We were just normal American college students that decided to do something fun for spring break. Cayla had a friend that lived in Paris and was willing to let the three of us sleep in the floor of her apartment for a week or so. She even promised to show us the sights and act as a translator because none of us spoke a word of French. I really wasn't too keen on going – France just wasn't my thing – but Rachel informed me that I had to go or she would turn me into a mongoose. According to the laws of physics she wouldn't be able to do that but being her roommate I didn't want to take chances.
So I found myself en-route Paris with my luggage God-knows-where (can never trust those baggage handlers) and a barf-bag between my knees. I was the worst flyer. Rachel and Cayla prattled non-stop on the way over, discussing the sights we would see and how we would most definitely return with a foreign French lover to write to every week. Obviously they were joking – the last thing we would ever do is have a one-night stand with a stranger. But it was fun to joke about; just like how we all got a big laugh out of the condoms Rachel left on my desk for my first date. I never knew what happened to them after that. She probably shoved them into a dusty nook in the closet and forgot about them.
Don't get me wrong: we are interested in guys. But it's just that we weren't interested in that way. So we joked and laughed about a spring fling without any real intention of anything happening. And I kept my eyes on the seat in front of me and prayed for the flight to be over.
Yvette met us at the airport, jumping up and down and waving. She had long blond hair that reached her waist.
"ELLO!" she cried, "Cayla! Good to see youuuu again!"
Cayla, a short girl with curly brown-blond hair went running through the crowd and the two hugged. I merely concentrated on walking in a straight line.
"And this must be Kelsey and Rachel," Yvette crooned, hugging both of us in turn, "You ready to go get your luggage?"
I nodded, still queasy, and we followed her through the airport to the baggage claim area. Amazingly, all our suitcases made it over intact though rather disordered from being searched through in customs.
"You ready to go to my apartment now?" the girl questioned.
We nodded and she led the way to where her car was parked, the babble of French voices thick around us. I tried to not stare. I didn't want to seem like an idiot American too much. It was bad enough that I didn't speak the lingo; there was no point in looking like a tourist to top it off.
Cayla had never mentioned what Yvette did as a job but I immediately concluded it was something that paid a lot. Her car was a sleek silver sports car – I had no idea what kind – but it was obviously fast, mobile, and expensive. We threw our bags into the trunk and I got in the back with Rachel. Yvette started the car and I noticed that it was a standard transmission. I started to feel my discomfort slip away at the reassurance that here I was superior to my two friends. They could only drive automatics.
So what more can I say about Paris? It was elegant, extravagant, and crowded. It seemed people were everywhere as we traveled through the city, all talking in a foreign language, all busy going somewhere. The sky was a perfect color and the air was a perfect temperature. Cute little shops lined the streets – it was like something out of a dream. I was glued to the window and almost tripped up the steps leading to Yvette's apartment.
We only had enough time to drop our luggage before she whisked us out the door.
"But we have sooo much to see!" she exclaimed, herding us out the door, "Let's go shopping!"
I blinked like a dumb little sheep and followed the shepherd, her blond hair swinging in the sunlight as she led the way.
Cayla and Rachel adjusted immediately. They talked and chattered and pointed out things to each other. Just like at home. I felt like I had just been replaced by Yvette and retreated into myself like I always did in strange situations. I hung near the back, just watching, taking in the sights and the noise. Thus distracted it was obvious why I was the only one who saw the dog. I was the only one being observant enough to notice.
He was a beautiful thing. Pure black Labrador with golden eyes. He had a dingy robe tied around his neck which connected him to a pole near the door to a café. No one came near him and it was quickly obvious why – he barked and snapped and snarled at every passerby.
'Well no wonder,' I thought, 'that leash is much too tight.'
I glanced over at my friends. They were engrossed elsewhere. With a shrug I walked over to the dog. I could find my way back to the apartment fine if they continued on.
He growled as I approached.
"Hey, its alright, I'm not going to hurt you," I whispered.
He stopped growling immediately, his golden eyes lighting up with something. Hope?
I knelt before him and fiddled with the rope, loosening the knot and putting some slack into the loop.
"There, you can breath now."
He whined and pawed at my hand as I took it away from the rope, his eyes pleading me to remove the rope entirely.
"Sorry, but I can't do that," I whispered.
I looked up to see a rather irate man, tall with gelled back black hair. My heart skipped a couple beats. He was handsome. I slowly stood and he gestured to the dog.
"Um, I don't speak French," I mumbled, "Um, Je…. ne parle …..français?"
He scowled at me and roughly untied the dog from the pole who whined plaintively and stared at me with golden eyes.
"Sorry," I whispered as the man drug him off, the dog balking and glancing back at me in desperation.
I heard it plain as day in my mind. I froze, staring at the obsidian pelt and deep honey-gold eyes.
"What did you say?" I whispered.
'Help me. No one else will – I don't speak French either.'
I swallowed hard. This was unreal. Absolutely unreal.
'Save me. Only you can. You were sent here to save me – this is how these things work. You'll save me from this enchantment. It'll be dangerous but these things always are.'
"What do you mean?" I whispered, still not moving, just watching the man hurry down the street with the dog.
'No time. Help me!'
"Shit," I muttered and broke into a run.
Yvette and my two friends were nearby. I skidded to a stop beside them, tapping Yvette on her shoulder.
"You got your car keys?" I asked.
She absently dug in her purse and half-pulled them out, looking confused.
"Thanks," I said, and snatched them out of her hand.
