When I was just a splinter in my dad's eye, the story of my life was already written. It doesn't have any princes or sappy stuff. It's the story of the puppet getting in logs of trouble while trying to discover how to become real.
Well, I cannot tell a lie... No, I mean, I really cannot tell a lie. After I was carved from magical wood, dad wished for the blue-haired fairy to make me kind, caring and honest. I wish he spent a little more time thinking about his word choice. She took him WAY too literally. Now I have to tell the truth no matter what. So how am I supposed to become a real girl? The entire Pinocchio story is about searching my heart for the right choices. I don't have any choice! Someone asks me a question and the truth just flies out of my mouth. It's not that I want to tell a lie. Hex, at this point I don't even want to follow my destiny. I just want to make my own decisions. That's hard as oak when I have a curse that doesn't let me think about what I want to say. Shouldn't I be able to pull the strings? The good news is one day I'll be free (knock on wood). Until then, at least I have my imagination.
Art is my favorite class. Truthfully, it's my only real outlet. I can plug in my headphones, turn up my muse-ic, dip my brush and paint away. I never worry about truth or lies; curses or wishes. There's something about a blank canvas that feels… free.
But I was throne for a loop by our latest assignment, Emotion. I had to paint a powerful feeling. How do I paint joy? Or sadness, or love? All I felt was confused.
I finally decided to paint the moment when I become a real girl. It sounds like a happy moment, right? As I finished, Professor Card came over. Formerly a guard who painted the Queen of Heart's roses red, Professor Card knows a string or two about pressure.
He thoughtfully tapped his chin, "Technically, it's perfect, yet emotionally, it's empty. I can tell you want me to feel happiness, but I don't feel your joy."
My heart went timmmmberrrrr... "How do you paint 'joy', sir?"
"Cedar," Professor Card kindly smiled, "you know. You just don't know you know. Find your true voice. Then you'll know."
I left class more confused then ever after before. How do I find my true voice? I know what it's like to tell the truth, but I've never had to find the truth. Did he mean knowing the feeling of truth or the truth about feelings? I was getting a splintering headache just thinking about it!
Then I heard muse-ic coming from Professor Pied Piper's room. An idea sparked in my head — if I wanted to find my creative voice, maybe I had to use my voice creatively! I excitedly knocked on the door.
"Come in." Professor Piper is the coolest teacher at Ever After High, even if rats flock to his door whenever he plays his flute. I walked in to see a small group gathered, including Raven Queen, one of my best friends till THE END. Professor Piper enthusiastically clapped his hands, "Joining the glee club, Ms. Wood? Hexcellent! Welcome to the Happi-glee Ever Afters, where we ask 'Are you an alto or a soprano'? Sing a song now, don't be shy."
Raven sat at the piano and encouragingly smiled. She closed her eyes as her fingers danced across the keys. Her song painted a picture in my mind — my marionette strings fell to the ground, the wood grain circles on my arms and legs faded away, and my face felt warm like a real girl. I opened my mouth to sing ... and immediately wished I didn't. If I'm being honest, a tree being chainsawed sounds better than my singing, "THeY tOld YOU EVeryTHIng was WAITing FOR you! THEY told yOu EVERYthinG wAS Set IN stONE!"
Wincing, Professor Piper stopped the muse-ic, "That was... maybe... do you play an instrument?" Redwood in the face, I apologized and left the room.
As soon as I closed the Muse-ic room door, someone opened it. Out stepped Apple White, daughter of Snow White, warmly smiling, "Is everything okay, Cedar?" Apple truly only ever wants to help. That's why she's the fairest one of all. I told her about how I needed to find my voice. "I got this!" Apple said "Meet me in the Charmitorium."
When I arrived, Apple stood in the center of the Charmitorium stage, dressed like the Blue-Haired Fairy, "I know how hard this is, Cedar. I ask myself everyday 'How can I find my voice with such a big story on my shoulders?' Then I realized the truth... we're fairytales. Our destiny IS our voice. So we are going to act out the chapter where your nose grows! Isn't that just fairest?"
I was dumbfounded, "But my nose only grows when I lie. I — can't — lie!"
