(excerpt from Chapter One)
Finally she came to a painting in the far corner of the room. It wasn’t a particularly large painting or an especially bright one. In fact it was rather dim and stormy. It wasn’t painted by a famous artist, either. But Mitzi didn’t care about any of that.
What she did care about was the figure in the painting. It was a tall, strong woman with wild, dark hair that streamed out behind her. She was riding in a chariot pulled by four horses. Riding straight into battle. Printed beneath the picture was her name: Boadicea–Queen of the Britons.
Mitzi had first discovered the painting on a class trip to the museum–one of the few class trips she’d thoroughly enjoyed. The class was studying ancient Greece, so Mrs. Livetti and Mr. Morales, the art teacher, took them there to look at the collection of Greek vases. Each vase had a different scene from Greek life or mythology on it. All the students were to pick their favorite vase and write about what it showed. Mitzi asked–and answered a lot of questions about the vases, the myths, and the history of Greece. She chose a vase that showed a group of women dancing because she herself liked to dance. Janet picked on in which were drinking wine, and everybody teased her about it, but she didn’t mind.
After they looked at the vases, the class got to tour the rest of the museum. Mitzi had been there before, but she hadn’t really looked closely at many of the paintings. When they got to the portrait gallery, Mitzi’s eyes wandered around the room until they landed on Boadicea. Zap! It was as if the queen’s own hand had reached out from the painting and pulled her over. “Wow!” she said under her breath.
She stood, wide-eyed, staring at the fierce queen. She was so captured by her that she nearly forgot she wasn’t alone in the gallery.
“Is that a relative of yours, Mitzi?” Diane Foster asked.
“Her mother, maybe?” said Bobbie Bolen.
“There is a slight family resemblance,” Tracey Dudeen added.
Mitzi didn’t say anything. She didn’t want the Monkey Trio to know that she was thinking there actually was a resemblance.
“Let’s see what everyone’s staring at here,” Mr. Morales said, saving her from having to say anything at all. “Why, it’s Boadicea, the Warrior Queen. She nearly succeeded in freeing Britain from Roman rule.”
Mitzi listened closely to what Mr. Morales had to say about Boadicea’s exploits, but the Monkey Trio kept staring at her, so soon she sauntered away, trying to appear no long interested in the painting. The truth was she was even more interested in it. She went back to the museum the next day to look at it, and then a few days after that.
And here she was again. Today was her fifth visit. And she wasn’t tired of Boadicea at all. She stared long and hard at the picture. She could see the queen’s horses’ hooves pounding, her chariot wheels turning. On the spokes were knives, nasty, sharp knives to cut and slash the enemy to ribbons. Clouds of dust blew up from under the wheels that turned faster and faster. Boadicea’s whip cracked.
Suddenly, Mitzi felt the wind roaring all around her. Her hair blew wildly about her head. Instead of Boadicea, it was she who was in the chariot. the whip in one hand, the reins in the other.
“We will beat back the barbarians!” she shouted. We will free the land! We will never be Roman slaves!”
“Ha ha?” Mitzi said. She blinked. Who was laughing? It wasn’t Mitzi. And it wasn’t Boadicea. She blinked again. She was no longer in the chariot. She was sitting in front of a small painting on the cold, hard museum floor. And standing next to her were two little kids pointing at her and giggling.