The Abused One
No one ever wonders about what happens after the ever after. After the big kiss, after the wedding, after the villain is defeated. Because there isn't anything to wonder about, right? The prince and princess live happily ever after, the story ends, case closed. However, in reality, that's not the case. Because after the ever after isn't the ending. It's just the beginning.
The Abused One
As Suri heard the footsteps approaching, she quickly and quietly stuffed the old book she was reading under her thin mattress. It wasn't the best hiding spot, but it was all she had. Suffocating the small candle flame, Suri's room darkens immediately. She shivered in the cold, her thin clothing doing nothing to ward off the chilling early spring weather.
Her breath caught in her throat as the door was unlocked and the chains pulled away. The wooden door creaked and swung open to reveal one of the eldest servants of the castle. Miss Sophie looked down at Suri with disgust, swinging the lantern so close to the young girl's face she could feel the warmth of the light on her cheeks.
“Go get the firewood from outside and warm the castle. I expect you to be done before anyone else awakens and then you better be in the kitchen for breakfast. Do you understand?” Miss Sophie squinted her eyes and took a step back in order to let Suri leave the tiny cell she called her room. Without any objections, Suri nodded her head and scurried away from the door.
She jogs lightly down the chilling hallway, dashing out of the way of newly awoken servants. They all yawn and stretch as they leave the comforts of their rooms, heading down for a bite to eat before any of their work began. For the moment, Suri let herself envy the other servants. She wished for their normal sized bedrooms, she yearned for their monthly allowance for clothing or whatever else they wished to spend it on, but most importantly, she ached for their linage. She wanted desperately to have another set of parents, to have been born during another time, or to have not been brought into this world at all.
Tears threatened to spill over her deep raven colored eyelashes, but she stopped them before they fell by digging her jagged, broken nails into the palms of her tiny, brittle hands. The end of the hallways neared and she threw herself through the thick wooden door into the outside world.
The damp, cold air engulfs her. Outside was like a stark bitter fortress at this hour. No birds chirped happily, and the sun didn't shine over the vast kingdom. It seemed as though the ghosts of the dead seemed to hang in the shadows, lurking and waiting for anyone to show up alone. The small, dark haired girl tiptoed over the hard earth. Her shoes were threadbare and she could feel the coolness of early morning through the soles of her tiny feet.
She was careful not to wake the sleeping spirits she believed lay in wait for her every morning. The trip to the wood pile was a short one, but one she knew she'd take at least half a dozen times that morning.
The castle slept on as the servants began preparations for the day. Usually the day was quiet and uneventful for those of unimportance in the castle. However excitement spread like wildfire through the servant halls. Stories that a beautiful queen, a handsome king and their gorgeous son were coming to the castle that day. The girls giggled in passing of one another, wondering if any of them would have the chance to get a look of the young prince as they moved around the castle that day. While the stable boys made up heroic stories of themselves, proving they were stronger than any prince who walked these halls.
Suri kept herself away from these conversations, knowing none of the staff would speak with her anyway. It was like an unwritten and unsaid rule among the rest of the servants who served under King William. And if any should be caught engaging with her, the consequences would be dire. They all knew the rules, and they all lived by them. No one was risking to find out what would happen should they be caught speaking with the bastard.
Suri was a bastard child and everyone around the castle knew it. The servants heard of her through whispered stories while sweeping the floors and preparing the meals for the day. The stable boys heard about her through rowdy lies, that weren't even remotely true, while they mucked the stables and cleaned the horses. Even the guards spoke of her in short, small voices when no one was looking. She was a thing to be spoken about, but not a person to be spoken to.
“You're late.” Unless she was being scolded of course. Suri rushed into the stone walled kitchen, sweat beading her upper lip and lungs close to collapsing. She quickened her pace over to wash her hands before kneading a pile of dough along with three other young servants. They didn't look over at her, or give her a greeting. To them, she didn't exist.
Her heart beat wildly like a hummingbird trapped inside a cage. The fear she felt traveled through her hands, towards her fingers, where they shook madly. “I know. I'm sorry, I got caught up starting the fires this morning.” Her voice floated gravelly into the air, while she kneaded harder, hoping the pain in her hands would block out the fear she felt.
She could hear footsteps approaching slowly and steadily. Her stomach plummeted and she braced for the blow that was sure to follow. At first, nothing happened and silence settled among the kitchen. No one moved, no pots were handled, the world seemed to stop. And then, Suri was being yanked towards the hard, marble floor by her thin, brittle hair. She crashed to the ground, her breath completely leaving her as her back collided with the pearl colored marble. Before she could even think about trying to restart her lungs, a large hand wrapped itself around Suri's throat. She was lifted from the ground, and held so only the toes of her shoes could graze the smooth surface. She coughed and struggled to breathe, wanting desperately to stay alive.
