Sorry I didn’t post magical realism today, Beck 😦 but I’ll get it in some time this week! Today was my dad’s birthday and it was jam-packed for other reasons too, so I didn’t have much time to write.
The gardens were beautiful, the plants and leaves a deep forest green, and the bright-colored berries hanging ripe off of the plants. Noises of distant chattering from the palace and distinct chattering from behind her hit Elisa as she scooped up a wailing five-year-old Evie in her arms, whispering soothing remarks to calm her.
“No, stop it!” Elisa heard her little sister Stella say out loud. “Luna! It’s mine!” She complained. Luna was her twin, and they were both only ten years old.
“Girls, no fighting.” Elisa chided, waving a finger. “Mama needs our help this week, so remember that we only get a little bit of time to be outside.”
Janelle rested a hand on her shoulder and said in her sweet voice, “Don’t worry, Elisa. Mama said they could play outside for longer today.” Janelle took Evie out of Elisa’s arms.
She was sixteen, the third oldest princess. Janelle was definitely the kindest, most beautiful girl Elisa had ever known.
That was saying something since her home was filled with sisters and servants. So naturally, Elisa had seen a good several girls.
“Right, Janelle. Well, anyway, I have to go. Call Amoga, will you? Tell her I left, and tell her to stop planning pranks with Zoya and poor Christanine. That shy little girl lets herself get bossed around so much.” Elisa sighed. Amoga, recently turned seventeen, was the second oldest and an energetic, hot-tempered prankster.
“Oh, sure! Now don’t let me hold you up. Mama needs you- it’s your big day in just one week after all!” Janelle chirped, gliding away daintily.
Like she needed any reminding.
Nevertheless, Elisa turned and glumly strode through the gardens and into the palace. Immediately, she was met with a whirlwind of servants.
Elisa just politely smiled and ignored them, continuing to walk towards her mother’s chambers. She knocked, waited for her reply, and walked in.
“Mama? You asked for me?” Elisa asked, sitting tenderly at the side of her mother’s bed. Mama was heavily pregnant with a baby due soon, so she didn’t leave her room much. Her mother looked beautiful even with her usually rich chocolate-colored skin that was now pale and wan and her eyes closed, lips leeched of color. Then her mother opened her eyes.
“Elisa, darling, how are you? I hope the stress of your Becoming is not worrying you too much.” Mama spoke, taking her daughter’s hand. The Becoming was a tradition with children of royal families. There would be a ball that signified their coming-of-age and several others to celebrate her transition from a teen to an adult. Elisa would be eighteen the next week, and the ball was so she could celebrate her adulthood. All the preparations were happening, and today was the opening of the ceremony which would be started with a ball.
Oh, and of course, it was so she could find a suitor.
“I’m fine, Mama. Really. But you, Mama- how are you?”
“Oh, sweetheart, it’s the same thing. Little Anastasia down here is so feisty, that girl is. She won’t give me a break!” Elisa could tell that her mother was trying to keep a smile for her daughters’ sake. But she wasn’t buying it.
“Mama, we miss you and your dances. You should hurry up and deliver Anastasia so we can have you all to ourselves.” Elisa teased, trying to keep the mood light.
But then Mama took her hand and told her, “Don’t try to avoid your issues, dear. Elisa, my love, you should know that I met your father at one of the Becoming balls for him. He was so charming, you know. Even though his parents pressured him to marry someone of higher status, he never listened to them. As you can see, we got married a few years later and now we’re happy as two doves!”
Elisa gave her a weak smile. “Yes, Mama. I know.” Then she stood up. “I’ll be going then. I don’t really trust Amoga to watch over the girls.” As she turned to go, her mother said:
“Remember, Elisa- you don’t need to do everything by yourself. You’ll always be able to ask me for help, my angel. I’ll always be there for you.”
And then she was asleep.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Amoga tightened her corsets as Elisa stood, back rigid and face stony, wishing that she didn’t have to welcome the would-be-suitors to their palace.
