It had been a rough day. They’d escaped their pursuers, fallen into a river, and somehow managed to survive.
Just when things had started to fall into place, Mother Gothel found them and tried to force Rapunzel home. Rapunzel’s adventure so far had opened her eyes to a lot of new things—it gave her the confidence to stand up to her mother. It didn’t mean she wasn’t rattled by the exchange, though. Now that she’d seen the world outside, the thought of going back felt suffocating.
She wants to see the lanterns more than anything, but after this incident, all she wanted to do was run far away. Eugene realises that he wants to protect Rapunzel instead of leaving her. Seeing how scared she was, he agrees to run away with her, but, “First thing in the morning. A little known secret to my charm is good sleep. Your scary frog can protect you,” he insists.
They drift off restlessly, only to be sniffed out by Maximus, the Royal steed, who had been tracking Eugene. After a lot of coaxing and persuasion, Rapunzel—she had an extraordinary power over the horse— convinced him to let them ride on his back. All they had to whisper was “Take us far, far away,” and Maximus did just that.
The white horse galloped. It galloped so fast the duo felt like they were travelling through space and time. The wind hit their faces and wisped the horse’s mane. After a long and tedious journey lasting two days, the horse came to a stop on the edge of a posh settlement.
Rapunzel examines her surroundings—it was a bustling town; there were wide avenues, quaint little benches for people to sit on and a lamppost near every seat. She couldn’t stop blinking—she’s never seen so many people at once. Not even at the Snuggly Duckling. Maximus canters away, with Pascal, the chameleon on his back.
Eugene reads a banner. “New Orleans! I’ve always wanted a mansion here. Let’s go; we should explore,” Eugene smiled.
“….Yeah,” Rapunzel said. She couldn’t stop looking around; she was awestruck.
It felt like they had been walking forever, exploring. Rapunzel was hungry and thirsty. Even after two days of uncomfortable travel, Eugene didn’t look like he needed any refreshments. She groaned tiredly.
“Blondie, you look like you need waffles; come on, I saw a place a while back,” Eugene laughed.
“Never had them. I’ll take whatever you will give me, but I can’t move another inch!” She replied.
“I’ll be back in fifteen; don’t get into any trouble!” Eugene says mischievously, knowing full well that he was more likely to stir up trouble than the sweet, albeit complicated, girl.
Eugene has two waffles in his hands when he sees a tall, dark and handsome guy dressed in simple white attire, but wearing the regal, arrogant look that nobles usually have. He was surrounded by women, who are obviously charmed by him. He exuded royalty and charisma. He’s someone Eugene had always wanted to be— he was Flynn Rider come to life.
“Now THAT is someone as handsome as I am; he looks like a prince—scratch that, I definitely look better than him.” Flynn thought to himself. That’s when he notices a dark shadow on the wall seemingly following the ukulele-wielding noble. As an ex-con, Eugene had seen a lot; the dark silhouette gives him a bad feeling. He narrows his eyes and starts tailing the out-worldly shadow, completely forgetting about the hungry blonde to whom he had promised food.
Rapunzel sat on the rock for hours. Every passerby who looked at her held their gaze for longer than necessary, flabbergasted by her hair. She refused to believe that he had run away but was too tired and angry to consider anything else. She was starting to panic—how would she ever survive this city, alone?
Instead of seeing opportunity in every strangers’ face like she usually would, she felt fear and misery. She somehow composed herself. She walks for as long as she can and eventually sits down in front of an undeveloped warehouse, with what seemed to be a hastily made but cosy cafe arrangement in front of it.
“I somehow tell myself
That it’s going to be alright
It will all be okay and one day
I’ll see the lanterns burning bright.”
“Excuse me, miss, how long until I get those famous beignets?” a jolly man with his family signals Tiana. “Just a moment, sir, they will be here soon!” Tiana smiled.
Having customers gave her hope. Finally, the business was picking up. Maybe she’d get good tips today; she needed them to get one step closer to her lifelong dream of starting a restaurant.
“The stars are glittering
And the moon looks so pretty,
My heart beats so fast wondering
How I’ll ever survive in this city.”
Tiana is serving the family their food when she hears the melodious singing. Although the song has no connection to her, the melancholic tune surprisingly moves her—it brought forth her happiest memories; those with her late father.
