Once upon a time, there lived a princess with a heart so big it hardly fit within her chest. She was an only child, surrounded by no family other than a father she conversed with twice a day: once at breakfast, once at dinner. Lunch was a meal she ate alone, and as a result the early afternoon became the worst part of her day. For Princess Mina had all the love in the world to give, and no one willing to accept it.
On the eve of her nineteenth birthday, Mina sat excitedly across from her father. Her legs bounced rapidly under her dress, neatly trimmed fingernails tapping on the aged wood. Suddenly the food in front of her no longer appeared appetizing.
“Father.” she said softly in an attempt to draw him away from the window. This proved ineffective so she spoke louder. “Father, do you know what tomorrow is?”
He turned then and looked at her with a vacant stare. “Tomorrow is…two days from yesterday, I believe.” His voice was gravelly, as if it exhausted itself traveling from his fragile mind to chapped lips. At the end of the slowly drawn out response, he offered Mina a small smile and returned to the window’s view.
She sighed as her appetite returned, excitement temporarily quenched. The only positive of today would certainly be her visitor. She always came into the bedroom after breakfast, tidying things up and wiping things down. She’d come to visit every day for as long as Mina could remember, and through years of trial and error she discovered the ideal time to return to her quarters to appear peacefully reading a book when Celine arrived. Often, they had words. Meaningful if short exchanges about the happenings of the kingdom and the past daylight hours. Although Mina was by no means trapped in her castle—she had seen the world and wanted it no longer, her loneliness prospered in the presence of others—she didn’t leave often. So, her time with Celine was cherished.
After soon realizing that would likely be the extent of her father’s words for the day, Mina ate, rose, and walked up flights of stairs and rounded corners until she arrived back in her room. Picking up a novel she’d pretended to read for a month now and placing herself daintily on the rocking chair by her window, Mina waited. She counted down silently until the door opened as she arrived at one. She looked down quickly and skimmed over meaningless words.
“Good morning, Princess,” Celine said from the doorway, a whisper of a smirk on her lips.
“Ah, Celine! I hardly heard you enter.” Mina can’t help but smile widely and they both chuckle lightly. Both girls knew full well Mina held no interest for the type of romance novel she held.
“And how was breakfast?” She asked as she began picking up clothes from the floor and placing them in a burlap bag.
“Oh Father and I spoke of all the world’s joys and fears, quite exhilarating.” She closed the book and faced her.
“That quiet?” Celine questioned with a raise of a dark eyebrow.
“Mm. And what of his plans for tomorrow?”
“What of them? I know of none.” The sorrow creeped into her tone even as she fought it.
“My apologies, Princess.”
Mina scowled and earned another soft laugh.
“I simply cannot bear to call you Mina,” Celine continued, awkwardly stretching the name, “It goes against all that is.”
“Many things err in what is,” Mina returned the sentiment, “They certainly mustn’t stay that way.”
At that, Celine looked up from the last of the clothes on the wooden floor. The heavy meaning behind the words sent the taste of thick blood down her throat, immediately upsetting her stomach. As she drank in the sultriness of Mina’s voice and hopefulness in her maple eyes, she suddenly misplaced all the words she’s ever known. This unspoken bond between them must remain exactly that, they both knew this, but the princess had always been one to push boundaries. It was embedded so deeply in her nature. Celine secretly believes it’s a byproduct of her upbringing, or lack thereof. There hadn’t been anyone to rein Mina in for nearly a decade now, and she gladly chose to embrace roaming free as opposed to aching for what she could no longer held her down. Thankfully, this reminded Celine of a way to shift the conversation.
“Do you miss the Queen?” She questioned and began to dust the countertops.
Mina scoffed. “What reason do I have to miss the Queen?”
“I would miss my mother dearly-” she paused to reach the high top of the vanity, “-if she disappeared so suddenly.”
The following pause suffocated both of them.
“Well, I am not you. And you certainly are not me.” Mina responded from a place of hurt.
“Meaning?” Celine turned around to face her.
“Meaning, I think it’s best if you go.” And as hard as she tried to sound cold, that heart of hers betrayed her once more as a tear slipped from a trembling eye. Her mother was an untouchable topic, always had been.
That fateful morning, when a ten year old Mina ran excitedly to her parent’s bedroom—as she did every instance in which the sun appeared on the horizon—and found her father sobbing and her mother’s side of the bed vacant. He held a note far too small in his shaking hands. “Goodbye. With Love, Maria,” it read. Far too few words to fill the gaping hole in their home. Something broke within the king that morning, and she sincerely believed he would never allow himself another feeling of amity as long as he lived. Young Mina cried for seventeen days, praying and willing and screaming for her mother to return. She never had. She never would.
“Good day, Celine.”
