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Princess Maria's Window
Princess Marie propped her delicate, gloved elbow against the cold, gray, stone windowsill. As she did so, she cupped her chin in her silken hand, leaning out of her high castle tower to peer into the village below. She was always staring wistfully out her window, every hour, watching and waiting.
She surveyed the bustling hubbub. Children’s shoes were clattering against the cobblestones as they scampered about. Old men pushed their carts filled with apples, pears, and tomatoes, preparing to sell their wares. Plump, middle-aged women with large aprons were selling scarves and other articles of clothing that they had made. The pretty young maidens laughed as they gathered water from the fountain in the center of town. They whispered and pointed at the young apprentices as they filled their tall, clay jugs. Flushed, the young men turned quickly to their work. Smoke drifted up from the horseshoer’s fire. The tantalizing aroma of fresh bread wafted from the bakery and filled the small town.
Princess Marie’s ears were drawn to the clanging of a hammer. It was the blacksmith. He hovered before the smoking furnace, inserting iron tongs. He took them out a moment later, and then began hammering the tools into submission. With every swing, she noted his precision and the everlasting strength of his brawny arms. “How strong he is!” thought the princess. She sighed. If only she could find a man such as he.
Marie turned her eyes to the hills. In the distance, a farmer was plowing his soil under the hot sun. He never stopped, but kept pushing and plowing great, mounded rows across his field. “What determination he has!” thought the princess. She sighed. If only she could find a man such as he.
Peering closer into the center of the village, Marie noticed the cobbler. He sat at a table full of scraps and string and nails. In and out, he pulled a long thread through the leather before him. She knew that his fingers must have been getting cramped. He continued through the tedious task, however, and took his time. “What a patient man he is!” thought the princess. She sighed. If only she could find a man such as he.
Marie leaned her head against the frame of her window opening. Her cheek brushed against the stone, and she felt that she had been touched by a cold reality. In spite of this, her heart’s ears pricked up at the sound of neighing horses. She lifted her head from the stone wall and watched as a young man from the livery calmed them down. He comforted them with gentle words, stroking them tenderly. He seemed very kind, and the princess thought to herself and sighed, “I will never find a man such as he.”
Princess Marie never noticed the squeaking steps coming up the winding stairs of her tower. A quiet knock sounded at her door. Marie did not hear it, and indeed, she could not, because she was absorbed in the world outside of her own. A slightly louder knock sounded.
“Marie?” a tentative, tenor voice called out.
The princess turned slowly from her vantage point to face the door. “Come in.” A freckled face peered around the entrance as the door eased open. Marie’s pout faded into a smile at the sight of her personal assistant. “Thomas!”
His nervousness lessened at her happiness. “I-I thought I would find you here. I brought you some tea and toast—strawberry jam, just the way you like it.” The tawny haired servant set the dish on her windowsill. He took a step back, trying to put his gangly, 17-year-old self at ease by sliding his thumbs under his suspender straps. For the life of him, he couldn’t find something to do with his bony hands.
Never asking him to sit down, Marie rambled about her daily sightings. His blue eyes remained attentive, but she never noticed when his shoulders wilted at her words, “Why can’t I find a man like them?” Clearly, Thomas adored and loved her. They were close in age, and when he was a child, they had been playmates. Now she was oh, so beautiful—and utterly unaware of his presence. The princess turned, toast in hand, to face her window once more. “You’re dismissed.”