Madarina, or Maddy, is an exuberant, but ordinary girl who finds herself caught up in a story very much like the fairy tales she loves.
Madarina pressed her palms against the paint-chipped window frame and pushed. She pushed again when it didn’t budge, then again. At last it burst outwards in an ungrateful crack and a creek.
The sky was gray, but had that light-weight floating feel that the sky has when a storm is clearing up and sunshine getting ready to leap through. Anticipation of that event made the air hum and Maddy opened her mouth in a grin that was full of goofy, giddy joy.
“Good afternoon my little kingdom!” The small, rain-drenched backyard would have replied if it could have. Instead, the wind rang the forlorn set of large chimes that hung from the only tree. It wasn’t much of a backyard, but it was hers and she could almost see herself as a small child weaving weed-length grass into bracelets and playing hide and seek with herself. She could hear the friendly shout of the train as it careened into town, although the tracks were now long out of use.
* * * *
Madarina pulled a very different window shut and jerked her hands to her breast as if they’d be stung. She sat in the near dark, smelling the dust of centuries and wondering how many different people’s dead skin cells were piled up along the window ledge. She brushed her hands off on her dress with a violence that betrayed her taught nerves. She then impulsively kissed the back of each hand. Mom used to kiss her where she got hurt.
She stood up and began pacing the dimly lit room, listening to the soft sound the many layers of her dress made. At first she had been excited about dressing up.
At first she had been excited about the whole thing. Going away for a summer to stay with her queer, wealthy old aunt Annabelle in the country. And no more Bett-Ann and the three Girldylox sisters from hell. Just plenty of books, and sunshine, and history, and best of all an ancient castle of a house.
Added glee; she could pretend to be a little girl again and laugh in secret at her silly old aunt who spoke with a bit of a lisp and who had promised her mother that “I will sthee to hit that your lovely Missth Madarina will find a sthuitable husthband while she is with me in the country. I have acquaintance with quite a few nice, handsthome young gentlemen, and I’m sure shsshe will soon be enamored with one or the other. There iss no way she could meet any proper young lads, penned up at home as she is here, and going to that filthhy little school.”
Mother had been worried about that marrying part, but Maddy had assured her that there was no way under a blue sky or a gray one, that she would become enamored with any said young gentlemen.
She stepped in front of the full length, gold-encircled mirror and spun around slowly. The pale purple silk dress swished about her, catching the subtle light in its voluminous folds. The ancient costume, that looked like it had come straight out of some Elizabethan paper doll book, smelt as new as a sun-dried summer dress. The style, unlike anything anybody wore except in reenactments, suited her just fine. Secretly, she had never liked any contemporary styles nearly as much as the very old ones. Her pale white shoulders rose with soft grace from the lacy folds. Her dark hair, which had only recently outgrown the streaks of purple she had given it, bubbled elegantly down from the loose bun so that it floated about her slender neck.
She had never felt more beautiful in her life. Nor had she ever felt more nervous. She wondered if the two always came hand in hand. It occurred to her, as she stared unabashedly her lovely reflection, that although she might not fall for any young men, they might certainly fall for her.