A Consuming Castle
How could I not just assume the storm was blowing things off our balcony? The bang was so loud there was no way it came from next door. I hopped out of bed and made my way to the dining area, noticing the hallway light was open. Other girls would have frozen and turned back, but not me. I was brave. There was nothing Princess Rebecca couldn’t tackle. I was told I was quite courageous for my age, and admittedly I thought I was too. But no princess in the history of royalty was ever vain. So I just had to pretend like I was an ordinary girl.
The hallway light flickered as the storm played with the electricity. It was dark, and when the lightning casted a spell upon our kitchen floor my sister’s face illuminated, her tears dancing off her waterline and landing onto her cheek. She was a mess, and I could not understand why.
‘Pick yourself up,’ I told her. ‘What are you doing?’
Her eyes were swollen and filled with mucus and her hands trembled. Of course she was freezing. She was lying on the tile floors of our home. The lightning struck once again, this time allowing me to see the half empty bottle of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, an incredibly expensive type of wine that my parents were gifted. Had my sister been drinking?
‘This is very unladylike. What are you doing?’ Again no response, only this time it aggravated me even more. She was nine years older than me and had no morals at all. What could possibly have driven my sister that far off the edge that she was getting drunk on our kitchen floor in the middle of the night? Selfish I tell you, completely unappreciative.
Everything in our life was perfect. We lived in a beautiful furnished mansion with cars that were not even on the market yet parked along the driveway. We attended the most successful private school in the whole of Melaleuca’s estate. I had a room covered in costly home décor and authentic, vintage items of clothing filled my walk-in wardrobe. My bed was made up of rose gold lettering that spelt my name engraved into the wood with glittery roses surrounding it, and rose gold curtains draped over my four-post bed. My toy box stood out the most from the rest. It was the same style as my bed, with the same letters capitalized on the lid. Inside the toy box were teddy bears and porcelain dolls dating back to when my grandmothers were just little girls. Each still in perfect condition and all still attached with their tiara. My carpet was as soft as a freshly groomed chinchilla, and behind my windows sat an enormous balcony that overlooked our stunning garden, which was maintained and cared for by at least a dozen workers every single day.
The life we lived was a life I could not ever picture not living. It was a perfect life. A happy life. The type of life sad people wish they had. The type of life those children I see blistering their hands just to bake a piece of bread, and swelling their feet just to make a glass of wine wish they had. The children who live in tiny wooden homes and whose only source of warmth during the cold days was a ragged old coat from seven years ago. I saw many of those girls outside my school, and although they continued to smile day by day, working in the farms because their parents couldn’t afford a proper education, I knew deep down they weren’t happy, as much as they tried to deny it.
It got me wondering, why did my sister feel so trapped in a dungeon rather than free in a castle? We had that much freedom, my parents were never home to watch us. We hardly hung out with them and they would barely notice if we went missing one day, couldn’t my sister see how great that was?
I carried her into my bedroom to make sure she got some sleep and cuddled her until the lonely hours before dawn. She still did not say a single word.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of the storm caving in. It was the middle of winter and the storm was so loud you could hear the branches falling straight onto the ground and crushing all our plants. Mother gave the gardeners some time off until the bad weather died down, and the school claimed it was far too dangerous for students to attend so we managed to get the day off from there too.
I decided some quality time with my sister was exactly what she needed. A day in the castle to remind her why we should be grateful that we were practically royalty. First, I planned a high tea breakfast for her, and then I planned a tour around our garden, hoping that the weather would clear up. After that I thought I should open up my magical toy box and remind her of the queens who influenced our lives, our grandmothers. But when my sister woke from her lengthy sleep, she seemed nothing but agitated with me.
‘Good morning beautiful sister, another charming day in our beautiful castle. How are you feeling this fine morning? Would you like some tea?’ She shrugged. ‘How about a game of croquet when the weather clears up? I bet you’d love that.’ This time she avoided eye contact with me.
‘You’re not a princess Rebecca.’
‘We can also have a tour of the garden, I bet we can get some nice sights of what’s left of it.’ I ignored her.
‘I said shut your mouth.’
‘Nonsense. What type of language is that? You need to be more feminine. You’re a lady, act like one.’ This made my sister furious.
‘Listen, you are not a princess. And just because you have been reading for as long as you’ve been breathing and you know fancy words, it does not make you any smarter than me, and this is not a castle, it’s a bloody house, just a normal house that we managed to get on the market. And our gardeners are not slaves, they are just that, gardeners doing their job just like any normal person would. They’re not there to give you garden tours whenever you please, they are not there to teach you how to play croquet, they are there to do their job, get paid and go. Like normal people do Rebecca. Like you should do. So get it through your head, you are not a princess, we are not royalty, we do not have royalty in our blood and we never will.’
I tried to pretend like her presence was going unnoticed, but it definitely wasn’t. I tried to pretend like it was not killing me inside, but it definitely was. Why did my sister disappear a month ago? I couldn’t help but wonder if it was really because of me. Did I upset her that much? She was obviously just in denial… Or was she? Could it be that this was all in my imagination? Perhaps I was not born royalty, but maybe one day I would be. Was she just jealous? She must have been.
The castle no longer seemed like a castle, but I was too proud to admit it. My parents were never around, and suddenly I felt lonely. But they were never around, so why did I only just start to feel lonely? I knew deep down it was because of my sister. I was just too damn proud to admit it.
I tried to wait it out, thinking it would get easier. My father quit his job and my mother moved into town. I suddenly felt as if I were trapped in a dungeon. How could a place that once seemed like a kingdom suddenly feel like prison? In early March, I told myself to give it a month. When the next month came, II told myself give it a year. When that year passed, I told myself to give it till my thirteenth birthday. And on my thirteenth birthday I wished to see my sister, even just for one last time.
But unfortunately, my wish did not come true. None of them did. Not on my birthday. Not when I took my tooth out. Nor when I wished upon a shooting star. But what did come was a sign. As the next winter approached, and the storm destroyed all our flowers again, one flower stood strong amongst the dead ones. A tulip, a baby tulip, a bright pink baby tulip. A bright pink baby tulip that was blossoming into this tall beautiful flower with orange streaks through the petal. ‘This one,’ I said to myself, ‘will never die.’
On Christmas Day mother came home. It seemed like a lifetime had passed since I had last seen her. They told me they had a big surprise for me and I could have bet that it was a bag I had been eyeing off for a while.
‘I know it’s something you’ve been wishing for, for a while.’ My mother told me.
‘Mother, the only thing I wanted this Christmas was my family. And I have you, so I’m happy.’ My mother walked towards the door to open who I assumed was the delivery man delivering my gifts, instead, it was my sister.
There was an IV drip attached to her and needles in her arms, she barely had any hair left and she was brought in with a wheelchair, my father wheeling her straight passed me and into the kitchen. Her skin was so pale and her arms were so bruised from what I assumed would have been from the needles going into them. Her lips were chapped and dehydrated; her nails were long and yellow. She was dressed in a white hospital gown and the hair that she had left on her precious little bald head was dry and messy. I didn’t know what to say. She looked at me and smiled; a smile that was worth all the money in the world. A smile that proved to me I didn’t forget my sister all these months, I was just too afraid to accept the fact that she wanted nothing to do with me. I started to cry. My sister urged me to come forward and held me in her arms.
‘I just want you to understand,’ she began saying, ‘that in a world of money, none of it could’ve fixed my brain. But in a world of love and hope, my heart was mended in just a split moment.’
‘I understand.’ I promised.