She wished to dance.
But they told her it was improper for a princess.
So she had to twirl in the moonlight, dressed in her nightgown. She put on shows for the stars, her feet bare on the wet grass. She danced to no music, only the tune in her head. She left her tiara on her dresser, made sure her parents were fast asleep, and tied her hair with blue ribbon, walking out the door.
It was always dark.
She never minded.
Until the day she fell.
She didn’t realize how hard the cobblestone pathway really was until her leg hit it with a crumbling thud. She was used to moving lightly on her feet, not noticing the heaviness of her surroundings.
She thought she would die there, alone, the echo of the crack of her bone playing again and again in her head. She passed out from the pain, and awoke in her bed.
She thought it was all a dream, from the dancing to the fall, but she saw her foot elevated on a pillow.
She wasn’t allowed to do anything. More than usual.
Her bed became her home and her home became her prison.
She couldn’t reach much farther than her small bedside table, and she knew no one would be willing to tend to her. She was too much of a burden for that luxury.
There were books on her table.
Five, in total.
Two were fantasy, one was an autobiography, and the last two, her favorites, were mysteries.
She read them over and over again, careful not to bend her leg, and she soon caught on to why or how the mysteries came to a close. The pages of the books became worn and tired, and one of them tore as she turned the page. It was one of the fantasy books, right in the middle of the casting of a spell. She had gasped, sorry to have ruined something. Ruined one small part of her escapes.
The next day, her mother had told her princesses didn’t read fantasy or mystery. She only let her keep the autobiography, written by a king who died long before the princess was born.
Two months later, which felt like years for the princess, she could walk again. She steered clear of the outdoors and wandered in the castle halls.
She desperately wanted to solve another mystery, but she happened to roam into the kitchen. Countless maids bustled about, cooking the next closest meal for the family. The smells were heavenly, and the princess watched, perplexed, as one of the cooks swiftly churned and mixed and sprinkled salt.
The next day, the princess returned, again silently watching.
On the third day, she spoke up. She asked one of the cooks if she could help. They were only mildly surprised at seeing the princess there, and gave her small jobs to keep her busy. A mix here, a taste there. But she wanted to do more. She stood at one of the cook’s sides as she cut tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce into tiny pieces.
She asked the cooks to teach her.
And teach her they did.
By the end of the week, the princess could cut with precision, cook a steak to perfection, and boil herself eggs with ease. She came to the kitchen each day, rosy-cheeked with excitement, and all the cooks would gladly teach her what they knew.
On a day not too long after, her mother came into the kitchen to bark orders at the cooks. When she saw the princess, she told her it was unethical for a princess to cook. They had cooks for that very reason.
She had grabbed the princess by her wrist and dragged her out, giving her a long hard look and shaking her head, as if she didn’t know where she had gone wrong.
The princess didn’t dare walk into the kitchen once more, and the cooks were sorry to see her go.
She walked back to her room and closed the door, sitting solemnly on her bed. She sat there doing nothing for quite some time, the servants had to nudge her to eat her dinner.
The next day, as someone came to do her bed, the princess stopped her.
She had read about horses in her books, long before, and she asked the maid if the castle had any stables. The maid stammered, speechless, and quickly nodded before giving a curt bow.
The princess gathered her skirts and flew out the door, aimlessly trying to find a way outside. If they had horses, she would find them.
After asking around a little, she came to a door leading to the stables. Remembering her fall, she almost went back, but she ended up walking outside. She breathed the fresh air and smiled, carefully walking out.
The outside of the castle was bustling with activity almost as much as the inside. She came to a small wooden place she could only assume was the stable and she walked around it, looking for an entrance. The bottom of her dress grew dirty, but she didn’t care.
She bumped into a stableboy trying to walk in and he looked her up and down, eyes widening when he saw her crown.
She told him she wanted to see the horses.
So he took her.
There weren’t many horses, but there was one the princess fell in love with instantly.
It was a white pony, with a short tail and a messy mane.
She named him Snow.
When she was sure her mother was busy and wouldn’t notice she was gone, she’d dress in her outdoor clothes and go to brush his coat and tell him stories. She told him what she remembered from the mystery and the fantasies, and she even told him the exciting bits of the autobiography.
The stableboy paid her no notice and went about his work as usual, sometimes giving the princess carrots or sugar to feed Snow.
It took her mother longer to figure her out this time, and she reveled in every day, dreamed of riding in the night, and awoke one day to be startled by her mother over her head.
In her hands, she held one of the princess’s dresses, covered in mud.
There is no mud in the castle.
The princess no longer could venture beyond the palace walls.
The stableboy was nonchalant, but Snow was devastated.
The princess knew no longer what to do. She remained in her bed for the remainder of the day, braiding and unbraiding her hair. Her maids brought her food in bed, and they watched her with worried eyes. They knew they shouldn’t speak to the princess. The princess knew too, so she gave them grateful smiles each time they came to her bedroom.
At the end of the day, she found she couldn’t sleep. Her blankets were of the finest silk, and her pillow stuffed with the best of cotton.
And yet, rest did not come.
When the next morning came, she quickly dressed, ready to find something to do, when her mother stopped her.
She led the princess to a large room, one filled with books-a library, if you will. Almost excited, the princess thought of her mysteries.
But she knew her mother didn’t approve.
So she glanced around the large room, clenching and unclenching her fists, looking for what her mother was leading her to.
Her mother pushed her forward and the princess stumbled as she was led to a corner where a woman with sharp features at one of the tables, reading.
The princess was to learn from the woman, so her mother said. She left her there promptly and the princess stayed perfectly still, watching as the woman turned page after page, waiting for her to notice.
Within a couple of minutes, the woman set the book down and motioned for the princess to sit.
The princess, of course, had little choice in the manner, and made herself comfortable on one of the seats.
She was told to sit up, as it was improper for a princess to slouch.
The routine was repeated day after day as the woman tried to force the princess into a mold of perfection.
She hated it.
One night, as she was preparing for a test she was to be given, she closed her book and walked up to the window, where moonlight was peeking through. She stared in wonder and sighed. The woman walked up to her and reminded her she might fall if she try walking out in the night again. The princess gave no reply.
She passed her test but didn’t rejoice. She was bored, she was tired, and she ached for some sort of action.
Her mind longed for mysteries, her nose for the smells of the kitchen, her hands for the coat of Snow’s fur, and her legs…
Her legs longed to dance.
Careful to be silent late, late one night, the princess tiptoed to the door she had used long before. The door leading to the garden with the wet grass and cobblestone path.
She tried to open the door and failed.
It was locked.
She remembered something she had read in her mystery book and took a pin from her hair, hastily stuffing it into the lock.
A hand grabbed her wrist, and she knew from the bone digging into her skin, she knew it was her mother.
Her mother told her it wasn’t right for a princess to sneak out at night.
And as the door gave way, the princess stepped outside and whispered.
“But mother…” She pulled her hand away and smiled.
“I wish to dance.”