Peach by Alice Lee

Princess Peach was exhausted. She walked into her bedroom suite and immediately started peeling the hot pink jumpsuit from her shoulders. Another afternoon driving those incessant little cars around one of the increasingly non-sensical tracks that had taken over the Eastern half of the Mushroom Kingdom. Another day of cameras pointed at her and the royal court as they tried, once again, to entertain the masses. Peach had come in third in the day's races, another indignity to stand on that tiny podium while Mario held up the trophy yet again.

She was tired of this narrative where Mario was the best at everything. Of course a Princess could not be expected to compete with the hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. Peach would show them all some day.

The duties of the monarchy had certainly taken a strange turn in the new millennium. Gone were the long days holding court in the throne room, instead they were replaced by an endless stream sporting events and public appearances. Tennis, Golf, Soccer, Baseball, Basketball. The list went on and on.

Always with the same people, who made the same small talk, week after week. Peach no longer even questioned the weekends where they just beat the shit out of each other with toy hammers and pokéballs (Which sport was that again? It barely resembled boxing), now she looked forward to them as an outlet for stress relief.

She could hear Mario on the phone out in the front chamber. These days he would not stop going on and on about content. He had a plan, he said, to outsource the work of whatever the hell it is he does for a job (when did he stop plumbing? Come to think of it, had he ever?), so that he would never need to work again. Somehow other people were going to make the adventures for him now.

Peach hoped maybe having some time together could rekindle the spark between them. What with all the sporting events and Mario's solo "adventures", they barely spoke a word to each other. He barely even looked at her or said a word when they were alone at home. It was a far cry from the early days of their coupling.

Peach always assumed that Mario had a much different picture of their courtship. When she heard him tell the tale at parties, it sounded like he had to jump over fire and bottomless pits to win her love. A typical male hero complex at work.

No, Mario had just come into her life as she moved into the next phase of her relationship with Bowser. The one where they moved past trying to make romance work and just settled into being old friends. Well, at least Peach saw it that way. Things with Bowser were always more complicated than with others, Mario never understood that.

Peach had known Bowser for a long time, back when he was still just a chubby goth kid who liked to tinker with his machines. Peach thought she loved him, for a long time, because he clearly loved her. Sure, he told her as much whenever he had the chance, but he also spoke to her like a real person. Having grown up around the Toads who waited on her hand and foot, Bowser was the first guy around whom she could truly be herself.

And it was enough, for a while. Though as Bowser grew older his resentment at how the world treated him, for being bigger and a little different, grew into anger. He would lash out at Peach for no reason. He never laid a hand on her, she would not have tolerated that for a second, but she saw his fury take over what was once a shy and humble kid. Peach wanting to "just be friends" only reinforced that narrative in his mind.

That was around the time Mario entered the picture. She and Bowser were having a party, and they invited the Mario brothers who had recently moved to town. It was at Bowser's place, and when Mario entered he walked straight across the room to her and immediately asked her out. Thank God that Bowser was out of the room at the time, because the boldness of this blue-collar mustache man almost swept her off her feet.

Where Bowser allowed her to express herself, and provided her with a depth she needed at a critical time, Mario's love was just simple. He never over-thought things, and conversing with him was so easy. Most of the time he just answered in his trademarked two or three word phrases.

That was not to say Mario was entirely easy-going and chill. He seemed to keep a long list of rivals and enemies. When they first hooked up, it took a while before things between Mario and Bowser resolved themselves. For months Bowser kept talking about how he was going to win her back, and it did not help that every time Peach agreed to meet with him, Mario would come busting in to "rescue her".

Eventually she managed to exclude herself from that narrative, mostly by her suggestion that instead of awkward dinner parties and soirées, they could spend an afternoon doing a group hang with their friends over a round of golf. That defused some of the tension, though the rivalry between Mario and Bowser would go on for years. And over time the group activities got larger and larger. As more and more people started to attend, Peach barely recognized all the new faces.

The strangest was the day that Luigi's imposter, Waluigi, showed up to tennis. She always thought it odd that Wario dressed like the Mario brothers, though they were childhood friends and maybe Wario thought himself the third brother.

