I'm not sure how, but somehow I found myself surrounded by familiar shades of gray and bright reds. I instantly recognized those stone walls even if they appeared to get further away from me as I looked at them, as if the sea of lava surrounding my gray, stone island was pushing the walls away, expanding the castle instead of shattering it. It was then that I found out that I was in Bowser's castle, but... I'm not sure in what part of the castle. I've never been in this room before and do not remember how I got here. All I know is what my eyes can tell me.
I am on top of a large, stone pillar, like a mountain in the lava. The pillar is thick, about twenty feet in diameter. There are no signs of a bridge anywhere or a door, or anything except the pillar, the sea of lava, and the walls in the distance. I look at the ceiling but see no ceiling, instead just clear blue skies. I'm not sure that I'm in Bowser's castle anymore, yet I feel I am. The large size of the room, which keeps getting larger, is illogical. I have been in this castle many times, and a room this big with such a huge pool of lava could not have been missed. Perhaps it is new, but that still doesn't explain the fact that I have no idea how I got here. Maybe I have been kidnapped so many times that my memory is playing tricks on me.
I spin around, looking at my surroundings, quite unusual in deed. After I spin in a full circle, I came face to face with a familar face. I am certain he wasn't standing there before, and don't know how he got there. He should have been the last person I wanted to see, but I can't help but to feel safe now that he is around. First I have to ask the question that is stubbornly floating in my mind, defying logic. "How did you get here? How did I get here?" There appears to be no flying machines nearby, and had he used one I would have heard and seen it.
"Does it matter? All that matters is that you're here now and no one can bother you. No one can judge you or pressure you. No one can try to shape you to be a certain way. You don't have to keep it all locked inside surrounded by a sea of lava that you won't let me cross. It's all right now," he said. He must have been speaking in some kind of metaphor, and I'm sure not what he meant. It is as if deep down I have the answer but that answer doesn't want to be found or I don't want to find it.
"What do you mean?" I want the confusion to end. I feel as if he can see into my very soul. I feel as if my deepest, darkest secret has been revealed before I even knew I had one. The skies remain blue and clear, the lava continues to boil and glow a bright fire red, and the gray stone walls that surround it continue to get further away in a realistic visual illusion.
"Don't make the ocean of fire bigger, let the stone walls fall. Then everything will be as happy as those clear skies above," he says. Everything is so unreal. He never spoke to me in such a mysterious way. It is like a riddle I have to solve. The answer is right in front of me yet I don't understand it. He slowly approaches. It isn't like I have anywhere to run. He continues coming closer, too close. I back away. "Don't fall." He extends his hand to me. I'm but an inch away from falling into the boiling lava that would surely kill me in an instant. "Your own defenses are too strong. Don't give in to your mask of fire or it might hurt you more than the falling walls would have."
Again with the strange speech, but I don't want to fall to my doom so I take his hand and walk to the center of the pillar. "I want to know what this is all about," I say.
"You know the answer. Don't deny it." Bowser comes closer and closer by the second. I remain still. I feel him surrounding me with his arms, and pose no resistance. I close my eyes and let whatever secrets lay hidden finally surface. I can feel him coming closer, a kiss? Is that what he intends? It's not like I am making any efforts to push him away. I let my walls fall and forget what I am to think only of who I am. Not Princess Toadstool of the Mushroom Kingdom. Not the perfect lady who acted how she was told and followed the rules that would shape in the cookie cutter model of the princesses from ages past. Now I'm just Peach, a young woman who has so much to live for, so much to experience, and so much to...
He licks my face, getting me out of my trance. "Bowser?" I am surprised, to say the least. He licks my cheek again. That isn't what I expected him to do. "What are you doing?" Again another lick, and that time I wake up.
I find herself in my room at the Mushroom Castle. On my bed there is a large, white dog with brown spots and a big, wet tongue. He wags his tail playfully and energetically. The tail is like an antenna with a red circle at the end. It is Yoshi's dog. He was coming to visit today, and either I overslept or he arrived extra early with the promise of a delicious breakfast waiting. "Good morning, Poochy," I say as I pat the dog's head, which makes him wag his tail faster and give me another friendly lick.
"Poochy! Where did you run off to, Poochy? Don't forget, Toad said no running inside the castle!" Yoshi soon arrives, searching for his dog.
"We're here!" I say as I get up from my bed, still wearing my pink pajamas.
"Did he wake you up? I'm sowy. Poochy is sowy too, right?" Yoshi gives his dog a disapproving look. Poochy whines and lays down at my feet, his tail not moving anymore. He has a sad expression as if begging for forgiveness.
