One afternoon, in the middle of June, I decided to take a walk in the nearby forest. All my life my grandmother had told me the forest was enchanted, but not once in the eighteen summers of my life had I seen any evidence that her stories were true, until today.
The shadow of the forest engulfed me and a cool breeze brushed across my face. I could smell the damp earth and hear the rustle of small animals in the leaves. The trees towered above my head like giant centurions guarding a secret treasure, but I was not afraid. The mystery of the forest drew me deeper into its bosom; my senses were heightened. The forest was alive. The gentle breeze was its breath. The creatures were its voice, and summer flowers sent a fragrant perfume that I inhaled with pleasure.
My journey lead me deep into the forest further than I had ever ventured before. Suddenly before me a gate appeared. It was suspended in the air and shrewd in a mist. A large dragon was carved into the center of the gate and a green emerald served as a baleful eye. There appeared to be no passage around this mysterious apprehension. It barred my way no matter which way I turned. Clutched in the dragon's claw was an enormous padlock, but there was no place for a key.
I searched diligently for some way to open the barrier, but it defied my every attempt. I was ready to give up then I remembered my grandmothers stories. Feeling a little foolish, I pressed my hand to my lips and blew a kiss at the dragon gate. It began to shimmer with a strange light and the dragon's eye gleamed with and inner glow. I stepped back and the gate swung open to reveal a cobblestone path that sparkled with diamond dust.
Mist rose on both sides, and obscured the forest. Curiosity pulled me forward and I followed the path to see where it led. I found myself standing before a winding staircase, that lead to a white marble castle. Festive flags waved gently from the castle's towers, and beckoned a welcome for all to come. I climbed the stairs and as I approached the castle, a heavy wooden door opened to give me access to the interior. I walked into the foyer and stared in amazement. It was octagon in shape. Gold and silver banners decorated the walls and images of Knights fighting dragons were carved into the stone. Diamonds, emeralds, and rubies embellished the figures that acted out their silent battle.
I stood there in awe; unable to absorb all that had transpired. It was then that I noticed that every wall had a doorway and it was through one of these openings that he appeared walking toward me. His face was aged with wisdom. He's garments were silk, royal blue and purple embellished with gold, and a gold circlet lay upon his head lending him an air of great authority. He spoke to me, telling me that he was the keeper of the castle. Then he informed me that I could stay in the castle for three days and two nights. All would be at my disposal, on the condition that I keep a journal of all I saw and felt.
Enchanted I agreed. He then handed me a book to write my thoughts in and an ancient quill pen with which to write them with. I took the gifts he offered then followed him through the doorway from whence he came. He led me through many rooms filled with wondrous works of art to a winding staircase. It lead to a room high in one of the towers. The door opened to reveal a bed chamber, becoming to a princess. The walls were a creamy peach. The curtains accenting the walls were a rich mint green. The four poster canopy bed looked inviting and warm with its sheer mint green drapes and the lacy mint green comforter with peach roses. A single window looked out over the forest revealing its glorious beauty.
I turned toward the keeper of the castle. He asked me if I would enjoy company for dinner. When I replied that I would, he informed me that I might invite nine guests of my choice to the banquet. A sad look crossed my face, this was an enchanted place, and I did not know anyone that lived here. Knowing my thoughts, the man smiled and informed me that it did not matter in this place-all my wishes could come true.
I smiled, I knew exactly who I would invite. The first person on my list was my grandmother. I missed her very much and there were many things I wanted to ask her. Next I invited my friends; Ashley, Benny, Loraine, Melinda, Nadine, and Rebecca. It had been so long since I had seen them. Then I invited my closest friend, my sister Katrina. Lastly I chose my hearts desire, Michael.
After I presented my guest list I was ask to chose the type of entertainment I wish to have. I decided to have an orchestra play softly for background music. The Keeper of the castle bowed then told me all would be ready at eight o'clock. I had three hours to prepare for dinner. I pondered on what I would do for three whole hours, but I need not have worried. For no sooner had the Keeper left then a procession of servants entered my chambers. Each one carried a beautiful gown of one color or another. I spent the next two hours choosing a dress only to see the next one and change my mind. Finally I settled on a straight line midnight blue velvet gown, with a neckline that formed a small vee. Dainty capped sleeves and a bar of rhinestones rested on my shoulders. The gown was form fitting and had a slit up the back to my knee. Long white gloves, silver shoes, and a diamond tear drop pendant completed my attire. The servants aided me dress. They fixed my hair in a loose chignon using a diamond comb to hold it in place. They used extreme care in perfecting my make-up paying close attention to my eyes. When they were finished I looked in the mirror and I saw the princess who's room I occupied.
The hours had passed and now it was time to go meet my guest. The Keeper of the castle came for me. He led me down the stairway and to a large room. In the center of the room was a long table, at which sat everyone that I had invited. The Keeper escorted me to the head of the table and seated me. He told me then that I was only allowed to ask each person one question. I was disappointed, but I agreed the his terms. I pondered on what questions I would ask, as the servants served our meal. I chose my questions carefully, for I wanted to make each on count.
To my grandmother I posed the question, "Is any of this real?" Her reply was, "Everything is real in its own time."
Next I ask my friends questions that only they could answer.
To Ashley I ask, "What is your favorite color?" Her reply was, "Purple."
