"Okay, okay, let's get serious, guys. What are we really going to do?" "I don't know," Mike wondered, "how about a trip?"
Edmund, Ruth, and Mike were engulfed in deep thoughts at the CandyFast Cafe, thinking of what to give Princess Marshmallow on her birthday which was only two days away.
With a month already gone and the coronation of Anise being a success, the time had finally come for the four of them to reunite and have a full day with their princess friend and give her a birthday to remember. Like Edmund had said, 'you only turn nineteen once'.
"A trip where? To the marsh? To the lake? We would have to go outside of Tella for that and we can't do that." Ruth complained. Edmund exasperated looked at the pink tinted glass door and gestured with his hand. "Let's go, guys. Think! What could Anise like this year?"
"A prettier crown?" "Puffier dresses?" With a thud, Edmund slammed his head on the table and shook his head slowly.
"I'm sorry, Ed, but we can think of nothing. Why don't we just ask her instead?" Mike remarked. In a snap, Edmund's head shot up and his eyes grew. "Are you crazy? ASK HER?!? No way!"
Ruth shrugged. "And why not? I mean, it's not like she's going to be bothered by it. We did that two years ago and it worked." "Oh, great birthday party that was. Anise was so surprised at her gifts." Mike mumbled with a side glance.
"HEY, GUYS! YOU MADE IT!"
All three felt a grey cloud float on their heads and lighting rumbling in their ears as Princess Marshmallow's high-pitched voice rang in the cafe.
"Anise!" "Hey!" "What's up, girl?"
The trio put their worries to the side and welcomed Anise to their table, her colorful garments blending in to the pastel decor around them.
"Oh, thank goodness you're here. I was starting to get so bored of my mother's lessons." Anise's hands flew to her neck and she pretended a choke. "It's not sweet at all."
"Um, Anise - " Mike shot a glance at Edmund, who slid his finger across his neck, and stared down instead.
"Have you guys eaten? I have to wait two more hours to eat and I'm starving already. The woman overlooking my wardrobe keeps saying I have to keep desserts to a minimum. Ha! What does she know about desserts?"
Mike, Ruth, and Edmund nodded and awkwardly smiled at Anise who was now exchanging worried expressions to the three of them.
"Is something wrong, you guys? You haven't said a word." She commented.
Ruth brushed her dusty pink hair with her fingers and shook her head. "Nothing wrong, Anise. Just enjoying the silence, that's all."
Anise raised a brow and angrily chuckled. "Silence? Really? That's what you wanted me to come for? To enjoy the silence?" She exclaimed with floating quotation marks.
"No, no, no," Edmund jumped in, "that's not it, Anise. She's just playing. We're just surprised to have you here. After all, it's been a month since we've spent quality time with you. With you being busy with your lessons and all."
"Ugh," Anise jumped up, "it was a bad idea coming over. I don't know what's gotten into you but I don't like it and I don't have time to ask stupid questions. I'll see you guys when you're ready to make sense."
Not having any retaliation, Anise gave them one last angry glance and stomped out of the place, the ringing of the door bringing the worried trio back to their old selves.
"That was a close one." Mike rushed to speak.
"We need to do something!" Edmund spat and then turned to Mike with a frown. "What do you mean 'a close one'?"
Ruth rolled her eyes. "Are you playing dumb or what? Remember we agreed to make it seem like we didn't care about Anise just to give her a surprise to her birthday this year since we are always letting her know how excited we are and that always kills the mood!"
Edmund raised his palms. "What? I don't remember agreeing to that! We need to stop Anise before she thinks we're angry at her or something."
Ruth smiled and shook her head. "No, Edmund. I have a better plan. Now listen carefully because we don't have much time."
LATER THAT DAY
Princess Marshmallow slipped outside of the castle and into the garden, her nightly walk in place even after having a glum afternoon asking herself what was wrong with her friends.
"Perhaps they don't even like me anymore." She thought to herself as she passed by Sugarpuffs and Lilypuffs.
Her steps quietly took her along the trail of the Royal Garden and her hand touched the delicate petals of the flowers around her.
She tried her best to shove the thoughts away but they kept coming back and with more questions pestering her.
The Princess stopped dead in mid-step and could have sworn she had the voice of her friend, Ruth, nearby.
