He looked over as she made her way down the slope. It was her after all, there was no doubt now. But she was so different! Where was her sad smile? Perhaps the painting really was the only time she ever truly smiled. It was all wrong.
She still doesn’t know, Wendell thought glumly, watching as she went on ahead. I could choose another of those princesses, and she would never even know... What about one of the crazy yellow-haired ones? They were kind of nice.
Kimberly looked back at him.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I don’t know yet,” he said, almost truthfully.
Walking back through the forest now, he looked about for his friend, the wolf, but there wasn’t one. They stopped for a while to rest. There was something rustling in the bushes, and Kimberly got up to go look.
A strange little forest creature came out, and she bent over and started talking to it in a nice voice. It was a round ball of fur, with two friendly eyes, and two feet like a bird’s almost. It started jumping up and down, squealing excitedly.
“I think it wants us to follow it,” she said, turning to Wendell.
“Maybe it’s just hungry,” he said dryly.
She shot him a withering look and went back to pampering the little forest creature.
“Have you seen... a wolf anywhere?” Wendell asked.
Kimberly glanced over at him strangely.
“It’s my friend.”
She shook her head and went back to talking to the little forest creature...
“No, we don’t want a bad wolfy, to eat you, do we now, little snoogums...”
It went running off, then turned and looked at them, chattering in a quick, nonsensical voice and hopping about. Kimberly went over to it, and Wendell decided it would be pointless to argue.
They followed the forest creature for the rest of the day, and then stopped for the night. They sat at opposite trees in the thick woods, too tired to say anything for a while. The forest creature sat and dozed off.
“Are there really wolves here?” Karen said quickly.
Wendell nodded tiredly. He still wondered what had happened to his friend.
There was silence for a while.
“Maybe we should take turns staying awake,” she said, hopefully.
“That’s a good idea,” he agreed. “I could let you have the sword when it’s your turn.”
“What if we both fall asleep?” she said.
“We could sit at the same tree and put the sword between us, so whoever wakes up first can have it, if a wolf came,” he said, hedgingly.
“A royal princess never sits at the same tree with an orphan,” she said darkly. “It wouldn’t be proper.”
“Okay,” Wendell said wearily.
“What?? You’ll just let the wolves eat me?” she said, infuriated.
Wendell opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Karen closed her eyes and hung her head on her shoulder. Wendell closed his eyes as well.
“I’m cold,” he heard her say pitifully.
Wendell thought for a while before saying anything.
“What should I do about it?!” he asked helplessly.
“I don’t know,” she said, caustically. “You’re the one who always camps like this.”
“We could try gathering branches,” he surmised. “It’s too bad I don’t have a cloak. That dress really isn’t made for...”
“It’s a very nice dress, you stupid boy!!” she said with sudden fury, and turned over quickly to go to sleep, putting one arm across her face.
Wendell listened for any more words for a while, and then fell asleep as well.