This is a short story I wrote two years ago. When I re-read, I found I still like it, and I still completely relate to it.
I dance among the curtains, letting my fears and infirmities fall away. I am in my own world. The pads beneath me are as feathers, and the fabric surrounding me as wisps of clouds. The delicate whiteness I wear as a dress flows like wind. My dark waves lie against my back, flying behind me when I twirl. I spread my arms and laugh at the glory of the universe.
Through the sheets and scarves I play, growing closer to the arch I call Comfort. The notes of the harpist grow fainter, and the trickle of a crystal spring reaches my ears. The ground under my feet becomes softer, lighter, and almost airy. Whiteness is joined by blue, blue is joined by silver, and silver by violet. I kneel next to my spring and grasps a bit of silver cloud from the air. I mold the condensed water into a bowl in my hands. From the diamond trickle I catch a bit of liquid, bringing the blue, the silver, the white, and the clear to my mouth. I drink. The purest water runs down my throat. I close my eyes and feel refreshed.
My eyelids lift to reveal a bright display. The world beyond Comfort has become a backdrop of dark blue and purple. I am surrounded by lights of all colors. They wrap around me, coaxing a giggle through my lips. Pinpricks of white and yellow join the show. They cover me until I, too, am light. I join the dance. I glide around and around, my gown trailing behind with the lights which play off of it.
What is time? Here, it does not exist. I play and do not grow weary until the clouds themselves wrap around me and tug me away from the spring. Softness covers me and leads me through the arch and the curtains. It lays me near the other world and gathers under my head. My weaknesses return yet do not trouble me. The clouds become blankets. My hair spreads out from under my neck. I know it displays around me like the rays of the sun. My eyes close, and I sense a water crystal being laid on each lid.
Bright light penetrates my eyelids. I groan and snuggle further into my pillows. I mumble, “Go away, world.”
I hear Mama’s light steps approaching from the window. She pulls back the curtains around my low bed and kneels next to me. I pretend to sleep.
“Wake up, Hada,” she murmurs, “It’s mid morning. Asa will be here soon.” She rubs my back. “Come, now. You are almost sixteen. A princess your age should be up and preparing for her ball.”
I turn and squint at her. Mama wears a velvet red gown trimmed in gold. Her grey-brown hair is held up by gold and scarlet ribbons, and rubies dangle from her ears. Every inch of her displays a true queen.
Her hazel eyes display a true mother. Only Mama can show love, care, and orders with a sideways glance. I reluctantly push myself into a sitting position and let her adjust the pillows to support me. “Would you at least close the curtains? It is too bright in here.”
“No.” She hands me my silver comb and wanders past my bed to my wardrobe. “You do not see enough sunlight as it is.”
I wrinkle my nose as I rip through a tangle in my hair. “If you are hinting that I should get out more, I can’t get up. And I refuse to be carried.”
Mama brings a fresh white gown to my bed. “I am not implying that you should go outside.”
I push the sheets back. “Good.”
“I am suggesting that you attend the ball being held in your honor next week.” She sets a mahogany railing nearby and pulls me to my unsteady feet.
“I am not going.”
Mama holds my arm as I slip my nightgown off. “I understand that you hate the social functions, but you are a princess, and you are coming of age, and the party is in your honor.”
I grip the railing. “All those people scare me.”
Her voice softens. “I know, Hada. Sometimes, you need to face your fears.”
“I cannot go.”
“You will sit next to me the whole time. A princess should not spend her coming of age ball in her bed.”
“I…” My grip on the railing fails as I slip an arm into my gown. I hit the floor with a thud, and tears spill from my eyes. “Please, Mama, do not make me.”
Her forehead crinkles. “I will not make you. Not this time.” She comes to my level and hugs me tight.
Relief washes over me. “Thank you.”
A knock on the door halts any further conversation; Asa is here for my weekly examination. His steps across the wide tiled floor are firm, measured. His stiff bow gives me a view of his sparse hair, which long ago retreated from the front lines.
