For Missy. You said "[t]ell me about her siblings." I think I heard that and forgot about everything else. I hope you enjoy.
The best day of my life was the day I got an invitation to my little sister's wedding. It came in a creamy white envelope, made of the type of linen paper I had once been able to afford. I ran my fingers over it for an hour it seemed, luxuriating in the way it felt beneath my fingertips. So smooth, but with those slight organic imperfections. I thought it would be a shame to open it and ruin the nicest thing I'd had in the past few years. But envelopes were made to be opened, and I wasn't such a fool as to ignore the obvious.
And there it was in beautiful script, my little sister's name. It said she was to be married, to some prince I'd never heard of. That was a bit of a surprise, because I knew plenty of princes back in my party days.
You've got to understand. It's so easy to be bad when no one tells you you're doing wrong.
I was a pretty girl. I had silky brown hair and large doe eyes and skin as smooth as butter, if unfashionably dark. No one was gonna fall all over themselves for me, but if I blinked my eyes oh so slow and smiled oh so shy, people wanted to be nice to me.
I was a rich girl. You think it's good to be pretty, try being rich. Money makes right. I didn't just have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my belly. I could walk into any place like I owned it, safe in the knowledge that I would be welcome because everyone likes a friend with deep pockets. I had the prettiest dresses and new silk slippers every night. A new pair would just show up when I needed them. Nowadays I know that my daddy bought them and the maid set them out, but I never questioned it back then because I never had to. I didn't question a lot of things. I didn't worry about what I was gonna eat or where I was gonna sleep. I worried about where I was gonna go party, because I didn't want to be that girl who was two steps behind everybody else, kindly pitied because she tried so hard and never quite got it.
My little sister didn't have to worry about that stuff neither. The thing about her was that she never quite got it and no one cared because she never tried for it in the first place. Beauty was who she was, and that was okay because she was beautiful and rich (and that's even better than being pretty and rich).
I envied that. I ain't gonna lie. I've already told you how naive and thoughtless I was back then. It ain't gonna hurt me anymore to tell you that I wanted to be my sister. There ain't nothing that's enough for anybody in this world. I had a good life and I wanted a better one. I didn't have to put in much effort to get by in the world, and I knew I'd have to put in even less if I were as lovely and cool as Beauty.
I don't blame myself much. As I said, it's so easy to be bad when no one tell you you're doing wrong.
I never thought much about my daddy. He gave me and my siblings what we wanted and we took it for granted, mostways. He were a busy man when I was growing up, didn't have time to get to know us much less discipline us. The servants tried, but there's only so far you can go with someone who can get you put out the door with no references. Pretty and rich and unguarded, I did as I pleased. I was a creature of simple pleasure. An easy life doesn't lend itself to making you think about how it got so.
I wasn't sixteen yet when my father lost it all. He wasn't much use as a parent and it turns out he wasn't much use as a businessman either. His daddy had been a trader of unusual skill, building our family coffers at the forefront of the fur trade. My father lost it all with unfailingly bad decisions, and buying his daughters silk slippers almost every night probably hadn't helped.
We moved to a farm. My father and brothers had to work night and day, planting and milking and all those things one does on a farm. I don't really know; I didn't do them. My older sister and I, we knew how to party. We knew how to shimmy and shake, how to smile so's a person would follow you into a dark corner and slip your dress up, slip their fingers up and take you to where it was light.
Like I said, rich is better than pretty. There are a lot of pretty girls in this world, and pretty don't mean much when everyone knows you've got no dowry, no skills, no virginity. I'd been easy in my favors, both in coin and in purse, and it hadn't been a bad plan at the time. Not for a girl who just wanted to be happy.
For a girl who needed to work, who needed to marry? Well, at the time I'd hardly realized how much my world had changed. I figured it wasn't gonna be much more than a bump in the road, that I'd be returned to my rightful place without to much fuss and bother. When my father went finally went out with a trading caravan, the farm's crops growing steadily, I asked for the same things I'd always asked for because I'd never not gotten them before.