“There- you’re simply stunning!” Amoga praised, admiring her handy work. Elisa was dressed in a dark midnight blue dress with sleeves just past her elbow and sweeping hoop skirts that caressed the ground with every step. Her ink colored hair had been curled and knotted up, hair cascading down her brown shoulders. It was necessary, of course. The opening ball of the Becoming was today and it would be glamorous. It was only fit that Elisa should be dazzling as well.
“Wow, thank you,” Elisa said genuinely. She remembered to kiss each of the younger girls goodbye: Zoya, Christanine, Harmony, Stella, Luna, Milissa, Bonnie, and Evie. Then she hurried down to the grand dining room.
The king- her father- stood, speaking to a crowd of men, Elisa realized with a sinking sensation in her stomach. She was going to be harshly scolded for being late. Then Father looked to the side, seeing her, and narrowed his eyes at Elisa. To the crowd, he said “My daughter, Crown Princess Elisa Khlarise Murray!”
Elisa quickly stepped in, determined to not make a fool of herself. Unfortunately, just as she was marching up to the dais, she slid on her dress and nearly fell. Just in the nick of time, she managed to straighten her dress and walk slowly to the pedestal in embarrassment, cheeks flaming. The king’s eyes pierced her with a glare.
“Ahem. Princess Elisa, please say a few words.”
Elisa cleared her throat. “Well. Thank you, everyone, for being here today. I am, of course, definitely looking forward to spending quality time with … all of you.” She looked around the room at all the men, some young and spry and many old and balding, trying not to frown. “Thank you for helping me go through this frightening part of a princess’s life, where she has to choose from so many chivalrous men to find her king. I hope that you know, uh, how much this means to me. Have a good evening,” Elisa finished.
The king smiled and said, “We wish that you come down this night to celebrate the opening night of Princess Elisa’s Becoming!”
Then, as the men dispersed, he lay a hand on Elisa’s shoulder and told her, “Elisa. I would like you to go meet some of the suitors right now. What about… Lord Flynn, Lord Nash, or Duke Maccarty?”
Elisa had met all of them at least once. They were all above thirty-five, and Lord Nash was fifty. She couldn’t believe that Father wanted her to get to know them. That was code for something else.
“Of course I don’t want you to marry them, Elisa.” The King assured her. “But you should know that they’ll be powerful political allies when you’re the queen. Remember, the Becoming is also the time for you to learn your politics.”
Elisa suppressed a groan. Politics were the worst, even though someday politics would be her entire life. Just thinking about it made her want to vomit. “Of course.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She trudged down several flights of stairs and slumped down on her bed in the room that all the princesses shared. They had been offered the choice of having separate rooms, but it made them feel safer to sleep together.
“Elisa, Elisa, Elisa!” The girls chimed. “How was it?”
“Did you see any handsome men?” Janelle asked shyly. Elisa heard Bonnie giggle behind her.
“Were they all ugly?” Amoga said, making a face.
“No, I bet they were beautiful. Did you find your true love, Elisa?” Zoya teased, Christanine blushing behind her.
“No, Elisa will never leave us!” Little Evie pouted. Milissa patted her shoulder in a pitying way.
Stella and Luna whispered to each other behind Harmony.
Elisa fought to lose the color rising to her face. “No! Of course not, you nitwits!” She started to unclasp her jewelry and slumped down on the bed, letting Janelle unzip her dress. “I’m still not eighteen yet, girls. I don’t plan on being married any time now.”
Zoya raised her eyebrow. “Is that right? Very well then. Then explain why exactly you went to see some men after the opening.”
“The King told me to. It’s for politics, obviously.” Elisa hastened to explain. “Well, you are just bothersome, Zoya. I’m going to bed now. Good night.”
All the girls laughed at Elisa, but she didn’t mind. She loved her sisters- and she didn’t belong out there, talking up men three times her age.
This was where she belonged. At home.
I hope you guys liked this! It’s actually an older piece that I edited a little bit for some grammar reasons- and it’s from last March! It was written right after I read a twelve-dancing-princesses retelling so it’s heavily based off of that myth, especially Entwined by Heather Dixon!
Can you tell if there’s any differences in my writing style from last year versus this year? Do you enjoy reading retellings? Have you read Entwined? Do you have a quarantine birthday?