Princess in Distress
I glumly followed Nanny yet again through the dimly lit halls, which now reminded me not of a charming Medieval Age; a period of history I truly enjoyed studying but of a dungeon. Something leading to my doom. I mean I knew my ‘Parents,’ the King and Queen thought that they were doing the right thing for me by finding me ‘Perfect’ match in this ‘Prince Charles’ but I was still just a girl-- at least right now I realized I still wanted to be. To not have to worry about things like owning my own home, paying a mortgage, and especially not marriage. For heaven’s sake I apparently was supposed to be going on a date with Topher-- in his mind we were already dating. I rolled my eyes. I couldn’t make up my mind to whether he seemed like a nice guy, or a overly possessive guy. He was definitely hot piece of-- Okay; time to mind edit. There was still the issue of the creepy voice and also the fact that my arm had stung where he had gripped it … I’d have to figure out what to do with that, and Anna. To top it off he probably thought I’d stood him up, which was the least strange reason that I could give him for not going to Sushi with him. I mean the only alternative was to tell him that I had taken a quick trot down the insane lane. Then he would never talk to me again. On the upside in that equation, I probably would stop hearing that weird voice in my head and Annabelle wouldn’t be angry at me anymore-- but I would end up a social pariah at my new school, and I highly doubted that I would EVER be going on more dates. I clenched my fists, if only it was considered proper etiquette to punch holes in walls when feeling irritated. I sighed and continued to numbly follow Nanny down the stairs.
A thought crossed my mind as I tried hopelessly to distract myself. Perhaps this Prince Charles would be better looking then Topher, and a tad more tactful-- than I wouldn’t care that I was stuck here. I reached out and pinched my arm, which hurt pretty bad. It was probably going to give me a bruise. I had to stay focused. I had to get out of here. It was doing weird things to my brain. I felt like I had turned into a mindless zombie version of Annabelle, who just cared about how hot the next guy was. I scowled and stopped walking.
As I stood there paused at the top of the stairs I noticed there was a commotion going on at the bottom of the staircase. I shook my head blinking several times staring down into the foyer. It was quickly filling with the company of Knights. They must have been summoned for a meeting of sorts. There were so many currently gathering in the large foyer I couldn’t even see where the floor was supposed to be. Some were pulling on pieces of armour-- others completely dressed in the sliver metal suits. Even more were still topless having just wandered in from training in the courtyard.
I smirked. At least this was entertaining. Nanny was going to have a hay day that someone had sent for me during ‘such an inappropriate time.’ I giggled, slapping a hand over my mouth incase someone was to hear me or worse, Nanny was to notice my glee. From my spot on the stairs I could see Nanny already passionately arguing with the Captain of the Guard. The closer I got the louder they seemed to be yelling at one another. I would have stood there like an idiot ogling and waiting for them to stop when it dawned on me. This was my chance to get out of here! I frowned deep as I pondered my options. I would have to move now, before Nanny and the Captain had finished arguing and most importantly before the front door shut. I sighed. That didn’t even include how I was supposed to manoeuvre through the conglomerate of Knights blocking my path.
I had begun to move before my plans had fully come into focus. My feet had reached the bottom step of the staircase. Nanny turned her back to me gesturing wildly with her arms at the Captain. I felt this was as good as sign as any. Then it seemed even fate was on my side as the Captain also turned his back. No one was watching. Even the Knights weren’t paying any attention to me.
“Now or never. Now or never Gen.” I muttered to myself over and over again. It was a somewhat comforting mantra.
Tiptoeing as quietly as I could with this enormous dress, I managed to get past Nanny and the Captain. I didn’t stop. I couldn’t waste time on thinking. I had to act on impulse. I just had to. Adrenaline took over and I pushed my way through the gathering crowd in the foyer. It seemed too easy. They parted before me, letting me through. Some of the men winked at me. I felt my face blush. Many others already had their faces hidden under armour. I imagined they might have been smiling at me as I scrambled so undignified through their midst. They could just as readily have been frowning. It had to be obvious I was running away. I hadn’t been allowed to go anywhere unattended-- yet here I was pushing myself through a crowd of sweaty men.
