Once there was a Princess who liked songs, and snakes, and ice-cream. She knew she was a Princess because her mother had told her that she was related to the one in story of the Princess and the Pea. Her mother – who truly was a Queen – had said that that Princess had felt a tiny pea through hundreds of mattresses when she went to bed. And so she must have been the Princess’s great great great great grandmother.
You see, the Princess – not the pea one … the one who liked cornflowers, shells and carrots – had super skin. Skin that could feel everything. She had never tried, but she knew she could have felt a pea through hundreds of mattresses. Or at least twelve. She could feel the stitches from the buttons on her clothes. She could feel a hair that had fallen on her shoulder. She could feel a grain of sand inside her shoe. She could feel everything. When she was little, she would cry when the seams of her pyjamas scratched her skin, or when an ant bite stung for days and days. But the Queen reminded her that she had super skin, and there were things that you could do to make it not so hard to live with.
And so the Queen sewed velvet ribbons over all the seams of the Princess’s clothes, and bought the smoothest sheets and pillows she could find. And the Princess’s father – who never called her Princess but always “Bobbin”, and was, in every way, a King – helped shake the dirt from all her socks and never wore hairy jumpers so that he could hug her.
But when the Princess – who liked turquoise, bikes and tiptoes – went to school, her super skin began to hurt. Not from clothes or grit or insects. But from people.
The Princess liked school. She liked her teacher who had curly brown hair. And she liked her friends who made her laugh and loved to twirl and chat.
But there were times that people said things that hurt her super skin.
When her friend Daisy noticed that the Princess had big teeth, the breath around Daisy’s words blew on the Princess’s skin and made it ache. But the Princess didn’t say anything.
When the gym teacher told someone that the Princess couldn’t climb the fort, the teacher’s voice flew at the Princess and stung her skin. But the Princess didn’t say anything.
When a boy in class told his friend that the Princess couldn’t spell, his whispers floated near the Princess’s eyes and made her eyelids burn so badly that she cried. But the Princess didn’t do that until she was at home.
And though the Princess – who liked home, and quiet, and toast – had soft cushions and thick socks, those things didn’t stop the hurting.
One day, the King asked the Princess what was wrong. He knew that she liked school, and her teacher, and her friends, but he could tell that she was having trouble with her super skin. And so the Princess told him.
Then the Queen made her some toast and carrot sticks and the King brought her Desmond the royal snake, and a cornflower from the garden. And they talked.
The King explained that he couldn’t stop the words coming from the people. The Queen said that Daisy and the teacher probably hadn’t meant to hurt her skin. And then they told her what to do.
“When someone’s voice hurts you, don’t think of it” the King suggested. “Think of your voice and how beautifully it sings. We love to listen and we know you love the music, so don’t think about the other person. Think about how special your voice is.”
“And when the whispers hurt you, don’t think about the person who is whispering,” said the Queen. “Think of your whispers when you tell me stories every bedtime. When you think of great adventures and you whisper them so I can come along and join the things you’ve made up in your head. Think of your clever whispers.”
“And when someone’s breath hurts you, don’t think about the words it’s wrapped around,” the King advised. “Think of your breath and how it put out all the candles on your cake, and how it helped me blow the beach ball up last week. And the way it’s helping you to learn to whistle. Think of your useful breath.”
And so the Princess went to school, and to the shops, and to some parties, and when she felt her super skin begin to tingle – from a voice, or words, or breath … from people – then she would think of all the things that she could do. The things that made her happy and the things that made her special. After a while her super skin didn’t feel so sore, even though it could still hurt at first. But she learnt that it would ease and so it didn’t matter quite so much.
So the Princess – who liked words and breath and voices – grew like everyone. She laughed and thought and sang. And one day she was a Queen.
And the Queen – who liked people – most days, was very happy. And the Queen had fluffy slippers and a satin quilt. And super skin.