In the Kingdom of Far Away where the hills are always green and graced with butterflies; where the river flows with crystal clear water; and people are content with the way things are; lived a family of 5. Father was one of the King’s greatest financial advisors and Mother was the dance tutor for many of the princes and princesses in the Kingdom. Each of their three daughters was born with their own exceptional gifts. The eldest had a passion for thinking and writing, she was the most intelligent of the three. The middle daughter was exquisite to look at, a dreamer and a beauty who loved everyone she met. The youngest was the perfect homemaker with an eye for design and accepting only the best. The three girls grew up together in the Kingdom of Far Away. The eldest had to take on adult responsibilities from a young age as her Father suffered from an illness that sometimes kept him in bed and in need of assistance with his work. Much was expected by Mother too, as she needed her eldest daughter to help her keep house and teach. The middle and younger daughters didn’t need to worry as the eldest made sure they never knew the challenges that their parents were facing. Together the family lived in their humble home in Paradise Valley sharing much love and happiness, if little wealth.
Times were easy for the royalty of the Kingdom, but the village folk found themselves having a difficult time as their taxes were raised to look after the royalty and their advisers. The pay for the folk working for the royalty was adjusted and the village folk needed to work from a young age to maintain balance in the Kingdom and comfort in their homes. As the eldest was helping her parents she learnt how to budget and how to dance. To earn extra money for the family she became a tutor for the princes and princesses. The middle daughter was able to use her beauty and became a model for all the princesses’ new clothes. The youngest sister used her talents to design new and modern rooms for the princes and princesses as they tired of the old designs around them.
As the three girls were growing up their parents encouraged them to spend time with the wealthy princes and princesses; to become friends with them and learn about how royalty lived. Father and Mother had spent all their lives serving the royalty and they prayed that their beautiful daughters would achieve more with their lives than debt and servitude. The parents taught the girls how to look after themselves and their home. They brought them up with manners and an understanding of humility. Thus, as they matured into young women, they took on all they were taught and anyone who looked into their eyes could see that the beauty without was echoed within.
As the youngest was often in the homes of the royalty she met many different princes. She was invited to Balls and Garden Parties and her business flourished. She was able to purchase elegant outfits and accessories and began to fit in with the royalty more quickly than her parents had hoped for. When attending one such Ball, in an exquisite emerald green gown, she was asked to play the piano for the hostess. Always happy to oblige, she sat down and played a song that touched the heart of a visiting prince. When she finished playing he offered her his hand, “May I escort you to the balcony dear princess?” he asked. She looked up into his eyes and her heart knew that she needed to take his hand and accept his offer. She smiled, “It would be my pleasure young prince.” She stood up and the two of them went to the balcony, where they chatted under the starlight until the stars were replaced by the sun. Although they both knew they were meant to be together, their courtship took five years. His family stayed in a Kingdom Further Away and they did not approve of any girl who was not of royal descent. The years were difficult and their love was challenged continually, but in the end they proved the truth in their hearts and were married with the consent of both families, but on the condition that the youngest daughter move to the Kingdom Further Away where she would live a life of royalty, without anyone needing to ask about her past. The youngest daughter happily followed her heart knowing it would be worth the pain of being separated from her family.
The middle daughter’s destiny followed a very different path. She met many princes and was wined and dined for all to see her beauty. She giggled and enjoyed the attention. She fluttered her
eyelashes and used her gift to pass on love to all she met, without ever losing her innocence or hurting a soul. She was too beautiful inside and out to offend anyone. One evening, before one of
her modeling shows, the director ordered that the floors of the Palace be cleaned to a shining polish befitting the royalty that would be visiting. The cleaners worked hard to appease the director
and the floor was shining perfectly by the time the honoured audience arrived. As the middle sister took to the catwalk in her stiletto heels she stepped out from behind the curtain, but the polish
on the floor had created such a smooth surface that she slipped and fell, twisting her ankle as she landed. The room gasped and a voice was heard: “Out of the way, I’m a doctor, let me
The middle daughter felt the searing pain and tears welled up in her eyes. As the doctor got to her, he picked her up and took her backstage. As he looked at her face he saw her beauty shining through her eyes with a sparkle overpowering even the floor’s polished shine. He knew without a doubt that the woman in his arms was meant to be there forever. As he carried her back stage she hung onto him in pain. “Ice! Someone get some ice!” He ordered, not being able to bear her being in any pain. She couldn’t hold the tears anymore and mascara bled all over his suit. As the pain overwhelmed her she clung to him and felt the pain magically dissolve.