It took me longer to get out of the foyer then I had thought but at last the door shut behind me as the last of the company of Knights filed out of the courtyard and into the Castle. I found myself alone, and outside. From here I really had no plan. I needed desperately to get off the immediate Castle grounds, preferably as soon as possible. Looking both ways, checking out the surrounding area I saw no one. Everything was quiet and still. Everyone was busy in the Castle or out on farms.
“Here’s a crazy thought Gen. You have to get out of here.” I mumbled as I chewed my bottom lip and looked around.
I surveyed the courtyard. It was littered with mud. I grimaced and looked down at the gorgeous dress I was wearing, and sighed. It was a sacrifice I was definitely willing to make. I pulled up the front hem of the dress as much as I could, exposing my ankles, thinking candidly of how much Nanny and the Medieval Culture she lived in would disapprove. Then I ran. I ran as fast as I could, which still felt slow being so burdened down by fabric. I managed to get out of the courtyard and into the outer ring of the city. Here there were some people, but they just smiled at me as I wandered past. Thankfully they were ignorant of the fact I was running away. In this case their ignorance must be considered bliss.
I figured that it had been about half an hour since I had snuck out of the front foyer in the Castle. Now or very soon they would be looking for me. If I wasn’t careful Knights would be pouring down the hillsides and I would be caught. If I didn’t get over the drawbridge; I didn’t let myself think about what would happen. I hurried over the last of the flat large open spaces before the wall, ducking into the wall’s shadow as soon as I could. It wasn’t a very warm or bright day. The wall’s shadow stretched long and far-- making it quite dark beside the archway of the main gate. I noticed the gate was open. That was good. The only other time I had been this close to the gate I had passed out from exhaustion. They looked much bigger and impressive from up close when I was coherent.
Sitting alongside the open gate a single sentry was standing guard. I thought about all the ways I could convince him to let me through and to lower the bridge when he pushed himself off his seat and went to greet someone who was entering. I hugged the wall and hid in the shadow watching. A carriage came slowed to a stop beside the sentry. It looked expensive, and tied behind it was a beautiful horse. The sentry approached the body of the carriage and peered into it. As he did I slipped past the sentry. Even though the sentry couldn’t see me, this move made me highly visible to the occupants or occupant of the carriage. They would tell the sentry they had seen me, alone and running. They would know something was wrong and then I would have maybe five minutes tops to get out of the open and to hide in the forest before the warning bells tolled. Now if I remembered correctly the forest grew up right almost to the mote of the Castle. I would have to use this to my advantage. I ran over the bridge already hearing shouts coming from behind me. The green of the forest was in front of me. It was so close I could reach out my hands and grasp onto branches. It would be over if I stopped running. The alarm bell tolled behind me alerting those in the Castle something was wrong. They would send the Knights after me. My chest was burning, the hem of the gorgeous gown was dragging through the mud. I felt like I was going to faint. I made myself keep going-- sheer willpower. Behind me I could hear horse’s hooves pounding the ground. I didn’t dare look behind myself lest I fall. I couldn’t fall now-- I’d never find Anna. I’d never get to the home I loved and remembered.
I retraced my steps from the night before. The night I had arrived here. I followed the path through forest. It seemed to loom up before me the further I ran. I could hear a lone pursuer following me. If I could just reach the deepest part of the forest he would have to leave his horse behind him. There would be too many trees and brambles for him to continue on horseback. I might keep the upper-hand and have a slight chance of getting away. I grabbed onto the edges of the trees and pulled myself deeper and deeper into the dark wood. I left the path behind me now hoping I was still heading in the right direction-- the direction I had come from the night before.
A part of me felt bad as I ran on stumbling here and there branches whipping and my face brambles tearing at the dress I was wearing. It had been after all such a gorgeous dress. There was still someone following me but I could tell they were moving slower now without their horse. I could hear it in the distance whinnying. I continued to follow the trail of broken branches in front of me. Crossing my fingers I took a wild guess that this was where I had mangled my way through the first time I had come this way.
