by Sana Hameed, Age 14, United States
Artwork by Katie King
The fiction prompt for April was “falling.”
My eyes refused to shut even as I counted the make-believe sheep floating over yonder. In order to overcome the bouts of insomnia that had plagued me since birth, Father advised that I spend time thinking about the nightly leaps of barnyard animals.
Like that would help.
The door creaked open, and I was forced to burrow under the covers, feigning sleep. I could feel Mother’s fingers gently glide over my golden curls, and she hummed a lullaby softly under her breath. It was a relaxing tune, a familiar tune, and I couldn’t help but hum along. I realized I was caught in the act only when Mother leaned over and whispered softly in my ear, “Princess, I know you are awake.”
I turned on my side to face Mother, my eyes first focusing on the crown perched on her head before skimming her nurturing features and finally landing on the hand she used to lovingly stroke my face.
“Mother, sleep escapes me. Tell me a tale?” I asked. Mother was always the best storyteller. Whenever Father busied himself with ale and castle affairs, Mother sat in the rickety rocking chair with me nestled in her arms and wove stories with princes, goblins, and dragons galore until the Sandman’s wiles took me captive.
“All right, my darling Aurora, what would this tale entail?”
I giggled slightly before putting forth serious thought. This was how I contributed to the stories. I was providing the fabric so Mother could produce the most beautiful cloth.
“This story should have a witch, an evil witch. And a princess! A princess like me!” The epiphany struck me like lightning, and I awaited Mother’s response.
“Should the witch curse the beautiful princess Aurora? Should she have a saviour? Perhaps a prince in shining armour?”
“A prince? Why, of course not. I am perfectly capable of saving myself.” I pouted. “I don’t need a wretched boy to counteract the witch’s curse and save me!”
Mother threw her head back and laughed freely. “Of course! My Aurora is the strongest, bravest girl ever known.
“And being the brave, strong girl that she is, she is too old for story time, my dear. What did I say about the insomnia, Aurora? My queen, you only feed the girl’s overactive imagination. Allow her to count the sheep until her eyes put her to rest.” I heard Father’s voice from the doorway and squeezed my eyes shut. His baritone voice reeked with good intentions, but I was incredibly disappointed by what he had to say.
“All right, dear,” Mother responded, but I knew she felt the same as I did. I heard Father’s footsteps grow farther and farther away before I felt a fleeting kiss on my cheek.
“You’re never too old for story time,” Mother murmured before she kissed my forehead sweetly. She then slid something cold and leathery in front of my chest, turned around and exited the room, humming softly. As soon as the door closed, I sat up in bed, desperate to see the gift left for me. It was an ornately decorated leather bound journal filled with slips of paper with jagged edges. Next to it, she had left a pencil, perfectly sharp and ready to be pressed into the paper. Written on the first page, in barely legible cursive, it read, “Stories, not sheep, will not only help you sleep but help you dream.” And that night, after filling pages to the brim with figments of my imagination, I fell into a deep slumber and dreamt of forever.
Sana Hameed is a teenage writer who has always adored listening to and weaving her own bedtime stories.