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One by one the King's daughters were married; each one was visited by the Fairy. The Fairy asked for a boon, each time, the girl granted it. Always the Fairy asked for the girl's first born child. Finally only three daughters were to be married. The oldest daughter was about to have her first child.
"What's wrong?" I asked my sister, Nelly.
She shook her head, "Nothing's wrong," she whispered, though she sounded as if she was about to cry.
I frowned, Nelly never cried, of all my sisters, she was the strongest. If we had had any brothers, it would have been Nelly who had played with them. "Nelly…" I said as sternly as I could.
"Don't tell anyone, Lili, promise?" Nelly asked, drying her tears on her sleeve.
"I'm going to have a baby," Nelly arranged her gown compulsively so that it was loose around her stomach.
"Nelly! That's wonderful!" I smiled at her, forcing my lips to turn up and my voice to feign happiness. "You and Jo!"
Nelly frowned, as if she was terrified to be happy. I didn't press her and ask why she was sad, because I was afraid that I would break down.
At Nelly's wedding, the Mistress of the Mists had appeared and turned all of the guests to stone. She demanded the same price of Nelly as she had of Jo. And Nelly had agreed and all were freed.
Actually, the Mistress had appeared at every one of my sister's weddings. At Mari's the guests were encased in water. Calli's friends were turned to ghosts. When Cass was married, everyone disappeared. Gwen had to watch her family be lit on fire. Sera's guests were encased in glass. Ana's husband and friends became jewels. At Vi's wedding all were covered in earth. Each time, the ones imprisoned would be freed, if my sister gave the Mistress her first born.
I pitied my sisters, but never spoke of the Mistress of the Mists in case she retaliated. And most sisters pretended that nothing had happened, but poor Gwen was sick for a week after her wedding. She screamed of someone trying to steal her baby, but the doctors dismissed her rants as feverish delusions.
Now, Jo and Nelly were going to have children. Jo was due any day, and had become more reclusive as she progressed in her pregnancy. Her husband was worried for her health, but doctors reported that Jo not ill. I wondered how she would explain the baby's disappearance.
"Josephine!" I called to my sister.
"Can I talk to you?" I wondered if she would just avoid me, as she had avoided anyone who didn't know about her bargain. As my sisters married, they became closer to one another. I had once caught Sera sobbing in Cass's room, though as children they had clashed all the time. Now they got along better than I did with any of my married sisters. They even lived in a separate wing of the palace, with their husbands. Ari, Suze and I lived in the east wing, the same wing that housed the remaining princes.
By now, most of the princes were married or had left our home now. Only five or so remained. They were courting Suze and some sought Ari, but at sixteen, I was still too young to be married.
One of the remaining suitors was Renata's brother, Albret. Although I rarely talked to him, he was a feature at all of the balls and feasts held. Renata had stayed along with her brother, hoping to marry one of the four eligible princes. She also had a room in the east wing. Slowly, as more and more of my sisters married, she became my best friend.
"Yes," Jo was puzzled, probably at my distance. "But, Lili. Yes."
"What are you going to name your baby?"
Jo was surprised, then hurt, "I hadn't thought," she mumbled, "Maybe Gabrielle."
"Jo," I began, "Jo, I know what happened the day of your wedding."
My sister looked as if she had been slapped, then composed herself, "I fainted," she said frankly, as if baiting me to say otherwise.
"I know why." I decided to push her.
"The doctor said I was hungry," Jo was very white.
"Josephine! I heard her. The Mistress of the," I choked on the last word as Jo slapped her hand over my mouth.
"Lili, I don't know how you heard that but never, ever, mention that to me. Ever. Lili," she hissed, sounding dangerous, a much different sister than I knew. She looked at me, "Wait till you're married," then Jo started to sob, "I'm so sorry," she removed her hand from my mouth, "But you don't understand. I'm c-cursed."
"If you're cursed, we all are," I whispered, running my hand over my stinging mouth, "What happens when Nelly loses her baby too?"
"Nelly?" Jo was shocked out of her misery, "Nelly too? But I thought."
I bit my lip, wondering how much Nelly would kill me for telling Jo, "Just forget I said anything."
"I will," finally she stalked off.
I turned to leave when I ran into Renata. "Is something wrong?" She wondered.
"No," I lied, blinking tears out of my eyes, "I think that Jo is just being…" I stopped.
"She's being your sister," Renata laughed.
"Yes." I knew I sounded cold.
"Are you sure that nothing's wrong?" Renata asked.
"Of course, let's go get some food from the kitchen." I laughed forcedly, "I wonder in you know who will give us some," I teased Renata for her crush on a kitchen servant boy.