Once upon a time there was a princess.
It would be wonderful to say that she was a particularly beautiful princess, or that she was amazingly charming, or had some special skill such as being able to play the piano with her feet or speak eleven languages including something very obscure - but no. As far as she and everybody else around her was aware, she was extremely ordinary indeed.
In fact, if it wasn't for the fact that she was of royal birth, probably nobody would have paid much attention to her at all.
This isn't to say that she wasn't a nice girl - she was a very nice girl. She was kind, and considerate, and thoughtful. She was intelligent and well-read and good to her servants. She was always doing lovely things for other people. But she was just - average. Which in fairy tale parlance is unusual. Normally princesses have a defining characteristic. They are either especially beautiful, tragically kept in a tower, under some kind of curse - well, you know the drill.
But not young Persephone (that was our sort of heroine's name). She just toodled along, being herself - which was quite frankly, as un-princessy as possible, because she didn't much like fuss, and hoping desperately that her father, the King lived forever, not just because she loved him very much... but also because she never, ever wanted to be Queen.
She knew she would suck at it. Who wants an ordinary Queen?
People either want a benevolent, bluebirds singing on the shoulder kind of ruler; or in a pinch (because at least it's interesting) a cruel stone cold fox with the whole blood red lips and jet black hair thing going on.
Magic mirror optional.
Persephone knew that neither of these were an option because she couldn't sing for quids and freckles and straight brown hair don't really lend themselves to Chanel Rouge Allure; also she wasn't very good at the whole mirthless 'mwah ha ha' cackle. So she was really very pleased that her dear Papa seemed in very good health and didn't look like popping off the twig any time soon. She also wasn't overly enamoured with the whole having to find a handsome prince as her consort notion, mainly because no handsome princes were really showing a hell of a lot of interest in a very average princess without a tragic storyline or Miss America looks to fall back on.
And then one day, things changed very rapidly for dear Persephone.
First of all, her parents decided that she really did have to get married. Not because they were mean or nasty, but because that's the way things were done in those days. So they organised a great tournament and all of the knights and lords and princes from the lands around were going to attend - because whilst Persephone was not a huge drawcard, getting half of a kingdom if you were an impoverished young noble wasn't such a bad dealio.
And then - ugh - her cousin came to stay. And she most definitely was of the 'have an apple - it might be poisoned, but you won't really care, because I am just so damn hot' variety of princess. Think Angelina Jolie with a basket full of Granny Smiths and you wouldn't be far off. And with her - probably coincidentally, let's be charitable here - came a strange blight on the land. The crops started dying; animals sickened. And worst of all...
Worst of all, the King became very ill.
Persephone and her mother, the Queen, were besides themselves with worry. Her cousin, Princess Whatsherface, seemed less concerned. And the King insisted that the tourney go ahead, as did Angie. 'It will be good for morale' she declared. 'It will make the people see that everything is as it should be.'
It possibly would have been less sinister if she hadn't been stroking a black evil looking cat as she said this, but never mind.
So the tournament day dawned, and Persephone - in her ordinary way - sat front and centre representing her father, with the witch queen in training beside her looking radiantly lovely (and smug) as the competitors came forth to win her hand. The jousts began. They seemed to be more than usually violent, and cousin Angie was staring very hard at certain sinister looking knights who seemed to do remarkably well. Persephone began to feel very uneasy, for she was not as we have said, a stupid girl, and wondered what her cousin was actually capable of.
She soon found out when a knight in jet black armour veered away from the lists and charged straight at her, lance aimed directly at her heart.
Vaguely she heard the crowd screaming (despite her ordinariness - or perhaps because of it - she was actually very much loved) and the only thing she could think to do was to say 'please...
And then she heard a stange roaring and then silence.
And realised something quite miraculous.
Everything had stopped.
The lance was but a few centimetres from her body. Her cousin was frozen with a look of malicious pleasure on her face, which was revealed to be not beautiful but dark and twisted and evil. Persephone carefully moved from her throne and went to the knight and removed his helmet. His face was - well, it was very handsome (so sue her, she was human) and twisted in agony. He was obviously trying to fight the command that her cousin had put on him.
Princess P didn't know how or why she, the most ordinary girl in the world, had been blessed with this very unusual ability. But she knew what she had to do. She carefully moved the lance a few inches to the right. She put the knight's helmet back on. And then she sat back on her throne, took a deep breath...
And the lance went straight through the very black heart of her velvet clad cousin, who didn't even have time to look surprised before disappearing in a cloud of fairly greasy black smoke, leaving behind scorch marks and strangely, a tube of expensive lipstick.
The rest of the story is fairly predictable. The King and the land recovered, the young knight fell wildly in love with Persephone - and she with him (he was pretty damn hot, people, and yes, yes, intelligent and kind and good) and they lived a long and happy life together. She was handily able to freeze time whenever she felt like it after that first occurrence, so if he had something like the last piece of chocolate and wouldn't give it up - well, you can see where I am going.
Persephone never could understand why she, the most average of princesses, would be given this extraordinary gift of being able to stop time. But perhaps I can answer that for her.
One doesn't necessarily have to look extraordinary on the outside to be extraordinary on the inside.
Bear that in mind next time you see someone who may look like a frog - or even just an everyday girl.
They could be a princess in disguise.