A salt stained wind blows in from the east. There’s a storm brewing. It’s going to be a big one, the sort that brings great waves crashing against the shore of the island and strong winds tearing across the land. Already, the trees are starting to groan in protest.

Jessie presses her small palm against the back of Isa Dora’s head. The turtle’s skin is leathery and rough, still wet from her earlier dip into the sea. “It’s okay,” says Jessie.

They’ve faced rougher storms in the past. That’s just how life goes – a lesson learnt young and never forgotten, started when the very first playground bully set sights on  the young princess. The roughest storms are the ones you learn from. They’re hard to survive and impossible to forget; they’re easy to draw on later in life, and quick to snap you back into the past.

This storm is just like the others.

The turtle is slow to speak. Her words are interspersed with great pauses. “I…know that…we will. It’s just….still…scary.”

Jessie kisses Isa Dora on the back of the head. “Everything is scary when you haven’t seen it before. I think that’s better, though, than having seen everything and be faced with nothing new or interesting in your life.”

“Smart words,” says Isa Dora. “For a…young…princess.”

“One day I’ll be queen,” says Jessie. “I need to start getting smart now, so I can solve all of the problems in the future.”

And that, truly, will be the greatest storm of all. That of adulthood – of growing up and accepting the difference between a story and reality. But, for now, Jessie is content facing down thunder and lightning, and the queen – her mother, that is, Carol, is  content to let the little girl divulge in fantasy.

Turtle Queen Oklahoma

She sits at the kitchen table even now, sipping from a chipped blue number one teacher mug, and watching Jessie with a fond smile on her face. The young girl is wearing her favorite princess dress, and has settled herself on top of a plush turtle as if it was a horse.

Childhood, thinks Carol, is a wonderful thing indeed.

To be able to look out the window and watch lightning flash across the black sky, only to transform it into something else entirely. It’s an ability that too many adults have forgotten, as they’ve faced down their own storms and woes. It’s a talent that Carol prays Jessie will never lose.

So, for now, when lunch is ready, she stands up and says, “come now, turtle princess. Let’s go get something to eat before the storm hits.”

“Right,” agrees Jessie, scrambling off her stuffed turtle. “We need to gather food before the island floods!”

(2)