Holly couldn’t say exactly when she had met Daring Charming; to her, it seemed as if he’d always just been there. Their fathers were great friends, having been roommates in Ever After High, so the two families were always interacting and since they were toddlers, Holly had been friends with Daring just the same.
The Daring of those youthful days, though, was a different person than the Daring of recent years. She admired the handsome, chivalrous, heroic teen she saw every day in school but at the same time, she remembered how much she adored the tiny princeling he’d been in their childhood. Even in those years, he was still her hero.
Her sister, Poppy, would always be number one to her and she knew he felt the same about his own younger siblings. But if she was ever to take anyone else into her heart…it would be Daring Charming.
She’d noticed the first signs of these feelings for him on the day they’d played “Rapunzel” together. The O’Hair twins had played many games with the Charming children, which ironically included a set of twins as well, and were all great friends, but finding something to play as a group was hard.
Dexter Charming preferred to play games on his father’s phone or read books, which Holly also loved but she still liked having fun in more active ways in the rare opportunities she could play with other kids. Darling was a little more excitable and always up running around, but her mother would scold her so much in their games, it often seemed more work to try than it was worth, so she would retreat to play with Dexter’s games and to keep him company. As for Poppy, while she liked keeping busy, she was easily distracted. The kids would start up on some activity and then discover Poppy had run off to investigate a bee hive or rabbit hole.
All of these occurrences usually just left steadfast Holly and the ever rambunctious Daring to find games to entertain themselves and on this particular day, they decided to play “Rapunzel”.
“Excellent!” her father declared when they had asked his permission and he’d called for the royal carpenter. In no time, a miniature tower was built for the children and despite that the adults had pressed them all to play together, it quickly whittled down to the two eldest.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” Daring shouted, despite that Holly only stood about three feet above him, not high enough to be hurt (her father had made sure of it) and definitely close enough for normal speech, though she wasn’t complaining.
Giggling with excitement, Holly swung her braid over the edge of the window so it lined up beside the rope the carpenter had attached to the tower.
“Okay, I’m gonna climb up,” Daring told her and immediately grabbed for the rope, which was colored to look like Holly’s strawberry-blond hair, and climbed up. Though he did make the innocent observation of “You have very sturdy hair, Rapunzel.”
This made Holly giggle uproariously until his finally reached the window of the tower and she moved back so he could scramble inside. He caught the toe of his shoe on the ledge while coming inside but instead of falling, he caught himself on his hands and swept into a graceful forwards roll, ending in a crouch from which he sprang up and showed his hands. “Tah-Dah! I’m here to save you!”
“Yay!” Holly clapped for him and they smiled at each other. They’d completed the game just like in the fairytale. They made a good team! But then, a thought struck them.
“Um, how are we going to get down?” she asked him. This brought a look of confusion to his own cherub face.
“Umm,” he hummed, thinking hard. “I don’t know. I stopped listening to the story after this big part.” It was true. While Nanny Nona had finished up reading them the book, both Daring and Poppy had fled to find the snacks in the kitchen, neither of them were as happy about books as their siblings. “How did your dad get down?”
“Nanny’s story said the prince fell from the tower and became blind,” she answered, “but my mom said they used her hair to get down. I don’t really know how they did that, though.”
“Maybe they cut it off,” he suggested. “But we shouldn’t cut your hair, though. Your mom might get upset.”
“Yes, we need to figure out another way.”
Together, they sat down on the wooden floor and pondered this dilemma, trading ideas back and forth but not finding anything that really made sense for the story. By now, they were both so absorbed in their imaginations, they had forgotten it was all really a game, ignoring the adults only a small ways away that they could have called for assistance if they wanted out. Or even the staircase by which Holly had entered the tower to begin with. To break their roles would be like a defeat and no Charming (and by association, O’Hair) would ever walk away from a story beaten.
“This is too hard,” Daring pouted. “If we were mountain climbing, I could use my ropes and hooks to get us down. But they don’t use those in Rapunzel.”
