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Of royal blood but commonplace in attitude, Princess Middling cozied into her dining seat just seconds before the bells began to ring. The clatter of each night’s feast bustled around her while miles stretched between the tip of her toes to her father’s plate at the head of the table. 

“I have received a letter on your behalf, my child,” he spoke. 

Princess Middling smiled and lifted her eyebrows in curiosity. Perhaps it contained the outline for a new woodwork. 

He continued, “You have been requested at a nearby palace as they are on the search for a true princess to wed their prince. Go dress in your nicest clothes and make your way at sunrise.” 

As instructed, Princess Middling awoke the next morning and began adorning herself in layer after layer of her finest garments. 

“Taffeta and jewels,” she thought to herself, “is this what makes a true princess?”

After twisting her hair up and applying the juice of a rose to her cheeks and lips, she delicately slipped on her white silk gloves, leaving a light pink stain near the inner wrist of her left hand. She minded this slip-up no matter for her hand calluses from today’s hardening hobbies had to be hidden somehow. 

The horses whipped away Princess Middling and rode at alarming speed. They were familiar with her weight and cadence as she often rode and brushed them, relieving the work of the poor stableboy. Her hair’s updo wrestled with the wind, an interaction that she welcomed. 

Eventually, the daunting structure of her destination began to tower above her as the patter of her horses’ hooves timidly began to slow. Once inside, she felt no more comfortable.

“She does look to be a lady,” smiled the queen. “Prepare for tonight’s rest.” 

Goose feathers and stray threads drifting through the air tickled Princess Middling’s nose as mattress after mattress were dragged through the halls. Confusion tested her dainty inclinations, but she kept her curiosity at bay. 

At the night’s feast, the prince, with whom she was meant to be bonding, sat almost as far away as her father’s usual chair, the other end of the table only interacting with shy glances. 

The queen looked at Princess Middling’s stained glove and gasped, “My dear child, you mustn’t have looked at your wrist today for the white shine has been dulled with a blemish. Let us aid you.” 

Before she could react, her glove was being pulled loose. The rough surface of her hand caught the light and Princess Middling braced for chastisement. To her disbelief, none came. Instead, the queen abruptly interrupted the table’s early course of chestnut soup and proclaimed it was time for bed. Too ashamed to question, Princess Middling obliged. 

Finally alone in her chamber, she stuck her nose parallel to the chandelier above her, attempting to view the top of her bed. To no avail, she casually began climbing the ladder that had been provided earlier. Mattress after mattress followed by quilts, comforters, and pillows galore adorned her journey. 

“At least twenty, I must have counted,” she mumbled to herself. “What a peculiar arrangement!” 

Once balancing delicately at the final cushion, she wiped the dampness from her brow and breathed a heavy sigh. Her exhaustion aided greatly in her ability to drift off and she launched into the deepest, softest sleep of her young life. 

When she awoke, it was the trumpets that roused her as the sun’s rays could only reach mattress eleven. Princess Middling lightly climbed on down, reminiscing about her own castle’s nearby rock walls. Her hands’ grip felt organic against the ladder’s rivets. 

“Good morning, princess. How did you sleep?” The queen shifted in her seat and glanced toward her husband and son. A slight smile crept across her face. 

“Beautifly. Thank you for such care.” Princess Middling said. 

“You are not a true princess. If your careless stains and rough skin did not already depict this, your unbruised back from the pebble proves it!” The queen hissed and looked to the men for approval. 

The princess stared at the people before her, befuddled and hurt. She wondered what type of princess would not be thankful for a luxurious night’s rest. Her head tilted to the side as the queen continued. 

“I put a pea underneath the miles of fabric. If you were really as dainty and delicate as a true princess, this would have been cause for insomnia! You are no match for my son!” 

Princess Middling gathered her thoughts and left the royal court with this statement, “If you do not believe that a true princess acts with grace and strength, then perhaps we have different definitions of ‘true.’” 

To the court’s dismay, she did not wait to be dismissed. The princess took her horses and rode bareback for the entirety of the return journey. Upon arrival, her father chuckled at the nature of his daughter’s competence. Husbandless and happy, she took no thought in her sleep that night. 

Serena is a student at UCSC pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Literature with a love for creativity, storytelling, and learning.
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