I burst through the last few trees and into a small clearing at the base of an enormous hill. I gasped for breath. Yes! I had found it! Exuberance I hadn’t felt since arriving in this strange place filled me and shot a new burst of adrenaline into my system. I began climbing immediately, my fingers scraping on rocks my feet slipping. My pursuer so close now I could hear their heavy breathing as well as my own. I reached the top. Completely worn out my knees almost collapsed under me, telling me to give up. That’s when I saw that weird shimmering air-- the same as I had remembered seeing before I tumbled down the hill, right after Anna had crashed our parents car into a tree-- I took a step forward. I was almost there-- almost home.
A hand closed about my wrist.
“No.” Came a rasping deep male voice from behind me.
I turned for the first time to look at the one who had been chasing me. He was a tall well-built man. At first glance he looked like Topher. He had a crown on his head, his clothes deep purples and soft looking velvet. They were clothes that I would have expected to see on a Prince. In fact he looked so much like Topher, I thought he truly might be him.
“Topher?” I raised my eyebrows quizzically.
The hand let go of my wrist. I noticed for the first time that this man had bright blue eyes, not brown. I took a step backward. What was this place? A mirror of my life? Had I some unknown sister back at the castle too-- some version of Annabelle I would actually like and get along with strangely?
“No my Princess. I am your Prince. I am your Charles. We have been destined for each other since birth.” He took a step towards me. “Please.”
Where Topher was demanding and rude-- Prince Charles was kind and furthermore it looked like he was going to give me a choice to choose him-- like he truly thought I was his destiny but that I had the final say… How strange this place was. I took another step away from him and closer to the shimmering wall in the air.
“Please don’t leave me now that I have found you.” He whispered holding out his hands at me. “I know how much this must be to take in, but you are Fae-- a fair folk-- and perhaps in time you will learn to love me?” His hands shook as he held them towards me.
I couldn’t take them. I didn’t belong here. This whole world seemed to be made up of parallels-- pieces of my life that weren’t pieces of my life. People who looked like the people I loved and yet were not the people that I loved. I was finished with this insanity. My finger touched the shimmering wall behind me, I knew because it felt like a needle had pierced my skin.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered. “One day your perfect Princess will come and you will be overjoyed, live happily ever after too I bet. I am not her. Not your perfect Princess. I don’t belong here with you. If you try to stop me from leaving I will make your life a living hell. You, this place, those people at the castle-- all of you! You belong in a story book, not in my life.”
He shook his head at me, disagreeing.
“It’s in your blood Princess.” He murmured. “Your mind will change. You will grow to love me.” He repeated. He took another step towards me. “And I will wait-- I will wait until you choose me...”
I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence, instead I pushed myself through the wall of shimmering air and screamed. If I had thought my lungs were on fire when I had been stuffed into a corset, this was much much worse. My hands flew out from my sides and grasped for something for anything. The pain which started out outrageously sharp and alive began to fade after a few moments and I opened my eyes. I looked down at my hands and found my fingers digging into the bark of a massive tree. My vision which had been blurry when I first opened my eyes slowly cleared and I let go of the tree, turning to take in my surroundings.
“Please, please, please, please have worked.” I whispered into the still air.
In front of me there was a road and on the other side of the road there were houses. Normal every day, modern houses. It all seemed too unreal. I took a step back from the tree and onto the road so I was viewing it from the front. My knees wavered as I stood there. I could see the accident in my head all over again. See Anna unable to move. Suddenly there was a blaring horn and everything seemed to step into slow motion.
I turned and saw a car speeding at me. It registered in my brain somewhere that the driver was going too fast to stop before it reached me. They were already hitting their brakes but the car wasn’t slowing. I knew it was going to hit me but still I couldn’t move. As it approached then hit me I could see myself from an entirely different perspective. I was still wearing the white and gold dress, though now it was torn and muddy. My hair was still done up with curls and flowers. My eyes were big and round. As the car hit my body I was sure I was in pain but from this perspective I couldn’t feel anything. I watched my body fly up into the air and come sailing down again, the skirt of the dress belling around my legs like a balloon, slowing my fall. My head bounced when I landed against the pavement. Then everything went dark.
