Please Me:A Stark Ever After Novella

By: J. Kenner

One Thousand and One Dark Nights



Once upon a time, in the future…



I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.



I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.



I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.



One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.



Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.



Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.



Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.



As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.





Chapter One



“Well, I think it’s a brilliant idea,” I say, squatting on the floor and smiling into my daughter’s eyes, even though the words are meant for Abby, my business partner. “And so does Anne, don’t you, my sweet little girl?”

“Mama!” She belts the word, and it wraps around me like a hug to my heart. Her chubby arms reach for me as she toddles over, and I eagerly cuddle her close as she yawns and rubs her eyes, then snuggles against me. It’s forty minutes past her usual nap time, and although she’s peaceful now, I know that crankiness is imminent if I don’t get her down pronto.

Carefully, I settle her into the white crib that takes up a large chunk of the space beside my desk. “Nap time,” I say, then bend over and give her forehead a kiss. “Time for Anne to go sleepy-bye and dream of Miss Abby’s awesome idea.”

As her lids flutter closed, she reaches for me. But I know it’s not Mommy she wants but her blankie, and I bend down to grab the striped hospital blanket that came home with us just shy of twenty months ago. We’ve tried urging stuffed animals on her. A smiling tiger. A silly giraffe. But no animal wins out over her blankie.

Her lips curve into a smile at the same time as her little fingers curl around the blanket. I feel a hitch in my chest, as if the weight of my love for this tiny little person is too much to bear. Then I draw in a breath and try to shift my thoughts away from my youngest daughter and back to the world of smartphone apps.

When I turn, Abby flashes a wide grin, her eyes shining with humor. “You’re cracking me up, Nikki,” she whispers. “I mean, this has got to be the weirdest developmental meeting ever.”

I lift a shoulder in a casual shrug. “What can I say?” I whisper back. “I like to be different.” I grab the baby monitor, then nod toward the back door and the patio beyond where we can talk without the risk of waking my little girl. “Come on.”

Anne’s always been a good sleeper. But like her namesake, Ashley Anne Fairchild Price, she’s a cranky little monster if she doesn’t get enough.

My sister Ashley was my rock when I was growing up, the reason I survived the horror of a childhood with our mother at the helm. I relied on Ashley. Looked up to her. And loved her unconditionally.