Bryana Smith, Grade 11, Kinross Wolaroi School
Wanda Strike was not a lady to be messed with, even on a good day.
“Remember ladies, people come for the magic, for the fantasy, for the fun. Not for the hung-over princess with the bloodshot eyes.”
“Poised. Polite. Perfect. That’s what we want our princesses to be and nothing else! Ariel, straighten that wig. Tatiana, you’re missing your flower. Good gracious, Cinderella, do you even know how to dress yourself? And Belle...”
The grave-faced girl squared her shoulders as Wanda’s thin shadow loomed near. Today when the Princess Parade was running twenty minutes late, Jasmine was having a midlife crisis and Rapunzel was nowhere to be found, the last place you wanted to be was in the same country as Wanda Strike, let alone in the same theme park.
“Belle, you’re the children’s favourite so don’t forget to smile.”
The girl’s right leg shook under her long golden dress and her clasped hands trembled. On a normal day, she could handle Wanda Strike, but today wasn’t a normal day.
Wanda clapped her hands. “Ok ladies! Showtime!”
The room erupted into chaos as frantic changes were made to costumes and last layers of lipstick were applied to already lacquered lips. The girl in the golden dress stood gracefully, pulling on one white glove and then the other.
“Good luck today, Lucy,” Ariel said, with a smile.
“Thanks, Sarah,” she said in the all too-cheery voice of a seasoned actress.
The door opened and cheers deafened. One by one each princess left, head held high, smiles as bright as the ones on the little princesses in the crowd. The beautiful Belle smiled and waved, posed for photos, told little girls and big alike that “all your dreams will come true”. She kissed the Beast and turned him human. She sung, she danced and she laughed. The perfect act, the perfect princess. She was Belle. Brave Belle, who fought the wolves. Kind Belle, who healed the Beast. Selfless Belle, who saved her father. Every part of her shone with the glimmer of magic that only Disney could create.
Yet as she sat in front of her makeshift dressing table that night, removing the pins from her wig, she did not think she was Belle. If she was Belle, she wouldn’t be in this room filled with empty Chinese take-away containers and bleak thoughts. She would be in her castle, dancing the night away with her prince charming, not reliving memories of a father she couldn’t save from the slow decay of cancer.
A knock sounded on the door. Wanda Strike stepped in. Lucy tensed and then relaxed as Wanda’s stern expression dissolved in a gentle smile.
“Well done. I know how hard it would have been out there for you today.”
“Thanks.” Lucy stood and hugged the older woman. Wanda Strike might be a lady to mess with but when Disneyland closed she was just another mother. A mother who possessed her own kind of magic, even on a bad day.