To read the past part of “The Princess of Montaigne,” check out Volume 2, Issue 7 in the Inkwell Literary Magazine’s online archive.
“Lindsay! Hurry it up! If you’re not down here in five seconds, I’m leaving without you.” Lindsay’s mom, Sharon hollered from downstairs.
“I’m coming!” Lindsay dashed across her room to her bed where her bag lay. She scooped it up and flung it over her shoulder. The bag—heavy with books—swung behind her and crashed into her nightstand, sending its contents flying, including another stack of books.
“No!” Lindsay lunged for the books, throwing herself on top of the one titled The Princess of Montaigne, making sure its cover stayed firmly shut. Lindsay waited a few seconds, heart thumping, before carefully setting the book back on her nightstand.
That book is a disaster just waiting to happen. I should just take it back to the library today. Lindsay stared at the book a second longer before shaking her head and dashing out of her room.
“It’s been exactly thirty-two seconds since I told you I would leave you if you weren’t down here in five.” Sharon looked up from staring at her watch. “You’re extremely lucky that I didn’t leave you.”
“And deprive your daughter of the library’s wealth of knowledge? What kind of mother are you?”
“The impatient kind. Get your butt in the car. You’re going to make me late for work.”
“Remember to take the bus home if it starts to rain.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll see you when you get home. Bye, Mom.”
“Bye, sweetie. I love you.” Sharon waved to Lindsay before pulling out of the library parking lot.
Lindsay walked through the automatic doors, and a gust of arctic air greeted her, bringing with it the scent of books. Lindsay inhaled that scent greedily as she headed to the front desk, where she deposited her books into the return box.
“Back so soon?” Mrs. Nelson pushed her glasses farther down her nose as she looked up from her computer screen.
“It’s been a whole two weeks, Mrs. Nelson. Don’t you miss me yet?”
“Oh, always. How were the new worlds you visited?”
“Exhilarating as always. And…interesting. I need to renew a book while I’m here. The Princess of Montaigne.”
“You? Renew a book? I thought you would have devoured the whole stack by now.” Mrs. Nelson pulled her glasses back up her nose and began typing on the computer.
“This one was far more interesting than the usual.” Lindsay paused for a moment. “I might have to visit it again.”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve found a book that finally challenges you. Have a good day, Lindsay.”
“You too, Mrs. Nelson.” Lindsay waved and headed to her favorite section of the library: the young adult fiction.
After perusing the stacks for an hour or two, Lindsay emerged again with five new books and wandered up to the front desk to check them out. She exited the building and glanced at the sky. Clouds blotted out any trace of sunlight, but no raindrops fell, so Lindsay decided to risk the walk home and hope that the rain didn’t try to greet her before a roof covered her.
Once home, Lindsay kicked her shoes off at the front door and jogged up the stairs to put her books in her room. She flung her bag onto her bed, and her eyes darted to her nightstand.
No. Bad idea. Food is a much better idea. Lindsay tore her eyes away from The Princess of Montaigne and wandered back downstairs to the kitchen in search of a snack. She puttered around the house for a bit, trying to keep her mind off her strange experience with that book, but her curiosity since that event had been growing. She couldn’t stop thinking of the excitement she had felt when she was in the book.
Mom won’t be home for another few hours. Maybe just a peek? Maybe it wasn’t even real. I should check, just in case, right?
Lindsay’s reason wrestled with her curiosity in her mind, but her curiosity was too strong. It ripped the reins of control right out of the hands of her reason and tugged Lindsay back to her room. She climbed onto her bed and—sitting cross-legged—put the book in her lap.
She stalled for a moment, unsure if she really wanted to go through with it.
“Do it,” her curiosity whispered.
She cracked the cover open. Her skin tingled as the book, like a vacuum, sucked her in and enveloped her in darkness.
“Elysia? Are you even listening to me? Elysia!”
