ANONYMOUS • by Selena Thomason

Princess Laurel hated her life.

It wasn’t that she had a wicked stepmother. Her mother was in fact very nice.

It wasn’t that she was being forced to marry an unkind prince from a neighboring territory. Her father had married for love and expected her to do the same.

Laurel knew she was lucky in many respects. She had fine clothes, good food, comfortable rooms, servants. It was all quite perfect, except for one thing.

Images of Princess Laurel were plastered everywhere. Everyone felt like they knew her, and, worse, that she knew them.

The princess knew they meant well, that they adored her. But still it gave her the creeps. All these people acting like they had some close, personal relationship with her even though they’d never met.

She also hated how the people were always commenting on her: her clothes, her hair, her actions. She could feel their watching, judging eyes always. They were constantly taking notice and evaluating her. It was exhausting. So many expectations to live up to. So many people to disappoint.

The pressure increased with each day. When she thought she could bear it no longer, a witch came to court. She looked right at the princess and said, “My dear, it can be as you wish.”

Princess Laurel was taken aback. “Are you speaking to me?”

“Yes, of course. Who else?”

Laurel looked around. No one else was close enough to hear their conversation. The assembled people merely watched from a distance.

She moved closer to the old witch and whispered, “What do you know of my wishes?”

“Ah, my dear, it is as plain as that lovely mole on your face.”

Laurel grimaced. She hated that mole. The tiny thing was the source of much more discussion and debate than its size would seem to warrant.

“Really?” She was unconvinced. “What is it I wish for then?”

“To be anonymous. To be able to walk amongst the people, unnoticed. To no longer be the center of attention.”

Laurel couldn’t believe it. How had the old woman known? She realized, though, that the more important question was, “Can you really help me?”

“Of course. I said it could be as you wish.”

“What must I do?”

“You must find a black cloak, one with a hood. Then on a moonless night, leave the castle and go into the woods to the south. You will find a clearing where the river widens into a pool. Put out your torch, then lean over the water, as if to see your reflection. Of course, there won’t be one because the night will be too dark with the moon in hiding.”

“Yes, of course.”

“And there you must call on the Goddess of Celebrity.”

“Who?”

“The Goddess of Celebrity.” Laurel shrugged, much to the witch’s consternation. The old woman’s face pinched in disappointment. “Brittany, you know? The Goddess of Celebrity?” Laurel’s face remained devoid of understanding. “Goodness, that town crier is useless!” The witch harrumphed and stamped her foot. “But I will deal with that later.”

The witch exhaled and went back to her instructions. “At the wide spot in the river, you must call on Brittany, the Goddess of Celebrity, and ask her to take back the gift she has given you. She will be annoyed with you. No one likes to have her gifts returned, after all. So, you must tell her that it is because you are not worthy of it, that you cannot give the people the beautiful, fashionable, charming princess they deserve. You must ask her to bestow the gift on someone more suitable, more deserving, and let you be the mundane peasant girl you were meant to be.”

“Will it work?” Laurel was afraid to hope.

“Of course, my girl. Celebrity is one of the most powerful of the gods. Celebrity can do anything.”

“Thank you. I will do as you suggest.”

Waiting until the next moonless night was torture for Laurel, but eventually the time came. She donned her cloak and went into the woods as instructed. She prayed to the great and mighty Brittany, Goddess of Celebrity, that she might be relieved of the gift that had been such a burden to her all her days.

Nothing happened.

Dejected, Laurel returned slowly to the castle. The guard at the gate recognized her and said, “Princess Laurel, what are you doing out in the middle of the night? You must come in right away before anyone else sees you. The people will never stop talking if word of this gets out.”

Laurel started to cry. The guard swept her in quickly and ushered her back to her room. Laurel wept herself to sleep.

When she woke in the morning, the first thing she noticed was a foul smell.

“What on earth—?” she started to say as she stumbled out of bed.

No longer was she surrounded by silks and linen. No longer did she rest on a bed of goose down. Now there was only a small, hard bed and bare walls.

As she went through the day, no one gave her a second glance. No one commented on her clothes or complimented her hair. No one gossiped about who she had spoken to, or wondered who she might marry. She walked through town in blissful anonymity.

She was only a few blocks away when she saw it, one of the many posters of the beloved princess of the land. Only this time it wasn’t her face. It was a face that looked strangely like a younger, more beautiful version of the witch who had instructed her.

“Well,” Laurel said, “she’s welcome to it. She will find out soon enough that celebrity is not all it’s cracked up to be.”

With that, Laurel went to the market to watch the people who had spent so much time watching her.


