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The Princess
About the Author: Janice Law is the Edgar nominated novelist of the Anna Peters and Francis Bacon mysteries. She regularly publishes short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, BlackCat Mystery Magazine and Sherlock Holmes. In addition, she has had a number of scholarly and nonfiction publications.

My college roommate was a princess. Not that she went around in a tiara or had a security detail or traveled in a Mercedes or anything like that. No, she behaved just like an ordinary student, schlepping her books across campus, preparing canvases with her big stretching pliers, and pulling all-nighters when term papers were due.

I wouldn’t have spotted her, myself, if I hadn’t been taking Myth and Fairy Tale and thinking about archetypes and writing papers on Rapunzel and the Sleeping Beauty. Context is all, says our professor and I’m beginning to see what she means.

Anyway, the key thing with a princess is that someone recognizes her, preferably a prince. While you or I could be mistaken, princes and princesses have this sort of magnetic attraction for each other even when one of them is in deep, amphibian disguise.

So, what I’m getting at with Amber is that at first glance there was nothing unusual about her. My roommate was really nice looking but otherwise ordinary. Not particularly sparkly or energetic, she got B’s, the occasional B+ in her art classes, went to the gym once a week, sang with Royale, (a little hint, there maybe) a campus a capella group, and drank no more than two beers with pizza on the weekends.

It took a prince to spot her, and though princes are thin on the ground at our campus, he showed up. His name was Brendan. That’s an Irish name, a mythical name straight out of the Celtic Twilight, and even to my ordinary eye, he was pretty hot: tall, black hair, blue eyes, ripped but not muscle bound. He was a business major and Brendan, would you believe it, means prince in Irish Gaelic. Talk about coincidence.

When I mentioned this to Amber, she was unimpressed. “He seems nice,” she said in that non-committal tone she uses. Amber attracts a fair amount of male attention, and it’s led her to be choosey. Besides, we were sitting in the Big Dog Pub, not a venue that lends itself to a serious analysis of princes or of anything else.

A minute later Brendan came back, all smiles, with another pitcher of beer. A good move, I thought, but Amber took no more than a few sips and said she had some design project to finish. I was rather hoping she’d go and he’d stay, but no such luck.

“You going to the Art Building? I’ll walk with you; its not well lit, and I’m going that way.”

Great! I had to go to the Hillside Dorms up a truly dark and dismal set of stairs, but Brendan, call me Bren, only had eyes for Amber, who was already several mental miles away, thinking about whatever the hell princesses think about.

That was the start, and pretty soon he’s texting her a dozen times a day and showing up in the lounge downstairs to take her for coffee in the morning and to escort her to night studio classes—and get this—to wait for her in the lobby of the art building like she needs a door to door security detail.

Still, Amber wasn’t sold on him. “He doesn’t give me enough space,” she’d say. “He’s all over my life.”

“I wouldn’t complain.” I mean, it wasn’t everyday someone like Brendan comes along, and, as for proximity, I could take a little of that with him. Not Amber.

I don’t know how she got him to back off, but she did. She promised to call the escort services after dark, and she started stopping by his apartment after her painting studio and coming home very late. They made a handsome couple. Cute, too, with their matching red backpacks, and the black coats and the wide brimmed hats they both favored.

He was crazy about her, literally, I think now, and Amber tolerated him. That makes her sound cold hearted; not intended. I think there’s just a certain chill that goes with princesses, that comes from being at the threshold of a whole other universe. I do believe that and certainly all the old stories confirm it.

This story appears in our MAR 2024 Issue
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