Even in the darkness of my mind I knew for some reason that I wasn’t dead. I could feel the heaving of my chest as my aching lungs rose and fell allowing me to breathe. I could sense the pounding of my heart and almost hear the sound of blood being pushed through my veins. I tried to open my eyes but they felt sluggish and heavy, neither would my body respond to movement. It was as if I was being held down by a ton of sand. I told myself inwardly to relax, and lost consciousness and thought.
I became aware someone was shaking me. My eyes flew open and I was looking into Nanny’s concerned face. I almost screamed but then I looked around. Everything was slightly distorted like it was only half there, and I knew that I was dreaming.
“Poppet shouldn’t have run away.” Nanny shook her head and helped me from the bed.
I looked down and saw I was once again in a white frilly nightgown. I followed Nanny to the mirror and she helped me out of my nightgown and into a new dress. It crossed my mind that I should be freaking out, but I decided it was better to play it cool then turn this dream into a nightmare. Who knew what a nightmare in this place would look like.
Nanny tugged at the laces on my corset putting it tight. I was expecting to feel the same pain of being crushed but I could feel nothing making me more convinced that this must be a dream.
“How did you get me to come here?” I asked as I watched Nanny slip the dress up and over my head.
I noticed my hair was hanging loose behind me waving and curling as she lifted it out of the way and began to lace me into the dress.
“I didn’t.” She muttered. “You came here of your own free will. It is in your blood.”
“Stop saying that! I’m sick of people saying things like, I belong here or it’s in my blood. This place is most definitely not in my blood.”
She shrugged and began to pull up different pieces of hair, twisting and braiding it, tucking small buds and flowers into the updo.
“You belong here. Someday you will see.” Her hands stopped moving and she backed away from me. “Would you like to go horseback riding?” She asked me.
I shrugged, glad that Nanny had changed the topic, but not quite sure why she was being so nice and willing to let me do something by myself for a change.
“That might be nice.” I muttered.
Nanny nodded and as quietly as she could she left my room shutting the door behind her. I stared at my reflection in the glass. The dress Nanny had put me in was lighter than the other one I had been wearing what seemed like forever ago yet it was just as intricate if not more than the one I had been wearing when the car hit me. This dress was made of cotton. It was creamy yellow with tiny pink roses embroidered all over and green vines swirling in spirals with knotted leaves of a darker green. It was fitted to my bust and waist then flared out parting in the middle like I had always imagined a princess dress would.
I spun around in the mirror and took in my image; my shining hair curling and falling like a cascade of silk down my back, leaving the tattoo behind my ear plainly visible from the side. My skin looked milk white. My lips ruby red- though I swear I wasn’t wearing any makeup or lipstick. And my eyes stared big, round and deep violet back at me from the mirror. I felt like I was looking at a stranger.
“Who are you?” I asked the girl in the mirror. “And what have you done with Genevieve?”
I sighed and turned away. Casually strolling over to the window I tugged one of the drapes open a crack and peered down. The courtyard was empty at the moment, well almost empty. From above I could see Nanny talking to a young boy who must be in charge of the stables. He passed Nanny the reigns of a beautiful shiny mare, which she began inspecting closely. I let the drapes fall back into place and strode from my room, finding my way along the empty corridor and letting myself out into the courtyard. I approached them slowly trying to eavesdrop on their conversation, but they heard me coming and ceased talking to watch me approach them.
“Yur mount, My lady.” The stable boy muttered bowing his head and waving an arm across his midsection.
Then he backed away still almost doubled over and then disappeared into what must have been the stable. Nanny stroked the mane of the mare.
“She will be a good mount for you.” Nanny said softly, she looked up at me quizzically.“You are dreaming so I will let you go alone. Only your mind can let you out. Since it is a good dream I do not believe anything shall harm you or cause you pain.” She bit her lip. “Nonetheless, take care Princess. Evil has wandered into the Fairlands before...”