Thet day passed ever so slowly. Mina ran over her harsh response an infinite amount of times. It had been too mean, far too mean for the last person she had left to give her love to. Tomorrow, on her birthday, she would tell Celine of her feelings. She must lay everything on the table and allow the cards to fall where they may. The Queen often used to refer to love as a hummingbird, small and fleeting, as it must be caught before it is lost. Mina wasn’t sure about the small part, as the love she felt for Celine flowed through her being and floated outside of it. But fleeting felt correct. Only one week remained before Celine turned eighteen as well, and was free to no longer serve them. Mina had no doubt her dear friend would run off at her first free dawn. She must do this tomorrow, a special day for a special person.
After her lonely lunch, Mina ventured to one of the gardens surrounding the castle and picked a bouquet of flowers all on her own. A vivid mix of peonies, daisies, hydrangea, and baby’s breath sit at attention in her hand as she returns. She’d kept away from the roses, scared Celine would scar her hand on the thorns. After tying it all together with some loose twine and placing it in the center of the bed to easily be seen, Mina retired to the dining room for an undeniable silent breakfast.
“Mina, my dear!” her father shouted as she entered through the immense doorway. Her eyes grew at the volume and sprightliness of the words.
“You’ve a visitor!” he said with a tone so lively Mina felt a chill run down her spine. He stepped aside to reveal a young man, maybe early twenties but it’s hard to tell, with a smile so flashy it hurt. His hair stretched all the way to his shoulders; the ashy brown stood brightly against the deep red fabric of his fitted shirt. The most alarming feature of his, though, was the blue so light it almost appeared white swimming across his eyes as he scans the room. Mina had never felt comfortable around people with light eyes. Something about them had always felt….fearful. And a fearful person is never to be trusted.
“Hello,” she greeted hesitantly.
“Princess Mina.” He bowed. “Prince Chester. How do you fair on this beautiful day?”
Mina scrunched up her nose at the nasally sound of his voice.
“Fairly shocked so far, and you, sir?”
“Astounded.” He stared deeply at her, and her skin seemed to crawl.
“Well, I’ll leave you two to it!” the King said before briskly walking out of the room. Mina couldn’t even collect herself from being on the receiving end of his unfounded energy before the Prince’s interrogation began.
“May I?” he gestured to the chair beside him.
Unsure of a way out, she nodded curtly.
Prince Chester went on to explain how he had come to court and marry her as soon as possible. Despite them never having met he showered her with compliments on her facial structure and gait. Odd things to notice, she thought to herself. Then with a sign of realization, childbearing features no doubt. He’d like an attractive child and a mother for it apparently, as her wider hips would increase her chance of surviving the birth. Mina was repulsed enough at this being his introductory commentary that she rose abruptly, apologized halfheartedly and nearly ran to her quarters.
There, she found a confused Celine holding a bouquet of flowers and looking across at her with wide and deep brown eyes.
“What is all this to mean, Mina?” Her tone toed the line between grave concern and unbridled excitement.
“It is to mean I am in love with you, Celine. I believe I always have been. Every waking hour of mine is spent yearning for you next to me, and my sleeping ones imagining it. Your eyes, your nose, your mouth, your chin…” she feels herself losing focus, “You. Have become a quintessential fraction of my being, and no longer can I pretend I do not wish to hold you until we arrive in our graves.”
Tears brimmed Celine’s eyes as her lips opened and closed in an attempt to force words past her tongue. Mina was close now, so close she could hear her heart pounding with such force that she fought the urge to put her hand over soft skin to calm it.
“I am not a princess, Mina. I am no royalty, and as a result we cannot be. You know this. Why-Why must you put me in this position to deny myself the thing I love most? How selfish of you!” Doubt and hurt and pity began to harden into frustration toward the hopeful girl in front of her.
“Because,” She takes her hand in her own. “My love, we no longer have a choice. I had planned on spending my birthday with you babbling about our future together, thinking and talking this through, but I’m afraid this future, if it is to be ours, must begin at this very moment.”
Celine shook her head lightly, not understanding.
“I have a suitor, Celine, and I have never seen my father act with such fervor. I fear he will not let me out of this. I fear that I will be forced into a loveless life when one full of love lies right before me.”
“Who is to say I love you?”
“You do.” Mina sighs softly, feeling no doubt that her feelings are requited.
Silence stretched thousands of miles in the centimeters between them. Teary eyes blinking. Open mouths hesitating. Heartbeats roaring. Both of their minds ran wild with possibilities.
And in one fluid motion both women swallowed the space and satisfied desires long awaiting acknowledgement. This, they thought simultaneously, was most certainly the peak of what life has to offer. Butterflies set free and hummingbirds caught in nets. This, undoubtedly, was love.
“We must go,” Celine whispered into Mina.
A smile broke loose on the latter’s face.
“Yes.” She blinks, taking in the moment before it dissolves. “Yes, we must.”
And as the women linked their fingers and quietly escaped through the halls of the castle and into the forest with nothing but the clothes on their back and elation in their bones, the Queen smiled.
Celine and Mina were never heard from again, maybe settling somewhere in the safety of the woods, or perhaps creating a kingdom of their own. Certainly though, they lived happily ever after.