Actions

Work Header

Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You

Work Text:

Meeshell woke up bright and early in the morning to the sun and coughed. She glanced over at her roommate, Ruby Dancer, still fast asleep in her bed. Well, she wouldn't be for much longer. Everyone knows that due to her fairy tale, she was always energetic and on her feet, dancing everywhere she went. Of course, once she started, she just couldn't stop and usually collapsed from exhaustion where-ever she was. Luckily, last night, she happened to collapse in her own bed.

Meeshell swung her legs out of bed and started brushing her thick pinkish hair in her sea-coral mirror, coughing again. Ever since her sixteenth birthday, she had lost all traces of her voice and was only able to cough, which she greatly despised. She knew it was part of her destiny, but she loathed being unable to even sing. Before, crowds of people from their seaside village used to gather around to listen to her sing. Now, nothing.

She finished brushing her hair and got dressed in a sea-green mermaid-style gown, one of her favorites. It belonged to her mother and was the gown she wore on-shore to woo her prince. Well, tried to, anyway. Everyone at Hans Christian Academy knew Meeshell's tragic story, and she was sick of the pity. Besides, not all of Headmaster Anderson's students had grim story endings. Just most.

Since she knew the rest of the school wouldn't be awake for a while, she decided to kill time to take a much-needed swim break, and grabbed her black bath towel and started heading down to their indoor pool. She was so engrossed in where she was going that she nearly knocked down another, much smaller, student.

"Oh! Sorry Meeshell, I wasn't paying any attention to where I was going!" Betty Pea apologized, holding her lower back. "I'm not all there today, I slept horribly last night!"

Meeshell pulled out the notepad and pen she used to communicate with and speedily wrote down: 'Bad mattress?' Betty Pea was the next Princess and the Pea, which meant she was cursed with her mother's extreme sensitivity.

Betty nodded. "There was a loose spring in it! Can you believe that? I'm going to complain to the Headmaster. Otherwise, I'll fall asleep in class, and nobody wants that, trust me!" She walked away, and Meeshell continued on her own way.

Chances are Headmaster Anderson would ignore her request, since sleeping on a bad mattress was perfect practice for her destiny. However, it was worth a try.

She finally reached the door leading to the locker rooms, then pushed it open. The only person in there was Leo Match, shivering and standing under a steaming hot shower in his clothes. As the future son of the Little Match Girl, he was constantly freezing and always on the hunt for warmth. He also met a grisly fate at the end of his tale and hated it, but he couldn't do anything about it. Nobody could change their fates.

He waved a shaky hand at her. "H-hey there, M-Meeshell. Off to your morning swim?" He shivered, and Meeshell nodded. "Y-you're in for a treat. T-they filled the pool to t-the brim j-just a few minutes a-ago." Meeshell smiled in response, then waved goodbye and headed off to the pool.

She pushed open the heavy black door leading to it and instantly took a deep breath, inhaling the chlorine scent. She only truly felt at home here in the pool, and regretted she wasn't able to spend every waking moment here. Well, she'd have an hour and a half, and that was more than enough.

Meeshell laid her black towel down on a nearby beach chair and jumped right into the pool, not stopping to take off her gown. She had no need to, for once the water made contact with her skin, her legs started to fuse together into a tail under her gown, making her silently scream in agony. She watched as bubbles floated out of her mouth and burst at the surface, and ran her hand along her newly-formed gills.

A few minutes later, she flipped her new tail around, shaking some of the blood off. The new tail flipped easily, and a few more shakes shook all the remaining blood off. She instantly divebombed to the bottom of the pool, looking for any interesting trinkets students often left at the bottom.

To her delight, she found a sparkling silver pearl barrette at the bottom, which she picked up and stared at. She had already amassed quite a collection of treasures such as these in her room, much to the extreme envy of her vain roommate, Ruby Dancer.

She couldn't look at the treasure very closely, however, since her pinkish hair swirled around her face, and she regretted not taking the few extra seconds out of her routine to tie it back. Nothing for it now, as she broke the surface and pocketed the hair clip.

"Hey. Meeshell!" Nina Thumbell, daughter of Thumblina, waved at her. Meeshell waved back at her best friend. "I was wondering if you wanted to go shopping after school today? The gardening store just got some new seeds in, and I can't wait to plant them in my own garden! They're all flower seeds too!"

