Tap, tap, tap. I drummed my fingers on my tiny desk. The morning sun shone through my window, and the fluffy white clouds in the sky moved calmly west. I, Lizzy, longed to escape the prison of my room, and run free outside. But I had been grounded for accidentally burning down most of our kitchen when I was trying to make bread last week. There are no bakeries in our rural little town, you see, so we have to make our own baked goods. I had put the lumps of dough in the oven, and since it was summer, and we had no air conditioning, I had gone for a short walk under the shade of the trees. Let’s just say that when I got back, the kitchen was totally fried (no pun intended). I hadn’t even heard a thing! I never realized that we didn’t have a smoke alarm. The cabinets and the dining table were totally destroyed, all scorched black. The floor was ruined, and wouldn’t hold up any weight. My parents had rushed home from visiting friends because they saw smoke coming from our house, and I had to tell them everything while looking guiltily at my shoes. I knew that the kitchen would take a long time to fix it, and it would take even longer to pay off the repairmen. So, my Dad had to cut back on our farm hands’ pay, and I knew their families needed the extra income badly. I felt remorseful whenever I saw the farm hands working outside, knowing that they were not getting paid as much as they should be, and that it was my fault. When you are a family farmer like my parents, burning down a kitchen is a huge, epic disaster.
But now, I flopped on my bed and blew my golden bangs out of my eyes. I was probably going to be stuck up here for a long time, or at least until it was time for fall housecleaning, when I would probably have to scrub all the floors till they shone like diamonds. I wouldn’t mind scrubbing the floors, but I felt troubled because my parents didn’t trust me around anything now. I guess they figured it would be pretty hard to mess anything up alone in my room. I sighed and let my gaze drift over my bookshelf. At least I had some entertainment. I grabbed an old, faded book and dusted off the cover. Rapunzel. I shrugged. Why not? I felt a bit like Rapunzel, stuck up in a tower right now. I opened up the old fairy tale and started reading.
“Who are you and why are you here?” a voice demanded sharply.
My eyes flew open, taking in the scene in front of me. Wasn’t I in my room a second ago? Did I fall asleep while reading Rapunzel? I couldn’t remember. In front of me was a teenage girl who looked about my age. Her hair was so bright and blonde that it looked like gold, and it flowed around her as she moved, like an endless waterfall. She wore a silky green dress with lavender-purple trimmings. I looked up at her face. She was holding up a hard-covered dictionary threateningly, her sky-blue eyes narrowed into slits.
“Uh, sorry if I disturbed you,” I stuttered, glancing around the room nervously. How was this happening?
“Answer my question.” The girl’s tone was harsh, and her eyes flashed dangerously. “Who are you?”
“I am Lizzy,” I said. “Who are you? How did I get here? Where am I?” I just couldn’t help blurting out all my questions. I looked around again, as if that would clear things up. The room I was in was round, with tall windows. The floors and walls were made of cold, dull stone. It looked a bit like a lookout tower, and it looked like it had been built in the Middle Ages or something. I guess people were into towers back then. Wait a minute, towers?
“Are you Rapunzel?” I asked disbelievingly. By now, I was sure I was dreaming.
“Duh.” She rolled her eyes, like she couldn’t believe I asked her that. “Are you another one of those people who tries to come in my story and save the day?”
“What? No! I mean, what do you mean?” I asked. This was getting stranger and stranger.
“I’ll tell you.” She sighed and lowered the dictionary, apparently not mad at me for appearing in her room. “You see, my story has been twisted a million times. At first, I was a farmer girl who got sent to her room because I lost one of our cows. It was supposed to teach kids a lesson about obeying their parents. But, there just wasn’t enough magic in my story, so readers were always bored when they read my tale. So, all the magic that should have been in my story sucked the readers in. The magic allowed them to change any part of my story that they wanted.” She paused for breath.
I was totally not getting how this was possible, and once again wondered if I was dreaming. But, to be polite, I nodded for her to go on.
“Those readers certainly had wild imaginations. Some crazy reader added a witch who punished my dad for stealing a salad, another proclaimed that I should have one hundred feet of hair, and to top it all off, my prince gets tossed out the window. So let me give you some advice: if anyone ever wants to write a book about you, I suggest you turn and run before you end up like me.”
Okay, by now, my mouth was almost hanging open. Who would have thought that Rapunzel was a totally normal girl at first? How do you get from losing a cow to being trapped in a tower? There must have been an awful lot of bored readers who got sucked into the story. But, now that I thought about it, it kind of made sense. I always wondered why there were so many versions of Rapunzel. Could I make my own version of her tale?
“You mean I can do whatever I want?” I asked.
“Yeah.” Rapunzel crossed her arms. I got the feeling that she was just plain tired of random readers flying into her life and changing it. I ran my hand through my knotted hair. If I were Rapunzel, wouldn’t I want to be normal again? Ditch the tower, cut my hair, and get a life? Honestly, I felt pretty sorry for the poor girl. I patted her hand. It was smooth and pale, probably because she had been indoors most of her life.
