"What is it with you and dragons, Princess?" her father asked, taking a jadeite carving down from the mantelpiece.
"Dad. I just like them, so I collect them. And don't call me Princess. I'm not ten years old anymore. I'm in my thirties. Call me by my real name."
"Sorry. Old habits die hard, Laura. It just seems like every time I come to dinner, there are more of them."
"Well, you're right. I have been getting a few more. Once I really looked at one, I began to notice them everywhere. They are so intricate, so beautiful."
"But dragons are fearsome creatures who breathe fire."
"Not all of them. What about Puff?"
"Puff aside, the rest of them have a rather unsavory reputation. All that capturing of fair maiden stuff. Knights in armor dashing to the rescue. It's in a lot of books so it must be true."
Laura laughed. "I'm beyond the fair maiden stage, Dad. And I don't think dragons are much of a threat to old maids."
"You aren't an old maid. Look at you. You're pretty, smart, accomplished. You just haven't found the right dragon slayer yet."
"Enough about dragons already. Dinner is served," Lauren said as she set plates of steaming pasta at each of their places and poured out a rich red wine into two goblets. The once a month ritual of dinner with her father, which had started shortly after her mother died, was an event to be looked forward to, their own special father and daughter connection.
"So what else have you been up to besides acquiring dragons?" her father asked.
"Same old, same old," she answered. Although her job as a librarian gave her access to the universe and all it encompassed, for all intents and purposes she was locked into a small brick building in an even smaller town. Her real life travels took her only as far as the front door of her house and back. All of her adventures took place between the pages of the books that surrounded her.
"You need to get out more," her father said, bringing her back to the present.
"I know. It just seems like there's no time. And fixing up this house is taking all my money right now. Maybe I can take a trip next summer."
After dinner, they carried their wine glasses into the living room of her newly purchased house and sat with their feet up on the coffee table in front of the fireplace. They laughed and reminisced about a time when she was only a child and he was a young man. It made them both feel good to revisit those past memories.
"Well, Princess, I had better be going," her father said, standing and setting his glass down on the table. "As usual it was a wonderful evening."
"Oh sorry, it was a wonderful evening, Laura. But in spite of your being all grown up, you are still a princess to me."
"What can I say to that. You know I always enjoy our visits so if you want to call me Princess, so be it. Goodnight now, drive safely," Lauren said as she kissed him on his cheek.
"Goodnight. Oh, and have some one look at your heater. I think it's malfunctioning. It's awfully cold in your house."
"The heater's fine. The house is just drafty but the fireplace makes up for it."
She stood in the doorway and waved goodbye as he got into his car and backed out of the driveway, smiling to herself. He never stopped parenting in spite of the fact that she was well beyond needing it. Yes, her house was in need of work but it was what she could afford and she was proud of being a homeowner. Slowly, she had begun to repair and remodel. Each project was an adventure and she was enjoying every minute of it.
She went back into the house and turned out the lights. The fire in the fireplace was barely smoldering and a chill had already begun to invade the room. She quickly washed her face, brushed her teeth and donning a flannel nightgown, jumped into bed. Pulling the comforter over her, she laughed to herself about her father's dragon remarks and fell soundly asleep.
She knew she was dreaming but she couldn't seem to wake up. She was dressed in a flowing white gown and standing against a tree unable to move. A huge dragon stood in front of her belching fire from his nostrils. The heat from his breath was almost unendurable. Shaking with fear, she tried to escape. Hot, she was too hot. She had to get away. Struggling, she awoke and found she was wound tightly in the bedding. Most nights the house was so cold, she huddled under the covers just to keep warm enough to sleep. She threw off the blankets but then realized that heat was pouring into the room.
She sat up and looked around. Smoke was pouring in from the living room. A low roaring noise filled her ears. Fire! She jumped out of bed and ran to the door. Flames reached out to engulf her. She slammed the door shut and ran to the window. Never opened, she found it was painted shut. She groped for the metal dragon on her bedside table. grabbed it and smashed the window. Fresh air poured in. But the space was too small for her to crawl through. Glass shards cut her arms as she tried to break open a bigger hole. Blood ran down her arms as fingers of smoke crept around the doorframe. She began to lose consciousness.
When she came to, she was being carried from the blazing building in the arms of a firefighter. She looked up into his handsome face, and as the flames' reflection danced across his helmet, she realized that she had indeed been rescued by a knight in shining armor.
About the Author: Teresa Leigh Judd has only begun to write short stories. They include "Playing House" published in Capital Crimes, a Sacramento SinC anthology. "Quick On The Draw", which won second place in the 2009 Deadly Ink short mystery competition and the following short stories published or to be published by L &L Dreamspell: "Deja Vu" in Romance of My Dreams, "Alligator Dreams" in Ghostly Dreamspell, "The Purrsistant Cat" and "Mystery, Mischief and Mayhem" in Cats is a Dreamspell.