Part 47: The Contest (Round One) - Introductions

*Note: "Rowena" was Thelma in the previous Morgana chapter.                                       ________________________________________________

                         "At last the happy day came. They went to court..." (Cinderella, Charles Perrault)



        The morning of the contest is like no other I've ever experienced. The day does not dawn; it erupts.

          The blaring of trumpets and all sorts of other loud instruments strike up at the first sign of the sun. I'm already awake, thankfully. Sleep never came to me last night. Anxiety for the coming day sat like iron bars between my eyelids, prying them apart and forcing them to stare at the empty ceiling for the majority of the night.

          I haven't yet sat up in bed before Rowena and Esme, the two women Tannin duped into helping me last evening, are hovering over my bed. I forgot that I fell asleep in their room. Wide grins grace both of their faces, beautiful to anyone else but me at the moment. I can see the dress clutched between Esme's tiny fingers and the small satchel of cosmetics in Rowena's.

         "Time to get ready, dear," Rowena instructs. She pulls me out of bed and leads me over to where a vanity rests in the corner of the room. She pushes me down into the seat with one hand placed upon my shoulder.

      "Thank the heavens that we already took care of your hair," she muses while playing with the ends of my silky hair.

        Last evening was torture of the worst kind. Esme and Rowena spent hours clawing through my hair with their combs after a thoroughly embarrassing bath. I felt guilty each time one of the combs got caught in a tangle, broke to pieces, and fell into the tub of water I was sitting in. Esme would claim that it was "No problem!" but the distressed look on her face said differently. We went through exactly five expensive combs before my hair was completely knot-free. For the first time in as long as I can remember, my fingers are able to glide through my hair without pause.

         "Just a preview of what's to come in the morning," Esme promised while her slender fingers danced in and out of my layers of damp, yellow hair.

        The promise sounded like more of a threat last night. Now the morning has broke and reality has come to slap me forcefully across the face in the form of a feathery brush dipped in pink powder.

         "Oh, Harriet, you are going to look like a shining star!" Esme promises as she pats more of the pink powder onto my tired face. "Smile, sweetheart," she adds.

       I somehow oblige. Esme dips the brush into the basin of pink a few times then begins patting it against the apples of my cheeks.

        Rowena busies herself with braiding my hair to one side of my face, making sure to stay out of Esme's way. Her skilled fingers weave the strands of yellow together in an intricate pattern entwined with pink lace.

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