Fictober, Prompt 29 – “Why are we whispering?”
Original fiction, fantasy/fairy tale. Part two of three: link to Part One (Day 28).
Warnings: none, other than the usual implications of abuse in any take on Cinderella.
Our presentations at court did not go well.
Mother had insisted on the traditional peach-colored dresses for both of us, which looked all right on Lorena but terrible on me. I had not argued. Once there, Lorena could not stifle a case of nervous hiccups, and I stumbled in my curtsy to Their Majesties.
For once, I felt glad to be just one of many young women present. I did not say this – Mother would scold me for it.
“If only the Prince had been there!” Lorena wailed during the carriage ride home. “I’m sure I could have caught his eye.”
“There will be time for that later,” Mother said, but looked as though she agreed. “It is enough for now that you are both presented, and can properly accept invitations. It expands our social opportunities.”
I did not sigh, or wince. Fortunately, Lorena continued to chatter (as grating as her voice often was), so I could safely look at the window, watching the landscape pass.
It was a relief when we reached the manor, and more so as evening set in. I did not allow myself to think about why.
I had slept the past three nights, to make sure I wasn’t too tired at court, but tonight I took my books (and one extra) and crept downstairs to the kitchen once Mother and Lorena were asleep.
“How did it go?” Ellie asked once I had settled myself at the table and she had exclaimed over the new book I slid over to her.
I hesitated, then shook my head. “Badly. I stumbled. And I look terrible in peach.”
(I looked terrible in most things, really. More and more I looked in my mirror and was forced to acknowledge to myself that I was not pretty. Not hideous, certainly, but not pretty, no matter what Mother claimed.)
Ellie grimaced sympathetically. It made me feel a little better somehow. “It’s so many layers, isn’t it?”
I nodded. Then, feeling daring and guilty all at once, I said, “Lorena got hiccups.”
Ellie’s face did something strange, as if she thought she should grimace in sympathy again but actually wanted to laugh. It looked funny.
She was still prettier than I was. She was pretty.