Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a princess who possessed a nimble mind but whose appearances never garnered any particular attention, since her elder sisters were far more gorgeous and elegant-mannered than she. But this princess, named Isabelle, was a simple girl, and so she held only one wish dear to her heart; she did not need a Prince Charming on a brilliant white stallion; she did not need a trunk full of fanciful jewels and bracelets; she did not need birthday galas or romantic cruises. All she wanted was to find a friend who would stay by her side.
Isabelle had a natural taking to other people: she was always gracious to receive and never would deny any poor soul aid. And so the guests would always speak about how beautiful the princesses Josephine and Tabitha were, and how Isabelle was such a little sweetheart, and all felt right in the world.
One fall day, when Isabelle was fifteen, her parents decided that it would be in her best interests to continue her studies at a better institution than was available in the kingdom, and she was whisked away to a private academy in the neighboring principality, where she excitedly awaited access to a vast sea of knowledge. And yet, in her cozy apartment, she realized that she began to feel lonely. Although her friends had given her a great sending-off party, it seemed to her now that the ceremony would have been better suited for a funeral, as she was now practically dead to them.
She focused her energies on her education, finding a circle of friends to study with, and in the time that they spent together, she felt that she had something very special, and she grew dependent on their company, their exuberance and humor. But by the end of two years, none of her original study-friends remained by her side – they had all gotten jobs elsewhere or moved into other libraries and labs. Isabelle sat down on her bed on the last day of her sophomore year, thinking about what she had done wrong.
“Perhaps,” she thought to herself, “I should try committing more than just amiable friendship. Maybe people do not want to stay with someone who cannot offer any more promise than that.” She decided that it was not fair to expect a friend to stay with her, without her taking the initiative and letting the friend know that she would also be there forever. That is how Isabelle met Richard, a young prince who fell in love with the princess at first sight.
They shared many happy moments, and Isabelle made sure to let Richard know that she would do everything she could to be there by his side through everything. Sadly, she found that he was not as mature as she had hoped, and thus she could not always count on him to protect her and hold her up, since he could not bring himself to think about or promise the future that she so dearly wanted. Afraid, she felt their closeness start to slip away, and in the end, he just said goodbye. At first it seemed that he would suffer more from the loss because of his natural energy, but Isabelle, still heartbroken a year afterwards, saw him happily existing without a care for love at the very least.
The princess, not knowing what to do, simply studied in isolation her final year at the academy before returning home with a full diploma and an empty heart. In those four years, Josephine and Tabitha had grown into stunning adults, and they always had a flock of boys following after them. Isabelle smiled and just retired to her room.
“Fairy Godmother,” she said, addressing a porcelain statue of an old, mischievous-looking lady, “Maybe people are afraid of full commitment, and they just want somebody to help them on call.” The fairy godmother remained silent. Sighing, Isabelle swore she would become an angel to help people.
She went about town, keeping herself busy, helping out at odd jobs, taking care of children, delivering packages, doing some things fit for a princess and many more that no one ever expected royalty, not to mention a girl, to take upon herself to complete. Isabelle received many thanks and many flowers, but she realized that after the couple or the bakers or the children were satisfied with her services, they would close the door and never speak to her again. It seemed that angels were treated rather much like meals – one would thank God for providing one, and after eating to a full stomach, one would forget about it completely.
There was one time when she accompanied a peasant boy on a long trek to a new farm that he could call his own, many miles away, hauling part of the load for him. On the road, the two became very close friends, and Isabelle felt comfortable telling him all her secrets and wishes, which amused them both. The sunshine-filled days were so beautiful and comforting to the princess who had thought that finally, she had found a friend who would stay by her side forever. But at the end of the trip, when they had were wiping the sweat from their foreheads and sitting down on a stump on the small patch of forest that they had cleared, he asked her this:
“Isabelle, I need your complete confidence now.”
“Okay,” she replied cheerfully. “What is it?”
“There are two girls who I am enamored with, and I do not know which to choose. I was hoping that perhaps you could help me with this, since you are the only friend I can trust with this.”
Isabelle felt a bit uneasy, but she decided that it was fine to just be a friend, and that the boy probably thought her to be too much of a tomboy to be suited to be a wife. As long as he never forgot about her, that was all that mattered. And so they spent the afternoon talking about the two prospects, and Isabelle felt strongly at the end of the day that he ought to take Heather as his bride, as she seemed to be better suited for helping out around the house on the new farm.
The princess saw them happily wed, and she went to visit often, even though the journey was long, even by carriage. But it wasn’t long until Heather began to grow uneasy about another woman’s frequent presence, especially one with a good deal of wealth. Although no words of animosity were ever exchanged, the princess realized that she had been exiled from that distant, beautiful farm.
Returning to her chambers, she once again consulted her fairy godmother, who once again remained silent. That evening, lying on her plush bed, she decided that people would only stay eternal friends if they were dependent in some way. She mused that this was how opium dealers managed to have people come back day after day, or how prostitutes could ensure that they would never be lonely at night. But our princess, of course, would never partake in such unscrupulous activities – she had much more sophisticated projects in mind.
And indeed, the entire kingdom was enamored by her wonderful flute concerts, a hobby she had started when she met Richard at the academy seven years ago. Time drifted past Isabelle, and like a river or a lone sand dune, she stopped noticing the flows that coursed about her. Reality began to fade even as she reached the peak of her fame. There were now too many fans to keep track of, and not enough time to devote to any one so as to make something more than an acquaintance. So, a hundred thousand signatures and photo ops later, Isabelle crossed the drawbridge to the palace one last time, opened the gate to the palace one last time, looked back over her shoulders one last time, and then descended into the castle dungeon, where the absolute darkness afforded the troubled woman a vision like no other.
There, in the dank, stale cells, she rushed forward into the magnificent landscapes that she imagined and sat down atop a grassy meadow, looking to her side to find the eternal friend she had always awaited. And surely, now, he would be with her …
… forever and ever and ever.