She looks outside to see a tired, long-haired blonde sitting on one of her tables. Tiana was inexplicably drawn to her; there was something about Rapunzel that gave Tiana the feeling that the bedraggled girl was someone important; someone magical.
Leaving everything else, Tiana approaches the lonely young girl, cautiously. “You poor darling. You look like you haven’t eaten for ages. Come on in, I’ll see if I can’t muster up some of my famous beignets,” she says kindly.
Seeing a kind face was overwhelming; Rapunzel doesn’t object. “Miss, right now, I could eat anything that will satisfy my tummy.”
“Come on inside! Let’s get you well-rested; then we’ll talk. Oh, and I’m Tiana.” she said, extending her arm. Rapunzel grips her hand takes one last look at her surroundings and follows Tiana into the warehouse.
“You escaped a cavalry?! That’s terrifying. How could your mother not let you go outside?! Pardon me, but she sounds truly terrible. I can’t believe you’ve been deprived of the world your entire life!” Tiana couldn’t help but trust the young girl, unbelievable as her story might sound. She has so many questions, many of them about her hair, but she doesn’t interrupt or pry.
She looks at Rapunzel and feels a rush of protectiveness. “You can stay here for as long as you’d like, sweetheart. Forget your companion, the thief, for now; you don’t need a man in your life to help you up, trust me. I’ve read the story of the lanterns as a child— we’ll find a way to get you to them.”
“Tiana, thank you for everything, truly,” Rapunzel said, gratefully. She smiles sadly. New Orleans is a beautiful place, and Rapunzel knew she’d fit in, but it’s not easy to recover from having your lifelong dream shattered. She says so to Tiana, who then proceeds to tell Rapunzel about her lifelong dream—to open a restaurant just like her father had wanted to.
Tiana shares her life story with Rapunzel, who just sits and listens, awed. Learning about everything Tiana had faced to get to where she is, Rapunzel realised that Tiana understood having dreams better than anyone. She felt closer to her than ever.
Rapunzel was certain she was never going back to the tower, but the outside world was chaotic and unfamiliar. She was glad to have found Tiana, and not just because her food was as magical as Rapunzel’s hair. Tiana had been nothing but kind to her. She was like the elder sister she’d never had— she welcomed her and made sure Rapunzel knew she was there for her.
“The sun rises every morning
Assuring me there is hope
Till now, those tasty beignets were
The only way I could cope”
“Even my lyrics have become pointless, why am I so silly? Even my chameleon has abandoned me.”
Tiana, who hears the song, smiles and says, “Your voice is so melodious and mesmerising. It really seems to resonate with people no matter what you sing, really—I never dance, but if you struck up a joyful tune, I definitely would!”
Rapunzel giggles. “Oh, no. It’s nothing, really. I just do it to comfort myself. I suppose it’s what I know best. ”
“Yeah, but you are gifted. Your voice is magical, really. It’s clear, charismatic and soft, yet powerful. You remind people of their warmest memories; of home,” Tiana said, wistfully.
“Thank you,” Rapunzel smiles, touched. She’d never got open and honest praise before.
While listening to Rapunzel’s mellifluous voice, an idea struck Tiana. “Do you want to sing for an audience?”
“Me? An audience?” Rapunzel’s words were filled by excitement, confusion, and nervousness all together, at the idea. For a moment, she forgot about all the mundane worries of her life. She beams with joy for the first time since her arrival in New Orleans.
“You’d draw in the entire town! We can raise funds to help you hitch a ride to see the lanterns, and I can finally start a real restaurant with the money! We’d be a step closer to our dreams, Rapunzel.” Tiana takes Rapunzel’s hands excitedly. “How about trying it out tonight?”
“Oh, Tiana, I’d love that!”
“It’s a gig then.”
Rapunzel spends the entire afternoon polishing her vocals and writing the song. She was very excited, albeit nervous, to perform in front of people she’d never met.
The setting sun painted fleeting colours upon the sky. Rich hues of red blended with oranges, purples and crimsons, soft but bold. Tiana sat by an unfinished window looking at the sun spreading its largesse onto the world; the rays making her face glow.
She smiles to herself. Rapunzel had been such a great company. She didn’t feel lonely anymore; her antics always warmed her heart and kept her going, boosting her morale.
