Once Upon a Time…
…there was a young girl, this little girl was a sad little girl, a lonely little girl, a lost little girl and she thought she was an unloved little girl. Her name was Sophie. Sophie’s parents had just recently divorced, so she worried that they had stopped loving her, like, sadly, they’d stopped loving each other. Sophie was so terrified of this idea, that she wanted to do everything and anything she could to ensure that this didn’t happen. So she decided in order to be loved she MUST be a good girl. Sophie worked hard in school, she did all her homework, she helped with chores at both houses, kept her room tidy, tried not fight with her older brother (although sometimes it was hard) and she tried not cry or show her feelings. She wanted to ensure that she did not make any waves to rock the boat further. She already felt adrift and she was clinging on to being “a good girl” like it was a life line. But she somehow felt like she needed to be even better.
Sophie wasn’t always a sad, lonely little girl. She and her brother lived in a suburb just outside of London, with Mum and Dad, but that was before… Now Sophie faced life between her parents and this made her terribly sad. Before the split, Sophie loved to squish in between her parents on the sofa, wiggling her way in to a snuggly bug warm hug. She would, proudly, bring home her best bits of school work to be displayed on the fridge, now she felt torn about which parent she should give it to. Which fridge should it go on? She loved playing catch in the garden with Mum and creating masterpieces in the kitchen with Dad. Sophie knew that changes and choices were inevitable and this scared her. What she didn’t realise was that, despite her fears, her Mummy and Daddy still loved her very very much.
Sophie is Dazzled by the Glossy Princesses
Sophie loved to leaf through her mum’s glossy magazines, feeling the smooth pages between her fingers and drinking in the smell of freshly printed pages. She adored looking at all the beautiful women in their glamourous fashions, looking like glorious princesses. All the colours, luxurious fabrics and the patterned prints jumping out of the page, Sophie was spellbound. After a while Sophie’s attention turned towards the models, rather than the dresses; she saw they all looked strikingly similar. They all had long lean legs, bronzed toned tummies, shiny hair, sculpted cheek bones and tall slender frames. As she stared at these spectacular princesses, she started to take notice of her own body. She didn’t look like them at all! Sophie let her hand touch her soft skin and she felt the cushiony warmth of her tummy and thighs. She stared in the mirror at her pooky, rounded, rosy cheeks, her short legs and her gentle round face. Sophie cried
“I don’t look like those princesses one little bit!”
And she started to worry. Sophie thought to herself “In order to be the best type of “good girl”… A PRINCESS! I need to look like those magical ladies in the magazine.” She huffed at her own appearance in the mirror and held up the magazine like it was a precious painting.
Everyday Sophie sat in front of the mirror and wished and cried. She wished that she could be different, but her wishes went unanswered. She looked at the other girls at school and day-dreamed she could be more like them, more athletic, more blonde, more… well… less like herself. One day Sophie drew in a deep breath and walked toward the popular girls. She had decided to speak to them about how to look more like them, how to look more like a ‘Princess’. Some smiled politely and shrugged, others laughed and one girl, one really mean girl, started pointing and laughing at Sophie.
“You can never be like us! You Silly Fatty! Fat Cow!”
Sophie didn’t understand that the ‘Mean Girl’, was pretty on the outside but ugly on the inside. The ‘Mean Girl’ said terribly mean things to all the girls, commenting on their appearance. She liked to ensure they were all scared of her. She was a bully. Sophie heard the words “Fat Cow” screaming in her ear like a siren. The other girls followed the ‘Mean Girl’ laughing and chanting. Sophie felt dizzy, confused, her face flushed hot and prickly tears filled her eyes. She looked around for some help but no-one was willing. Some girls stood sheepishly by, too frightened to get involved.
She ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Shame and embarrassment fogging up her head. She ran and ran and ran until she found herself deep in the woods. As she caught her breath, she looked around, the wood was dense and dark. She saw a small hut, a hut she had been repeatedly warned to stay away from. Sophie cautiously walked towards the hut, remembering the rumours about an old, evil, witchy woman that everyone called ‘The Crone’, who lived there and practised black magic. Sophie wondered, “Perhaps ‘The Crone’ might have a special spell that she could use to shrink my body, so that no one would ever call me names again?”
The Crone & The Book
‘The Crone’s’ house was dark and creepy. Strange smells and vapours wafted around her. As she opened the creaky door, ‘The Crone’ turned in her chair and laid her beady eyes on Sophie, looking her up and down with malice. Instantly Sophie felt a chill run down her spine but there was no turning back now, she had to complete her quest. ‘The Crone’ smiled a grim, toothless smile. Sophie could smell her rank breath as she began to speak, “Hello Sophie, I know why you are here….I know what you have come for….but it will cost you”. Sophie swallowed hard, she had never been so terrified but she was determined.
