Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a beautiful princess. To be honest, that’s stretching the truth somewhat; she was a very plain girl and, technically, she was a witch.
Let’s start again.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a plain witch. She lived in a modest hut in the middle of a great forest. The hut had been left to her by her parents who died when she was barely old enough to look after herself. But look after herself she did, and her little brother.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on what you think of the following information – the witch’s little brother was now a rabbit. The little brother, having no parents to discipline him, had become something of a little tearaway and spent his days tormenting the plain witch with the special kind of venom that little brothers reserve for their big sisters. He had smashed every mirror in the place by the time he was eight. When his big sister complained he said, “Well, you don’t need them, do you? You’re plain!”
One day, the plain witch was mixing a potion to change toads into rabbits for a special stew planned for that evening.
“What’s that horrible smell?” the little brother said, screwing up his scrawny face in a scowl. He had come in from playing with a magnifying glass he had found in the woods. It had a solid silver handle set with sapphires.
“It’s a potion to change toads into rabbits for a special stew planned for this evening,” the plain witch replied, her face turning pink over the heat of her bubbling cauldron.
“It smells like poo,” said the little brother. “If you think I’m going to eat anything that’s been covered in that you’ve got another thing coming. I’m going out to play.”
“Suit yourself,” said the plain witch, and then, under her breath, “it’s not for you, anyway.”
The little brother, who had reached the door of the hut by now, stopped and turned to his big sister, his face twisting into a wicked smile. “Are you making a special stew for your boyfriend?”
The plain witch felt her fingers dig into her palms on hearing the special emphasis her little brother put on the word ‘boyfriend’. Very quietly, she said, “he’s not my boyfriend.”
“I’m not surprised. Even if you were beautiful, which you’re not, princes like him only go out with princesses, not witches. The last thing I heard was that Prince Wilfred was dating a princess from Paris.”
“Who said anything about going out with him?” muttered the plain witch.
The little brother’s eyes suddenly widened. “That’s not just any old special stew, is it?” He was excited now, advancing towards the bubbling cauldron. “It’s daddy’s special rabbit stew, isn’t it? The one he used to make when mummy had a headache?”
The plain witch forced a smile, turning pink. ”That’s the one.”
“What did daddy call it again? ‘Bunny Shove’ or something? What was it? Bunny Dove? Bunny Glove?”
“It was called ‘Bunny Love’,” the plain witch said, turning even pinker.
“Oh my! You’re not even planning on going out with him, are you? You just want to make bunny love with him!”
“Okay, that’s enough,” said the witch, barely audible over her little brother’s jeers.
“Bunny love, bunny love, bunny love,” the little brother sang, swinging the magnifying glass as he danced around the cauldron, getting closer and closer to it.
“Be careful, little brother,” said the plain witch, but her brother paid her no attention.
“Bunny love,” he sang again, but this time he caught his sleeve on a large, black rivet that fastened on the cauldron’s handle. “Bunny – oh shit!”
Over the cauldron went, spilling foul, green liquid onto the little brother. Instantly, his skin blistered and melted away. He dropped the magnifying glass and the stones shattered into a million pieces. His screams shook the very foundations of the hut and he disappeared as the cauldron tipped right over on top of him.
The plain witch didn’t quite know what to do. On one hand, she rather enjoyed seeing her little brother scalded by the foul, green liquid but on the other there was a lot of cleaning up to do. When she finally managed to tip the cauldron back up onto its bottom, her little brother’s scalded skin had been replaced by snowy, white fur. He was a rabbit now, and he scampered around the hut, making little bunny sounds. The plain witch decided that she liked him much more this way even though he did smell a bit of poo.
“Well, little brother,” she said, with a smile on her face. “I guess you were a little toad after all.”
Years passed, and the plain witch got used to having a bit more peace and quiet around the place. The few friends she had loved her pet rabbit despite getting the odd sapphire splinter from stroking his fur.
No one missed her little brother.
Weeks later, when the plain witch was doing the housework, she remembered two things. The first thing was that, as a girl, she had fancied the pants off a very hunky prince who lived in a castle not far from the edge of the great forest. What had happened to him, she wondered? The second thing was that she had not seen her rabbit for quite some time.
She looked and looked, then looked some more. It was no use; she couldn’t find a picture of the hunky prince anywhere. Oh, yes, and she must have a look for her rabbit…
That very same day, the plain witch decided to go to the castle not far from the edge of the great forest, and see how well time had treated the hunky prince. She packed a few clothes, a freshly-brewed love potion (just in case), and a pet carrier before setting off towards the castle on her broomstick. Having no mother to teach her how to fly on a broomstick, she had fitted it with a super-charged V-8 engine, six-speed manual gearbox, and parking sensors.
