tagHumor & SatireReluctant Princess

Reluctant Princess

byoggbashan©

Copyright Oggbashan November 2017

The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.


*************************************************

"Don? Are you there?"

It was the director's voice. I was in the wings of the stage checking one of the large pieces of scenery. I thought a support was working loose. It was. I was just tightening the last screw.

"Yes, Harry. Hang on a few seconds..."

I checked the support. It was firm. I put the screwdriver back in my tool bag and walked out onto the stage. Harry was standing at the front of the stalls. He looked worried, more worried than usual. The first five performances of our annual Christmas pantomime had gone well but tonight was last and the Saturday evening charity performance. All the great and good of our town would be present. All ticket sales would go to the Lady Mayoress' charity.

"Can you come down, Don, please? I don't want to shout."

Shout? We were only about ten feet apart. I left the stage by the stairs at the edge.

"Please sit down," Harry said.

I sat next to him in the front row. Harry spoke very quietly.

"We have a disaster, Don. Jane and her understudy Mavis have come down with flu. They are both bedridden."

I could understand that was a disaster but what did that have to do with me? I was the head of the backstage crew. I had no responsibility for the performers, only the scenery, lighting, sound and props.

"There's only one person who has a good enough voice to replace Jane. But she wants you to support her."

"Me? Why?"

"It's Ellen. She can sing the role of the Princess and act it but she seems frightened stiff. It's not stage fright. She has been on stage before. She won't perform unless you are in the wings to meet her every time she leaves the stage. I don't know why, but she insists. She must have Don to catch her. That's what she says. I don't understand it but we need her. Can you?"

"Yes, Harry. I understand what she wants. I know why. She won't tell you. Neither will I. Let me guess. She wants to wear her jeans under the costume. Am I right?"

"Yes, Don. That's irrelevant. Ellen is tall but slightly shorter than Jane. Her dress will be trailing on the ground. She could wear anything or even nothing underneath. But she needs you."

"Tell her... No, Harry. I'll tell her. I'll be there for Ellen at the edge of the stage for the whole time. My deputy will have to do all the stage work but he knows what to do. Where is Ellen?"

"She's in the star dressing room. Hazel the wardrobe mistress is with her trying to adjust the costumes."

"Then Ellen needs me now," I said.

Harry didn't understand that. He seemed relieved that I would help.

Ellen is the rehearsal pianist for the Christmas pantomime and the script coach for all our productions. She can assist the choreographer because she had ballet lessons until she grew too tall. During performances she is the prompter, making sure everyone enters and leaves the stage at the right time, and if required giving lines from the wings to those who forget them -- that's almost never. But she does not perform on stage in the pantomime or other musical productions. She's too vital in her other roles. She has had minor parts in some of our plays.

+++

I walked into the star dressing room. Ellen was standing in the middle of the room wearing a hooped petticoat below her T-shirt. She looked close to tears. I walked straight to her and opened my arms. She almost jumped into them, startling Hazel who was trying to adjust the petticoat's hem.

"Harry asked you?" Ellen said.

"Yes. Of course I agreed, Ellen."

"Thank you. I couldn't do it without you, Don."

"You don't have to. I'll be there and here."

"Here?" Hazel queried, "but..."

"He'll be here," Ellen said firmly. "I need Don if this is going to work."

"OK, Ellen, but he'll see everything..." Hazel said.

"He won't see anything he hasn't seen before, Hazel. I trust Don."

"I can see that, Ellen." Hazel said. "If I didn't know he's not, I would think Don is your long term boyfriend."

"He's my friend. My best friend. He has been since we started at Nursery School."

"And Ellen's my best friend," I added. "We're there for each other when needed."

Hazel continued to adjust the costume for Ellen. She didn't have to do much. Ellen is slightly shorter than Jane's nearly six feet and never wears high heels. Her gown as the princess will sweep across the stage floor, hiding her jeans and trainers. The bodice had to be let out slightly. The cuffs of the long sleeves needed the most work. Ellen's arms are more muscular than Jane's, and her wrists larger.

When Hazel had finished on the costume Ellen was unconvinced. From her neck downwards she was dressed like a Disney Princess in pastel blue with a wide-spreading skirt. Her face was still Ellen, bare of make-up, with a light sprinkling of faint freckles. But her hair? Ellen's red-tinged light hair is always cropped very short. The bare face and short hair were nothing like a pantomime princess.