The ice arrived and the doctor made sure she was ok. The ice began to help the pain subside. The middle daughter was so grateful for his assistance. She looked up and tried to smile through the
pain, to show her gratitude and the doctor’s heart melted. But his dream was shattered as a voice spoke behind him spoke: “Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you. The security wouldn’t let me
backstage.” His heart was torn as he recognised his fiancé’s voice.
“Yes, honey, I was just helping the young lady. She has sprained her ankle badly.”
“Just like you to save a damsel in distress, dear. I think you best leave the model now and come back to your seat; the fashions coming out on the ramp are gorgeous.”
He turned back to the middle daughter, looked in her eyes one last time, and asked: “Are you alright?”
She smiled back, through ruined make-up and numbed pain, “Yes, thank-you so much. You’ve been so kind. If ever I can help you with anything, please let me know.”
“My pleasure,” he answered, “I’ll be sure to give you a ring, if our paths cross again.”
It was two years later, when fate brought their paths together again. The prince was throwing the youngest daughter the biggest Birthday Ball of the season and most of the royalty of the Kingdom of Far Away were invited with their friends of the right class. As a favour to the doctor his friend invited him to the festivities, telling him it would be an excellent way to get over the break up with his fiancé. The doctor begrudgingly agreed, not knowing that the model was the sister of the youngest daughter. As the doctor walked into the ballroom he saw the middle sister standing and looking radiant in a deep maroon ball gown, holding a glass of champagne in her hand, as she chatted to a circle of admirers. She was laughing and exuding love for all. All the feelings, the memory of her shining eyes, everything he had felt two years ago came rushing back and he knew the ring he wanted to give her was a wedding ring. He asked her to dance, she accepted. They courted, they romanced and were married within in the year. Father and Mother were shocked that their middle daughter had married a doctor and not royalty as they had expected; but they were thrilled because their happiness was something for the world to learn from.
The eldest daughter was a bridesmaid at both weddings. She was thrilled for her younger sisters and knew that her prayers had been answered as both her sisters had found happiness, and husbands with kind hearts and generous natures. As with every joy, sorrow must come, and the eldest sister’s heart was sad that it now felt such loneliness. She decided the best thing to do was leave the Kingdom of Far Away. Her parents were being cared for by their daughters and sons-in-law now, she wasn’t needed in the present as she had been needed before. The eldest daughter finally felt like she could be free to be whomever she wanted to be; but she knew she would never be able to explore life if she stayed in the Kingdom of Far Away. So, much to the sadness of her family, because she was a wise, helpful and loved member of her family, the eldest daughter made her way to the Land Beyond. Despite the fear and the loneliness, the eldest sister found a job as a tutor during the day and as a dance instructor by night. Her practice in finance served her well as she managed to pay for all she needed to in the Land Beyond. She made new friends and began to enjoy her adventure, but in the back of her mind she knew that her time away would be short, so she gave her time in the Land Beyond everything she had.
Sadly, she wasn’t able to keep the loneliness at bay. Her new friends couldn’t offer her the love her family had. She became sick and had to rely on strangers to help her heal again. The job she had tutoring turned out to be for an evil witch who took all the money for her tutoring and didn’t pay the eldest daughter past the first year that she worked for the witch. But the eldest daughter remembered her family, her faith, her humility and grace. She decided that her roots were stronger than the evil of the Land Beyond. She decided she had tried everything she could, had given up everything she had, but she would not give in to the evil that had tricked her. She moved out of the evil witch’s accommodation and into the house of a gnome. It was a small house, shared by 3 other gnomes and the eldest daughter did all the cleaning and cooking as the gnomes were wretchedly dirty and noisy. Still, the eldest daughter refused to cry, she refused to let the challenges get the better of her, she decided to make a plan. She spoke to the friends she could trust and one of them had heard of a job in a shoe factory. The eldest daughter knew that if she could last a couple of months in the shoe factory, then she would be able to get herself home again, home to her loving family who would be able to help her start again in the Kingdom Far Away. The eldest daughter took the job and was grateful to her friend. She was happy to see that the job was in Eden Road, in her heart she felt that maybe, just maybe something good could happen yet.
