by Chelsea Thornton
Home, five years old.
The harsh truth was that Olivia’s mother had left her, to ash and dust. For the first time, she was alone. Asking a five-year-old to accept this as reality was like asking an elephant to be pink. Olivia actually had a pink elephant, but, as he was not real, perhaps he did not count. He was a soft pink plush with black buttons for eyes and a pastel blue bow on top of his head. When her mother asked her his name last year, she decided on the spot. His name was Po. And now, she desperately clung to Po as she, a princess, was kidnapped by bandits and taken far away from her kingdom.
The Coopers, five years old.
There was a bunk bed in her new room. The bedding was embroidered with bright pink and purple flowers, and the scent was that of freshly cleaned linen. But to Olivia, it was as perilous as being on a pirate ship. Her mind conjured the smells of the salty sea and the stench of pirates’ sweat. Arming herself with a toy broom as a sword, she and Po fought off the scoundrels that wished to make her their cabin boy. On deck, blades clashed, silver gleaming in blazing sunlight. One by one, pirates fell overboard as Olivia sent them down to Davy Jones’ Locker. When the pirates had been defeated, the sun was on the horizon, painting the sky and the sea blood red. At night, she cried. Her foster parents were in the other room screaming. But in Olivia’s make-believe world, they were Sirens out on the rocky coast, singing terrible songs to lure her to her doom.
The Taylors, six years old.
A wooden playset with yellow slides and green swings was situated in the corner of the perfectly manicured backyard. Olivia knew better than to think it was just any normal playset. It was a castle. It wasn’t hers, but it would do until she made it back home to her own kingdom where her mother must surely be anxiously awaiting her return. She and Po attended a royal ball in the great hall with other princes and princesses. A feast with jesters juggling and bards playing lutes, shawms, and tabor drums. Tea parties in the drawing room. From high up in the tower, she could see the gardens down below where horse-drawn carriages and knights in shining armor roamed. The day her foster brother came into the tower and pushed her, all Olivia could see was a fearsome dragon that knocked the whole thing down. It sent her tumbling over the edge, breaking her arm on the hard ground.
The Allens, six years old.
Dense woods stretched on for miles behind the house. Olivia was sure that if she could make it through the forest then she would be home. Her journey had been long and arduous, but she could be brave if it meant getting back to her mother where she belonged. Branches and thorns tugged and tore at her clothes as Po rested peacefully inside the bag on her back. One ripped at Po’s bow, prying it off his head. A fairy flew in her path, its wings pink and blue. Peeking through the canopy of trees above, the sun’s rays glistened on the delicate wings. Prismatic and iridescent, the lustrous colors changed to violet and green, transforming when seen in a different light. Olivia called out to the fairy for help, but it continued fluttering on its way. A pack of centaurs stampeded by, completely ignoring her cries. An ogre’s heavy footsteps shook the ground like an earthquake, forcing her to hide. Night fell like a heavy blanket, and she was lost. The man in the moon dropped his stars over the velvet sky, little twinkling promises.
The Millers, seven years old, a new home.
In this kingdom, the king and queen fought off pirates by Olivia’s side, joined her at tea parties, chased the fairies in the backyard with her. There were no Sirens here, no dragons, no ogres or scary forests. In an ephemeral kaleidoscope of reality and whimsy, she could distinguish the colors for what they truly were. She hoped her mother was no longer worrying about her; she was safe and happy here. The queen sewed a new bow onto Po’s head. Po said maybe this place wasn’t so bad. Perhaps she would stay awhile.
Chelsea Thornton is a BA student in English Literature at Nicholls State University. She is also an MS warrior and a trucker’s wife. Her husband sometimes whisks her away, and she gets to travel all around the United States. She spends her coffee-fueled late nights reading, writing, and hanging out with her dog and two cats. You can find her on Twitter: @chelseactually.