A Princess Home Guide

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Chapter 2.



The final period bell rang. The class doors busted open and a flow of students poured out into the hallway. Bernice, Kelly, Penelope, and Claire met up with each other.

“How are you feeling?” Penelope smiled. The lip gloss on her lips caught the light.

“My head is a bit heavy,” Bernice admitted.

“You’re a lightweight, Bernice. The rest of us are just fine,” Kelly looked around at the girls to see if they would agree.

The rest of the group sympathetically nodded.

“Your parents must be very proud,” Bernice raised her eyebrows.

“Don’t be like that. She is just teasing you. That's all she can get on you,” Claire said.

“I’m going to the library again for a bit. You guys need any last-minute tutoring?” Bernice offered.

The girls groaned and moaned, “I don’t want to study anymore. I’m so sick of it. We’ll review a little bit more in the evening.”

“Looks like I’m going to be the smart one for a very long time,” smiling, Bernice headed towards the library.

Her study spot of choice was still free. Quickly, she claimed it and unpacked her book bag. With a fresh coat of lip gloss on her lips, she opened one of her notebooks. Her slim fingers started to flip through the pages to look for a material that might still be an area of struggle. Nothing came across as puzzling. There was nothing to review. She hit a dead end with her studies.

Then out of the blue, an idea hit her like lighting; an idea worth exploring. Now that she knows every subject that might come up on the test, it would be nice to pick out a novel. A novel! But it has to be good. It has to have it all; adventure and mystery to cure the dullness, humor to break free from the seriousness, a bit of darkness and wit to satisfy the oppressed desire to misbehave, and of course romance. A romance with lots of torturous anticipation and heart-breaking selflessness.

It will be different and refreshing. It will be a nice break from hammering the textbooks for so long. She had no idea where such books were kept so, with a checked enthusiasm in her walk she approached the librarian’s desk.

“Excuse me, Ms. Larson,” she interrupted the book stamping.

“Yes, Bernice. What can I help you with?”

“Where is the fiction section?”

“A fiction section?” the young librarian was pleasantly surprised.

“Yes. I want to pick a novel for Christmas break.”

“You sure you don’t want references?”

“Not this time,” Bernice shyly smiled.

“Go over to the right past the Policy section and all the way at the end.”

“Thank you,” Bernice remembered her manners and then lost no time.

Soon, she found herself where she had never been before. Bernice found herself in a part of a library where there was no fact or logic, no truth, or at least very little of it. All around her were books whose purpose was to not satisfy intellectuality but to feed the imagination with worlds that were not of how things are, but what they should have been, could have been, and wish would have been.

Hmmm. Bernice tapped her recently manicured index finger on the chin. There were so many options. I don’t want anything too long. She thought to herself and started browsing the shelves at eye level, but nothing exciting enough caught her interest. There were plenty of other options to explore beyond her hand’s reach, so she decided to search the higher levels.

She grabbed the rolling ladder by the rail and pulled it to the end of the case. Under the pressure of the tip of her heel, it was locked in place. Unwilling to give in to her fear of heights, she shook it a little to check for stability and began to climb up. Cautiously, she reached the top shelf and extended her slim arm to a book in front of her. After reading the introduction of the book she put it quickly back on the shelf and frowned in disgust. It was a horror story.

Bernice reached for the next one, but before her fingers barely touched the brown cover, something else caught her attention in the corner of her eye. It was a medium-sized, bright red book with golden horizontal stripes on its spine. Beyond all doubt, it was obvious that it was a brand-new addition by its undisturbed radiance.

She pulled it out and looked forward to opening the book and finding out what it was about in the intro, but something strange hindered her from doing so. Unlike the other books, this one had a golden lock on it. She thought that it might have been a decorative piece, but it was shut tight. Confused, Bernice turned to the front cover. There was no title imprinted on it or any other labeling anywhere instead, a scarlet nothingness stared back at her.

Lost at the task, Bernice picked at the lock and admired the red and gold color. Suddenly, she felt something rough and warm jump on her arm. She looked away from the book but didn’t think much of the disrupting sensation... at first. Bernice hoped that her eyes deceived her when she faced her disrupting visitor. Despite the vigorous pest control and management that the school took very seriously, somehow it failed and its undeniable failure let its existence known to unsuspecting Bernice. She froze in fear and her eyes trembled in repulsion. So, there it was, a rat sitting up on its back legs and looking back at her. Clearly, the pest management contractor didn’t do a good job.

Unlike Bernice, it wasn’t scared. Instead, it enthusiastically sniffed the air at her. Its habitat treated it well and had the weight to back it up. It was obvious that scraps it found around the school were plentiful. Its paws sunk deep into the pale skin. Its angry black eyes stared deep into Bernice’s dilated pupils. The creature frowned and tossed its coarse tail side to side in agitation. For a moment, their stares locked in. Then, it opened its long jaws.

“You better put that back if you know what’s good for you,” it spoke.

