Monday, August 11, 2003

vignette: thirteen

And so you watch them, your sisters, don their dancing shoes, shushing each other in between giggles. You think to yourself how lucky they are: that the guards to the Princesses' suites are old and mostly deaf; that your father is asleep, carried off to dreamland by his nightly dose of herbs; that they were all born before you, each one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve of them.

Grace, the eldest, opens the secret door now, as usual, taking the lead. Minette and Claudia follow her down the stairs, holding lit tapers aloft, careful not to singe a single thread of their gossamer gowns. Alexandra, the fussiest, pauses to adjust her hemline, then a shoelace, then her hair, before being pushed by Danae, her mouth set in a calculated moue. Genevieve looks almost unwilling, you could almost forgive her for going, but her twin Geneva is just the opposite, nearly tripping on her dress. Llyn, the tallest, reminds everyone to keep quiet - she would have been more beautiful if she chose to smile more often. Tomasine follows in her wake, still half-asleep but guided by feet already tapping to unheard music. Francesca and Camellia, deadly enemies by day, go down the cold stairs hand-in-hand, best friends at midnight.

It is Fallon, of the emerald eyes and alabaster skin, who stops and looks at you with a sad smile. "I'm sorry, Tess, but there aren't enough Princes."

And with that she is gone, and the wall reclaims the invisible door.

You rest your head on your pillow of goose down and fight back the usual heaviness. There was a time when being the youngest meant being special, when it seemed as if all your wishes could come true, simply by virtue of being born last. But now you question how you ever thought, how you ever believed there could be anything else, something apart from this pain of exclusion.

And so you force yourself to sleep and dream your dream of a thousand white lies.

And twelve dancing princesses.


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