I had saved half the sandwich and some tomato soup for Blair, she loved it just as much as I did. After all, she was my little sister.
"Mmmm," she cooed as she sunk her teeth into the warm bread oozing with thick cheese.
Mama laughed at her bedside, "what a little drama you are. You've been saying you feel sick all day and wouldn't eat anything. And now Emily brings a sandwich and soup from outside and apparently you're all better?"
Blair giggled, "sorry, ma, but this is really good. Can you make it like this for me at home?"
"Of course, my love," mama kissed her on the forehead and let out a long yawn, "I'm going to take a quick nap,"
"Nap? It's late, just go to bed," I said.
"Goodness," she glanced out our bedroom window, "I didn't realize it was already dark out. What time is it? Your father is late from the store,"
"He usually stays longer after spring," I reminded.
"Right, well, I'm off to bed then. Just wake me if you or Blair need anything,"
"Go, go," I shushed her away. She was horrible at taking care of herself, actually, I didn't know of a mother who wasn't.
"The dress is lovely by the way. I can't wait to see you all dolled up in it," she grinned at me before closing the bedroom door behind her.
"Oh! The dress! I haven't seen it yet!" Blair croaked.
"Eat your food first, I'll bring it upstairs,"
"Now! Now!" She demanded.
"Alright, alright, I'm going," I made my way down the steps. I grabbed the noisy transparent shopping bag and brought it up to Blair.
"It's very...decent," she turned the dress over in her hands, being extra meticulous of wiping her fingers with a napkin first.
"Grace thought it was elegant. And I liked it, too. I didn't want to wear anything too flashy," I didn't know if I was trying to convince Blair more or myself.
"If father gave me money to buy a new dress to go to the palace, I would have bought the flashiest thing I could afford," Blair said matter-of-factly.
"I'm sure you would have. And who knows? Maybe one day you will," I smiled.
"No, it wouldn't matter if I went after you. You'd always be their favorite,"
I laughed, "Blair, what on earth are you babbling on about?"
She yawned, "I don't know. I say funny things when I'm sleepy and tired. I'm going to sleep," She lazily crumpled the sandwich parchment and tossed it into the paper bag on her bedside table. I grabbed the now empty soup container from her other hand and tossed it in the bag as well while Blair laid on her pillow and turned on her side. I kissed her cheek gently before turning off the lamp and dozing off myself.
The next few days were a blur, what with homework, working at the music store in the afternoons, and trying to put in some extra practice on the piece I was planning to play at the Olivian Palace. Even the buzz and excitement about the spring ball at school made the hours go by faster. It was all the girls talked about during break and lunch hours.
"I think you should keep your hair pin straight, especially since your dress is so..so..."
"Me?" Emerald challenged Grace while biting into a candy bar.
Grace rolled her eyes, "I guess. What about you, Emily?"
"Hmm?" I looked up from my Wyalla's sheet music. It was much more complicated than any other instrument's sheet music I'd ever looked at. Magical creatures made everything complicated, apparently. Good thing I had began practicing as soon as Sir Fleming suggested I play at the palace. It was already Friday, the day before my performance and the spring ball.
"Your hair? What will you be doing with it?"
"Shower, dry and comb it, duh," I said absentmindedly while Emerald giggled from across me.
Grace's eyes widened, "You're kidding me, right? I wouldn't do that to our measly old spring ball at school and you're saying you'll do that to your first time at the palace?"
I sighed, "Grace, for the umpteenth time. I really don't care what I'll be looking like that night. I need to focus on playing my piece and meeting a faerie so I can-
"But you can do all that while looking good?"
I looked at Emerald with a get-me-out-of-this-look.
"She's not going to give up," Emerald shrugged.
"Maybe I can do your hair and makeup! Maybe you can have yourself be picked up from my house. Trust me, it will make a better impression than-
"Better impression than? Than what, Grace? My house?"
