Saturday, March 31, 2012

If the Shoe Fits - Pt 5

Ella watched her sisters closely all day, waiting for the perfect moment to leave. Finally, when it was nearly suppertime, she found it. Without hesitation she bolted for the door while everyone was distracted with which gown style and fabric should be worn by each of them at the wedding. Once in the hall, she wasted no time wondering what was next. She knew what was to the left of the room, her bedroom and those of her sisters and stepmother being in that direction. She hadn’t seen the prince in any of those rooms when she’d looked late last night, and none of them seemed to be rooms he was likely to visit. But to the right…

She heard her stepmother’s voice inside, asking where she’d gone, and she took off running. She needed to find the prince, she needed to tell him the truth, and she couldn’t let Amelia stop her. Not this time.

She opened the first door she found on the left and quickly shut it behind her, holding her breath and listening for a sign that someone had seen her. After a few minutes of silence, she looked around the room she was in. It appeared to be a nursery. There were two cribs, with blue and pink blankets all made up. There were toys and dolls and teddy bears on the shelves, and a pair of rocking chairs next to a window. Of course the palace would have a nursery, she thought, but two cribs?

Ella was puzzled, but she had no time to waste. She opened the door again and left the room, closing the door behind her quietly. She looked through all the rooms in the corridor, yet she didn’t seem to make much progress. There was a music room, a school room, a few unused bedrooms, and several rooms that looked as though they were being used for storage. But no room she expected the Prince to visit. A grand clock at the end of the corridor sang out six in the evening and she sighed. She was out of time, she couldn’t stay away any longer.

“I guess,” she said softly to herself, “I’ll just have to try again tonight. Who needs sleep, anyway?” Then she squared her shoulders and headed back down the corridor, to the room Priscilla was meeting her wedding staff in. Time was running short, there were just two days until the wedding. Just two days until all was lost.

“There’s nothing left to tell, sir, honest.”

Philip stared at the young stable hand for a moment and then sighed. “So it’s just as they say, is it? The shoe didn’t fit any girl in the kingdom except this one.”

“Aye, sir.”

He stood, and reached out to ruffle the boy’s hair. “Thanks for the help, Andrew. I appreciate it.” Not that it’s done any good, he thought, they’ve still somehow got the wrong girl. He didn’t know where else to turn for answers. He was bound by his word, he’d said that he’d marry whomever the shoe fit. And somehow, the shoe fit the wrong girl. What was her name, anyway? Pri-something.

He shook his head and turned toward the castle. His father had said something about seeing him for supper, and it was nearly that time in any case.

Ella got another chance to look for the Prince after supper, when her sisters and stepmother where once again enveloped in wedding plans. This time, she took a different corridor, to another wing of the palace. She searched for as long as she could, almost frantic as she opened and shut doors and turned corners into new halls. When she realized that the women would probably be looking for her, she turned around to head back, but didn’t recognize anything she saw. She’d forgotten to keep track of which turns she’d made, which doors she’d opened, and now she was lost.

“Fantastic, Ella,” she muttered, “Simply fantastic.”

“What is?”

The familiar voice behind her made Ella jump, and then whirl around. It couldn’t be, could it?

Philip frowned as he looked at the girl in front of him. She looked so familiar, but he didn’t know her name. He knew all the names of all the people who worked in the palace, he’d made it a point to memorize them and to remember each new person as he or she was hired. But this girl, he couldn’t recall the name of.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said, “But I can’t seem to remember your name, dear. I’m Philip.”

Ella was dumbstruck for a moment, enraptured just as she had been at the dance by the size and build of the man before her, and by his voice. Then she heard a different voice, a shrill one she knew too well, and her mind finally started cooperating. She grabbed the prince’s hand and dragged him into a nearby room, shutting the door behind them and leaning against it. He started to speak but she gave him a fierce look and he quieted. She held her breath, praying not to be found, as the sound of her stepmother’s shoes clicked down the corridor. Her name was called again, and then there was a moment of silence. The clicking sound drew closer, until Ella knew she was about to be found out. She held the handle of the door tight, praying that Amelia didn’t prove to be stronger than her. The knob turned a fraction in her hand, and then a fraction the other way, and then there was silence. Her name was called again, and she held her breath. Then, the sound of her sisters squabbling drew a scoff out of her stepmother on the other side of the door, and the clicking sound of Amelia’s shoes grew more distant until Ella couldn’t hear them at all.

She sighed, and slumped against the door.

“What just happened?”

Ella straightened and looked at the Prince. He looked confused, but not angry, which she was grateful for.

Now what?

“I need to talk to you,” she said, a little hesitantly.

“Well, obviously you’ve got me in a good position to listen.”

She cringed a little, wishing that she didn’t need to keep leaning against the door while she said what she had to say.

“The girl they brought here, Priscilla, she –“

“Priscilla! That was her name! The girl I’m to marry.”

“Yes, well, she’s not the one you’re looking for.”

Ella resisted the urge to bite her lip as the prince frowned

“What do you mean by that?”

“You wanted to find the girl you danced with, right? The one who dropped her shoe along the road just outside the castle?”

“Well yes” he answered, obviously still perplexed. “That’s why I sent out the Emissary, to find the girl whose foot fit the shoe, I knew it had to be custom-made.”

“I don’t know how it happened,” she said softly, “But the girl who the shoe fit on is not the right girl. She’s my sister. My step-sister. She’s not the one you danced with.”