And my sister asked for a rose, for a fucking rose, because she got it. I'd never wanted for anything in my life, but she had never wanted anything. It burned me up inside, how content she was. I had all this ambition, this desire, raging to get out. It had been one thing, back in the city, back when I could dance until bathe with sweat or ride someone else's body until even wetter. There weren't no one around the farm for miles I weren't related to or that wasn't an animal, and I weren't that hard up for pleasure. But oh god, I needed something. I'd never had a real thing to do, and it was so easy to notice it was missing back when I could fill my life with things to do for the hell of it.
That fucking rose. I'd wanted to slap my little sister, dig my nails into her pretty little face. Daddy had smiled when she asked for it, beamed with joy and relief and pride. She'd shown me up in our lives before, just because that was the way she existed. She outshone everybody. But here, the only people for her to outshine were me and our sister, and we were getting well sick of it. Beauty, in her youth, had adapted better to a life of chores and good behavior better than us. We had wildness in our blood. That wasn't changing for anything so paltry as making daddy more comfortable.
What burned it out was our father taking Beauty.
Oh, he told a pretty story. He'd gotten lost, taken shelter in this abandoned castle. He'd offended the host he hadn't realized was there by cutting a rose for Beauty, and offered the host Beauty's companionship in return for his life. And he'd been genuinely scared, oh so terrified, because that host were a monstrous beast. More than six feet tall, chest like a barrel, paws like pans and claws like knives. A real kitchen of furry horror, the way he told it. He told it to us at the table in the kitchen, eyes darting around. And then he took Beauty to the man, my untouchable baby sister who had barely had her blood.
And oh I was a wild thing then. I ate what I wanted and was careless of my clothes and possessions. I wanted my father to know that whatever he had been paid hadn't been enough. He was never getting out of this hole.
But there's only so much you can do on a farm, so much you can get up to.
So I ran to the city and did what a girl like me does, a pretty girl. A poor girl. A girl who had pleasure in her flesh. As it turns out, I only had so much wildness in me. I was not a survivor. I was careless. I still took my safety and possessions for granted, still trusted that a blink of my eyes and a smile would bring me good will. I met some beasts of my own.
And then I met my constable. I was taken to jail for making a public disturbance, me and the man who paid me to be publicly disturbing. The jail guard, he liked my eyes and my smile. He'd let me out, he said, if I'd be privately disturbing. That's exactly what he was doing when my constable walked in. He was a man whose greatest passion was the law and was thus rather unimpressed by the sight of our passions. He put the guard in a cell of his own for the night and took me home to his wife. He trusted she knew what to do with a girl like me.
Course, he made me pay my fine first. I was glad I'd had the man pay me upfront, or I might never have gotten out of jail for our deeds.
My constable and his wife were strict people. Probably for the best that I bet them after the wildness had been burned out of me, after I was looking for something to replace it. I'm never gonna be the most useful person, and I wouldn't want to be, but I've learned well enough how to make their lives more comfortable. Their keeping, strict as it was, was an easier life than the one that had landed me in their path.
I never told my father where'd I'd gone. Far as he knows, I'm dead in a ditch. I hope it haunts him at night, that when he closes his eyes my face floats to his mind right behind Beauty's. I'd did tell my older sister, once I'd decided I was staying. She'd married. Not well, but far. Not sure exactly how it happened, but she'd found a rather dissolute sort wandering far from home who was willing to take her back to his home and charmed him into making it an honest journey. So when I wrote to her, my letter went across the sea, father than I'd ever been. It had been written in my rough hand on cheap paper, slanting over the words of the person who'd owned the paper before me. I hadn't seen her in some time, but I wanted her to know, because probably no one understood me better than her.
I figure that's how Beauty found me. I figure she found our sister, then me. So she must've been looking. I hope she knew why neither of us were home. Why our sister were far and I were unknown to all but her. I doubt it though. We'd never understood each other that well.
But found me she did. She sent me a beautiful envelope and a beautiful card filled with beautiful words. My sister was marrying a prince. A prince who let her track down her sisters, shallow people with small lives they were. Whatever had happened to Beauty, she still had it. She had a happy ending, and the greatest thing of all was that I didn't hate her for it. Knowing that she was all right, well, it let me feel happy again. That was in my blood now, wasn't it, if I let myself feel it.
Now I'm gonna go talk to a man about some shoes. I ain't gonna walk to her wedding in silk slippers, that's for sure.