2. Princess Monthly Magazine

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You'd think because this was a fairy tale world, magic would be so common it would literally grow on trees, or you could pick up a bushel from the crooked-nosed crone at the weekend farmers' market. But as it turns out, this wasn't the case. Very few possessed enough magic to levitate even a feather.

Which is why there was only one person who could help Ashley with her disappearing prince problem—her fairy godmother. Ashley jangled the magical silver summoning bell on the bedside table and said: "ring Maxine, please." The bell had been enchanted eons ago by a traveling magician, to be heard only by the person the ringer wanted to summon. A few moments later came the tinny knock of Maxine's wand rapping on the door.

"Come in," Princess Ashley said, arranging the snowy skirts of her nightdress on the velvet fainting couch.

Her fairy godmother, in a flannel nightgown with matching cap, a magazine tucked under her arm, stepped inside using her wand as a cane. Her braid skimmed the floor as she struggled to drop into a curtsy. "Give me a moment," the old woman said. Her legs trembled, and her knees popped as she stood.

Ashley shook her golden head. "Maxine, must we go through this every time?"

"You're a princess now. I must curtsy, or you might send me to the dungeon or part my head from my neck."

"What say you if I part your head from your neck for continuing this nonsense?"

"I say my knees would thank you more than my neck," Maxine said.

"Good. No more groveling and your majestying. I'll have the royal ax sharpened in case you don't comply."

"Better than beheading by blunt ax," Maxine rasped, then had a coughing fit. Ashley patted her gently on the back. The curtseying really had to stop.

"Come, sit." Ashley yielded her spot on the fainting couch and poured Maxine a jewel-encrusted chalice of contraband whiskey from the jug she kept in the bedside cabinet. Ashley found whiskey to be a helpful, yet temporary (and often headache-inducing) antidote to the long nights spent alone with the aforementioned evil wallpaper.

Maxine settled onto the couch with a series of bone creaks and pops. Ashley offered her the whiskey. "Thank you, my child." Before taking the chalice, Maxine removed the magazine from under her arm and set it on the coffee table. "Your lady's maid asked that I give you this. I believe it's the new issue of Princess Monthly with your interview."

Ashley groaned. "I do hope I didn't say anything stupid." She glanced down at the glossy cover depicting a princess with sheets of glossy black hair beside a dashing prince. Arms wrapped around one another on a royal bed, they wore nothing but crowns and smiles. Seeing this couple so happy and in love, was a dagger of envy piercing her heart. "Ugh!" She hurled the magazine onto the bed.

"No reason to be that upset. I'm sure you didn't say anything embarrassing," Maxine said, totally missing the real reason for Ashley's grief. "Don't worry. Have you read any of the interviews in past issues? The princess from the kingdom of Atlantis listed the ten most beguiling uses for a fork, and the princess from Xanthe spent the whole time discussing hair care."

It was sweet that Maxine was trying to cheer her up. "Well, I'm sure she has lovely hair," Ashley said, diplomatically, wondering about the 10 uses of a fork. She could only think of 8.

Maxine chugged the contents of her chalice and wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her nightgown. "Ahhhh, just what the apothecary ordered."

Time to be honest with Maxine about why she summoned her at this late hour. "Max, I'm really sorry to bother you, but I'm hoping you can help me with something. It's important, or I promise I wouldn't ask."

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