The girl turned back in surprise, and Puss-in-Boots shifted his feet, puffing out his chest, striking a more statuesque pose. “I.. I.. didn’t know, I only want to read it” said the girl with a quiver in her voice, and an audible gulp as the sabre swished the air in front of her. She jumped even higher when Puss-in-Boots shouted out. “Lassie! Did you go to sleep again? We almost lost another book!”
A soft snore floated out from the dusty corner where the china dog Lassie sat on the middle shelf. “I thought so! I’ll let him sleep, he’s still catching up from last week when a few shepherds came through looking for a baby, and Lassie had to help with the sheep. Having sheep wandering in an archive can get a bit messy.” said Puss-in-Boots with a grimace.
“Would you mind lowering your sabre, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do the wrong thing” said the girl recovering her composure. Puss-in-Boots stared at her down the length of his blade as he lowered it, noting the silken blonde hair, the curve of her golden shoulder, and her glamorous high heels. Putting his sabre back in its sheath on his waist belt, he jumped down a few steps on his book-pile platform. “Come and sit down here for a moment, it’s not often a Princess comes to look at the books, they usually send an Ugly Sister or a Maid-in-Waiting, sometimes a Nanny dog which doesn’t go down very well with myself or Lassie,” said Puss-in-Boots flourishing his neck scarf as he used it to dust a spot close beside him. The girl, blushing at the name Princess sat down. Her eyes were level with Puss-in-Boots’s as he turned up the charm sparkle a notch when she did as he asked. She could see he was a ginger cat now her shock had worn off, and quite one for the ladies she thought as he moved a step closer and purred in an enticing way.
“Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Puss-in-Boots, good-looking, gallant sword-fighter, protector of the Story-book Archive, but you can call me PB,” he said holding out his paw. “If you want to know anything around here ask me, all stories come here eventually.”
Taking the book from her hands he apologized. “I’m sorry if I snapped at you my dear, we are a little short-handed in the Archive, all the elves get time off after Christmas.” Turning the book spine up he read the title. “Rapunzel, one of my favourites. What’s your name Princess, I will record your visit in my ledger.” He put Rapunzel down on top of the pile of books they were using as a seat.
“My name is Goldilocks, I’m new here. I met Little Red in the woods and she told me about this place, it’s wonderful that a home is provided for abandoned book characters while we wait for new stories to be written about us.”
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘abandoned’ to describe our plight, ‘between starring roles’ is better” said PB brushing flat the ruffled hair on his arms and pulling up his gloves. He turned his head from left to right, as if admiring his reflection in an imaginary mirror. Goldilocks giggled as the yellow feather on his hat brushed her face. “I like the idea of being a Star, do they make movies about hairdressers? I want to be a hairdresser in the next story, and so I chose to read Rapunzel - a little research before hand seemed appropriate” she said.
“With your looks Goldi, the authors will soon choose you!...” began PB but at that moment there was a loud commotion from the darkness of the Story Archive behind them. PB drew his sabre once more and took an offensive pose, but it was only Lassie leaping from the shelf scattering the animals who had gathered thinking PB was about to begin reading from the book in his hand. Characters usually squeezed their way out from even the tightest packed bookcase at the sound of his melodic voice rising and falling in narration. They loved to hear him read about themselves, as well as the stories from far off lands.
“Simmer down ladies and gentlemen, no need to get agitated, you will disturb our newcomer. Goldilocks is her name, make her welcome” said PB in a calming tone. Goldilocks admired the way PB ran up the bookpile and down the other side, gathering the characters into the light at the front.
One of the Three Little Pigs at the front of the crowd spoke out “Hello Goldilocks, what’s your story, is there a house in it?” Goldilocks ducked her head down, feeling shy with all the story-book characters staring at her. PB took his place at her side again and turned her chin up with his soft paw. “We’d love you to tell your story Goldi, you can be a star today, right here, right now amongst all those who made it into books. Let me begin for you.... Once upon a Time....