Meeshell pointed over to her towel, which she also placed her pad and pen on earlier. Nina handed them to her and she wrote:

'Yeah, and the clothing store has a new waterproof ball gown that will look great for our Spring Fling!' Meeshell pulled herself out of the pool carefully, then let out a silent, pained scream as her tail ripped itself apart into two legs under her dress. A small pool of blood trickled out from underneath.

"Ouch, still not used to that, huh?" Nina winced.

'I'll never be used to it. After I swim, for two hours afterwards, whenever I walk, I feel like I'm stepping on knives.' It was written, but Nina could feel the spite in every word. 'I'm still not used to talking, and I've been mute for almost a year!'

"Come on, it could be worse. You could be Leo, or Ruby!" Nina reminded her, helping her up. She let Meeshell balance on her shoulders as she walked out of the pool area. "Now come on, we don't want to be late for class!"

'We have different first periods, remember? I have mine with Ruby.' She reminded Nina, hurriedly writing away. Nina waved her hand dismissively.

"I know, I know! I just thought you needed an extra hand to get there." She dropped her off in front of her class, then waved. "Good luck!"

Meeshell's first class was taught by the original Paper Ballerina, and was for students whose misfortune involved their feet. She took her usual seat beside Ruby Dancer, who was taking energized notes as she dancer around her desk.

"Good morning, students! Looking energetic as always today," The Paper Ballerina greeted warmly, dressed in her usual white ballet dress. Unlike the class' description, her misfortune came from love, not her feet. Yet, she was assigned to teach the class since she was a ballerina, and no other reason. "Today we'll be going over how to waltz despite your energetic footwork. Many of your tales involve knowing how to dance even when you're in pain, or physically unable to." Several eyes all focused on Meeshell, who blushed as bright as her hair. "Meeshell! Would you be so kind as to demonstrate to the class what I mean?"

'Of course,' She wrote on her paper and showed it to The Paper Ballerina, then slowly stood up from her seat with a wince. Everyone knew in her story, she won over the handsome prince with her beautiful dancing-which also made her feel like she was walking over a thousand knives.

"Wonderful. I trust you've been practicing?"

Meeshell nodded, but in reality, she didn't need to practice. It just came to her naturally. She stood on her tippytoes, wincing even more, but then managed to keep her face perfectly stoic. She then twirled around and jumped about, all on the tips of her toes. It wasn't ballet, it was intended to look like a one-person waltz. She was told she would own it in the moment it truly mattered.

"No fair! She dances better than me!" Ruby protested, and she instantly jumped up to the front of the room and started doing a fast tap-dance in her red ruby slippers. "See? I can dance twice as fast!"

"I see that, but please take your seat, Miss Dancer. This class is mainly about waltzes, not tap-dancing." The Paper Ballerina gently suggested.

"Oh, but you know I can't stop once I start!" She did dance back to her seat, but refused to sit down.

"Alright Meeshell, I believe you've made your point. Very nicely done!" The Paper Ballerina praised, and Meeshell simply grimaced in response and slowly trudged back to her seat and sat down. When the teacher turned her back, she pulled off one of her coral shoes to reveal it was covered in blisters and bleeding. Ruby sucked in a breath next to her.

"Ouch, that looks, like, way worse than death. And I would know!" Ruby affectionately patted her friend on the shoulder. "I want many things, but your story isn't one of them."

If Meeshell had a sand dollar for everytime she heard that, she'd have enough money to buy Hans Christian Academy. Her story wasn't the worst, by any means, but she did have the luck of working so hard to improve her character-and then getting killed for it. Yay.

############

The rest of the school day dragged by very slowly, but as usual, Meeshell had no problems paying attention. Since she was the youngest sister, nobody payed much attention to her at home, so she usually did her homework or read alone. Or swiped her sisters' shiny baubles, which nobody noticed. She was quite a good thief.

As promised, Meeshell ran outside the building after school to wait for Nina Thumbell to get out of Fairology. As she waited, she stared up at the building, which was brick and painted haphazardly in blue, yellow, and red. It was meant to look less intimidating, but Meeshell thought it clashed with the rest of the Danish-style buildings crowding around the town.

