“You know, Lils, it would be great if you could sew some pants into my dress…”
Princess Dawn’s personal seamstress, Lily-Rose, had been measuring a length of ribbon silently. At the girl’s comment, she gave Dawn an
“P-pants?” Lily-Rose questioned in horror. “But...you’re a princess! Pants are for princes and commoners!”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “Why should my title determine my wardrobe? I can be a princess and wear some decent leggings. They look so comfy! Please, Lils. Just one dress.”
The king of Puryn’s daughter stood poised on the fitting stool. Her flowing gown was a coralline shade of orange-pink, and her tiara glittered atop her spun-gold hair. Dawn gave her best puppy eyes.
Lily-Rose, exasperated, wrung her hands out. “Cropped leggings, maybe? Queen Maelise would be furious if she saw you wearing commoner clothes.”
“Great! Thanks a ton, Lils. We done here? Angelique is coming for me at eleven thirty and it’s eleven-twenty-nine.”
Before the seamstress could open her mouth, Dawn’s lady-in-waiting, Angelique, pulled open the door.
Angelique smoothed her white apron over her sky-blue dress. “Princess, you have a playdate with Lydia in fifteen minutes, then dinner with your parents. We must go.”
Princess Dawn stepped daintily from the stool, waved to Lily-Rose, and skipped out the door with Angelique on her tail.
“Princess, your hair is a mess! I’ve got to fix it up into a nice braid before you see your parents.”
Dawn let the lady-in-waiting tie back her golden curls. They stood at the wrought-iron doors to the dining hall, listening to the clicking of glasses and tableware inside. Servants in
blue clothes scurried this way and that, none daring to make eye contact with the princess. Dawn wished that just once she’d see a female servant in pants and a shirt, or a male one in blue pinafore matching Angelique’s.
“Angie,” Dawn began. “Do you—”
A little servant boy with dark hair and big hazel eyes burst through the dining hall doors and nervously approached the pair. “Their Majesties summon you, Princess…”
Dawn turned to the child with kind eyes. His little name tag, pinned to his collar, read “HARRY.”
“Would you do me a favor, Harry? Tell my parents that I’ll be right there, and that you did a mighty fine job just now. Who’re your parents?”
Harry smiled eagerly. “Yes, Princess. Immediately, Princess. Their names are Tess and Mikael, Princess.”
Dawn thought. “Tess and Mikael…Tess and Mikael…don’t they work in the kitchens?” At the servant boy’s nod, Princess Dawn told him, “Then make sure to add that their performance was more than satisfactory and to give them a big raise.”
Harry smiled from ear to ear. “Absolutely, Princess Dawn,” he answered happily and was off.
Angelique gave the princess a playful shove. “You’d be a wonderful mother, you know.”
Dawn rolled her eyes but the smile never left her face. “Nine’s a bit young, don’t you think? Now, let’s go see Mother and Father for dinner.”
Angelique prepared herself to see the royal family, tucking her dark brown curls behind her ears and puffing up her dress, as was customary for servants. Dawn hated that her lady-in-waiting had to look prettier in front of the king and queen. Angelique assured her that it was no trouble, but it was the idea of the practice that irritated the princess.
Angelique entered the hall first, but stepped to the right at the top of the velvet-carpeted staircase.
“Presenting High Princess Dawn of the Kingdom of Puryn!” The lady-in-waiting announced.
Dawn still wasn’t sure why Angelique was forced to do this. It was meaningless, a command for attention when no attention was necessary. Once, as a little girl, Dawn had tried to present Angelique. She hadn’t made it halfway through the sentence before her mother had come hurrying to stop her.
Now, standing poised at the steps, Dawn was mute and expressionless as people below absentmindedly clapped.
She took Angelique’s arm and descended the stairs.
“You decided to join us,” Queen Maelise observed, sizing up her daughter.
“Hi, Mother. Hi, Father.”
Dawn folded her gown and sat in the decorated wooden chair beside her parents. She smiled as she remembered the cropped leggings hiding beneath the silky yellow fabric.
