Note: Of all the stories in this collection, this is the only one with a homosexual plot. Just so you know. If you don't like that, just skip to the next story and read from there, since none of them are connected.
The delicious Candy Kingdom was ruled by an ageing Queen, whose patience with her single daughter was growing thin. The Candy people needed to be led by someone who wasn't crumbling around the edges but Princess Sweetheart couldn't rule without being married. It just wasn't done.
Like the inhabitants of her kingdom, Princess Sweetheart was made of sugar and was as sweet and syrupy as one would expect from a princess. She was short and pretty with yellow hair and eyes the colour of green jelly beans. Not a day went by that she did not wear an elaborate, elegant and over-extravagant dress which looked good on her and really made the princess stand out. Her attitude was a little airy and naïve, but the Candy people were overly fond of her.
The Queen, exhausted by her many years in power, finally declared that she was going to take a well-deserved holiday to the ski resort at Marshmallow Mountain. Princess Sweetheart would be in charge while she was gone, and the Queen warned her that she had better find someone to marry by the time she returned. So, after seeing her mother off to the coach, Princess Sweetheart ordered her butler to send out a royal invitation to all the eligible bachelors in the land to meet her at the palace.
The men arrived in droves. All knew of Princess Sweetheart and wanted to have their chance at wedding such a delicate young lady. They gathered in the great hall, and a band struck up – as bands do – prompting a merry atmosphere fit for dancing. The hall had been decorated for the occasion with golden streamers handing from the high ceiling and the lights of the large chandeliers dimmed to set a romantic atmosphere. A team of royal servants were stationed at the entrance to greet the guests, who were all impressed at the décor.
Some of the men who couldn't find their chance to introduce themselves to the princess offered to dance with her ladies-in-waiting, who gladly obliged. Princess Sweetheart scuttled around the hall, nervous as a cornered doe. The men intimidated her. She had always been afraid of men, ever since she was young. It had created many problems for her, and she blamed her phobia for the rift that grew between her and her mother.
"Care to dance, my lady?" a tall, moustached gentleman offered the gentle princess. His voice was purposefully low. He was dressed sharply, with a pocket watch on a gold chain and impressively polished shoes. He wore his midnight black hair a little longer than the rest of the men in the hall and had soft, almost feminine features to his face. Princess Sweetheart was surprised that she accepted his offer to dance, and attributed it to his effeminate physique.
The man held her close to his body as they whirled around the marble floor in a sweeping waltz. Princess Sweetheart felt her heart flutter as he whispered in her ear how beautiful she was. They spoke as they danced; she learned his name was Claude, he had no family and had travelled to meet her from Strawberry Valley. He made her laugh, listened to her attentively and saw the real person behind the crown and the money. For the first time in her life, Princess Sweetheart felt attracted to a man.
An hour passed then two, then three. Neither noticed the passing of time and the other bachelors realised that they had lost to this gangly-looking gentleman with the lank hair. Disappointment was the flavour of the evening for the majority but for the princess and Claude, they could not be happier. Princess Sweetheart directed him to a side room once they realised the band had left – along with more than half the bachelors – and felt her joy welling up inside her. Holding hands with her dance partner made Princess Sweetheart giddy with excitement.
The room she took them to was dark and small, almost a cupboard compared to the other rooms in the palace. It was often used to store useless pieces of treasure offered to the royal family as gifts from the knights. Shrouded in half-darkness, the unnecessary trinkets were eerily neglected by those who lived in the palace and ignored by the young couple. Closing the door behind them, Princess Sweetheart reached for Claude's face and kissed him on the mouth with no shame.
Claude pulled away quickly, guilt washing over his gentle face. His hand touched the moustache above his lip and he prised it away from his face.
