I once knew a woman – a terrible old woman, with bright blue eyes and a stone black heart – who sneered at everything in Ballina. She sneered at the sand, she sneered at the trees.
She sneered at the sky, she sneered at the sea.
She even sneered at the beautiful old bits of driftwood that wash up always on the shore.
But most of all, she sneered at the Princess Street sign.
“Can’t imagine there would be too many princesses around here,” she scoffed.
But she was wrong. For Ballina, you see, is a town replete with princesses.
These princesses are everywhere, if most always in disguise.
They meet secretly and whisper of tiaras, jewelled slippers and ballgowns. Sometimes they find each other by moonlight but mostly they meet by the sea, because the sea is always magical.
(Their mothers, who occasionally tire of ruling the kingdom, can be heard discreetly snoring on the sand. Even the ones who really should have their cherry-red toenail polish topped up.)
The princesses of Ballina decided they had had enough of the terrible old woman with the bright blue eyes and stone black heart, and so decided to cast a spell. They found a length of sea grass and spoke magic to it, words so ancient they weren’t quite sure of what they meant. When the light became brilliant, the princesses walked into the ocean and began to skip.
The ocean rippled, the ocean roared. The princesses skipped faster, singing their enchantment.
Far away, the terrible old woman with the bright blue eyes and stone black heart began to feel unwell. Her head ached, and she felt queasy. Her legs grew unsteady and she gasped. And then, at last, her face began to crack. Piece by floating, minuscule piece, it blew away.
The princesses laughed, the power of their happiness insurmountable.
The light that shone from deep within the princesses had done its work.
They returned the sea grass to the wild, beautiful ocean, walked a distance and then collapsed, exhausted, on the sand. Nothing was left of the terrible old woman, not even her bones.
The princesses went home, but not before waving to the migrating whales in the distance. Sometimes all you could see of them was a little white fleck on the horizon as they waved back.
And everyone – the whales, the princesses and their mothers – lived happily ever after.
: : Story by ANTONELLA GAMBOTTO-BURKE