With the rhythmic pattern of rain outside, people bustled about, eating and talking and arguing and smiling.
Just as Dawn lifted her fork, the overhead lights flickered and died.
Everything seemed to be under a blanket of pure black, and the only things visible were the few things within a foot or so from the decorative candles on each table. Everything and everyone was completely and totally silent for a moment. You could hear a pin drop. No one spoke. No one moved. This only happened once, maybe twice a year, and they were always unprepared. There were no lights in the room that didn’t run on electricity save for the few weak candles.
Lords and ladies and dukes and duchesses from all over started talking at once.
“What are we going to do?”
“Lisa, where are you?”
“Hey! You stepped on my foot!”
“OW! Who dropped their fork?”
“LISA! Help me find my fork!”
Dawn could dimly see the confused faces of her parents.
“Mother, Father, it’s just a power outage. Get everyone a candle.”
The king nodded.
“ATTENTION!” King Lewis shouted. “There has been a power outage! Stay calm! Get a candle from the nearest table! If you’re in serious trouble, yell, ‘CRAB!’ and I will come help you!”
As the king went off to deal with people yelling the names of crustaceans, Dawn and her mother passed out candles to everyone who didn’t have one already. Soon everyone was reseated and eating quietly.
Dawn loved power outages. It was like a real-life version of a survival game she played with her friend Lydia. High stakes! Real danger! It was a dream.
Queen Maelise always encouraged her to have tea parties with stuffed bunnies in pink dresses with lace, but Dawn preferred outings to the woods with stolen pants and no bunnies in sight. At least not ones in dresses. Being a princess was nice because she got a castle and nice clothes and popularity and everything, but she couldn’t be herself. Instead of being Dawn, she had to be the picturesque pretty pink princess with dollies and dresses and so, SO much lace. Couldn’t she like blue? Couldn’t she wear pants?
Couldn’t she be her own person?
All the answers she ever got were no.
“Mother! Mother! I know what we could do while the power’s out!”
The queen continued to adjust the petticoat of her dress. “What is it, Dawn? It’s hard to fix this by candlelight and I have to focus!”
“We could go camping!”
Queen Maelise whirled around to face Dawn. The candle shook dangerously in its holder but was still.
Dawn was unfazed. “It’d be so cool! Lydia’s family did it a couple weeks ago. You set up a tent in your backyard and sleep in it! You make a fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores! It’d be so much fun! Please, Mother? Can’t we go camping once?”
Her same puppy eyes appeared again, and finally the queen gave in.
“YAY! Thank you, Mother, thank you!”
“Where are you going, Your Majesties?” The guard at the back doors asked.
“We’re going…camping,” Queen Maelise replied, as if she’d never heard or said it before and still wasn’t sure if it was a real sentence.
The guard was utterly dumbfounded. “...oh.”
Blushing a deep crimson, the queen pulled open the door.
The backyard wasn’t a yard. It was a field. A field of fields! If you stood at the door, you wouldn’t be able to see the boundaries on any side. It was a wide expanse of trees and bushes and rolling hills for a mile in every direction.
“Coming through with the tent!”
A trio of servants came through the door with what looked like the castle folded up on itself.
“Mother, what is that?”
“The tent! Didn’t you hear them?”
“That’s not a tent! It’s a hundred times bigger and looks like a castle!”
“So what? It’s a tent! We have to retain some civility.”
“I don’t care about civility! This was supposed to be a fun backyard camping trip and you’re turning it into another day at the castle!”
“What if I like days at the castle?”
“MOTHER! Camping isn’t camping if it isn’t camping! You might as well go back inside and sleep on your fancy four-poster bed with your personal catering service and your sixteen different tiaras! I’m DONE with this! I’m gonna go to my room and if you so much as set foot on my carpet for the next week, I’m never talking to you again!”
“Fine then! You try having a daughter with the insane urge to be a commoner! You try giving your daughter the best life you can imagine and have her throw it away like garbage! You try being me!”
“I hate you!”
“I hate you!”
