Almost Princess

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Alice used to be a princess, I think. Lips like the pink plastic spoons we always get at the ice cream store and tin foil, spoon-shaped eyes that glittered like the television did when I first turned it on. She had a lot of boyfriends, like princes, and they would always come to the house and go into her room. I asked her why she and her princes never went out, and she would tell me that they were sharing a secret -- something precious like rubies and emeralds. Then why did she share it with so many princes? Because princesses need money to keep them beautiful, Alice replied. And I would nod, pretending to understand.

I want to be like her when I’m older. I’m going to invite a lot of princes into my room to play with me and tell me secrets. Alice’s hair used to smell like warm bread- fresh out of the oven- but her princes made it smell gray like ashes and cement. But I guess that’s how a princess should smell like. She used to come to my room and kiss me goodnight and whisper stories about girls who spun gold from straw. I’d tell her she was better than those girls, and Alice would laugh, the tick-tock of our grandfather clock, and she’d smile a Barbie smile.

Sometimes I peeked in her door, and I didn’t get why Alice and her princes weren’t wearing clothes. Just like Adam and Eve, Alice said when I asked her. Just like Adam and Eve. I don’t know why she repeated it, but this time, she smiled in a sad way -- like how Mom smiled whenever she talked to Alice. Like how my friend smiled when she said her Dad was going on a really long business trip.
It’s been two years and now her eyes are sunken into her head. Her fingers are jauntier and bonier: would-be wire hangers that we used to hold up our green turned brown jacket in the closet. She’s getting uglier, but she was a princess, so how could that be? I’ll be the princess for you, Alice, I told her. Don’t, little sister, Alice whispered. I’ll get better.

She said: I’ll get better and better and better; but she couldn’t feel the pea under the mattress anymore.
I’ll be the princess for you, Alice. And I never understood.





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