Asa wears a green tunic with grey trousers. His simple clothing is accented only by a silver-specked belt and a matching sachet held by his left fist. It took me three years to become used to him, and shyness still plagues me, as it does around any male. I endure his poking and testing in silence.
Only when he requests that I stand do I protest. “Without the rail?!” I repeat. For unknown reasons, my legs are near useless, and it’s been that way my whole life. Asa knows that.
“I’ll help you to your feet, of course, but after that you must walk alone, my lady.”
“Walk?!” There is an echo in my room. A disturbed echo, named Hada. I have never taken a successful step outside of Comfort. “I refuse.”
“Your highness, your legs are in as good condition as ever. You should at least try while I am here.”
If I wasn’t such a pushover… I clench my teeth and take his hand. He lets go. I keep an eye on the grey slate tiles. I am going to connect with them very soon. My arms out for balance, I raise my right foot a single centimeter.
Asa catches me the moment I slip.
Voices float past the curtain, penetrating my peaceful afternoon rest. I watch the large room beyond my bed fill with people, and wish that Father and Mama did not insist I appear to the public. They say that since they and my brother meet the people, I must as well. But as more company approaches, and as more stare at me, my legs begin to ache, and panic wells up.
I take a deep breath. Another one. The torrent of air calms me but a little. I notice a young man, not much older than I am, making his way toward my lounge. Frozen, I take in his hair, as dark as mine; his muscles, revealed by the short sleeved blue tunic; his sword, hanging from a silver belt; his intense sapphire eyes, set beneath determined brows.
It is time to escape. I crawl as if my life depends on it. Through the sheets I go, cursing my troublesome skirt. I look over my shoulder. I am safe. The arch is just ahead, beyond one more sheer silk curtain. I close my eyes, take three refreshing breaths, and let Comfort embrace me.
The safety of escape into the known revives me and strengthens my legs. I am on my feet, dancing into my world. Nothing can hurt me. No one expects anything of me here. I can keep my eyes shut and twirl around in thin air.
I hear the crystal spring trickling in a near musical pattern. I feel the clouds fold around me, and the wind rifle my hair. Finally, peace. A smile inches across my face, completing the glorious feeling.
Better, I open my eyes. Shock races through me, and I collapse onto a chair made from light. A human form, taller than any man I have met, detaches itself from the clouds. A robe, seeming as if made from cotton, ripples in the wind. A long beard flows like water, and the hair of his head follows it. Eyes, penetrating rainbows of white cloud, level with mine.
A voice likened to a roaring waterfall and a gentle breeze comes from his mouth. “My daughter.” I have never heard such compassion.
My eyes grown wide, until I am certain they are the size of dinner plates. The strangest part is that I feel no Fear. “My… My Lord?”
“Why are you afraid, Daughter?”
I am awed by his presence. “You know why, Lord.”
He – floats? sits? – next to me. “Yes, but I want you to tell me.”
In all honesty, I have never truly asked myself why I am always afraid, so His question takes some thought. “Well,” I begin slowly, “There is so much to fear. I am afraid of pain, because I hate to hurt. I am afraid of growing into a true princess, because responsibility is hard, if not impossible. I panic around people because… I expect something of them, and they expect something of me. I have to act, to think, to avoid embarrassment. I am afraid because life is difficult. If you take one wrong step, you feel immense pain. And I hate pain.” And this monologue is why I am afraid to talk around strangers.
“Good thing I am not a stranger, then.”
I look up, startled.
“Hada, my daughter, do you wish to keep Fear with you always?”
“Of course not!”
“Would you like to defeat it?”
I bite my lip. “Could I?”
“Yes. It would be difficult, but you could do it.”
“How? How could I even begin to overcome something that has been with me my entire life?”
“You cannot defeat Fear alone. But with me, anything is possible. You must trust me, and trust him whom I send. Then, you will have the courage to defeat Fear. Then, you will be able to step out of Comfort and learn the wonders of the world I created for you to share with the rest of my children.”
“It sounds difficult, frightening.”
“Have faith.” He begins to disperse into the air.
“Lord!” I cry. The fear is returning. “Do not leave me!”
The breeze whispers in my ear. “I am with you always.”