14 January 1536
Elizabeth rounded the corner, her slippered feet slapping against the stone slabs. Her ladies didn't know where she was!
They would know if she didn't think of a good hiding spot soon, though. There was a stitch in her side and she knew she could not keep running for much longer. Luckily, there was a balcony a little bit ahead of her, and Elizabeth was able to open the heavy oak door just enough so that she could slip outside.
It was nearing sunset, and the sun was shining in the sky, unusually enough after days of overcast skies. The sunlight was pale and thin but still very pretty. It reflected on the snow and made it all yellow and very lovely to look at.
It made her think of the yellow dress she had worn during the celebrations at court earlier this week. Papa had carried her in his arms to Mass, and the trumpets had blared as they entered the room. Later, when it was just the two of them in the courtyard, he had shown her how angels could come out of her mouth. Papa had let out a long breath of hot air, and to Elizabeth's surprise, tiny little wisps of white had escaped into the air. She had immediately copied his gesture, and all throughout her visit to court, she had done it whenever she got an opportunity. Lady Bryan had disapproved, but Papa only laughed when he saw her and would ruffle her hair, saying, "That's my little Bess!"
Papa had been so good to her, and Mama too. Mama had promised her she would have a baby brother come spring. Spring was a long time away. By that time, the snow would be gone, and the sun would be truly warm, and Elizabeth wouldn't have to be swaddled and wrapped up whenever she went out!
Winter wasn't too bad, though, Elizabeth decided, because she could make angels come out of her mouth and they were very pretty and exciting to watch. She had played the game all the while as she was coming back to Hatfield, leaning out of the carriage despite her ladies' protests. Even when she was brought inside, she had not wanted to stop her game. It was why she had made her way to the balcony, so that she could see the angels. Well, and she was also hoping that her ladies didn't find her.
If they did find her… well, they couldn't get angry at her because she was the princess! And they wouldn't find her, because she was all alone and nobody had-
She was not alone on the balcony.
One of her ladies was standing at the very edge of the balcony, looking out over the balustrade. She had her back turned to Elizabeth, but she was still able to tell that it was Mary.
Elizabeth relaxed, but just a little, because while her sister had always been the nicest and kindest out of all her ladies, Mary had been… distant lately. Before Elizabeth had left to court for the holidays, Mary had refused to play with her or even do much of anything with her. When she wasn't busy with her duties, she was always in her room, praying alone. Once, Elizabeth had peeked in and heard her using strange funny words. She couldn't understand what Mary was saying, and she couldn't understand why Mary would rather be praying than spending time with her.
Elizabeth edged out onto the balcony, taking care to remain away from her sister so that she remained unnoticed. She breathed out, wanting to see her breath turn to angels in the cold air, but then she heard what sounded like a sob.
It was Mary. She was crying, and even from the other side of the balcony, Elizabeth could hear her sniffles and unsteady breathing.
Elizabeth was mystified.
She had never seen anyone else cry before, except for the few children she had met who were even younger than she was. Usually, she was the one to cry, while others comforted her. Yet, here was her sister, who was such a big girl, almost all grown up, crying.
Elizabeth stood motionless, unsure of what to do. Then she remembered that whenever she was upset, her ladies would try to distract her with a new toy or game. Maybe sharing her new game would cheer up Mary!
Mary's head snapped around. Elizabeth ran up to her, kicking up snow as she went. "I have come back from court!"
Mary quickly wiped away her tears with her sleeve. Elizabeth pretended not to have noticed. She didn't think Mary would be very pleased if she knew Elizabeth had seen her crying.
"So you have," Mary said quietly.
Elizabeth nodded excitedly. "I learned a new game while I was at court. Here, watch."
And Elizabeth demonstrated for Mary. "Angels are escaping from my mouth!" she cried gleefully.
Mary rolled her eyes scornfully. "Those aren't angels. The air from your mouth is much warmer than the air outside, so it turns white. Nothing more."
With that, she turned back to the landscape.
Elizabeth was crestfallen, and not just because Mary had ruined the gift Papa gave her. She couldn't understand why Mary never wanted to do anything fun anymore, why she always turned up her nose at Elizabeth and ignored her. Even before she went away to court, Mary had been like this and Elizabeth was tired of being ignored.
She stamped her foot against the cold stone pavement. "You will apologize to me!" she said, trying to sound like Mama did on the rare moments she was angry. Whenever Mama spoke in her angry voice, people listened to her, and Elizabeth wanted Mary to listen to her for once.
"No, Elizabeth. I will not apologize for speaking the truth," Mary replied, unmoved.
More quietly, she said, "I have done enough of that lately."
"I am your princess!" Elizabeth shouted.
"You are no princess!"
Elizabeth jumped. She hadn't expected Mary to shout. Her sister had never shouted at her before. And what did Mary even mean, that she wasn't a princess? Her mama was the Queen of England, and her papa was the King of England, and she was their daughter, which made her a Princess of England. What was wrong with Mary?
