Exhausted Beauty

From sunup to sundown her schedule was packed. Lessons, tea with simpering ladies, gentleman callers, luncheon, prayer, followed by a light dinner and hours of primping and prepping for whichever soiree she was to attend that night. She could not recall the last time she slept the night through. It had to have been before she was presented at court. Princess Aurora, the crown princess.

She was sick of it all. The dances, the ladies, the teas, the gentlemen, the late nights.

In her youth, she heard tales of princesses who cast off their duties and went on adventures. It sounded so grand to her back then. For weeks she had pestered the fencing master to instruct her. Eventually he caved and the next day she could barely move her arms they were so sore.

No, a life of adventure was not for her. Rather, she longed for a night of slumber.

The palace was abuzz with talk of the royal ball in honor of her eighteenth birthday.

The royal ball. How she hated the sound of it. Her already filled schedule lengthened to make room for dress fittings. Up before dawn to bathe and dress before the seamstress arrived. Breakfast always skipped and by teatime, she was starving. The teacakes were not filling and her mama scolded her whenever she attempted to eat more than two.

As she stared into the looking glass the morning of the ball, she wondered why no one else could see the dark circles under her eyes or how pale her skin had become. She looked sickly. Yet the day before a gentleman caller had referred to her skin as the dewy luminescence on a lily’s petal. She wondered how much trouble she would be in if she informed him that the dew was her tears of boredom from his lack of imagination. She had fought back the urge and instead fluttered her eyelashes and smiled at him.

* * *

Her smile felt permanently fixed to her lips. She gritted her teeth to fight back the yawn that threatened to escape. Courtier after courtier had approached her. The ladies complimenting her dress. The gentlemen complimenting her eyes and her skin. One gentleman was even so forward as to compliment her delicate fingers as he kissed the air above them. She honored him with a dance.

If she had to thank one more person for attending her ball, she would scream. She took advantage of the next offer to dance and when the song finished she politely rejected his offer to escort her back to her parents, feigning a blush as she informed him she needed to find her ladies’ maid to repin a curl she felt slipping loose. Proper ladies did not discuss their hair with men, it was quite unseemly. She used that knowledge to her advantage, knowing he would be so uncomfortable with the situation that he would not dare object.

She lied to him, naturally. All she wanted was a brief escape from the constant stream of guests. A respite from the sweltering heat of hundreds of bodies packed into a single room. Relief from the constant noise.

She only meant to step out for a moment, to catch her breath before returning. But, for the first time since childhood, she was alone. It would take a good while for anyone to notice her absence and when they did they would assume she had stepped out to the privy or that she was dancing. This would only work if she were not immediately stumbled upon the minute a guest left the hall.

She hauled her skirts up, kicked off her heels, luxuriating in the feel of her stockings on the polished marble, picked up the shoes and ran and slid her way down the hall. Her shoes in one hand, the skirts in the other, she dashed up the stairs. One flight turned into another and then another. Freedom was exhilarating.

As a little girl, had anyone ever bothered to ask her, she would have told them that her favorite place in the whole castle was the north tower. It was the tallest tower in the castle and when she looked out any of the eight windows she could see for miles in any direction. It was her scrying tower. After all, every proper princess in a story had a tower.

She looked from window to window this night, but the night was dark and she could not see beyond the brightly lit torches the guards carried with them as they patrolled the wall.

From her hiding place, one she had not thought of in years, she retrieved blankets and a pillow. The blankets were moth-eaten but still soft in their girlish pinks and whites. She fondly remembered the naps she’d taken up here, curled up on the stone floors, swaddled in blankets. When she woke it would be to the shouts and thudding feet as the servants tore up the castle in search of her. They had never found her.

She inhaled the smell of the musty blankets. Oh, to relive that precious moment of youth. Surely she would awaken before anyone had reason to miss her?

She spread the blankets on the ground, creating a mattress to protect her dress from the dirt on the floor. She settled back carefully so as not to muss her hair and within moments was asleep.

The door slamming open startled her awake. But so deeply had she been asleep that she could not move, not even to open her eyes.

“A curse! Only true love’s kiss will wake her.” Her eyes flashed open in a panic as his lips pressed to them.

* * *

She smoothed the wrinkles from her skirt as she rose to her feet, smiling down at the sleeping child. Her child. Her child who never grew tired of hearing the story of how her mama and papa met all those years ago.


At the age of six, Eliza was certain of two things. The first was that she had stories to tell. The second was that she had no talent for illustrating them herself. Talent or no, she still wrote and illustrated her first book, one that should be located and locked away if only to prevent her parents from embarrassing her terribly by showing it off alongside baby pictures. Now she spends her days writing stories that she isn't embarrassed to show off after a little bit of polishing.

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