”You wretch! Get out here now! ” the loud, harsh voice of the queen rang through the palace. I was sitting in my room on the cold concrete floor patching up my threadbare dress for the millionth time. I stood up slowly, my knees crackling from sitting in the same position for so long. Sighing, I made my way out to the grand dining room where the queen sat waiting. She was huffing and puffing and I could only think about how stupid she looked acting so dramatic. I stopped in front of her and waited for the inevitable scene she was about to make. ”Do you realize what time it is girl? ” she asked, narrowing her eyes at me. I looked around at the open windows and realized it was midday, around the time that the queen usually wanted her tray of tea and cookies. I realized that I had gotten distracted while fixing my dress. Even with no window in my room, I was typically good with time. ”I lost track of time. I will fetch your tray now. ” I lowered my head and scuttled off to the kitchen where cooks were running around preparing our supper. There was a covered tray sitting on one of the counters waiting for me. ”Thank you, Mary! ” I called out as I uncovered it and made sure there were plenty of cookies and cakes on it. One of the cooks walked over, handing me a teapot filled with hot water and a few teacups. I stuck it all on the tray along with some of the queens royal breakfast teabags. As I walked back into the dining room, the queen started tapping her foot as if I weren moving fast enough toward her. I set the tray down in front of her and bowed my head. ”Your tea and cookies my queen. ” I recited like a doll as per our routine. It made her feel special and she loved to be special. She scoffed at me, reaching down to stuff a cookie into her gaping mouth. She was a bulbous thing; she wore a corseted dress which her giant belly spilled out of at the bottom making her look like she had a behind in the front as well as the back. Her breasts were small and unremarkable, her face plain with multiple chins. Her hair was mousy brown and sticking out everywhere from her bun. She had a large brown mole on her forehead, and if she got close enough to me, I could see the little hair she plucked constantly starting to grow back. This is what I noticed as she brought her ugly face close to mine and latched onto my hair, yanking my head back further. Her putrid breath blew over me as she spoke in a voice full of venom. ”It is too late for tea now. ” I cringed, waiting for the inevitable blow that was coming. Instead, she took the teapot of near-boiling water, dumping it down the side of my body. I screamed as my skin started to blister and burn off. The queen laughed evilly for a second then changed her whole demeanor. ”Help! Help! ” She yelled and a cook from the kitchen came running. ”She seems to have tripped and spilled the hot water onto herself. ” Her voice sounded concerned, but I knew it was fake. ”What would you like me to do my queen? ” the cook asked awkwardly. Everyone in this castle knew she was faking it when it came to being concerned over me. Always bad at reading social cues, the queen continued her act. ”Take her to her room and I will send our doctor up to check on her. ” She ordered fake concern for me still in her eyes. The pain in my arm was unbearable and tears started to leak from my eyes. The cook swooped down and pulled me up by my uninjured arm gently. I shakily stood up, woozy from the pain, and walked down the hallway to my room leaning against him to keep myself steady.

It had been hours since the hot water incident. I knew shed never send anyone up to check on me, she didn care. I lit the candle sconce on the wall opposite of me and checked out my arm. The skin was an angry red with huge fluid-filled bubbles down the length of it. It hurt beyond anything the queen had ever done to me and I was furious at her for doing this to me. It was going to make doing everything she asked of me a lot harder and call for more punishments. I sighed as I tried to open my door and found it locked from the outside. My stomach growled loudly, it had been at least two or three days since Id had any scraps of food. I sat down on the floor and started to cry; I was miserable. Im sure this isn what my parents had in mind for me at all before they passed away. The black death had spread everywhere just as I had turned five. I remember my parents being terrified I would get sick. Father worked for a farmer down the road butchering cows. He came home early one day with a terrible fever, one so bad that he had collapsed as he walked through the front door of our little house. Soon after father was in bed, mother fell ill as well. She had enough sense to write a will though since she knew she was going to die and wanted me to go live with her sister who was well off and married to a king. Still to this day, nobody knows how I didn get the black death when I was in such close contact with it. I wonder if mother thought I was going to be welcomed with open arms. Boy was she wrong if she did. I was made to sleep in the horse stables until a doctor could completely confirm I didn have the black death. Then was made to take a scalding hot bath to wash it from my skin in case I was carrying it. I laughed to myself as I curled up in the corner of the room with the ragged blanket that had been gifted to me years ago by my cousin Mary. A small shriveled pillow under my head that I had stolen from one of the daybeds in the grand foyer years ago. I was so hungry and exhausted from the pain it didn take me long to fall asleep. Who knew that their daughter would be treated like dirt because she looked different and didn belong in the family she lived with?

