Read The Very Little Princess: Zoey's Story Online

Authors: Marion Dane Bauer

Tags: #Ages 6 & Up, #Retail

The Very Little Princess: Zoey's Story

For Barbara Ann Hill
—M.D.B
.

Contents

 Chapter 1   
A Girl and a Doll

 Chapter 2   
A Single Tear

 Chapter 3   
Two Choices

 Chapter 4   
A Name for a Princess

 Chapter 5   
The Throne Room

 Chapter 6   
Princess and Servant

 Chapter 7   
The Secret

 Chapter 8   
“Be Good.”

 Chapter 9   
A Kiss

Chapter 10  
“Not Today, I Think.”

Chapter 1
A Girl and a Doll

This is a story about a girl and a doll. A brave girl and a … well, a doll is just a doll, isn’t she? Or at least that’s all she was when this story began.

The doll was made of fine china, and she was very small. She was, in fact, exactly three and one-quarter inches tall from head to toe. Her eyes were blue, and her hair was spun gold. Or if you feel less romantic about hair, you could say it was straw yellow.

The girl saw spun gold.

The girl’s name was Zoey, and the doll hadn’t always been hers. In fact, it had once belonged to a grandmother so far removed that no one seemed to have any idea how many
greats
it would take to name her.

But Zoey didn’t yet know about the doll the morning her mother told her it was time to get ready to go.

“Go where?” she asked.

“To your grandmother’s house,” her mother replied. And she smiled as though going off to Zoey’s grandmother’s house on a June morning were the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, visiting your grandmother probably is natural for you. But it wasn’t for Zoey. The truth is she had never met her grandmother. Until that moment she hadn’t even known she
had
a grandmother!

“Go
where?”
Zoey asked again, amazed.

“To your grandmother’s house,” Zoey’s mother repeated. And then she picked Zoey up and twirled her around so that her feet came off the floor and flew through the air.

Zoey was almost too big to be twirled around that way, but her mother still did it from time to time. Only when she was in a very good mood, though. Zoey was glad her mother was in a good mood. She’d been awfully quiet lately.

“Now go pack,” her mom said when she put Zoey down.

So Zoey did. She got out her pink cardboard ballerina suitcase and put in shorts and shirts and underpants and pajamas. Then she added a sweatshirt, just in case it was cold where her grandmother lived.

She put in her hairbrush, too, the one that didn’t tangle in her too-curly hair, and a toothbrush.

And because her mother hadn’t said how long they would be staying, she put in the book her teacher had given her for being the best reader in the fourth grade. She had read it already, but a good book can be read many times.

While she packed, Zoey thought about her grandmother. The idea that she had a real grandmother thrilled her!

As far as Zoey had ever known, she had no family except her mother. No grandparents. No aunts. No uncles. No cousins. No brothers or sisters. No father, either. She and her mother had always been a family of two.

“Two is a just-right number,” Zoey’s mother often said.

And even when Zoey was very small, she’d said it, too. “A just-right number.”

Two meant someone to break wishbones with. It meant someone to sit in front of their tiny TV with, eating popcorn dripping with butter and washed down with cocoa. It meant someone to play endless games of double solitaire with … and checkers and Scrabble. Zoey had won their last two games of Scrabble.

Two meant someone to go to when you had a bad dream. Sometimes the bad dream was Zoey’s. Sometimes it was her mother’s. But always the other was there.

“You and me,” Zoey’s mom would say, giving Zoey a fierce hug. “We’re just right.”

And Zoey had always agreed.

But three could be a just-right number, too. Zoey was sure it could. Especially when the third person was her grandmother.

Maybe her grandmother liked to play Scrabble!

Zoey came out of her bedroom with her suitcase, and her mother handed her a piece of peanut butter toast and led the way out of their apartment. Before Zoey had swallowed her last bite of toast, they were driving away.

To her grandmother’s house.

They drove out of Minneapolis and into the
countryside. They drove on whizzing four-lane highways and on quiet two-lane ones. They drove and drove and never stopped, except once for gas.

At first Zoey’s mother chattered: About the town she’d grown up in … so small, she said, they rolled the sidewalks up at night. (Zoey thought about that for a long time, sidewalks rolled up like rugs to leave room for dancing.) About the house she’d grown up in … bigger than any apartment Zoey had ever seen. About the room she’d grown up in … “Pink enough even for you, Zoey!” her mother added.

But as the ribbon of road unwound and unwound, her mom gradually unwound, too, until finally she went still. After her mother went still, Zoey couldn’t think of anything to say about the town and the house and the room and the grandmother she had never seen, so she was still, too. And for the rest of the way, they
drove in silence, except for the sounds Zoey’s tummy began to make when lunchtime came and went and they didn’t stop. (Sometimes, she knew, her mom just didn’t get hungry.)

Zoey quit looking for signs of a Pizza Hut or McDonald’s when they turned onto a gravel road.

Theirs was the only car on the gravel road, and the dust billowed behind them like smoke.

When Zoey looked back, she wondered, just for a moment, if the world she knew—their apartment, her school, her friends, all of it—was burning away in that smoke.

But then she told herself she was being foolish.

Finally a small town came into view, and they drove through it slowly. The street and the
grocery store and the corner café and the white church with a stubby steeple were quiet, just as quiet as the inside of the car. And when her mom stopped in front of a tall yellow house surrounded by a grassy yard, the house looked quiet, too.

Lilacs grew along the edges of the yard, but the few blossoms remaining had gone papery and brown. Zoey had lived all her life in one apartment or another, though she had often dreamed of a house surrounded by lilacs. In her dream, however, the blooms were fresh and sweet.

Zoey and her mother stepped out of the car and into the sunny afternoon. It smelled of grass and of something else Zoey couldn’t name, something she didn’t smell in the city. Perhaps it was the earth itself. Whatever it was, it smelled good.

Zoey’s mother put a hand in the middle of
Zoey’s back and pressed her along the stone walk and up the porch steps. A wicker rocking chair sat alone on the porch. Zoey looked for a swing, but there was none. That was something else she had always dreamed of … a porch with a swing.

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