“You’re her sister?” But I didn’t see you at that meeting they arranged yesterday.”

Ella shook her head. “I wasn’t there. Her mother married my father and she doesn’t like to have me around her daughters. But that doesn’t change the fact that Priscilla did not dance with you at that ball.”

To her horror, the prince rolled his eyes. “And I suppose you know who did?”

“I did.”

Philip took a moment to look at the girl more closely, noticing her chocolate-colored hair and her golden brown eyes. Her voice was right, and he recognized her. It would make sense, she could be the one he danced with. He reached his hand out to her. “Prove it.”

Fear shot through her eyes. “How?” she asked.

“Dance with me.”

She seemed to consider it for a moment before putting her hand in his. He led her to the middle of the room, and they started to dance. As her body moved with him, he knew she was right. This was the girl he had danced with, the one he had searched for. So how was she not the one his men brought back? How did the shoe not fit her?

Friday, March 30, 2012

If the Shoe Fits - Pt 4

Philip smiled at the girl in his arms, thinking that she was rather pretty. Her face turned red and she let her eyes drop to the floor as he helped her back onto her own two feet.

“I’m so sorry, Your Highness,” she said softly, dropping into a somewhat clumsy curtsey. She started leaning to one side and he reached out to stabilize her once more.

“It’s quite all right,” he chuckled. He held out his hand for hers and bowed over it “You obviously know who I am. What is your name?”

“P-P-Priscilla Hillshire, Your Highness.”

He frowned and looked more closely at her features. He was told that Priscilla was the name of the girl they found, the one whose foot fit the shoe. But this girl, this red-haired, green-eyed girl with the high-pitched voice, she couldn’t possibly be the one he danced with.

“You’re…ah…shorter than I remember you.”

“These shoes are lower than the ones I wore to the dance, Your Highness.”

He frowned and nodded. “I could have sworn your hair was more of a brown color, like chocolate.”

The girl shook her head. “My hair has always been red like the sunset, Your Highness. I did have it pulled back tightly, perhaps in the light it looked brown.”

He frowned and nodded again. Her voice was off, she didn’t look the same that she did when he danced with her, and the spark he’d felt that night was gone altogether. But she was the one the shoe fit. The only one in the kingdom. He bowed to her hastily. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you again, Priscilla. I have some business to attend to.” He gestured to a nearby page “If you need anything, tell this boy and he’ll find someone to get it for you. I’m sure you have much to do as well.” He headed out of the room but was stopped by another voice.

“Your Majesty?”

He turned to see the girl’s mother standing.

“Are there any details about the wedding that you would like to decide?”

He shook his head, far too distracted to even think about what details a wedding could need. “We have a woman for that, the boy will find her.” He motioned to the page, who then shot off into the hall at a run. “Is there anything else?”

“No, Your Majesty.”

He nodded, bowed to the women again, and then left the room and headed to the stables. Something wasn’t right about the girl, she wasn’t the right girl, and he was going to find out who was. In his experience, the stable hands tended to notice more than most could, so they were the best place to start.


“I’m telling you, Albert, I know this woman. I’ve known her for a very long time, and I know that her daughters could never be good queens!”

Mark was desperate that the King hear and understand what he was trying to say, but it just didn’t seem to be getting through.

“Mark, I understand your misgivings but you yourself admitted that you haven’t seen the good Lady in close to fifteen years. You didn’t even know that Hillshire’s girl was still living with her. People change. She’s probably not as bad as you’re claiming, and her daughter is probably a lovely fit for my Philip.”

Mark growled softly in frustration and dragged a hand through his hair. “Albert, I’ve served you for a long time. Our families have worked together for a long time. Have I ever even once been this adamant about something and been wrong?”

“Well no. But -“

“Then listen to me now. We are friends. I watched that woman wed six different men, and kill them all.”

“Now, just because she’s had some bad luck doesn’t mean she killed them.”

“She killed them. Ask the girl your son is going to marry. Her mother poisoned her father’s meal!”

“Nonsense, Mark! You spoke to her when she was a child. She probably heard a maid gossiping and took it on as truth. Children say things without understanding the meanings.”

Mark sat down, the fire suddenly gone from his argument. He knew he was right. He knew Amelia better than he could ever admit. But the king simply did not want to see the evil that she was. He did not want to see anything that could tamper with the chance that his son would get married before he died. Mark looked up as Albert doubled over in another coughing fit.

“Those are getting worse.”

“That’s why they call it consumption.” The king replied impatiently.

“Can you really go to your death uncertain if your son’s new wife will be a good fit for the kingdom?”

Albert frowned at him. “My son can keep a woman in line, Mark. And I don’t think she’s as bad as you’re making her out to be. You’re probably still sore over Amelia refusing your proposal all those years ago.”

Mark clenched his jaw against the memories. He had been a boy, young and foolish. She was his sister’s friend, already a beautiful young woman with her sights set on a local landowner. He was desperately in love with her, in love with her beauty and her confidence. He was sure, so sure, from the way that she smiled at him, that she loved him too. He had worked hard, saved as much of his wages as he could, to buy her a ring that was nice enough to rest on her finger. He’d proposed, confessed how much he loved her and practically begged her to marry him.

She had laughed.

She laughed at his proposal, at his ring, at him. She denied him, rejected him, and cruelly told him that he could never be good enough to marry her. She had her sights set higher. She deserved better. And she knew how to get it.