But to have a complete rando come in dressed like Luigi (albeit going through a Prince phase) and act as though he had been part of the group for some time, nobody really understood that. Everyone was too polite to say anything though, and by that point the sporting activities had become so popular with the Toadstool people, they immediately loved having a new character for their favorite reality TV show.

Poor Luigi never quite got over from the identity crisis of having a doppelgänger he had to regularly golf and socialize with. Soon after the rando appeared he started talking about seeing ghosts, and withdrew even further into his shell. Daisy and Peach had tried holding a year long birthday celebration for him, but that seemed to only make things worse.

Mario's brother had always been the quiet one. Despite his taller stature, Luigi always seemed hidden in Mario's shadow, only asked to tag along on adventures when Mario was in the mood. He had always turned down Daisy's advances, which Peach could never begin to grasp, but especially after Waluigi showed up it seemed like Luigi was on his own planet.

Peach had her own doppelganger issues to grapple with as well. The first time that bitch, Rosalina, showed up to go-karting, Peach knew she had trouble in her own back yard. She never really suspected that Mario would cheat on her, he seemed way too dense for that, but there was something sinister behind Rosalina's eyes. Peach could see through the kind-mother-to-little-star-shits facade. She was not going to get Jolene-d, especially not by Rosalina.

Realizing she had been sitting in front of a mirror for probably ten minutes, she put on a robe and walked out of her bedroom chamber. Mario was lying fully horizontal in his recliner watching a replay of the day's race on TV.

She watched a slow-motion replay as Daisy was being knocked flying into the air by a green shell. The camera kept still as she was thrown out of frame, and focused on Luigi in the background. Peach saw the cold dead stare in his eyes as he drove past the camera.

She thought about asking him to talk to his brother, but then she knew it would never happen. Men did not deal with their problems this way. They just bottled them up until they were taking it out on anyone in their way on the race track or fighting in Pokémon Stadium, whatever avoided actually talking about it.

Peach walked across the room, passing in front of the TV and sat down in the chair next to his. She knew she had to break the tension, if she waited for him she would be waiting a long time.

"Hey Mario? It has probably been weeks since we had a real conversation. I know you just got back from the Olympics and then we had the Flower Cup today, but can we just talk?"

Mama mia!

Here he goes again, trying to be evasive. Peach knew she had to double down.

"I'm not happy, Mario. I haven't been happy in a while. Whose fault do you think that is?"

Mario let out a big sigh as he sat upright in his recliner. He looked so resigned, he clearly knew this conversation had been coming.

It's-a me.

"You're God-damned right it's-a you. Do you even remember the last time we fucked? I'm 34 years old. I'm at my sexual prime here," she said.

His eyes perked up at the mere mention of sex.

Let's-a go!

He started to fumble his way out of the chair until she placed a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down.

"Don't bother. Maybe I would be in the mood if I hadn't been blown up three times by red shells on the course today. I know that was you."

Oh, no!

"You just wanted to win, didn't you? You always take what you want without any regard for others, Mario. I want you think about that," Peach said as, in one continuous motion, she stood up and moved out the room so fast it felt like she was walking on air.

She had not meant to be so bitchy, but seeing his big dumb face just did that to her sometimes. She laid down on her princess bed and tried to imagine a reality where she was happy again. Nobody treated her with respect any more, not Mario, not the Toads, certainly not Rosalina. She was Princess fucking Peach and this was supposed to be her kingdom.

The thought of all of it made her want to just run away. Maybe she could convince Zelda to take her to Hyrule after their next golf outing. Or at least she could stay at Daisy's place for a little while. Of course, Bowser would take her back in an instant, but she did not want to undo years of hard-fought progress training him to be a normal fucking person. After 30 years of rule, she wondered if the Toads would even miss her.

Really feeling her fatigue now, Peach decided not to fight it and drifted off to sleep. As soon as she closed her eyes, her subconscious took over immediately.

She imagined herself picking turnips on a farm filled with moo moos. She saw herself eating lunch alone at a sea-side cafe in Isle Delfino, the sunshine bright in the sky. And then she was ice skating across a frozen lake past penguins throwing snowballs at beautiful ice sculptures of her friends. Most of all, she dreamt of being in another castle, far away from here.