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Princess

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a princess. Princess Ruthie. My dresses will be satin and silk. Pink satin. White silk. I’ll wear pink ribbons in my hair, my long blonde hair. I’ll have a zillion pairs of slippers and they’ll all have silver buckles. With diamonds. And pearls.

“I’ll carry a rod — what they call a sceptre — and everyone will curtsy and kneel. They’ll all have to do what I say.

“Oh! I’ll have a stable of white ponies and the grooms will keep the ponies’ hooves polished and their manes and tails combed. I’ll go riding every day.

“My little fuzzy doggie will be named JoJo and he’ll go everywhere with me.

“Twenty footmen and twenty butlers and twenty tall soldiers will take care of me.

“I’ll marry a Handsome Prince and live happily ever after.

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a princess.”

* * *

“Ruth? Honey, it’s time for bed now.”

Her blank, pale blue eyes turn to him. She still knows her name. She’s still as lovely to him as she was sixty years ago. Before the cruel disease he can’t pronounce stole her mind, leaving just the shell of the vibrant woman he still loves. She hasn’t spoken in months, but he murmurs soft words to ease her way as he gently lifts her to her feet. Such tiny feet barely filling out the soft pink satin bedroom slippers.

His big rough hands, hands that speak of a lifetime of hard labor, tenderly stroke her fluffy white hair. He’s become quite the hairdresser in his old age. He lifts her onto the bed and straightens her pink gown, always mindful of her modesty. With the ease born of long practice, he slides off her slippers and replaces them with warm socks. He covers her wasted frame with a blanket.

She whimpers once.

“Here he is, Ruthie. You don’t think I’d forget little JoJo, do you?” A ragged stuffed puppy tucked into her arms settles her down. The toy had belonged to their older son when he was a child. Now it is one of the few things bringing peace at bedtime.

He seats himself on the edge of the bed, taking her cool, birdlike hand in his. He strokes the back of her hand with his thumb. She always had been a bird in his arms, so tiny. Fragile. But strong. Strong enough to raise two fine tall sons. He croons, “Gone to soldiers, every one.” It used to be her favorite song, before they both did “go to soldiers.”

A rare smile lights her face. For a flicker of time, a moment, a heartbeat, she’s truly there.

“Harold.”

Then she’s gone, her face blank, her mind wandering in unknown lands, her eyes like blue marbles, beautiful but unaware.

Harold leans over his wife. Kisses her brow. “Good night, Princess. Sleep tight.”

* * *

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a princess.”

2 Responses to “Princess”

  1. Becky Wooley says:

    You manage to tell a great deal with very few words. I think I know these people.

    • MAPC says:

      Thanks. It’s not at all my usual thing. That’s why I plunked it here. It did get an “honourable mention” in one contest, though. Thanks for reading it!

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