Prose, Grades 10-12: Second Place

Night in Shining Armor — Sydney Fine

Once upon a time, far, far away, in a small kingdom of Rhode Island, there lived a beautiful princess named Akuti. She had long, cocoa-colored hair that danced with ease and had radiant, sepia skin.
In this same kingdom, there also lived Prince Joey, who enjoyed taking long bike rides in the rain and wearing cardigans. Princess Akuti and Prince Joey knew each other from astronomy class at Washington Preparatory Academy, where they shared notes about recently discovered planets.
When together, their mouths always displayed giant Barney smiles and laughed Elmo giggles. On most days after school, Princess Akuti painted with her viola, while Prince Joey plinked keys on a piano in a musty, carpeted practice room for hours. They were the epitome of genuine happiness.
Princess Akuti lived in a tall, dark castle with a dog guard and a pond moat. Her father often locked her in her bed chamber after she got home from school. At 5:42, his jealous sausage fingers usually unlocked the door, strode over to her cot, and grabbed her by the shoulders.
He shook her. He shook her and yelled in her face, “You’re not good enough! You’re not smart enough! Ignorant, foolish girl. What a disgrace.”
At 5:47 when it was over, if there were stains to clean, Princess Akuti would clean them tenderly and then go downstairs to set the kitchen table for dinner.
At night the princess would sit at her windowsill and look for the constellations Professor Wright had taught them about. She saw Prince Joey’s outline in the galaxy sometimes, especially on the nights when she had to clean up stains from her face.
One morning, as the two royal students perused in the hallways of the high school, Joey noticed a few small craters in his friend’s face.
“Hey, what are those cuts from?”
“Oh, these? They’re nothing. I fell when I was rollerblading yesterday.”
“Huh? You rollerblade on Wednesday afternoons. Yesterday was definitely a Monday.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I wanted to change things up a little, ya know?”
They continued to walk to their next class. Joey knew Akuti was too compulsive to have broken her rule to only rollerblade on Wednesdays.
When the princess arrived at her castle, chauffeured there by a horse-drawn BMW, she worked on her homework, listened to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and waited. At 5:42, her balding, greasy Scrooge of a father stormed into her room and took her frosting face in his huge, chapped hands.
“Why can’t you be more like your grandmother? Silly, silly girl. You can’t even” — slap —“you can’t even speak” — slap —“up for your stupid little self.”
And he left. He left a poor princess clutching her frail body, rocking herself, yearning to be loved.
Prince Joey, dressed in a tailored black pinstripe suit, with daisies in one hand, and a “Will you go to the dance with me?” sign in the other, showed up at his princess’ house the next evening. He set his paraphernalia on the cement driveway and tossed a small meteor shower of rocks to Akuti’s bedroom window. He proclaimed, “Akuti, Akuti, let down your hair!”
Princess Akuti opened her chamber window and saw Prince Joey standing in her driveway.
“Joe, what the heck are you doing here?”
“What do ya think I’m doing here?”
“Um… I dunno? Hold on. I’ll be down in a sec.”
Princess Akuti’s father raced to the front door of his house. “What is going on out here?!” he yelled. He stood outside dumbfounded.
Horse hooves made a trail down Akuti’s street, the carriage whisking her away with the night and into the stars.