lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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This prompt is for [livejournal.com profile] nevacaruso, who requested a fictional character finding a home in the real world, or vice versa.  Happy Homeathon!


Ordinary Ever After

Some books take years to be appreciated; Princess of the Moon was not one of them. Within hours of hitting bookstore shelves, it became a bestseller. Within days, it had sold out. Within a month, it had been discussed in every literary paper, magazine, and blog, and a movie was in the works. Teenagers read it, then their younger siblings, then their parents and teachers, and they all loved it. Everyone loved it.

Except Margaret, the protagonist.

With every reading, she relives the narrative. Her childhood is the expected, accepted tragedy--her aunt imprisons her in the attic, (making her so prettily pale and thin) and her uncle is a rapist. (Why is it always rape, she wonders? Can't they come up with anything original?) Despite all rules of child development, she nonetheless grows up to be a paragon of pliant, innocent goodness. Gag.

Every night, she weeps picturesque tears at her attic's one architecturally improbable window. She wishes upon the moon for escape, until the night of her sixteenth birthday, when a flying unicorn appears and says, “The Moon Goddess has heard your prayers, sweet child.”

The goddess never appears in the story, for which Margaret is thankful. Bad enough that the narrative forces her to be grateful after a sixteen-year delay, but now she must become the Chosen One. An honest-to-goddess Moon Princess. Because the Sun King has stripped the universe of all its feminine energies and Margaret needs to balance it all before the galaxy explodes with testosterone.

No, she doesn't know what 'feminine energies' are. No, it's never explained. And yes, of course she agrees. Thus it is written.

And so Margaret is whisked away on the back of the flying unicorn, after it touches her with its magical horn to revirginize her. (No infuriating implications there, nope!) She meets the Sun King, handsome, arrogant, and tortured, and she becomes his One True Lust. With her selfless love and feminine energies, she saves the universe, and as she suffers the Sun King’s tongue in her mouth, the narrative assures that she will live “magically ever after.”

Margaret hates Princess of the Moon. Every word, every paragraph, every cultural and social implication, everyone who looks to her as a model of girlhood. She hates what the narrative has done to her aunt and uncle, who out of the narrative eye weep silently for the horrible deeds they are forced to perform, over and over. When she can, Aunt Edna slips Margaret real food, and between chapters, they walk outside in the moonlight, so as not to mar Margaret's requisite pallor. Uncle Ron insures she never becomes pregnant or sick. He is responsible for her window, her furniture.

They are good people, trapped in a terrible story. Their only consolation is the fanfiction.

Margaret spends as much time as she can get away with hiding in a coffee shop fic, written by a seventeen-year-old girl in Montana. Here, all Margaret is obligated to do is drink coffee and flirt with the barista, an OC named James who is kind, gentle, and has no romantic interest in her whatsoever outside of the narrative.

Normally, they spend chapter breaks cleaning the counter and laughing together, but this time, James rushes over the moment the chapter ends. “Your writer's working on a sequel,” he says.

Margaret’s hands go numb around her mug. “What it's about?”

“There's no official word yet. Scuttlebutt says,” James's lips twist and he holds his fingers in sarcastic air quotes, “it's supposed to be 'hot.'”

Margaret starts to shake. Unlike Uncle Ron and Aunt Edna, the Sun King is true to his characterization, which is far less appealing than their writer makes it out to be. His one redeeming feature is his refusal to go beyond the boundaries of the narrative, which thus far has only allowed kissing. That was repulsive enough, but if she has to help him through his issues about her quantum state of virginity...

She slams the coffee mug to the table. “No. I’m leaving!”

James's eyes go wide. “Break character? But nobody’s done that since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and we all know what happened to them.”

“I don’t care! Uncle Ron hates what the narrative makes him do; the Sun King revels in it.” A thought comes to her, and she grabs James by the shoulders. “How did you hear about the sequel in here?”

