When I was young, a little mouse told me stories of beautiful young princesses who were swept off their feet by handsome, strong princes and carried away into their happily ever after. The women were perfect, pure and never dated more than one man before finding love and happiness. The men were romantic, brave, good looking and kind gentlemen. They were the perfect couple with the perfect story. It was only predictable that I would long to be a princess from these stories; I wanted the magic, the love, the fairy tale. It was clear to me that this path was what I needed to follow in life to be happy. Everything turned out perfect for these beautiful girls so this must be right, right? This was how every single story went when I played with my pretty plastic dolls. My favourite doll (that I gave my own name) would meet and become head over heels in love with a wonderful, handsome man (the only male doll I had) that would quickly become her husband after a beautiful big white wedding. Not long after that they’d have precious well-behaved children who never fought with each other and seemed to stay the same age forever. Of course they’d have careers that they loved straight out of school, no experience needed. They’d all live in a small but warm house with a big backyard for the one or two dogs they would get for the kids. They’d holiday in beautiful foreign countries and see the world. And then when the kids grew up and they retired, they would live happily together enjoying each others company. The perfect future. The fairy tale. Everything I thought I needed in life to be happy.
As I grew up and put away my dolls, the little mouse still sat on my shoulder, whispering in my ear, reminding me of the “true” path to happiness. At thirteen, I was already on my way with a handsome, loving and strong boy, my prince. I always thought to myself how lucky I was to have him, especially when I looked around and saw his competition. All the other boys did not share my fantasy nor had directions to the path I wished to follow. They were told a different fairy tale, one with busty half-clothed women falling to their knees in awe of the perfect muscly male presence, the women willing to do anything to satisfy his desires. It was like being surrounded by hungry dogs, drooling from the mouth, eyes wide as they begged for the piece of meat on offer to them. But not my man, he was the rose among the pricks, the prince I was looking for. We had found each other and I had one foot off the ground ready to be swept away to my happily ever after.
We walked hand-in-hand for many years down the path, never wavering from it. With every step our love only grew stronger. At 21, much older than the princesses in the little mouse’s stories, the prince suddenly stopped and stepped in front of me. He looked me deep in my eyes and time could have stopped in that moment. It was just me and him, a two words that lingered in the air…“marry me?” This was the moment I (and the little mouse) had been waiting for since I was a little girl. I was finally going to be the princess that I longed to be, finally going to be swept off my feet and finally have the perfect fairy tale ending. The little mouse jumped up and down on my shoulder in excitement. I was so happy, I cried.
With a renewed sense of love, a bright sparkling diamond on my left hand and a future in our sights, we continued down the path to my happily ever after and yet every now and then I saw this path diverge and my curiosity grew. Why would the right path diverge? At first, I looked to the little mouse and he shook his head, nothing off the main path was able to bring me the happiness this one would. I listened. But with each glimpse of this divergence, it seemed to pull me closer. The little mouse was getting restless with my curiosity and began screaming, I was scared and unsure, then all of a sudden my prince took my hand and stepped off the path with me and to my surprise, my fear disappeared and my eyes widened. The little mouse began to have a tantrum, stomping his feet and crying that we had left the path when we were so close to our happily ever after, but this felt right, something I needed to do…so I duct-taped the little mouse’s big mouth shut.
All of a sudden the world looked different; there were so many more colours, smells, sounds, feelings and I wanted to experience it all. This new world called to me, like sirens, drawing me closer and closer to temptation, a story that the little mouse never warned me about and no longer could. The prince and I walked together down the path meeting many different creatures on our way that each unlocked a new door in this foreign world. Alas, temptation is not always pure, some creatures that we met were not good experiences, but ones we learnt from. There was a tiny fairy that hovered annoyingly around the prince, a nymph that disappeared in the daylight, a goblin that masked who he truly was until he got what he wanted, a squib that lied about his magical ability and a dwarf that stalked the princess. But prince and I were never disheartened, we stayed together and helped each other down the path in hopes that this world would yield something good.
That’s when we met our mermaid. She was beautiful, tanned with long, dark hair that covered her smooth bare chest, her eyes were warm and mysterious and her laugh was like a song. There was something about her that enchanted me. She made me feel curious, confident, excited, adventurous, beautiful…everything the prince made me feel. I didn’t think it possible to find another that made me feel this way. I was scared and confused but my prince knew something I didn’t. He brought my hand to his lips and kissed it, holding it tight then letting go and I dove into the sea with her. It was a rush, so different, yet so exciting. The second I went under the surface, it felt like a home I had been longing for but never knew. This was what was missing from my fairy tale…I need her. She taught me about her world, we played, we laughed, we kissed, we snuggled, we loved. I was part of her world and she was part of mine. I could breathe and swim with ease, it was only when we kissed that my breath was taken away. We spent every day together, frolicking in the waves and on the sand. When I returned to land, I missed her terribly and couldn’t wait to return, and one day while looking into her deep warm brown eyes, I realised…I love her…but I still had my prince…and just like that my heart belonged to two.
How was this possible? The little mouse told me over and over how to achieve my fairy tale and yet having he and her makes me feel more myself, happier than I ever was before. My prince and my mermaid get along and know I need them both in my life. They love and accept me for who I was, who I am and who I’m going to be. They have together swept me off my feet so much so that I feel like I can fly. They are both my happily ever afters.
I had been caught in the little mouse’s trap. I was so transfixed and hypnotised by his stories that I never considered there was more than one path to my fairy tale. I was young and naïve to have listened for so long. Happiness and love are not things that are predestined but something you find along your journey, and I am so glad that I went down the diverged path and found these treasures. Who cares that it’s not a classic fairy tale, it’s mine and I couldn’t ask for a better plot.