"Hey! Ready to go?" Nina happily greeted her, and Meeshell smiled back and nodded. Nina took her arm and led her to the Village of Book End, which was a few miles away from the school, but Nina liked the walk. She had flowers and plants to talk to on the way, while Meeshell could appreciate the salty breeze on her face that reminded her of her own home.

Soon they reached the village, which was abuzz with all sorts of fairy-tale folk, mainly from the neighboring boarding school. One of them Meeshell had the unfortunate luck of bumping right into.

"Oh! I'm so sorry, I wasn't watching where I was going!" The girl apologized in a high-pitched voice, nervously smiling. She was dressed entirely in blue and white, with giant wings on her back. In her hand was a glittering, blue wand. "Again, it's my fault."

'Are you a fairy?' Meeshell rapidly wrote in disbelief. She had heard of fairies, sure, but none were in attendance at Hans Christian Academy. And now she was talking to one in real life!

"Yup! Farrah Goodfairy, at your service! I'm the daughter of Cinderella's Fairy Godmother!" She twirled her wand around, showering the pair in sparkles.

"Wow, an actual fairy! You're so much prettier in real life!" Nina said in awe, making Farrah giggle.

"Why, thank you! I'm heading back to the school now, but I have the time to grant a wish of yours. Anything in particular?"

"What school?"

"Ever After High! I'm surprised you two don't go there. What school are you from?"

"Hans Christian Academy. It's very prestigious, but dreary. And Headmaster Anderson goes out of his way to make sure we're all following our stories properly. Of course, I have no qualms about mine!" Nina continued breezily.

"Sounds like our Headmaster Grimm. He wants everyone to make sure we're following our destinies, but ever since Legacy Day, he's been pretty chill."

'Sounds like a lovely school,' Meeshell chimed in on her paper.

"It is! You two should visit sometime! I take it you're fairy tales too?" Farrah asked, studying them. "You're Thumblina's daughter, and you're The Little Mermaid's!"

"Yes! You got it exactly right!" Nina praised. "So, should I make a wish?"

"Well, it'd be good practice for my destiny, so sure!" Farrah smiled and held up her wand.

"Hmmm...I wish I had that super cute tulip hat I saw in the hatter's the other day!" Nina exclaimed, and when she opened her eyes, her platinum-blonde hair was covered in a bright pink tulip. "Ooooh, I love it!" She gushed.

"How about you?" Farrah asked Meeshell, clearly on a role.

What did Meshell want? Her voice back, as well as being able to endure her painful transformations. She also wanted to not feel like a thousand knives were being driven into her everytime she walked. Maybe just her tongue, since not having one led to a whole slew of other difficulties. But most of all, she wanted to change the ending of her story. She wanted a happy ending like Nina's, or even this fairy's. But could she do that? Before she had fully thought it over, she held up on her paper: 'I wish for a happy ending.'

"My my, what a pompous wish!" Farrah exclaimed, and before Meeshell could change her mind, Farrah waved her wand, there was a bright flash of silver, then everything went black.

#######

Meeshell woke up with a cough and prepared to start yet another day at Hans Christian Academy. Except...this wasn't her room. It looked like her room, and everything was set up like her room, but it wasn't her room. She anxiously ran over to the mirror and opened her mouth. Yes, her tongue was in her mouth! Was she dreaming?! Only one way to find out.

She opened her mouth and started singing her mother's lullaby, beautifully in tune. She nearly squealed. She had her voice back! Surely she was dreaming!

"Enjoying your wish?" Her roommate asked, twirling her wand around. Wait, wasn't that Farrah Goodfairy? What was she doing in Ruby's bed? Meeshell did another double-take: that wasn't Ruby's side at all! Where was she?

"...Where am I?" She croaked, still unused to her own voice.

"I granted your wish for a happy ending. Now, you go to Ever After High and you have a happy ending! Here, if you don't like your story's ending, you can change it!" Farrah boasted.

"I-is this truly what I wanted...?" Meeshell asked, still in shock. "But...what about Nina? And Ruby? And everyone else at my school? Can't you do anything about them? After all, some of them had bad endings too!"