Bernice’s eyes opened even wider. A deep inhale fueled the terror in her lungs and was forced out in a form of a piercing scream. She started shaking her arm vigorously to get the smelly rodent to let go, but the nasty thing held on tight. All propriety and control were lost. Bernice’s balance was irretrievable and her body hit the marble below along with the rat. The hard impact weakened her grip and the red book fell out of her hand.

Filled with pure repulsion, Bernice sat up and shivered, but the rat lost no time. It quickly bounced back on its tiny paws, grabbed the book between its jaws, and took off running down the hall. Mortified from the unpleasant encounter, Bernice watched the ball of dirty hair tap its sharp claws against the polished stone as it quickly created a distance from her. For its nastiness, it made up for it with swiftness.

Realizing that there was no way she could catch the slippery creature, Bernice picked a heavy book from the shelf and threw it at the rat. The book missed its target with a heavy flop. In mid-run, Bernice picked up the mistreated book and she chased the gray fur ball. The rat sensed that its chaser started to catch up, so with a new strategy in mind it began to climb up on one of many shelves. With one eye squinting, Bernice aimed her sight at the scrabbling creature and tossed the book at it with all her might.

In the name of dumb luck, the rat got hit as it was trying to escape. Its gripping claws let go of the wood and heavily dropped on the floor. The book fell straight down on top of the creature and bounced off to the side. Its weight tremendously crippled the animal by breaking its back. Step by step, Bernice slowly walked up to the tiny cripple and picked up the red book it tried so hard to steal. The creature paid the ultimate price for the attempted crime.

“You are going to regret this,” the rodent twitched and squealed in pain as it spoke its final words.

Then the struggling body relaxed, releasing a last exhale.

“What is going on down there?!” far from the other side, an angry woman demanded.

The clicking of her high heels started down the hall towards Bernice. A very displeased middle-aged librarian came up to the girl. She stared down at the poor student through her glasses and waited for some kind of response. Bernice tried to speak but her throat choked and her tongue felt dead.

“Why on earth were you screaming?” the librarian put her hands on her hips and leaned in.

Still shaken from her encounter with the talking rat, Bernice felt weak at her ankles. She pressed her back against the wall to keep herself from collapsing and pointed down. The woman looked in the direction of her finger and then took a step back with fright.

A motionless twisted body of a rodent rested on the cold floor. Its little eyes closed tight and a little bloody tongue peeked out between the sharp teeth. A thick book with a title that read ‘War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy’ lay next to it. Its cover seemed to be stained a little with something red.

“Oh, my goodness,” she put her hand on her chest and hurriedly ran towards her desk to call for a custodian. “Oh, my goodness,” she kept repeating to herself.

An old, gray-bearded man in a dark blue jumper pushing a cleaning cart came in to clean up the mess. The flustered librarian led him to the spot where the rodent lay. Bernice was still there as before. Some of the students peeked out from behind the bookshelves to see what the commotion was about but quickly lost their interest once they saw the deceased ugliness.

“Eww!” someone said.

“Is that.... a rat?” another questioned in disbelief.

“Go back to your studies. There is nothing to see,” the librarian motioned with her hands for students to go away as the old man swept up the furry body into a dustpan and began to mop the floor. “You too, young lady,” the librarian addressed Bernice.

Bernice slowly walked away clinging on to the red book that caused all this trouble. She packed her school bag and went to her dorm, hoping to find sanctuary in her room and leave the recent affair to the coldness of the floor. Her hopes failed her and the haunting of the talking rat voice played over and over again.

While still trying to process what happened in the library, Bernice opened her room door. With a heavy mind, she tossed her bag on the bed. The mysterious, red-covered price she won was carefully placed on a desk and with a single click, a little table light illuminated it with a spotlight. Still trying to cope, Bernice found comfort in biting at her thumb as she tried to come up with a logical explanation about what happened at the library.

Maybe because I got scared so by having a rat sit on my arm that I somehow imagined it talking. That was the best conclusion she could think of. Bernice shivered her shoulders as she remembered that nasty thing touching her. I need a shower. She walked into the bathroom leaving its door wide open just in case she would need to make an escape. Thought of another possible gross encounter crossed her mind.

When she was done getting cleaned up, she stepped out of the bathroom wearing a bathrobe and a towel wrapped around her head. The room was full of vapor. Once again, she forgot to turn on the vent fan in the bathroom. Oh, shoot. She flipped the fan switch on and hurried to the window by her desk and cracked it open just enough to let out the humid stuffiness. The lonesome red book was still there and its blank scarlet hardcover was still mocking her.

An overwhelming desire to break in and raid its pages ate away at her. A crisp winter wind breathed in and along with curiosity, it began to nip at her. Bernice started to slowly pace the floor as she looked down at the lock and her restless fingers fiddled with her mother’s necklace.

A key, I need a key. She needed to find a way in. A key...a key...a key. That thought kept echoing in her mind, but after some time something stopped her wandering feet. Realizing that she already had one, she looked down at her hand. But is it the right one? The odds of it were against her, but she dared to try.

