By Ronnell Kay Gibson
Prince Stewart Johannes Percival Ashford rolled over in his antique sleigh bed, yanking the Egyptian cotton sheets over his head. “Humphrey, go away. I’m sleeping.”
Humphrey ignored the command, as he did every morning, and marched across the room. “It’s the Day of Thanks, Master Stewart, and your parents have a full day of festivities planned.”
The prince smushed his face into the feather pillow just before the light came exploding into the room. He hated getting up early, even if it was a special holiday. When I’m ruler, I’m going to make it a law that kings don’t have to get out of bed before 10 a.m.
Humphrey swooshed back the covers. “And it’s already 10 a.m.”
Addendum, 11 a.m. on holidays.
Humphrey pulled at the pillow, trying to remove it from the prince’s chubby fingers. “Master Stewart, your breakfast is getting cold.”
Stewart released the pillow. If he had to get out of his warm bed, at least a hot breakfast would be for waiting him. He smacked his lips and jumped to the floor. Ooey-gooey sticky buns, here I come.
Instead, what was waiting for him underneath the silver dome was a bowl of ooey-gooey sticky porridge. Stewart crossed his arms and slumped in his chair. “I hate porridge. Take it away and bring me my hot buns.”
“As we’ve discussed before, I work for your parents, and the queen wanted you to start off the day with a hearty meal. There will be plenty of sweet treats later.”
The young prince plucked the two plump strawberries off the top of the soupy mush and popped them in his mouth. With cheeks still full of fruit, he muttered, “When I’m king, I’m gonna have ooey-gooey sticky buns every day.” He pushed the bowl over, causing the contents to land on the platter with a glop.
“If you’re not going to eat, let’s get you dressed for the garden party.” Humphrey opened the wooden wardrobe and removed a regal outfit.
“Not that one.” Stewart elbowed his way to the wardrobe and pulled out a ratty undershirt. “This one.”
“Absolutely not.” Humphrey wiggled his nose and threw the garment aside. “It shouldn’t even be in here.”
Grabbing the hanger from his butler, Stewart threw the previously selected outfit on the floor. “I can’t play in these mansy-pansy frocks.” He shivered, remembering the last time when he got a wedgie simply from chasing the cat across the lawn.
Humphrey straightened his back. “You will put those clothes on, and you will do it without any more fuss or backtalk, or there will be no more desserts for a month.”
Stewart crumpled to the floor. This was no idle warning. Humphrey had done it before and never hesitated to threaten whenever his charge got out of line.
Stewart glared at his butler. Just you wait till I take the throne. I’ll fire you, then dress myself in whatever I want.
When Humphrey turned his back to pick out toe-pinching, black, patent-leather shoes, Stewart rescued his favorite worn shirt, ran, and buried it underneath his pillow.
As Humphrey dressed him in the too-tight knickers, the overly-poofy ruffled shirt, and circulation-hindering brocade coat, Stewart resigned himself to his fate. From now on, he’d simply keep his thoughts to himself.
There were indeed many treats at the garden party. Stewart hid underneath the dessert table, only coming out long enough to pile another plate full of food.
Stewart froze in his hiding spot. A cupcake landed on the ground near his foot.
“Princess Penelope, what do you think you’re doing?” A woman’s harsh voice echoed from above
“It was just one treat.”
Stewart peeked out from under the tablecloth to see two sets of shoes. One belonging to a young girl, the other, to a maid.
“Princesses who hope to win a prince can’t risk their figures by indulging in desserts.”
No desserts? That poor, poor girl. Stewart struggled to observe more but couldn’t see above their waists.
“When I am queen, I will have all the desserts I want.”
“Well, you’re not queen yet.” The nursemaid yanked the girl’s arm and pulled her close. “You will learn how to act like a proper princess, so help me.”
Stewart sensed what was coming and jerked the table’s skirting down just enough to send the entire display of cupcakes toppling over.
The princess jumped to the side. The nursemaid screamed. As other guests rushed to her aide, Stewart used the commotion to clasp the girl’s hand and pull her under the table.
At first, she was startled, but as Stewart put his finger to his lips to shush her, she grinned and nodded. They crawled through the tunnel of skirted buffet tables, then took off running toward the edge of the garden, collapsing between a wall of hedges.
Stewart reached for the folded napkin in his coat pocket and handed it to the princess. She opened it to reveal a heart-shaped cookie with red royal icing.
“Now, you don’t have to wait until you’re queen.”