An alternate point-of-view from The Immortal Grimm Brothers' Guide to Sociopathic Princesses. Melody was a blip in the series, a blink-and-you-miss-her character. She was the one that reminded the royals of what they were fighting for--a kingdom full of people cursed just like they were. But she was never just a blip for me. She had a story, and I'm sharing it with you all here!
Melissa Padgett (M. J. Padgett)
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. This work may not be translated except by permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. The names, occupations, events, incidents, and businesses are products of the author’s imagination.
Melody hummed quietly to herself, a trait she picked up from her late mother. Once upon a time, the tune would force a flurry of painful memories to the surface of her consciousness and send her into a downward spiral that started with sniffles and ended in full-on ugly crying. Now, her mother’s favorite song helped her focus. She needed focus today, the day.
The seamstress adored weddings. Her deft fingers worked the silk with confidence as she placed a few whipstitches to hold the voluptuous ballgown out of the mud. She tightened her lips into a thin line as she focused on the delicate garment. Why did it have to rain today?
The quiet click of the door distracted her momentarily, but Melody soon put her eyes back on her work. The matron-of-honor paced in front of the window—light, shadow, light, shadow. Melody did wish she would sit or pace elsewhere, preferably somewhere she wouldn’t interfere with Melody’s important work.
“I have a problem,” the woman said, her blonde hair pulled into an intricate assembly of curls and twists that gave Melody a headache just looking at it. But it wasn’t her wedding, and the bridesmaid’s haggard appearance was not her problem. Keeping the dress clean, now that was. Still, the woman expected a reply from Melody.
“What is that?” Melody asked but only partially listened to her response.
“I’m in love with the groom, and I think I should tell him.”
Melody gasped, then dropped her sewing needle on the carpeted floor. Drat! She would never find it in the thick pile. She was quite sure she hadn’t heard the woman correctly, so she played off her shocked reaction as best she could.
“I’m so sorry. I dropped my needle and nearly pricked my finger. Just a moment while I—”
“I said, I’m in love with the groom. You see, we had a thing before he met my best friend, but it fizzled and, well, I think the spark is back.”
Melody stared into the face of the woman, Bethany, as her periwinkle sash declared. Maid-of-Honor, indeed! There was noting maidlike or honorable about Bethany, but it was hardly Melody’s place to tell her so. Instead, she excused herself.
“I’m sorry to hear you… Uh, I’ll be right back.” Melody escaped the workroom as quickly as possible, her small feet carrying her across the grand hotel lobby, then toward the manager’s office. Along the way, Melody passed the bride. She beamed with delight and gave Melody a small wave. Instantly, Melody’s stomach filled with heavy dread. Something would go wrong; she just knew it.
Melody knocked on the manager’s office door. She heard shuffling inside, then the door clicked open.
“Miss Cromwell, how may I be of service?” the hunched elderly man asked. He looked a bit disheveled, worn down by who knew what, but that wasn’t Melody’s problem either. Fix the dress, she thought. Just fix the dress, Melody.
“What was that?” the manager asked, removing his glasses and squinting at her through beady little eyes.
“I need to fix a dress. Do you have a sewing kit? I’ve lost my last needle.” Melody thought all hotels boasted sewing kits as one of the extra amenities offered to impress clients, but it appeared the high-dollar hotel had no interest in such things.
“Afraid not, but I do recall a sewing box in the lost and found. Been there a while; maybe you could borrow it?”
“That might do,” Melody said, then followed the man to the front desk where the lost and found basket was hidden in a secret cabinet. He tried the lock several times, kicked the cabinet, and fussed a few indecipherable words, then resorted to handing Melody the key.
“Confounded thing. I can never get it open.”
Melody took the key and slipped it into the lock. She turned the handle and saw a dusty old book resting on top of the sewing box. It was as beautiful as any she’d ever seen with expensive leather binding and an intricate pattern embossed on the front. It seemed to call out to her. Touch me! Melody ignored her instinct and carefully slid the box from under the book.