"You didn't wish for them, sorry." Farrah shrugged, although she truly did sound sorry. "Come on, let's go meet some of the students here!" She grabbed Meeshell's arm and dragged her into the common room, where some of the newer students were.

"Hey! Was that you singing earlier? You have some wicked pipes! We should totally jam sometime!" Melody Piper grinned.

"Uh, thank you..." Meeshell looked away.

"What a pretty dress! I love green!" Jillian Beanstalk complimented.

"Are you signed up for ballet class too? If you are, we'll be seeing lots of each other!" Justine Dancer asked eagerly.

"I gotta go," Meeshell said lamely and hurried back into her room. She couldn't believe her wish actually worked! But at the same time, what about her friends? Were their memories wiped, and it was like she never attended that school in the first place?

Her thoughts swam around in her head as she got dressed in a blue mermaid gown and matching coral shoes, as well as a coral red tank top with golden shells on it. Well, she wished for this, the best thing to do would to simply make the best of it.

####

Meeshell made it through all of her classes just fine, but she was too absorbed in her thoughts to think about swiping any trinkets. At lunch, Farrah invited her to sit at her table, and since she didn't know anyone else, she sat there.

"How has your first day been so far?" She asked nicely once Meeshell sat down.

She almost reached for her paper, then remembered she could talk now. With a sigh, she answered: "Pretty boring. My classes at Hans Christian Academy were more energetic. I remember yesterday I had my dancing class, and Ruby Dancer got up and tried to out-waltz me! It was pretty funny!" She laughed, but stopped when she realized nobody else was laughing with her.

"Ruby Dancer sounds interesting. Who's she the daughter of?" Justine asked nicely, sipping her milk.

"The girl in The Red Shoes. She's doomed to dance to death for her vanity." Meeshell explained, and everyone grimaced.

"Yikes. I just get caught dancing in a magical ballroom with my sisters!" Justine shuddered.

"And I just have to kill a giant at the top of a beanstalk!" Jillian added.

"And I curse a town for refusing to pay me!" Melody laughed.

"Yeah, a lot of stories ended poorly at my old school. But I didn't mind it! I thought it built character!" Meeshell elaborated lamely. She then looked over at Farrah. "How exactly does my story end now?"

"You don't die at the end, and you will no longer be in excruciating pain throughout your story. You'll also just trade your voice, not your tongue!" She smiled.

"It sounds nice," Meeshell stated, still thinking about Nina and Ruby. "I have to go now. I'm not hungry anymore,"

She quietly slipped from the cafeteria and out of the school, looking around. "Wait, I don't even know where I am! How will I get back to my old school?" She kept looking around regardless, and found a group of familiar-looking students sitting around one some benches outside, and Meeshell hurried over to them.

"Meeshell!" Nina tightly hugged her friend. "We just wanted to congratulate you on transferring to Ever After High! It's what you wanted!" She smiled.

"Transferred? But don't you remember the wish I made yesterday with the fairy?" Meeshell asked in great confusion.

"Wish? Fairies? Those don't exist," Leo chuckled. "Are you reading Grimm's Fairy Tales again?"

"Why are you guys here?" Meeshell questioned. "I mean, I know it's for my...transfer celebration, I suppose, but still,"

"A new student arrived at Hans Christian Academy, and we wanted you to meet her!" Betty smiled and tugged on Meeshell's arm. "You'll love her!"

"I guess I can leave for a bit. It's only a lunch period, after all." She let herself get dragged away by her friends.

"That's the spirit!" Ruby jumped ahead of the group and waltzed away, though Meeshell soon found her in a crowd of people who had gathered in front of the academy's doors.

"She's a big deal, huh?" Meeshell asked nervously, and everyone nodded.

"She's royalty!" Leo explained. "A real-life princess, coming to school with us! Can you believe it?"

"Well I'm a princess,"

The crowd had surrounded a dark blue carriage with a silver dome on top, modeled after a snow globe. Sitting inside was a blue girl who looked to be completely made of ice, dressed in a long white fur dress. On top of her head was a crystal crown made from icicles.

"She's Crystal Winter, Daughter of the Snow Queen!" Betty elaborated further, nearly squealing. "Isn't she beautiful?"

