A/N- A modern adaptation of the Princess and the Pea fairy tale.

A Good Night's Sleep

Peeling off her fur coat, her haughty head raised high, the little princess surveyed the cluttered corridor and untidy kitchen. She made a little noise in the back of her throat, a tut of disapproval, as if she had been expecting a castle, and had found instead a sty. Absently, not even glancing at her host, she dropped the coat into Mrs Stewart's arms. Her daughter Stephanie grabbed the girl's hand, dragging her up the stairs excitedly.

"This is going to be so much fun," she squealed. "Come see my room, Moira!"

"Well, I guess for a while then," Moira said, and Mrs Stewart thought the words almost came out as a sigh. And what ten year old girl on a sleepover sighed? She had already decided then that this weekend was not going to be an easy one.

She was right.

At dinner, presented with pizza, Moira told her, "I don't eat pizza."

When watching videos, she said, "I only watch DVDS."

And when playing on the computer she informed her, "I won't use dial-up."

Mrs Stewart was starting to wonder about her daughter's choice of friends, and her sanity.

But the last straw was when, after playing dress-up, Moira marched in wearing plastic tiara and fairy wings and announced, "I've only got one mattress."

Mrs Stewart attempted to stay calm.

"There should be more?" she asked, her voice strained.

Moira raised her fairy wand. "Of course, I'm a princess. We're very delicate, and need at least ten mattresses."

Mrs Stewart turned away and fiddled with the coffee mugs so Moira wouldn't see her seething expression.

"I'd love to indulge you in your game, dear," she said in a voice that was a tad too light. "But that's not very practical, I'm afraid."

"Oh, it's not a game," Moira said seriously. "I have a bad back; it hurts terribly if I lie down on something hard. I've got a special bed at home."

Mrs Stewart stared at her. "We don't have ten mattresses," she said flatly.

"Oh, but I do," smiled Moira. "I've called Dad already. I just thought I'd better let you know."

Only a few minutes later, Moira's father was at the door, three men in uniform zipping up the stairs with what looked like twenty- rather than ten- mattresses. The father looked around with an expression all too similar to the daughter's.

"Council?" he asked disapprovingly, standing by Mrs Stewart's side.

"Y-yes," she stammered. Like her baffled daughter, she felt as if she was in another world, and it was a herd of elephants, rather than mattresses, that stampeded past.

By bedtime their visitors had left, leaving in Stephanie's bedroom a mattress monstrosity, a precarious leaning tower built by the window, garishly coloured and horrific to look at. But they just couldn't tear their eyes away.

"Goose, not duck," Moira explained to Stephanie, who nodded dumbly.

After brushing her teeth rigorously, she commented snidely to Mrs Stewart that, "I hope you're swept the floor recently. I feel every lump and bump, you know. Once a comb got wedged between the layers; I couldn't sleep at all. I have such terrible trouble sleeping, you know…"

Something in Mrs Stewart snapped. She smiled widely.

"Then why don't we have a test?" she asked. "To see if you're a real princess." Moira nodded eagerly; she'd dreamt princess dreams every night of her life.

"Something small then," Mrs Stewart pondered, "underneath the bottom mattress…. how about a saucer?"

Moira scoffed. "I'm more of a princess than that. Use a pea."

And so, in this way, Mrs Stewart pretended to place a pea under her bottom mattress.

"Why are you only pretending?" Stephanie asked, puzzled.

Mrs Stewart pressed a finger to her lips. "It's a test," was all she would say.

Moira barrelled in, issuing commandments; leave the door open, turn the light off, open the window wide- and only then did the princess ascend her throne. She climbed the mattress mountain and settled down amongst her dozen duvets, wriggling around to get comfy

Stephanie leant closer to her mother.

"Well? Did she pass the test?" she whispered. Mrs Stewart motioned her silent again.


"Oh, what a lump!" Moira lamented from atop the mountain. "It goes straight through!" A pause, and then she asked, "Did I pass?"

"Nope," said Mrs Stewart, and with only her little toe, prodded the mattresses. Like a jelly, they quivered and wivered, wobbled and bobbled, and then swung to the side- straight out the window. Moira screamed all three floors down.

Stephanie rushed to the windowsill and looked down, but quickly withdrew, cringing.

"Mum- I—"

Mrs Stewart cut her off.

"A tragic accident. A mattress meltdown," she sung, and she smiled a satisfied smile. She too looked down. "Though, in a way, she got what she always wanted."

"What?" Stephanie asked, shaking.

"A good night's sleep. She'll be able to sleep as much as she wants, now. And without any mattresses at all!"