Living the Fairy Tale

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Chapter 3

...That Had a Story All its Own....

I swallowed hard, and turned before the bathroom's full-length mirror once again. My dark brown hair was swept up, almost Cinderella style, and a small silver tiara comb was tucked into the front of the upsweep. It was the only obvious thing holding the mass of hair up. Only I knew exactly how many pins and clasps were hidden inside, keeping it all up. I was dressed in my Cinderella gown, with my sapphire jewelry. I slipped my shoes on, and checked my flawless makeup. I looked gorgeous, if I said so myself, but I was about to go out amongst the women from all across the country, who were even better-looking than I. Belle was wearing an ornate purple dress, with a load of curls and swirls and a daringly low-cut bodice. Grace was in a soft pumpkin orange gown, with princess seams that helped slim her slightly round figure to something more akin to extremely curvy. We all admitted she looked excellent too. Belle's hair was in long round curls that swung across her back, with two purple flower pins sparkling with gems holding back the curls near her face. Grace's pixie cut was artfully swept across her head, and had been spritzed with orange glitter. She wore matching orange pumps, also coated in orange glitter, while Belle wore some strappy contraption that tied off near the knee--not that you could tell. Both girls' dresses almost swept the floor. Mine did sweep along the floor. I could feel the tug with every step I took. All of us looked our best.
And it was time to show it off to the rest of the world.

