“You’re supposed to be asleep.” She growled accusingly. Maisy looked awful, bags under her eyes, hair sticking up at odd angles.
“Sleep can wait.” She waved her hands dismissively. She shoved her phone at Caroline. “She was just in Mexico.” Joan typed on the computer quickly.
“Found it.” She skimmed the text. “They are calling her la bruja de los santos.”
“What’s that?” Caroline asked blankly.
“It’s Spanish for ‘the witch of the saints’.” Maisy answered. Joan raised an eyebrow at her. “What? You thought I wouldn’t pick some stuff up dating Jimmy?” She scoffed.
“It seems as if she’d doing good work there.” Joan went back to reading.
“Is she still around?” Hans leaned over her shoulder, trying to decipher the Spanish on the screen.
““No…” She answered slowly, putting the most recent update through the translator. “Seems like she cleared out a couple hours ago.” Caroline slumped. Maisy leaned back against the table, defeated. Hans noticed.
“That’s it. Bed, both of you.” He ordered in a voice that brooked no argument.
“I can still look!” Maisy protested. Joan scoffed. Maisy shot her a dirty look.
“And I have to be ready when we find her!” Caroline exclaimed straightening. “There has to be more we can do!”
“Maisy, you’re two hours sleep away from deprivation induced hysteria.” Hans crossed his arms. “And Caroline,” Caroline’s fevered, desperate eyes met her prince’s, and he softened noticeably. “Just get some sleep. Please, princess?” Caroline didn’t want to. She was absolutely desperate to find Myriah, but the concern in Hans’ eyes pulled at her. She bowed her head in acquiescence.
“Come on, Maisy.” She said quietly, reaching out and taking her hand. “I can loan you a robe and nightgown.” Maisy frowned, but let herself be led up the stairs. Caroline stopped in front of her private bathroom. “You could use some freshening up. I’ll grab your clothing while you shower.” Caroline left Maisy, practically fleeing to her room.
Caroline struggled to pull out the bed tucked under her own. Maisy often used it when she’d stayed over too late to feel safe going home. When she managed to slide it out, she fell slightly, landing on her butt. Instead of trying to stand she hid her face in her hands. She was trembling. She didn’t know what she was doing.
When she collected herself, she went to her closet. She reached for the satin gown and then hesitated. Caroline loved the satin gown, but Maisy, she turned to the drawer and pulled out the flannel pajamas that she almost never wore. Maisy liked to look glamorous, but she actually loved things warm and practical. She’d sleep better in the flannels. Caroline left the pajamas just inside the bathroom door. She returned to her bedroom, and sat numbly on the bed, staring at the wall as if Hans was about to shout through it that they had a way. That they had found the witch and they had a way to return Caroline to her former self.
She didn’t even look up when Maisy walked in, toweling her hair off. Her best friend sat beside her on the bed. “The shower helped.” She said. Caroline didn’t respond. “It got me thinking…” Maisy hesitated. “Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.” Caroline’s head whipped around. She stared at Maisy with eyes full of betrayal. “No, Caroline, please just hear me out.” She took her best friend’s limp hands in her own. “Healing has always been a bother to you. Let Myriah do it. Let her suffer through the exhaustion and the nausea.” Maisy’s hands tightened reassuringly. “If you can’t heal, no one will have any reason to kidnap you, no one will ever try to force you into something, no one will try to befriend you just because their aunt or mother or cousin is ill and break your heart when they ask for ‘this one tiny favor’ that leaves you feeling sick for days.” Maisy’s words were logical, but in Caroline’s head, they didn’t make sense.
“But…” She faltered and tears began leaking from her eyes. “It’s wrong.” Maisy’s breath caught.
“Oh, Caroline.” She pulled her into a hug. Caroline was almost unresponsive.
“I won’t be a princess anymore. I won’t be me.” Caroline started shaking with emotion. “I’m not a princess any more.” Caroline began sobbing. “Oh god, who am I? It’s like Myriah kidnapped the important part of me and let the rest of me go!” Maisy made comforting hushing sounds and tipped them over so they were lying on the bed. Caroline finally reacted to Maisy, but it was only to clutch at her like a lifeline. “She’s the princess now!” Caroline sobbed hysterically, hands knotted in Maisy’s flannel shirt, the same shirt absorbing a majority of her tears. “She’s the princess and the witch! And I’m nothing!” Caroline was in absolute hysterics, barely aware of Maisy there comforting her. When she finally cried herself into exhaustion and then sleep, Maisy was there.
She was also there when the former princess woke up. Sleeping beside her, arms still curled around her friend as if she could protect her from facing the world without her identity. Caroline stayed there for a time, pretending that she could.