"I am so sorry, Princess Sweetheart. I didn't mean to deceive you. Strawberry Hill isn't as privileged as the main city; I only wanted to see what it was like inside the palace, so I dressed like a man to get in. I had no intention of presenting myself to you as an eligible bachelor – but then I saw your beauty and I couldn't help myself. I am so, so sorry." She turned to leave the private room but Princess Sweetheart held her back.
"What's your real name?" she asked curiously. Though she should have been angry at being tricked, Princess Sweetheart was calm as ever.
"Claudelle." Princess Sweetheart smiled.
"Claudelle, you can't imagine how relieved I am to learn that you are a woman. Men scare me, and I like you. Do you like me?"
"I think I love you," Claudelle confessed, frowning. Princess Sweetheart's smile widened.
They married. Though the match seemed odd to the people of Candy Kingdom, all were pleased to see Princess Sweetheart so clearly happy with her new wife. The entire kingdom was invited to the wedding and as a result, everyone saw the love in both women's eyes as they declared they did for all to hear. It couldn't be denied that Princess Sweetheart and Claudelle loved each other greatly which gained the approval of the Candy people. No-one could find fault with that much pure love.
They honeymooned on Chocolate Island for ten days. Twenty days later, the Queen returned to the palace. She had heard her daughter had been married in her absence but all news she received about her kingdom neglected to mention that the sex of her daughter's spouse was female. Upon walking in on Princess Sweetheart lying on Claudelle's lap as she read aloud from a book, the Queen stopped short.
She experienced a flurry of feelings. Confusion, understanding, shock, repulsion, anger.
"This is who you have married? A woman?" the Queen screeched. The couple jumped and winced simultaneously at the Queen's pitch. Princess Sweetheart sat up and Claudelle closed the book. Claudelle stared at the Queen and didn't speak – she didn't feel she had the right. The Queen had been beautiful in her youth but now she was old her features were sagging and loose and her expression permanently bitter.
The Queen was shaking her head.
"No," she said.
"'No'?" Claudelle echoed despite her initial resolve not to say anything to her new mother-in-law.
"What do you mean 'no'? 'No' what, Mother?" Princess Sweetheart asked in a small voice.
"No. This isn't acceptable. You will end this – right now." Claudelle rose to her feet immediately. She felt encouraged that she towered over the Queen by a considerable amount; though the Queen was of higher status, having the advantage over her in this way gave Claudelle the confidence to speak out.
"That's ridiculous! We love each other, we're not going to break up just because you don't approve. Right, Princess?" Claudelle looked back at her for confirmation. Princess Sweetheart had her head down and was twiddling her thumbs self-consciously. A long moment of silence followed; Claudelle's body grew cold as she realised this meant her wife was not going to back her up on this important matter.
"Yes, Mother," Princess Sweetheart said, resigned.
After the divorce, Claudelle fled Candy Kingdom. She went as far as far as she could so she wouldn't be at the risk of overhearing any news about the kingdom, or its fickle princess. She tried to forget that her heart ached. The betrayal hurt like no other pain she had experienced before. She couldn't believe that the person she loved could listen to her mother instead of her own heart.
What followed was weeks of blurry misery as Claudelle drifted around, trying desperately not to think about the way her marriage had ended so hastily. She spent many nights wrapped in a blanket, crying into her knees. But she couldn't stay away from Candy Kingdom forever: it was her home and as much as it hurt to think about it, Claudelle belonged there. It was with a heavy heart that Claudelle found herself wandering back to Strawberry Valley after nearly a month away.
The community in Strawberry Valley was small, and the majority of the people had known Claudelle from a young age so her return was not a silent one. Words of condolences passed through her ears and she was stopped numerous times by neighbours who wanted to give her a hug.
Not wanting to go back to her small house which would only reflect how lonely she felt, Claudelle made a stop at the local tavern for a drink. Conversation was bustling in there but it seemed to cease once people began to realise who the newcomer was. Claudelle avoided eye contact as she took a seat at the bar.
"Hey Claudelle," the landlord greeted her solemnly.