I ask Benny, "What sign did you make in choir?" He replied, "Fund Raising 101."
I ask Loraine, "Who is our mutual friend?" She replied, "Heather." And she was right.
To Melinda I ask, "What is your nieces name?" "Bianca." She answered.
I ask Nadine, "What is your favorite pastime?" "Collecting Stamps." Came the reply.
And to Rebecca I ask, "What is your boyfriends name?" Her reply was. "Logan."
To my dear sister Katrina I asked, "Who ate the cupcake?" And she laughed as she said, "Jennifer."
Then I turned to Michael and asked the most important question of all. It was not a question to verify the reality of my situation as I did with my friends, but rather it was a question of the heart.
To Michael I ask, "In all the world who is your hearts desire?" He paused, then he rose from his seat and crossed the room to take my hand. "In all the world it is you and only you that I desire." He whispered.
For the remainder of the dinner we sat in eloquent silence. My guest made no attempt to initiate conversation, and I was bound by my promise to the Keeper. At ten P.M. the dinner ended and the Keeper returned. He told me that I could chose one of my nine guest to spend the next two hours with, for at midnight everyone would have to return to their rooms. I was torn among my grandmother, my sister, and Michael. In the end I chose my grandmother. I had so many questions about this place and grandmother was the only one who could answer them. For two hours we talked, but at midnight I was no closer to an answer than when I first came. I returned to my chambers and retired for the night. As I laid down and I fell asleep instantly.
The next morning I awoke to hear a bird singing. The delicate creature was perched on the window sill greeting the morning sun. I smiled at the bird. It must have been a magic bird for it cocked it's head at me and spoke. It imparted words of warning. It told me to beware of the castle then it took flight and it disappeared into the forest. I pondered the birds warning wondering what it meant, then the Keeper returned. He told me that it was time for breakfast.
The beautiful gowns were gone, so I slipped on my own clothes. Which now seemed like rags, and went down to eat the morning meal. After I had eaten I returned to my room to see if the bird might have come back, but instead I saw a new dress laying on the bed. It was an opalescent white. It caught the rays of the sun, sending a cascade of rainbow colors shimmering across the surface of the material. The design of the dress was simple and plain. It had a high collar and long sleeves. However, when I picked it up I could see that the back was elaborately designed. The low cut back was connected to the collar with strings of pearls. As I stood admiring the dress the Keeper came in. He told me that I could spend the day anyway I chose, but first I would have to pen a letter to my parents. He handed me some stationery and left me to my task.
I had much I wanted to tell them, but I could not explain my present predicament. Instead I simply ask of their health and told them all was well. I left the letter on the bed and I went out to explore the castle and it's grounds. The first door I came to opened out into a beautiful garden. In the center was a labyrinth. As a child I had always wanted to solve the mystery of the labyrinth. With a light heart I entered the maze. Running here and there I soon lost myself, then I began the meticulous task of solving the labyrinth. I spent the entire day walking in circles, running into dead-ends, and retracing my steps. The mystery of the labyrinth eluded me, but I was determined to be its master. With perseverance triumphed, and as I emerged from the maze the Keeper was waiting for me. He told me the castle was holding a party in my honor, and all of the guest that I had invited to the dinner would be in attendance. I went up to my room, and I changed into the white gown that still lay on my bed.
I could hear music floating up the stairwell, as I descended its spiraling depth. The Keeper awaited me at the bottom of the stairs. He lead me to double doors that opened into a glorious ballroom. My friends and family circulated; they chatted freely with each other and welcomed me with open arms. As I made my way through their warm greetings I searched for Michael. When our eyes met he strolled across the dance floor and he took me into his arms. We danced. I lost track of time. Safe in Michael's arms I had danced the night away. Now the day was over and the Keeper told me I must return to my room.
As the night before I fell asleep and slept soundly. The next day the light from the afternoon sun warmed my face and I awoke. I had slept away the entire day. A knock sounded at my door, and the Keeper came in. He told me that my time at the castle had ended and that it was time for me to leave. However, before I could go, I had to leave with him the key to the dragon gate. He carried with him a small wooden box. On top of the box the dragon of the gate was carved. Its green eye mocked me. The Keeper opened the box, and I felt a slight tingle across my lips. As the lid snapped shut I realized that I would never kiss again. The dragon had stolen my kisses. I thought of Michael, and I buried my face in my hands. Tears filled my eyes and they spilt out through my fingers to shatter against the cold stone floor. I felt despair and I pleaded with the Keeper to take something other than my kisses. He only turned his back and walked away. He took the box that held my happiness with him. I closed my eyes tightly wishing this could all be a dream, and that I would awaken with my kisses.
When I opened my eyes I was standing in the forest. The birds were singing, and the sweet perfume of the flowers assailed my senses. I turned and ran. The forest blurred as I rushed to flee from its enchanting influence. I emerged from the tree line to find Michael waiting for me. I fell into his arms weeping with regret. He soothed my hair from my face, and he brushed the tears from eyes. He lowered his head and kissed me. A strange tingle surged through my body. It swelled then shot up from my heart to my lips. Here it lingered then it slowly faded. True love had conquered the magic of the green eyed dragon and I had been given back my kisses.
To this day I have never been able to determine if what I had experienced in the forest was real or not, but I am sure of one thing. I will never doubt to power of True Love.
Outline provided by: Brandy Graves Gregston