“I’ll do anything…” Sophie replied, not realising the true cost.
‘The Crone’ leaned closer, “I will help you to change your body and to become a true princess but, in return, I require something from you.”
Sophie had no money of her own and she felt red hot tears fill her eyes “…but I have nothing to give you”.
‘The Crone’ smiled, and replied “You have something I want, if you give it to me freely, it will not cost you any money or riches but you have to agree to give it to me. It is your soul.”
Sophie, having no clue what her soul was, or it’s true value, willingly agreed. ‘The Crone’ handed Sophie a book, it was a magic book with lots of spells, recipes and rules to help her succeed in her quest. Sophie had never felt so elated, she was going to be a Princess, AT LAST! Her heart brimmed with joy and determination. As Sophie left, ‘The Crone’ swore her to secrecy, “No-one must know about this book but in order for it to help you, you must read and follow its every rule, no matter how difficult it might seem. Becoming a Princess isn’t easy.” As Sophie left she didn’t notice ‘The Crone’s’ smile turn into an evil, twisted sneer, as she rubbed her hands with glee.
Sophie and ‘The Book’
As the weeks went on Sophie used ‘The Book’ and treated it with almost obsessive love and care. Sophie ensured it went everywhere with her. She took it to school, to her Dad and new Stepmum’s house and her Mum’s house, she even took it when she visited her Nan. Sophie became very good at hiding the book from them all, remembering the warning that ‘The Crone’ had given her. She religiously recorded everything she did on her quest, what she ate and when and how far she travelled on her quest. Her cheeks became less round, her limbs thinner and leaner. The more she turned to ‘The Book’, the smaller her body became, as this happened her soul dwindled. She became weary and sad. Sophie withdrew from her friends and family, as her quest became more and more prominent in her mind. She became fearful of seeing her friends lest they should distract her from her path; she NEEDED to become a beautiful princess. All the cinema nights, birthday parties and sleepovers that Sophie was invited to were avoided in case she was offered any of the sugary delights that ‘The Book’ had banned her from. She was afraid she might do something else that may sabotage her quest, like being still for too long… ‘The Book’ required her to constantly move her body. Although Sophie still did not know what her soul was, she felt something deep down inside her had changed.
Miss Heather’s Pens
At school it didn’t go unnoticed that Sophie was not quite herself. Miss Heather, Sophie’s teacher, wondered what was troubling her once bright, cheerful and creative student. She sat down next to Sophie and, gently, asked what was wrong. Sophie shrugged it off and defensively clutched her bag to her chest. That was when Miss Heather noticed ‘The Book’, she glimpsed a quick look at its cover and instantly recognised the evil that had snuck its way into her best student’s life. She was not sure but Miss Heather was almost positive she heard a low, warning growl from Sophie’s bag. Miss Heather, knowing Sophie loved art, gave her some special pens to draw with. Miss Heather carefully took Sophie’s bag and placed it by her desk. Miss Heather asked Sophie in an encouraging tone, “Draw me a picture of what you’d really like to be, if you could be ANYTHING in the universe”. Sophie sluggishly picked up the pens, but then a thought entered in to her head, remembering her quest…
“A PRINCESS! I WANT TO BE A PRINCESS!”
“Really?” Miss Heather questioned “….but a princess’ life can be quite limited.” Sophie thought again. “Anything? As in any creature real or imagined?” Miss Heather smiled, “Yes, Sophie, you can be ANYTHING that YOU want to be.” Sophie looked down at the pen in her hand and it came to her… a MERMAID! “I want to be a MERMAID!” she exclaimed, looking the brightest she’d looked in weeks. The pens immediately began to sparkle and glow, Sophie could not resist them. She drew the most beautiful Mermaid, with long flowing blue hair, shiny iridescent scales, a long soft curvy body and a beaming smile. Sophie was brimming with pride and Miss Heather insisted she take it home with her. “Promise me you will hang this up on your mirror tonight.” “I will” said Sophie, it was the first time in weeks she had felt happy. ‘The Book’ snarled and growled in her bag, but Miss Heather just gave it a little kick and it whimpered and fell quiet. Sophie didn’t know it, but a little piece of her soul repaired in that moment.