"Jho. How's business?" Claudelle asked flatly.
"Not too bad. Want a glass of the usual?"
"Sure." Jho poured her a tall glass of alcoholic vanilla milkshake and insisted it was on the house. As Claudelle sipped the white frothy beverage, Jho spoke.
"There's been a bit of trouble at the palace since you left."
"Oh yeah?" said Claudelle, unimpressed. She thought she could imagine what had happened in her absence. The horrible and selfish Queen probably sent out an announcement that nulled her marriage to Princess Sweetheart and condemned Claudelle as well. Princess Sweetheart might have been a bit sad for a few days, but Claudelle wagered that the Queen wouldn't let her drag it out for too long and demand she lighten up. And of course, Claudelle knew there was nothing the Queen could say that Princess Sweetheart would disagree with.
Jho nodded. "Yeah. Princess Sweetheart has been in a deep depression. Won't leave her bed, barely eats anything, and doesn't speak to anyone."
"What?" Claudelle was ignited with indignant concern for Princess Sweetheart's wellbeing. Torn between being distressed by the news and angry at the princess for neglecting herself, Claudelle became dizzy. She was annoyed that she still loved someone who was stupid enough to do this to them self. What was the point of going along with the divorce if Princess Sweetheart was going to regret it so strongly? Or maybe this had nothing to do with Claudelle. Perhaps it was just a part of Princess Sweetheart's clearly wishy-washy emotional state.
"It's because of what the Queen made her do. No-one had ever seen the princess so happy as on the day she married you. We might just be the common people, but we could recognise true love. It wasn't right, what the Queen did. We know that, Claudelle," Jho said softly, his dark eyes telling her that every word he spoke was the truth. Claudelle sighed as if she was releasing all of the world's air in one breath.
"I wish Princess Sweetheart knew that," she said sullenly. "Was it so unreasonable of me to expect my wife to stand up for our relationship? Ever since I was a teenager I searched for someone who I connected with, someone who I loved and loved me. I thought I finally found that person when I met Princess Sweetheart but–" She didn't finish her sentence.
"But what?" a voice asked from across the room. Claudelle hadn't realised her conversation had gained outside listeners.
"But I was wrong, obviously," Claudelle said loudly, and downed the remainder of her drink. A small hand touched her shoulder tentatively and Claudelle looked behind her to see who the hand belonged to.
"No. I was wrong," Princess Sweetheart said. Claudelle's breath caught in her throat. Princess Sweetheart was the last person she expected to see in her local tavern. She looked incredibly misplaced standing at the bar in her purple dress with glittery lining, silver crown reflecting the dim lighting of the room as the inhabitants of Strawberry Valley bowed or curtsied to their princess, their plain clothes seemingly more so. Though she was noticeably slimmer and her cheeks had a slightly sunken look about them, Claudelle still thought Princess Sweetheart was beautiful.
"I was so wrong," Princess Sweetheart went on, wringing her hands anxiously. "I can't tell you how sorry I am for listening to my mother. I was stupid, but I'm not stupid anymore. Claudelle I would like another chance. Please tell me you forgive me." Claudelle felt her heart swelling up at Princess Sweetheart's words.
"Yes," she whispered, tears pooling in the corner of her eyes. She reached forward and cupped Princess Sweetheart's face in both hands and moved her closer. Claudelle kissed her delicately at first but quickly grew restless and settled for hasty, fluttering pecks. "Oh, yes."
The people in the tavern were the last to see Princess Sweetheart and Claudelle. After their reunion they left holding hands and smiling into one another's eyes, walking wherever they felt like. They left Candy Kingdom – and the Queen with her bigoted way of thinking – behind, and didn't look back once. They had each other and that was all that mattered to them. Claudelle had found someone who she loved who loved her back and Princess Sweetheart found the one person she disobeyed her mother for. Princess Sweetheart and Claudelle lived in contentment until the day they died.