Lindsay blinked her eyes rapidly and clenched her fingers. She felt a rough texture against her skin. A breeze warmed by the sun blew against her. She blinked a few more times as the scene before her focused and she realized that she was—woah! Very high! I am not on the ground.
She tightened her grip on the branch in front of her and jerked her head to her right, staring at Desmond.
“You’re not listening, are you?” Desmond sighed and threw his hands up.
“No, no. I am. I just got distracted by…this magnificent view. I mean, look at how beautiful the castle looks in this light.” She waved her hand in front of her, pointing to the castle.
“Yeah, I guess it does look exceptionally beautiful at this time of day.”
“Of course it does. Now, what were you saying?”
“I asked you why you thought the castle was boring.”
“Oh, um, well.” Lindsay reached a hand down and grabbed a handful of the dress she now wore and swished it back and forth. “It’s like you said. I’m cooped up in the castle. Moments like these,” she pointed to the tree, “are rare.”
“If they’re rare, then how did you even learn to climb trees?”
“Crafty escapes?” Lindsay laughed.
“Well, I think it’s about time that we made one of those escapes. I think we’re about to be discovered.” Desmond pointed to a group of guards coming around the side of the castle.
“Oh, no. I probably shouldn’t be caught in a tree. That would be bad, wouldn’t it?”
“Probably.” Desmond maneuvered himself down to a lower branch before jumping to the ground. He looked up to Lindsay, holding out his arms. “Come on. I’ll catch you.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. I can get down on my own.” I think. Lindsay slowly crouched down to grip the branch she was standing on and began making her way closer to the ground. Once on the lowest branch, she leapt off and hit the ground. Her dress caught her shoe, and she stumbled forward.
“I got you.”
“No, I got it.” Lindsay pinwheeled her arms as she tried to regain her balance. Desmond held his arms out to Lindsay a moment longer before lowering them back to his sides, but his worried expression remained.
“Don’t look at me like that.” Lindsay straightened and wiped imaginary dirt from the front of her dress. “I’m fine, good, great. No worry necessary.”
“Of course. You never need any help.” Desmond chuckled.
“Yes, I’m a regular superhero.”
“Never mind.” Lindsay tugged on Desmond’s sleeve. “Let’s run before we get in trouble.”
“Good idea. This way.” Desmond gripped her wrist, and together they ran in the opposite direction of the guards. They made their way inside, and Desmond led Lindsay through what seemed to her like a maze of hallways and corridors. She stumbled along behind him as he tugged them through the castle. Lindsay had to suppress a giggle when Desmond would slink along a wall to peek around a corner. He looks like a spy. A snort escaped Lindsay’s lips as she watched Desmond peek around another corner, and she clapped a hand over her mouth.
Eventually, they wound up in a large sunroom with floor-to-ceiling windows framed by gauzy curtains. The room exploded with greenery—every surface housing a plant—yet the windows made the room feel like a breath of fresh air.
“I think we’ll be safe here for a while.” Desmond released Lindsay’s wrist and sat in a chair next to the windows. Lindsay sat in the chair next to his and turned towards the view.
“You’re a regular James Bond.”
“I’m a what?”
“Oh. Sir. Bond. Yeah, that’s his name. He’s a very crafty man. Very good at evading capture.”
“Like a criminal?”
“Yes! Like a criminal. But, like, he’s not bad. He’s a good guy. Never mind. It’s not important. What do you want to do next?”
“What do you mean?”
“What’s our next adventure? We climbed a tree, but I want to have more fun. What can we do that is fun?”
Desmond brought a hand up to his chin. “That’s a good question. What can we do?” He stood up and paced the length of the room, stopping to inspect a large blossom on a plant in the far-right corner of the room.
“Oh, I know!” Lindsay jumped up from her seat, and Desmond startled, spinning on his heel to look at her. “Let’s go sliding down the banisters.”
“You want to do what now?”
“It’s been years since I’ve done this, but there are so many kinds of stairs in this castle. This will be interesting. Come on, I’ll show you what I’m talking about.” Lindsay wandered around aimlessly, trying to pretend she knew where she was going. This is supposed to be my house, after all.