Grace shrunk in her seat from across while Emerald glanced back and forth at us worriedly, "No, that's not what I meant Emily..."
"Really? Because I think that's what you exactly meant. I'll see you two after. Tell you all about it," I rose from my seat angrily.
"Oh come on, Emily, you know what a big mouth Grace can be sometimes. That's just how she is," Emerald piped in.
"No, Emerald. Grace is not just a big mouth. She is rude and disrespectful and thinks she's better than everyone else," I glared at her.
"Well," Grace huffed, "I'm sorry you had to get so defensive about a simple comment I made. I'm just trying to help-
"I don't need your help," And before things could get any worse, I stormed away.
The next day, I still hadn't talked to either of them to discuss the plans any further. I didn't know why, but what Grace had said about her house making a better impression than mine, really struck something in me. I suddenly felt angry at everything and everyone around me. I didn't even feel like going to the palace that night. What did any of they know, anyways? What it was like to be helpless and not be able to help yourself because you didn't have enough? To run around like headless dwarves begging and pleading with courts and faeries to show a little mercy to you?
I knew the royals and the nobleman and all those other people coming tonight to the palace could help, not only me, but countless others. If only they didn't lead such self absorbed and careless lives, that is.
"What's the matter?" ma could recognize my bad moods from a mile away. I tried my best not to display them, as they were usually short lived and spontaneous and I knew I'd eventually cool off.
"Hmm? Nothing, ma, just tired. And nervous," I nodded to her. I saw a carriage pull up outside the window. Grace and Emerald got out of it dejectedly, with their heads down as they slowly made their way to the front door.
"Hey," I greeted them.
"We just wanted to say we're sorry and wanted to wish you luck tonight," Emerald said.
She nudged Grace, "Oh. I'm sorry about what I said earlier, Emily, it just kind of slipped out. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm really sorry,"
I sighed, "It's okay, I don't really want to talk about it,"
"Well, we have to go and get ready for the ball. Try to have fun tonight, alright?" Emerald winked.
I smiled, "I will,"
When they left, I began to get ready. Mother let me borrow an old robe of hers so I didn't ruin the dress when getting ready. I took a long, hot shower and shampooed my hair and carefully shaved to avoid any cuts and washed myself with perfumed soap. After wrapping my hair in a towel, I took all of mother's makeup and the little I had of my own and sprawled it in front of me on the dressing table. Powders, blushes, lipsticks, kohl's, glitters and eyeliners. I went to work.
"This one," Blair picked up a cheek color from the table and waved it in front of my face.
"Thanks, Blair, it may be a little too dark," I took the magenta cream blush and gently placed it back on the table.
She huffed impatiently, "can I pick the lipstick then?"
"If it's reasonable," I grinned.
She smiled back, then scanned the pile of makeup and picked up a glossy, pink lipstick, "this one!"
I briefly inspected it, deciding it was the a good shade and that it would go well with the dress,"it'll do."
After finishing my hair and makeup, I shrugged off mother's robe and put the dress on.
I stared in the mirror, it was still me, but undoubtedly prettier. I had a sudden moment of amazement how far a little primping and grooming could go. I had chosen to make soft waves in my hair. It flowed and looked shiny and voluminous, rather than a tangled mess I tried to keep up as I never felt I had the time nor care for it. Little specks of gold glitter clung to my eyelids, and a little foundation, powder and blush freshened and brought my complexion to life. I grabbed a napkin and dabbed my pink, glossy lips, just to make sure the lipstick didn't appear too dark.
"Oh, Emily," mother gasped, "you look stunning,"
"My beautiful sister!" Blair's tiny body hugged me around the waist.
"Now let's just hope I play that Wyalla as good as I look,"
"You'll be great. I know it," mother beamed, "your carriage will be here any minute. Hurry and put your shoes on," mother held up a pair of glittery gold heels. They were her favorite and she took great care of them, and luckily, they fit me just fine.