“Listen here, Bastard.” Sophie's face was nose to nose with Suri's. Suri's eyes darted around Miss Sophie's face, looking everywhere but her eyes. Suri trembled in Miss Sophie's hand and Miss Sophie basked in the power she had.
The servants watched the altercation with mild amusement. Miss Sophie was a ruthless servant who was quick to punish anyone who defied her. None of the other servants were safe from her, so everyone did their best to stay on her good side.
Suri's heart rate quickened in pace as Miss Sophie's grip tightened. “I make the rules here and I do not appreciate when-” Suri however, wouldn't know what Miss Sophie didn't appreciate because just then door slammed opened and in walked in Princess Jocelyn.
She slammed the door open and walked swiftly through the room. The girl was beautiful, tall and willowy, while her golden hair rained down her back like her mothers. She looked at Miss Sophie with squinted eyes and a grimace on her lips. Her heels clicked with every graceful step she took to get closer to Suri.
Miss Sophie dropped the thin girl to the floor, where she struggled with her footing. She leaned against the counter, and coughed until her breathing regained normalcy. Jocelyn put her arm around Suri and sneered at Miss Sophie. “Get this through your head, Miss Sophie,” the princess spat the words at the gray haired servant. “You do not make the rules here.” Jocelyn and Suri began to walk out of the room. “Now all of you, back to work!”
Once out of the room, Jocelyn sighed with relief. Her throat hurt from yelling but she smiled, tightening her grip around Suri's thin frame. When they were a safe distance away, Jocelyn stopped walking. “Let me look at your neck.” Suri complied, not speaking a word. Jocelyn lifted Suri's head up gently, examining the bruises that were already forming. Suri bit the bottom of her lip, the new pain awakening on her throat. Jocelyn frowned and met Suri's eyes. Identical blue eyes mirrored back ay her, the only characteristic they shared.
Growing up, Jocelyn always had a little envious whenever she thought about her sister. Taking after her father, she had sprouted like a tree, towering over all the other girls she knew before she hit age ten. She wished to be tiny and invisible like her sister, not the center of attention she was.
“Why did Miss Sophie go off on you?” The two began walking and for a moment, Suri wondered where they were going. They walked down the long elegant hallways, passing portrait after portrait of kings and queens forgotten long ago. Each hallway they took, the wallpapered walls changed like the seasons. One was full of brilliant reds and golds, another was stripped blue and green, while another was a pale yellow. They both dazzled and confused Suri. Half the time she was so distracted by looking at all the colors she became lost in her confusion.
Suri hugged her elbows as they walked. Although Jocelyn was a year younger than her, Suri always felt like the younger one. Jocelyn was always the one to look out for her and stand up for her when Suri couldn't. And even though she was thankful everyday for her sister's kindness towards her, she knew she would forever be in her debt. “I was a few minutes late after lighting the fires. Where are you taking me?”
Before Jocelyn had the chance to answer, the two young girls came upon the door that led to the thrown room. Upon seeing the marble archway, Suri's heart rate quickened. Through those doors she knew stood the king and he frightened her beyond belief. She stood a few paces back and stayed in place as Jocelyn continued to the door.
“Don't be afraid, okay?” Jocelyn tried to smile, but she couldn't. All she knew was she had to bring Suri before the king and queen that morning, however she didn't understand why. She tried to ask but after a look from her mother, she knew better than to speak up on her older sister's behalf. Suri tried to nod, but she felt sick to her stomach.
The two entered the room, and Suri jumped when the doors shut with a bang. Inside the room was vast and open. The stage before her composed of three chairs. The middle one was great in size and made of royal blue fabric that matched the walls of the circular room. The next two were smaller and were placed to the left of the king. Jocelyn left her sister to find her place in the empty chair next to her mother, the queen.
Suri made the small walk into the center of the room. Like usual, the queen did not make eye contact with her daughter. The king however, had his eyes glued to her, in disgust, in hatred, it varied day by day.
Once front and center, Suri bowed low and kept her eyes on the floor. Silence blanketed the room. The only sound Suri could hear was that of her shallow breathing. “Rise and come forth.” King William's voice barked the command, and like a dutiful dog, Suri obeyed. Standing as tall as she could, Suri stood in front of the king.
“Understand me, this is not a reward for you. If it was just my decision, I'd keep you locked in that hole you sleep in every night and never let you see the light of day again.” Suri stopped breathing, a lump caught in her throat and she was pretty sure she was going to vomit. “But, since I am in a pleasant mood and since it will soon be Jocelyn's sixteenth birth year, I decided to do something nice.