But, as the eldest daughter walked into the factory she knew she had made the wrong decision. She knew that hammering the heels on shoes every single day was going to kill her soul. Sadly, she really had no choice as financial times were bad everywhere. Two months she thought to herself, just two months and I can go home. She worked hard. She showed everyone the love and good manners she had been brought up with. She was courteous and kind and chose to smile, despite all the pain she was suffering inside. She was allowed an hour lunch break every day and she chose to go outside the factory and sit on a small patch of grass next to a little river that ran past the back of the factory. She always sat on her own as the workers chose to sit indoors in the canteen, but the eldest daughter needed the fresh air and sunshine, they reminded her that home wasn’t far away. Sitting there quietly the river reminded her of Paradise Valley; and by the third day she had made friends with the butterflies that had made the spot their home. She gained strength from the two eagles that were nesting nearby; and for an hour a day the eldest daughter found peace and the energy to carry on.
In her second week she made her way to her grassy patch and sat down. As she sat a voice came from behind her, “May I join you?” It was the voice of the boss. The eldest daughter’s blood froze.
This was her time alone, when she could cry, miss home, be alone and away from gnomes and factory workers, and find her strength again. She didn’t want anyone there with her, especially not the
factory boss. If he knew how sad she was in the factory, he would fire her for sure; but she needed this job, she needed the money to get home. She took a deep breath, remembered her manners,
remembered her humility, and that she didn’t own the patch grass. “Of course,” she managed, “As you wish.”
He sat next to her, “It’s lovely out here.”
She wasn’t comfortable with the boss sitting so close, it seemed so strange, “Yes; the river is very soothing, after the noise of the factory.”
He nodded. “I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name.” He said apologetically.
“It’s Heather.” She replied, wishing he hadn’t asked.
“Heather,” he repeated. “Why did your parents choose that name?”
The eldest daughter was regretting having manners, regretting having to speak, wishing she was at home, “They named me after the Scottish plant that God asked to grow upon the hillsides to make them more beautiful. The Heather accepted God’s request and God was so pleased that He bestowed three gifts on her: The strength of the Oak, the fragrance of the Honeysuckle and the sweetness of the Rose.”
The boss looked at her in amazement, as if he saw all those things in her and his eyes started to sparkle in a way that Heather had only seen in the eyes of her brother-in-laws when they gazed at her sisters. She thought it very unfair and inappropriate for the boss to look at her that way. She had never been more grateful for her lunch break to end.
As the days continued the boss carried on joining her by the river. Heather eventually started to accept that he may enjoy sitting on the grass too, and she must accept that he was the boss and let him talk to her. He told her many tales of his family, his dreams, his desires and philosophies. Heather became acquainted with the sound of his voice and began to enjoy seeing someone so happy near her when everything in her life was so painful. He began to whistle when he came to sit down, so she knew he was walking towards her without even turning around. They began to laugh together and for an hour a day Heather stilled her pains; but she never forgot her manners, because he was the boss and all she was there to do was heel shoes.
