Watch book trailer
Once Enchanted (Where Dreams Come True Series)
Copyright © 2016 Marie Higgins
Cover Design by Sheri McGathy
When she entered the children’s ward, some of the children cheered and waved. The head nurse rushed to her and curtsied. “Welcome home, Princess.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Meyers. Is my father around?”
“He is still in a meeting, I’m afraid.”
Clarissa grinned. “Good. That means I can spend more time with the children.”
There were many new faces but a few she’d recognized from a year ago. These were the terminally ill children that came in regularly for treatments. Her heart went out to them, wishing she could cure them somehow. But for now, her friendship would just have to suffice.
Charlotte, the sickest out of all of them, lay in bed but her gaze followed Clarissa. When she moved closer to the girl’s bed, she smiled wide.
“It’s so good to see you again.” She patted the girl’s hand tenderly.
“I have missed your stories, Princess.”
Chimes of the phrase me too rang through the room and Clarissa laughed. “Do you want me to tell you a story, then?” The chimes turned into shouts of excitement, which made her laugh harder. “All right, I shall.”
Mrs. Meyers brought a chair for her as the children gathered around…well, those who could get out of bed, anyway. “What story do you wish me to tell?”
The children were silent as they looked from one to the other. Finally Charlotte straightened slightly in her bed. “I would love to hear the story about the man and the Rapunzel flower.”
Clarissa had always told the children stories, making them sound as if they were fictitious. They’d be surprised to know that most of these stories were true. But it was more fun to tell them as though they were not real.
“Once upon a time,” she began and the children hushed, “there was a man who was to become king, and he fell in love with the most beautiful girl in the kingdom. He wanted to win her love by doing something no other man had dared to do before. He wanted to obtain for her the most beautiful of flowers…the Rapunzel flower. But the only place the flower grew was near a tower in the east forest where a wicked old witch lived, recluse from the rest of the kingdom.”
She paused, linking her fingers together and resting them on her lap. Before she continued, she noticed a man had walked into the room, wearing a familiar uniform. It surprised her to see Ryder here, but then, he was probably assigned to keep watch on her today. Secretly, she found herself hoping he was there for her and not his duty to watch over her. He smiled at her as he leaned against the wall, folding his arms over his wide chest.
“Nobody else had dared enter the witch’s gardens,” she continued, peering back at the children. “But this man was different. He was the bravest in the whole kingdom, and he would do what was necessary to win the fair maiden’s love.” She lowered her voice for this next part. “So one night, he scaled the large rock wall that separated the witch from the rest of the kingdom, and entered her gardens. Cautiously, he crept to the Rapunzel flower and plucked it from the ground.”
She paused, trying to create a suspenseful moment. The children seemed enthralled with the story so far as they all leaned toward her and remained silent.
“But before this man could leave, the witch jumped in his path, stopping him.” Some of the children sucked in their breath. “She wanted to cast a spell over him for stealing her flower, but he convinced her not to harm him. He told the witch of his great love for a fair maiden, and how he wanted to impress her with the loveliest flower in the kingdom. The witch was taken with this man’s devotion, so she promised to let him go on one condition.”
Once again, she paused for affect. But the children became restless and asked, “What was the condition?” She sneaked a peak at Ryder, and he even appeared eager to hear the rest of the story. She bit back a laugh and focused on the children.
“Her condition was this—that he could take the flower to the fair maiden and marry her, but their first daughter would have to be named after the witch.”
The children cringed and shook their head.
“Ewww…” one said. “Why would anyone want to name their child after an ugly witch?”
“Well you see,” Clarissa interrupted, “a long time ago, the witch had been a beautiful woman and many men had vied for her attention. But when they discovered she was a witch, they hated her. Over the years her heart hardened, and she built the rock wall to separate herself from the rest of the kingdom because she felt everyone had judged her harshly.”
“So did the man follow the witch’s orders?” Charlotte asked, pulling away from her pillow and sitting up in bed.
Clarissa nodded. “Indeed, he did. He presented the fair maiden with the Rapunzel flower and they married. Their first child was a girl, and they named her after the witch.” She paused again, but not as long this time. “However, the story did not stop there. Oh, no. The witch wanted more. Much more.”
The children’s eyes widened, but they didn’t ask questions this time.
“You see, for a few years, the witch had been watching the little girl from afar, and the witch wanted the girl for herself. So one day when the little girl was playing in her yard, the witch snatched her and took her to the large tower.”
Prickles of recollection ran over her arms and up her back. She tried shaking off the eerie sensation, but she couldn’t. The dream she’d had this morning had seemed so real. Was she finally remembering what had happened back then?
She continued before the children became restless again. “Nobody saw the witch take the girl, so when her parents noticed she was missing, they scoured the kingdom looking for her, but she couldn’t be found. Several days passed, and the search grew hopeless. But then one day, the man realized there was one place they hadn’t looked.”
“The witch’s tower,” a little boy shouted.
Clarissa laughed. “Exactly. The witch’s tower.” She rubbed her hands over her arms, hoping the unsettling awareness still within her would disappear. “The man decided he was going to sneak back into her yard and watch her. Two more days passed and he couldn’t see any trace of his daughter. But then one day he watched as the witch called up to the tower window, “Rapunzel, let down the rope so I can climb up.”
One of the girls giggled. “They named the girl after the flower?”
“No, but this was what the witch called her, because the little girl reminded the witch of the lovely flower.”
The children nodded and the little boy asked, “Then what happened?”
“Just as the little girl lowered the rope out the window for the witch to climb, the man jumped out from his hiding spot and knocked the witch unconscious. He then climbed the rope and rescued his daughter.”
They clapped and cheered, but Clarissa motioned her hand to calm them. “The story isn’t over yet.”
“It’s not?” one asked.
“No. You see, just as the man had left the tower with his daughter, the witch became alert and attacked the man. She hit him with a large stick. Thankfully, the king was strong, so he fought her, and of course, eventually killed the witch.”
The children stood and cheered. Clarissa laughed, clapping her hands at their display. She loved their reaction. They always responded this way with her stories. Perhaps that was why she loved coming to the children’s ward so much. Their infectious laugh was the best kind of medicine.
“Princess?” one of the children asked. “What was the witch’s name?”
Clarissa shook her head. “I’ll have to save that question for another time. Perhaps we can make a game of it.”
Once again, the children shouted with excitement. She looked at Ryder. His smile stretched from ear to ear as he applauded. Her heart warmed to see the enjoyment etched in his expression. Just as she remembered, his eyes gleamed with happiness. She realized how hard it was to look at anything else when he was in the room. He was such a handsome man—one she would love to get to know a little better now that they were grown.
As many times as she’d told that story over the years, she thought her memories would bring back the fear she once had of strangers. But the fear was no longer with her. Perhaps she hadn’t recalled how it had really happened word for word, but she’d only been six years old when the witch had kidnapped her, so she didn’t remember a lot. Had these reoccurring dreams opened up her memory in some way?
Her father hated this story, and scolded her for telling it to the children. But she was happy to know he loved her enough to rescue her and destroy the witch, which of course was the moral of the story, anyway.
Of course, she couldn’t help but sigh knowing her father loved her mother so much that he risked his life by climbing the rock wall to get her the Rapunzel flower.
She leaned back in her chair. Perhaps that was the very reason she hadn’t found a man she’d consider marrying. She wanted a love like her parents had. She wanted a man who would risk his life to prove his love.
Too bad that was the fictitious part of all of this. There was no man out there like her father.
Buy on Kindle