“...and the ugly duckling had become a beautiful…”
Pearl frowned, wincing a little at the book. She was sitting next to little Steven’s crib, the toddler still being nowhere near sleep, a steady rain pounding on the windows. She shook her head, checking for more pages, but none could be seen.
“Hmm,” she grunted, “I’m not sure about this book…”
“Everything okay, Pearl?”
Lapis wandered over, sitting down next to the other gem and glancing down at Steven.
“Hey, Steven,” she said brightly, “You having trouble sleeping there, buddy?”
There was a babble of agreement… or disagreement. It was sort of difficult to tell.
“This book seems… flawed,” said Pearl, “I don’t like the message. I mean, the duckling ends up being worthwhile because she grows into a beautiful swan? That seems…”
“Yeah, iffy,” nodded Pearl, “And Steven doesn’t seem to like it either.”
“Of course not,” Lapis reached into the crib and ruffled Steven’s hair, “He’s got taste.”
“Lappy!” Steven giggled, reaching up and grabbing her arm. Lapis chuckled.
“Hmm… what if we make up a different story?” mused Pearl.
“Like what?” asked Lapis.
Pearl clicked her fingers.
“Once, there was a knight in shining armour,” she began, “Who rode a noble steed…”
“...which was purple,” added Lapis, “A purple horse.”
“Purble…” Steven laughed again. “Ammehyst!”
Pearl smiled. “Yes! Amethyst! Anyway, one day, the knight was sent on a quest by… Queen Garnet! She had to go and… and, and, and…”
“Rescue a princess?” asked Lapis, “I’ve read a few of Steven’s stories and there’s a lot of those.”
“Yes, a princess!” nodded Pearl, “A princess…”
“Prinfess Lappy! Prinfess Lappy!”
Pearl and Lapis both blushed.
“Um… yes!” declared Pearl, “Princess Lapis! Who was… uh…”
“In a tower!” added Lapis, “A big tower! With a dragon!”
“Right,” said Pearl, “So Pe… the knight rode to the tower, drawing her sword as she approached the fearsome dragon, and the knight prepared to strike down into its heart! And with one mighty stroke…”
Steven started whimpering, tears in his eyes.
“I don’t think he likes that,” mused Lapis.
“Hmm,” Pearl grunted, “That’s a shame, but… I can work with this.”
She cleared her throat.
“Just as she was about to slay the dragon,” she continued, “She discovered that she was actually a nice dragon the whole time, she was just…”
“Complicated,” Pearl decided , “Big and pink and beautiful and… complicated. So the knight let the dragon go, and she promised not to trap any more princesses in towers. And she flew off into the sunset… out of the knight’s life…”
There was an awkward silence.
“Aaaanyway!” declared Pearl at last, “The knight climbed the tower and burst into the Princess’ chamber, and there she was - beautiful and mysterious and…”
“B’wue! She b’wue!”
Pearl couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Yes,” she said, blushing, “She was blue. And the knight walked up to her and bowed, and the princess said… the princess said…”
The two chuckled.
“And the knight rode off into the sunset with the princess, and they all lived happily ever after,” finished Pearl, “The End.”
She looked into the crib. Steven had curled up under the blanket, cuddling his bear and snoring softly.
“That was nice,” whispered Lapis, “But I think it was missing something.”
Pearl raised her eyebrows.
“Oh? What was it?”
Lapis leaned in and pecked her on the cheek.
“There’s supposed to be a kiss,” she whispered.
She walked away, leaving Pearl sitting alone, blushing furiously as she listened to the soft snores of Steven and the sound of the rain. Slowly, she brought her hand to her cheek, feeling the slight dampness where Lapis had kissed her.
She smiled, closing her eyes and taking in the moment.
Eventually, she climbed to her feet, leaning into the crib and softly kissing Steven on the forehead.
“Goodnight, Steven,” she whispered, “Sweet dreams.”
She ruffled his hair once more and walked away, leaving Steven to dream in content.