"How does her story fare?" Meeshell couldn't help but to ask.

"Oh, she's not a major character in it at all. She just kidnaps some Inuit boy, and his best friend is on a journey to find him. The story barely features her, actually." Nina shrugged.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present my gorgeous daughter, who was born from winter's gentle touch, the Snow Princess, Crystal Winter!" A man, looking just as equally wintry and icy as the princess, was announcing. Everyone applauded.

"Who's he?" Meeshell whispered to Nina.

"The Snow King. Strange her mother couldn't come, she's more famous than him." Nina whispered back.

The girl in the snow globe happily waved at the crowd, then stood up and was lead down the stairs by a duo of winter pixies. "I'm so glad to be enrolled at your wonderful school! I hope I make lots of new friends!" Crystal snapped her finger and a tiny snowflake popped onto her finger, and she spun it. She then looked at Meeshell's group. "I think I'll have you guys show me around. You look like you know a lot!"

"Well I do pride myself on being fun-loving!" Betty boasted, fluffing her hair buns.

"Perfect! Let's go! See you later, Dad!" Crystal eagerly waved to her father, still sitting on the carriage, and ran to catch up with the group. "So, what fairy tales are you guys?"

"We are from a Danish fairy tale writer! My name is Betty Pea, daughter of the Princess and the Pea!" Betty curtsied politely, smiling. "I'm so super excited to begin my story,"

"One of the few." Ruby rolled her eyes. "Almost all of our stories have terrible endings."

"She's right." Leo sighed. "My name is Leo Match. I am the son of The Little Match Girl. I'd ask if you wanted to buy some, but I already know how this goes down."

Crystal took in his scruffy red hair and dirt-smeared appearance, covering up freckles and ill-fitted, brown suit-clothes. "If it helps, I'd buy a thousand! It's really cold and dark back at my palace," She frowned. "But fun!"

"I'd love to see your palace," Betty offered, opening the door for Crystal.

"Well, I am the most important person here, I am Ruby Dancer, daughter of the chick in The Red Shoes!" She posed on her tippytoes.

"What a ghastly story!" Crystal covered her mouth.

"Yeah."

"I'm Nina Thumbell, daughter of Thumblina! Pleased to meet you," Nina smiled and shook Crystal's hand, then hid it behind her back. "Your hands are freezing!"

"I am the Snow Princess, destined to be the Snow Queen! What did you expect?" She looked down the shabby tan-colored floor tiles and grinned. "I have a fun idea," She waved her hands in front of her and the group watched in awe as the entire hallway became a frosty path. "This is much more fun! Try it!" She took a step onto the ice, then happily slid down it, cheering. "Wheee!"

"I'd love to!" Betty followed in her footsteps, scooting on the ice sideways so she wouldn't trip on her dress.

"No thanks," Both Ruby and Leo shivered at once.

"Alright," Meeshell said nervously, taking a shaky step onto the ice. Instead of skating with her feet, she placed her hands behind her back and jumped onto her belly, sliding herself down the hall like an icy slide. Once she reached the end, both Crystal and Betty cheered for her.

"Wasn't that fun?" Crystal smiled, and Meeshell surprised herself by eagerly nodding.

"I wanna do it again,"

"Whose fun-loving kid are you?"

"Uh..." She gulped. Here it came, the instant she revealed who she was the daughter of, there went all hope of becoming friends. Crystal would end up judging her and pitying her, just like everyone else. "Um...The Little Mermaid's."

"Interesting. There are lots of different endings to that tale, you know. Headmaster Anderson couldn't decide which one he wanted, and experimented. Some are happy, and some aren't." Crystal explained.

"Really?" Meeshell asked in shock. That was news to her! Perhaps her wish wasn't such a bad idea after all!

"Yeah, that must be why you can talk and all."

"Actually, I made a wish on Farrah Goodfairy at Ever After High to change my destiny. Now I can talk, and walk without being in pain...it's quite lovely!" She placed her hands on her heart.

The bell suddenly ran, and Betty ran down the hall, not eager to be late.

"Oh no! I was having so much fun, I forgot to pick up my schedule!" Crystal worried, but her pixie duo walked over just as she said that and handed it to her. "Oh. Right. Thank you." She smiled at her servants. "Well, see you later!" She dashed off, and Meeshell hurried off back to Ever After High, smiling about her possible new friend.

