The young woman wanders barefoot through the forest, alone. Nothing is familiar. But she’s brave, fearless and she continues through the verdant surrounds.
It’s beautiful. Quiet. Different to home, where Mummy and Eddie fight all day.
‘Ow!’ She stubs her toe on the root of a myrtle beech; her cry pierces the silence. Sitting down on the undergrowth to survey the damage to her foot, she notices the trunk of the tree is wide and ropey.
Her toe is a bloody mess. The top part of her nail is torn loose. Why the hell did she choose to run away without shoes?
Mummy and Eddie. That’s why.
She couldn’t take their bickering anymore. The lessons. The meetings. Books. Tests. The resistance from Eddie to do anything other than sow his wild oats.
Why can’t she be first in line? She’s better suited to the role; first-born, too. She’s more regal, more glamorous, more popular. The crown would look fabulous on top of her glorious golden, flowing locks—a crown never looks good on a man. Plus, Eddie’s not even remotely likeable. Only gets to sow those oats so women can say they’ve slept with the next monarch.
She rubs her toe. Looks up the trunk. The tree must be at least thirty metres high. Easy to climb, too, with all those branches.
Before she decides against the idea, she’s clambering up the tree, as if she’s four again. She has a dim recollection of doing this with Eddie, at Granny’s country estate. But that was before everything got serious, and they thought they were ordinary children. Rich beyond understanding, yes, but normal.
She’s almost at the top. As far as she’s willing to go anyway. Through the sparse foliage, she can see the castle. Hasn’t gone the distance she’d thought, after all. Squinting her eyes, she makes out Mildred pruning in the south rose garden. There’s the fish pond. The pool to the left.
Maybe she shouldn’t run away. With a jolt, she realises she couldn’t get too far from home without being recognised.
Leaning back, a sense of resignation to her life of privilege, albeit wholly devoid of purpose settles over her like a heavy blanket. She must return, soon, before her presence is missed.
First though, she takes a deep breath, filling her diaphragm. Opens her mouth. Wide. Lets it all out in a loud, proud and cleansing roar.
There now. That’s better. She climbs carefully back down, jumping off the last branch, a metre from the ground. Pain shoots up her calves; she gives each leg a jerky shake, and begins to make her way back to the castle.
A princess she is, after all.