And so the prince married her, and they got their happy ending, and life went on.
The dog returned to his warm spot on a rag rug by the fire.
The other mice returned to their cozy holes and nests,
to wait for the next serving maid,
who would in due time become her own story.
She wouldn’t get a prince,
there was only one of those local,
but there was a very nice carpenter who made furniture
and he had a daughter and a flock of geese and a milk goat,
and she would be very happy there.

The other mice returned to the lives they had had, and were content.
Not Jonathan.
He had always been the smallest and the weakest, and his tail had a kink.
Never picked first, never the best, and though he always had enough to eat
it was certainly never his turn to eat first.
Jonathan had made a gorgeous horse, and decided he liked that better.
So he packed up his favorite jeweled button
and a blue jay feather
and a small piece of summer sausage-and-cheese sandwich,
and off he went to find the fairy godmothers.
They were in the business of granting wishes.
Well, he had a wish.
Mama had always told him,
“If you don’t ask, the answer is no.
And if you don’t ask yourself,
you’ll never know that the answer could have been yes.”

The fairy godmothers had moved.
Darn it.

Well, he didn’t want to go home just yet.
And he didn’t have any idea of where to look for them.
But he’d never been to the ocean, and there was this seagull, who
(for the small price of Jonathan’s summer sausage-and-cheese sandwich)
was willing to carry Jonathan to the ocean and back.

The ocean was beautiful.
Jonathan didn’t have the words, and didn’t care.
He sat and watched it all day, tide in and tide out,
wave upon wave upon wave chewing on the rocks
and sometimes managing to swallow them
but never actually managing to eat them.
Sometimes he watched the seagull,
or maybe another seagull (there were so many!).
Sunset was colors the fairy godmothers could never had produced,
not with all the wands there ever were.
The seagull settled next to Jonathan, and lifted a wing so he could cuddle close,
and the two fell asleep watching the stars blossom in the field of night.

In the morning, as Jonathan stood and stretched and yawned, he had a thought.
“Why haven’t you killed me?”
The seagull, also yawning and stretching, cocked his head in thought for a moment.
“Why would I? You are a character. You may die, but it won’t be by me.”
The seagull sighed.
“You have a name, and I know it. Do you know my name?”
Jonathan blinked.
“It’s Samuel. And my name hasn’t been important. But you, Jonathan,
this is your story. You are important in it. I knew your name from the first.”
“Does this mean we’re friends?” asked Jonathan.
“If you like.”
Jonathan took his turn to think for a moment.
“Yes, please.”
Samuel nodded once, then took off to hunt down some breakfast.
Jonathan, having found some seeds the night before,
ate and watched the tide,
smelled the wind off of the salt water,
closed his eyes to feel the sun on his fur.
He would have to go back home soon,
back to his life and dreams passed by,
but not just yet.

Samuel landed next to him shortly after noon.
“You’ve been watching the ocean from up here, my friend.
Would you like to see it closer?”
Jonathan grinned. “Yes, please!”
“Then climb up onto my back, between my wings, and hold on tight.”
Jonathan did, clutching with fingers and toes as Samuel took off,
then landed on that salt-and-cold-smelling water.
Other seagulls swam past, greeting or challenging or ignoring.
It was colder on the water, the wind a bit sharper, and definitely bumpier.
And altogether wonderful.

“Jonathan, there is someone I think you should meet.”
“Oh? Who?”
“You’ll see.”
The sleek brown-furred head popping up was a bit of a surprise.
The sleek green-haired human-looking head was a bit more of one,
but since Samuel didn’t seem afraid, Jonathan decided to be brave.
The green-haired person stroked between Jonathan’s ears with one gentle fingertip.
The otter, maybe it was an otter?, winked.
Jonathan, not sure of what to do
but sure that presents were rarely a wrong idea,
offered the blue jay feather to the green-haired person,
who took it carefully.
Her voice was soft and somehow birdlike,
and Jonathan was never sure afterwards whether he really heard her
or only understood her singing to his heart.
“Little soft one, Samuel tells me you wanted to find the fairy godmothers,
that you have a wish.
Will you tell me?”

“Sea lady, I was a horse for a short while.
I wish to be one again.
I was strong, and beautiful, and necessary.
Now I am just a mouse, and since I was born a mouse, maybe this is right.
But I want more.”

The green-haired person stroked between his ears again.
“Many wish to be more, or to be different.
Why should you be given this wish?”

“I don’t have a reason why I should have what I want,” said Jonathan.
“I’ve thought, and there’s nothing I can point to and say,
‘This is why I deserve it.’
I don’t know if I do deserve it.
I just know that I want it.”

The green-haired person closed her eyes for a heartbeat.
“I can’t give you your wish the way you want it, little one.
I can make you look something like a horse,
but because my magic is that of the ocean and not of the land,
you would be a horse of the ocean.
Because you are small, you would remain small.
You would gain a new family,
but your old family would be lost to you,
not because they would be forbidden but because you would be of the ocean.
Do you want to be the horse I could make you?”

“Yes, I do.”
Jonathan’s voice was soft but sure.
“Come back at sunset, little one. I will find you.”
And with a small splash, green-haired person and sleek-furred otter were gone.
Samuel flew them back to the hill
and stayed with Jonathan until sunset, chatting of nothing in particular,
and carefully did not ask if Jonathan was sure.
Jonathan gave Samuel the jeweled button, and gave him messages,
which Samuel promised to deliver (and did, if you are curious).

At sunset, Samuel flew Jonathan back down to the water,
to a green-haired person with gentle hands
and a sleek-furred otter with gentle eyes.
Samuel watched as his friend,
a mouse with a great heart and great curiosity,
shed his fur and gained seahorse flesh
and swam off to meet his new family and explore his new world.

When Jonathan looked back for the last time before swimming undersea,
Samuel made sure to remember his new markings.
He wouldn’t forget Jonathan.
And maybe, keeping Jonathan in mind,
it was time for Samuel to have an adventure of his own.

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