The Lonely Princess
By Rebecca Serlin
Once upon a time, there lived a princess who lived in a high castle, alone. She only had her own imagination to keep her entertained, and that seemed more than enough to her. She would spend her days daydreaming, or scribbling poems and stories on the stone walls. They were unseen, of course, but to her, it did not matter.
One day, while daydreaming by her window, the princess saw a figure approaching the castle. This was the first time she had ever seen anyone, other than the woman who kept her in the castle, and that was long ago. The figure grew closer and closer. The princess registered his face and was in awe of his splendorous appearance. The stranger gazed up and saw the princess leaning outside her window, although the glare of the blazing sun made it difficult to see her face. He placed a hand over his brow, but that did little to help.
"Good day," he yelled up to the princess.
"Yes, that it is," replied the princess, smiling to the sky. She looked down at him. "Will you come up and keep me company a bit?" She asked. The stranger saw no quarrel with that request, but saw that there was no entry way to the castle.
"How shall I come up?" He inquired. The princess looked around her room, but, to her dismay, found nothing. Then she felt the trail down her back, she lifted it and let it fall out the window. The stranger saw her drop the rope and watched as it reached the bottom. He grasped it and tugged on it to test the strength of the rope, which only resulted in a shriek from the princess.
"Are you trying to make me bald?" She hissed angrily. The stranger released the rope.
"My apologies," he offered meekly. He grabbed the rope again, but this time, gently. He began to limb up the wall of the castle. A cloud passed over the sun, and allowed the stranger to see the princess. He stopped in his tracks. "I just remembered," he stammered. "I have a previous engagement that I am already quite late to." And with that, he jumped down, and left. The princess let a tear roll down her cheek. As his figure disappeared in the trees of the deep woods, she whispered to herself that he was not worthy. The princess weakly brushed her tears away and blinked as she saw another figure. He was dressed in bright colors, like a court jester. He stopped at the bottom of the castle. He saw the rope, which she had yet to lift up.
"Good day," he said brightly.
"I guess," she replied.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"Yes, I'm quite fine," she shot back sharply, only to regret her harsh tone. "I am sorry," she muttered. The jester dismissed it.
"It is quite alright," he said. "Say, are you alone?"
"Yes," she replied sadly.
"Would you like me to come up and keep you company?" He asked. The princess narrowed her eyes at the brightly dressed thing.
"Have you an engagement that you are late to?" She asked.
"None that I can think of," he said.
"Are you sure?"
"Very well then. Climb up," she said. He gently grasped the rope and climbed up the side of the castle. The jester and the princess were quite happy together. He made her laugh when she was depressed. But soon, his ways grew tiresome to the princess. She wanted him to leave, but didn't want to hurt his feelings. One day, the jester looked at the princess.
"I think I should depart," he stated. She felt a great deal of relief.
"Very well," she bid him farewell and watched as he climbed down the castle wall and left. She felt slightly content. Yes, she was alone again, but this time, it did not hurt.
With the departure of the jester, the princess had time to enjoy her favorite pastime--daydreaming. She dreamed of a time where she could climb out of the castle with the high walls. A day where she could laugh at jokes, even if they are not funny, just to hear herself laugh surrounded by friends who are doing the same. In the midst of this daydream, the princess saw another figure approach the castle walls. He was dressed in rags and stumbled about stupidly like a fool. Even from her distant place up in her tower, she could smell the strong stench of ale on him. The man stumbled and burped before gazing up at her.
"Good day," he said.
"Yes, it is," She said politely. The fool swayed as his eyes seemed to drink her in, licking his lips crudely. "What can I do for you sir?" She said sharply. She did not understand why he was looking at her in such a manner, but she did know she did not like it. The fool's eyes quickly went back to her face as he gave her a wide, toothless grin.
"You don't s'pose I could rest my 'ead in yer bed a bit?" He rambled like an uneducated jackass, making the princess have to wonder what in heaven's name he was trying to say. The princess rolled her eyes. She sighed. She was bored, and having bad company could be better then no company at all. She nodded and let the fool climb up. For days, the fool sat in her room as the princess tried desperately to have some sort of educated conversation with him with no luck at all. When that failed, she tried to subtly hint that she wished he'd leave, but again, she was met with no luck in the matter, which led to her forming a plan to at least get her out of her tower.
"Oh, sir, I am ever so thirsty, could you perhaps go down and fetch me some river water?" She asked as she batted her eyelashes flirtatiously. She felt disgusted with herself, but was pleased to see it was working. The fool smiled at her.
"Of course, m'lady." He climbed down and went to the river. She quickly pulled her rope in and shut the window and stood silent. "Miss, I bring ye your water," said the fool from down below when he returned. She said nothing. "Miss?" She stayed silent. "I guess she left," he said to himself. She waited until she heard his retreating footsteps fade away. And then, to be sure, she stayed behind the closed window for much more time. When she finally opened the window, she saw another figure. There, seated on the log below her window, was a sailor. He looked up at saw the window open, smiling as he stood up. He tipped his cap and bowed ever so slightly.
"Good day," he said.
"Is it day?" The princess questioned. She stuck her head out the window and squinted at the sunlight. "Oh, it is." She rubbed her eyes. She looked at the sailor. "What can I do for you sir?" She asked.