#############

After school, Meeshell retired to her room and started to brush her long hair in the mirror when Farrah rushed in, looking flustered.

"You must get back to Hans Christian Academy at once!" She demanded of Meeshell, who stopped brushing in surprise.

"What? Why?"

"In my excitement, I neglected to tell you that my spells only last until twelve." She winced, and the brush loudly hit the floor.

"Oh no...I can't go back to being someone for the others to pity! I liked being at Ever After High! What can I do?"

"You could go back to your school and ask your Headmaster to transfer. Fairy tales can be written by different authors, you know. Why, the daughter of the Princess of the Pea was intended to go here, but decided to stay at your school."

"Being here means nothing if I'm mute and crippled. It seems so happy here. Being unable to speak is something that marks me as one of Headmaster Anderson's students, and I don't want that life anymore."

"It's almost noon!" Farrah coaxed gently, and Meeshell's eyes widened and covered her mouth as she dashed out of her room, down the hallway, down the stairs. She kept running until she reached the steps of Hans Christian Academy, and gasped as she felt something being ripped from her mouth, and blood dripped from her hands. Worn out, she fell to her knees.

"And just where have you been all day?" Headmaster Anderson demanded, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "You skipped all your classes! It is very unbecoming of a princess."

Meeshell could only point to her bloodied mouth in vain, and the Headmaster sighed. "Come into my office. I'll give you some communication supplies so you can explain yourself."

Once they reached his large office, Meeshell slumped down in her seat. There was no way she could explain breaking her destiny, making a wish, and enrolling in another school. Even if it WAS temporary magic, it was still considered an offense in Headmaster Anderson's eyes. He handed her a yellow notepad and a white dove quill so coated in ink it was dripping onto the floor quietly.

"Now, you may explain your misbehavior."

'Headmaster, I can explain.' Meeshell wrote fervently, grimacing as she showed him this.

"I know you can, and I'm most certainly waiting."

'What I did was wrong. I left school to go shopping with Nina, then made a wish on a fairy godmother. THE Fairy Godmother, from Cinderella. Well, her daughter. She gave me a happily-ever-after, and enrolled me in Ever After High. However, it wasn't right nor fair to the other students here. I should have just accepted my fate, and never have tried to change it. I am sincerely sorry, Headmaster, and will happily accept any punishment you have in store for me.' She wrote slowly, then hung her head. It took Headmaster Anderson several agonizing minutes to read it, then he cleared his throat.

"To think you involved a fairy in this too. Everyone knows fairies are not to be trusted." He stood from his desk and walked over to his bay window, far too large and grand for a school office. "At least you're willing to admit it. As for an appropriate punishment," He strode over to Meeshell and raised his hand, and she flinched, expecting him to slap her, but instead, he ruffled her curls. "Did I ever tell you I originally wanted to be an actor?"

'Really?' Meeshell wrote, giving him a quizzing look.

"Yes. I acted quite well too. But nobody wanted a poor boy like me in their theaters. I couldn't pay my way. So I became a Headmaster instead."

'Do you like it?'

"Not particularly. When I see you and your fellow students here, I think of the stories my family brought into the world, ugly, brutal stories of reality and life. That is what all of your stories are about. I know what you must be feeling."

'So you're letting me off the fishing line?' Meeshell gave him a look of doubt.

"In a sense. If you promise to behave and don't sneak off again, then I'll forget this whole incident never happened." He glanced at her. "And no more conversing with fairies."

'Yes.' Meeshell wrote simply and stood, only to wince and fall flat onto his desk, moaning.

"I forgot about your legs," He said simply, then called for her third-period teacher to carry her to the class, and Meeshell groaned inwardly. Time to get used to her painful, meager life.

#########

After two periods, it was time for lunch, and Nina invited Crystal to eat lunch with their group. "We're sorta the big group around here," She admitted shyly.

"Nothing wrong with being in the in-crowd!" Crystal grinned, unwrapping a Popsicle and licking it.

"I don't understand how you can stand being...cold all the time!" Leo shivered, sipping his own lunch of hot soup. "I'm getting hypothermia just looking at you!"