He tried to warn her against taking what the faerie offered. Male faeries were pure evil incarnate, like their female counterparts only in appearance. She hadn’t listened to him. Two days later, her engagement with the landowner was announced, and just a year after their wedding he died. After that Mark had been forced to watch in horror as she steadily grew more and more evil, the faerie’s magic working its way into her heart with every month that passed.

By the time she was engaged to his best friend, there was nothing left of the sweet and beautiful woman he’d fallen in love with. In her place was a cold-hearted witch of a woman who could and would do anything to get the power she wanted. He’d tried to warn Joseph, but the man was in love, enchanted by her physical beauty to the point of being blind to anything else.

He paid for that.

Mark sighed and forced the memories aside. “I certainly bear no pain over her rejection.” He said softly. The King scoffed his disagreement, and Mark gave up. “A different subject then, Hillshire’s daughter.”

“Yes, how is little Ellandria doing?”

“She goes by Ella now. Anyway, she’s not doing well. They treat her like a common maid, less than that even.”

Albert frowned. “I was assured that she would be given the best of life.”

“You were lied to, King. They mistreat her, they disrespect and disregard her. I worry for her if one of them comes into power as the queen. Is there nothing we can do to save her?”

Albert’s frown deepened before his thoughts were interrupted by another coughing spell. When he could breathe again, he stood wearily. “I need rest, Mark. For now, let me rest. Tomorrow, have her brought to my table for lunch. I should at least speak with her, and see if there is somewhere she’d rather be. I owe that much to her father. Did I ever tell you he saved my life?”

“I was there, my friend.”

Albert nodded. “So you were. Let me rest now, Mark. Go and see to the women.”

Mark watched his friend, his king, slowly make his way toward the door to his chambers. A servant rushed to his side when the next coughing fit started, and supported him the rest of the way. Deep sadness enveloped his heart. He’d already watched one friend die unfairly, before his time. Now, he had to watch another do it as well. At least this time it wasn't murder, he thought. But that didn't make it any less painful.

With a tired sigh he left the room, stopping by a mirror in the hall to straighten his coat and hair. See to the women, indeed. He wasn’t sure he could handle it, especially if the soon-to-be queen was going to talk at all.

If The Shoe Fits - Pt 3

Ella watched the stars appear from the window in her new room in the palace. It was a ground-floor room, but she could still see the sky and after the day she'd had, seeing the sky was what she needed most.

That, and a plan.

She was in the castle, and that was good. But she’d made it this far half afraid that she wouldn’t make it at all, and she’d forgotten entirely to plan her next step. She needed to stop that wedding, to show the prince that it wasn’t Priscilla after all, that the shoe fitting meant nothing.

Well, almost nothing.

That shoe was specially created for her by the family fairy. A shoe custom- fit to her foot should have never even come close to fitting Priscilla’s ogre toes. And yet, somehow, it did. Perfectly. Which meant that something was wrong.

Just then, a shooting star caught her attention. She rolled her eyes. “Now you decide to show up,” she muttered to herself.

“Well I would have made it sooner if I could have. There’s lots of Hillshires besides you, you know. Aunts and Uncles and cousins.”

Ella turned to face the fairy and found herself once more amazed by the creature. She wasn’t more than four feet tall, slender like a reed, with wings that looked like spun sugar. Her skin was an odd bluish color and her hair was black like pitch, as were her eyes. Her ears were pointed and looked sharp like daggers, and her teeth were jagged points. She wore a short dress and small shoes that looked like they had been made of spider silk. Yet, despite her somewhat frightening appearance her voice was sweet like the sound of a gently flowing stream in the forest, and Ella knew her to be kind.

“I did come as soon as I heard.” The fairy said gently. “I couldn’t wait to congratulate you. Imagine, a Hillshire married to the Prince!”

“It’s not me, godmother.”

The fairy furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. “What do you mean it’s not you? You’re the only Hillshire left in the kingdom.”

“Think like a human for a moment. Amelia’s daughters took Father’s last name when they came here.”

The fairy shook her head and waved her hand dismissively. “That doesn’t count. Bloodlines are what count and the nearest Hillshire besides you is two kingdoms away. Besides, I heard that the King sent out that shoe you lost and that’s how he found the girl.”

“He did. Something’s gone wrong.”

The fairy stilled, and the air around her seemed to go dead. “What do you mean, ‘gone wrong’?”

“Godmother, the shoe fit Priscilla. She’s the one they’re announcing as the Prince’s betrothed.”

Blue skin paled to almost white. “That’s…that’s not possible.”

“It is. So tell me how. Does Amelia have a family fairy as well?”

“Oh, that’s not possible.” The fairy laughed, a sound like tiny bells ringing softly. “Only the good families get fairies. Family Hillshire had one largely because of your mother.”

“It wasn’t possible that the shoe should fit Priscilla either, godmother.” Ella sighed and turned back to the window. “Yet, here we are, because it did. I need you to find out what you can. I know this shouldn’t have happened, but it did and now we need to keep it from going much further.”

There was a long quiet, the only sound in the room was that of the fairy’s wings softly mixing the air.

“Do you love him?”

The question was sudden, unexpected, and Ella wasn’t sure how to answer. Did she? He made her knees weak and her heart race. She couldn’t stop thinking about him, about being near him again, about dancing with him. She’d lost track of time completely at the ball, which was why she’d had to leave in such a hurry.  But did that mean she loved him?

“Do you?” the fairy prodded. Ella sighed.

“I don’t know, godmother. But if he marries Priscilla, I’ll never have a chance to find out.”