“Aha! Here we go.” Lindsay grabbed fistfuls of her dress and scuttled over to the top stair of a very long staircase. “We’re going to slide down this.” She plopped her hand on top of the banister.
“You’re being funny, right?”
“Nope. I’m dead serious. I’ll go first. Watch a professional show you how it’s done.” Not that I’ve ever done this in a ballgown, but we can improvise.
Lindsay sat down on top of the banister, placing one hand in front of her on the railing and one behind her. Slowly she began to inch herself forward. As gravity took over, she started sliding down the banister, gaining speed. She whooshed down the last few feet of the banister before her feet hit the floor. She ran a few steps—propelled forward by her momentum—before slowing to a stop and turning to grin at Desmond.
“Now it’s your turn.” Lindsay hollered. The stone steps carried her voice up to Desmond with an echo.
“You’re insane.” Desmond called back, cupping his hands over his mouth. He darted his wide eyes between the railing and Lindsay.
“Do you want to have fun or not?”
“That’s a yes. Do it.”
Lindsay pressed her lips together to hold back a laugh. Mimicking a pair of binoculars with her hands, she watched as Desmond carefully replicated her position on the railing before scooting downward.
He began to slide down but kept a tight grip on the railing. Lindsay broke into a wide grin as Desmond scoot, scoot, scooted all the way down the staircase. She half expected him to kiss the floor when he finally clambered down from the railing, but he kept his dignity.
“Not quite a glide, but A for effort. Well, was it fun?”
“…As a child, I always wanted to be a bird. I don’t think I want to be a bird anymore.” Desmond brought a hand up to his heart.
“That’s the spirit. Let’s do it again.”
“Lindsay! I’m home!”
“Wait, what did you just say?” Lindsay stared at Desmond for a second, but his face stayed blank, and then Lindsay felt the pulling sensation once more. “Not again.”
Lindsay blinked a few times and looked around. The four walls of her bedroom stared back at her. And just as I was starting to have some real fun.
She placed The Princess of Montaigne back on her nightstand and went downstairs to greet her mom.
For the next two weeks, Lindsay visited the book world every day. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to renew the library book again, so she wanted to squeeze as much adventure out of the castle as she could. She went horseback riding, learned some archery, and had a lavish tea party with Margaret, Cordelia, and Athena.
One day, on one of her visits, she and Desmond got caught sneaking freshly baked muffins from the kitchen. The cook didn’t care that they were a prince and princess. She cracked a towel at them like a whip and sent Lindsay running as fast as her feet could in heels.
Lindsay wandered past the castle library many times during her visits but never stopped to enter. There were too many adventures to go on with Desmond and too much girl time to be had for her to have any time for reading. Then the day came for Lindsay to go back to the library.
She packed all her books into her bag, including the five that—for the first time in her life—she hadn’t read, placing The Princess of Montaigne at the top. It’s ok, Lindsay thought, I’ll just return the book and check it out again in a few days.
Lindsay took small, shuffling steps into the library, not wanting to make the journey to the front desk, where she would have to say goodbye to her new favorite book world.
Before she made it all the way to where Mrs. Nelson sat, a whine assaulted Lindsay’s ears from off to her left. A girl about Lindsay’s age stood with her arms crossed, looking up at an older version of herself.
“But it’s summer! Why should I spend my time reading a musty old book when I could be out with my friends?”
“Because it’s good for your mind. You can’t just veg all summer. Your brain is a muscle, and you need to use it. Now pick a book.” The girl stormed off from her mother and disappeared behind a shelf. Lindsay groaned at herself for what she was about to do. But this girl really needs to learn how much fun books can be.
Lindsay went to drop her books off in the book return but hesitated when she saw the cover of The Princess of Montaigne.
I can’t give it up, she thought. At least not without saying goodbye. Lindsay gripped the book tightly and sped off to find a hidden corner.