When I opened my eyes, it was to the sound of my door opening. Mary quietly slipped through the crack. It was pitch black in my room, so the candle must have burnt out. She had brought me a plate of supper, a cup of water, and a bowl of mud. Mud was soothing for burns; she must have heard about what happened. She replaced and relit the candle on the wall so that we could see and then started to apply the mud to my burnt arm while I scarfed down the food she had brought. Her brown hair shone in the candlelight and her blue eyes were full of sympathy for me. She didn say anything as she waited for me to finish my food. She had always taken care of me and had disagreed with the way her mother and father treated me. She was like an angel, I loved her more than anything. She hugged me as I finished the last scraps on my plate, licking it clean like an animal. ”Im sorry I couldn bring you more. ” She said frowning. ”The cooks made me this plate before they brought the actual dinner out to the table, it was the most they could take without it being noticed. ” I smiled at her, ”I would be thankful if you had just brought me a piece of bread. It has been days without anything in my stomach. ” I said gratefully. ”Mother is treating you even worse than usual. ” She pointed out. I just nodded at her and cast my eyes downward. ”This has got to end; you are skin and bones Clara! ” She angrily said, slamming her fist onto the ground. I looked down, and noticed that my dress was a little looser on me, she was right. ”What can I do? I have nowhere else to go. ” I whimpered. ”I will talk to mother. ” She vowed. It was useless though, she said that every time we had this conversation. I thanked her and hugged her tightly. ”I do not know what I would do without you, Mary, ” I whispered to her. She smiled warmly at me as she walked out the door, leaving the bowl of mud behind and the glass of water.

It was the next day; I was out in the grand ballroom sweeping and cleaning the floors as there was going to be a big party later in the evening. The queen had ordered me to make this room shine for the uncommon guests we had appearing. She didn tell me who they were though, just that they were particularly important for the sake of our kingdom. She wouldn know important if it bit her in the behind. I laughed aloud at my little quip and kept scrubbing. The king came strolling in while I was halfway finished. ”This looks good. ” He commented, taking a few steps toward me with an evil smile fixated on his face. ”It would be a shame if you had to do it again. ” He said as he stopped his muddy boots all over the area I had just finished scrubbing. I just watched him, disdainfully. I refused to let him see that he had any control over my emotions. It pleasured him to see me in pain, physically and emotionally. He laughed maniacally and strode from the room. I set to work recleaning the patches where the mud had melted onto the wet floor, grumbling to myself angrily. Suddenly the queen came into the room carrying a dress of hers and threw it at me. ”Wear this tonight and pull your hair up. ” She ordered, then left the room. Excitement filled me at the possibility that I may get to attend the party later this evening.

A few hours later I was in one of the palaces many bathrooms. I held the dress out and studied it. It was the typical royal family color, purple. Sometimes they interchanged bright reds and purples, but the queen preferred rich purples. I was not a frivolous woman, so even a dress as simple and old as this one was beautiful to me. It had a purple top with short sleeves and a flowy, lilac-colored full skirt. The queen had also included a rich purple corset to wear over the top of the dress to accentuate my curves. A gold embroidered family emblem was displayed proudly on the side of the corset. I excitedly put the dress on, surprised that it fit me. This must have been from the queens younger days when she didn eat so many cakes and cookies. I giggled to myself as I tightened the corset, realizing that I needed help since I had never worn one before. ”Mary! ” I called out, hoping he was nearby and could hear me. She came in a few minutes later, ”I figured you might need help with that. I talked mother into letting you go to the party with me. ” She gushed. She tightened my corset and tied it off for me, then helped me pull my long, blonde hair up into a small knot on the top of my head, a few strands hanging loose. I widened my bright green eyes in shock when I turned and saw that Mary was wearing a bright red ballgown and her hair was intricately done in an updo around her head. She looked so beautiful and daring in red! She stepped out of the room for a second and came back in with a pair of dyed leather foot coverings, bound together at the sides with leather string. Everyone in the royal family had a farrier who made coverings for their feet whenever needed. ”These are mine and they do not fit me anymore so you can keep them. ” She handed them to me. I could have squealed with excitement. I hadn had my own pair in so long. Ive been going barefoot for years, even around town when I was allowed out of the palace. Mary spritzed us both with a little bit of her mothers perfume and I sneezed. Trumpets sounded from the front of the palace and I knew it was time for the party to start, the guests of honor had arrived.

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