Pretty Britney always knew she was special. But she didn't realize anyone one else recognized it until about the fifth grade. That’s when they put her in special classes. She wore a princess outfit to school every day because she believed she was a princess. She loved all princess movies and she believed her prince was going to come marry her someday. She couldn’t wait for that day.
She stayed in the special classes even thru high school and still wore princess gowns. Things had been getting harder and harder, though. She was lonely. She wanted friends but more often people said unfriendly things. Things that hurt. But she knew her prince would think she was pretty. He would think she was enough.
When her parents saw her come home sad, they often asked if she wanted to talk about it. She usually said something like, "No, thanks. I'm gonna go think about how my prince will love me." They loved her dearly, and they knew the plight of a teenager with Down Syndrome was tough, especially one who wore a dirty princess outfit every day. And they knew there was no prince like the one she expected waiting to come and marry her. But they didn't know if they should say anything; they feared her very life depended on it.
Other things got difficult too. She saw a lot of meanness in the world, and realized she wasn't perfect. Pretty Britney began hitting herself. When she stepped on a bug or lashed out at someone in anger she took the punishment out on herself. She would hit her head with her fists.
Her parents would grasp her hands to stop her but she would scream, "No! My prince wants me to be perfect!" She was giving herself bruises and her hands were so often clenched until one day Pretty Britney was so disappointed with herself she burst out of the house and said she was running away. Her parents were about to follow her until they saw her destination was the backyard treehouse.
They saw her take her little princess watch which had a small AM radio in it. She would sometimes scroll through the dial looking for a message her prince was trying to send her. She settled into the treehouse and they could hear her scrolling through the radio and then talking to herself up there for a couple hours. And then they heard crying. Then they saw the souls of her feet, showing she had fallen asleep surrounded by the yellow light on the wood boards as the sun set. When her dad went to get her to put her to bed Britney woke up with a tired but calm smile on her face.
He asked, "Are you okay?"
"Are you ready to go to bed?"
"Can I sleep here?"
"It's gonna get cold but I could bring you some blankets. Why do you want to stay here?"
"This is where he talked to me."
"Oh yeah?" Her father was skeptical. "What did he say? That you don't have to be perfect?"
"No, he still wants me to be perfect, and I will be someday for him. But he loves me just the way I am."
"Attagirl. That's how we love you too."
But Pretty Britney wasn't done with what her prince had said and kept on talking, "I don't know if it was his voice but someone told a story that a bad guy was coming to punish me but that my prince caught the bad guy and took the blame and punishment for me. But my prince is really strong and he survived and then he killed the bad guy." She was falling back to sleep as she mumbled, "I love him so much. I can't wait for him to marry me."
Her father figured that she must have overheard a children's story hour, or maybe a radio evangelist or something. Either way, he was glad his daughter wouldn't need to punish herself anymore.
She had a very interesting relationship with her prince. They found envelopes she put in their mailbox simply addressed, "My prince." After finding a few of them, and their mailman telling them about a few others, they told her that she would need an address if she wanted to send them to her prince. She was depressed for a week but then they started finding little pieces of paper hidden all over the house with little messages written to her prince and she seemed happy again. So they let her.
But it wasn't necessarily a one-way conversation. She would be looking at the clouds and they would overhear her say, "Thank you." When they asked about it she said, "My prince just showed me in the clouds I would have a white horse to ride on in his kingdom." Or she would listen to the same song on repeat for a week and they'd ask why, and she would say, "Oh, my prince told me this song is for me."
She also claimed he was teaching her how to be a good person. She started a lemonade stand where she gave all the lemonade away for free. She wrote nice notes to neighbors and left them on their front doors. She even started her own dog shelter for a while, which was just letting any stray dog into their backyard and she loved them until their owners found them. Pretty Britney's backyard was the first place the neighbors soon learned to look when their dogs that had run away.
Pretty Britney was in her 30's when her body started shutting down. She had inched toward obesity and it wasn't kind on her body systems. She often said, "I'm just lonely. I want my prince to come marry me." And because of this she ate a lot of chips and soda.
"Your prince will want a princess that takes good care of her body," her parents hesitantly tried to implore her.
She replied, "I just can't do it. My heart hurts too much. And I know he loves me even if I can't be skinny. My heart is more important to him, and he thinks it's very pretty."
And she started to carry a lot of anxiety. She had started to care less and less about TV and music and keeping her room clean. She just spent hours and hours in her treehouse, or under her bed with a flashlight talking to herself and writing notes.
Being without her deepest love was starving her heart of life.
The day before Pretty Britney went to the hospital her dad found her under her bed and he gently woke her up. "Time to get into bed, Britney. You need to clean your notebooks off of your bed so you can sleep in it."
Britney groggily scooted out from under the bed and then sat on it with her head in her hands. "Daddy, I don't even know what he looks like. I don't even know what his voice is like. I've spent my whole life waiting for him, but I still don't even know him. Is that weird? What will it be like when he comes?"
Her father, feeling the weight of all of his beloved daughter's longing, could only say, "No honey. That seems like exactly the way it should be for you. When you see him he will be everything you have hoped for and more." He held back his tears.
"I hope he comes back soon."
When she died the next day, from complications from a heart attack, the face and the voice of her prince was indeed unlike she expected and new to her. And he was all she hoped for and more.
October 8, 2020