Princess Rosie & Sir Joey Owl
Early & Shirley
Queen Mommy and King Daddy each held one of Princess Rosie's hands as they walked toward the woods at the edge of the palace grounds. Princess Rosie knew that the only time she was allowed into the woods beyond sight of the palace guards, was when she was with Mommy and Daddy as she was right now.
Every few steps Mommy and Daddy would swing her high in the air, forwards and backwards just to hear her giggle.
And her giggle is what woke up Sir Joey Owl from his daytime slumber high in a tree in the Royal Woods.
He saw the three of them coming, dressed in the clothes humans wore when they went into the water to play. King Daddy and Queen Mommy had towels draped around their necks.
Sir Joey Owl followed his friends as they made their way to the river bank for a refreshing swim.
When Princess Rosie broke away from their handhold and darted toward the water, Queen Mommy and King Daddy held hands, and smiled at one another.
Princess Rosie took a flying leap into the water just as Queen Mommy and King Daddy caught up. King Daddy dove in and swam about, enjoying the cool water on such a warm summer day.
Queen Mommy draped the towels over a nearby bush so that they wouldn't get muddy on the riverbank, then she joined her husband and daughter in the nice cool river.
Sir Joey Owl perched on a low branch overhanging the water and hooted to his friends, who waved and called hello to him. Princess Rosie tried to splash him, but he was just out of her range.
Princess Rosie and her parents were in a rousing game of Marco Polo when she felt something brush against her leg. It didn't feel like the occasional bass or perch that would bump into her while swimming, this felt bigger. Much bigger. Her size, bigger.
She opened her arms and reached for her Daddy, who scooped her up and onto his shoulders. Safe.
"But what is in the water with us?" Princess Rosie said, a little uneasy.
"Whatever it is, Princess Rosie, it means you no harm, there are no unsafe creatures in the river in Rosieland, remember? Perhaps it is someone trying to make friends!" Queen Mommy suggested.
Princess Rosie smiled and leaned back letting herself fall from King Daddy's shoulders into the water with a big SPLASH!
As she stood up, her toes squishing in the mud, something again brushed her leg. And then, all of a sudden, a head popped up from beneath the surface of the water!
The head had long, silky black hair, blue eyes and a happy voice that said, "Hi! I'm Shirley!"
And then, there was another head that looked almost exactly the same, except the hair was dark brown. "Hi! I'm Early!" And then the heads disappeared, and before Princess Rosie's very astonished eyes, there were fish tails popping out of the water, flopping down with big splashes, and disappearing again beneath the surface.
Princess Rosie gasped, and turned to her parents. "Are they mermaids??"
Queen Mommy and King Daddy looked at Princess Rosie, then at each other, then back at the water where they'd last seen the fish tails, and nodded, as surprised as their daughter.
Then Shirley & Early appeared again side by side in front of Princess Rosie. "Did we get you?" they said, meaning had they splashed Princess Rosie with their tails when they dove under the water.
Princess Rosie giggled in delight and splashed them back, and suddenly water flew in a great splash fest.
Queen Mommy & King Daddy played with the three girls for awhile, they went onto the shore and rested on the towels.
Sir Joey Owl, wide awake now, in spite of the sun high up in the sky, flew above the girls, flying low to make sure he 'accidentally' got splashed. After all, it's warm under all those feathers during the sunny part of the day.
Shirley & Early stopped splashing long enough to ask their question: "What is your name?"
"I am Princess Rosie of Rosieland. Rosie is short for Rosebella, which means Beautiful Rose in Italian and Spanish. Do your names mean anything?"
"They mean our mommy is looking for us!" Shirley kidded.
"Mommy named me Early because I was the first to be born. We are twins." Early offered.
"And she named me Shirley because it rhymed with Early and is after my Aunt Shirley, my mommy's sister."
"Early is kindof a funny name, but it's pretty, and it's a fun story. Can you ever come out of the water?" Princess Rosie asked her new friends.
"No. We only have tails, so we can't walk. We can wiggle onto the river bank and sun ourselves for a few minutes, almost an hour, but we have to get back into the water or our tails dry out and we get sick," Early explained.
"When it gets cold in Rosieland, and the river freezes over, what do you do then?" Princess Rosie asked.
"We swim to the very bottom of the river and sleep through the winter, resting in the water plants on the riverbed. They are soft and keep us from floating away in our sleep." Shirley said.
"So you sort of hibernate like bears?"
"Yes!" Shirley & Early answered together, splashed Rosie and swam away before she could get them back.
"Hey!" Princess Rosie shouted, giggling. "No fair!" But she wasn't really mad, she knew she would get them back very soon, and in the meantime, she splashed really hard and got Sir Joey Owl, who flew over her shoulder, just hoping to get wet and cool off a little.
Princess Rosie did not disappoint him. He was so wet after her splashing he had to perch on a branch and preen his feathers, to get them dry so he could fly again!
Shirley & Early and Princess Rosie played together in the river every day until late in October. One fall day, Queen Mommy and King Daddy took Princess Rosie to the riverbank, but not in bathing suits, for it was starting to get chilly. She stood at the edge of the bank, waiting for her friends to appear from beneath the surface of the water, but they were nowhere to be found.
Sir Joey Owl landed on Princess Rosie's shoulder and nuzzled the side of her face with his, and whispered in her ear. "Remember they told you they sleep during the winter," he reminded her.
"They didn't even say goodbye," Princess Rosie's little lip puffed out in a pout, her feelings hurt.
"Maybe they didn't realize how late in the fall it was and didn't have a chance. I'm sure when it warms up again in the spring they'll be back." Queen Mommy said.
Then, all of a sudden there was a big splash in the middle of the river, and Shirley & Early's faces were there, calling out to Princess Rosie. "We have to sleep now! Our mommy is waiting at the bottom of the river to tuck us into our nice soft seaweed! We'll see you in the springtime, Princess Rosie! We love you!"
Princess Rosie jumped up and down and waved to her friends. "I love you too! Sweet dreams!"
And with that Shirley & Early dove beneath the surface of the water, waved their tails at Princess Rosie one last time, and slept the winter through.
Princess Rosie and Sir Joey Owl return to the riverbank with Queen Mommy and King Daddy every spring to begin swimming the summer away with Shirley & Early, their mermaid friends.