The Mirror and the Mermaid
That night Sophie did as Miss Heather had asked and put the drawing up on her bedroom mirror. As Sophie looked into the mirror she noticed that her normally bright, sparkly eyes had dimmed, her cheeks looked dark and hollow; she looked so dreadfully tired and pale. Sophie yawned and absent mindedly touched her own reflection. In that moment something peculiar happened! Instead of feeling the cold surface of hard glass, her fingers disappeared into the mirror as if it were water. Ripples appeared distorting her image. Sophie stood, mouth wide open with shock, quickly pulling her hand away. The ripples stopped. “It’s just my mind playing tricks on me.” But she felt compelled to do it again, reaching her hand towards the mirror a second time. Again the glass rippled like water and Sophie pushed her hand in even further. The drawing she had hung on her mirror suddenly came to life, tail swishing, arms moving and her mermaid swam out of the picture and into the mirror. Sophie started to panic “What on earth’s going on?!” she exclaimed. The mermaid turned, smiled and beckoned Sophie towards her. “My name is Sea Mist and I am here to save you…”
Sophie knew immediately that she was not in danger from this beautiful creature……but she was puzzled. “Save me from what?!” she asked. Sea Mist held out her hand “The spell that the evil ‘Crone’ has cast over you. Follow me and bring that awful book.” Sophie looked in her school bag, ‘The Book’ was there, its dark menacing cover, almost skin like, seemed like it was breathing. Sophie cautiously picked it up, not ever before noticing the horrifying nature of the book. It let out a low dangerous growl, but Sophie ignored it, placed it back in the bag, slung it over her shoulder and pressed on.
“Won’t I drown in the water? I am not a mermaid”, Sophie hesitated.
Sea Mist reassured her, “I will NEVER let any harm come to you, EVER.”
Sea Mist reached out of the mirror and placed her fingers gently either side of Sophie’s neck. Sophie felt a tingling sensation as Sea Mist made gills appear, so that she could breathe underwater. Sophie sighed with relief. Sea Mist took Sophie’s hand and they swam off together into the mirror. Sophie kicked her legs in the water, feeling a mixture of excitement and fear all at once.
“Welcome to BoPovia.” The giant, illuminated sign read…
Sophie and Sea Mist approached a beautiful, sprawling underwater metropolis, with coloured lights and a magical, glittering aura. As they ventured forward the Mermaids, Mermen and Merpeople, came swimming out to greet them. The Merpeople were a glorious spectrum, all different shapes, colours, sizes and abilities. Sophie met Helena first, a mermaid with a brace around her tail and an attached mechanical fin. Helena’s actual fin was twisted and turned in such a way that meant she could not swim unaided. Sophie did not want to stare, but in doing so became even more uncomfortable. However, Helena was used to this, she smiled kindly and said “It’s ok Sophie, you can ask…”.
“W-What happened to your tail?”
Sophie asked awkwardly. “Well Sophie, I have cerebral palsy which limits my mobility. I was born this way. My parents made my fin-harness to help me.” Helena said with a proud smile. Sophie looked sad and said, “Oh, I am so sorry.”
“Oh Honey what do you need to be sorry for? Are you sorry for me?” Helena asked.
“Yes”, Sophie replied, “because you can’t do the things that other Merpeople can do.”
Sophie blushed; she was feeling embarrassed. Helena laughed, “Oh Honey… can I ask you something? Can you do a spiralling back-flip?”
“Nope.” Sophie answered.
“How about speaking four languages, including Dolphin?”
“How about both at the same time!?”… Helena whipped herself around in an amazing display of backflips whilst making glorious Dolphin sounds. It was marvellous and Sophie giggled with delight. “So Sophie, do you still feel sorry for me? Should I feel sorry for you because you can’t do these things, or is it amazing that we are just able in different ways?” Helena was panting from her exertions, but grinning widely with her hands sassily on her hips. Sophie hugged Helena and said “I’ve never thought of it that way, thank you Helena, you are AWESOME!” Helena laughed and hugged her back, kissing her lovingly on the top of her head. “You are welcome Baby, such a beautiful, kind and intelligent young lady.” Sophie smiled, feeling a warm sensation across her chest and again a little bit of her soul returned. ‘The Book’ let out another menacing growl, it did not like this one little bit.
Sophie meets the Merpeople
Sophie swam around meeting all the different Merpeople. At lunch Sea Mist introduced her to Kendrick. Kendrick was a stunning Merperson, with feminine features, a long lean slender body, short hair and a beautiful strong jawline.
“Sea Mist,” Sophie whispered, “is Kendrick a boy or a girl?”
Sea Mist smiled and repeated the question to Kendrick, knowing full well that Kendrick was happy to discuss this.
