You'd think the problems I've been having would be purely those of being accepted, but they're not. If you had asked me five years ago to imagine what my life would be like today after Prince Charming married me and carried me up his hill on his white courser to his beautiful glittering castle, I would have foreseen different types of problems.
I would have said that a girl like me who had been oppressed and practically enslaved almost from day one would never be able to keep order in an entire castle full of servants. But the castle has been running for hundreds of years without me and it runs just fine with me.
I worried as I clutched the prince's satin jerkin, as we rode up the hill on his charger, that his family wouldn't accept me. It was a waste of worrying. His father, the king, was so happy to see the Prince finally married, that he cared not a fig for my origins. I could have come from a swamp for all he cared.
I worried about my table manners. Table manners? I hadn't actually eaten at a table for years. I worried about my manners in general. But, when you are famous you magically become a leading light, and your manners are the least of anyone's concern.
I was afraid that I would have no friends in my new home. I have since learned that everyone wants to be friends with a princess. I had dressed in rags for fifteen years. The idea of dressing in new clothes frightened me. Wearing castoffs can be depressing, but it is comforting in its own way. I never had to wonder what to wear. I ate, worked and slept in the same set of ash-covered rags for months at a time.
I was afraid of fittings, of luxurious fabrics, of choosing furs and jewelry, of the responsibility of wearing bits of animals that had been killed for my sake. In my former existence the animals were my only friends.
My worries were all for naught. I have help to choose my fabrics and fashions. I have staff to see to everything. I have a maid to choose my daily wear. I have only to submit to being bathed and dressed and combed. I simply spoke the words that I abhorred the idea of wearing bits of dead creatures on my clothing and the furrier was banned from the castle.
Now we are approaching my actual problems. I never, never imagined that these things would bother me the way that they do. I used to dream of freedom as I toiled. Freedom from labour. Freedom from dirt. Freedom from beatings. Freedom from the mockery of my stepsisters. Freedom to wander over the hills picking flowers.
Now that I have these freedoms, I find that I miss some of the things that bound me. Oh, no, I don't miss the beatings or the insults. I don't miss the cold. I am not so lost to the normalcies of life that I would long for these things.
I miss the comfort of the cinders. I realize that this sounds utterly crazy. That's one of the reasons I'm here. It was safe and soothing in its own odd little way. I wasn't viewed as a real person when I was covered in ashes. I could sit in the corner by the fire, filthy, my hair lank and matted, and listen and watch. I felt as though I had donned a cloak of invisibility or perhaps ceased to exist at all.
Nobody ever paid me the slightest bit of attention. I would rock back and forth, warm and dirty, letting the sounds of the room wash over me as my mind wandered. Poems and images would come to me as I listened to the gossip of my stepmother and stepsisters.
I don't have that anymore. I am never alone. I have twelve ladies in waiting. I have my husband, the prince, who suggested these sessions, and I have my children. I have lost the trick of tuning things out, letting pictures and stories appear in my mind.
I long for the good, physical labour that I used to do. I miss scrubbing the floors. I pine for the satisfaction I received from taking something dirty and making it shine. The work was hard and the hours were long, yet I did find peace as I worked. I was able to let my creative side flow as I laboured. I loved the feeling of letting my aching muscles relax and stretch as I went to sleep in my heap of cinders.
So, that sums it up pretty well. I miss my work. I miss the isolation. I miss the anonymity of being covered in ashes. I wonder if there is some way to have a double life like the twelve princesses who crept down the stairs and danced the night and their slippers away without their father noticing for ages. Princess by day and miraculous wash girl by night. Able to scrub the entire palace in a single night. Do you think this is possible?
What? It's been an hour already? I would think that a princess would get a real hour instead of a fifty minute hour. Same time next week? One last thing, please don't call me Cindy. I prefer my entire name.
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