I had an idea about bare feet on cool tiles. This is the result.
*click, click, click* went Amarri’s new shoes as she walked down the stone corridor. She began to worry her bottom lip a little. The shoes, made especially for her upcoming (birthday) ball, were beautiful soft leather tanned to the perfect shade of red and mounted to hard wooden heels, raising her natural 5’3″ stature to a more appropriate 5’6″. Better to dance with the men said her mother, they needn’t look so far down. Her mother was even shorter then Amarri herself. But the shoes were still quite stiff. She needed to wear them in a bit so as to not be in agony for the entire length of the ball.
“M’Lady!” cried a startled maid who had come around a corner and nearly collided with her. Amarri was startled too, her even stride broken. But, as the maid stepped back and did her best to curtsy, arms full of a filthy pan of old dark ash from one of the nearby rooms, Amarri collected her composure and excused the maid to carry on, before she managed to dump the ash on the floor.
As the maid rushed off, Amarri sighed and turned to continue breaking in her shoes. Ahh. A sudden and sharp pain in her food caused her to reach out for the wall and lift her foot. Leaning against the wall Amarri wiggled her toes. Yes that was it. The shoe was pinching her littlest toe. She sighed again and set off, beginning to think now of the shortest route ahead of her to her room, her stride just a little uneven.
After walking only about a third of way back to her room along her shortened route, Amarri’s feet were burning with pain and she didn’t think she could take much more. She paused and contemplated the castle ahead of her. Technically she wasn’t supposed to be in this part because her parents said they were planning some surprises for her and the servants were cleaning and she didn’t want to be in the way. Well, she thought, she could just quickly cut across the enclosed courtyard. It was too early for surprises to be set up just yet right, she told herself. And what in Rovathen could they need to do over here since all of the celebration activities were to be held in and around the newly reworked ballroom on the other side of the castle.
She slipped the shoes off, and walked a few more paces to the large double door leading to the enclosed courtyard. It had once been the only courtyard when the castle was first built by her grandfather of many generations ago, King Nawam. But, as the years had passed and the kingdom grew, so did the castle until, one day, the courtyard was completely surrounded. It was several generations after that before King Taron realized, looking out of a window, that there was no door into that courtyard and it was filled with birds and their mess and rain was wearing away at the mortar of both wall and floor. He decided to put a roof over the courtyard and started workers to plan out and fix and rebuild all that needed it around the courtyard. Much was found amiss and it took four generations to finish. It would only have taken three generations but for Queen Rebecca who decided to include a grand curving stone staircase that led from the ground to the third floor ballroom which had been the grand and un-favored idea of Queen…
Amarri paused. Her mind had unconsciously begun the recitation while she walked, opened the one of the great double doors, and slipped inside. She had had to lean most of her weight upon the door to open it and was leaning hard to close it when her mind had forgotten the name of that one queen. Oh well she thought, and turned.
Her mouth dropped open in a very unladylike manor. The enclosed courtyard was clean! And decorations of gold, red, and emerald stood and draped everywhere. She took a few timid steps inward eyes full of awe. As a child she run from her nannies and had made a ladder of rope and climbed down to play (the doors being too heavy). Most of the floor stones were original from the start of the kingdom and were warn smooth. She had often pretended to be back then, treating guests as she imagined the first King had. When she had chosen her first lady-in-waiting Sari at the age of 12, Amarri had one day escaped from their lessons and taken Sari down her rope ladder. They played without regard for time and missed both the midday and evening meals. And when they finally did come out and were found, Amarri’s parents were furious and demanded to know where they had been. Both Amarri and Sari refused to tell, having declared it a secret and special place, and they were reprimanded severely and sent to bed without eating. Many of Amarri’s favorite memories were of Sari and the enclosed courtyard. Very few people remembered it existed and Amarri had come to think of it as hers. Now decorated in her two favorite colors and the gold richness of royals, she knew what the surprise must be! Her (birthday) was to be held here and the ball in the third floor ballroom! Sari alone must have told her parents how special it would be for her!
Amarri turned slowly gazing up and all around at the spectacular display, her bare feet gently brushing against the cool stones below her, easing the pained heat from her feet. She was nearly in tears with the joy of it all and dizzy from turning, when her eyes came to rest on the grand stair and a thought came into her mind. Madam Lady of Balsburg tended to chase men at balls. She was also quite round and enjoyed elaborately designed dresses. Amarri started to giggle thinking about the madam lady trying to run up and down the two flights of steps. Then her mind’s eye saw the madam lady trip at the top and, like a soft ball, roll slowly down all the curved steps, and Amarri had to sit down she was laughing so hard.
(AnnaMae Tollefson, Copyright – July 2014)