The First Piece

A tiny-waisted woman scurried down a candlelit hallway, dragging a small girl alongside of her, careful not to dirty the long train of her black dress. They headed toward a particular door passing oddly-shaped mirrors, trembling candles, and ugly paintings of roses and stern patriarchs along the way.

“I don’t want to hear any more out of you, Serafina,” the woman sharply reprimanded as they approached the door. “Children your age are meant to be seen but not heard. Unfortunately, you have managed to make quite the spectacle of yourself this evening.”

The woman threw the child into the room and barked instructions for her to clean up her toys and get to bed. Serafina planted her feet in the middle of her room and noted the piles of toys strewn carelessly about the burnished, hardwood floors. There was no way the maids could even get to the rugs in her bedroom let alone to her dresser or windowsill.

Wordlessly, the little girl obeyed and got to work. She quickly stacked blocks into smart piles onto a wooden trailer. Scurrying around the room, she put away her dress-up clothes, her fancy hats and her tea sets. While placing her rosy-cheeked collection of dolls neatly on a shelf, Serafina grabbed a particular doll to bring to bed with her.

“Are you sure you want to do that, Serafina?” the woman asked, her voice softening. “You know what they say about dolls.”

Serafina minded her manners and curtsied to the older woman. “Yes, M’aam. I was just thinking, though, that maybe Theodosia will protect me from the fairies.”

“Oh, that’s a good thought, but you know what will protect you even better?”

“My bedtime prayers?” Serafina whispered.

The woman nodded, and motioned for Serafina to jump into a large, four poster bed. She helped the little girl get settled, and primly tucked the bedsheets under the mattress. “Be a good girl then, Serafina. You know what to do to make up for today,” the woman encouraged, as she double-checked a small bowl of milk set out by the windowsill.

The little girl hesitated. “M’aam? Will Mother and Father take me to the zoo tomorrow like they promised?”

“Hmmm…let me think. Well, if you study hard tomorrow then they might take you to the Sanctuary.” The woman emphasized the word “sanctuary” as if it was the polite way to remind Serafina of the proper name for “zoo.” “Now, enough talk for today. Say your prayers, Serafina.”

Pulling the starchy-white covers tightly around her neck, the little girl closed her eyes and spoke in a loud, clear voice.

    “Now I lay me down to sleep
    May my dreams grow wild and deep
    where Fairies found are not to keep.
    And if I die before I wake
    The Reaper will my soul She’ll take.”

“Very good, Serafina,” the woman’s voice declared. “I think you’ve earned yourself an hour of free time from your lessons tomorrow in the gardens.”

Serafina softly giggled with delight; it was a proper cheer for a proper, little girl. “Thank you, M’aam,” she whispered. “Thank you.”

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