A short story about loss, despair, and regaining wonder
Written by Gracie Menger
The funeral was on a cold December day. She felt stiff in her many coats, layered to protect her from the freezing air. They sat inside an enormous church. The aisle between her and the shiny black coffin seemed to stretch endlessly. High cathedral ceilings looked down on her harshly, and every step echoed through the chamber.
As the service dragged on, the princess thought of her castle home. On summer nights, white horses with blue manes and silver horns would graze in the garden. Although the flower beds were now layered in snow, the tiny people were still living there. They had iridescent indigo wings sprouting from their backs. Just a few days ago, she had been playing in the huge marble and gold hallways with her younger siblings and the snow dwarfs and ice sprites, making icy sculptures. It seemed like years ago.
She had not known her grandfather that well. Every time her family had visited, he had been up in his room, too sick to greet them. His eyes had been distant, and when he had spoken, he had only made strange sounds or moans. She had overheard his servants talking once.
“The poor man is long gone, has been for many years.”
“Such a shame the princess couldn’t have seen him before his mind was affected by sickness.”
The priest prayed for a long time. Her back ached against the wooden pew. The princess tried to remember what her grandfather was like before his mind turned sick. She squeezed her eyes shut and prayed.
“God, please show me. I must have some memory of what he used to be like.”
A memory took form. She was in her grandfather’s lap, and he was laughing. She could remember his hearty, deep laugh ringing through the castle and the twinkling of his mischievous blue eyes. A pang hit her in the chest, and her clothes felt stifling. She could feel her face burning. If only she had been born earlier, she could have known him better.
As they left the church, the princess saw none of the magical creatures she used to spot everywhere. At home, she found no one else in the castle. That night, she dreamt of the day’s events.
She looked into the casket and horror filled her. That thin, sickly figure couldn’t be her grandfather. She felt a heavy hand on her shoulder. Her father gently led her away from the casket and sat her down in one of the pews.
“Darling, your grandfather doesn’t look the same anymore because of the sickness he had, remember?”
She knew that. For a moment, she hated that her parents hadn’t let her visit him as much as she would have liked.
The princess awoke, crying, in her canopy bed. The next day her castle seemed smaller. She saw none of the creatures of myth and legend, and she no longer wished to play with them.
As she got older, she started attending a public school, not a private princess academy. She travelled to school in a bus instead of a horse-drawn carriage or the back of a pure white dragon.
In Grade Six, her best friend became her enemy. Cruel words led to her being alone, outside her friend group. The princess drifted between friends until high school. She felt like a burden to be dealt with and passed along. When one group tired of her, she would be tossed to another.
Weariness filled her, and she stopped trying. All she could think of was: I am a burden to those near me. I am nothing to everyone. I should not exist. No one would notice me if I vanished.
At her ordinary house with an acre of backyard and a small garden, there were no castles in sight. It was hard to imagine a canopy could fit in her bedroom. Her family was worried for her.
“Hey, do you want to play, big sis?”
“How is my wonderful daughter doing?”
“Let’s have a girl’s night tonight? Just you and me!”
She felt as though she was drifting away from everyone and everything.
“I look fat,” she whispered in the mirror.
She stopped eating. Her mother was the only thing keeping her from anorexia. Her self confidence crumbled into ashes. Her mind swirled with the thoughts of suicide, mental abuse, and suggestions of hurt. Her faith was a string that could be snapped at any moment.
“My life is still good. I shouldn’t feel sad, right?” she told herself while crying into her pillow.
Then one night she had a dream. She was sitting in a tree from her childhood, staring glumly at the lifeless landscape before her. It was as if she was transported into a photograph from her childhood—a childhood that had been cruelly shattered by death and depression. All was still. Then a whisper of wind caressed her face.
She looked down toward the sound of footsteps. She and her tree were surrounded by people—friends she hadn’t acknowledged for a long time, people who had cared about her. They looked up and smiled at her, waving for her to join them. She saw her family reaching with open arms, shouting happily for her to come down. Her ears were filled with the joyful sounds of being wanted.
“Let’s hang out together!”
“Hurry up! Class is starting.”
“Hey! Your majesty!”
Her head jerked toward the sound of the last voice and she saw her magical friends waving from beyond the tree.
“We have more stories to tell you! Don’t go running off again, okay?” a mermaid called.
Among all the shouting and waving, she saw an outline of someone she had ignored for longer than she should have.
Her eyes shimmered with tears as He reached out and said to her, “You were never alone. I carried you this far. In your darkest days, remember you aren’t alone. And when death separates you from those you love, know that I have already died for you and them. You’ll see them again. And I am always with you, no matter what.”
The wind stirred and the world spun around her, the black and white photograph of her childhood began blotting and bleeding with the vibrancy of colour. Warm pinks, reds and oranges, colder blues, greens, and violets swarmed around her. She was wrapped in embraces and surrounded by the voices of those who loved her.
The princess never saw the castle or her magical friends again, but she did hear their whispers on many little breezes. The beautiful colours of the world returned, and so did her belief that she was never alone. Jesus was with her.
This is not the story of a princess; this is a tale of how a normal girl was awakened and brought back to her family. She has no royal title, except for this: Child of the Supreme King.