Since I've been wanting to write more about my story The Twelfth Kingdom on my blog, I've decided that this year, I'm going to have a Character Encounter for each one of the princesses, because there are 12 girls. I've already covered Judalily last month, so this challenge will only take me until November to complete. I do hope you all enjoy learning more about the twelve princesses of TK!
I mentally slap myself for neglecting to pack bread this morning as I follow my mother beneath the Subway sign and into the restaurant. It's one of the few places I can eat out, many thanks to my soy allergy and also because soybeans are hardly ever found in fresh vegetables. However, there is soybean oil in the bread for the subs, and in my rush to get out of the house this morning, I forgot to pack myself some of my own bread. Looks like I'll be eating salad today. I'm getting used to dumping the innards of my sub out and eating everything but the roll.
As my mom and I get into line behind the other hungry sub-seekers, I try to make myself feel better. My doctor appointment wasn't supposed to last as long as it did, and even though the office was situated an hour away from our house, we expected to be home by one o'clock, at the latest.
I glance at my watch. 2:48. And Mom was still planning on making a few more stops before heading home. Getting some lunch was unavoidable.
Mom stepped up as the man in front of her finished his selections of sub toppings and gave the order for two cold-cut combos. I let her go first and smiled as I listened to her usual request: lots of lettuce and lots of tomato, onions, with extra oil and vinegar.
The lady behind the counter then looks at me expectantly, folding back the bread expertly. "And what would you like?"
"Lettuce and tomato..." I begin, seeing the meat and cheese already laid out neatly on the bread, before a soft voice cuts in.
"... and onion."
I turn quickly to see a teenaged girl in a crimson gown embroidered with dark blue thread standing behind me. I recognize her red hair instantly.
"Ashrynn, I don't like onions. At least, not raw."
The red-headed princess appears utterly baffled. "Why not?"
I shrug. "I just don't. They're fine grilled or cooked, but I don't like eating them raw."
She gave me a little sniff. "Well, you should attempt to like them. It isn't proper to snub edibles simply because the taste disagrees with your uncivilized tongue."
"Uncivilized...?" I refuse to be insulted by one of my own characters. "Ashrynn, you've been reading way too many books."
"I have not! Can I help it that my vocabulary generally appears to be of a wider range than yours?"
"Ah, ha! I made you up, so everything that is in your vocabulary is in mine. Therefore, we are equals." I turn back to the counter. "Pickles, green peppers, and cucumbers, please."
My shoulders slump. "Is there something wrong with cucumbers, Ashrynn?"
"No, I suppose nothing is wrong with them as a vegetable, but I must admit the flavor of such a green, seedy tube is rather unrefined and altogether mushy."
"Mushy, my eye!" I retort. "I happen to love cucumbers! And what was that you just told me about it not being proper to snub food based on its taste?" I turn back around to face her as the Subway lady loads my sandwich with more vegetables. "By the way, what are you doing here anyway? Usually one of you shows up somewhere in a somewhat private area. You're the first one I've seen who has appeared in a rather public place with other people around. Aren't you worried about..." my words fade off as I see her hazel eyes looking wistfully at my mom who is standing at the far end of the counter, waiting for me.
"You are most fortunate to have your family about you, Kiri." Her tone is soft, much softer than it usually is. "I would wish that my life could be more like yours."
Something pricks at my heart, and I lay a hand on her shoulder. "Ashrynn, I know right now that things look bleak. I know you hate where I've put you, but you've got to trust me."
Her eyes return to mine, probing them for answers, seeking something I cannot yet reveal to her. "I hope I can trust you, Kiri, for that is all I have right now. My sisters are splendid in their own ways, but..."
I level my gaze at her. "If you took your head out of books sometimes, you might be able to grow closer to your sisters and actually have them become your friends."
"Books do not judge you." Ashrynn's words were so low that I almost missed what she said.
"And neither will they. You are all the same, all adopted and saved from poverty and hunger by the hand of the king."
"We're not the same." She mutters.
"Kiri? Are you ready?"
My mom's voice jerks my head around. "Uh, yes. I'm ready."
As I expected, Ashrynn is gone when I look back to her. They always leave like that. I pluck up my wrapped sub, grab a fork, and follow my mom to an empty table near the window. The conversation I just had with Ashrynn won't leave me alone, and a sense of deep guilt settles on my heart when I realize that the last time I wrote about her or any one of her sisters was months ago.
With a pledge to do better, to write more and finish the story, I sit down and unroll my sub. And groan.
I got onions.