“Once we are done here, you are to find a washroom and clean yourself up. In your room you will find a new uniform that you will wear. When you are done you are to go into the dining hall and help prepare for dinner tonight. Should you pass by any visitors during the day, you are to keep your head down and not speak to a soul. Is this understood?” Suri was confused for the moment, but she didn't want to object. She nodded her head and bowed to the royal family before leaving them behind.
Suri tugged on the cuffs of her new uniform. The dress was black and cotton thin, coming just short of her knobby knees. It also had long sleeves and fit snug against her arms. She was happy with her new uniform, and was excited about the fact that she got new shoes as well. They were new and shiny, and Suri walked with pride in every step.
She left the hall of servants behind and walked towards the dining hall. She was nervous to work with the serving servants. She always worked hidden away and she was scared the king was setting her up for failure.
As she walked, her steps became smaller and more hesitant. Her fear suddenly became so overwhelming she felt she was going to be sick. If she failed, she knew the king would make her wish she was dead.
Lost in her frightened state, Suri wasn't aware of her surroundings. She wasn't watching where she was going, it was as if she were on autopilot. She knew the interior of the castle like that back of her hand, and she could probably walk it blindfolded. However, when she wasn't paying attention, her feet seemed to take her wherever they felt like going.
Her mind was reeling. Images of the pain she would be put through, should she fail, flooded her vision. Her hands were twitching with nerves. She knew she needed to calm herself before she found the dining hall. She knew if those servants found her in this state they would--
A firm hand gripped the back of Suri's dress, dragging her back a few paces. Jolted out of her previous state of mind, she looked around to find herself closer than she had thought to the dining hall. She looked before her to find a half hidden spiral staircase that was built for the servants. Had she been paying attention she would have known to avoid it.
Her heart pounded in her ribcage as she turned around to find who had just saved her from a painful endeavor. Before her stood a young man nearly a foot taller than herself. He was built and lean, with stark black hair, that almost matched her own. A pair of kind clear green eyes found hers and Suri immediately relaxed. “Are you okay?” His voice was rich and smooth, giving away that he was from the Southern Isles.
Realizing this was the exact kind of person the king had warned her about she took a step back from him, trying to put enough distance between them that she could thank him and be on her way. “Yes, thank you sir.” She bowed her head low and quickly turned away to continue walking.
However before she could scurry away, she heard footsteps after her. “Wait up!” She stopped, but didn't turn around. He came up to her side and scratched the side of his head, seeming a little embarrassed. “Sorry, I'm sure you're busy. It's just, I don't know where I am. I was supposed to find the west drawing room, but I'm a little lost.”
Suri wondered for a moment if this was a test that the king has devised. However looking up at the young man, she could see he was empty of malice. He shuffled his feet from side to side as if he couldn't stand still and he fiddled with his cuticles. Suri figured if she was quick about it, she could explain the way to get there and be in the dining hall before anyone noticed her absence.
Exhaling slowly to calm her nerves, Suri explained carefully the route this newcomer would need to take. It wasn't the quickest way, however it was the easiest to explain. When she was done, the stranger nodded and smiled. “Thank you.”
Suri was surprised at the sincerity in his voice. Most royals who visited the castle where cold and cruel and took pride in making the servants lives a living hell. “You-you're welcome, sir.” She bowed once again before leaving the dark haired prince behind.
The morning blurred into the afternoon as Suri moved around with the other servants making everything perfect for the dinner that evening. The servants, although they didn't talk to her either, were a lot nicer than those in the kitchens. They didn't push her around or make snide remarks whenever she passed. They moved in sync with her, offering a small smile whenever Suri's nerves began to get the best of her.
When the work was done, the ten of them all relaxed and made their way into the kitchen to eat while they had some free time. Suri retreated to a secluded area of the kitchen, sitting upon a few stacked up boxes. She glanced down at the plate upon her lap. A few tiny potatoes, four carrots, and a thin slice of meat. The food made her stomach groan aloud, but all she could do was move it around on her plate.
She hated the way the other servants treated her like dirt, like she could help who took part in creating her. As if, there was some way she was to blame for what that man did to the queen before she had met King William. She sighed, she needed to eat. She would need her strength.
“I'll trade you my meat if I can have your carrots.” The small voice was so spoken so softly, at first Suri wasn't sure if she had imagined it or now. Looking around, her eyebrows arched, she found a tall, curvy brunette leaning against the side of the stone wall, legs crossed over one another. She had her back pressed to the wall, and her head cocked to the side.
Suri looked around her, trying to see if anyone else was standing near her. When she found the two alone, she turned back to the pale girl. Her lips turned up slightly as she waited patiently for an answer. “Sure,” the two exchanged foods and Suri smiled at the girl. It was one of the few nice gestures Suri had ever received and it made her yearn for the rest of the servants to follow this girl's lead. Suri wasn't the demon everyone made her out to be, and it wasn't her fault who she was fathered by.