“I am going to start that restaurant someday soon, dad,” she said, looking up at the first star to shine in the sky. She’s almost there.
“Rapunzel, it’s time,” she said to the anxiously pacing blonde, who wore a stunning dress that was generously given by Tiana’s best friend, Charlotte. Her hair had been tied back into a braid adorned with flowers.
“Yeah, about that gig…” Rapunzel frowned. “I can’t do it. What if they hate me and I ruin the chances of having your dream come true?”
“Rapunzel, I know you can do it. Darling, you’ll win everyone’s heart!”
“You are putting me on a pedestal, honestly,” Rapunzel blushed, lowering her eyes.
“You’ve been wronged your entire life, kept away from things you love. I don’t want you to be locked up anymore.”
“Thank you for everything, Tiana, I don’t know how I can repay you,” Rapunzel smiles.
“Don’t even think about it; you’re helping me already. Besides, what are friends for?” said Tiana, chastising her jokingly.
The small cafe was really quiet, and only two tables were occupied. One of the tables seemed to be occupied by a newly married couple, and the other one was by a family. Tiana quickly cleans up and stands at the centre of the cafe, in an area, she cleared for Rapunzel.
“Ladies, gentlemen and kids, I’ve got something special for you today. I’d like you all to welcome my wonderful friend, Rapunzel, who’ll be performing some songs while you dine.”
The two kids eagerly start clapping excitedly as Rapunzel takes her place in the centre, while the rest just smile politely, inwardly shocked at the long hair but not showing it.
“Umm, hi everyone, I’m Rapunzel,” she introduced herself, fidgeting with her hands.
“You can do it, all the best!” Tiana said in a low voice and left to take orders. Rapunzel closes her eyes, and begins, pouring every emotion she’d felt over the past few days, into the song.
“The sky looked so pretty today
And I should be very grateful
I have this moment to share with you
Or else it’d be oh, so painful
Made a little wish for us
And our love that can be
I hold your hands tightly
Because I want you, you complete me.”
It was evident that the song had touched everyone; Rapunzel’s magic works wonders, as usual. Rapunzel continues her song; talk about her voice spreads across town and soon enough, a crowd gathers at the cafe.
Rapunzel draws them all inside; Tiana gets busy with taking orders and cooking. The invigorating atmosphere— Rapunzel’s beautiful voice and Tiana’s mouth-watering food, had people staying on, hungry for more.
Soon, kids are circling and dancing around; people are tapping their feet to her rhythms. Rapunzel had gained a lot of confidence and was thoroughly enjoying herself. Spreading joy had never been easier. The unfinished warehouse sprung alive; there was joy and a buzz of chatter everywhere. Tiana feels content; this was what she always dreamed of. Too soon, it was time to close for the night.
“Thank you all for your time and appreciation. Hope you all have a great night,” Rapunzel smiled.
“It was the best night! Everything was incredible,” a young boy jumped.
“Oh, I loved the food,” an old man smiled. They received compliments like these from everyone there that night.
All the customers tipped extra. Some, like the eccentric but legendary Mama Odie, made major donations and offered to give Rapunzel free transport to see the lanterns. Everyone wanted to have Tiana’s catering services.
The duo interacted with everyone and bid goodnight to the customers. Soon, the cafe is empty; Tiana and Rapunzel run to each other and embrace, overjoyed by the success of the evening.
Rapunzel had found her calling; there was no doubt about it. They had both realised that they wanted to stick together to create something special and share it with the world. Neither of them had ever been happier.
In that moment of shared joy, Rapunzel finally let the last of her guard down and told Tiana about the true power of her hair. She trusted Tiana completely; they were bound together now, by fate or otherwise. In response, Tiana just hugged her tighter— a silent promise to protect her.
Everything was wonderful.
They spend the next few days doing the same routine, raking in enormous amounts of money and love. News about the dynamic duo spread like wildfire. At the same time, they work on Tiana’s plans for the warehouse; they finally have enough resources to build. People were coming from everywhere; Tiana was almost there.
Rapunzel was due to leave today to see the lanterns; to say she was excited is an understatement. She was clearing tables situated outside the warehouse when she hears her name being called from afar as if someone is searching for her. Fear of the searcher being her mother turns into shock and relief as she connects the voice to the person.