Selena Thomason writes mostly science fiction, but sometimes feels called to other forms and genres. Her stories have been published in various magazines such as The Literary Bone, Ray Gun Revival, VerbSap, and Alien Skin Magazine. Selena is also Managing Editor of Dragons, Knights, and Angels magazine, as well as an assistant editor and columnist at The Sword Review.


Rate this story:
 average 4 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • I’m a sucker for fantasy stories that make a comment about modern life, and this one is especially topical. Great statment and great story, Selena!

  • Jim Cobb

    Cool story! I’m gonna read it to my kids one of these nights.

  • Beth

    Aww, this made me smile.

  • Beyond the more obvious theme of fame not being such a blessing, I also noticed that this story makes another point: that even when your life is pretty good by most standards and the people around you expect you to be content and satisfied, you can still be unhappy.

    • Good second point, Camille. Case in point: Owen Wilson.
  • HvD

    Loved the story all the way until the rather unsatisfactory ending.

    • Your honest is why people respect you as a reviewer, Howard. Thank you.
  • Thanks for reading the story and posting your comments. I’m glad most people enjoyed the story.

    HvD: Sorry you didn’t like the ending. Do you want to elaborate on what didn’t work for you? Might help me in writing future stories. I’m always open to hearing honest feedback.

    Camille: great call on the second theme.

  • Oonah V Joslin

    I got to this late today/ tonight and it was like a bedtime story for me and such a pretty one and yet with sad reminders of celebrities past. In the true tradition of that art. Thank you Selena.

  • Glad you liked it, Oonah.

    Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

  • Tootsie McCallahan

    I agree with Howard on the ending.

  • Tootsie, thanks for giving the story a read.

  • HvD

    You put a lot of (good) effort into making the meat of the story work, thematically and figuratively, all the way until the last 2 lines. Then it was suddenly like, “Oh, well, my life’s la-tee-da now.”

    Just way too simple of an end after all the work of layered meanings done beforehand. Where’s Laurel’s reaction of some sort to (a)foul smells and a hard bed; (b)the duplicity of her ‘benefactor;’ (c)the dubious nature of the rest of her life? I mean, the child’s blasé acceptance and sheer unconcern for her future threw the whole theme for me. She’s oblivious to the consequences of her choice. Honestly, for me the story would have ended much better if you eliminated those last 2 lines.

  • I see what you mean. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Laurel certainly does have a lot to learn, but she will probably learn more by watching people than being watched. Maybe this deserves a sequel.

    I, myself, am a people watcher. Drawing from the real world creates a more colorful rainbow of characters than my own feeble imagination could ever produce.

    Oh, and I don’t know if the name Laurel was intentional, but I think it has a nice resonance with the theme of the story.

    Caner

  • Hi Resha,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I’m afraid I can’t take credit for any special resonance in the name Laurel. Anything you see there comes from your own fertile imagination. 🙂

    • Well, let me ellaborate then, just for the sake of completeness. I was thinking of the Romans and their tradition of placing a laurel on the head of a conqueror - yet Laurel didn't earn hers. Both name and position were a birthday present. And so she willingly gave it up. Given her attitude, the other half of the Roman tradition was likely to come true. Those that "rested on their laurels" often had them taken away.
      • Resha, That's brilliant. I wish I had thought of that.
  • Barb

    I enjoyed your story, Selena. It was funny, the reference to “the Goddess of Celebrity, Brittany,” who can do anything made me think of only one person (Britney Spears), and other than the ending (which just stopped, making it feel “slice of life” rather than full-fledged story), it was excellent. (Even with that full-stop ending rather than a nuanced, shaded ending, it still was rather good.)

    I’d like to see a sequel, too.

    🙂

    Barb

  • I really enjoyed this story, I was swept away by it. I really liked the Goddess of Celebrity! But I do agree with the comments about the end – I feel she would have a stronger reaction to the fact that the witch took her place. It feels just a little to quiet, the end, a little too easy for Laurel to just adjust to it.

    Thanks for a great read!

  • Barb and Tania,

    Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you (mostly) liked the story.

    🙂

  • Lyn

    Agree with many of the above – ending was a bit abrupt, I was waiting for her to take on the role of the witch now rather than go her anonymous way, the price of her decision. But that’s just me.

  • Good story, Selena! But yeah, the story would’ve had a stronger without the last two lines. Other than that it was awesome!

  • Ah well, live and learn. Thanks for reading.

    You have a story upcoming here don’t you? Congratluations.

  • Sorry, that should be congratulations.

    I really should learn to proof before posting. 😉

  • Pingback: September’s Table of Contents | Every Day Fiction()

  • Telfer

    Cute. But amateurish writing. Came from a locally famous family and I can relate. But needs more.