She kept still and confirmed her thought as she heard her speak not so far away from where she stood.
"I don't think she'll care."
"She doesn't even bother with us, anyways."
"Mike." Princess Marshmallow whispered.
"Of course she does. She's just...busy."
The Princess tried to locate the voices but if she moved she knew she ran the risk of giving herself away and she wanted to keep listening so she set her foot down and opened her ears.
"Guys, guys...come on," she recognized Edmund's voice, "let's just give it up, alright?"
"No, no, no..." Ruth said, "Just hold on. I'm almost done."
A rustling came from a nearby bush and the Princess wished she had brought along her mirror to protect her but she only stared at the intensity of the shaking until to see it abruptly end and see her friends emerge from it with satisfying smiles in their faces until they saw the confused Princess.
"Oh, hey! Anise! Good to see you here!" Ruth sang. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow. Sorry for intruding your garden, Princess. Good night!"
"Wait, Ruth, what were you - "
"Anise," Mike put a hand on her shoulders, "you got yourself a lovely garden. Good night."
"Mike, wait! You - "
Only Edmund remained silent and stood by her side as they watched Ruth and Mike hug side to side and merrily leave the garden.
"Edmund, you mind explaining to me what's going on?"
Anise turned to him and he gave her a small smile, a spark in his eyes shining underneath the moon's light. "Nothing, Princess. We just happened to hang around your garden but that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."
She shrugged and continued walking with Edmund until she reached her swing and hopped on it.
"What's the problem? You all have been acting very weird today."
He raised one shoulder and put his hands behind his back. "We're very nervous because of your birthday, that's all. We've been thinking and thinking what is it we should be getting you because we didn't want to ask you."
She stopped swinging and her gloomy features lit up. "Really?!? You guys were like that because of my birthday?"
Edmund giggled and nodded. "Yes, Anise. That's why. We just didn't know what to think, you know? With you being a Princess now, like, a real crowned Princess, we thought you wouldn't want the cheap gifts we have always given you."
"Cheap?" Anise laughed. "But I love all the gifts you guys get me! I have kept them all! Even that half-licked lollipop Mike got me at the last minute from the candy stand."
"Really? Wow, that's very sweet and all but we wanted to give you something special this year. Something you can actually make use of, not an ornament or a jewel you'll wear for one night."
Anise shook her head and smiled at her best friend. "No, Edmund. All I could ask for this birthday is to have you three with me all day and night because I have never missed you so much like I have now. I only wake up for my lessons and I don't get to have fun anymore. In two days I'm going to have to give my second speech and I don't even know if I will make it without sounding stupid.
I just want to have fun, you know?"
"So, all you want is us three there? Nothing more?" Edmund asked slowly.
"Yes, Ed. Just be there, that's all."
Edmund stopped his aimless walking and stepped up to Anise.
He offered his hand to her and she gripped it softly, a slight shudder running down her body at how firmly he sustained her hands in the air.
"That's all I needed to hear, Princess Marshmallow. And we won't fail you, we'll be there."
Gripping his hands even stronger, she nodded and smiled at him, newly forgetting her worries in his presence and focusing on the way he was ever so softly swaying her side to side.
"Close your eyes, Anise. Close them slowly." He sang in a whisper.
She giggled and did what she was told.
With the same snap that made her turn to see Edmund before their talk,
With the same snap that made her turn to see Edmund before their talk, her eyes fluttered open and she stood alone in the garden far from the swing and with the sky the same hue of lilac and blue it had been when she first walked upon the trail.
She stood confused and called out the name of her friend but no one replied and she wondered in what moment she had dozed off.
"I seriously need to sleep." She whispered and ran back to the castle.
The sway of her sleeping gown was gone and only the soothing rush of the fountains brought an ambience to the garden. Making sure she was gone, Ruth popped her head out of the bush and wiggled out, helping Mike and Edmund out.
"That was close, Ruth." Mike whispered.
"Good thing Edmund knew about the garden or we wouldn't have gotten to her alone before the party." Ruth said.
"Well, at least your potion worked," Edmund chimed in, "now we know what she wants. But let's not do that again, alright? We could have gotten caught."
"Oh, don't be such a crybaby. We did it! Now we now what to get for her birthday...nothing!" She clapped in glee.
Mike rolled his eyes. "Witches..."