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Grade
7

 

Part 1

I’ve been living in the depths of King Henry VIII’s castle for fifteen years. I was brought here to serve and I’ve stayed here to serve, for all this time. It kills me to think that I’ll never have a life outside of these walls, I’ll never find love within these walls, and I’ll never, ever, escape these walls. And so that I don’t die in this cellar we live in, I don’t think about it. I go on doing my chores and I stop myself from daydreaming and I pinch myself if I do.

Us servants are never meant to be seen, heard, or touched. Us servants may never daydream, think, or speak. Us servants can never, ever, go outside. We are kept in here like animals who will soon die. Animals who will rot over and never learn to fly.

Mother says I often get too dramatic with my words, if I ever get to use them. She is always lecturing me about it. And I know that sometimes I may over exaggerate just a teensy-weensy bit, but I’m only trying to express how lonely and desperate I feel. Last time I checked that wasn’t a crime. But I know that even if it isn’t a crime, the King could make it so. I know he could have me beaten, whipped, or dead, just for expressing my feelings.

Even though I’m twenty, I’ve never learned how to read or write. The King believes it improper for women to learn anything. Especially servants like me. We are meant to clean, to do his bidding, whatever that might be. He can force us to do anything.

Maybe now you see why I long to get out of here. Why I need to feel fresh air on my dark, dry skin. Maybe now you see.

 

I can hear his orders from my small chamber room. I can hear his loud, authoritative voice screaming at everybody under his command. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. I hate my job, cleaning the palace top to bottom, but at least I’m not one of them. The ones who work upstairs, in the direct line of the King.

I look up at the ceiling, the crack that grows longer and longer everyday, the cobwebs in the corner. I hear the drip, drip of the leak in the corner, landing in the bucket I placed there a few months ago.

My mind wanders as I wait for sleep to come. I think of the story my mother once told me, a story about her mother, my grandmother whom I have never met. She told me of the time her mother had died. My grandmother, Eleanor was her name, was traveling as the Queen’s lady’s maid. Once they had arrived, Eleanor and some other maid, named Lucy I think, had been walking with the Queen down an icy path to get to the castle. Eleanor had chosen to stand on the right side of the Queen and the other maid on the left to keep the Queen from falling. Suddenly the ice below Eleanor started to crack. The freezing water below pulled her in and—and she drowned.

I sigh into my pillow, dreaming of a life outside of the palace. I hear a knock at the wooden door that leads to my room. It’s an odd time for someone to be knocking, almost dawn. I say “Come in,” and when the person on the other side opens the door I have to blink a few times before I can believe it’s really her. But it is. My long lost sister.

 

Standing there in the doorway, her long black hair in a tangle, her eyes bright with curiosity. Most people say she looks like me, and in some ways she does, but I don’t have the same energy that she has.

“Margaret? Wha—what are you doing here?” I stutter, “You left and you didn’t come back! We thought you were gone forever!” My eyes are searching her, looking for some sign that she’s not who she says she is.

“I know, I know. I’ll explain once we get mum.”

“Okay!” I say, happy that she’s home, but still brimming with curiosity about where she had been for the last six years. Suddenly, I get up and run over to her, she opens her arms to me, just like she did when we were little. Even though we are seven years apart, we’ve always been close. Just thinking about all the time that we lost together brings tears to my eyes.

When I reach her I hug her tight, to make up for all those years apart.

“Oof,” she says. “Careful Gracie, you’ve grown quite a lot since I left. She smiles down at me and I smile back. “We have to go tell everyone your home!” I exclaim, “They’ve all been so desperately worried!”

“No!” says Margaret. “The only people who can know are you, mum, and dad.”

She doesn’t know. I completely forgot to tell her. It had happened only three years ago.

“Maggie, father is—father is dead.” Margaret sits down on my little cot with a thump, for once speechless. “I—I don’t know what to say,” she says, finally. “How?”

It all comes flooding back to me, in a rush of emotion. My father, sneaking out in the dead of night, being beaten in chains, and finally a lump on the floor. I tell Maggie about it all, how he snuck out in a desperate attempt of escape. How they found him and beat him to death. At the end we’re both crying, but not those weeping gasps. Our crying was quiet but desperate, a silent storm.