"But I am a Princess of England," Elizabeth ventured hesitantly, wanting to defend her title but not wanting to provoke Mary further.
Mary sighed. She turned her resolute gaze away from the landscape and brushed a hand through Elizabeth's red curls. Then, much to the little princess's surprise, Mary scooped her up and drew her into an embrace.
"To some people, you are a princess," Mary began slowly, as though she didn't really know what to say. "But to me, you are simply my sister."
Elizabeth was still confused, but she decided not to say anything else. Mary hadn't been nice to her like this in a long time, and she didn't want to ruin the moment.
She wrapped her arms around Mary and buried her nose in her shoulder. Something cold and metal brushed against her forehead, and she leaned back slightly to see that Mary was wearing a gold collar.
"That's a very pretty necklace," Elizabeth commented, wanting to say something kind to Mary since she had shouted at her. "I've never seen it you wear it before."
Actually, she had never seen Mary wear any kind of jewelry before, although her other ladies always donned some kind of earrings or necklaces. Elizabeth had once asked Lady Bryan why Mary didn't wear any jewels, but her governess had only scolded her for asking such a rude question. Elizabeth had been confused but sensed it was better not to ask. The collar Mary was wearing now didn't look like the necklaces Elizabeth had seen her mama wear or her ladies wear- it was of a different style, and seemed very old- but she was glad to see Mary wearing something pretty for once.
One of Mary's hands came up to clasp it. "It's very special to me," she said quietly, her fingers twisting the cord.
"Did you commission Master Holbein to make it for you?" Elizabeth had to say the word commission a few times to pronounce it correctly, but she was proud of herself once she had said it properly, the way she had heard her mama asking her ladies about their jewels. Master Holbein made lots of lovely jewels, and she liked the thought that Mary now got to have one of them.
"No, Master Holbein didn't make it. Somebody… somebody else fashioned it, many years ago, in a faraway land called Spain."
"And how did it come all the way from Spain to you?" Elizabeth asked, eager to know.
Mary's grasp around her tightened suddenly. "I don't want to talk about it."
Elizabeth recognized that tone and immediately dropped the subject. She twisted around in her sister's arms so that she was no longer looking at the necklace, and they were both looking over the parapet. Together, they looked over the courtyard far below and the hills and trees beyond, all covered in a fine dusting of snow. The sun was now lower in the sky, almost to the horizon, and the entire landscape was now cast in soft golden tones.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Mary said, reverence in her voice.
Elizabeth nodded, looking out over the snow. "Yellow is my favorite color," she declared.
Mary laughed. "Just a few weeks ago, red was your favorite color, for your hair." She ruffled Elizabeth's auburn mass of curls, drawing a shriek from the princess and another fit of giggles from her sister.
"Yellow is my favorite color," Elizabeth insisted, batting away the offending hand. "Yellow for the sun, and for the dress Mama made for me to wear for last Sunday's mass."
Mary stiffened immediately, and Elizabeth had again that uncomfortable feeling that she'd said something wrong.
"Did Papa also wear yellow, Elizabeth?"
"Yes, he did."
"And did… did your mother wear yellow as well?"
"Yes, so did Mama."
"Was he happy?"
"Of course he was happy, it was Sunday," Elizabeth said indignantly. Why was Mary asking so many questions?
Elizabeth smiled to herself, remembering how the trumpets had played as they strode into the chapel, and there had been such great fanfare. "He was so happy, he picked me up and carried me on my shoulders as we went to Mass."
Mary let out an audible sob at that. She set Elizabeth down on the pavement. "Go back to Lady Bryan, sister. Leave me."
Mary turned away from her, wrapping her arms around herself. Elizabeth was completely mystified. "Mary?" she asked, tentatively.
Elizabeth wisely fled.
At the door, she turned back. Mary was standing at the end of the balcony, the way she'd been when Elizabeth first came outside. She was looking out over the landscape, though something deep down inside Elizabeth told her that Mary didn't really see the snow at all.
But Elizabeth could, and she saw that the sun was lower than ever, nearly sunk beneath the horizon. The sunlight didn't look yellow anymore, it looked red. It made the snow look red, and the trees and stone walls and Mary all look red. It looked as though everything were on fire, and the sunset didn't look so pretty anymore.
Elizabeth shuddered, and turned to head back inside.
A/N: The day after Katherine of Aragon died on January 7, 1536, the entire royal family wore yellow in apparent celebration, little Elizabeth included. Chapuys records that Henry carried Elizabeth in his arms to mass, with "with trumpets and other great triumphs".
One of the few items KoA was allowed to leave Mary in her will was a gold collar she had brought with her from Spain. Whether or not Mary ever received it is unclear.
I have no idea if at this point in history, people understood the scientific process behind condensation. If anyone is more knowledgeable on this point, feel free to enlighten me.
If anyone has any ideas or requests for any moments from Mary's life, seeing her interact with other Tudor figures, AU Mary-centric ideas, or even an entirely Mary-unrelated idea, leave me a comment!