Today we bring you our final winner in the first annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest. India LaPalme claimed first place in the middle school division with a historical fiction piece told from two points of view.
The Two Daughters
by India LaPalme, 12
Christ the King Catholic School
If someone had told me a year ago that I would find a job as a scrubber girl in the palace kitchens, I wouldn’t have listened to another word they said for all the gold in the royal treasury, but here I am.
I first came to the Palace of the Rising Sun because of my family. There was a long drought in the countryside. My father, a farmer, lost everything when most of the crops died. Mother is too fragile to work. And, since I am the only child, when my father told us that we might not last through the winter, I volunteered to go to the palace and work in the kitchens.
The palace is the pale blue—almost white—hue that you see when the sun has just risen. Even though I day-dreamed more than any girl in the village of one day seeing the palace with my own eyes, I never expected to. How could a farmer’s daughter ever see something so beautiful?
But I have to admit that I feel lonely here. I have no friends, and all the other servants ignore me. They think speaking to a scrubber girl is beneath them. Maybe they are right. I always pictured the palace as a lovely, happy place, but it is lonely.
I miss my village, and my family. Is it wrong to wish for friends, to feel ungrateful when I have a wonderful job? . . . Hope
If someone had told me a year ago that I would still be sitting in this palace room, I wouldn’t have listened to another word they said for all the gold in my father’s royal treasury, but here I am. I am nearly sixteen years old and I am the princess of the kingdom of Rising Sun.
Although my parents never say a word about this to me, I have heard the gossip. I am the daughter they did not want.
I am the only child, and when I was born, my mother wept.
I would give anything to be looked at the way I’ve seen other children’s parents look at them. I may one day rule the land, but I think I will never rule the hearts of the people. What does it matter? I will let my husband do everything for me, if I am married—even though I am supposed to make the most important decisions.
The irony is that even though for once a woman will be guiding the kingdom, I will not rule. I have no faith in myself.
If only I had friends to tell me it’s not hopeless.
I feel like a woman of thirty. Maybe it is wrong to complain, but I try to write the truth. Most royalty do not read and write.
I am grateful that I can… Rosy
It is nighttime, and I am the only one awake. My mother taught me to read and write when she and my father had approved my trip to the palace. I can remember the sadness in her face on the night when I was preparing to leave.
“You might need those skills if you will be working in a place as grand and fancy as the palace, my dear.”
Just writing this makes me miss her more!
I am happy to report that I did make a friend, a cat. I have named her Midnight. I am worried, because I do not know who she belongs to.
Princess Rosy had a fight with her parents, poor thing! I overheard one of the maids saying that her mother told her that she will be locked alone in her rooms for two weeks. It seems that even princesses do not have perfect lives.
Maybe the queen will change her mind about the punishment. If I was a princess, what would I do? I saw Princess Rosy once, while I was on an errand. She was walking across the courtyard. She looked very sad to me. If she has respect, money, and power, why is she so sad?
The princess is tall and graceful. Her hair is a beautiful flame-colored red. Her skin is white and creamy, and her eyes are emerald green.
I, too, dream about being that beautiful . . . Hope
I feel so sad that I am sure my heart will crack into little pieces. My mother and I have had a fight.
Mother announced that I was plump. Mortified, I ordered the maids to leave the room, feeling as though I could slap my mother for her impudent words.
As soon as they left, I asked her why she had announced such an embarrassing and untrue thing. She only replied, “It is my opinion, Rosy. That’s why.”
“I hate your opinion!”
My mother went white, and I instantly regretted my harsh words.
“Then spend two weeks in your rooms. Alone! No maids will be allowed to attend you unless they desire it!” My mother laughed at my expression of horror. She left my chambers before I could call after her and beg . . .
I never realized what it would be like to sit idle in my bedclothes for hours, with nothing but silence all around me. I wake up on my own, and my food is left outside the door without a word.
Am I pathetic? I should not risk my mother’s anger again. . .
Insults for freedom . . . . Rosy
Today Cook sent me to deliver the Princess’s tray to her room. For a scrubber girl like me, it is an honor to be sent on any errands, especially ones that have to do with the Princess and her family. As I set the tray down, I heard her sobbing inside. I wrote a note on a scrap of paper that said:
You are not alone.
I wedged it under the door, knocked, and ran.
I will try to leave her another note the next day. Oh, how glad I am that I am not a princess! Did I once wish to be royalty?
Wishing for things can be dangerous.
At least as a scrubber girl I have no worries besides hard work and no friends, most of all, I imagine that the princess must have to deal with any number of unpleasant things, like rude servants, and fights with the queen like the one that got her trapped in her rooms. Is she just as alone in her own palace as I am in the kitchens?
I still miss my parents.
There is a rumor going around the palace that the queen and king have also had an argument. It is said that the queen insists that Princess Rosy must become engaged before her sixteenth birthday. The king declared that he would not let it happen. I like the king more than the queen.
Living in the village as a farmer’s daughter, I never had or will have to worry about marriage. Is being engaged to a nobleman different than being engaged to a blacksmith or a farmer?
I suppose that Princess Rosy will find out before her sixteenth birthday . . . . Hope
A wonderful thing has happened! I have received a note from whoever delivered my breakfast tray this morning.
It is very odd, because none of the palace servants can write.
But, whoever sent the note obviously works here. I must find out who it was.
