My feet failed me. Their agile nature shot down by a slippery log. I sat down gingerly and examined my scrapes. Blood trickled down my shin in tiny rivers, racing to pool on my ankle. Shit.
I looked around like a fool for a towel. Like a towel would be just lying around in an empty forest. Two options: One, turn around and head back home. Sure, I’d be in big trouble for being in the woods… again… but at least I wouldn’t bleed to death. Or two, suck it up, stop acting like a princess and continue on my mission.
I took a deep breath, wiped off my leg as best I could with the inside of my dress, and started back on my way.
The forest around my house had been “forbidden” for decades now, which is probably why I didn’t believe most of the stories about it: Faeries and Werewolves, Nymphs and Elves. Psst. Fables were for children and I was 16 now. Sure, my parents could harp on me, lecture me about the “dangers”, but I had been sneaking off into these woods for 2 years now, and nothing Faerie-like had ever found me. Either I was very sneaky (which my past and present accidents had proven false) or they didn’t exist. I consider myself to be level headed, so I side with the latter.
The cold, tree shaded dirt was slowly turning into sparse grass, and I knew I was almost there. A few brave sunbeams burst through the trees and tickled me with their warmth. I felt a giggle in my throat as I walked into my meadow.
Like some wild Cathedral, I entered with reverence, bowing my head to the seemingly ever present sun above me. Then, as though my golden god had filled me with unseen energy, I sprinted as hard as I could, falling only when my breath failed me. I sprawled out like a toddler, legs baring themselves from beneath my dress to the wind.
Here was my freedom, my exuberance, my joy. I stayed still, listening to every sound of the forest surrounding me, breathing in the sweet grass beneath me, tasting the crisp wind, memorizing my sacred moment.
I reached slowly and pulled out the book I had brought with me, some poetry my tutor had deemed imitate that I read. Understand, however, is a whole other subject.
I flipped pages and day dreamed until my holiness touched the tree tops. Even though the days were getting longer with the coming summer, there was never enough time for worship.
I picked up my book, examined the dried rivers on my leg (I could hide them until i made my way to the washroom), and started my way home.
I found my way to the broken gate I had climbed through and shoved it open, ducking just before someone saw me. I looked both ways, trying to determine the least crowded way back to my house. Left, definitely left.
I kept my head down and stated back quickly.
Crap. I cringed and looked over my shoulder. A Page was fast approaching me. I had talked with him before. Maybe he would keep my secret. Or just help me get back inside before other people noticed who I was.
“Hey.” I said, voice low. “Can you discreetly help me get back in the Castle?”
He looked nervous so I flashed him a grin. He seemed to calm down, so I continued. “I left a door propped open, I just don’t want anyone to realize i’m out.”
He nodded, and reached into his cloak, pulling out a rather dull looking scarf. He tossed it to me, “Put this over your hair.” He said.
I wrapped the cloth around my head, covering up my apple-red hair, and led him to the door I had spoken of. I opened it slowly, trying to prevent a creaky-give-away, and turned around to thank my Page.
But he was already walking away, back to his post. I would try to thank him secretly next time i saw him.
I turned back, walked inside, and climbed up the staircase that I immediately met. I hurried along the corridors, anxious to get back to my room. I found it strange that, in a Castle with hundreds of rooms and thousands of servants, I saw not one person.
I crept into my room, the last at the end of a seemingly never-ending corridor, and breathed a huge sigh. I plopped onto my bed…
…and right on top of a gaudy dress. What the heck? I got up, and looked down at my unusual bedding. A huge, poofy, GOLD monstrosity.
Why had this been laid out?
How was I ever going to explain this? Sorry Dad, totally forgot it was your birthday, you know, even though you invited 500 people and have been talking about it for months, and you know, had this “beautiful” dress made just for me to wear.