"I thought of that. Just pretend to lie!" Apple raised her voice to a twinkling pitch, "Now Cedar, why aren't you in school?"
I honestly tried to lie. I wanted to say a fox and a cat stopped me... but, as always, the truth uncontrollably spilled from my mouth, "I am in school."
Apple patiently smiled, "Let's try again." So we tried again. And again. And again, and again. But, no matter how many times we tried, I couldn't lie.
Through it all though, Apple understood, "Don't worry, Cedar. This curse will be gone soon. Then you'll be a real girl, just like me. Well, not just like me, but you get the idea."
I couldn't be sure if I had the idea or not, "Thanks, Apple?"
She warmly hugged me, "No problem what-so-ever after!"
Usually I go to the Mad Hatter's Tea Shoppe to hang out with my friends. This time, I wanted to be alone with a hot cup of willow sap tea. How was I going to find my voice?
"Hellooooooo, Cedar!" Madeline Hatter hopped into a chair next to me, "It looks like you could use a friend. Mind if I help myself to a cup?" She reached into her hat for a steaming cup of tea. Maddie can pull just about anything from her hat. It's a wicked cool trick! "So you're looking for your voice —"
"How did you know?"
"It says so in the first paragraph of Chapter 4." I wasn't shocked with her answer. Maddie is known for her riddle-iculous reasoning, "So where do you think you left your voice?" When I explained that I was trying to find my voice in art, Maddie got confused, "You don't use your voice in art. You use paint. That's a riddle fiddle." Then her eyes lit up, "Voice... paint... riddle! I've got it!"
Maddie grabbed a heart-shaped key, and unlocked a heart-shaped door in the corner of the Tea Shoppe. On the other side of the door was a perfectly manicured playing field. Just as I was about to ask Maddie where we were going, I heard, "OFF WITH HER HEAD!"
"Lizzie Hearts?" Now I was even more confused. Lizzie is the daughter of the Queen of Hearts and the heir to Wonderland's throne. Nobody really knows much about her other than, "All she ever says is 'OFF WITH HER HEAD!'"
"Timber sticks! Lizzie's just misunderstood. If there's anyone who can help you, it's her," Maddie skipped off to Lizzie, who was playing Wonderland croquet. It's like normal croquet, only they use flamingos for mallets and hedgehogs for balls.
"OFF WITH HER HEAD!" Lizzie shouted as she clubbed her hedgehog through a series of wickets. When Maddie started speaking to her, I couldn't understand what they were saying (mostly because I don't speak Riddlish), but once they stopped, Lizzie waved me over. "PAINT THE ROSES RED!" she pointed to a white rose bush, with a can of red paint next to it.
My eyes darted to Maddie, who smiled and nodded. I dipped the brush into the paint. As soon as my brush touched the petal, Lizzie snatched the brush from my hand, "OFF WITH HER HEAD! PAINT THE ROSES RED!"
She handed me the brush back. I looked to Maddie for help, "What does she want?"
Maddie shrugged, "She wants you to paint the roses red. Or... she doesn't. Maybe the rose knows."
Feeling foolish (and wondering why people from Wonderland insist on speaking in riddles), I leaned over to ask the rose bush what Lizzie wanted. Of course it didn't answer. Yet, Lizzie nodded. I asked myself over and over again, "How do I paint the roses red without painting the roses red?"
After what felt like forever after, something novel happened. A gentle breeze blew. The rose gracefully fluttered in the wind. The sun rays kissed its petals, making them turn from snow white to sunset red. It was simply the most beautiful thing in the world.
I smiled at Lizzie "Paint the roses red." Ever so slightly, Lizzie smiled back.
By the time I had my next art class, I confidently knew what Professor Card told me I knew but didn't know I knew. I closed my eyes and remembered how special it made me feel knowing I had to be at that exact spot in that exact moment to see a simple rose brighten the world. First I sketched, then dipped my brush in watercolor and started painting a sunset red rose. Professor Card grinned from ear-to-ear, "Spelltacular! I feel joy in every brushstroke. How did you find your voice?"
I put my brush down to admire my painting, "Even though I'm not a real girl yet, I do have real feelings. I don't need to overthink happiness. Sometimes it's as simple as stopping to smell the roses. And that's no lie!"