Father whistled at us when we stepped gracefully down the stairs--me in the back, naturally. Belle twirled for Mother; Grace looked at Father down her nose and gave a half-curtsy, before turning to Mother and slowly stepping in a circle. I was glad she hadn't twirled. She'd probably fall over and break her nose if she did that. I hurried to give Father a hug, and turned for him to see my outfit. He smiled appreciatively.
"Very nice. You look brilliant, Eva," he said, taking my hand and bowing over it. He took me in a brief waltz around the floor, under the pretense of checking over my dance steps.
Since we were daughters of an influential man in both politics and court, we'd all been taught to dance, and regularly took lessons still to keep up on our steps. Often enough we attended dances at functions welcoming dignitaries, ambassadors, Presidents, Kings, and Queens from other lands. I had never been garbed in such finery before though, and, for the first time, I felt like I could really make people see that I was worthy of the position I held.
We all stepped outside to the waiting limo, lifting our skirts so they didn't get dirty before we arrived. Father waited until we were all seated, and then slid in beside Mother, both of them sitting properly in their seats. I sat up straighter, and glanced at Belle and Grace who were slouching in the slick leather seats. As we turned a corner, I slid right off onto the floor.
Belle laughed uproariously, snorting, and cackling, while Grace sniggered into her hand. I grinned as I got up, hoping my hair hadn't been ruined, and sat back down, holding onto the handle screwed to the wall at the next turn. I could hardly see anything through the darkly tinted windows, and swallowed again.
It wasn't the first time I'd been inside a limo. We'd ridden in several many times before, Belle and Grace even more often, as they were invited to friends' parties and big weddings. I had been too young at the time of the last wedding, just old enough to be able to dance at a few functions----with my Father. I had always been 'cute' before. Now, I hoped to be at least 'pretty.' I was almost seventeen now. Belle was twenty-one, and Grace nineteen and a half.
How old was the Prince, again? I honestly couldn't remember.
"Mother," Grace whined just as I opened my mouth. "How old is the Prince?"
Ah, finally, an intelligent question comes from her mouth! I thought to myself, smiling faintly.
"Oh, well, dear, I think he's just about to turn eighteen. That's why the Ball's being held now--at the age when the rest of the world will have to view him as a full-grown and legal adult." Mother said, smiling at them, urging them to go along.
"EIGHTEEN!" Grace screeched. I heard the driver jump and mutter a curse word. "But I'm almost twenty!! He won't want to marry a woman two years his senior!" she griped. Belle was scowling.
"Why didn't you tell me before, Mother?" Belle said, crossing her arms and slouching further. "I could've pled illness and stayed at home. We need not have bothered with the cost of the new dresses. It'll just be Eva that he'd even look at as a possible candidate."
"Now, dears, that isn't true..."
"Yeah it is!" Grace whined again. "Why should we bother??"
"Because you are required to be there, not just as invitees, but also as my family. I have a high standing here, and it would not do for me to show up with just one of my daughters. It would be insulting." Father said flatly, glaring at the two older girls. I gaped. What had happened to Father lately? He had a spine amonst his own family members now. I'd always puzzled over the fact that he could stand against other countries in political situations, peace treaties, wartimes, even, but couldn't even muster a 'no' in his own household. And suddenly, he was completely different. Maybe because this had to do with his job?
He nodded to me when he caught me gaping, and looked out the tinted window in a disinterested fashion. Mother humphed, and motioned for Belle and Grace to sit upright. They did so, and straightened their clothes, patting their hair as they prepared to exit the limo. I gulped again, and released the handle, in time for the next curve that slowly toppled me off the bench again. I was still trying to get up when the chauffer opened the door, and revealed the Grand Palace. Father got out amidst a load of flashing cameras, and then Mother got out, hissing for me to get up already through gritted teeth. I managed to get up on my seat again before Belle and Grace trampled me, and waited my turn to leave.
When I stepped free of the limo, the chauffer moved my dress out of the way and shut the door, signalling the driver to go on. I looked up at the top of a massive set of stairs. At the the very top were the Royal Family, greeting their guests. From here, they looked like LEGO men.
We began the journey up the stairs. Grace whined incessantly about her arms hurting from carrying her dress, but finally stopped within hearing range of the Royal Family.
Mother, on Father's arm, swept a grand curtsy to the Royal Family, pulling the generous skirt of her pine green gown to an impressive distance. There was a lot of cloth in that skirt. It was also brand-new. Expenses, my foot. When had she even gotten that outfit?
The King and Queen glittered in the regalia of their position. The King had so many badges and pins I couldn't count them, and the Queen glittered in so many diamonds, rubies, and sparkling accessories, it almost hurt to look at her. The Prince was dressed in a simple suit that I knew cost the Earth, with a light golden crown balanced on top of excessively styled black hair.
The Queen nodded to Mother and Father, the Prince gave a half-bow, and the King stepped forward to shake Father's hand, greeting him informally, and talking about something that seemed complicated.
I gazed about the finery and grandness of the entry, the top of the arch and doors so high up they were almost dim. Meanwhile, Grace and Belle stared openly at the Prince. He shifted uncomfortably under their stare, but I pretty much ignored him.
He had to feel so awkward, being here, greeting all these young (and not so young) women, all of them hoping to be his future bride. And none of them cared for him, just his money. I didn't really know what I thought about him, but it didn't matter, since there was absolutely no chance any of us were to be chosen. Not the tiniest chance. I caught a glimpse of all the people inside, and swallowed. I heard all the people congregating behind us, and knew the odds of just one of us being considered were near astronomical.
Finally we moved on, the Prince forgetting us the moment we passed from his line of vision. Belle and Grace instantly began chattering on and on about the young man, sizing him up, discussing possible flaws, and giggling in a high pitched tone.
I sighed, and looked around. The finery of what people were wearing almost outdid the Palace walls--and those walls were coated in real gold. Father blended in with many of the other men: he had a glittering diamond pin on his coat lapel, one that reminded me of the star-like badges the Duchesses of Russia had worn for pictures. He had a few pins in different colours on his chest as well, like many of the other men. Mother was wearing a similar pin to his, but hadn't anything else on. Some of the other women in her position also wore small crowns, being descended from royalty themselves in some way or another. Mother was too, but it was so far back, it was unbelievable. She had been lucky to marry Father, because he was so high above her. But they claimed they had had true love. I had yet to see proof of it, but I supposed it wasn't my place to demand proof of love. Maybe if Father wasn't so distracted by his job, it would be different at home. Anyway, Mother had had a considerable sum of money coming with her, as well as the promise of a future inheritance from her grandparents should she marry a suitable man. The inheritance was delivered on her wedding day as a wedding present. It was so large, even with Mother's spending habits, she hadn't depleted a fourth of it yet. There was a good chance I would get much of it, even though it would still be a lesser share. If one of us married the Prince, it was possible that none of us would have to work again in our lives.
And I still lived in a basement room with white walls, one escape window with a ladder to the ground above, and one trunk of belongings. No one would believe that of me tonight, not when I rivaled my own sisters in my apparel. Not a soul. And it made me rather happy to think that here, I was as mysterious as the original Cinderella--everyone had thought that she was a princess from a distant land, and the Prince allowed no one but himself to dance with her all evening. I felt as light as a feather, now, quite literally, and itched to dance, to allow this sudden lightness to sweep me away in one of the best nights of my life.
Father led us all through the crowds, greeting people, and introducing the three of us to important, high-ranking people. Belle didn't frown once the entire time, and actually proved to be a great wit with a charming smile and pleasant laugh when amongst company.
I found myself wishing that Belle would be chosen for the Prince, since she seemed so lovely here, both in appearance, and character. Grace was a very mature young woman all evening, and didn't once open her mouth to whine. She even made complaining sound regal. She had several men lined up to dance with her before the Royal Family had even entered the ballroom yet.
Then there was me. Floating on air, sweeping across the floor, with a shy but genuine smile, a pleasant conversation, understanding, and approachable. Graceful, beautiful, and like nothing anyone had expected--I was no longer the little girl that stood on her father's shoes to dance, or twirled around the floor laughing madly and making a great mess at dessert. Now I was the lovely mature young lady everyone wanted their son to marry. Even the sons wanted to marry me. I felt perfect.
I didn't dare think of what happened after the three nights were over. Then I would be just me, attending a public school and getting average grades. I would be the girl in worn jeans both my sisters had worn, the girl who didn't talk, the girl who'd rather read a book than do anything with a bunch of girls. I didn't go to parties, hated the whole teenage scene, and was terrified of the career world. I would be someone no one would dream of wedding.
But here I could be a Queen, as Regal as the Queen Mother herself, with brilliant manners, and someone men could dream was their bride.
I didn't want the evening to end.
The Royal Family finally came into the entry hall. Everyone parted to let them pass, and bowed their heads as the trio passed. Girls whispered eagerly about how one day that could be them one of the Royal Family, one everyone bowed to!
Then we followed through to the ballroom, and the Royal Family took their place at the top of the room where gold and gem encrusted thrones awaited them. Their were four chairs. Four chairs. The empty chair would one day be filled by the next princess, the next in line to the Queen's throne! It was a stunning prospect.
The King stood and stepped to the front of the dais the chairs were on, and began his speech. I caught sight of the tiny microphones suspended from the ceiling by thin wire to catch and magnify the good King's voice.
We all waited through the speech, waiting for the moment the music would begin.
Waiting for the moment when the Prince would step down off that dais, and begin to dance with us.

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