“Well Sophie, I am neither and I am both!”
Kendrick said mischievously winking at Sea Mist. Sophie scratched her head. Kendrick laughed and said “Sometimes I feel like I am a girl and other times I feel like a boy. My gender is not what defines me, I’d much rather be recognised for my awesome dance skills.” To which Kendrick then busted out some amazing moves to the music in the restaurant, spinning and swishing, twirling and pirouetting, finally resting in a flourishing bow. Sophie’s face was full of wonder as she watched and when Kendrick finished she broke into enthusiastic applause, as did the rest of the restaurant. Kendrick was an awesome dancer! As she beamed with pride over Kendrick’s accomplished dancing, Sophie’s soul rebuilt a little more. She felt ‘The Book’ buck and growl in her bag. She put her hand down and patted it, in an almost comforting way. ‘The Book’ nipped at her fingers. Sophie recoiled but she was still not yet ready to let ‘The Book’ go. Sophie then met a myriad of fantastic Merpeople at a small gathering they held in honour of her arrival. There was Kelp, a beautiful, brave Mermaid who’d lost her hair and whose breast had to be removed because she had been sick. There was Callista, who had stripes on her big soft round tummy from bearing her beautiful children. Bella, the longest, slimmest Mermaid in town making her the star basketball player. Not forgetting Frank who was a big bear of a Merman, with a big soft body and hair everywhere. Sophie loved Frank and his big bushy beard with seahorses camping out inside it. Frank had such a big, kind heart, as did his partner, Bill, who couldn’t have been more different from Frank; but they were two halves of a whole. Merlin – he loved magic and performed tricks with shells, coral and an octopus, much to Sophie’s delight. Merlin was born with Down’s syndrome but this didn’t impair his impeccable showmanship. The party was in full swing and Sophie laughed, danced, swam, sang and ate beautiful rich, colourful and tasty food. Peg and Burt, a middle aged, married couple decorated all over with tattoos, taught Sophie the traditional dance of the BoPovians. She smiled and her heart felt like it was full to the brim with love and joy.
‘The Book’ Meets its Demise
‘The Book’ continued to growl louder until it was yelling and screaming, but Sophie hadn’t noticed. The bag was set aside and it bucked about violently, but it still went unnoticed. This made ‘The Book’ even more frustrated. It could feel that it was losing its power over Sophie, as the last bits of her soul slotted back together like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle. Sea Mist took Sophie by the hand and looked deep into her eyes,
“Sophie, ‘The Book’ will not let you go unless YOU let go of IT. It will continue to control your life and growl and bite at you. Is that what you really want?”
Sophie let out a long heavy sigh. She knew she had to let it go but she didn’t know how. She was frightened to be without ‘The Book’… How would she ever get to be a Princess? Sea Mist turned to Sophie and looked deep into her almost repaired soul. “Why try to be a Princess, when you are already a beautiful Mermaid?” Sophie thought of all the wonderful Merpeople she had met. She thought about Helena’s languages, Kendrick’s dancing, Kelp’s bravery, Callista’s love for her babies and her beauty, Bella’s amazing Basketball skills, Frank’s big heart and Merlin’s talent… and her heart filled with even more love. She realised that she did not see herself the way she saw others. She needed to love herself the way that she loved them. Sophie realised in that moment, that she wanted to be seen differently; as a great artist, a singer, as a kind and loving friend but most of all she wanted to be seen for what she was… one amazing person! As she looked down her legs turned into a magnificent rainbow tail, colours beaming and glittering. The other Merpeople looked on in awe and cheered. Sea Mist handed Sophie ‘The Book’ and she instantly knew what she had to do. She swam to the darkest, deepest ocean chasm she could find and cast ‘The Book’ into the depths. Lights appeared from within as the creatures from the deep came up and grabbed ‘The Book’, dragging it deep, deep down in to the inky blackness. ‘The Book’ let out a wail, a blood curdling scream, that faded off into the darkness as it was dragged further and further down. Back in the woods ‘The Crone’ heard ‘The Book’s’ scream and knew her evil spell was broken. The realisation hit her as her dark withered heart finally shrunk away to nothing and she turned to dust; without Sophie’s soul she was nothing.
Sophie’s heart and soul were beaming, she knew she was free.
“I promise I will never try to be anything other than the best version of myself!”She yelled, as the final piece of her soul fell back into place. Sophie shone like a beacon and all the Merpeople applauded her, giving her hugs and high fives. They were so proud of her.
“Now, Dear Heart,” Sea Mist started “we must return you to your world.”
Sophie felt sad and thought of all the sadness at home she might face.
