Royal Twin Secrets
Mismatched Maddie and Perfect Pattie
by Suzanne Young Cordatos
Once upon a midsummer night . . .
Twin full moons lit the bubbling song of a fountain in the cobblestoned square and cast double moonbeams over the pine forest and into the bedchamber window where King Maxi and his petite wife stood arm in arm. They watched a host of stars dance between one orb in the eastern sky and the other to the west.
The brightest star danced away from the others and began falling.
Queen Mini tugged on His Majesty’s sausage-like fingers. “Have you ever seen such a thing? Let’s make a wish!”
King Maxi thought a perfectly lovely fishing pole would help while away the hours, so he opened his lips to say, “I wish for a perfectly lovely—” but Queen Mini misunderstood and pleaded to the falling star at once, wishing (as queens in stories often do, I’m afraid) for a child. “Oh yes, please, Star Fairy, a baby! T’will take away the quiet of this boring old kingdom with nothing but trees to entertain us!”
Star Fairy landed with a bump in the open window and sat in a puddle of silvery fairy dust. Brushing sparkles from her wings, the sprite spoke in a musical, thin, unearthly voice. “Queen Miniver, you shall have your wish.” She fluttered above the sill with more fairy dust dripping from her skirt onto the fine carpet. “And, King Maximilian, in honor of the Midsummer Moons, I will double it!”
Brass gongs summoned the kingdom nine months plus three later to celebrate the pair of royal baby girls. Thereafter, many souls from castle and village danced under the annual Midsummer moons and searched the heavens in vain for Star Fairy to return—and double their secret desires.
Before we get to the calamities of the 13th Royal Birthday Ball for twin princesses Madelyn and Patrice (and we learn who was invited to the party and, sadly, who wasn’t) take a quick step back some years to when the twins had just turned seven. The morning proved too sunshiny-perfect to stare at musty tapestries and old tin suits of armor indoors, declared Nanny Bridget, so the royal household staff hurried to set a fine picnic lunch out on the castle lawn. As fate would have it, this became a turning-point day in which a witch and a poor village girl came into their lives, changing them forever.
When Bee (as the twins nicknamed their nanny) put down the last picnic basket and spread a blanket under a towering shade tree near the surrounding brick wall, she smiled and shook her head at the princesses. Exactly the same faces, yet the girls were different as the sun and moon.
Princess Madelyn had already plucked a bright pink flower and tucked it behind an ear, where it dazzled against her coppery curls. Having kicked off her shoes, the girl skipped with bare royal toes in the soft grass in joy of unexpected freedom from the castle. Nanny Bridget was not worried because, as fast as the moppet ran away to explore, Madelyn bounced back as quickly. But that would not be the case this day.
Princess Patrice settled onto the blanket, tucked her satin-slippered feet under her skirt and peeled back the towel to uncover the goodies packed into the basket. Poking daintily through the baskets stuffed with an assortment of fresh fruit, Cook’s famous crusty bread and cheeses, the young royal forehead creased with sweet thoughtfulness as she daintily made a selection. “A peach, yum!” Her eyes sparkled blue and the juicy flesh was a sunny yellow—a good choice that matched her yellow ribbon that matched her straight, blonde hair that matched her dress that matched her slippers.
“Pattie, poppet, you look lovely and fresh as a tall glass of lemonade on a hot day. Speaking of, would you like a glass? Lemonade?”
Under the compliments of the motherly nanny, this twin sat up straighter and smiled brighter but did not hear the offer because she was looking off to see what mess her twin sister had gotten into. Some exotic, dangerous activity, no doubt, one that would require Bee’s rescue and interrupt their picnic. Indeed, Patrice prided herself on being the picture of princess loveliness, the kind of person who aimed to cause no trouble and make everyone around her feel comfortable and not notice her at all (except, if she were honest with herself, Patrice did not mind when others admired her perfectly princess loveliness.)
“Your sister looks perky as cherry punch today, don’t you agree?” Nanny Bridget smiled and craned her neck around, frowning a little. Maddie was nowhere to be seen.
