Priscilla prided herself on telling a good story. When Elouise pouted because Ms. Charlotte, the governess, made her rewrite her dictation for poor handwriting, she whispered funny stories about monkeys or kittens who misbehaved. When history lessons were just too boring, she embellished the lives of generals and queens with fanciful romances or tragic mishaps. But the story she told to punish Ms. Charlotte for keeping her in the schoolroom instead of taking her to the town festival changed everything.
It was just the old woman who lived in a shoe, with a Priscilla style twist to scare the timid governess. She was just as surprised as anyone when the impossible shoe appeared in the middle of the schoolroom, along with a mossy, misty forest. Ms. Charlotte was nowhere to be seen, but Elouise huddled close to Priscilla, her eyes wide. Priscilla stamped her foot, hiding her own confusion under mock impatience.
Before she could say anything, Ms. Charlotte stepped from behind the shoe house, but something about her was not quite right. Her walk was just a little stiff, her parasol just a little too upright. And Ms. Charlotte’s hair would never be that messy. As the woman’s mouth opened, the girls heard a whirring sound, then a click as the head cocked to one side. “Who – visits – the – shoe?” The voice was harsh, almost as if someone could make words by tapping on tin. “Girls. We – must – have – girls.”
Priscilla heard a grinding sound as the woman jerked closer, and the front of the dress slid open. Elouise screamed through her own fingers pressed tightly over her mouth, and Priscilla’s heart pounded as metal arms unfolded and reached for her. Tinny, emotionless laughter filled her ears. “The – story – teller – sets – us – free.”