"Well, I was on leave from my ship, and I've gotten lost in these woods. Would it be alright if I stayed in your castle a bit, to rest?" He asked politely. The princess smiled.
"Yes." She let her rope down and let him climb up. The sailor entertained the princess with his many adventures at sea. She'd spend many nights laughing and being in awe of his tales. The more time they spent together, the princess began to see she was falling in love with the well mannered sailor and wished he'd take her away with him in his ship. She was sad that he'd have to leave soon. On their last night together, she sat with him and kissed him on the cheek. His hands gripped her neck and held her close as his mouth roughly fought for a place on hers, his tongue prying through her tight lips. The princess became enraged. The kind sailor was not at all what she thought him to be. She pushed him away and hit him across the face.
"You filthy dog!" She screamed. She pushed him out of the window. He landed on his feet and stood up, screaming obscenities to her for a long while before deciding to walk away, leaving the princess alone and used.
After sitting by the window alone, crying, for a year, the princess heard a voice. She looked out and saw a child.
"Good day," he said.
"If you say so," was her only reply.
"Could I come up?" He asked. The princess let her rope down. She didn't care if he seemed rather young and unwise. She simply desired a companion of any sort. The child spent many days with the princess. At first, he made her happy. His lack of worldly knowledge and naïve nature endeared her as she smiled and kissed his forehead everyday. But, like the jester, he did not fulfill all her needs. One day, the princess looked at the child.
"I think you should leave," she said. The child gazed at her with angry, hurt filled eyes as he threw himself on the floor and threw a tantrum, screaming and kicking her floor. The princess simply picked him out and threw him out the window. The child stood up and glared up at her, sticking his tongue out at her before stomping off into the woods.
This pattern seemed to repeat itself over the years—Every so often another would come to her window and she'd invite them in with a hopeful heart that was soon broken. The child returned, seemingly stripped of his immature ways, which intrigued the princess. Unfortunately, his charming childlike ways had been replaced by an overbearing and judgmental personality which he used to hurt the princess before leaving as she slept, never to be seen again. Then there was the hangman, who scared her with morbid stories of bodies hanging in the gallows before leaving. After him, was the eccentric, who amused her like the jester and child had done. But, much like the jester and child, he did not meet all her desires. She gave him an insincere goodbye as she gently ushered him to the window. Then, there was the knight, who the princess grew to love more than any of the others before. When she whispered these feelings to him, he seemed saddened. He told her he felt no such love for her, but did not wish to cause her pain. The princess simply smiled as she held back tears when he left. Years later, came the silent poet, who would simply sit, staring at the wall as the princess tried to entice him. He never saw any of the verses she scribbled about him on the stone walls; he simply sat, silently staring. The few words he uttered were neutral, which only did to infuriate the princess as she too began to stare at the wall and be silent. She had no reaction when he left.
The princess fell into a deep depression. She wanted a companion, someone who amused and aroused her, and loved her like she loved them. She spent months with her window shut, lying on her bed. She had come to the conclusion that she was searching for her prince, in a room full of frogs. Her hair became matted, her cheeks lost their faint crimson color, and her eyes became vacant and dull as the scribbling on her wall became less about hope and love and more about the despair she felt. Time seemed to move ever so slowly to the princess as she lost track of how many days passed. There was no light coming into her room, so she never knew when sunrise eased into existence and when sunset floated down. One day, she heard a voice outside her window.
"Not again," she said to herself. She went to the window and opened it. The sudden light stung her eyes.
"Good day," said the voice. She looked down, there stood a prince.
"That can be debated," She said sadly. He looked at her, frail and white as snow.
"I beg to disagree," he said. "But, then again, that is the purpose of debate, is it not?" He asked, smiling softly. The corners of the princess's mouth twitched as she felt an involuntary smile fight to break free. She looked away and kept all expression at bay. "Shall I give my argument?" He asked, not bothering to wait for her reply. "It is a good day because, while lost in these vast woods, I've come across this place. But perhaps that is too forward of me. Forgive me, lovely lady." The princess felt her cheeks grow warm at the endearment. "I suppose it is a good day because it is another day. Another day where birds sing gentle melodies and love tickles the minds of many a young lad and lady."
"Love?" The princess scoffed. She had long since lost hope in such silly things like love.
"Why does a creature carved from Aphrodite herself doubt the power of the goddess?" The prince asked. The princess felt a smile come to her lips, which she did not bother to fight this time.
"Would you like to come up?" She asked. The prince nodded gently.
"If you will have me, yes," he said. The princess went to lower her rope, only to remember it had become unkempt and tangled, and therefore useless in this matter.
"You can't," she frowned. The prince tilted his head.
"You tease me, then?" He asked. The princess quickly shook her head.
"No, no, you misunderstand," she said. "I have no way to let you in," she said.
"Ah," he said, nodding. "No matter," he said. "I will just sit here." He pulled the log closer to the tower wall and sat upon it, gazing gently up at the princess. "What is your name?" He asked. The princess thought a moment. She never had a name. She had no name and never before had anyone bothered to ask for it. She looked over at the flower bed by her window and smiled.
"My name is Hibiscus," she said, wondering if the smiling prince would be all that she wanted and needed. Her smile seemed to widened as she came to a realization. Even if she hoped and waited for the rest of her life, she finally felt that she could live happily ever after.