A TRAIN OF THOUGHTS
The subtle jerks of the train rocked Alex Bailey awake. She looked at
the empty seats around her while she remembered where she was. A long
sigh came out of the thirteen-year-old girl and she neatly fixed a
strand of strawberry-blonde hair that had escaped her headband.
"Not again," she whispered to herself.
Alex hated dozing off in public places. She was a very smart and serious
young woman and never wanted to give the wrong impression. Luckily for
her, she was one of only a few people on the five o'clock train back
into town, so her secret was safe.
Alex was an exceptionally bright student and always had been. In fact,
she was so advanced she was part of an honors program that allowed her
to take an additional class at the community college in the next town.
Since she was too young to drive and her mother worked the majority of
the day at a children's hospital, every Thursday after school Alex would
ride her bike to the train station and travel the short distance into
the next town for her classes.
It was a questionable trip for a young girl to make by herself, and her
mother had had reservations at first, but she knew Alex could handle it.
This short journey was nothing compared to the things Alex had handled
in the past.
Alex loved being a part of the honors program. For the first time, she
was able to learn about art and history and other languages in an
environment where everyone wanted to be there. When her
professors asked questions, Alex was one of many people to raise her
hand with the answer.
Another perk of the train ride was the downtime Alex got to herself. She
would gaze out the window and let her thoughts wander while the train
traveled. It was the most relaxing part of her day, and many times she'd
find herself drifting off to sleep, but only on rare occasions like
today would she accidentally drift off completely.
Normally, she would wake feeling embarrassed, but this time Alex's
embarrassment was laced with annoyance. She had just been having a
disheartening dream: a dream she had had many times in the last year.
She dreamed she was running barefoot in a beautiful forest with her twin
"I'll race you to the cottage!" Conner said with a huge smile. He shared
his sister's looks but, thanks to a recent growth spurt, was now a few
inches taller than her.
"You're on!" Alex said with a laugh, and the race began.
They chased each other through trees and over grassy fields without a
care in the world. There were no trolls or wolves or evil queens for
them to worry about, because, wherever Alex and Conner were, they knew
they were safe.
Eventually a small cottage came into view. The twins bolted toward it,
putting all their energy into one final sprint.
"I win!" Alex declared when both of her open palms touched the front
door a millisecond before her brother's.
"Not fair!" Conner said. "My feet are flatter than yours!"
Alex giggled and tried opening the door, but it was locked. She knocked,
but no one answered.
"That's funny," Alex said. "Grandma knew we were coming to visit; I
wonder why she locked the door."
She and her brother peered into the window. They could see their
grandmother inside, sitting in a rocking chair near the fireplace. She
seemed sad, and slowly rocked back and forth.
"Grandma, we're here!" Alex said and cheerfully tapped on the window.
"Open the door!"
Her grandmother didn't move.
"Grandma?" Alex asked, tapping on the window harder. "Grandma, it's us!
We want to visit you!"
Her grandma raised her head slightly and looked up at them through the
window but remained seated.
"Let us in!" Alex said, tapping on the glass even harder.
Conner shook his head. "It's no use, Alex. We can't go in." He turned
away and headed back in the direction they came from.
"Conner, don't walk away!" Alex said.
"Why bother?" he said, looking back at her. "Clearly she doesn't want us
Alex began banging on the window as hard as possible without breaking
it. "Grandma, please let us in! We want to come inside! Please!"
Grandma looked up at her with a blank stare.
"Grandma, I don't know what I did wrong, but whatever it is, I'm sorry!
Please let me come back inside!" Alex said as tears began to spill down
her face. "I want to come in! I want to come in!"
Grandma's plain expression turned into a frown and she shook her head.
Alex realized she wasn't going to be let in, and every time she came to
this realization in the dream, she would wake up.
It might not have been a pleasant dream, but it had felt so good to be
back in a forest and to see her grandmother's face again.... It was
obvious to her what the dream represented, and had been since the first
time she had dreamed it.
However, Alex felt something different when she awoke this time. She
couldn't help but feel as if someone had been watching her while she was
When she had first awoken, although she hadn't paid much attention to it
at first, she could have sworn she saw her grandmother sitting across
from her on the train.
Was this was an actual sighting or just her imagination getting the best
of her? Alex couldn't deny the possibility that it had been real. Her
grandmother was capable of many things....
It had been over a year since Alex and Conner Bailey had discovered
their family's biggest secret. When they were given an old storybook
from their grandmother, they'd never expected it would magically
transport them into the fairy-tale world, and never in their wildest
dreams had they expected that their grandmother and late father were
from this world.