She looks around wildly; sure enough, there he is. He’s with someone else, who was limping badly. “Rapunzel, where are you?” Shouts Eugene, desperately.
They make eye contact; suddenly, there was no one else but the two of them.
“Eugene!” She walked towards the man, who was suddenly very nervous. Joy turned into anger as she screamed angrily, “How. Dare. You. Explain yourself! I thought you’d left, and I hated you for it! I thought…I thought we had something special.” She trailed off at the end, blushing. “Clearly, thinking that was a mistake,” speaking more clearly, glaring at Eugene.
He can’t stop staring at her; he was scared about something happening to her while he was gone, so seeing her alive and healthy was a massive relief. “You’re alive! Thank goodness. Rapunzel—”
“No, save it, actually. I’m making a life here; I’ve found my calling. I’m going to see the lanterns on my own. You can have your precious crown back and make a run for it.”
Tiana hears the commotion and walks outside. She takes one look at the two men and understands the situation. She, too, starts glaring, wrapping a protective arm around Rapunzel.
“Rapunzel, I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what it must’ve felt like, being betrayed again, by me this time. It wasn’t my intention; I didn’t think I’d be so long.
Something terrible was going to happen here. If I hadn’t met you, I would’ve walked away in the face of danger. You made me a better person. Because of you, I could help save Naveen here.” He gestures at the injured man next to him.
“Rapunzel, I’m no good at…talking about feelings, but I’ll try. I, uh, do care about you,” he mumbles. “I never meant to hurt you or your frog, wherever he is. If you would have me back, I would like to complete the journey we started; I want to see the lanterns with you. If you could just hear me out, listen to my story, and decide for yourself: whether to trust me again, or not.”
Rapunzel’s glare softens. Tiana could see how worried he was, and that he knows that he made a major mistake. Eugene was sincere; for someone with no humility, this was tough for him. “Well…what’s your story? Why did you leave?”
Eugene proceeds to tell her about a crazy adventure he’d had with his companion, who was “A prince, no big deal,” according to Eugene. Of course, he was slightly smitten.
They had noticed shadows that don’t quite belong, following the wealthy prince. It led them to Dr Facilier, a practitioner of dark magic— who although at first glance was charming, had a sadistic nature.
He intended to steal Naveen’s identity and later Rapunzel’s hair—as a magician; he immediately knew that it was valuable. In a series of crazy events including making friends with crocodiles and fireflies, they managed to get rid of the evil man, narrowly escaping themselves.
“Wow, man, you’re a good storyteller. I felt like I was back there,” Naveen speaks for the first time, shuddering at the thought of the evil man who wanted to kill him. “Care to introduce me to these lovely ladies?”
Tiana notices how humble the adventure made Naveen. He seemed different compared to the last time she’d seen the infuriating, carefree young man she’d noticed wandering the streets. She takes him into the warehouse to help him nurse his injuries. Naveen, struck by her down-to-earth manner and unfazedness in his presence(which was a nice change), doesn’t object to her lead.
Rapunzel turns to Eugene. “You did good, Eugene. I haven’t forgiven you yet, but you may accompany me to see the lanterns. After that, we’ll see.” It was more than Eugene could’ve hoped for, and he happily agreed. He never left her side after that.
Rapunzel and later Naveen made Tiana realise it’s okay to have fun sometimes; the latter brought out Naveen’s best characteristics and made him want to leave a mark in the world. Tiana and Naveen grew to love each other and soon got married; Tiana was now the princess of Maldonia.
Even after finding out the story behind the lanterns and learning that she was the lost princess, she knew that she wanted to work with Tiana back in New Orleans. The wealth, kindness and sensibility of not one, but two headstrong princesses made their new dream a breathtaking reality, and the world thanks them for it. The finished restaurant was a huge success, all thanks to the duo. The best kind of dream, really, is one that’s shared with the world.
At the end of every day, Rapunzel and Tiana stand by the terrace, gaze up at the brightest star in the sky and silently thank the universe for the life they’ve created. They’re thankful for the crazy adventures they’ve had since they met, the friends they’ve made, and the family they’ve become. Most of all, they’re thankful for finding and completing each other.
Written by Ishita Gaur and Aakanksha Mantri for MTTN
Edited by Avaneesh Jai Damaraju for MTTN
Featured Image by Vidhisha Deo for MTTN