Heather had two weeks left before she could resign and move home again. As she was excitedly thinking about this an invite arrived at everyone’s work station. It was an invite to a Ball that
Friday. Heather knew she needed to go and keep up appearances. She knew that it would be one night of good food, and not the scraps she was eating with the gnomes. She had one magnificent sapphire
blue ball gown left in her suitcase and she knew that she could pretend to be a princess for a night. She borrowed her friend’s expensive jewelry, put on her favourite dancing shoes and went to the
ball. When she arrived the girls who sat in the workstations next to hers came to keep her company. The three of them stuck together and were ready for a night of fun. They sat at their table
awaiting the beginning of the festivities. As they sat Heather saw the boss walk in. He was dressed in a tailored suit, shining shoes, sparkling eyes and the biggest smile on his face she had ever
seen. He looked like a prince, he looked like the classy men who she had tutored and taught to dance. He took her breath away. She couldn’t look him in the eyes again, she couldn’t speak to him
again, she realised that a new pain was going to be a part of her life now; the pain of loving someone she couldn’t have. Heather was so confused. What had happened? How had it happened? She didn’t
know what was happening and she had no-one to ask. No-one to tell. She didn’t know what to do.
Then that voice was next to her, “Heather,” she looked up into those eyes, knowing she could never say no, “Heather, please may I have this dance.”
Say no, she heard her head saying, her manners, her upbringing, don’t hurt yourself anymore. . . but she knew she couldn’t say no, her heart was in charge for the first time in her life. Quietly, without a word, she accepted his hand and followed him to the dance floor where for the first time in her life she was the one who got to be a princess. For those few minutes on the dance floor she got to be in love, be happy and experience everything that she had be dreaming of for so many years. She finally understood the love her sisters had for their husbands, the love her parents had for them, the love that is the most important thing in life, the reason people exist. She wished those perfect few minutes would never end, and at the same time she wished they had never happened, because they changed her life forever. Without his knowing, the boss was, indeed, her prince.
As their dance ended Heather and the boss returned to their seats and an announcement was made. The boss was leaving the factory because he was betrothed to a princess in Another Land and the two of them were to become the new King and Queen the following year. The prince had only worked at the shoe factory in order to understand his subjects better and escape from his castle and duties for a little while. Heather’s heart shattered in that moment and she knew her new pain was there to stay.
The next week Heather had three lunches where the prince joined her. She used each of those lunches to tell the prince a story that declared her love for him. Each time he patiently listened and replied telling her: “I have no feelings for you at all, Heather.” Three times she tried, three times she was denied. He asked her never to contact him again. She respected the prince too much to argue with him. She respected herself too much to grovel and beg; she had said her peace and knew that had to suffice. She also knew that going against the will of a prince had dire consequences that she did not deserve to face.
Before her last day Heather realised that (even though her parents had dreamt she would find love and happiness with royalty after all her dedication to her family and helping where she could), the divide between classes was too great a canyon for her to cross. Her youngest sister had to change her life to be royalty; her middle sister had found someone of her own class and had sacrificed her modeling and becoming royalty for love. One had crossed the canyon with great sacrifice, the other had stayed on her side of the canyon; yet both were happy with their choices. Heather realised she loved her humble roots, she loved the simple life, she loved her side of the canyon; that’s where she could be the most helpful, where she could use her life to make a difference in other people’s lives. She realised that she had unknowingly, unconsciously fallen in love with royalty from the other side of the canyon, and now it was time to go home, and savour her dance with royalty as a beautiful memory.
Heather’s pain did not heal in the Kingdom of Far Away, the pain was there to stay. The pain of lost love, the pain of unrequited love, the pain of knowing when your heart is missing its other half. In Heather’s mind she knew walking away from the prince was the right thing to do, he surely deserved a genuine princess, and not a lady merely dressed in princess’s clothing. Heather realised that she was deciding to live a life of servitude, like her parents, and thus became a teacher, where she managed to share her adventures and wisdom with many young children. She taught them that everything in life is a choice, where they can only make the best decisions they can with the information they have at the time; and thereafter, learn how to cope with the results and consequences of those choices with strength, kindness, honesty and humility. Learning that even pain can be used for good, if you choose for it to be so.
Heather stayed true to her name. She was as strong as the Oak in bearing her pain, as fragrant as the Honeysuckle in sharing her love and wisdom, and as sweet as the rose whilst always being kind. She never gave up hope that one day the pain would go and love would flourish. Perhaps you can see her love and hope in the eyes of the people you meet; it’s there, you just need to look for it.
© Copyright 2016 Shannan Browne. All rights reserved.
Book / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
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