The fairy seemed to consider that for a moment, and then she nodded and lifted herself off the ground. “Be careful, pet.” She said softly. “Be wise and brave, but do be careful. Love will win, in the end.”

Ella watched her disappear, an odd expression on her odd little face. When she was gone, Ella watched the stars twinkle for a few minutes before finally laying down to rest. As she drifted off, the fairy’s words rang in her mind. “Love will win, in the end.” With a sigh Ella turned over. “I hope you’re right,” she whispered, and then she let sleep claim her.
Priscilla was nervous.

Very nervous.

It was a new sensation for her, being nervous. She’d never really had anything to be nervous about before, which was funny considering that she was almost twenty-six years old. Everything she’d wanted in life had been handed to her, from the moment her mother poisoned her father’s dinner and his estate became theirs.
But now, she was nervous. And with good reason. She knew the shoe shouldn’t have fit. She didn’t know whose shoe it was, but she knew it was not hers, and she hadn’t danced with the prince at the party. She’d been too busy trying not to look like she was staring at the butcher’s son, who came to the palace as an escort for his family’s ward – some orphaned rich child whose father somehow knew and trusted the butcher. 

She’d been pining after the butcher’s son for some time, rather inexplicably since he had nothing at all to offer her. He was a poor man and if he were to court her his gifts would probably be those of a poor man: Wild flowers, pebbles picked from the river bank, and that sort of thing. Regardless, she was attracted to him, and that night it had taken all of her power not to get caught staring at the cut of his jaw or just how nice he looked in what were doubtlessly his best clothes – rags that they were.

With a shake of her head, Priscilla forced her mind back to the moment at hand. She was not the one the Prince was really looking for but she had to somehow convince him that she was. The shoe fitting helped, certainly. But she wasn’t a spring chicken anymore. She was nearly twenty six years old, almost a spinster. Though, admittedly not nearly as close to a fate of destitute loneliness as her elder half-sister. Nevertheless, she couldn’t risk botching this one. Marrying the Prince would set her in a life of even greater luxury than she had with her mother, Lady Amelia, the woman who married men for their fortunes and then took their lives. 

As the wife of a Prince, she would one day rule the kingdom, and she could have absolutely anything she wanted.

But more importantly, if she married the Prince she’d be married. And if she didn’t marry the Prince, if he found her unsuitable, there probably wouldn’t be any other chances for her and she’d have to hope for the kindness of someone like the butcher’s son.

Which, in all honesty, wasn’t likely to happen. Priscilla knew she was mean-spirited. Poor men liked girls who could make them smile and the only people she’d ever made smile were her mother and half-sister. She desperately needed this break. She needed this chance. It just had to work out!

“Would you stop pacing, you’re making me dizzy.”

Priscilla gave a passing glace to Anastasia and ignored her. She really hated that girl, and yet they were the best friends either of them had ever known.

“I said, stop pacing!” Anastasia’s foot shot out from under her dress and caught Priscilla’s ankle, sending her sprawling. She was just barely saved from landing on the floor in a heap by a man who had just walked into the room. She lifted her face from his chest, praying she hadn’t left rouge or lip stain on his shirt, and looked up to thank him. When she saw his face, the words froze in her throat.

Oh, she’d really done it now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

If the Shoe Fits - Pt 2

Ella had learned over the years that there was great value in knowing when to keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself. Sometimes, the price just wasn’t worth whatever words you’d be able to find anyway. When she’d finished helping her stepsisters to change into even richer, heavier gowns and pile their hair atop their heads, Anastasia once more demanded Genevieve’s sapphire jewelry for Priscilla. With a heavy heart and absolute silence, Ella brought the precious earrings and necklace from the chest of her mother’s things and put them on her step-sister. Her heart screamed in anguish at the unfairness of it all, but she knew when to pick her battles. The sapphires, though precious to her because they were her mother’s, weren’t worth squandering a chance to fix the horrible mistake that was about to be made.

Mark seethed to himself as he led the now ridiculously long group back to the palace. The list of grievances this family was committing was growing in his mind. Amelia had insisted on packing practically her entire house for the journey. Those dreadful girls had demanded to wear the jewelry that had belonged to the first Lady Hillshire and were now proudly displaying their victory over Ella – no matter how idiotic it made them look to have such finery on for a ride through the kingdom. He now had to do his best to keep them to the town roads, which would make the journey significantly longer and more tiresome. They’d mistreated poor Ella. They complained about everything and to everyone, not remaining quiet for more than a few minutes at a time. He’d finally decided to leave the carriage and ride on horseback instead, but he could still hear their loathsome voices. An ear piercing shriek of a laugh rung through the forest as they made their way along the road between towns, and he cringed from the sound of it.

“Don’t blame them, Sir, it’s not exactly their fault. They just don’t know any better.”

Mark gaped at Ella for a moment. “Are you really making excuses for those horrid girls?” he asked her, quite astonished. She chuckled and nodded.

“It’s stepmother’s doing.” She said quietly, “She taught them that anything in the world they decided they wanted was something they deserved. They don’t know proper manners or how to treat others because they just weren’t ever taught. I don’t think she was taught either, so it’s not really her fault. I do hope they weren’t too rude to you.”

He shook his head “I’m more surprised by the way they’ve been treating you.”

“Oh, nevermind about me. I’m used to them by now, it’s been nearly fifteen years since Father died and they became the rulers of our house.”