Gently, she lifted the chain over her head and took the key between her fingers. Then, with much anticipation and hope, Bernice pushed the key into the lock. She closed her eyes and turned it. Click! Unexpectedly, the locking device popped open and let go. Slight laughter of delight escaped through her smile. How could this be? It didn’t matter. Now all that was left to do was look inside.

Bernice bit her bottom lip with excitement and without taking her eyes off the red book, she put back on her heirloom necklace. Eager to reveal the content, her hands pulled away the stiff cover. The book crackled as it got stretched open. But the fire in her eyes was put out with much disappointment and even more mystery.

Like its cover, the white pages were just as blank. She flipped through all the pages and like the one before it, every single one had not a single printed word. The very last page was missing though. It seemed to be ripped out either in a hurry or with carelessness. Either way, the taking of the paper was done unapologetically. Frustrated, Bernice expected to see some type of writing, or pictures or hieroglyphs or anything, but instead found pages giggling a silent white laugh. Defeated, she flopped in her chair and defensibly crossed her arms. She felt like a fool who fell for somebody’s sick little joke.

“Ugh!” she threw her arms up and stormed out into the closet to get dressed.

When Bernice was done putting on some most comfortable sweatpants and shirt she walked back to the bathroom and plugged in her hair dryer and let the hot air toss around her blond strands. A shiver ran down her back and an army of little goose bumps cratered across her arms. Suddenly, Bernice remembered that the window was left open. She acknowledged having a very distracted mind this evening and blamed it on the mysterious book. With haste, she jumped out of the bathroom and saw little hills of snow that the sneaky wind blew all over her desk.

“Are you kidding me?” Bernice wiped the white fluff into a waste basket.

The red book was covered. She picked it up and shook it over the trash can. Something inside that was deeply ingrained had been unintentionally woken up; a soft glow flickered out of its trembling pages. This unusual happening stopped Bernice from disturbing the book any further and she humbly put it back on the desk. There was nothing left to do but observe.

A shine with a particular curvature and design seeped out from under the paper. The golden twinkles bent and twisted however they wanted until they finally decided to make up their mind. That is when their individuality began to resemble letters. Soon they formed into sentences, which then turned into paragraphs until every page was filled. The golden letters caught her off guard when they unglued themselves from the pages.

The curvy twinkles rose up higher and higher and dispersed themselves all over the room. They happily flowed around their new surroundings and completely ignored the girl. They didn’t bother her and she found them to be harmless. Bernice relaxed a bit and decided to enjoy the lights show. She was surprised that she wasn’t as frightened as out to be. Fascinated by their tiny cuteness, Bernice reached for one with her finger and touched it. Their contact frighten it and the glowing letter pulled away. The rest of the lights followed its lead and began to gather. Some kind of force pulled them all together into one mass.

A huge fiery eagle exploded from the formation. It spread its burning wings and stretched out its tail. The dancing flames gracefully rolled all over its body, but they did not burn or caused any pain to the magical bird. The room filled with light as if it was a bright daytime. Its massive feet reached for the ground and quietly landed on the floor. The wooden panels did not catch fire or left any burn marks. The burning eagle noticed the petrified girl. It calmly looked back at her. It smiled a witty smile of recognition. Somehow it knew her. Unlike the rat, its eyes had kindness in them.

Her guest motioned her to come close with its feather. Something from within started pulling her towards the eagle. Slowly, but willingly Bernice walked up to it. They were so close to each other. The eagle looked on into her wide eyes and waited for her next move. With hesitance, Bernice lifted up her hand and laid it on its neck. There was no pain. No sensory telling her to pull away. The fires glided over her fingers and it felt like cool silk. Bernice was happy to make their acquittance, but their introduction was cut short when the room door gave out a slow screech.

The eagle vanished in a split of second into thin air and nighttime’s darkness swallowed the room. The hasty disappearance startled Bernice and she fell down on her knees. A female instructor who was doing her final check around the dorms peaked into the student’s private room.

“It’s nine-thirty. Lights out, miss,” the teacher reminded.

When she saw the girl sitting down in the middle of the room, a puzzled look grew on her face.

“What are you doing kneeling on the floor?” the young woman asked.

Bernice’s eyes shifted from side to side trying to think of something plausible.

“Um... I... I’m praying?” she suggested wondering if the teacher will believe her.

“Okay,” satisfied with the answer, the teacher closed the door.

Bernice got up and decided she had enough exhilaration for the day. Still, she couldn’t help but look for any sign of her fiery friend but to her disappointment she found nothing. Nothing, but confusion. She closed the red book, locked it, and placed it in a drawer for safekeeping. Sleep that night was merely impossible; the day’s unbelievable events kept Bernice’s thoughts spinning in an endless whirlpool. That cycle had to end, otherwise, it would drag her to the bottom. Bernice squeezed the pendant on her necklace, her only hope to keep unlocking more secrets.

After all these years of carrying it around her neck, she finally found out what that key was in the most unexpected way. But a single answer came with even more questions than her mind couldn't wrap itself around.

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