by Laird Long -
Princess Suzy awoke, as she did every morning, with her pet dragon, Ollie, snuggled into her side next to her in bed. Ollie liked to burrow under the warm blankets of the large bed, pretending like he was in a cave. He softly snored, just a wisp of smoke trickling out of his mouth now and then, as the Princess contentedly sighed.
Suzy was a small girl for her age. Ollie was a small dragon for his age. They were always together; running and rolling about on the vast, lush, green lawns of the Royal Palace; dashing and jumping around in the huge, flower-perfumed gardens at the rear of the palace; splashing in and rowing on the large, lily pad-dappled lake that lay to the east of the palace; or romping through the towering green trees that spread out to the west in the Royal Forest.
This morning, like previous mornings, Princess Suzy blinked her big blue eyes and stared up at the high, oak-beamed ceiling of her bedroom. Then she yawned, stretched out her arms and legs, as she felt the warm little body of Ollie stir next to her. She raised her golden-blonde head up off the fluffy white pillow and threw back the royal red blankets on her bed, revealing the dozing green dragon.
“Rise and shine, Ollie!” she exclaimed as she always did.
The dragon’s eyes popped open, then narrowed into yellow slits with green hoods. He smacked his thin lips and coughed a little bit of smoke. Then he unfurled his neck and gazed up at Suzy, grinning as baby dragons grin. Finally, he rose unsteadily on his little legs and arched his green-scaled back, his tiny, membraned wings quivering.
Girl and dragon leapt out of bed and scampered over to the large dining and play table at the other end of the room. Suzy pulled out a chair and sat down. Ollie jumped into her lap, then onto the table and sat up.
“Good morning, my dears!” Nanny Katherine greeted the pair, right on schedule. She entered the bedroom carrying a silver tray. She set the tray down on the table and then placed a china bowl full of oatmeal in front of Suzy along with a gold goblet of orange juice and plunked down a silver dish of dragon food in front of Ollie. Breakfast was served.
“So, what are you two planning to get up to today?” Katherine asked, part of the daily ritual. She watched the girl and the dragon happily dig into their food. Nanny Katherine had been with the Royal Family for years. She’d even raised Queen Millicent, Suzy’s mother, from a child.
“We’re going to catch butterflies in the garden this morning!” Suzy responded, gleefully gulping a spoonful of oatmeal. “Aren’t we, Ollie?”
Ollie lifted his head out of his bowl and eagerly nodded. Then he licked his lips with a long, pink, forked tongue.
“That sounds like fun,” Nanny Katherine agreed. “But didn’t you two just do that a few days ago?”
Suzy giggled and shrugged. Ollie grinned and burped smoke, then ducked his head back down into his bowl.
After breakfast Princess Suzy had changed into her favorite white summer dress with the broad blue sash around her waist, and was skipping down the red-carpeted hallway that led to the Royal Terrace and gardens, when she heard someone crying. She hopped to a stop, jumped backwards, and peeked around the oaken doorway of one of the opulent rooms that lined the hallway.
“But I’m afraid she’ll…never grow up!” Queen Millicent lamented to a man in black, standing uneasily in front of her.
Suzy recognized the man with her mother as the Royal Physician, Doctor Leopold.
“She hasn’t gotten any bigger at all. She’s still such a small child,” the Queen said, tears glittering in her large blue eyes. “Why won’t she grow up!?”
Doctor Leopold grimaced, both at the heartfelt anguish of his Monarch and at his own inability to properly and professionally address it. “I’m afraid I just don’t know, your Majesty,” he said. “Nor do the best medical minds in the Kingdom. I’ve consulted them all.” He wrung his long, slender hands in frustration. “She should be a young lady by now. But obviously isn’t. Perhaps…more time-”
“More time?” Queen Millicent wailed. “I’m an ill woman, doctor, as you know! I don’t have much more time!” She looked down at her own pale, delicate hands writhing in despair in her lap, and the jewel-encrusted crown atop her blonde head slipped slightly. “Suzy should be experiencing all of the joys of young womanhood by now – learning, loving…growing!”
The Queen covered her face with her hands and sobbed. “Becoming a queen herself!”
Suzy gripped the edge of the doorway, her eyes gone wide, startled to hear her own name mentioned.
Doctor Leopold hung his head. Queen Millicent wept...