She arrived at the edge of the great forest the next day, picking bits of bush out of her hair, and wishing she had also fitted headlamps and brakes. It had been a long drive through the night but she felt surprisingly perky.
As she stepped out onto the road that ran around the great forest she saw the most beautiful horseless carriage she had ever seen. This was in fact the only horseless carriage she had ever seen but it was pretty beautiful all the same. The plain witch took a few steps towards the beautiful carriage to better admire it and realised that it was in fact lopsided. The carriage was jacked up on one side and looking a bit sorry for itself.
“Come on, you bugger!” said a voice from under the carraige, sounding more than a little angry.
“Hello?” called out the witch, bending down to look under the beautiful carriage. “Can I help at all?”
A man wheeled himself out from underneath the beautiful carriage. Suddenly, the beautiful carriage didn’t seem that beautiful anymore. The man was an absolute stud, the witch decided, and she felt her tummy do a little somersault as he stood up and bowed to her. The man had jet-black hair with white sideburns, thick, black eyebrows, electric-blue eyes, and a well-groomed goatee. Stripped to the waist, his sturdy neck joined onto broad shoulders atop a nicely designed torso. He flashed her a smile whiter than the whitest rabbit’s fur – oh yes, she must have a look for that rabbit – and said “not unless you can strip down, steam-clean, and reassemble a V-8 engine in under three hours.”
The plain witch smiled back. “How about two?”
The man raised one thick, black eyebrow, and smiled even wider, even whiter. “You can do that?”
“Do you have to be somewhere?”
“Then let’s go.”
The plain witch finished the job in under an hour, with plenty of elbow grease and a dollop of low-level magic. Nothing too flashy, she thought to herself. I don’t want to scare him off.
Another thirty minutes and the plain witch was sitting next to the man as he drove the carriage down the road. He was driving fast and the plain witch wondered where he had to be in such a hurry.
“So,” she said. “Where do you have to be in such a hurry?”
“I have to pick someone up and take them to a ball at the castle. Would you like to come along?”
“Oh, I’m not sure I have anything to wear,” said the witch, trying to remember a glamour spell.
“You look just great to me. Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“Look at me, I’m covered in grease and oil!” she complained.
“Works for me,” said the man, and he gave her a saucy wink.
The plain witch couldn’t help but let out a throaty laugh. “Are you flirting with me?”
The man didn’t have time to reply. They had reached their destination. The plain witch looked out of the window at the grand house they had arrived at and her heart sank. The most gorgeous girl she had ever seen was running down the path to the carriage. The gorgeous girl was blonde, with blue eyes, and her body was a work of art. Panting, the gorgeous girl climbed into the carriage and snapped “drive!”
The carriage roared away from the house and the gorgeous girl waved back at an older, boot-faced woman and two very ugly girls who looked like they could have been sisters.
They didn’t wave back.
“See you, bitches!” the gorgeous girl called out. “Don’t wait up for me!”
The plain witch decided that the gorgeous girl was probably a bit of a bitch herself.
They soon arrived at the castle. The plain witch sank down in her seat when she saw the paparazzi lined up along the red carpet. Bulbs popped and screams rang out as the gorgeous girl got out of the carriage, without so much as a ‘thank you’, and worked her stuff on the red carpet.
“What a bitch,” muttered the man, shaking his head. “One glamour spell and she thinks she can marry the prince. Come on, let’s go and get something to eat.”
The plain witch wasn’t sure she’d be able to eat. Every time she looked at the man the somersaults in her tummy started again.
Soon they arrived at the back of the castle and pulled up in front of a large outbuilding. The man got out of the carriage and opened the door for the plain witch.
“My lady,” he smiled again. “Your dinner awaits.”
“Can I just wash up first?” the plain witch said. “I must look dreadful.”
“You don’t,” said the man, gazing at her. “But of course you can.”
She almost felt naked when he looked at her. “How long have I got?” the plain witch said.
“Quite a while, I’m afraid,” the man said. “I’m just back from a hunting trip in the forest so I have to cook everything from scratch.”
Moments later, the plain witch opened the door to the bathroom, stepped inside, and turned on the light. As soon as she saw herself in the floor-length mirror she gasped. She was plain, really, very plain indeed. Oh well, she thought. Nothing changes, especially me.
Dinner was sumptuous. The man was a good cook and the plain witch couldn’t help but eat his food, even though her tummy continued to be filled with little, free-wheeling somersaults.
After dinner they sat by the fire. The plain witch looked at the man for a long time, trying to work him out.
“What are you looking at?” he said, the wide, white smile returning.
“Who are you?” said the plain witch. “I don’t know anything about you. I don’t even know your name.”
