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Once Upon

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“But Tia, I want to play princess!”


“Lottie, we play princess every day.  Today it’s my turn to pick the game, and I want to play restaurant.”


Charlotte knew Big Daddy always told her not to pout, that it wasn’t ladylike, but she just couldn’t help herself.  Her favorite thing in the world was playing princess, and it just wasn’t the same without someone to be the prince.


“Tia, please?  Can we play princess just for a little while, and then we’ll play restaurant, I promise!  I’ll even be your cook or your waitress or your maitre d’ or whoever you want, Tia, just pleeeeaaaaase.”


“Oh good grief, Lottie!  Stop that!”  Tiana threw her hands up, and Charlotte did her best not to grin.  She didn’t want Tiana to think she was gloating, even if she was—just a little.  “Fine, we can play princess, but just once.  We’re not playin’ every princess in the book!”


“Okay!”  It was a fair rule.  It really was Tiana’s day to pick the game, so Charlotte wouldn’t complain about being restricted to just one story.  Besides, she wanted Tiana to be happy, too.  “We’ll just do my favorite parts to make it super-quick so you can open your restaurant, Tia.”


“All right.  Which one are we gonna do?”  Tiana stood with her hands on her hips, lips pursed impatiently, like she really was running a restaurant and the longer she stood here talking to Charlotte, the more upset her customers were gonna get.


“Sleepin’ Beauty!” Charlotte crowed.  “We’ll skip all the wicked fairy stuff and just get to the good part.”  Charlotte flopped down on her bed, carefully arranging her poofy princess skirt and making sure her hair was just so around her face before she closed her eyes and folded her hands on her stomach.  She pursed her lips and waited expectantly for her true love’s kiss.


Long moments passed, and Charlotte still hadn’t been kissed.


She cracked one eye open and scowled to see Tiana still standing there by the bed, arms crossed over her chest—which was just started to bud, same as Charlotte’s, only Charlotte seemed to notice Tiana’s blooming shape much more than her own. 


“Well?” Charlotte demanded.  “What are you waitin’ for?  The quicker you kiss me, the quicker I can wake up and we can get your restaurant open.”


“I was just wonderin’,” Tiana drawled, “how come I’m always Prince Charmin’ and you’re always the princess.”


Charlotte gulped.  “Wh-why does it matter, Tia?”


“Just curious, is all.”


Charlotte pushed herself up on her elbows so she could look Tiana in the eye, even though she knew that it was ruining her carefully arranged dress and hair.  That was a tricky question, and all Charlotte really knew was that when she thought about being the prince, she just got bored, but when she thought about Tiana riding up on a white horse and slaying a dragon… she didn’t want to give that up for a whole castle full of princess dresses.


“I don’t know,” Charlotte said slowly.  “You just make a really good prince, Tia.”


Tiana snorted and rolled her eyes, but she smiled too, so Charlotte didn’t feel too hurt by it.  “All right, fine.  Go ahead and lay down and I’ll come slay your dragon.”


Charlotte couldn’t help her broad grin, and she did as she was supposed to, in too much of a hurry this time to worry about all the fripperies of skirts and hair arrangement.  She closed her eyes and held her breath, and this time Tiana’s lips touched hers just like they were supposed to do.  Charlotte smiled and opened her eyes, and when she saw Tiana smiling back at her, she felt like she really had just woken up from a hundred years’ sleep.


Charlotte stared at her best friend and thought really hard about giving her another kiss, just because, just a reward for her noble prince, but Tiana was already stepping back, putting space between them, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. 


“All right, Lottie.  You wanna be the maitre d’?”


Charlotte felt like her heart actually cracked, one of those hair-wide ribbons that spidered through her grandmother’s antique china teaset, but she put on a brave smile and flounced off the bed, running to stand by Tiana’s side.  “At your service, my prince!”


Tiana rolled her eyes, and Charlotte turned away so she could hold onto her smile.