Hazel looked at Ellen.

"I've done my best, Ellen. The dress fits. I'll get Rachel. She can do the cosmetics and find a suitable wig. It's only an hour and a half to curtain-up. I hope Rachel can do it in time."

Hazel left us alone.

Ellen plucked at her skirts.

"I hate this. I'm scared too. I know the part. I can sing -- and dance enough for this performance. But appearing in public in a dress? And this colour? That's very hard, Don."

"I know. But you're not dressed as Ellen. You're dressed as Princess Dawn, a fictional character who shares a name with a cruise ship. You've acted parts before. This is just another one and nothing to do with the real Ellen."

"This dress reminds me of Jason."

Ellen was nearly crying. I hugged her.

"Jason is history. It's two years at least. Even if he is around all you need is to yell for me and Jason will be gone -- again. He's too much of a coward. Even you could beat him up..."

"But not when I'm wearing a dress like this. The skirt and petticoats get in the way and they make me feel..."

"You're not weak and pathetic, Ellen. You are strong, muscular, fit. Just because you are wearing a dress doesn't take any of that away."

"It does. In my head. I feel like Jason's victim again."

"You're not. Even if you were playing the role of a damsel in distress, and Princess Dawn isn't that, you are still Ellen. You could throw Jason in the canal -- easily. You always could except for his mind games."

"And it is those that still terrify me. He made me into someone I'm not. I let him do it."

"Until you came to me. When you did that you broke Jason's hold over you. YOU decided enough was enough. YOU came to me for help. With just a little more determination you could have got free from Jason by yourself."

"I'm still not sure I could have, Don. He could just have beckoned to me and I would have slunk back to slavery. You sent him away while I was hiding in your bedroom. That is what freed me."

"And you are free, Ellen. Even dressed as a Princess you are free. On stage you are going to defeat the villain and rescue the hero. Princess Dawn is the action heroine even in a massive skirt."

"You've given me a thought, Don. Jane used to ad-lib in certain parts of the pantomime. I can't do what she did but we..."

"We?" I queried.

"Yes," Ellen said firmly, "we. I think we could..."

For the next few minutes Ellen and I worked out what we would do in part of Act two. We had settled the details when Rachel arrived to do Ellen's make-up and fit her with a blonde wig. When Rachel had finished I barely recognised Ellen. She looked like a pink and white blonde princess, not a faintly freckled redhead. Underneath was my friend Ellen still worried but resigned.

Until today I hadn't been aware just how fragile Ellen was. She had been hiding her fears, even from me, her best friend and next door neighbour. The performance will be a real ordeal for her. I was sure she would do her best but at a cost to her self-confidence.

+++

The dress and the pastel blue colour had revived bad memories for her. While we were both at university our parents had bought a row of four small terraced houses at auction. They had been in a poor state and needed major updating. Each had two bedrooms upstairs, a front living room that opened straight onto the street, a rear kitchen and scullery, an outside toilet and coal store behind the scullery. A footpath linked the four houses just beyond the coal store between the houses and the long narrow gardens.

Ellen and I, our parents and our cousins, had worked on those four houses for a couple of years. When we had finished the outside toilet and coal store of each had been turned into a bathroom. The kitchen and scullery had been joined into a single kitchen/breakfast room. One of my elderly aunts was in an end house. The other end house had been sold to finance the work done on all four.

Ellen and I occupied the middle two houses. We had minimal mortgages that we could afford easily. We shared many things. I'd go shopping for her; she'd do the same for me. We even shared loads in our washing machines. If I had some low temperature items that needed washing they'd go in Ellen's machine. If she had high temperature items, they'd be in mine.

About four years ago Ellen had met Jason. They eventually became girlfriend and boyfriend. Jason seemed a pleasant enough individual. Physically he is slightly shorter than Ellen. I wasn't surprised when after a year together Ellen invited Jason to move in with her. Gradually Ellen stopped dropping in to see me several times a week.

What I hadn't known was that Jason was gradually eroding Ellen's self confidence and self esteem. He was turning her into his passive victim. She wasn't allowed to have a will of her own or to oppose whatever he wanted her to do. I noticed that Ellen had become quieter. I thought that was because she was settling down, perhaps to marry Jason.

Until two years ago...