“Your father was a good man. You deserve better, for his sake.”

“Did you know Father?” her gold and brown eyes caught his and for a moment, he saw Joseph instead of Ella.

“Yes,” he answered slowly, forcing his eyes to the road, “I did. He was a very good man. I tried to convince him not to marry your stepmother.”

He was surprised by her laugh. “Yes, he said many people did.”

“Did he ever say why he didn’t listen?”

“He told me he loved her. He said that love can make a person blind to reason, blind to anything but the love. Love can make you crazy.”

Mark nodded, remembering the adoring way Joseph had looked at Amelia, and the sadness he had felt in his heart at how dissimilar to Genevieve she was. “She wasn’t the right woman for him.”

“But he loved her.”

Once more he turned to see Ella, watched her as she rode. She sat straight, keeping a good posture while moving with the horse easily. He remembered that Lord Hillshire had put her on a horse just as soon as she could hold herself upright.

“You frightened your mother half to death the first time your father let you ride a horse on your own.”

Her eyes snapped to his, filled with surprise.

“Oh, yes.” He laughed. “You were just a few months old, just barely walking. He put you on that horse and led it around the yard. You fell and your mother just about fainted.”

“What was she like?”

The question came out quiet and hesitant, and when he looked at her, her eyes were downcast and her shoulders slightly slumped. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“Mother died when I was very young. I have few memories of her and I’m not even sure how many of those are real, and how many were created in my own mind for comfort. You seem to have known my parents well. Could you tell me, what she was like?”

Mark kicked himself mentally. Of course the girl wanted to know about her mother. Ella had only been two or three when she had died in childbirth. Unfortunately, the child hadn’t survived either. “I was very close friends with your father,” He confirmed. “We both grew up near the palace, as did your mother. She was a wonderful woman. She looked much like you do, except her eyes were different. They were grey, like the sky when it rains. She had the most wonderful spirit, always laughing and finding the fun in everything. And she never let her station as wife to one of the most important Lords in the kingdom spoil her. She was kind to everyone she met and everyone loved her for it, from the king right on down to the men who sweep the streets. Being around her was much like I imagine being in heaven is. Whenever someone was near her, they always felt like the most important person in the world. She had a way of doing that, your mother. She would lift people’s spirits and they’d leave her home feeling rested and happy.”

“I miss her.”

“We all do.”

They fell silent then, watching the road ahead of them as they rode. Mark found himself surprised by the transparency that Ella had adopted with him. He expected someone who was raised the way she was, with such cruel women for family, to be more guarded and closed off. Instead she was open and honest, much like her mother.

“Can I ask you a question?”

She shrugged. “Sure.”

“Why did you let those girls take your mother’s things?”

Her sigh told him the heaviness in her heart. “I wish I had much of a choice. Either I would give them to my sisters and be allowed to come with them to the palace; or I would refuse, and they would steal the jewelry, and I would be punished and left behind. It is more important to me that I reach the palace than it is that my sisters not wear my mother’s things.”


The shrew’s shrill voice broke the relative quiet of the forest and Ella turned her horse around to answer the summons. She rode back to where the carriage was, leaving him without an answer. 

If the Shoe Fits - Pt 1

Dear God, no.

Those words were the only ones Mark could muster in his mind at first. They’d been searching for so long. They’d tried this shoe on almost every girl in the kingdom but it seemed to be custom-made and every last one of them found it slightly too large or slightly too small or slightly too narrow. When the carriage had slowed to a stop in front of the last house on the outskirts of the kingdom, he’d thought he’d have to return to the King and his son empty-handed. He was sure the wedding plans already in progress would have to be canceled. Surely, the Prince could not have fallen in love over a few dances with someone from *this* house he thought. He knew the women who lived here, had known Lady Hillshire for many years, and he knew that she could never raise a child with the grace and poise and appeal the Prince had described to him.

Yet, here she was, the dreadful Priscilla, with the shoe perfectly fitting her foot.

Recovering his wits, Mark stood and bowed to the girl. “As decreed by His Royal Majesty the King, I hereby declare you, Miss Priscilla Bernadine Hillshire, to be the betrothed of His Highness the Prince. In accordance with the orders of the King, you are now to be escorted to the Palace, where in three days’ time you will be wed.”

The scream of delight sounded more like a banshee’s shriek to him as the girl leapt from the chair she was sitting in. She stumbled, having on two entirely different types of shoe, and fell in a flurry of richly colored fabric. As he helped her up from a heap on the floor, he wondered to himself how the prince could have possibly thought her graceful, or even attractive. Sure, she was beautiful enough. The blazing red hair she’d gotten from her mother’s third husband went well with her pale complexion and her emerald green eyes. She was born a McLeod and it was easily evident to anyone who knew that fact that she took after her father – a sturdy Scotsman with a good heart who met his end far too soon, thanks to Lady Amelia. Priscilla had most definitely inherited the Scottish features, and when paired with her mother’s deceivingly petite build those features created a girl who was certainly a sight to behold.

Until she opened her mouth.

She had the most unfortunate habit of whining every word she said through her little nose, a habit doubtlessly acquired from being the youngest of Amelia’s blood-related daughters and constantly having whatever she could whine for. Her voice grated on his ears and his nerves as she jabbered “can you believe its” to her mother and sister. Then she turned toward the stairs leading to the kitchens and cellar, and hollered at a pitch that made him want to faint just to escape it.

“Ella! Get your lazy ass up here and pack my bags!”

