Once there was a Princess and a Queen who lived alone in a palace. And the palace, although not large, was still a proper palace and around it was a beautiful, ornamental garden. A garden filled with many beautiful flowers which the Princess had planted herself. For everyday, since the day she had first been able to walk, she had wandered through the garden, digging her small hands into the soil and pushing seeds into the moist earth. Indeed, as time went by the palace gardens had become so full of flowers that it was impossible to look anywhere without seeing fields of vibrant colour. To the Princess this was wonderful, and normal, and all she had ever known, but to her mother it felt as if she was surrounded, and trapped by an overwhelming beauty. And she often complained.
You see the old Queen had never left the palace, nor did she want to. She had always felt that if she went away from the glamour of the palace, people might not know that she was a Queen. Therefore she made sure she stayed within the boundaries of its grounds, or better still within the protection of its walls, where it would always be obvious and clear that she was a Queen. And not only to others, but to herself too.
Now although the Queen never wanted to leave the palace grounds, at times she still needed to go further a field, so it became necessary for the palace grounds to grow in size. As a result of this the palace and the grounds had become so large that it was quite possible to become lost, inside them. That is not to say that the Queen nor the Princess became lost, unable to find their way, but that they were ‘lost’ inside their shared world.
The Queen was not concerned about this, but the Princess was. She felt that the grounds were her mother’s world, and even though she had planted many flowers which were her own, she did not feel fully at home. So one day she decided that she would build a small garden of her own and surround it with a brick wall. She collected together the materials she needed, and started to build. It was hard work which hurt her hands, but slowly it grew in size and strength, surrounding her in a perfect circle. It had taken quite a while, and by the time she was finished she had become so familiar and comfortable inside, that she did not want to leave it. It became her home.
Inside her wall the princess’ flowers grew well, but she had forgotten the flowers that were outside and when the wall became so high that she could no longer see them, they began to die. The Queen noticed and even though she had once felt threatened by their beauty, she realised that she had begun to rely on their splendour. They made her palace grounds special, and herself more distinctive. She knew death of the flowers was because her daughter now never left the small walled garden she had created, and agonised over what to do. She needed to find a way to tempt the Princess back out into the larger grounds, and in time came upon the idea of sending her daughter on a journey that would force her to leave her walled garden. So the Queen went to see her daughter, and told her that it was necessary for her to carry a message to the next kingdom. The daughter did not want to leave, yet her mother made such a fuss, accusing her daughter of all sorts of betrayals, that the Princess was left with no choice but to carry out the task.
The Princess in turn agonized over what to do, and thought long and hard. Eventually though she had an idea: she had plenty of materials left to build bricks with and so she could extend her walled garden, and effectively take it with her. Excited, she began to build and slowly the walled garden stretched across the palace grounds and out into new countryside. The Princess had never been outside of the grounds before and sometimes she was quite frightened, so during those times she built the wall a little higher and made herself feel safe. At other times though, she would like the things she saw around her and would build the wall a little lower.
Now although the Princess had become very good the making bricks and building walls, she was still moving quite slowly, and therefore she was able to absorb everything around her. That is to say she was able to see everything. However one-day, while she was building her walled garden through a part of the countryside that seemed peaceful and beautiful, she heard a voice coming from a place in which she could see nothing.
“What are you doing?” said the voice.
“I am travelling,” said the Princess.
“Travelling? Then why are you building a wall around you as you travel?”
The Princess opened her mouth to answer, but realised she could not remember. It had been so long since she had first built her wall, that she could not remember exactly why she did it. “Um, because I have always done so, I think.”
“Oh. Can I help you then?”
“Yes,” said the Princess. “I would be very happy to have friend.”
The invisible person climbed over the wall. “Show me what to do,” she said.
And so the Princess began to teach her new invisible friend how to build the wall, and immediately they fell into a new pattern of working. The Princess would make bricks, and her friend would lay them. They were now able to move much faster and they passed places and scenes the Princess had never seen the like of before. However her new invisible friend had, and she would tell the Princess about them. In this way the Princess learnt that although moving slowly and looking around so carefully had shown her many things, she now realised that she had not always seen correctly. For this reason she was very excited and pleased to have her invisible friend with her, and began to wonder about other things too. Sometimes, for example, she wondered what a friend really looked like, and several times she asked her. But her invisible friend would always reply, “I don’t know, I am invisible.”
After the Princess and her invisible friend had travelled a certain distance, the Princess realised that she had run out of materials with which to make new bricks. She sat down worried, and did not know what to do.
“What’s the matter?” said her friend.
“I can’t make any more bricks,” said the Princess. “I can’t go any further.”
The Princess heard a sound and realised her invisible friend had sat down next to her, and was thinking the problem through with her. The Princess smiled, she could feel the presence of a true friend. She was tempted to reach out her hand and touch her, but she was scared of what she might feel, since she still had no idea of what kind of person or thing her friend really was.
It was while she was thinking these thoughts that her friend suddenly said, “I know, let’s use the bricks from the back of the wall to build at the front.”
The Princess jumped up. She was excited, realising that in this way she would never run out of bricks. She would be able to go where ever she wanted and always have a wall around her. She immediately ran to the back of the wall, collected as many bricks as she could carry, and brought them to the front. “I’ll build the front,” said her friend. “While you collect the bricks.” Again the pair worked as a team, the Princess collecting all bricks, and her invisible friend building at the front.
However, the Princess was so excited and busy collecting the bricks that she did not notice that not quite as many bricks were appearing at the front, as were disappearing at the back. So it was with a shock that she stopped one day, looked around herself, and saw that her wall had almost disappeared. She also saw that her flowers were now spreading beyond the boundaries of the wall, and had blown their seeds so far that they had created huge fields and meadows. All around the Princess was the colours of the flowers, dancing in the summer winds.
The Princess turned around and around looking, amazed at what she saw, until her eyes fell upon a long narrow pathway, running through the fields of flowers. As she looked closer she saw that the pathway was a road, a road which was made with the bricks from her wall. Her invisible friend had secretly been laying a road instead of building the wall. The Princess felt a pang of nervousness, but also excitement. For she saw how her wall had become a pathway. A pathway through a countryside covered in her flowers.
“Do you like it?” said the gentle voice of her invisible friend, slipping her hand into the hand of the Princess’s.
The Princess looked down, the hand had felt just like her own. So much so that she was almost not surprised to see that it was her own two hands that were classed together. “Yes I do,” she told the voice, the voice in her own heart.
“Look at your road,” said the voice, “look at what’s happening.”
The Princess looked, and there in the distance, far far back along the road that she had built, was small figures walking her pathway. And amongst them, was the Queen, her mother, walking tentatively but surely over the bricks.