I was in my kitchen washing up after my Friday evening meal when Ellen rushed in through the back door. She slammed it shut behind herself and bolted it. She threw herself on me so abruptly that I dropped and broke a plate. She was crying and incoherent. She was wearing a pastel blue bridesmaid's gown, low cut and exposing her cleavage. But it was the metal handcuff dangling from her left wrist that worried me.

It was over an hour before Ellen could talk sensibly. She told me what Jason had been doing to her. This evening he had insisted that she dress up as his 'Princess' in the bridesmaid's gown again. Every time she had worn it over the last few months he would force himself on her in a simulated rape. At first she had enjoyed the passionate lovemaking. The scenarios had begun to change subtly. As his 'Princess' she had to obey him always. She had to give him blow-jobs each morning before they went to work. Every evening she had to be dressed as a 'Princess' while she cooked their evening meal, and give Jason a blow job as soon as they had finished eating.

Jason was complaining that she wasn't doing enough housework. Dressed in one of a number of wide-skirted ball gowns almost all the time she wasn't at work made the housework more time consuming, as did Jason's sexual demands. She knew the house was getting dirtier, the washing piling up, the bed unmade. Jason had accused her of failing in her duties to him.

Over several months Jason had decided that the 'Princess' dress must be worn whenever he was displeased with Ellen. It was the most difficult gown for her to put on or take off without help. It had a concealed back zip. Jason had insisted Ellen should make it impossible for her to dress or undress herself by sewing metal hoops for a small padlock on the zip. Jason kept the key on a chain around his neck. In the past week he had added a refinement. Ellen should wear white elbow length gloves before the dress was put on. The long sleeves were slim. Over the gloves they were tight. Ellen had to struggle to get her hands into the sleeves, and getting them out needed help from Jason.

That pastel blue bridesmaid's dress was her prison. Tonight Jason had been really angry because Ellen had made a mess of the evening meal. It was very difficult for her to cook wearing gloves. He had insisted she wear the Princess dress, with the gloves, and had locked the padlock on the zip. He ordered her to go upstairs to the bedroom. She had dared to refuse. She was tired, hungry and upset. She knew her cooking had been a failure. She wanted to try to cook again.

Before she knew what Jason intended he had produced the handcuffs and fastened them on her left wrist. This was new. She didn't want to be handcuffed. She wanted to cook. She pushed Jason away. He shouted at her and tried to force the handcuff on the other wrist. She had thrown him off and ran to me.

Once Ellen had told me about the Princess dress being a punishment and the zip being padlocked I cut the padlock off with pliers. The handcuff was more difficult but it hadn't been closed fully. It was locked on her wrist but loosely. I cut off the glove with a craft knife. I used washing up liquid on her hand before we eased the handcuff off. Once that was off I undid the zip on the back of the Princess dress and pulled it up over her head.

Ellen's gloveless left hand came out of the sleeve easily. Her right hand was stuck. I cut that glove off too. Her hand came out of the sleeve. I threw the gown on the floor. She removed the remains of the gloves from her arms. Ellen was able to untie the waist cord on the hooped petticoat, drop it and step out of it. She was left standing in her bra and panties. That's when I saw that she was barefoot. She saw me looking down.

"I kicked off my high heels," she said. "I hate wearing them but Jason insisted."

By this time I was very angry. Ellen is my friend; my oldest friend; and she had been abused. Ellen needed me first. I could sort out Jason later. I found some jog pants and a sweater to cover Ellen. I made her sit down at the kitchen table while I micro-waved some instant pasta for her. By her standards that was junk food but she was hungry.

She had just finished eating when there was a loud knocking at the front door.

"That's Jason!" she screeched. "He mustn't see me."

I pushed her up the stairs. From the front door the whole downstairs can be seen. I opened the door to Jason. He tried to push past me. That was pointless. I'm taller, heavier and stronger than him. I shoved him back.

"I want Ellen," he shouted at me.

"She doesn't want you," I replied calmly. "Nor do I. Fuck off before I thump you."

My tone didn't convince him. He tried to pass me again. I held a fist in front of his face.

"Go! Or get punched," I said forcefully.

"I'll be back for her," he said.

"No you won't, Jason. Not now, not ever. I'm giving you a warning. Leave Ellen's house before midday tomorrow or I'll throw you out -- hard."

