As Ella walked into the room and the feeling of unworthiness was almost instant. She was like a smudge of dirt in a lavish painting. The room was neat and prim. I'm good at my job. she gloated, proud of how the room looked.
The size of the room was prodigious. It was plain, but grand in it's simplicity. On the windows hung elaborately embroidered drapes, all blue. Tiny slivers of sunlight shone through the cracks of the thick curtains. The bed alone could fit three people, yet only one slept. The bedding was a deep crimson, sewn with gold thread. The pillows, stuffed with goose feathers, were a lighter shade of red. Chairs were scattered around the room, each in a well lit area. Along the walls were bookshelves jammed with books, varying in color and thickness.
Beside the door was a fireplace. The mantle was over four feet wide and above it hung a family portrait. An elder man, in the far left looked sternly at anyone in the room. As Ella walked around the room, his eyes seemed to follow her. Next to him was a young man. Though the boy resembled the man, his features were softer, kinder and more youthful. The boy also had blonde hair, as the man's was brown with wisps of grey. After the boy was a younger girl. She smiled slyly, as if she knew something she oughtn't. She greatly resembled the man, but also the woman to her left, older woman. Graying blonde hair, she looked as if life was finally catching up with her. Yet there was still a youthful and energetic aura about her.
The sight of the fireplace reminded Ella of her responsibility, which was to light the fires every morning. After lighting a fire, she walked over to the bookcase. No one knew it except her, but she often borrowed books. She couldn't read, but she would look at the pictures. Often she would gaze longingly at the jumble of letters, envying those who could understand their meaning. Her mother meant to teach her but her death had ruined that dream.
Glancing over various novels, her eyes paused on one particular book, one she had never noticed before. She pulled it off the shelf and fingered the golden border. The scarlet background complimented both it's spine and the room. It matched perfectly with the bedspread.
Puzzled, Ella opened the book. The scent of irises emanated from the pages and she grinned. Irises were her favorite flowers. The plant had many meanings but the definition she preferred was "unrequited love". The real reason she loved the flower, though, was it reminded her of when she was a little girl. Reminded her of better times. She stuffed her nose in between the pages and let herself drift back to when she was younger.
Ella was in a diminutive garden, yet it was bursting with flowers of every color. Not an inch was uncovered. In the corner, under a maple tree, a young woman sat cross-legged. In her lap she was reading a book the size of her hand with minute lettering. She was always being told that she'd go blind if she continued to read that book. She ignored the protests and continued reading her favorite book. The woman's head was bent downward and didn't notice Ella.
Ella kept her distance and observed the young lady. Her hair ended at her chin and reminded Ella of chocolate. The woman's hair hung over her face like a veil as her eyes, grey, swept over the words, absorbing the familiar stories. The woman had a small, delicate nose with a wide, full pair of lips. She was in complete contrast to Ella. Her hair was the color of copper and hung down her back. With big green eyes, she wanted to know anything and everything. Even their mouths were different. Ella had a petite mouth. Their only similarity was their nose; it was nearly identical.
The woman looked up. "Hi there sweetie," she smiled. She was always told that her smile would instantly lighten up a room. Her response was always another smile. "Come and sit next to me Ella." she patted a piece of earth beside her.
Grinning, she sat next to her. "Mama, I wanna hear a story." She requested.
"All right," she flipped through the pages of the book. "How about Cin-"
"Hey!" Ella's thoughts were interrupted by a voice behind her and her entire body froze. He had woken up! She cursed under her breath. Stupid! Why had she stayed so long? "Excuse me, I'm talking to you." the authoritative voice said. His tone caused her face to burn with anger. Of course, she thought, another one thinking he's better than me. Keeping her rage in tow, she faced him.
"Prince Christopher." she bowed, but not a hair farther than the instructed protocol demanded. She refused to call him "Your Highness" or "Your Majesty". She saw him in no way higher than her or at all majestic. What did he do to deserve that title anyway? she wondered. All he ever does is sit around with people waiting on his every whim.
The young prince stared sleepily at the invader of his room. He could tell she didn't think much of him by the way she bowed. People who respected him bowed low, almost to the floor, with high regard. Others bowed stiffly accompanied by a look of complete disdain. He never understood these people. Why did they hate nobles so much? It was more than the money, he knew that. For some reason, peasants thought themselves higher than nobles and especially despised royals. Yet it was the royal family that kept the country safe. If there weren't a king, who would keep peace with neighboring countries? Or look out for the well-being of these people? The king had everyone's worries on his shoulders and had to make sure everyone was happy. Christopher wanted to throw the facts at her and wipe the scorn off her face. But there were more pressing questions to ask.
"Were you reading that book?" he asked anxiously.
"Book?" she questioned, puzzled.
"Yes," Christopher answered, losing patience. "That red one, in your hand." Ella didn't appreciate him talking to her as if she were a child. She glanced down, surprised that she still held the book. She'd forgotten all about it.
"No." she spoke too fast. He looked suspiciously at her. "I really wasn't." She persisted, annoyed that he didn't believe her. But she wasn't going to rush and explain to him that she couldn't read. She didn't think it was necessary. "What's it matter if I was, any way?" she asked him. What's so important about this book? she asked herself.
The remark threw him off. He wasn't used to people talking to him so frankly. "Nothing." he said, trying to cover up is anxiousness. "It's just unusual for a woman to read, especially a servant." he replied honestly.
Ella's eyes widen. She couldn't believe he'd just said that. Unable to keep her anger in check, she threw the book down and she shouted, "Why don't you just call me ignorant and be done with it!"
"What are you talking about?" He was clueless at the reason of her actions. What had he said?
"That's what you were thinking, right?" she kicked the book across the room.
"Hey, don't do that!" Christopher jumped out of his bed and retrieved the book off the floor. "Don't you have any respect for books?"
"Like you do?" she flared her arms wildly. "Just look at 'em in the shelves. They look as if they haven't been touched in years. There's a layer of dust an inch thick! And don't try to change the subject."
"Well, then I guess you didn't do a good job then if there's so much dust." he said, ignoring her last comment. "You know I have no need for a useless servant. Maybe I should mention that a particular red-headed girl isn't doing her job." he commented casually, flipping the pages of his books. Ella stopped dead. He wouldn't fire me she thought. He just wouldn't.
"My hair ain't red." she lifted her chin defiantly. Christopher looked up, surprised at her response to his threat. Anyone else would've begged and groveled for him to let them keep their job. Apology after apology would've flowed from their mouths, never ceasing until he guaranteed the security of their job. But with this girl, no apologies or flattery escaped her lips. He chuckled. "So, you're not a red head? Then what are you?"
"I am...myself." She pivoted around and walked out the door, satisfied by the explosion of sound after she slammed the door.