“Well,” said the man. “You know that I’m no good with engines, I drive too fast, I dislike flashy women, I hunt, and I’m a great cook.” He leaned closer to her. The plain witch could feel the warmth of his face on hers, warmer than the fire. “Isn’t that enough?”
“Yes, I know all those things,” said the plain witch. “And I also know you’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”
“And you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, inside and out.”
The plain witch laughed and punched him the shoulder. “Oh please! I’ve seen myself in the mirror. I am plain, really, very plain indeed.”
The man laughed and punched her on the shoulder. “Oh please! That’s an Insecurity Mirror. It shows you your deepest insecurities. I’ve been meaning to throw it out for ages. The bathroom is no place for a mirror like that. Take another look in it tomorrow morning and you might be surprised.”
“Will I still be here tomorrow?” said the plain witch, not believing one word about the mirror.
“If you’ll stay, I’d be very happy,” smiled the man. He turned and led the way to the bedroom. Following him, the plain witch threw the love potion she had been carrying into the fire.
The next morning, the plain witch woke up, slipped into a dressing gown, and padded out onto the lawn of the outbuilding.
She soaked in the morning sun, felt the dew-soaked grass ticking her toes, and stubbed her toe on a pet carrier. She picked it up and popped it into the garage before continuing her walk in the grounds.
The sound of sobbing rose up from a mulberry bush. When she investigated, she discovered the gorgeous girl from the carriage last night. She was looking decidedly unhappy, scruffy, and quite, quite plain.
“What’s wrong?” asked the plain witch, offering the girl a hand up.
“Oh, it’s all so horrible! I really thought I was in with a chance last night. I looked great, my dress rocked, and everyone wanted to get in my knickers.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“At midnight it all went tits-up! My makeup ran, by dress ripped, and I lost my knickers.”
“Hmm,” said the witch. “Not good.”
“That’s the understatement of the effing year,” said the girl, suddenly angry. She rounded on the plain witch, her face ugly with rage. “It’s so unfair. Last night I looked fabulous and you looked like a witch.”
“I am a-”
“I bet you’re loving this, aren’t you? I spend all night trying to bed the prince, get preggers, and force him to marry me and you’ve, shagged him!” She jabbed a finger towards the outbuilding. “How did you do it? He spends most of his time poking around carriages. He’s obsessed with them. I wouldn’t mind but he’s rubbish with them. That man hasn’t poked a woman in years. Everyone thought he was a fairy, and I’m not talking about the magical variety!”
The plain witch’s mouth fell open in wonder. “I just stripped down-”
“Oh, I bet you did!” roared the once-gorgeous girl. “Look at you, with your beautiful face and your fit body! Where did you come from anyway? I’ve never seen you before and I never forget a pretty face because they usually mean competition.”
“I’m from the forest.”
The once-gorgeous girl pulled another horrible face. “Are you a wood nymph? You are, aren’t you? A bloody wood nymph! You come round here, with your sexy wood nymph looks and steal the one man-”
“Is there a problem?” a voice asked.
Both women jumped and turned around to see the man walking towards them. When he got to the plain witch he put his arm around her shoulders and planted a kiss on her head.
The once-gorgeous girl curtseyed very low. “No, your majesty. No problem at all, King Sebastian.”
The plain witch suddenly went very still. She opened her mouth, closed it, and it fell open again.
“Then be on your way,” the King said.
The girl backed away from them, still bowing low, and was gone.
“Darling,” the King said, placing a finger over the plain witch’s lips. “I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you earlier but I wanted to make sure that your feelings for me were true. So many women in this kingdom want me for the advatages of marriage, I haven’t dated for years.”
“But… this house… the castle…”
“Let’s just say that I loathe flashy houses even more than flashy women. My brother, Wilfred, likes the place so I let him use it as a bachelor pad. To be honest, he needs it now he’s lost his looks.”
The plain witch laughed her deep, throaty laugh, remembering something . “I came here to see what time had done to him. I had the biggest crush on him as a girl. I didn’t even know he had a brother.”
Sebastian laughed then, too. “Well, I was the plain one in the family, and didn’t get much attention, but I grew into my looks. Now, I must go at once to the castle; I’ve had word that Wilfred has had a bad fall. Apparently, he tripped over a glass slipper while chasing a bit of skirt at midnight.” He planted a kiss on her lips. It was a warm, deep kiss. “Now, you go and take a bath while I attend to matters at the castle. I won’t be long.”
The plain witch wandered back to the house in a daze. She climbed the stairs, opened the door to the bathroom, stepped inside, and turned on the light. As soon as she saw herself in the floor-length mirror she gasped.
She was beautiful, really, very beautiful indeed.
But her bum did look a bit big.