What will be remembered:
- My oldest sister. Beautiful and arrogant, leading us through the tunnel. She was strong-willed. She was careless. She was trapped.
- My youngest sister. Light-footed and clever. Her voice was too small to be believed. Her truth. How we failed her.
- My father. His crown. His voice making bargains, making deals. The swing of the ax when men failed him. The doors he kept locked. How he told us to behave.
- The man. His cloak. How he stalked after us, reckless and proud and loud. How he lied. How he betrayed us. How he held our lives in his hands and took what he wanted. How he exposed us. How he triumphed.
- The princes waiting for us. Their hands outstretched, offering us so much. A night together, a lifetime of dancing. Somehow, they were blameless; the fault was ours.
- Our faces, young and unlined. Made up to last the night. Made up to cover the shadows under our eyes.
- Our shoes. Brocade and ornate, leather worn thin. Our gowns. Flowing and delicate, silk and chiffon, fit for royalty. Grand and gorgeous, just like us. All made to look lovely. All easily ruined.
What will be forgotten:
- Us middle sisters, interwoven as though we are one. Our names, our words, our desires.
- Our mother. Her voice as she sang for us. Her body that gave life to twelve girls and failed to bring her king a son. Her tunnel she created just for us. The way she loved us enough to show us a way out.
- Our voices. The songs we sang to each other after our mother’s voice died. The words we said in the dark to keep each other calm. The tales we wove, the dreams we dared to speak out loud behind castle walls.
- The way sisters are connected. Invisible tethers connecting us. When one sister is stolen, how we all suffer.
- The reasons. Why we let the men die. Why we kept going out, night after night, knowing we risked it all. Why we joined hands with princes and believed there could be a life for us outside of our room.
- The questions that were never asked. The questions that remain.
- The answers. How we loved each other, how we loved our princes, how we loved to dance. How fiercely we missed our mother. How the music felt as it raced through us, driving us to dance harder and harder, our sweat pouring and our gowns sticking to our backs. How we were dying in the dark, and together, behind thick stone walls and a locked door, we searched for light.
Madeline Anthes is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.
Artwork: Līga Kļaviņa