“Weird book, that is. Has all sorts of crazy stories about time travel and portals and angry princesses. A guest left it behind. Had a rabid dog attack, and… Well, I suppose you don’t want to hear the story. Feel free to read the book if you wish.”
The old man turned and hobbled back to his office. Melody ignored the fantasy book and lifted the sewing box. She moved back to the prep room with hurried steps, her time running short. What if that dreadful woman is still there?
Melody was still young, a mere thirty-year-old, but she had an old soul. Her moral compass pointed strongly north, and she had no desire to take the last-minute confession of a selfish, man-stealing, traitorous best friend. All she wanted to do was whipstitch a dress and get back to her shop.
Melody quietly pushed open the door. Drat again! The woman was still there staring out the window as if the answer to life’s most significant questions might be on the other side of the glass. They were not. Melody could attest to that, but if she stared long enough, perhaps Bethany would fall into a trance and forget about the groom. On the other hand, maybe the groom wasn’t worth the lovely bride’s time.
The seamstress sighed. There she went again, getting involved. Just fix the dress! Melody pushed the door all the way open, alerting Bethany she had returned. Before the woman could begin her confession again, Melody let out a long, low breath.
“Goodness, look at the time. My, oh my, I sure have a lot of work to do.” Melody flipped open the top of the sewing box and pulled a few straight pins from a little plastic box labeled “Portal Pins.” Melody had never heard the term before, but she chalked it up to the box owner’s own personal slang.
“So, anyway, what I was saying was—”
Melody grumbled and stabbed the dress with the first pin, pricking her finger in the process. “Darn it!” she cried as a scarlet drop of blood trickled down her finger and landed on the delicate silk. Then the world spun.
Swirling lights surrounded her in a myriad of colors—pink, blue, yellow, green—the whole rainbow fluttered and flashed around and around like a dizzying carousel. Melody thought she’d passed out or perhaps suffered a brain-splitting migraine induced by Bethany’s incessant yammering. She wasn’t falling, but she was moving. Left then right, up then down, all the while the lights circled her—or was she spinning?
She clutched the dress tightly, the only thing she recognized in a sea of light and motion. Finally, mercifully, the swirling stopped, and Melody landed on her butt in the middle of a large kitchen. Her rear end smashed painfully onto a wooden stool, splitting its legs. It dropped her to the floor, which Melody noted was crafted of beautiful stone.
She glanced around the room, unsure what had happened or where she was. A small movement to her right caught the attention, she turned to face it. A man—tall, dark hair and eyes, thin yet muscular holding a jar of peanut butter. A spoon dangled from his mouth, and his eyes were wide and curious. He blinked a few times, then opened his mouth. The spoon clattered to the floor.
“Wha… wh-where did you come from?” he asked Melody.
Melody tried to stand, but her legs ached. Her whole body ached. Where did she come from? The man placed his jar of peanut butter on the counter and slowly approached Melody. She felt a bit like a stray dog the way he tentatively reached for her, but she accepted his hand nonetheless. He helped her to a standing position, then put the ruined wedding dress on the counter.
“Thank you, um…?”
“Jack. My name is Jack. You?”
“Melody… I think. Where am I?” Melody asked cautiously, still unclear of the circumstances surrounding her travel.
“You’re in a kingdom called Schwarzwald in The Black Forest of Germany. I just dropped in for a quick visit, and, well, then you dropped in… literally.”
“I’m in Germany! That can’t be. Thirty seconds ago, I was in New York City repairing that wedding dress!” Melody cried, pointing to the shredded remains of a once-gorgeous gown.
“Technically, you were falling from the sky thirty seconds ago,” Jack said.
Melody didn’t think it was all that funny, but instead of being rude, she asked the obvious question. “How do I get back home?”
“You’re only in Germany. You can take a plane. Or a train and a boat. Or a plane and a train and a boat. Or you could drive and take a boat. Even drive and ride and…” He shook his head, then asked, “I’m sorry, but how did you get here again?”