I didn’t really know how to reply so I let her lift me up and place me on the horse. She handed me the reigns and I, who had never ridden a horse-- especially one this size-- managed to turn the horse around and head out of the courtyard. No one stopped me. No one followed me, though I couldn’t stop looking over my shoulder as if someone any moment would appear, running after me. Mentally telling myself to calm down I stopped looking over my shoulder and faced forward. I let my horse lead me-- she knew where she wanted to go and how fast.
The air running through my hair and against my face felt incredible. I don’t know how long we rode like this. It might have been a few minutes. It might have been a few hours, the very fact that nothing seemed definite or defined confirmed that this was a dream, making me more at ease. Eventually my mare trotted slowly along a ridge and stopped at the top of a hill, whining at me. I looked around. From here I could see for miles. Just below me there was a wood, beyond that a Castle, and beyond that a small town and huge fields of glowing golden wheat. There was smoke coming from chimneys below and if I took a deep breath I could almost smell bread and buns being baked. My horse stomped its foot, impatient for me to do something-- though what, I had no idea. I frowned, and slipped from my mount onto the ground. The thought crossed my mind that I had no idea how I was going to get back on this tall horse by myself, but I didn’t care.
“What is wrong sweet silly horse?” I crooned stroking her soft mane.
Then I spun around, realization hitting me. It couldn’t be possible?! I knew it shouldn’t be possible but the more I looked down the hill the more I realized that I was standing on the same hill to which I had now returned twice. Once the night I had tumbled down it and the other only a few hours ago when I had savagely scraped my fingers climbing it. I knew why it had taken me a moment to recognize it. I had approached from a different side of the hill which had been a slower incline so that I had thought I was only on a ridge not a hill. I spun to look at my horse.
“You brought me here! Why?” I felt my temper flare.
My mare tossed her head, stomping around nervously, then without warning she turned galloping back the way we had come leaving a trail of dust behind her. Leaving me completely alone.
“It’s just a dream.” I muttered, but I still felt a sick feeling in my stomach as the words left my mouth.
I turned once again to look at the hill. My eyes searching for signs of the strange ‘shimmering air’. It took me a moment to spot it but once I did I ran over and stared at it. It was such a weird phenomenon, a part of me still wanted to deny its existence. I stood there wondering what to do, feeling somehow rooted to this spot. That’s when I heard it. I heard a voice calling my name. A voice which rather sounded like my mother.
My heart pounded against my rib cage. “Mom?”
There was no reply. I glared at the shimmering air. As I glared it suddenly became clear to me, well – an image did. Showing up just as fuzzy as the rest of the dream world did around me. I could see myself laying on a hospital bed. My mom was sobbing in my dad’s arms.
“Genevieve, wake up!”
I suddenly longed for home. The home I was so used to. For the first time since opening my eyes in this dream I felt a stab of pain. I gasped and my hands wrapped around my chest. My head started to throb. I fell to my knees. Clenching my teeth I groaned falling over into a curled fetal position on my side. I could hear Nanny’s voice in my head,
“Only your mind will let you out…”
I gasped as a spasm of pain enveloped me. The sky seemed to darken-- or was that just me? My eyes were half closed. The air was cooler now, almost chilly or maybe that was what my body wanted me to believe? I could barely stand the pressure and pain rolling in waves over my body. I opened my mouth trying not to scream. I forcefully gritted the words out through my clenched teeth--
“LET ME OUT!”
The darkness that originally sunk in around me when the car hit returned. I grasped onto it drifting along on a tide of unconsciousness until I remembered my mother sobbing and clinging to my father and I fought against it. I fought for control of my muscles and feeling, of movement. When I thought I was too tired to fight my unconsciousness any longer I finally won. My eyes opened peeling back like sandpaper from my eyes, I took a deep breath of bleach scented air. My eyes were stinging, and my pupils overly dilated in the too bright hospital room. I opened my parched lips and my voice crackled into the open air of the hospital room.
It was all I could manage to say but I didn’t care. It took all my energy to say the one word and I knew she had heard me when I saw her face enter my field of vision. She was sobbing happy sobs.