Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Elizabeth. She lived in a huge castle in the midst of a lush green forest, and was known all over for her dazzling red hair and beautiful voice. The men were all overwhelmed in admiration of her beauty, and the women jealous of her husband, the handsome Prince Jacob. Elizabeth and Jacob loved to throw balls at their castle. They would light candles indoors and out and bring in an orchestra that would play well into the morning. People would come from miles away in their gowns and suits to dance under the stars with the beautiful prince and princess.
Elizabeth loved these balls. She glided across the dance floor in wonderful dresses that were made especially for her. She danced with all the men, and sang along in her clear soprano voice. When she sang, most everyone stopped to listen. She could easily bring tears to their eyes with the saddest of ballads. However, the winter balls were her favourite. She would wear stunning dresses in shades of blue and white, and all would have long sleeves, for Princess Elizabeth had a secret. The pale white skin of Elizabeth’s arms was covered with thick scars.
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Although everyone believed that she lived a charmed life, she alone knew that something was missing. Often after a ball, she would sit alone in her bathroom and cry. Even after a night of song and dance and drink, she felt desperately alone. A tightening in the pit of her stomach always accompanied this loneliness and sometimes the only way to rid her of it was to draw the sharp blade of her embroidered letter opener across the skin of her wrists. Dark red blood would spill out, and she would watch it, imagining the loneliness leaking out with the blood.
Soon she would wash her arms and join her prince in bed, but she couldn’t seem to stop this behaviour. Sometimes, it felt like an invisible force was blocking the door and wouldn’t let her out until she made the blood came. And although the prince loved Elizabeth very much, he was usually so caught up in parties and ruling the land that he didn’t notice when anything was wrong. In fact, he often didn’t notice his beautiful bride at all. Sometimes, Elizabeth hoped that he would see her scars and finally pay attention to her, but mostly she was ashamed of her actions and wanted to keep them to herself.
Many times she hid any evidence of her strange behaviour under long sleeves or bracelets. Whenever someone complimented her on a gown or bangle she felt the same tightening in her stomach and would go missing for a while. Over time, people began to notice a change in Elizabeth. She no longer smiled as she danced and after a period of time, she stopped singing. This was a huge shock to all of those who attended her balls. Soon rumours of illness began to circulate, but whether it was because of the newfound remoteness or she’s just ill, it’s hard to say.
Either way, when these rumours began to reach Jacob he became very angry that his princess had not said anything to him. He wanted to take care of her, and was willing to hire a nurse or extra maid to bring Elizabeth back to full health. But when he watched her dance joylessly at a ball, even his distant soul knew that is was not the flu or some other trivial illness that was affecting her. That night, he heard for the first time Elizabeth crying through the door. He left the room until she was fast asleep in their bed, and when he came back he finally saw the blood staining the soft white sheets.
For the first time in his adult life, Prince Jacob wept. Elizabeth noticed nothing different in the next couple of weeks, but if it was because nothing had changed or because she chose to ignore it, we don’t know. Jacob said nothing, and Elizabeth didn’t notice that he had witnessed her secret. When the next ball came, both of them dressed up in their usual embroidered clothing. Elizabeth danced, but took no pleasure in the music. After a time, she leaned against a wall and watched the excitement.
From amidst the petty talk circulating the room, Jacob approached her. This was quite unusual as he was usually talking politics with other important men or flirting with pretty girls, as being prince often dictated both. He held out his hand in an unspoken request for a dance. She took it automatically, but when he didn’t immediately lead her to the dance floor, she brought her eyes up to meet his. She realized suddenly that she had never noticed that they were brown and was ashamed of not knowing such a simple thing about her own husband.
But without shifting his gaze, he slowly turned her hand around and lifted the inside of her wrist to his lips. As she felt his breath against her scars and an unfamiliar smile spreading across her own face she suddenly knew that this is what she had missing. She had parties and gowns and talent but no love. The prince and princess danced together for the rest of that night and to the surprised awe of everyone there she sang a song softly to him. They weren’t always happy from then on, but they lived ever after and they did it together.