“You do mountain climbing?” Holly asked, her eyes lighting up. She’d read a book about that before.
“Yep,” Daring nodded, his face glowing as he smiled proudly. “Me and Dex climbed up the Ogre Mountain last year. We had some trouble and Dex had to stop half ways up, but I made it all the way to the top and planted the Charming flag there. No one else had ever done that.”
“Wow!” Holly clapped again. Daring did such brave things. She would never want to climb up such a scary mountain; she didn’t like high places and ogres were said to be pretty unfriendly. But that was okay. She preferred sharing stories rather than living them, anyways.
“Oh, I know,” Daring exclaimed, rising to his feet. “We can jump!”
“Jump?” Holly gasped, eyes wide. “But we’re a hundred feet off the ground. We can’t jump!”
“Yeah we can,” Daring pressed. “I’m a really good jumper. I can jump down from my bedroom window at my castle and not even get hurt. I can jump down from here.”
“But…but how will I get down?” Holly’s eyes began to water at the thought of being left all alone.
“I can catch you,” Daring declared, smiling brightly. “I’ll go out and you jump and I’ll catch you.”
The prince nodded. “Yep. Wait here and I’ll go first.”
With that, he swung his legs out the window and peered down. “Wow, it’s a long way,” he said, still pretending. “We might get eaten by lions down there.”
He turned to look at her and as he did, the sun of afternoon came it and lit up his gold hair like a halo of light that winked off his princely crown. He gave a wink before he pushed himself off the ledge and dropping to the ground. She heard a thump and ran to look out. Sure enough, Daring had survived the distance in falling to the ground and immediately hopped up like it was nothing. He turned and smiled up at her. “Now you jump!” he said, holding his arms out. “And I can catch you. I‘m good at catching, too!”
Holly gulped, not liking to do risky things, but she trusted Daring. So she went to sit on the edge and looked down. It wasn’t really that high off the ground, but she still felt a little anxious at the height. But Daring was there, smiling up at her while he held out his arms for her to jump into. He was a hero, right? So he would definitely catch her and she wouldn’t get hurt. She trusted him. He would be her hero.
She closed her eyes and pushed off.
Holly only let out a small squeak before she landed on something warm. But the world wasn’t rushing anymore and as she opened her eyes, she saw Daring’s face as he was still smiling at her. She blinked and tried to move, but she was being held up into the air. He had caught her!
“Yay!” she shouted, clapping. “You caught me!”
“Yep,” he agreed and put her down.
Unfortunately, the young hero hadn’t yet learned to be gentle with ladies, so rather than lower her down like a charming prince, he just pulled his arms away and let her drop to the grass like a stone.
What were a few grass marks between friends?
“Daring…” The boy looked up from his snack, still holding a slice of orange in his fingers. Holly, sitting beside him at the O’Hair dinning table and close enough to whisper while the other kids and adults conversed, looked down to her lap.
“What?” he asked her.
“If I…if I ever got stuck in the tower for real, would you come and help me?” she asked, her face feeling warm as she waited for his answer.
“Yes,” was the short reply. She peeked over at him and he was smiling again. “When I get big, I’m gonna save lots of princesses for all of the stories in the world. So I’ll be sure to save you, too.”
“Really? You’ll save all of the princesses?” she asked, her eyes widening as she thought about that. She’d read a lot of stories in her free time and from what she knew, there were tons of princesses in the world. “You’re gonna save Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella and Snow White, even?”
“Yep,” he answered matter-of-factly, still eating his fruit. “So if I hear that you’re stuck in the tower, I’ll come to help you get out.”
“What if you’re busy trying to help someone else, like Snow White?”
He paused to consider such a scenario, then answered, “Then I’ll get Dex to finish it. I’ll be sure to save you, though. Because you’re my friend.”
Such a declaration meant a lot to her. He would come help her, even above Snow White? Really? He was so great.
He was…her hero.