And with that, the queen and princess of Puryn stormed off to their separate wings of the castle.
Princess Dawn lay crying on her back. She let the hot tears drip and soak into the silken pillow on her bed.
It was an hour after the tent incident. All she’d wanted was a nice night with her parents, doing something not royal. Not royal families camped with real tents, ate food they cooked, and did everything themselves. They didn’t rely on servants or ladies-in-waiting or anyone else. Dawn desperately wanted that.
“Princess?” Angelique opened the door a crack. Her pale face was illuminated by a candle in her hand. “Are you okay, Dawn?”
“Go away, Angie.”
“Dawn…the queen is waiting in the yard.”
Dawn sniffled and said, “I don’t want to see her. I don’t want to see her ever again.”
“She has a surprise for you…”
Princess Dawn perked up at this. A surprise? That was a first.
“Tell her to have one of the servants bring it up here.”
Dawn really didn’t want to see her mom. And Angelique was the kind of person who might tell a little white lie to make the princess go see her mother. She wouldn’t take the risk.
“Dawn, seriously! Queen Maelise is waiting.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. When the queen was waiting, she made it very clear. And because she didn’t want a long, annoying talking-to.
“Fine.” The princess said haughtily. “I’ll go.” If she was going to give in, she wanted to do it with dignity.
Angelique smiled and motioned to the door. Dawn grumped out of her room and walked through the dark hallway on her lady-in-waiting’s arm.
“Dawn, your gown is a mess! You’ll need something more appropriate.” Angelique scolded, and led her into Lily-Rose’s workshop.
Dawn raised her eyebrow. “I need another dress? This is like the third today! I only need one dress. Tell Lily-Rose to make you a dress, for once.”
“I have to wear my servant’s uniform, remember? I can’t dress like a princess!”
“Who cares? Anyway, if I have to wear another pretty pink princess dress, I’m leaving.”
Dawn stomped out the door, grabbing Angelique’s candle.
“Dawn, wait!” Dawn heard Angelique call to her, but she ignored it and continued.
“Dawn, just look at them!”
Dawn stomped harder. “I don’t care how pretty the dresses are! I’m. Not. Going!”
“THEY’RE NOT DRESSES!” Angelique shouted after her. But Princess Dawn had already turned the corner. She slumped and sat against the wall. She didn’t bother running after Dawn; there was no convincing her anyway. She’d played her cards wrong and now the game was over. The queen would fire her, she’d never see Dawn again, and she’d be just another commoner in Dawn’s eyes.
Angelique was so caught up in her own misery that she didn’t notice Princess Dawn coming back through the hallway.
“Angie? Did you say they…weren’t dresses?”
Angelique didn’t say anything. She just gloomily pointed to a pile of cloth on the floor beside her.
Dawn, curious, picked them up. “Woah…”
They were cargo pants and a T-shirt! The cargo pants were pink camouflage and the shirt had a bit of lace around the edges, but otherwise completely pretty-pink-princessless. Angelique looked up when she heard Dawn squeal. “You like?”
“I love!” Dawn squealed again and charged into the changing room with a candle. Two minutes later, she came out donning pink cargo pants and a lacy white T-shirt.
“Let’s go!” Angelique told Dawn. “We do not want to be late.”
As Dawn and Angelique arrived in the gigantanormous courtyard, they both sucked in a breath. Sitting on the grass was a tent! A normal, honest-to-goodness camping tent. Not castlelike at all, and almost smaller than how Dawn imagined a tent! The queen and king of Puryn were chatting quietly inside. They got out immediately after seeing their daughter. “Princess Dawn,” King Lewis said, smiling. “Welcome to our camping trip.”
TWENTY YEARS LATER
“Queen Dawn of Puryn established very strange goals, don’t you think, Bob?”
The news anchor nodded. “Yes, Sal, she did. Equality for servants and females in the economy? Insane! And I heard she wore a pantsuit!”
“All quite crazy, yes. But for now we’re covering Puryn For a Good a Story, an author group from a town in rural Puryn who’ve had an upsurge in popularity...”