"You can't!"

"I can. I will. If I have to throw you through an upstairs window? I'd be delighted. Go. And get out of her house."

He blustered. He threatened. My fist poised to hit him finally sunk in. He slunk away. I shut and bolted the front door.

It wasn't that simple. Yes, Jason did leave Ellen's house. She had to get an injunction from a court to stop him harassing her at work, by email, text and phone. The injunction was for a year. I think my threats to him were possibly more effective.

Now Ellen had to wear a pastel blue Princess dress. No wonder she was scared. But I'd be there for her as I have been for the last two years.

+++

The plot of the pantomime, not that pantomimes really need a plot, is that Princess Dawn is the eldest daughter of an aging King. His Kingdom is threatened by Baron Klaus who has already usurped the Kingdom bordering Dawn's. Dawn must find and marry a Prince who will help defend the kingdom. Several Princes have been invited to Princess Dawn's 21st birthday celebrations. Dawn must choose a Prince to marry.

The Princes that arrive seem unsuitable. They are wimps, drips and unsuitable to lead an army except Prince Malcolm. Malcolm appears strong and confident. Princess Dawn thinks he might be overconfident and even stupid. At the end of Act One, Prince Malcolm has been told that the Princess has been kidnapped by the villain and is being held in a castle just across the border. He and the other Princes ride off to rescue Dawn. But it's a trap set by Baron Klaus. Dawn hasn't been kidnapped. She has a hangover from drinking too much champagne. Once all the Princes are captive, Baron Klaus wants to force Dawn to marry his unnamed son. Klaus will then have both kingdoms.

Act Two starts with Princess Dawn waking up to be told the bad news that all her suitors are held in Klaus' castle. She's not sure she wants any of them, but she doesn't want Klaus's son. She decides to rescue the Princes with the help of her younger sisters and the maidservants. The Royal army will ensure that Klaus's troops are decoyed elsewhere.

After several adventures on the way Princess Dawn has penetrated into Klaus's castle. She is faced by a locked door. Behind that door Klaus's minions are waiting to capture her. She knows that. She's looked through the keyhole. But she has to get through that door, defeat the minions, and rescue the Princes. The Royal huntsman Jack is the only person available to help her, but the huntsman doesn't like killing -- even rats.

At this point in the usual plot the huntsman reveals that he isn't a huntsman at all, but a woman. That has been obvious to the audience since the huntsman's first appearance. The huntswoman, Jacqueline, reveals that she is in love with one of the Princes Dawn doesn't want. The two women swear friendship and attack the locked door. Once the door is open they rush through. There are flashes and sound effects before the women emerge again pushing the rescued Princes ahead of them.

But Ellen and I have changed the plot. Most of the cast don't know. Princess Dawn and the huntswoman sing a version of Au Fond Du Temple Saint (from Bizet's Pearl Fishers in which normally two men swear eternal friendship) and try to open the door.

They can't. Dawn asks loudly for help. No answer. She looks into the wings.

"You'll do," she says. "You can get us through this door."

I come on stage in my boiler suit prominently labelled "Stage Manager".

"But I'm the Stage Manager," I protest.

"Good. You installed this door. You open it." Princess Dawn orders.

Huntswoman Jacqueline whispers in Dawn's ear.

"Hold it! We need weapons. Have you got any? You must have somewhere among the props."

"Yes, Princess," I answer. "What would you like? Swords? Spears? Bow and arrows?"

"They won't do. Something seriously dangerous. Off you go."

I go off stage and come back dragging a heavy sports bag.

Princess Dawn and Huntswoman Jacqueline take out and load two AK47s.

"That's more like it," Princess Dawn says. "Now open the door."

I take out an RPG, aim it at the door and there is a stage flash bang. The door falls flat in a cloud of fake smoke. Dawn and Jacqueline rush in to the sound of submachine gun fire. I follow carrying a crew served machine gun.

The two women emerge pushing the Princes before them. The Princes are smudged with soot. Jacqueline cleans her Prince up with a large handkerchief. Dawn pushes the other Princes into a ragged line and tries to get them to stand at attention. They can't. She starts to get angry with them but her sisters and handmaidens rush in to protect the Princes from Dawn's anger.

Report Story

byoggbashan© 1 comments/ 5144 views/ 3 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

Next
2 Pages:12

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel