Historical Fiction Happy

Marielle sighed as she gazed out the window. The Seine was frozen over this time of year, and she could see young children skating across it. She could almost hear their laughter and shouts of joy, but that was probably just her imagination.

Marielle was just so lonely up in her tower, with no one to talk to except her governess and tutors. She may have lived a rich life as France's Madame Royale, but it was a lonely one.

She heard a knock on her door and whirled around in surprise, her skirts flying around with her.

"May I come in?" A muffled voice came from behind the metal door. They waited a moment then asked, "Madame Princesse?"

"Yes, you may enter," Marielle sighed. She was hoping for a touch of privacy and contemplation time, but that was unreachable as the Princess of France.

She never really had time to be alone, or any time to think for herself. She always had to be the face of the people, someone she wasn't. That was a lot of pressure for one girl, even a royal girl.

Her governess, Lady Chantelle, entered the room. "Bonjour, Princess Marielle."

The princess sighed. "Chantelle, call me Marielle. I hate 'princess', it sounds so stuffy."

Lady Chantelle curtsied. "Yes . . . Marielle."

The words felt strange coming from her mouth, but they also warmed her heart. She needed a friend as much as the princess did.

Marielle and her governess sat on the window ledge and gossiped for a long while. They had much to talk about, since they were practically the same age.

Contrary to popular belief, Lady Chantelle was much younger than she appeared. The governess was only twenty-six, in a position far higher than many would expect for someone of her age.

"Your Highness, perhaps we should go out and skate," Chantelle suggested. "The ice on the Seine looks frozen solid."

"That sounds wonderful." Marielle smiled at her friend. "Shall you get the blades or shall I?"

"Oh, I will," Chantelle offered, standing up with a rustling of skirts. "I will be back momentarily." She scurried out of the room, headed down to the kitchens.

Marielle began dressing, slipping on her cloak and setting her fur hat on top of her head. She slid her hands in her muff and exhaled happily. Finally, she was getting to do something she wanted to do, not something her parents did. That was a thrilling idea to her, getting to be free for once in her cloistered life.

Chantelle walked briskly down the marble corridors, her slippers muffled tapping on the ornate carpeting the only noise in the dead-quiet palace.

It was strangely quiet in the building, but the silence was nothing new. There was seldom anyone rushing around in the surface levels of the palace; all the motion was below-ground in the servants' quarters.

That's where Chantelle went, down to the kitchens. It was sweltering in there, with all the bodies combined with the heat from the ovens.

Chantelle felt beads of sweat drip down her elegant curvy neck and shivered. She wanted to be out of this hellish heat as quickly as possible.

The governess stepped up to the head cook, a burly woman who looked much more suited to farm work. "Hello miss, I come on behalf of the princess."

The cook grunted but did not look up from her stirring.

Chantelle cleared her throat. "I wish- she wishes to borrow four rib bones for skating on the river."

The cook nodded. "Over there." She pointed to a pile of bright white bones, scrubbed to perfection.

Chantelle nodded in thanks and smiled. She walked over to the pile and picked out four ribs, carefully plucking them off the mound. She then left the stifling hot kitchens, hurrying back to her friend, Princess Marielle of France.

Marielle stood up excitedly when she saw her friend enter her chambers. "Chantelle, do you have the blades?"

Chantelle nodded, then curtsied.

"Chantelle," Marielle warned. "Remember."

The governess straightened. "Yes, Marielle. I'm sorry." Chantelle was still getting used to the idea of being a companion to the princess, an equal, even.

Marielle shook her head. "Oh, no, don't apologise. It's perfectly alright. As long as you remember to be yourself around me."

Chantelle smiled, "Absolutely," then clapped her hands suddenly. "Well, what are we waiting for? The river awaits us!"

The girls excitedly left the palace grounds, feeling exactly like that. Girls, living their young, happy lives.

Marielle laced the bones over her boots with the twine Chantelle had borrowed from the palace seamstresses. Beside her on the fallen log, Chantelle was doing the same, tying the knots with ease.

The two girls stepped onto the ice, with Chantelle gracefully gliding away. Marielle, however, stumbled and fell on her derrière with an oof.

Chantelle heard Marielle tumble and came skating back, skimming over the ice like a swan. "Oh dear, are you all right?" she asked concernedly, leaning over to help the princess to her feet. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have skated off."

Marielle waved off her friend's hand once she'd risen. "Oh, no, it's fine," she waffled, wincing. "Oh, that hurts."

"Perhaps I'd better teach you to skate," Chantelle suggested. "It doesn't seem as you get to leave the grounds much."

"Really?" Marielle asked. "That would be lovely, thank you!"

Chantelle smiled. "Well, let's begin with the basics, then."

The two friends skated around, with only a few more stumbles on Marielle's part. By the late afternoon she was skating as if she'd always known how, flying over the ice like she was born to do it. And she was so happy to do it with her new friend, Chantelle.

And as for Chantelle herself, well, she watched her pupil proudly, glad to have a friend after so many years of loneliness.

For once in their lives, both girls felt happy to be alive, as long as they had each other. As long as they had each other, they would be alright.

January 27, 2022 23:11

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