Traveling from kingdom to kingdom and befriending the characters they
grew up reading about had been the adventure of their lives. But the
biggest surprise of all was when the twins learned their own grandmother
was Cinderella's Fairy Godmother.
Their grandmother eventually found them and took them back home to their
"I had to tell the school you both had chicken pox," Charlotte, the
twins' mother, said. "I had to come up with a good excuse for why you
had been gone for two weeks and thought 'traveling in another dimension'
would probably raise a few eyebrows."
"Chicken pox?" Conner said. "Mom, you couldn't come up with anything
cooler? Like a spider bite or food poisoning?"
"Did you know where we were the whole time?" Alex asked.
"It wasn't difficult to figure out," Charlotte said. "When I got home
from work I went into your room and found the Land of Stories
book on the floor. It was still glowing."
She looked over at the large emerald storybook held tightly in Grandma's
"Were you worried?" Conner asked.
"Of course," Charlotte said. "Not necessarily for your safety, but for
your sanity. I was worried the experience would overwhelm and frighten
you, so I called your grandmother immediately. Luckily, she was still in
this world, traveling with her friends. But after the second week of not
knowing where you were ... well, let's just say I pray I never have to
experience that again."
"So you knew about everything?" Alex asked.
"Yes," Charlotte said. "Your dad was going to tell you eventually; he
just never got the chance."
"How did you find out?" Conner asked. "When did Dad tell you? Did you
even believe him at first?"
Charlotte smiled at the memory. "From the minute I saw your father, I
knew there was something different about him," she said. "I had just
started my first week of nursing at the children's hospital when I saw
your grandmother and her group of friends come to read stories to the
patients. But I was completely smitten by the handsome man who was with
them. He was so peculiar; he stared around in amazement at everything. I
thought he was going to faint when he saw the television."
"It was John's first trip to this world," Grandma said with a smile.
"He asked me to give him a tour of the hospital, and I did," Charlotte
continued. "He was so fascinated to learn about it: the surgeries we
performed, the medicines we used, the patients we treated. He asked if
we could meet again later after I was done working so I could tell him
more. We ended up dating for two months and fell in love. But then,
strangely, he disappeared without warning and I didn't see him again for
three whole years."
The twins looked to their grandmother, knowing a bit of the story
"I made him go back to the fairy-tale world with me, and forbid him to
return," Grandma said and slumped a tad. "I had my reasons, as you know,
but I was very wrong."
"And that's when he discovered the Wishing Spell and started to collect
the items like us, so he could find a way back to you," Alex said
"And it really didn't take him that long; it just seemed like it because
we hadn't been born yet, and there was still a time difference between
the worlds," Conner added.
Charlotte and Grandma both nodded.
"I eventually saw him again at the hospital," Charlotte said. "He looked
so frail and dirty, like he had been to war and back. He looked at me
and said, 'You have no idea what I went through to get back to
you.' We were married a month later and became parents a year after
that. So to answer your question, no, it wasn't hard to accept that your
dad was from another world, because somehow I had known all along."
Alex reached into her bag and pulled out the journal their father had
kept while he was collecting the Wishing Spell items, the same journal
they had followed while collecting the items themselves.
"Here, Mom," Alex said. "Now you can know exactly how much Dad loved
Charlotte looked down at the journal, almost afraid to take it. She
flipped it open and her eyes watered as she saw her late husband's
"Thank you, sweetheart," she said.
"Just to let you know," Conner said, "me and Alex did all the same
stuff. We're pretty great ourselves. Just keep that in mind if you ever
feel inspired to give us an allowance in the future."
Charlotte playfully glared at her son; they knew she couldn't afford to
give them allowances. Since their dad died, she'd had a hard time
supporting the family and paying off debts from his funeral. But that
got Alex thinking: With all the connections their family had in the
fairy-tale world, why exactly had their lives been so tough the last
"Mom," Alex said, "why have we been struggling so much when all this
time Grandma could have just waved her wand and made everything better
Conner looked up at his mother, thinking the same question. Their
grandmother went quiet; it wasn't her place to say.
"Because your father didn't want that," Charlotte said. "Your father
loved this world so much; it's where we met, it's where we had you two,
and it's where he wanted to raise you. He had come from a world of kings
and queens and magic, a world of entitlement and undeserved luxury that
he thought ruined people's character. He wanted you guys to grow up in a
place you could get anything you wanted if you worked hard enough for
it, and although there have been times a little magic would have gone a
long way, I've tried to respect that."