I will wait until the lunch tray is delivered, and then open the door before they leave. It is nice to know that someone cares about the lonely, frightened, self-pitying princess.
I must admit that is what I have become.
The note said:
You are not alone.
Later, I overheard two maids in the hall. They said that my parents had an argument. Mother wants me to become engaged before my sixteenth birthday, but Father said no. She will win. I wonder who she had in mind. Last time, it was a nobleman who was eighty. What horrid manners, not to mention his stinky breath! How my mother thought that I would be happy with someone like him, I have no idea.
Thank goodness Daddy said no—then.
At least he understood that I would sooner die than become the wife of such a horrid man. I know that I will eventually end up as being a wife to someone, but not somebody like that.
My life is much more complicated than anyone can imagine.
Would I be happy as a village girl.? I don’t know.
My mother says that I have a weak constitution and am very stupid.
I would much rather work as a palace servant. Perhaps . . . . Rosy
A wonderful thing—or maybe it’s a terrible thing—has happened. Princes Rosy caught me slipping a note under her door!
“Thank you, if you are the girl . . . who left the other note?” she said.
It turned into a question at the end, and I realized that the princess was just as uncertain as I was. While I was thinking this, I studied her face. She is even more beautiful up close than I imagined. The Princess saw me studying her and, again, did something I did not expect. She began studying me! Then, she smiled, as if I had done something to please her and I smiled back,
“Yes, Your Highness.” How stupid I had been leaving the princess a note. I bobbed
once, hoping that she would not be angry, and that I could explain it was my first time at the castle.
Stop what? I curtsied again. “I’m sorry, Your Highness.” Was I offending her by staying too long?
“Please stay.” Royalty commanding a scrubber girl?
I miss my family. Hope
It was a scrubber girl. Every palace servant wears a uniform according to how they serve us. I was required to memorize every single kind of servant, including their uniforms.
I spent the hours between breakfast and lunch waiting by the door, listening for footsteps. I had something to wait for, and an occupation to fight against boredom. As my old governess would say, it was better than ‘collecting dust like some fancy piece of furniture’. It was her favorite argument when I complained about having lessons.
It seemed years before I heard soft footsteps walk up to my door. A tray thudded. I didn’t wait for the knock, but opened the door quickly. She was kneeling in front of it, slipping a note through the crack at the bottom. When she saw me, her eyes widened and she scrambled to her feet.
“Thank you, for the note…” My voice trailed off at the end. Of all the times to be shy…
I studied her, and was surprised to find that she was beautiful. The girl wore the simple sturdy uniform of a scrubber. There were food stains on the skirt, and a smudge of dust on her forehead. The girl’s skin was a light brown, and her eyes were, too. Her hair was a lovely chestnut color.
I decided that if she wasn’t treating me respectfully because I am a princess, she would tell me a joke and make me laugh. She did.
My comforter’s personality was just as warm as her eyes. Rosy
I saw the princess again today. She opened the door before I had even set the tray down, and asked me my name.
“My name is Hope, Your Highness,” I said.
The princess smiled when I told her my name, but frowned when she heard the words Your Highness.
“Call me Rosy, please.”
I was stunned. She of all people should know I could be imprisoned for being familiar. I wasn’t sure what to say, and at first I was ready to run. But, for some reason I stayed. The princess looked so lonely. She was a child. I wanted to give her hope. It sounds strange, but it is the truth.
When, I finally had to leave, I felt awful. Rosy—should I call her that?—reached out her hand, and I could have sworn that she was about to order me to stay. But I was around the corner before any prying eyes could see us. I hope that I did not hurt the feelings of my first friend in the palace . . . Hope
I asked the girl her name today, and she told me. Hope. What a beautiful name! If my parents really loved me, they might have named me something like that instead of Rosy.
My name alludes to the kingdom; it is proper for the kingdom, but not for me.
I want to be loved but I was alone in such a big castle. Now, I have Hope. I can stay myself, be strong, even if my mother does not love me. I do not have to be afraid of her. Not anymore.
How surprised everyone will be, when I finally start fighting back! It might seem like a hopeless cause, but I am determined. I know what I will do. I will ask Hope to become my personal maid. Now, I will no longer be alone in my rooms, or anywhere else in this blasted palace.
I wonder if Hope will be offended? Maybe, I should make her a lady, a noblewoman. But something in me says that she would not like a life of nothing but riches and fancy titles. If I gave her the title of Lady, she would only live her life the same way she does now.
Even though my friend has given me more confidence than ever before, I still do not think that I can stand up to my mother if she orders me to marry another old crone. What will I do if she says, “We have waited long enough, Rosy. I shall find you a husband before your sixteenth birthday.”
I had a dream last night . . . my husband was an old man, who hated me. He smelled awful. Rosy
Princess Rosy asked me to be her personal maid.
At first, I did not believe the princess; I think I hurt her feelings when I laughed. But when I realized that she was serious, I came back here to get my things.
Princess Rosy has told me something shocking. She wants to run away from the palace, and never come back until her mother accepts her decisions to marry. I have convinced her to stay. If Princess Rosy does not conquer her fear of her mother now, she never will.
I am her friend. I will tell her that it is not hopeless.
But she will have to stand up for herself.
You never know, maybe our princess, who to me once seemed weak and powerless, might have a chance of ruling more than our kingdom.
I wonder . . . .
Hope . . .