"It's all right. I don't want to waste such a beautiful day sleeping anyway," I say. Poochy is full of energy again, running circles around me and wagging his tail. "I'll be ready in a moment, then we can have the breakfast I promised. Please wait for me at the table."
Yoshi and Poochy nod energetically with big smiles on their faces. "See you soon, Peach. C'mon Poochy!" Yoshi runs off, followed by his dog. Those two are so energetic and childlike, I wouldn't be surprised if one day Yoshi started calling me Mama Peach like the Koopalings did.
With that thought, my dream comes back into her mind. I try to figure out the hidden metaphors that my subconscious mind was trying to communicate. Maybe I am too worried about being judged. Maybe I do keep a secret that is hidden so deep it is as if it is trapped on top of a tall pillar in the middle of a sea of boiling lava of denial. The outer walls, the shell of appearances, expand as the sea of lava became wider. But there is still hope, for the clear, blue skies are still visible, and sometimes, ever so slightly, the secret surfaces. I shake my head, maybe I am overanalyzing things.
I step into my bathroom to take a quick shower. Maybe then I will be fully awake and the dream will have left my head. I can't help but wonder how the dream would have ended if Poochy hadn't interfered. I decide not to think about it too much. After brushing my teeth, and taking a shower, I choose a pink gown to wear. All my dresses look the same to most people, but I can see the slight differences in style they have. I didn't want to keep Yoshi and Poochy waiting for too long, so I hurry to the breakfast table.
Breakfast progresses and Yoshi eats everything that is given to him. I eat slowly, with class, minding my manners as a princess is expected to. Poochy is eating a little messily from his large dog dish in a corner of the dining room, but he doesn't eat half as much as Yoshi, who wraps his tongue around the food and swallows it in one gulp.
After the delicious breakfast, which included pancakes for me and the entire menu for Yoshi, he is as hyper as ever. "Is it time to play now?"
I smile; Yoshi can be so adorable. "Yes, it's time to play tennis." Inviting him over was definitely a good idea. Yoshi, with his childish innocence and energy, is refreshing and relaxing to be around. Yet my mind constantly returns to the dream because deep down I know what it means, and deep down I can't deny it. My fear of being judged, of not living up to the standards that a princess is expected to meet, is all very stressful. Sometimes being trapped in the Koopa Castle turned out to be like a vacation.
It turned out like that over time, my duties became more apparent and I started feeling more and more as if all my kingdom's eyes were constantly on me. At the same time I felt that even if I was full of energy after my break from my royal duties when returning from the Koopa Castle, I feared I was letting everyone down by always getting kidnapped and needing to be rescued...
"Peach, is something wrong?" Yoshi asks. His big, innocent eyes show worry.
I snap out of my thoughts. "Everything is fine, I was just a little distracted. You can serve now."
"I already did. The ball is over there." He points at a tennis ball sitting on the ground behind me. When did that fly by?
"I guess I was more distracted than I thought. Sorry about that, it's still a point for you." I pick up the tennis ball.
Yoshi approaches. "What's wrong? You can tell me, I'm good at cheering people up."
I sigh. "It's just pressure. The pressure to be the way a princess should be."
"You're a good princess and a good friend," Yoshi says.
"Thank you." I smile, he really is good at cheering people up. In the background I can see Toad playing fetch with Poochy. "I still enjoy the cheerful times like this."
"Why not always be cheerful?" Yoshi asks. I have a castle to play in and lot of friends, so he doesn't understand why I would be sad.
"What if you had a friend and your other friends didn't like that one friend? What if you felt afraid that your group of friends would be upset because you have a new friend?" I ask, hoping that it sounds simpler than it is.
"The more friends we have, the better!" Yoshi cheerfully says. "Who is your new friend, Peach?"
"It is just an example," I say. I don't want to take the conversation further and complicate things.
Yoshi nods. "Ok, but if you think you can be friends then you should be friends. You should tell your other friends about your new friend. Tell them why it's good for all of you to be friends. They trust you so they'll believe you, and soon they'll accept your new friend too."
I smile. "Thanks, I'll remember your advice and... try to help my friends understand each other..."
Yoshi nods. "Peach... It doesn't matter who your new friend is. I'll still be your friend, and I'll be friends with your new friend, too."
"I know you will. I feel better now. I guess everyone should be given a chance, right?" I say.
"Right," Yoshi agrees. "And Koopas too..."
I can't help it but to take a moment to think about his words and smile. Yoshi, you're smarter than you're given credit for.
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