The eccentric man seemed nice enough, oddly putting Melody more at ease than she had been in a long time. Even so, popping from New York to Germany in a few seconds was like slipping through a… holy cow.
Melody lifted her hand and stared at the pin still clutched in her slender fingers. She showed it to
Jack. “I think… uh… a pin portal?”
“A who what?”
“A pin… Look, all I did was accidentally prick my finger, and I fell through your ceiling. Or…” Melody glanced up, not recalling crashing through anything. “Or not.”
Jack lifted his gaze to the ceiling. “There was a pop, then you fell.”
“Did you see lights? There were lights everywhere,” Melody asked.
“No, nothing like that. Literally, you just appeared out of thin air and fell. I don’t know what a pin portal is, but I think I can find someone around here that can help you.” Jack started to leave but paused and looked at Melody. “That was your cue to follow me. They’re probably on the other side of the castle.”
“Cas… castle?” Melody nearly choked on the word. First portals, now castles? She swallowed her shock and followed Jack wherever he led. She thought it was incredibly short-sighted to follow a random, strange man without question, but what else was she to do? She thought back over the day. When was the last time I ate?
Aha! That had to be it. Melody had skipped breakfast and only nibbled on a few peanuts as she prepared the wedding gown. A lot of good her work did, though. The dress was good for nothing but cleaning toilets now. A chill went down her spine when she thought of how much her mistake would cost her—unless, of course, she was experiencing hallucinations from low blood sugar.
Jack took a few turns and eventually led her into an open courtyard where people milled around doing various tasks.
“What is that delightful smell?” Melody asked.
Jack paused. “Uh… horse poop?”
“No… really?” Melody asked, but the whimsical twinkle in Jack’s eye told her he was only kidding.
“It’s chestnuts roasting. Would you like some before we head to the hall?” Jack didn’t wait for Melody to respond. He wandered over to the vendor, spoke to him for a moment, and then returned with piping hot, roasted chestnuts. “Careful. I think I still have a scar from last year’s chestnut burn.”
Melody smiled. They were erecting a fifty-foot Christmas tree right in the middle of the yard, and other people scurried about strategically placing twinkling lights and sprigs of holly and mistletoe. The two accidentally passed under a sprig of the latter, but Melody spied a wedding ring on his hand and dismissed all thoughts of romantic, spontaneous kisses. Drat, drat, drat! Why were all the nice, handsome men taken?
Jack paid no mind to the merriment after handing off the chestnuts. He dodged a few carolers and meandered around a bonfire where children roasted marshmallows for S’mores. Melody inhaled deeply, the scent of the magical holiday filling her senses. The decorations and events were not unlike those in New York, but there was something about Schwarzwald that felt comfortable, more like home than the big city.
Her escort pulled open a giant, solid wooden door. It creaked open, catching the attention of the people inside.
“Finally. We have important matters to discuss, Jack. Like which kingdom will host the annual Christmas Ball,” a lovely woman said.
“Um, Sierra, we have a different matter that needs immediate attention,” Jack said, then shoved Melody in front of the woman he called Sierra. “Meet Melody. She fell through a portal into the kitchen.”
“She… what?” A man, authoritative yet relaxed, looked at Melody with narrowed eyes and a nervous smile.
Jack whispered in Melody’s ear. “That is King Marcellus, but you can call him Marcus. Cranky britches works, too.”
“I’m cranky because you leave to get snacks every fifteen minutes. This meeting has been going far longer than—forget it. Melody, it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance. This is…” The king looked around the room. “This is a fraction of our family. Heaven help us; it is quite large.”
Melody smiled, unsure what his family’s size had to do with anything, but she wasn’t about to be rude to a king—an actual king! She’d gone to London once, but she never did see the Queen. Melody panicked a bit, then asked Jack, “Am I supposed to curtsey or… or something?”
Jack chuckled. “No. Besides, you didn’t curtsey to me.”
“You?” Melody asked.
“Yes, King Julian Vogel of Goldene Stadt at your service, my lady,” he said with a bow.