When she found a spot devoid of people, Lindsay sat down cross-legged and, opening the book for the last time, was sucked in.
She woke in her room in Montaigne alone, and she quickly sprinted out the door, calling for the girls.
“Athena! Margaret! Cordelia!”
“Elysia! Show some decorum. You are a lady. You shouldn’t be shouting.” A deep frown split Athena’s face as she chastised Lindsay.
“Well, you’re yelling too, aren’t you?”
“She’s got you there, Athena,” Margaret pointed out, and Athena’s frown deepened.
“Well…I’m a lady-in-waiting, and Elysia is a princess. Therefore, she needs more decorum.”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s possible. No one will ever have as much etiquette as you,” Cordelia said, rolling her eyes.
“Especially not you. You’re a right animal.”
“Guys! Not now. I have important things to say. Where’s Des?”
“He’s right here.” Lindsay spun around at the sound of Desmond’s voice, and she smiled, but her smile quickly dropped. Now she had to say goodbye.
“I have to say something. Something that will make absolutely zero sense to you, but I’m going to say it anyway.”
“Okay?” Desmond quirked his head to the side. Lindsay’s heart thunk, thunked hard in her chest.
“I have had the most amazing adventures with you guys. Some fun and some not so fun. I’m never stealing muffins from Cook again.”
“Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t in a million years do that again.”
“She does know we aren’t guys, right?” Cordelia whispered to Margaret.
“Be quiet!” Athena hushed.
“You’ve taught me how to love real life and not just the life that I read in books. Thank you for that. But I have to go now.” Lindsay folded her hands in from of her, done with her speech.
“Um…Okay? Goodbye for how long?” Desmond asked.
“Oh. For like, ever. Did I not specify that? Yeah, that’s what I meant. But don’t worry. There will be another Elysia after me who probably won’t be as fun as I am, but whatever. Sorry, I’m rambling because I hate saying goodbye.” Lindsay clenched her teeth to keep more words from spilling out and to keep tears from escaping her eyes.
“I don’t understand.” Desmond took a step forward.
“I know none of this makes sense to you, but just humor me, okay? Now say goodbye to me.”
“Is this another game, Elysia?”
“She is quite humorous, isn’t—ouch!” Margaret rubbed at her ribs where Athena had elbowed her. She glared at Athena, who jerked her head toward Desmond and Lindsay and put a finger to her lips.
“Oooh. I understand.”
“Yes, sure. It’s a game. Play along?”
“You never cease to baffle me.” Desmond chuckled as he squished Lindsay in a hug. “Okay, bye forever, Elysia.”
“Goodbye forever, Des,” Lindsay whispered. She pulled away, looking at Desmond for a few seconds longer before going to hug the girls.
“I’ll miss you guys.”
“Excuse me. Excuse me, Lindsay.” Lindsay blinked and shook her head, looking up into the eyes of the library assistant, Joe.
“I need to get to the shelf behind you.”
“Oh.” Lindsay stood up. “No problem.”
She tucked the book in her arm and went to put it in the book return before going in search of the girl. When Lindsay found her, she walked up and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Hi.” Lindsay grinned, trying to appear extra friendly. “I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation you had with your mom. I just wanted to recommend a book to you. The Princess of Montaigne. It’s a really good book. I just dropped it off in the return, but if you ask Mrs. Nelson nicely, she’ll scan it in so that you can check it out today.” The girl gave Lindsay a sugary-sweet smile.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’m not really going to be reading any books.”
“Trust me. This one is worth it. It is…unlike any book you’ve ever read before. You’d regret not reading it.” The girl raised her eyebrows and thought for a moment. Lindsay didn’t wait for the girl to reply.
“I hope you change your mind and decide to give it a read. Have a nice day!” She spun around and walked in the direction of her favorite section. My work here is done. Hopefully she’ll take my advice. And if not, some other lucky reader will have the privilege of being a princess for a day…or a few weeks.