“But I am a Mermaid, can’t I stay here with you?”
Sea Mist took Sophie in her arms and gave her the most comforting of cuddles. Sea Mist did not want her to go either but she knew that just as Sophie had let ‘The Book’ go, she must let Sophie go too. “You, my Dear Heart, have a Mermaid heart and soul, you will always be a part of us. We will watch you and from time to time you can call on us, but only if you really need us. You need to go out into the world on a new quest. Your quest is to help other young people to find out what’s in their hearts too. You have a gift, the power to help others realise their own worth. Remember, not everyone can be a Mermaid, so you need to help them find out who they are and embrace it. Can you do that?” Sophie lifted her chin high in the air, “Yes, Sea Mist, I can and I will.”
Sophie bid her farewells, she was given charms and necklaces made of seaweed and shells. Her heart was sad but so full of love (there was even a little bit of room for love for herself). Sea Mist led Sophie back to the gateway. “If you ever need us, just call my name into your mirror…but remember to only call if you need us. I will visit you from time to time though, if that’s ok?” Sophie hugged Sea Mist tightly. “Thank you, of course.” Comforted that she would see Sea Mist again, she climbed back through the mirror. Sophie couldn’t help but feel a little sadness as her tail turned back into her legs, but she knew that she was going to be ok.
Back on Land
The next morning Sophie’s mum came in to wake her. Sophie woke with a bright smile and hugged her mother, squeezing her tightly.
“I love you Mum!”
“I Love you too, my Darling. So, so, so much. I know things have been tough recently but I am very proud of you,” her mum said stroking her hair. “I feel like I’ve got my daughter back. I’ll go and make us some breakkie and we’ll spend the day together, how does that sound?”
Sophie was delighted. Sophie, her mum and her brother laughed, joked, played and danced all day. They visited a park, breathed in the fresh air and ate delicious ice-cream; everything was just perfect. Sophie would be seeing her Daddy next weekend and she was excited. She had learnt she was going to be a big sister and she felt it was her responsibility to use her new mermaid heart to support her new brother or sister, as they made their way in the world. One thing she was sure of, although things were different now, she was confident it was all going to be ok. That night Sophie’s mum tucked her in like she used to when she was really little and kissed her on the forehead. As she left to close the door, she noticed the drawing.
“Oh Sophie, that’s beautiful, you are such an amazing artist.”
She absent mindedly touched the beautiful necklaces and charms made from seaweed and shells, that Sophie had hung from her mirror and said “pretty” as she walked out.
Sophie slept better than she had in weeks.
The next day they had a family Sunday roast and Mum’s new girlfriend, Sadie, came over. Sophie loved Sadie as they would sit and draw together.
“Are you going to draw me another princess today?” Sadie asked.
“No,” Sophie replied “I feel like drawing something different, I think I’ll draw a unicorn.”
“Good idea, Soph, I’ll join you!”
It was the perfect end to the weekend.
A New Day in School
The alarm went off, it was a new day and time for school. Sophie had a little pang of nerves as she thought about having to face those mean girls but she felt her Mermaid heart beat strongly in her chest and she knew she had to confront her fears. She wanted to draw, to play and to be with her friends. She had missed them so, so much and she couldn’t wait to see them. Sophie got up, dressed, scoffed her breakfast and ran out of the door. As she neared the school gates she steeled herself. The ‘Mean Girls’ were in the playground.
“Oh, hey look, there’s Fatty Fatty Boom Boom!” the main ‘Meanie’ shouted.
Sophie’s first reaction was to run away. However, her Mermaid heart glowed inside her. She walked up to the main ‘Mean Girl’, hugged her tightly and said,
“It’s ok, you don’t have to be mean to me to make yourself feel better. You are loved and you don’t need to be mean to get attention. You can say what you want but I have a Mermaid heart and that makes me strong. I forgive you.”
The main ‘Mean Girl’ looked deflated, her mouth slung open and she stammered; she wanted to say something else but couldn’t think of what to do. The other ‘Mean Girls’ were just as dumbstruck. Sophie smiled and skipped away, joining her friends, catching up with the weekend gossip. She couldn’t wait to get to class and show off her creative streak, she wasn’t even afraid of her maths lesson. Miss Heather greeted her at the door.
“Well, hello Sophie, you are looking bright eyed and bushy tailed.”
“Yes, Miss Heather, I am feeling MUCH better thank you.” Sophie beamed.
Sophie’ wasn’t sure but she could have sworn that in that moment Miss Heather winked and a shimmer of gold scales glimmered briefly across her face.