“Jack, stop being ridiculous. I’m sorry, Melody. My husband doesn’t have a serious bone in his body,” another woman said.
“Shush, Hayden. I do too.” Jack pulled a chair out for Melody and pointed to it. “Have a seat and rest, Melody. I’ll go fetch Heidi.”
Melody cautiously sat, unsure where her arms and legs should go, how to rest her feet, or where to properly place her hands. Eventually, she crossed her ankles neatly and folded her hands in her lap while everyone in the room stared at her. There were more faces than she cared to count, and her anxiety kicked into overdrive. With Jack out of the room, everyone else seemed so intimidating.
Fortunately, Jack returned with another woman. The tall, blonde woman smiled sweetly, putting Melody’s anxiety on the back burner.
“Hello, Melody. I’m Heidi Grimm Morrison. I think I can help you get back home much more efficiently than by train or boat or… whatever Jack was talking about.”
Melody chuckled. “How many times do people ask if you are a descendant of the Grimm brothers?”
Heidi raised a perfectly tweezed eyebrow and glanced at Jack. He shrugged, then Heidi gave her attention back to Melody.
“Not too often,” Heidi answered. “Jack said you believe you entered a portal through a pin. May I see it?”
Melody nodded and gently handed over the straight pin she’d carefully pinned into her own shirt. Heidi examined it closely, then pulled it away and studied it some more, then this way and that. She pursed her lips and nearly went cross-eyed, evaluating the thin piece of metal.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before, but anything is possible. Do you know the coordinates of the location you left?” Heidi asked.
“I know the address. Does that work?” Melody asked, finding the entire situation beyond strange. She was sure Germany had no monarchy. The thought did cross her mind she’d fallen right into a wacky cult compound, but they seemed intent on helping her leave, so she complied with their requests.
“It should. Someone else will be here to help us shortly,” Heidi said, then, “Would you write the address down on this paper?”
Melody did as told, and Heidi peered at the neatly scripted words. “Oh, I’ve heard of that hotel before.” Heidi slid the paper toward another woman, one who had been quiet until then. “Jemma, haven’t you been there before?”
Jemma read the address and her eyes widened. “Yes, that’s the one.”
Heidi gave her attention back to Melody, but her facial features had changed. Her sweet, kind smile had been replaced by a look of sheer determination, all business. “Melody, I have a proposition for you. You may refuse, but I do hope you would be willing to help us out. You see, we lost a special book at this hotel. It’s large and very thick with dark leather binding and embossing on the cover.”
Melody knew the book. It was the strange book the manager had told her about. “Yes, I think I saw it in the lost and found where the pins were.”
Heidi breathed a sigh of relief. “I can’t believe it’s still there after all this time. If we send you back, is there any chance you might use this pin again but puncture the book with it instead of your finger? We require the book, and you would be doing our kingdom a great service.”
Melody shrugged. She saw no reason why she couldn’t send them the book, assuming it worked the same way. She nodded politely, then said, “I’m willing to do my best.”
“Perfect. Now, about that dress you brought along with you. I have mended it and placed it in a proper container for transport.” Heidi motioned toward the door, and a man carrying a box came forward, placed it on the table beside Melody, nodded and smiled, then exited the room. Melody stared at the box. Surely, Heidi was joking.
“Now, if you’ll just stand, I can send you back straight away.”
“What?” Melody asked as she stood.
Lights ripped across the room, and Melody was spinning again. There was so much more she wanted to learn about the strange little town in Germany, but there was no denying what was right before her eyes. The colored lights moved around her in a swarm, pushing her eyes into overload. When the spinning and flashing ceased this time, Melody landed on the carpeted floor of the room she’d left not long before.
Bethany was still jabbering about her lost love, but Melody was quite over it all. She slipped from the room and headed toward the bride’s dressing room to leave her dress. Melody would have to trust Heidi. There was no time to inspect it before dropping it off.
Just before Melody knocked on the door, she heard voices.
“I promise you, Amanda, I pushed her away. I love you. I never told you because Bethany is your best friend, and I didn’t want to hurt you, but I can’t marry you with this lie between us.”