“Not at all, Bee. The flower clashes with her hair which clashes with the flowers on her dress which clashes with those slippers which clash with each other! She’s a—a—a mismatched Maddie and it pains my eyes to look at her.”
Nanny Bridget scolded her charges when necessary, because she knew in her heart if the King and Queen didn’t do it, who would? “Poppet, don’t let anyone hear you say such ugly words.”
Someone did overhear the unkind words.
In fact, three someones did.
Bored playing hide and seek with herself behind the shade tree, Maddie heard them. She looked at her shoes kicked onto the blanket—one green to match the grass, and a yellow-green to match the leaves—and the pink flower fell from her red hair into the pocket of her flowered dress. She popped around the tree, fire on her face.
Nanny Bridget noticed. “How about a nice glass of that lemonade?”
“Yes, please. Maybe Mismatched Maddie would like some, too,” said Pattie.
“Yes, thank you, Bee, I would. And make sure my PERFECT twin’s lemonade has the PERFECT amount of SUGAR in it. We wouldn’t want PERFECT PATTIE to muss her PERFECT FACE with a lemony SOURPUSS.”
Anger put an extra burst of energy inside her, and she went around the tree and looked up to find a tree branch to climb to get away.
A pair of big brown eyes over a perky little nose was spying down on her from atop the castle wall. The face disappeared, but the gasp and crash on the other side of the wall made Maddie move fast. Her fingers and toes found nooks and crannies in the brick wall to climb, and before she had time to think she threw a leg over the top. Her mismatched self dropped several feet down to the other side, wooded and wild. A place she was not allowed to go.
The princess brushed the dirt from her knees and looked around. Rarely did the King and Queen take their family outside the castle walls. Not to see the river that rushed over itself at a waterfall (and sounded much louder on this side of the wall.) Not to see the fountain in the village square across the river bridge. Not to visit the shops around the cobblestoned square. Only once had the princess been through the tall castle gates set into the wall, and that was by carriage on a long, bumpy journey through the pine forest to visit her auntie and uncle near the sea.
A plain girl sat on the ground next to an empty bucket and a scattered pile of berries.
Maddie asked, “Are you all right?” and helped her to her feet. Their bare toes had smooshed some of the berries and they giggled at the squishy feeling.
A flash of an unnatural green light on-off-on-off-on between the pines stopped their laughter short. At the edge of the woods, an old-looking woman appeared and stepped onto the lane. She held her crooked back with one hand and a small, glass ball in the other, from which came a pulsing green light.
“Cessie! There you are!” A man came hurrying around a bend and scooped up the smaller girl in his arms. “Let’s gather the berries that are still whole and I’ll show you how to make gooseberry pie when we get home.”
Maddie and the girl glanced at the woods. The old woman and her green light had vanished. Only a thin pouf! of green light showed where she had stood. Maddie helped the man and his daughter find the good berries and when they had saved what they could they nodded to her and skipped hand in hand down the lane.
Maddie watched them until they disappeared over the river bridge, and there it was again: a green flashing light from the edge of the forest.
The old woman stood there as if she had never left. As if rooted to the spot.
“Where did you—you weren’t there before,” sputtered the princess.
The old woman nodded, and Maddie crossed the lane to get a better look. The old woman’s nose was the most interesting thing she’d ever seen. A long corkscrew of hair, black as coal, twisted out from the end of a fat pink wart at the tip of the crooked nose. Fascinated, the princess reached out her seven-year-old finger to touch the hair and see if it was as springy as it appeared. Booiinnggg!
Pretty!” she said to the witch, who smiled a crooked smile and poufed! away a second time. It was indeed a witch, for who else has a black hair coiled out from a nose-wart and a bent back and a crooked smile? she asked Cook later, who knew everything and confirmed it.
For years afterward, unfortunately, the nicknames Mismatched Maddie and Perfect Pattie stuck hard, but both twins soon forgot the picnic. Madelyn remembered the witch but quite forgot the girl on the other side of the wall—but that little girl did the opposite and forgot the witch but not the twin princesses.