Elizabeth was a beautiful princess. Everyone in the building that day told her so. Her dresser said in the morning, “you’ve always been a beauty, girl, but today, dressed in all the finery, you look even more lovely”. It was worth putting up with the itchiness of the net underskirts and the stiffness of the bit around her middle because the dress was made in her favourite colour, pink. It was not just any pink, but the softest pale pink imaginable. It was almost the same colour as her lips. One or two of the staff had said that the colour would not suit her but she insisted. In fact, she had caused quite a stir with her screams resonating through the huge old building and her ranting continued until eventually she was given her own way. Elizabeth was aware that even a princess was allowed to have a temper tantrum every now and then.
The dress had elbow length puff sleeves and a pretty lace collar. From the waist down it was so full that there had been quite a struggle when trying to put it over her head earlier this morning. For a few seconds she became lost in the fabric. She wasn’t able to breathe and it had been a bit frightening but then her assistant found a way through tugging it down over her face to settle on her shoulders. There were lots of tiny fabric covered buttons which followed the line of her spine and, made of the same pink satin silk, a huge sash belt for her waist. That belt was tied in a large bow at the side to make things more comfortable when she sat. Enclosing her tiny feet was a pair of delicate soft slippers finished with diamanté decorations at the toe. The soft shoes did not have to be robust as she would not be walking anywhere on the day. Instead, just like the princesses of the old days, she was to be transported in a specially decorated chariot. It had been designed by her closest friend, Ben.
Elizabeth thought that the most beautiful thing in her outfit was the tiara. It looked like a shiny halo and Victoria said that it ‘adorned her thick red hair perfectly’. She also complained that it took a lot of brushing to create the ‘lustrous glow to her unruly curls’ and she spent a long time putting in the many hairpins to hold it securely on Elizabeth’s head. Victoria was pleased it was not a large gaudy thing and called it delicate, saying it was not unlike the filigree bracelet Elizabeth’s mother had worn the last time she visited. Most importantly to Elizabeth, the tiara was studded with gems of many different colours. Elizabeth loved coloured stones. Every night she watched the light play on the prism of her bedside light for hours, never tiring of observing the variety of colours which gave a beautiful dancing spectacle on the white wall opposite.
There was a reason for the special clothes and added attention. The day was a very special one. It was her birthday. And it was not just any old birthday. It was a most important birthday. Elizabeth had been excited for weeks because she was told that she was going to be a teenager. She thought about the day for many hours, trying to guess what special present her mother would bring.
Victoria dedicated most of her working time with Elizabeth preparing for the day. The lessons had focused on talking about the colours that Elizabeth wanted for her outfit and the food that should be served. Occasionally it had taken too much effort for Elizabeth to think about it all and, in an exhausted state, she lashed out in fury. Fortunately Victoria had lots of patience so she didn’t get annoyed as other staff had done in the past. “We got there in the end”, Victoria said with a beaming smile after all of the decisions had been made.
Late in the morning Ben helped push Elizabeth’s carriage into the room and Victoria, with one of the staff, had ensured that she was seated comfortably before the celebrations began. She sat on her throne in the middle of the room whilst each one of the guests paid their respects. One by one they were announced by her friend, Sir John before coming through the entrance. Slowly, each made his way carefully along the centre of the long red rug which formed a path to follow after entering the room. It reminded Elizabeth of the ‘yellow brick road’ in the book about Dorothy, except in her own story the road was red and not yellow. Red was similar to pink (her favourite colour) which is why it had been chosen. Victoria said every princess should have at least one ‘red carpet event’ in her life.
According to the strict protocol of the day each person had to hand over his gift to Sir John. His memory wasn’t very good so Victoria decided that each person would remind him of the name by which he or she wanted to be announced. There was a line across the red rug, resembling the starting line of a race track. Every one of the guests knew that this line must not be crossed until Sir John had completed his words.
“Richard the Brave!”
“Jennifer the Small!”
“Alice the Clever!”
One at a time each was announced in John’s booming voice, which was louder than necessary in such a small room, but no one wanted to stop him in case he caused trouble. He was so loud that some of the guests covered their ears whilst they awaited the entrance of the final arrivals. Richard, being one of the first, quickly became bored and, having lost interest in the proceedings, he started to look for ways to distract himself. His sword, carried at his side in one hand, edged its way forward, searching out targets.
“Fuck off!” Jennifer turned to yell at him loudly when the point made contact with her right buttock. Richard started giggling and Jennifer punched him angrily. Everyone else stood absolutely still, anticipating a furious response from the princess. She was known for her temper. In the past more than one person had been the victim of a somewhat violent attack for far less than an outburst of swearing at a party.
Later Victoria said that maybe it was because it was the birthday or maybe she wasn’t paying attention, but for whatever the reason, Elizabeth did not respond in any way at all. She just continued to sit quietly surveying her courtiers with a benevolent smile.
“It’s one of her good days, thank god.” Victoria whispered as an aside to one of the other staff.
After all of the stragglers had arrived, Elizabeth nodded at Anne’s request that the food and drink be served. Trays of food were carried in by the staff. All of Elizabeth’s favourites were on show; strawberry jam sandwiches, sausage rolls, potato crisps, mini sausages. Everything was just as she, with Victoria’s assistance, had ordered. Richard carried in a jug of pink coloured liquid and poured some into her special cup.
The cordial was so good that she didn’t want to stop drinking. Eventually, with some difficulty, her assistant persuaded her to release the cup and to start eating some of the food. She was delighted to be able to have so much of her favourite food at one time. She crammed so many items into her mouth that when she chewed the crumbs tumbled out onto the lap of her beautiful pink dress. It wasn’t long before her dress was littered with a confetti of food.
“Oh, what a shame! The jam has stained your lovely dress.” Brushing with a soft towel the assistant tried to push some of the debris onto the floor. Elizabeth immediately lashed out to hit her on the head to make her stop.
“Pink!” Elizabeth looked down at her dress with pleasure. In the middle of her lap there was a spot of the most beautiful colour. She didn’t understand why the others tried to stop her when she was making other spots with her drink and jam sandwiches. In her mind it seemed that the colours were beautiful. On her special day she could do whatever she wanted. She remembered Victoria telling her that. It bothered her that she wasn’t allowed to create the patterns on her dress.
Everything became very confusing after she was told off. In anger she she threw her cup at Richard and he started screaming. Then Jennifer started laughing which made him scream even louder. John lay on the floor and covered his head with his hands and started that moaning thing that always drove the staff crazy.
Elizabeth felt her head growing bigger with the hurt inside. When she tried to pull off her tiara to make the pain disappear it became tangled in her hair and she couldn’t get it off. Her fingers didn’t work well enough to get hold of the flimsy plastic. As she tugged to try to release it, she heard Victoria say to one of the others, “Well, that’s the end of that then. I’ll return Madam to her room and you sort out those two.”
And that was the end of her special day. The decorative panel on the side of her wheelchair fell off in the corridor on the way back to her room. Victoria handled her a bit roughly when she put her to bed.
“Goodness, what a temper you have. It’s no wonder that your parents couldn’t cope at home. Mind you, they could have visited today though of all days. Never mind little girl, maybe on your next birthday?” She leaned down to kiss her forehead before turning on the coloured lamp at the bedside.
Elizabeth wasn’t able to tell her that today was supposed to have been the special birthday. All of the words she wanted to say stayed in her head with all of the others that she never quite managed to get out.