“What story do you want?” I asked. She looked up, her eyes betraying her surprise. She tried to hide it, and when she spoke, her tone was cautious.
“You are the only reader who has ever asked me that. All the others made the stories they wanted.”
“Well, I’m asking you what you want. It’s your life, after all.” I said this matter-of-factly. Hearing my practical tone, she raised her blue gaze to meet mine and smiled.
“I always did want to start a bakery,” she said a bit shyly.
“A bakery it is.” As soon as the words left my mouth, the tower literally shrunk to the size of a bakery! There was a big glass window in the front, with neat red checkered curtains, and even a white window seat. Wooden tables were arranged neatly around the room, and there was a marble-topped counter near the back. Behind the counter were shiny pots and pans and a stove and an oven. I watched as Rapunzel turned slowly, taking it all in.
“This is the best day ever!” she shrieked, grinning so hard that her face distorted. “Pinch me! I never thought this could actually happen.”
The first thing that Rapunzel baked was a huge chocolate fudge pie, my favorite dessert. I wished the ingredients into the story, and she expertly whipped them up into a delicate pie crust and filling. We took turns eating the leftover chocolate and licking our fingers after she slid the pie into the hot oven.
When the crust was baked to a delicate golden-brown, she carefully lifted it out it out to cool. As soon as she set it down, the door swooshed open, bringing in a wonderful breeze of fresh, grassy air…and a guy dressed in ridiculously shiny knight armor. He was riding a pure white horse, so I knew at once that this was the prince who was supposed to rescue Rapunzel.
“Oh, beautiful Rapunzel,” he said dramatically, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword, “I have come to release you from the evil witch who so cruelly holds you in her evil clutches. I will slay the fearsome--”
“There is no witch,” I said, interrupting his speech. I felt a slight shift in the ground at my story-change. When I looked at the prince again, he looked a little confused for a moment. Then he got off his horse, took off his helmet and scratched his head.
“Why did I come here again?” he asked, “And what is that amazing smell?”
“It’s my chocolate fudge pie,” Rapunzel answered, smiling at the compliment. “Would you like some?”
“Yes, please!” the prince exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. Now that his helmet was off, I could see that his hair was curly and bright red, and he had freckles all over his face. He wore big round glasses that made his brown-green eyes look as shiny as his armor, and now that I looked closely, I could see a big encyclopedia in a leather bag on his horse. Who would’ve thought a prince could be bookworm? But, then again, I never thought that someone locked in a tower could be good at baking. Speaking of which, Rapunzel was cutting the pie. There was a soft crunch as she lowered a knife into the crust. She carefully sliced the first piece and slid it onto a china plate. I could feel my mouth water a little as the aroma of chocolate floated over to my nose. Rapunzel must have noticed, because she winked at me and handed me the first slice, along with a dainty china fork to eat it with.
“Lizzy!” My ears nearly exploded at the panther-like scream. I sprang up, my eyelids snapping open. Wait. I was in my room! But instead of the sound of my parents arguing about the burnt kitchen, there was only silence. No construction, no repairmen marching around, no smell of cement…
Smell. That reminded me, where was Rapunzel and her bakery? Or was she just a dream I had? I scratched my head, confused. I took a flap of skin between my fingers and pinched hard. Ow, that hurt. Okay, I was definitely awake.
“Liiizzy! I need you to run over to the bakery!” My mom’s call drifted up the stairs. I heard her footsteps getting closer to my room. “Lizzy!”
“Okay, okay!” I said when she thrust my door open. “But since when was there a bakery??!!” That was the whole reason I burned the kitchen down, because there was nowhere to buy bread, so I had to make it. I was about to make this point when my mom replied.
“Silly girl, the bakery’s been here for years. It was founded by a young girl named Rapunzel more than ninety years ago!” My mom had that ‘are you trying to annoy me’ look on her face.
Then, all of a sudden, it clicked. Since I’d helped Rapunzel start her bakery, there was a bakery near home, which probably meant that I’d never burned the kitchen down, because there was a place to buy bread! Inside, I was jumping with joy. No burnt kitchen, no being grounded, no paying for repairs, and best of all, now I knew that Rapunzel got her happy ending!
“Why are you smiling like that?” My mom asked, shaking her head, her hands on her hips. “Anyway, make sure you buy some bread today. Goodness gracious, stop grinning like you’ve won the lottery.” Still shaking her head, she left my room and went back downstairs. As soon as she was gone, I grabbed my copy of Rapunzel, and flipped to the ending.
Rapunzel accepted the prince as her faithful baking apprentice, and they loved to read books together, especially dictionaries and cookbooks. Later, they were married, and lived happily into their old age. Their bakery still stands today, run by their grandchildren’s children.
In the illustration there was a redheaded boy with big glasses, who was holding a thick book. When I looked closely, I could see that his apron had the word apprentice stitched on it. Next to him stood Rapunzel, who looked exactly like I’d last seen her, with her green dress and huge grin. As I looked at her picture, I was sure I saw her wink.
I smiled a secret smile, and winked back.