It looked just like it normally did, except it was bigger. Much bigger. It looked realer too, less like a cartoon, and she could see lots of flat pieces of paper-people-walking around busily. There was a great variety among the people. Some of them were tall and thin, with perfectly coloured in features and smooth edges. Others were unsymmetrical, shorter and had jagged edges. As she noticed that the ones doing the harder work were the ones who looked less neat, she realized that they were the ones she had made herself. That's why their colours were uneven and sometimes not where they should be. The ones that looked perfect were the ones she had been given as presents, and were artificial, shop-bought paper dolls.
Eva looked down at herself curiously; she wasn't as perfect as the shop-bought dolls, nor was she as rudimentary as those she had cut out and coloured-in herself. She was somewhere in between, with smooth edges, and bright colours, yet not perfectly symmetrical, and not tall and slim.
A stalk-like thin girl with green hair and a wide slash of a mouth looked very familiar, and as she brushed past Charles Eva recognised her as the doll she'd made at her 8th birthday party, when she made all her friends make a paper doll too. They had teased her because she gave her green hair. It seemed like that feeling had transferred to the other paper dolls too, they seemed to be giving her a wide berth.
The corridors were weird. That's the first thing she noticed when she was inside the castle. Everything was flat. She was walking along but she could only look in one direction. The pictures on the walls were just that: pictures on the wall. They weren't hanging on it, they were drawn onto the very walls themselves. She was following Charles along the corridor, but it was hard to keep track of him because he disappeared behind anyone who happened to be passing. Nervously she kept her attention on his bright red hair, bouncing as he moved. Charles was walking quickly, so when he stopped suddenly she walked into him.
"S-sorry" she stuttered, flustered.
"Please excuse me" he said at the same time.
They laughed together, and with a smile, he gestured to a door, holding it open for her.
"You may change into your dress in here." he said politely.
It was a small room, probably used for storage or something. There wasn't much in it, but there still didn't seem to be enough space for Eva, who was having trouble putting on her dress.
"Charles, how do you...? I don't know how to put the dress on." she yelled through the door, sheepishly.
He gave a chuckle and explained. "You have to unfold the bits of paper above the shoulders, slot the dress onto your front and then fold the bits down again to hold it in place. There might be straps at your waist as well, to secure it properly."
Looking at the dress, Eva realized with a foolish feeling that she had to put in on the same way she normally put clothes on her paper dolls. With a few false starts and some awkward maneuvering, she finally hooked it on, and went out to show Charles.
"What do you think?" she asked shyly.
He was silent for a moment, then said reverently "Like a princess".
Eva nodded. In her head, she went over her story. She was a foreign princess, visiting from a land far away. She had come to visit her distant family here, to find a husband, but when she arrived she discovered they were gone. Her only option was to officially seek shelter in the castle and to make a royal request of those living in it. As her retinue was killed on the journey, she had hired a page, Charles, to help her.
Eva wasn't worried about her story, because after all, this was just a dream. As well as that, Eva knew that all her paper doll princesses said they had lands and castles and everything you could dream of, but no one ever asked to see it, or to see proof of it. It was her world, she should know how it worked.
Charles cleared his throat suddenly. "Come on, we have to go, we took longer than I'd expected... I have to bring you to meet the Prince, and then I have to get back to work."
"But I though I had hired you" she said questioningly.
"I doubt you have any real money to give me though" He smiled wryly "I have to earn enough to feed myself. We may let the Prince believe that, but I'm afraid I will have to leave you soon."
He lead her along the hallway, up a few flights of stairs, through decorated and luxurious corridors,to a door. On either side of the door stood an identical guard.
"Excuse me good sirs, but may I present the Princess Eva for an audience with the Prince and his advisers?"
"You may, but you'll have to stay out here. Can't have your type clogging up the audience room."
Charles turned to Eva and bowed."Farewell my lady, I will find you later. The Prince will sort out your accommodation."
"Goodbye Charles" she said hesitantly.
He was gone in the blink of an eye and, swallowing nervously, she turned-
"I didn't know paper dolls could blink" says the little girl accusingly.
"They can't love, it's just an expression."
"Oh..." the little girl nods, still not understanding.
-She turned to the door. The guards looked at her for a beat, and then rapped on the door twice, in unison.
"Enter." commanded a booming voice.