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I just can’t get her off of my mind. Just who is she?
I pace back and forth in irritation across my room. It has been three days since the ball and still she hasn’t stepped forward. Yes, countless of actresses had come forth with their best dress and with plastered smiles, but I could tell right away that none of them were her.
I growl in frustration and hurry to my door and go out of my room. My guards salute me and start to follow, but I wave them off. “Stay. I’ll be fine.”
I sweep through the palace corridors until I am back in the ballroom. Back to where I had first seen her. I stand in the middle of the room and close my eyes and try to remember anything that could reveal her identity to me.
I was forcing that ‘charming’ smile and nodding at each woman who came to introduced herself to me. Father was on his throne, making sure I didn’t bolt. He as making sure I got a wife tonight, either by my choice or his.
I glanced longingly at the doors, but there were guards there too. And it really didn’t matter. The women had me trapped. They were a worse imprisonment than any bars. They followed me everywhere and surrounded me and no matter how many times I got rid of one three more where in her place.
That’s when I noticed the garden doors. It wasn’t uncommon for a couple, who wanted to be alone, to casually waltz outside. A plan started to form and a genuine smile came upon my lips. I finally had an escape plan. I could be out of here an on my horse in a matter of minutes. I’d be long gone by the time Father realized what had happened. Now just to find the right girl who wouldn’t betray me…
I immediately look over the two sisters who had been shadowing me all night. They were quite annoying really. They would stomp on one another’s toe or shove the other one aside just to talk to me. They would easily follow me outside, but they’d tell everyone where’d I gone.
That’s when I spotted her. She was standing in a corner, looking around in awe. She was with no one and was just quietly observing. The way she had her shoulders drawn in and was trying to hide in the shadows told me she wanted to remain unnoticed. She didn’t want attention.
That was the one.
I slipped passed the other girls and marched my way to her, just as the musicians started to play a waltz. I smiled even harder. This might just work.
She didn’t notice me until I was before her. When she did her eyes widened and she dropped into a curtsy.
“Would you care for a dance?” I asked.
She gave a hesitant nod before taking my hand. I quickly wrapped her in my arms and started to dance. Instantly everyone else began to pair up and dance. I led us into the heart of the crowd and carefully began to weave myself towards the garden.
“Tell me,” I said, wanting to hear her speak again, “Do you mind if we dance in the garden?”
“No, I love the outside,” she smiled shyly and it made her eyes dazzle, but I was more stunned by her voice. It was so musical it put the musicians to shame.
I led us out and toward the fountain and began to plot my escape. I just had to scale the wall and grab my hidden riding clothes in my saddle bag…
“You look like you want to escape.”
“What?” I snapped out of my thoughts.
“I know that look on your face,” she repeated. “It is one of one who feels trapped.”
I studied her. “How do you know the look of a prisoner?”
She looked at her toes. “Everyone is a prisoner if they choose to be. I used to be one.”
“What do you mean?” I stopped dancing and really looked at her. I took in her blue eyes and dress (it really made her eyes exquisite) and her long golden curls. She was quite exotic. Most people here had dark hair and eyes.
“I was trapped by misery, but I decided I didn’t like it so I set myself free.”
“How so? Did you run away?”
She shook her head. “No. Running never solved anything. You only take your misery with you. I just decided I didn’t want to be sad and so I began to look for things that were happy even if they were simple.”
“That’s absurd,” I said “One simply can’t be happy by saying they are.”
She looked me in the eyes. “And why ever not?”
“Because it’s too simple,” I argued.
She laughed, and it sounded like bells ringing on Christmas day. But the sound was cut off by the chime of the clock. Her eyes widened and she jerked her hands out of mine. “I must go.”
“What?” I demanded. ”Why?”
She flushed, “I- I must….Oh! I must meet the prince.”
“What?” I stared at her. Was she joking?
“I’m sorry,” she called as she hiked up her dress and ran.
I stood planted there. Here was my chance. I could run away now and there would be no one to witness, but then this strange girl was about to vanish and that thought made my heart clench. But why did I care if I never saw her again? She was probably just another foolish girl who wanted a pretty jewel wrapped around her head and fancied dancing and tea cakes.
I was staring at my feet, trying to decide what I was waiting for, when I spotted a shoe. I slowly picked it up and examined it. A glass slipper. It was so simple, but so breathtakingly beautiful…just like that young woman who was leaving me.
I gripped the shoe harder and shouted, “Wait!”
I had raced after her and even ordered the guards to pursue her carriage, but her white stallions easily out ran them and she vanished into the night. That night I went to my room and stared at that slipper all night long. The castle was in an entire uproar over looking for its owner.
It was that night that I finally realized what I really wanted. I wanted something that was simple and beautiful. I was sick of the fake bold riches that were constantly in my face- like all of those women who were only putting up a front. I wanted something that was clear and fresh and innocent. I wanted her. I wanted to know her. I didn’t know why, but I knew I needed to.
My heart stopped and my eyes flew open. A servant stood in the entrance of the ballroom, he gave a brief bow. His face was red from running and he was out of breath, but he was smiling. And I knew, without being told, that they had found her. They had found my glass slipper.