 

We sneak up to mother’s room, quiet as mice, careful not to be seen or heard. A sound around the corner makes us jump, and we both look around for a place to hide. I point out a small janitor’s closet to our right. We open the door and step in, carefully closing it behind us so it doesn’t squeak. Maggie looks through the keyhole and I get flat on my stomach to look in the crack between the door and the floor.

All I can see from here is two heavy boots, a guard. We wait silently until the footfalls pass. We step out of the closet and are on the move again.

When we reach mother’s room we knock, as quiet as can be, and, after a few seconds, she peers out from behind the door. When she sees us, Margaret and me, standing there, her mouth falls open in shock and her eyes pop, but she knows not to speak until we’re all inside. She deftly opens the door, letting us into her chamber. We all gather on the bed and she starts firing away questions, one after the other. Margaret answers them as best she can. After mother has nothing left to ask, Margaret starts to speak.

“I know this might sound crazy, but I have a plan to run away, a plan to get us all out of here. A plan to escape.”

 

The plan is almost too simple. The following afternoon, even though it isn’t my job, I will bring the King his tea, and then fake a bad fall. I will then be sent to the hospital wing where mother and Maggie will be my nurses. While they should be healing my wounds, they’ll actually be taking me away. Away from this prison of a castle.

 

Part 2

I’m on my way to bring the tea to the King. I have butterflies in my stomach, both from the excitement and the nerves. I’m just about to turn the corner to his chambers when I hear my name. I look around the corner to the hallway on my right and see two of the guards whispering.

“She simply must take it! She has no choice! She has to know now! Grace isn’t a child anymore!”

“Well you can tell that to the King!” The other guard stomps off, luckily not in my direction. I have to make a choice. Deliver the tea or discover what the guards were whispering about, and I have to decide fast.

“The left side of the Queen or the right?”

I desperately want to know what they were talking about, but I know that’s not really an option right now. I can ask Maggie later, she’ll know what it was. She knows everything. Because of this I choose to go left. Towards the King’s chambers and towards my destiny.

 

I go through all the movements that Maggie instructed: I trip and I fall and I’m carried to the hospital wing. But all I’m doing is going through the motions, I can’t stop thinking about the words that the guard spoke, even though this is not the time to wonder.

I am set down on a white cot and Maggie and mother rush to me, dressed like all the other nurses. Maggie bends down and starts telling me the rest of the plan. I am to sneak out as soon as the sun sets. I am then to go down to the servants quarters to meet mother and Maggie. Then we will all escape into the night together.

 

I’ve been waiting by the hospital window for a while now, waiting for the sun to set completely. It’s so close. As soon as I can no longer see the bright light in the sky I go. I run down the stairs and to the servants’ quarters. I search for Maggie and mother and I see them waiting by the big doors that lead to the outside world. I grab their hands and we race free into the night together. But I know deep in my heart that I will never truly be free. Not with the words of the guard echoing in my mind. “She simply must take it! She has no choice! She has to know now! Grace isn’t a child anymore!” I could have known everything, I could have known what his words meant. If only I had taken the other path.

 

Part 3

I’m on my way to bring the tea to the King. I have butterflies in my stomach, both from the excitement and the nerves. I’m just about to turn the corner to his chambers when I hear my name. I look around the corner to the hallway on my right and see two of the guards whispering.

“She simply must take it! She has no choice! She has to know now! Grace isn’t a child anymore!”

“Well you can tell that to the King!” The other guard stomps off, luckily not in my direction. I have to make a choice. Deliver the tea or discover what the guards were whispering about, and I have to decide fast.

“The left side of the Queen or the right?”

I can’t help it. I have to know. So I go right. Towards the guard and towards my destiny.

I march up to the guard and I demand to know what he was talking about. He looks surprised to see me there, and scared too, like he knows that he’s going to have to fess up to the King that he revealed this big secret. I feel a twinge of guilt seeing the look on his face, but I don’t have time for pity.

 

The King tells me the basics once he knows what I overheard. How he was my real father, but that my mother was also my real mother. How I was the only heir to the throne.

I eventually figure out the rest of the story. That the King killed my father out of pure jealousy. That the King sent Maggie away because she was starting to get suspicious. Every puzzle piece comes together. Why Maggie hasn’t let us talk to anyone about her sudden appearance. Why mother and Maggie wanted me to get away so quickly, before the King could take me as his heir.

I realize now that my life is very different than it could have been, should have been. If only I had taken the other path.

State
MI
Zip Code
48103