Ella? The girl was still living here? He thought that when Lord Hillshire had died, his young daughter had been sent away to a relative where she could live in peace and be brought up in a way that was proper for her station. He thought, surely, that her father had recognized the pure evil that his new wife was made of and sent his precious girl away so that she wouldn’t be corrupted by it. Curious, he kept his eyes on the stairs, only half listening to the shrill whine of Pricilla’s voice as she continued jabbering on to her mother.

After several minutes a quiet fell over the three women. He turned to see Amelia, plainly furious, staring at the same set of stairs. Clearly, Ella had not come when summoned by her stepsister and that did not sit well with the Lady. But why would that be so? Ella was the daughter of a highly esteemed Lord in His Majesty’s kingdom, a man His Majesty had trusted enough to set his home at the edge of the Kingdom as a defense against any who would invade. Since Joseph’s death, His Majesty had made sure to take care of the Hillshire family and estate, taking special care to know that his accounts keeper was sending them the gold and supplies they would need, even sending them extra staff from his own palace at harvest and festival times. Ella was the natural-born daughter of this man His Majesty clearly felt deep respect toward, even in death. So why would she even be subjected to the summons of her lesser stepsister?

Amelia motioned for a rather worried-looking maid standing in a nearby corner. “Go get that girl. Clearly, she has gone deaf. Be sure she knows that she will be punished for it.”

Mark stared in astonishment at the Lady. What had gone so terribly wrong in this house that the daughter of Sir Lord Hillshire could be retrieved and warned of punishment by a house maid?

Priscilla and her half-sister, Anastasia, continued to talk once more, but in quieter tones. Clearly, they knew that if they aggravated their mother at this moment even they would not be spared her wrath. He gestured to the page accompanying him and brought him a few steps away from the women.

“I don’t like this, she can’t possibly be the right girl.” He whispered “Go quickly, take a fresh horse from the stable and ride to the palace. Tell his Majesty that I must speak with him at once when we arrive, that I have concerns about what marrying this family into his will do to the kingdom.” The page nodded and scurried off, catching Amelia’s attention in the process.

“What is he doing?” she asked, one black eyebrow arched in disapproval.

“He is riding to the palace,” Mark answered easily “To tell the King that I have found the Prince’s bride.”
Amelia stared at him for a long minute, and he met her gaze evenly. She was like a wild dog, and he dared not show any fear lest she discover his lie and tear him to shreds. She was a conniving, charming woman who could convince anyone of anything and even without any evidence against him, she could surely turn the king and his court against him if she pleased.

The maid returned from the kitchen area, and Amelia’s attention was diverted to the girl following behind her, her plain grey gown covered in soot.

“I apologize, Lady,” the girl said, “Mary tells me that I was summoned but I did not hear it. I was cleaning one of the kitchen chimneys.”

Amelia appeared ready to question the girl, but cast a glance in Mark’s direction and instead turned away dismissively. “Bring Priscilla’s things down and have them packed on the emissary’s horses. Use a few of our carts if necessary. But change your gown first, and wash your hands. My daughter shouldn’t have to suffer with dirty things because you’re a cinder-girl.”

“And Ella,” Anastasia added “why don’t you get your mother’s jewels from that chest you keep them in? Those sapphires your father bought her will go well with Priscilla’s eyes.”

Writer's Block

It's the most frustrating thing in the world to have writer's block.

Well, maybe not the MOST frustrating thing, but very very very frustrating.

I used to be able to just pull something out of thin air and BOOM! I had something to at least start a story or a blog post. But then, shortly before I moved out here, I burned one of what I now know was my best stories ever. I just got frustrated with the first draft and burned it. Since then, I can start but I can never get past the first few pages. It just doesn't come to me.

Blogging is a little bit easier, but not much.

So with that, I bring you the writing prompt segment.

Today's prompt:
I'll work on this one in Word, and post it after.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Expectations vs reality

I think I somehow thought that getting married would suddenly convert me into some Martha Stewart/Betty Crocker hybrid. I was going to constantly have a clean and tastefully decorated home, with great meals on the table three times a day and not a single hair out of place or spot on my dress or ache in my feet.

I, obviously, was wrong.

I haven't thought about it much in those terms up until now, but with our first anniversary approaching I've been thinking a lot about what I expected from my marriage vs what I got.

For example, I expected to have a constantly clean house that always smelled of whatever amazing dishes I was whipping up from thin air for the next meal, and to always look my absolute best. I got a busy lifestyle that drops me on the couch after a long day with whatever I've managed to not burn for dinner and then swoops me out the door with my makeup just barely finished in time (and occasionally a skirt that should have been washed last week) in the morning. Which means I've got a house that looks only slightly less like a horde of bachelors lives here and we occasionally play "find that smell."

I expected that my first year of marriage would be hearts and stars and rainbows with nothing going wrong and a constant glow of happiness and all-is-well. I got a husband recovering from major surgery - which led to me getting a husband who was mostly nonfunctional because of the drugs for the better part of the year - and debt and struggles with the IRS and foreclosure and a particularly angering job loss and the start of a company.

I expected everlasting peace as a result of the newlywed factor. I got a lot of arguments, a lot of times when I sat on the couch in tears wondering what to do next, and a lot of misunderstandings.

