Written by: Elaine J. (aka Jackaroe)
I wish that I could have had the opportunity to share this with someone before now. At the moment, it feels as if my story would simply belong to the norm and become interpreted as a common occurrence among my kind. Many people have told me that they live this way now because of what I did. I don't acknowledge their statements or compliments about how I managed to resurface the imperative principle of liberty, for in order to generate the freedom I can vividly see them enjoy, I had to sacrifice my own.
Abeillis, our home, and essentially our world, was not always ruled by women. Years before the reign of Queen Phaedaria, this magnificent city-state was governed by an all-powerful royal family, with the mighty king, of course, at the head. The rule was authoritarian. Whatever the king wanted, he received; and whatever he ordered was executed upon the very second he had it addressed. His authority was as solid as the gold jewels that adorned his thick, lubberly body. We never had a wise king, nor did we ever have a king who cared enough for his people. Every man who succeeded the throne simply allowed himself to get fat in his cushioned chair, and no one seemed up to the task to defy him.
Our queen during those depressing times was but a maid. She minded the castle, tended to the homely needs of her sloth of a husband, comforted her happy children and continually participated in charity work that was, and still is, not required of a blue-blooded woman. We never had a queen who was as dense and prejudiced as her husband, nor did we ever have a queen who was plain in appearance. Every part of her angelic soul was purified further by the beauty she displayed. She was our kingdom's guardian. Without her, every soul would have fallen victim to the recklessness of an embellished donkey, and it was because of one queen that our tragic city transformed into the most powerful any other nation had laid eyes upon. Her name was Queen Phaedaria.
The Revolution that ensued was not a typical revolution. There were no secret conspiracies to murder the king. None of the government officials were corrupted to betray their leader. The people were not upset to the point of violent protest. In fact, it appeared as if there was no true issue circulating among the place that could have spurred an uprising. The Revolution was a silent, gentle one, almost like a sweet breath of fresh air. It was inhaled willingly and with much pleasure, and the effect it instilled upon all was enough to make it permanent. Our king had died from heart failure and he had left no heir. He had no brothers, and so the royal blood was never passed on. All the government officials were male, but none knew how to govern a country. No man had stayed directly by the side of the king for a long enough time to understand how he conducted his doings. The only person left was the queen.
Phaedaria was extraordinary. She seemed to be destined to nurture our people and home. She was mother to us all—even to me. As soon as she accepted the throne, every tradition was displaced or rearranged. She split families, she segregated the men from the women, she put boys in one school and girls in another. No one ever questioned her. We all believed that a change was needed and after witnessing the kindness of so many previous queens, who were we to mistrust her?
I was eight when the changes took place. I remember some women marching into my family's decrepit little hut on the outskirts of the city and hauling my father out. I can't even remember what he looked like. I do not remember his face or hair. I do not remember his voice. At the young age of eight years, I lost my father. You may check my memories even now. I have no memory of him. He became lost to me on that day, and I must confess, for I must be honest with you; I do not regret what happened.
My mother and I were given the privilege of packing some of our prized possessions before we were escorted out of our sagging little home. I had little to carry—just a doll and a drawing I had done for my displaced father. Mother brought only her dull wedding ring which she slid onto her bony index finger before the women who had disrupted our abode ushered us out with a firm command.
Father had been the breadwinner of the family. Mother never lifted a finger to do work that earned profit for us. She was content in consistently sweeping the house, singing senseless lullabies to me as she cooked, cleaned and laundered. She was in love with her pleasant, chore-centered life, and I was old enough to start admiring her for her talents, for I had hardly known any other job for a woman. At that time, I wanted to be just like my mother. I wanted to remain barricaded in my stuffy, dim hut and coo at my children, looking forward to washing dishes and cooking up a meal for my busy husband at night. The routine seemed ideal and enriching, and if I had not lost certain parts of my memory, I would have told you that I even dreamed of the day in which I'd be married into the life my mother revered so brightly with a smile.
Because Mother knew no other job, we were brought to the inner city—to Phaedaria's palace—with the hope of gaining occupations as maids in her glittering household. The day we arrived there was the first time I ever laid my eyes on beauty and magnificence so pronounced that I deemed them formidable in my mind. When Queen Phaedaria herself approached us in her blinding, golden aura, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise up. Looking at her was almost as frightening as looking into an open, gaping abyss. I didn't feel as if I was given good enough reason to be there, gawping at her.
We didn't speak. Mother and I remained silent, kneeling on the cold, tile floor with our palms square on the slick surface, our heads bowed. I detected a few whispers but was unable to decipher the words being said. Everything was settled within a matter of seconds. The next thing I knew, Mother and I were ordered to stand, and we were presented, with minute distinction, the occupations of high maids.
Queen Phaedaria looked down at me and smiled, her red lips stretched tight over perfect white teeth.
"She will be my daughter's companion," she said to me, speaking really to the woman guard standing a few yards behind her. "What is her name?" The guard informed her of my identity in a husky whisper and then Phaedaria's clear eyes landed on my alarmed countenance with a rigid twist of her head. "I don't like that name," she stated flatly, her eyes shifting toward Mother who said nothing and looked down. "Little girl," she said, nearing me in small, pixie steps as her heavy gown rustled at the jittery movements. "I will call you Tamsin. You are Tamsin. You are now my daughter."
I didn't understand her. I stood mute and unresponsive, glancing up at her warily before fixing my stare on my feet. I was not her daughter, for she was not my mother. She did not birth me. She did not love me. How could she be my mother and I, her daughter?
I knew that she could read my confusion; that was why she laughed afterwards, sending us away with a flick of her wrist. "You are my daughter, Tamsin. I will take care of you now with my own daughter. You will no longer know the life you have lived." She stopped there and her laughter halted and her voice dropped low. "I have given you a new life, Tamsin. You will revere me for it. You will revere me."