Waking suddenly for no explicable reason, Philip rolled over in bed and turned to face Rose. She was stretched straight in her bed, her long platinum tresses splayed around her, wide awake.
“Rose, it's the middle of the night. Why are you awake?”
“I can't sleep,” she murmured.
“It's just the heat of the summer.”
“No,” she whispered.
“It's the heaviness of the baby, then,”
He placed a hand on her large belly, full up with baby. She remained silent. He knew what it was. It was all the details of the Christening Party; the elaborate trimmings and the ostentation. Above all, it was the invitations and the guests. Dare they invite her? Dare they not invite her? She, who so long before, had cursed Rose.
Death, she said. But the curse was softened by the kind fairy who had exchanged the death sentence for a hundred year's sleep.
Rose crept quietly out of bed. She thought he had gone back to sleep.
“Where are you going?” he called out to her suddenly.
“In this heat? Why do you do that?”
“I like to spin. I can plan things. It takes my mind off other things.”
He shook his head. All this was the irony of Rose. She was spinning a Christening Gown for the baby even though she dreaded the whole concept. Why even have a party? Yet, she would; with gold plates and silver goblets. Just like she had when she was a baby. All the same. She loved all the preferences of prosperity. And the old fairy would be invited this time. Would it make a difference?
When the baby was born, she was fair-skinned with a little tuft of powder puff hair and rosy cheeks. They named her Ruby. She was exactly like her mother. Everybody said so. She would be a haughty queen some day; dignified and formal.
The Christening Gown was exquisite; white gossamer with gold threaded trim. Although Rose had dark circles under her eyes, she seemed happy on the Christening Day. The palace was shined to a sheen. Expense was not limited. It was an extravagant affair.
There were twelve gold plates at a special long table. No, there were thirteen. But the thirteenth was embellished with golden rose petals. It was the VIP seat for an old fairy. Would it suffice? Rose wasn't satisfied with that. She placed over the special seat a warm, lovely shawl she spun herself for the old fairy as an enticement.
The fairies entered in grand array; twelve of them all at once. All in attendance held their breaths at the empty seat; so beautifully decorated. Rose looked pale as her husband draped an arm around her.
Although the old fairy was very late; soup having been served when it could not hold any longer, she finally sidled in. She cast a glance at the soup already on the tables and grimaced. Then she narrowed her eyes at Rose. Rose couldn't decipher the look entirely; only that it seemed a bit cold and she shivered.
The fairy sat down upon her seat; paying no heed to the shawl or plate, almost as if it were her due. They all ate in silence.
Afterwards, it was the time for gifts. One by one the fairies steeped forward with their wands poised over the cradle of the dewy eyed infant. Beauty, song, dance, wealth, poise, charm, sunny disposition, sincerity, serenity, grace and talent. These were the first eleven gifts bestowed on the princess. The twelfth fairy hung back just as before. She didn't want to give her gift just yet.
A wry smile formed on the old fairy's face.
“There will be no hiding behind curtains tonight. Bestow your gift,” she ordered her sibling.
The twelfth fairy stepped timidly forward and touched the baby. “Long life,” she whispered.
The old fairy laughed. Rose sat frozen; but she sighed in relief.
“You thought to circumvent my gift, didn't you, sister?” She looked at Rose and Philip. “You thought to alter slights with your embellishments. I will give the gift I desire to give.”
Rose gasped. She bit her lip until it bled. King Philip rose from his seat.
The old fairy glared at him and lifted a hand. “Sit, you fool. It will not change things.”
She lifted her wand. “This child will have no pretenses. She will be exactly as she wants to be. She will be willful and free. When she reaches her sixteenth birthday, she will shake the shackles of royal domesticity and live to please herself.” She gave her audience a smug smile as they all frowned in consternation. “And to all you that are gathered here, that will be a curse it itself.”
Shari L Klase is a writer who began working her way into the world of publishing a few years ago when a story was accepted in a children’s magazine called, The Kids’ Ark. Since then she has been published in nearly 40 other print magazines and ezines, as well as two children’s story anthologies, and more.