Please Me:A Stark Ever After NovellaBy: 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
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
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
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
“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.