"I like cold things," Crystal shrugged.

"Did you get in trouble with Headmaster Anderson? I bet you so totally did! He hates destiny-breakers," Ruby laughed, eating the same soup as Leo.

'Actually, he let me off the hook," Meeshell wrote.

"Really? Why?" Ruby shot her roommate a confused, yet envious, stare. Meeshell simply shrugged and returned to her fish sticks. "Well, he's just letting you off the hook because you're a princess. If you weren't, he would've given you detention." The vain girl huffed in annoyance.

'You said there were other versions of my story," Meeshell quickly scribbled, showing her paper to Crystal. 'How did you know this?'

"Why, from The Tinderbox!" Crystal smiled widely. "He's very wise and will tell you what you need to know. He even grants wishes!"

'Where is...he?'

"The Paper Ballerina has him. Ironic, huh? Well, he's at her house right now. I heard a rumor it contains the soul of her dead lover inside!"

'Can I go see it?'

"You'd have to ask her, but since you're a princess, you might have better luck." Crystal unwrapped an ice cream sandwich and started nibbling on it.

"All people care about in this stupid school are princesses!" Ruby snapped, standing up and twirling out of the lunch room.

'I'll see her after school today,' Meeshell wrote out with a small smile on her face.

#########

Indeed, right after school, that's what Meeshell did. She nervously approached The Paper Ballerina at her desk, who was currently folding some papers into a crane. When she saw Meeshell standing there, however, she nodded and smiled at her.

"My dear! How pleasing it is to see you here. What can I do for you today?" She asked nicely. Her white hair was the perfect color of a china plate, and her skin was perfectly colored to match. Her cheeks were rosy pink, and so were her lips.

'I had a question for you,' Meeshell hesitated, slowly writing on her paper.

"And what would your question be, dear?" She smiled politely at her, making Meeshell falter. She quickly scribbled:

'Would you please let me see your tinderbox?'

"My what?" The Paper Ballerina instantly slammed shut her classroom door and looked visibly flustered. "Where did you hear about that?"

'From Crystal Winter,'

"And why do you need to see it?"

Crystal hesitated again, thinking of a good reason. 'I have an important question to ask it. About myself. About my future. About my story.' She finally decided, holding her answer in front of her face.

"But you already know the ending to your story. Why would you make your heart hurt like that?" The Paper Ballerina held her hands in front of her heart, probably thinking of her own lost love.

'I heard there are other versions that only The Tinderbox knows. Please, just give me a few minutes. That's all I need.'

"You really want this," The Paper Ballerina sighed, and Meeshell nodded. "Alright, but I can only give you ten minutes. He's a very choosy box too, so there's no telling if he'll actually listen to you or not." She grabbed Meeshell's arm and led her out of her classroom, then out of the school, down the Nordic-inspired cobblestone pathway leading into town. They walked for a few minutes before stopping at a tiny two-story red house with a thatch roof, squeezed into its place by three other houses and a bakery.

'Is this where you live?' Meeshell scrawled, since The Paper Ballerina still had her arm. The dancer nodded.

"Indeed. Now come along," She unlocked her door with a gold key kept in her braids, then led Meeshell into a tiny yet warm sitting room. It smelled faintly of fish, due to the town's coastal location. "Wait here." She said in a serious tone, then left the room.

While she was gone, Meeshell teetered on her feet over to her white fireplace, which had a giant creepy-looking Jack-in-the-Box on top. The toy's dark grey eyes seemed to follow her with their dead gaze, and the toy's lips were turned up in a permanent sneer. She shuddered and turned away from the toy just as The Paper Ballerina returned with her tinderbox.

It was a battered tin box that fit snugly into her hands, but Meeshell knew the box only looked like that because of its legend; and The Paper Ballerina probably spent many nights alone with that box.

"Here it is. Remember, only ten minutes, and that's only if you permits you to speak." She warned, gently slipping the box into Meeshell's hands. She then left, and Meeshell got on her knees in front of the fireplace and pulled off the box's top, finding wood, hemp, and matches inside to start her fire with. She pulled out one of the matches and roughly pulled it across the tinder, catching the whole bottom of the box on fire. She gasped and fell over, watching in awe as the fire reached the ceiling of the house and glowed a calming dark blue.

