How was I supposed to know that mermaids are slobs?”
“Don’t let it happen again.”
* * *
The King walked back upstairs and found the Queen in Rachel’s room.
“It will be okay, my dear. Mykla will be at Summer Camp too.”
Rachel frowned. “I don’t really like her. She’s a bit too aggressive.”
“I’m sure that hitting you in the head with a crochet mallet was just a mistake.”
“I’m not sure. She also tried to trim my hair with a machete.”
“You won’t be there with just Mykla. There will be lots of other girls there too.”
“Yes, and I will know none of them.”
The Queen patted her on the arm. “You won’t know any of them unless you meet them, and summer camp is a great way to do that.”
“Did you do summer camp when you were a kid?”
The Queen backed away a bit. “Uh, yes, I did.”
The King stifled a snicker, but the Queen shot him a dirty look.
Rachel looked between them. “Okay, obviously, that is not the whole story. Tell me the truth. What happened?”
The Queen’s cheeks reddened. “I had a bit of an accident.”
“Accident? happened? Did you fall off a horse?”
“No, not exactly.” The King guffawed a few times, and the Queen shot him a few more nasty looks.
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “What sort of accident was it?”
The Queen bit her lower lip, her cheeks turning very red. “I … ah …”
“She wet her pants,” the King interjected, then laughed.
Rachel’s mouth dropped open. “MOM!”
The Queen fired a few eye daggers at the King. “Thanks for nothing, Charles.” Her face almost scarlet, the Queen looked at Rachel. “It was during the bonfire; everyone was telling ghost stories. I got scared.”
“Really? How old were you?”
“That’s kind of old to be peeing on yourself.”
“I had a very active imagination.”
“I’ll say,” the King shot in. “Once she dreamt she was –”
The Queen turned on her heel. “Guess what else you’ll be imagining on our vacation?” She stormed out of the room.
The King grimaced. “Uh oh.”
Rachel rubbed her eyes. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“That is a good thing. See you tomorrow morning,” the King turned and chased after the Queen.
* * *
Rachel sat on her bed, then flopped back onto it. She didn’t want to go camping and had no real alternatives to avoid going. One thing was sure. No way she was going to deal with fairy babies. It had taken weeks to get the nightmares of those little beasts out of her head. So, she had to go and be away from the castle for at least six weeks.
What was the name of that place? Oh yeah, Princess Academy Instruction and Networking Information Center. She had heard awful stories, how incredibly mean some other princesses were, and how they often made outsiders feel unwelcome. What made my parents want to send me there?
She rolled over and stared at a poster of pop music’s latest sensation, Justin Keebler. “So, what do you think, Justin? Should I run away?”
Surprisingly or not, the poster continued to smirk at her. What did I expect? You’ve got tattoos and look like something I’d need shots for after kissing!