Startled by her vehemence, he pulls back. “My writer talks to me. I’m her muse; she role-plays me on a Moon Princess forum—”

“Then you can help me! Tell her to take me in. She likes me enough to write fanfiction about me; surely…”

“But—but Marge! She says the nonfictional world is awful!”

“Are there gods there?”

“I think that's a philosophical question...”

“Are there creepy Freudian unicorns there?”

“No.”

“And there's no Sun King. I'll take my chances.”

“Surely there’s no big rush? Your book only just came out; surely the next one won’t arrive until next year.”

“It won’t be sold until next year. There’s no telling when she’ll complete a draft someone reads. I can’t take any chances, James, please.” She’s almost crying. “She might kill off Aunt Edna or Uncle Ron, and then I can’t take them with me. Please.”

“Don’t cry, Marge.” He squeezes her arm. “I promise, I’ll speak to my writer tonight.”

She hugs him tight. “Thank you. Thank you.”

For a week, she fights through her narrative. She goes through the motions—attic, unicorn, quest. She feels like a marathon runner at the final stretch; soon, soon, this sad story will end for good. Oh please, let it end for good.

One night, she hears a tap at her window. For one horrible moment, she thinks she’s missed her cue, that it’s the unicorn. But when she looks out, she sees James standing in front of his Honda, waving.

“She’s been writing a crossover!” He calls to her. “I don’t know how long it’ll last! Let’s go!”

Margaret beams. She rushes down, wakes Aunt Edna and Uncle Ron. Together, they pile
into the machine of electricity and gasoline, and they ride off into the night, into a world filled with coffee shops, high schools, and free will. And together, they live ordinarily ever after.

Date: 2013-06-08 12:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nevacaruso.livejournal.com
Okay, first things firstly: TYPO ALERT. You misspelled "Ordinary" in the header.

I didn't pick it up on the first read because I was distracted by the cleverness and awesome of the story itself. I love the takedown of cliches such as Chosen Ones, magical revirginization (which I've never actually encountered in fiction, but I'm not surprised that it's a thing), and "abusive childhood purely for the sake of melodrama" (DISLIKE). I love Margaret and her attitude and how much she cares for her aunt and uncle despite what the narrative makes them do (like you, I felt sorry for them, and also a little bit creeped out by the setup, which I was probably supposed to). I'm very pleased that James is an ally but not a love interest, and I am delighted that he and his writer talk to each other (squee!).

Thank you so much for writing this for me!

Date: 2013-06-10 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
Oops. *fixes typo* Well, I feel silly.

I'm glad you enjoyed! I enjoyed writing it.

Date: 2013-06-27 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nevacaruso.livejournal.com
Thank you for the sketch! The unicorn's expression is hilariously horrible, and Margaret is obviously one hundred percent done with its shenanigans.

Eee!

Date: 2013-06-28 03:38 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oo, I like this quite a bit, I do I do! Between the meta/characters-(almost)-as-actors elements, and the "downtime/between chapters/fanfic" escapeism, it's very nifty, man.

Also "Quantum Virginity" is a lovely term for the diminishing triteness of th' Magic Unicorn :) (one hates to follow the analogy further, and think about which possessive noun owned by Schrodinger would be most appropriate)

I had what I thought was a 'zinger' summary of my rant about the lazy storytelling that is "why does it always have to be rape?".. but it got too wordy. It was basically, "I'm sure 'Princess of the Moon' would ring just as true if they replaced the 'Cartoonish Evil Rape (as seen on TV!)' part with the phrase 'her life was really really really (continue for 38 pages of 'really'-s) bad'".

-KC

Re: Eee!

Date: 2013-06-28 04:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
Heeeeeey, KC!

Yeah, part of this story was my dislike of the requisite Awful Backstory. (You haven't seen Wreck-It Ralph, but there's a joke about a character who was programmed with the most tragic backstory ever. It's great.)

Unicorns as emblems of purity have always seemed creepily Freudian to me. Horse with a long phallic horn that it likes to put in virgin's laps... uh huh...

--Rogan
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