Everything in the palace was sparkling. The stained glass windows, the candalabras lining the halls, the marble floors and columns stretching on into eternity. Even the people. Especially the people.
I'd always longed to be one of them, one of those brilliant ladies who smirked so deviously from the shadows and yet perched eagerly in their church pews every Sunday morning. They had always seemed to me so perfect. From childhood on I had watched them, wishing and wishing that I might become one of them.
And now here I stood. It might have been any Saturday night, though I could hardly recall a time the stars had seemed to shine so brightly. Sparkling. I stood before my full length mirror, both admiring and scrutinizing my own reflection. Golden blonde ringlets fell loosely around my face; frozen blue eyes stared out at me.
The dress was perfect; that was all there was to it. It was made of yards and yards of dark blue fabric, edged with silver embroidery. Surely I would be the most beautiful girl there, spinning elegantly across the dance floor. I had to be the most beautiful. Anything but perfect was nothing at all.
"Miss, are you nearly dressed?"
I whirled around to see Mary, our family's maid, lingering in the doorway. The look I threw her was somewhere between pity and contempt. I wondered how she could stand by and watch me as I rose each day and lived such a life. When she would spend her eternity cleaning up my family's dinner messes.
"Yes, thank you," I said shortly. "Where is my sister?"
Mary shrugged a little. "I believe she may still dressing."
I rolled my eyes. Of course she was. Natalia was two years my minor, and oh did she try so very hard to live up to me. I loved her like no other, for she was all I had. But I would be damned if anyone would ever outshine me. Let alone my own flesh and blood.