She nervously placed her hand beside it, then into it, expecting her hand to be burned, but was amazed when she pulled it out and saw she was perfectly fine. She knew the fire was hot; it felt hot, yet she could touch it without being burned.

"Who has awakened me? Answer!" A deep yet gentle-sounding voice boomed from the box, making Meeshell scramble around in desperation for her notepad. Just as she was frantically scribbling down her response, however, the fire stopped her. "I know who you are, and I know what you want. I also know of your...issue. You are here to hear the other versions of your story's ending."

Meeshell eagerly nodded, then continued to write down: 'What can you tell me? Is there really a happy ending in my future?'

"Interestingly enough, your creator debated himself over what ending to write. You weren't even supposed to be a mermaid," The Tinderbox started. "However, your story struck a cord with many souls, and there are a vast number of interpretations, and yes, even endings available."

'But how can I pick one?'

"Well, let us see what we have here. Obviously, you don't want to turn into sea form or work for the sea witch for three hundred years. So that leaves us with..."

He hesitated for a long time, and for a brief moment, Meeshell was afraid she'd been tricked along the way-whether by Crystal, The Paper Ballerina, or even The Tinderbox, she wasn't sure.

"That leaves us with only one choice," The Tinderbox finished, snapping Meeshell out her thoughts. "There is another fairy tale universe, very much like yours or the ones at Ever After High. One of the universe's most famous portrayals is of your fairy tale, with a happy ending." The blue flame burned brighter and showed Meeshell an image of a teenage mermaid with long red hair and a green mermaid tail watching a prince on a boat, then it changed to the same mermaid dancing on land in a blue dress. "Look at how smoothly she moves. She is not in pain. She only sells her voice, not her tongue. And at the end, she gets both her legs and prince," The last image was of her on a wedding cruise, being swung around by the prince in a gown. Her dress flew up to reveal white slippers on her shiny feet.

'But how will I get this ending? And how will I know if this is right for me to have? I can't change destiny,' Meeshell wrote sadly, looking down.

"Go to Ever After High." The fire's color dulled down to its relaxing deep blue again. "There, you can change your ending and get the happy ending you desire. I can guarantee it."

'I don't belong there though. I'm not Grimm, I'm Anderson!'

"Most of those students were created by different authors in different times and different countries. Grimm only collected them."

'I guess it's worth a shot...'

"That's the spirit. Leave here and go to bed tonight. When you awaken, you will be at Ever After High." The flame commanded, already starting to fade.

Meeshell nodded and stood up, just as the flame died down for good and The Paper Ballerina reentered the room.

"Did you get the answer you seek?" She asked politely, and Meeshell nodded happily. She couldn't wait to go to her new school tomorrow!

###########

The next morning, despite falling asleep in her old room, she awoke in a totally different room to see her new roommate, Farrah Goodfairy, fluffing her dark blue hair.

"Good morning! You are up early today! You must be an early riser too!" She greeted, and Meeshell held her throat and dashed over to her own mirror. Inexplicably, everything from her old room had been moved to this one, including her outfits.

"C-can I speak?" She nervously croaked out, finding in delight that she could. "It worked! I can talk! I have a happy ending!" She said happily, taking Farrah's hands and jumping up and down with her.

"What? You've always had a happy ending," She stated in confusion. "You do so long as you go here!"

"But my friends!" She suddenly thought of her best friend, Nina. "Are they here?" She darted out of her room, only to run smack-dab into the very person she was searching for. "Nina! You're here too! Isn't this wonderful news?"

"What? We've always gone here together. You must still be tired," She teased, hugging her back. "Still, I like early-morning enthusiasm." She then walked off.

"I wonder what classes I have? I wonder who I have them with?" She wondered, spotting Justine Dancer walking by in the hallway. "Hey! I think we have dance class together! Gotta learn how to dance to impress my prince!" She grinned, making Justine laugh.

"We'll have a lot of fun together in that class, won't we?" She asked, and Meeshell nodded eagerly.

"We sure will." She then thought for a second. "Let's walk to the crowneteria together!" She took Justine's hand and led her there, and her feet never once ached for the whole walk. Everything was fine.