“Ben, I love you, too. I trust you, and telling me the truth means a lot to me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go punch my ex-best friend in the face.” The door flew open, startling Melody. “Oh,” the blushing bride said. “I’m so sorry, Melody. Is this my dress?”
“It is. I do hope it meets your expectation,” Melody said, then handed over the box and dashed down the hall.
Melody made a plan in the fifteen seconds it took her to get from the bride’s dressing room to the lost and found cabinet. She wanted a love like that, the kind where there were no secrets, no lies. Something comfortable and carefree. She wanted adventure and fun, and none of those things had ever been in New York. Melody had tried to find real happiness after her mother passed, but she was all alone in the world now. She didn’t have so much as a cat to keep her company. But in Germany, perhaps there was a new adventure to be had?
Portals and magic… castles and Christmas Balls… Oh, she couldn’t imagine anything better. Dream big. That’s what Melody’s mother had always said. Melody couldn’t think of any dream bigger than living in a kingdom with magical portals and chestnuts and that really handsome guy who handed over the wedding dress. His smile was ingrained in her brain—after all, he had dimples for days, and she was nothing if not a sucker for dimples.
You are going through a portal to a strange land for a man you saw for fifteen seconds, Melody. She shushed her brain and grabbed the book from the lost and found. All she had to do now was hurry back to the prep room and grab that unique sewing box. When she approached the room, she heard the bride giving Bethany the what for, good and proper.
Melody pushed the door open, grabbed the box, and started to leave. She paused at the door and turned to address Bethany. “You are a horrible, selfish person. Go ruin someone else’s wedding,” she snapped, then thrust the door open. When she was in the clear, Melody pulled a pin from the box, but instead of pricking the book, she pricked her own finger again. A bit of blood dribbled down her finger for the second time, and the world lit in a kaleidoscope again. This time she was prepared—mostly.
She crashed through the kitchen in the castle again, this time managing to land upright. She heard silverware clatter to the floor and turned slowly. She hadn’t really thought that part through.
Melody sighed with relief when she heard Jack’s voice. “Jack,” she replied. “I um… I thought maybe I… could stay?”
“Say no more. I kind of expected you anyway,” he replied with a smile. “Come on. Let’s get that book back to its rightful owner, and I’ll tell you a funny story.”
“A funny story?” Melody asked, pleased he didn’t throw her right back out the door. She was sure her actions were not only reckless and entirely spontaneous but also incredibly assuming. Maybe they didn’t want someone just dropping through a portal and staying forever in their magical world?
“Yep, funny story. You see, in this land, there are a lot of strange occurrences. And after you left, something strange happened.”
“Oh, yes, and just wait until you hear about it,” Jack said.
Melody was just about to turn the corner when someone bumped into her, almost knocking her over.
“Oops, so sorry, madam,” a man said. It was the man—the one she’d returned to see again. She giggled and brushed the snow from her shirt. Wonderful! She thought, now it’s snowing! The man brushed the remaining snow from his coat and said, “I was just helping the children build a snow fort and… Oh, it… it’s you.”
Melody looked up a bit more, her gaze connecting with the pretty eyes she’d seen before. She felt her cheeks flush and her heart race.
“I thought… I had heard you were sent back home to… what is your home called again? York of New?” he asked.
“Oh, it’s New York, and they did, but… I… I came back.”
“Adam, was there something you needed?” Jack asked, his grin widening.
“Oh, yes, sir. King Marcellus sent me to tell you if you don’t stop taking snack breaks, he won’t help fund the new bridge.”
Jack grumbled, pushed Melody forward two steps, then said, “Oh, look at that. You two are standing under the mistletoe. See ya!” Jack darted down the hall and out of sight while Adam stood staring above at the mistletoe.
He slowly lowered his head, a question in his eyes. Melody was pretty sure she had never been quite so lucky in all her life. She nodded, and Adam bent to kiss her softly.
A splitting pain shot through her head the moment his lips touched hers, and she cried out in pain… then the memories came.