There once was a fairy tale princess who lived in a land of sunshine and Starbuck lattes. Of course she wasn’t part of a fairy tale, and she wasn’t really a princess, but starting a tale with “there once was a fairy tale princess” sounds better than “there once was this lady of no particular note other than to her close friends”.
(Truth in advertising doesn’t apply to storytelling.)
Anyway, back to the story.
The princess was confident and fairly strong except for one secret shame, one overriding fear — this princess was terrified of coaches.
You see when the Princess was very young, she was in many coach accidents and that left her nervous at the sound of stamping hooves and clattering wheels. Normally she could function within a society filled with coaches, but she couldn’t drive her own coach; the horses could sense her fear and refused to yield to her touch.
In time the young Princess fell in love with an evil Wizard who saw in the Princess a vulnerability he could exploit. Whenever he became angry, he would take the Princess out into a coach and drive it very fast, tell the Princess that he was going to drive the coach into this tree or off this cliff if the Princess wasn’t very very good.
Once, the Princess became so terrified during one ride that she grabbed the reins from the Wizard and held on to them for all she was worth until the coach stopped, disregarding the beating of the Wizard. When he got out, she kept the coach doors locked as the Wizard kicked and kicked at them until he burned out his anger and they could continue home, safely, one more time.
Another time, the evil Wizard got angry and forced the Princess out of the coach on a deserted country road. Here the Princess stood, on a road with no houses, no street lights, no moon to light her way — alone in the country with no clear idea of where she needed to go, begging the Wizard to return for her; terrified that the Wizard would return for her.
The Princess walked and walked along the road, becoming more and more terrified until she was eventually found by a passing coachman who kindly took her to the constable, who, in turn took her to a doctor because the Princess couldn’t stop shaking and was so frightened she could no longer talk.
In time, the Princess realized the folly of her relationship with the Wizard and banished him from her life. He in turn, left her with one final curse — she would go through life terrified of coaches.
The Princess met other more gentle Wizards who worked with her to overcome her fear of coaches. At some point, the Princess could be in a coach in traffic without closing her eyes at every intersection. There was a real sense of triumph the day the Princess didn’t break out in a cold sweat when she rode in a coach in a strange highway.
Eventually, one day, the Princess felt that she had progressed enough to try taking the reins of the horse into her own hands. At first she was frightened and stiff and very awkward. However, the Princess began to find out that she liked having the reins of the coach in her hand. In fact, she felt empowered by being in control. She was in control!
The day the Princess was passed by the court authority to drive a coach on her own was probably one of the happiest days of her life. The curse of the Evil Wizard was finally almost broken.
Except for one remaining trial. One last dragon that the Princess had to slay.
Freeways. The Princess was terrified of Freeways, especially attempting to drive the Freeways by herself. She would sit at her window and look at the Freeway outside her window and dream of driving on it, but every time she would attempt it she would become afraid and pull back. She knew deep down inside that the curse would never be completely lifted until she faced her final fear, but the battle was so hard.
Finally, at the end of the tale — because all tales do end — the Princess crept out of her castle in the early dawn hours and forced herself on to the Freeway by her home. Her heart was beating so hard she thought she would surely pass out…but she didn’t. She then continued down the road and on to Freeway’s in other strange worlds, each one driven becoming one more swing of the sword at the dragon formed from her fears.
Los Angeles — clang!
San Diego — clang!
Phoenix — clang!
Back country road with a low gas tank and no one in sight, and the memories crowding in, fighting for recognition, screaming in her mind to be let out, until a light appeared and other coaches appeared — clang!
Albuquerque, with the sun in her eyes and the coaches surrounding her like angry gnats, fear so strong her head pounded with the effort, mouth so dry, she was desperate for water but terrified of taking her eyes off the road to grab the water bottle — swing and swing and swing with the sword. Clang! Clang! Clang!
Oklahoma City. Tulsa. St. Louis. The sword made one final swing, the dragon expired, and the curse was broken. The Princess was finally free.
And she lived happily ever after.