I ignored her frantic cries and took off running after the man. I stopped behind him and rapped him on the shoulder, hard. I could see another man with brown hair from the right detach himself from the wall and start walking in our direction.
"Asshole," I replied, and punched him in the gut.
He doubled over, dropping the rope of the dog. The Labrador tore off running down the street as the brown-haired man took off after him. He was drawing a gun as he ran.
"Shit," I muttered, and took off after the dog who slowed to match my pace.
The two men were yelling now, not too far behind.
"You're going to get me killed," I muttered.
'The heroine never gets killed,' the dog replied.
"Yeah, tell that to me after we're safe," I retorted, turning a corner and heading to where the car was parked.
I fumbled with the keys, finally unlocking it and throwing myself in. The dog leaped over my lap to settle into the passenger side seat. I turned the engine over and gave it gas, letting the clutch out and squealing the tires as I pulled out onto the road. Gun shots rang out and people started screaming.
"Hell! You're just a…. telepathic dog! Why would they be upset?" I snapped, shifting up to second gear, accelerating hard.
'Get us out of the city.'
"I'm trying! I don't know my way around here!"
"People are in the way – I'll have to stop."
I swerved hard, pulling into the wrong lane to get around the pedestrians who screamed as I roared past, the engine revving up way too high. I shifted into third.
"We're going to get arrested," I muttered, my hands knuckles white on the wheel..
'Keep driving. They have cars too.'
"Who are these people who are after you?"
'They were assigned by the wizard to keep me away from the heroine.'
"Wizards? I'm going to wind up in a nuthouse."
'You aren't insane, I assure you that.'
I didn't reply, noting the trace of amusement in his voice.
"Alright, I'm not insane. I'm only talking to a telepathic dog who is talking about heroines and wizards. And now we have two cars on our tail. Hang on."
I took a left turn, jerking the wheel hard and squealing the tires. Fourth gear. Weaving in and out of traffic, not braking, using the sidewalk quite liberally, people leaping out of the way.
"So why is this wizard trying to keep you away from me?"
'Not you, but any girl who will break the curse. Any girl who is compassionate and brave enough to rescue me.'
'I'm a prince. I was turned into this form by the evil wizard who killed my parents.'
"This is the year 2003. There are no princes and evil wizards," I replied.
'There are. Most people just don't look hard enough. You lost one of our pursuers.'
"I know. Are we almost out of the city?"
'Not quite. Loose this car and then we should be safe.'
I jammed into a lower gear and braked, hard, making an illegal u-turn and peeling off in the opposite direction, the engine reaching the red in rpm's. I swerved around another turn and shifted back up into fourth gear.
"This car is going to be trash after I'm done."
'I'll get you a new one when I'm human again.'
"So what kind of prince are you? Where's your castle?"
'It's in Maine. More of a mansion than a castle. My parents owned a rather lucrative business in England but they feared for my safety so they sent me to live with my aunt in America. Then the wizard came and found me anyways.'
"Are you a recognized prince? Like the British royalty?"
He sounded amused when he replied.
'No, I am an old-fashioned prince from the days when everyone knew about us. Turn left here.'
I obeyed, noting that we had lost our pursuers.
"So why is this wizard after you?"
'Power. Greed. And because he's evil. Like usual.'
'Just like the reasons you are rescuing me? Out of the goodness of your pure heart, a damsel fair braving all dangers for the enchanted prince.'
"That and I'm an idiot."
'And you are falling in love with me.'
"Like hell I am."
'Then why do you keep glancing at my eyes? They are this gold as a human.'
I fell silent and concentrated on my driving, the back of my neck prickling. Any minute I expected to hear the sirens of a police car or a gunshot of our pursuers. But there was nothing and we eventually reached the outskirts of Paris and made our way onto a long stretch of road leading to the countryside.
We didn't talk as we made our way out of the city to where the houses trickled away into rolling hillsides.
'Pull off onto that dirt road,' he instructed.
I slowed and turned, no longer having to tear the poor car apart in our mad getaway. I drove down it in silence until it came to a small pond sheltered by a couple trees. There I stopped and killed the engine. The dog pawed at the door handle and hopped out. I slowly sighed and followed. He ran over to the water and leaped upon a tree stump, gazing at me imperiously.
"So now what?" I asked.
'My love's kiss will return me to normal.'
"I'm not in love with you. You're a dog."
'You have to be. You are my heroine. These things always work this way.'
I shook my head, staring at the ground.
"This is real life. I'm a practical sensible girl. I don't have wild things like this – I don't fall in love with someone over nothing."
'You are to be my princess.'
'Just try. If you kiss me and nothing happens you can go on your way and I'll wait for my true love.'
I sighed heavily, closing my eyes. I could hear my friend's voices in the back of my head, nagging me with questions about whether he was cute or not and urging me to go on ahead and kiss him.
"Alright. But you better not slobber on me."
I walked over and knelt before the dog, not looking into his golden eyes. I leaned forwards, closed my eyes, and placed a gentle kiss on the whiskery snout.
It all happened in a heartbeat. Golden warmth flooded the two of us, something tearing at my heart and causing it to beat faster than I could dream. I opened my eyes and saw him. He was tall with brown hair and golden eyes. He smiled at me and it seemed that stars danced like a crown around the silver coronet he wore.
"I told you this real," he said, his voice a promise.
"I'm a normal girl," I whispered, "I don't fall in love in a whim."
He pulled me close, turning my face up to kiss him again, a deep lingering kiss that seemed to shrink the world around us to nothingness.
"But," he said, taking my hands in his, "This is a fairy tale. And fairy tales always end this way."
Happily ever after.