This is not to say that I'm unhappy with what I got. I absolutely love my husband and the places that we're going to go (figuratively and literally) together. I love the way all of those weird situations are starting to be turned around and worked out for our benefit. I love my life with him, where the only moments I seem to have for breath are while I'm working with his uncle and almost every minute of my day is spent with my husband. I love waking up and moving in a whirlwind out the door to go call on customers and run errands and be productive, and then coming home and falling into exhausted sleep together. I really do enjoy all of this. It's just not what I was expecting.

It makes me wonder if sometimes we don't look at what we were expecting, and compare it to what we got, and feel we've come up short. Looking at my list here it certainly looks like I've come up short, but that's before considering things like the fact that all of these trials have brought us closer than anything else could have. We honestly don't like to do things apart from each other for any amount of time, and whenever we do have to be separated, we end up really emotionally drained at the end of the day. We laugh together all the time, and we genuinely love being together.

Granted, there are times I'd like to throw something heavy at his head. And I'm sure there are times that he wants to strangle me. We have our misunderstandings and our "bad days" but despite all of that, we love being with each other. And at the end of the day, provided I haven't gotten into my cranky sleepy mood and started a fight, just being together is the best thing there is.

I used to think that my mom was a little cooky when she said that she had a hard time sleeping without dad. But now I understand, because I can't sleep without Jared - to the point that if I get tired before he does, he has to (by which I mean "usually elects to") sit on the couch and watch TV so I can fall asleep there with him nearby.

I didn't get a lot of what I expected from this marriage so far. Life isn't perfect, and I didn't have my dream wedding or the perfect engagement ring or even my ideal proposal...and married life for the past year has definitely been a year of unexpecteds. But I wouldn't trade any of it. What we have now, the bond and closeness that we have and the way that we so easily relate to each other, probably could only happen through what we've been through.

So though our lives together haven't been what I was expecting, the only thing I'd change about the past year is my lack of patience through the whole thing. I didn't get what I expected, but I certainly like what I got.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Our week was busy, full, and pretty fun. We got to spend a lot of time together, and had a lot of laughs. We've enjoyed having corned beef instead of chili for the week but I'm ready to switch. We're starting to work on paying off the debts that piled up last year, so we're still doing our best to live lean. Aside from that, there's not much new.

*Who has made the biggest impact in your life and why?*

Dearest is really the one who's made the biggest impact in my life. He picked up the pieces after my previous relationship shattered me and has spent the past two years helping me put them all back together and then helped me to become better than I thought I could be. He's taught me a lot, showed me over and over that my potential is so much bigger than I where I often set my limits. He keeps me stable, and understands me, and helps me through my rough patches.

I really don't know what I'd do without him.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The best days...

As you've probably noticed, my weekly blogs have been getting a little sparse and boring. So, in addition to whatever news I decide to blog about, I'm also going to (If I remember) do one of those writing challenge thingys.

This week was, agian, uneventful. We're waiting for a court date on the unemployment issue, work is boring, business is good, and in general we're doing alright.

St Pats day was really the highlight of my week. It was one of our neighbors' 54th anniversary, and they invited half the neighborhood over for "Mulligan Stew" - and insisted that we show up. It was a great party, with lots of good food and good conversation and laughing.

Mulligan Stew, by the way, isn't a set stew recipe. It's whatever an Irish woman decides to put in a pot. This time, it was a typical Irish stew (meat, potatoes, carrots, celery) with a broth that seemed to have grapefruit as a primary ingredient. It was, despite how it sounds, absolutely delicious.

There were also pineapple teriyaki meatballs, cake, strawberry pie, shrimp, "doubled" eggs, and a lot of other bits of deliciousness. But mostly, I enjoyed hearing the conversations of people who have lived on the hill for 30+ years and whose parents lived on the hill before them.

With that said, on to the blogging challenge part:

Day one: Tell me about the best day of your life.

This, surprisingly, is a tough one. I think I've had several "best days" so far, and I have several more in my future. None of the "best days" seem to coincide with events the way you'd think they would. For example, my wedding day was a very good and very important day, but it wasn't one of my best days. At the end of the night I went to sleep with a twinge of disappointment. It was entirely my fault, for having picked the wrong people to share that day with, but that kept it from being a best day.

My best days are random. It may be an unimportant Tuesday, some random Saturday, or any other day with no real significance to it. The best day of my life is a day I get to spend with Dearest, out and about, being productive and being together, and then coming home and curling up on the couch to watch TV - usually something in the sci-fi genre. It's a day when we laugh together and talk a lot and get to just be close. I think most recently that day was Friday of last week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Old habits or character traits?

As a kid I used to try to convince my parents that I absolutely HAD to wake up at 5 in the morning to get to school (which was practically in our backyard) at 8. I'd get up quietly, shower quietly, eat breakfast quietly...and then sit around for two and a half hours waiting for it to be time for me to leave. I've always believed that it's better to be early than late.

Granted, in high school when I was helping out with the younger kids, I frequently ran later than I wanted to. I got into the habit of hitting the snooze button and having to rush myself. But more often than not, I was early. Sometimes ridiculously early.

As an adult I'm the same way. Now I have a few more things to do in the "getting ready" process...walking in the morning, getting my makeup and hair right, etc. I also do most of the work to get my husband ready for wherever we're going - picking out and ironing clothes, making breakfast, getting coffee - just about all he does is shower, put on clothes, and leave. And because I (for some reason) still haven't quite adjusted to this...or maybe it's because I love laying in bed with him too much ... we almost always end up late. It;s taken a lot for me to adjust to this. I genuinely hate being late. I feel it's rude, and shows that you're unprepared and careless...and yet almost every time we go anywhere together, we are late. This used to be a serious issue for me. I'd get very upset, to the point of initiating a shouting match in the car on the way to our important meeting or our coffee date or church. I'm better now, but it's taken a lot of time and effort.