The brown haired servant didn't speak with Suri through dinner, but she did sit beside her on the boxes. The girl didn't care for the stares and glares she got, she only continued to eat. And when it came time for the servants to serve the royal family, the brunette walked alongside Suri.
“You will be in charge of making sure their cups are never empty of wine, do you understand?” The servant in charge, a heavier set woman by the name of Gemma, handed Suri a bottle of sweet red wine and made sure Suri understood what she would need to do. Suri nodded, and practiced pouring the wine a few times on a clean spare glass.
When she was confident enough, she joined the rest in line as the first group of them entered the dinning hall.
Full of people, the dining hall looked like what would be a picturesque painting. The walls were curtained in deep reds and purples, while the floor was of an elegant oak wood. The table was long and gold, and was placed in the center of the room underneath a silver chandelier.
Walking around the table, Suri found the eyes of Jocelyn. She smiled at Suri before glancing down at the plate being placed before her. Suri went over to the king and queen first, offering wine to them. They accepted without so much of a look in her direction.
“Cinderella, is this room you're doing as well?” Suri made her way to the guests next. The king and queen were that of the Southern Isles. King Eric accepted the wine with a small thank you, while Queen Ariel declined the wine, stating something about only drinking water. Suri then moved on to her son, who offered his glass to her with a small, dazzling smile.
Suri could feel a blush creeping upon her cheeks and she retreated to the edge of the room to wait until the glasses needed to be filled once more. “Of course! I've forgotten you haven't been here since the renovation!” Queen Cinderella and Queen Ariel filled the air with light, laughter-filled chatter, while King Eric, King William, and the prince spoke among themselves. Jocelyn smiled and laughed when appropriate while picking at her food. Suri could tell something was bothering the young blonde, and she hoped she could speak with her that night.
Suri made a second and then a third round around the table offering wine. The meals had been cleared away and only dessert remained. By then, both kings continued to drink the sweet wine while both the queen and Prince Sebastian refrained from drinking anymore.
“So Sebastian, how's your hunting skill?” King William took pride in those who could hunt. It was one of his favorite pass times and was one of his qualities that scared Suri the most.
The raven haired young man from earlier laughed and Suri couldn't help but feel a flutter inside her chest at the lovely sound. “I'd have to say my fishing skill is a lot better than my hunting skill. But I'm always up for the challenge.” He laughed and shared a knowing look with his mother who had laughed and flipped her bright red hair over a pale shoulder.
King William let out a big belly laugh before slapping the prince on the shoulder. “That's alright, son. We'll have you hunting like a pro by the time you and my daughter are married.” The men and women laughed while Sebastian forced a smile and Jocelyn chocked on her water.
“What!” For not speaking most of dinner, Suri was a little surprised by the sudden outburst by her younger sister. “What do you mean?” Her voice continued to rise, creating a sudden tension throughout the room.
“Oh, honey. You know how these things work. We were going to tell you before the party.” Queen Cinderella smiled sweetly down at her daughter, making Suri sick to her stomach. “Sebastian here is turning eighteen soon, and he'll need a wife to rule one day.” Suri could tell her sister was close to a breakdown.
“May I be excused? I suddenly don't feel well.” Her voice wavered and her eyes looked panicked. Her father sighed, obviously not too concerned for his daughters near hysteric theatrics. He waved her off just as the dessert was being passed around and called for more wine. Suri hoped by the time she found Jocelyn later that night, her sister would be calm and not in full blown panic mode.
That night, after Suri was sure the castle was sound asleep, she crept over to the door and tried the handle. Sometimes they locked her inside if she had done something wrong that day or if they were feeling like bullies. But when she tried to open the door and found it unlocked, she took it as a sign she needed to fine Jocelyn.
Down the hallway, Suri moved with stealth. She made no noise, nor let out any indication that she was leaving. She knew this was the easy part and that getting past the guards was her only problem.
Suri had done this since she was a child. The more Jocelyn tried to spend time with Suri, the more problems it caused. Jocelyn's room had been moved to the opposite side of the castle and should the two ever be caught together, Suri would be the one getting punished. They began to meet together in secret, at night, when no one would know what was going on.
The only problem with tonight was Suri couldn't find her. She checked her room and the few sitting rooms they usually sat in, but found them empty of Jocelyn. Suri wasn't too worried, sometimes Jocelyn did this. She would lose herself in the castle, able to calm herself down, and then reemerge the next day feeling perfectly fine. Suri did want to speak with her however, so the last place she decided to check was the library.
Only, it wasn't Jocelyn she found there. It was Sebastian.