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Happily Ever After

All anyone ever wants to talk to me about is the Royal Wedding, and how perfect it was, and how lucky I was to have found her. But life isn’t a fairy tale.

At first, everything seemed wonderful and after searching the entire Kingdom for a girl with a size two AAA foot, I was ecstatic to have finally found her. I felt like I’d slain a dragon, or found the Holy Chalice, or hit the pick-six in the Royal Lotto. She was everything I remembered her to be from the dance: smart, energetic, drop-dead gorgeous and smelling of that delicious pumpkin pie perfume she wore.

But maybe it’s not the best idea to marry someone you’ve only met once at midnight at a drunken dance party. The lights were dim, the band was loud, and I was mystified when she ran away from me after only one dance; I didn’t even have her cell number, let alone her name. So I was smitten, but the chase and the mystery were enticing and stimulating. Maybe I mistook curiosity for love. The truth is I didn’t know this girl from Eve.

But when the shoe fits, you wear it. It all seemed like a perfect set-up — what I’d been waiting for all my life — and the fact that it was a rags-to-riches story just made it that much more tantalizing. I was blinded by the fairy tale; I wanted it to work so bad I just ignored all the things that I could have noticed that might screw up the relationship, just like the things that screwed up every other relationship I’ve ever been in.

I mean, really, what was I thinking? What did I really have in common with this commoner? She’d worked her whole life as a servant for her stepfamily. And though the family may have been well-to-do, they certainly weren’t royalty. What they turned out to be was a royal pain in the ass. After she got fixed up with me, those ugly stepsisters suddenly became her best friends. They were constantly calling on her, showing up unannounced at the palace to hang out and advise her which musicians to hire for royal dinners, what menus to plan, what clothes to wear. Even though Cindy was a waif, really, with very simple tastes, the uglies figured that as long as the Prince is paying for it, nothing costs too much. They had her ordering the most expensive designer gowns in the world, the most exclusive club memberships, the rarest perfumes and teas and spices. Then they started importing exotic animals — peacocks, Komodo dragons, ocelots — and letting them loose in the Royal Gardens. Sometimes just getting from the stables to the front door without being mauled became a challenge.

But who was I to complain? I had married the most beautiful, wonderful, considerate, unassuming girl in the Kingdom. How could I deny her any of these desires? The truth is she didn’t even care about any of this stuff, as I found out later. She was only doing these things to try to make me happy. But how could I be happy when her family and the rest of their entourage were spending the royal treasury like we were minting our own gold?

The pressure to come up with more funds for all their new projects and parties started to take its toll on me. I began spending more time at work, invading nearby shires, duchies and principalities. It really wasn’t the best way to remain on good relations with the neighbors. And just because you invade some place and pillage and plunder doesn’t necessarily bring you any more happiness. Besides all the gold and jewels, you wind up with a bunch more peasants you have to provide gruel for, plus a bunch of angry women whose husbands you’ve thrown in the dungeon, and those are more mouths to feed, too. Then you need to hire more guards and buy more torture devices and on and on. Conquering and reigning over peoples is just a never-ending, thankless job.

I started to have heartburn, Royal Heartburn, and all those rich dinner parties that Cindy kept having weren’t helping. How many nights in a row can you eat chicken stuffed with foie gras and truffles? How many bottles of champagne can you down in one night and still go to work the next day adding up ransoms and issuing royal decrees? I was getting burned out.

Being with Cindy was not all that I expected it to be, either. Whenever we were alone, she was always tidying things up. I couldn’t leave an open book on the coffee table to go to the toilet. By the time I came back, she’d have it filed on the shelf, alphabetically. She was a complete neat freak. I’d accidently drop an ash from my cigar and she’d be there with her broom and dustpan sweeping it away. If she saw I had a stain on my shirt, she’d insist I take it off and put on a new one, but worse than that, she’d start scrubbing at the stain right away — to try to keep it from setting. She just couldn’t sit still and relax and have a quiet conversation. She’d always be jumping up to swat a fly, or adjust the lights, or rearrange the flowers. It was maddening.

It was my fault that things fell apart. No, I didn’t have to take up with the Wicked Queen after I’d sent her old man into exile and consolidated our kingdoms. But there was something about Esmeralda that just drove me wild. For one thing, she was funny, I mean wicked funny. Politically incorrect, for sure, but it was so refreshing after being with Cindy and having her lecture me all the time about the plight of the poor, and the filthy, and the diseased. Who wants to hear about lepers and consumptives every night when you’re trying to eat your dinner?

So go ahead and blame me for the fact that nobody believes in a fairy tale ending anymore. The truth is there was no happy ending in the first place, only a never ending. Because I never should have let that whole fairy tale thing go so far, and I’ll never let it happen again. Right now, I’m enjoying knocking back pints with the Wicked Queen and taking her to see bawdy dancers and low-brow comedians. Call it slumming if you like, but it’s a lot more fun than hanging out happily ever after with Little-Miss-Perfect.

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