But when it's just me, when I'm the only one I need to get ready and out the door, I still follow those old elementary school habits. I get up, do what I need to in order to be ready to leave, and then, quite often, I sit on the couch with my purse and my coat and wait for it to be an appropriate time to leave. And I *still* end up 20 to 45 minutes early...almost every time.

So is it a habit, or just part of who I am?

Monday, March 12, 2012

My life is routine

Sometimes, it's hard to keep up on these weekly updates. I want to do it, don't get me wrong. But sometimes I wonder if you're not bored. My life, it seems, is so *routine*...Laundry, dishes, sales calls, cooking, dishes, laundry, cooking, dishes....

Now I do have some variation in my routine. Still very little, but some. I'm working with Dearest's uncle...well, for him is more accurate. I relieve his normal guy who manages the mini storage place he runs. It's a nice change of pace, though it's still mostly routine thus far. Check the units, answer questions, rent out trucks, check in trucks, check the units...

At least my coworker is entertaining. I've had some fun asking him to prove or dispel some of the myths I've heard about Mormons...not that he's a "normal" mormon from what I can tell, but he grew up in the doctrine so he gets it more than I would. Plus, it proves for some really interesting conversations. Like:

Me: "So, do Mormons really have special underwear?"
Him: "Yeah."
Me: "*Really?*"
Him: "Well, yeah. But they aren't magic or anything. Though I like to joke with people: 'Yeah, me n my seven wives are going to put on our magic underwears and fly our carpet to the movies' We don't believe in polygamy anymore either, by the way."

So our week has been routine, for the most part. We've filed an appeal with unemployment and are preparing for that battle, we're continuing to develop customer relations and make money, I'm working two days a week to help out the uncle, and I never - ever - seem to have enough time to stay on top of the cleaning and organizing. I'm also making hats.

Saying that makes me think that maybe I need to work on priorities...but I really enjoy the hatmaking more.

I'm still trying to work my way through that Joel Osteen book I started weeks ago. It's good...just a bit repetitive so I can't read very much of it at a time.

We're gearing up for a good season, I know we are. By the end of the month I'm certain that we will have exceeded Dearest's previous income and will be booked on large, profitable projects and small, low-effort monitoring agreements through the summer. From there, we'll continue working to gain customers, and then the only way to go is up.

I guess, in light of all that, you could say that it's been a good week. A scary week, with our only source of definite income suddenly cutting off, but a good week nonetheless.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our situation at present

As you may already know, since Dearest lost his job we have been relying on unemployment to help us make ends meet and it has been just barely keeping us alive while we spiral farther and farther into debt. While our company has been successful in the last week or two, we are not nearly successful enough to manage without unemployment yet.

Today we received a letter from the unemployment office stating that - though they previously ruled in our favor in the dispute about whether we qualify for benefits - they have just determined that we did indeed not qualify and must pay back the full two thousand some odd dollars they have given us thus far.


The long and short of it is that the owner of the previous company disputed our claim, stating that Dearest quit instead of that he was fired. He was, in fact, fired. After much back-and-forth and a few 22-page faxes from us to them, the unemployment office has decided that "If you don't come in today you may not have a job to come back to" followed a few hours later by "You have a one-week leave of absence, unpaid, of course." and five days later with "The new owner decided you are too quirky to work with and as of the first day you took off, you have been fired" all constitutes Dearest quitting.

I will, in a different post, show you exactly what type of person this previous owner is. However, this post is just to ask for prayer. Unfortunately, we are not in a place where we can make ends meet - by any definition of the word - without the small but crucial supplement that unemployment benefits provide. We are contacting a group of lawyers who act as advocates for victims of unemployment and unfair employers who manipulate the system to leave former employees without even the most basic assistance.

We need prayer. Pray for strength, patience, and lucidity so that I don't do something rash like storming into the former office to yell at the former employer myself. Pray for wisdom and favor in the courts. Pray for a swift ruling in our favor. And pray for exponential growth and explosive success in our company so that we no longer have to deal with this nightmare.

Thanks to all of you, and I'll be sure to keep you updated.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guilt, Goals, and the Gyroscope

I'm not sure what week in the year it is, and I don't think I care.

This week has been good for us in a lot of ways. We had our first $1000 day followed by a $400 day. We're getting customers and referrals and projects. We're doing well.

But I, personally, seem to be spinning out of control. I've realized, yet again, the depth of my lack of self discipline. I can't seem to make myself say no when it comes to the things I want.

As much as I hate to admit it, I'm spoiled.

Un-spoiling yourself at 20 is hard. In fact, it's downright painful. And for someone who (for some god-awful reason I don't understand) relies on things like sweets and fast food to manage stress, it's also crucial.

I've started crocheting, which helps. It probably has something to do with a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling that I *can* get something right. In times where our survival is so far out of my hands and I have to admit to strangers and their pushy little girl scouts that we just don't have the money for cookies, that feeling that I can make something come out right is really important to me. The only issue is that it's not helping enough to quell my embarrassing desire to shove every fatty, sodium-rich, or sweet food into my mouth.

So this week was good, but painful. And now I have to figure out where to go from here, because it sucks to feel like you're not getting something you really want because you're not strong enough to say 'no' to a doughnut.