Alex and Conner looked at each other; maybe their dad was right. Could
they have managed what they had done in the last weeks if they hadn't
been raised that way? Could they have collected all the Wishing Spell
items or stood up to the Evil Queen if he hadn't taught them how to
believe in themselves?
"So what happens now?" Conner asked.
"What do you mean, Conner?" Grandma said.
"Well, clearly our lives are going to be totally different now, right?"
he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I mean, after two weeks of barely
surviving encounters with trolls, wolves, goblins, witches, and evil
queens, we can't be expected to go to school again. We're too mentally
distraught, right, Alex?"
Charlotte and Grandma looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"So I'm guessing that means we still have to go to school?" Conner
asked. The twinkle in his eye faded away.
"Nice try," Charlotte said. "Every family has its issues, but that
doesn't mean you get to drop out of school because of it."
"Thank goodness," Alex said with a sigh. "I was afraid he was on to
something for a minute."
Grandma looked up at the clock. "It's almost sunrise," she said. "We've
been talking all night. I better get going now."
"When will we see you again?" Alex asked. "When can we go back to the
Land of Stories?" Alex had wanted to ask that question since the moment
they left. Grandma looked down at her feet and thought for a moment
"You've had an awfully big adventure, even by grown-up standards,"
Grandma said. "Right now you need to focus on being twelve-year-olds in
this world. Be kids while you still can, children. But I'll take you
back one day, I promise."
It wasn't the answer she wanted, but Alex nodded. There was one more
question she had been meaning to ask all night.
"Will you ever teach us magic, Grandma?" Alex asked with wide eyes. "I
mean, since Conner and I are part fairy, it would be nice to know a
thing or two."
"I completely forgot about that!" Conner said, slapping an open palm to
his forehead. "Please leave me out of this. I don't want to be a
fairy—can't stress that enough."
Grandma went silent. She looked to Charlotte, who only shrugged.
"When the time is right, sweetheart, I would love nothing more," Grandma
said. "But right now the Fairy Council and I are working some things
out, things that are pretty time-consuming but that you don't need to
worry yourselves about. As soon as we move past it, I would love to
teach you magic."
Grandma hugged her grandchildren and kissed the tops of their heads.
"I think it might be best if I take this with me," Grandma said,
referring to the Land of Stories book. "We don't want history
She headed toward the front door, but just as she reached for the
doorknob, she stopped and looked back at them.
"I forgot, I didn't drive here," Grandma said with a smirk. "Looks like
I'll have to leave the old-fashioned fairy way. Good-bye,
children, I love you with all my heart."
And slowly, Grandma began to disappear, fading into soft, sparkling
"Okay, now that is something I'd like to learn how to do," Conner
said. He waved his hands through the sparkles in the air. "Sign me up
for that lesson."
Alex yawned contagiously and her brother followed.
"You kids must be exhausted," Charlotte said. "Why don't you go to bed?
I'm taking tomorrow off so I can be here with you guys, in case you have
any more questions. And because I've just missed you."
"In that case, I've got an important question," Conner said. "What's for
breakfast? I'm starving."
Alex's train finally reached her station. She retrieved her bike from
the bike rack and pedaled home, still thinking about her grandmother.
Alex had expected to live a dual-worldly life after discovering the
fairy-tale world. She imagined spending summers and holidays with her
brother in the Fairy Kingdom or Cinderella's Palace with their
grandmother. She imagined a brand-new life of magic and adventure would
begin immediately. Sadly, Alex's expectations weren't met.
More than a year had gone by since the night their grandmother
disappeared. They hadn't received a single letter or phone call
explaining why she had been gone. She missed every holiday and their
birthday—days she never missed. And to make matters worse,
the twins hadn't been back to the Land of Stories, either.
The twins couldn't help but be angry with their grandmother. How could
she just disappear and never make contact again? How could she take them
to a place they had been dreaming about since they were kids and then
never let them return?
Their grandmother herself had even said it; a part of the Land of
Stories lived inside them—so who was she to keep it from them?
"Your grandmother is a very busy woman," Charlotte would tell Alex
whenever the subject came up. "She loves you very much. She probably
just has her hands full at the moment. We'll hear from her soon enough."
This wasn't enough to put Alex at ease. As more time went by, she began
worrying whether her grandmother was all right—sometimes wondering
if she was even alive. Alex hoped nothing had happened to her and
that she was okay. She missed her hugs more than anything.
Life without their dad had been the most difficult thing the twins had
ever experienced. But life without their dad and grandmother was
"What do you think is going on?" Alex asked Conner on one occasion.
Excerpted from "The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns" by Chris Colfer. Copyright © 2013 by Chris Colfer. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.