Twenty mattresses piled high. A single pea. The search of a true princess. You know the fairytale. This is slightly different story. One not telling you of a princess, but of a normal girl who was given the impossible task of feeling a tiny pea under many mattresses.
I scurried through the wind and rain, looking for any kind of shelter. My walk from my town was no easy feat, as it required going through a quarry and the edge of the forest. Pair that with the storm, and my tendency of getting lost and it was no surprise when I looked around and didn’t recognize my surroundings.
I was soaked through when I saw it. A large house, almost hidden amongst a thick patch of trees. It was clear that it was the home of a very wealthy person, if not a family that was noble. I spotted a stable nearby and wondered if they might let me sleep there for the night.
I reached their ornate entryway and knocked. Eventually the door creaked open and a servant peeked around the corner. She started at the sight of me, as I was sure I looked awful.
“I am so sorry, but I seem to be lost. I was on my way home when this storm came upon me. I have no idea where I am, and I was wondering whether I could trouble you for a place to rest tonight. Perhaps the stable?” I asked.
“You may wait in here while I fetch Lady RaNila,” the girl opened the door wider and motioned at the impeccably clean foyer.
“Thank you,” I entered and looked around as she scurried off. Yes, the people who lived here were indeed very rich. Gold items were everywhere, and I thought if I were a thief I would be in heaven.
“Hello, may I help you with something?” a voice said behind me. I turned to see a young man standing, with a confused look on his face.
“Oh, um, a servant went to get her mistress so I should be alright,” I said.
“You’re dripping wet. Why don’t you come in here by the fire?” he led the way into a room where there was a large fire crackling.
“Thank you,” I said, not realizing I was so cold until I felt the warmth the fire provided.
“What is your name, girl?” a woman walked into the room. I assumed she was the Lady RaNila. She was positively dripping with jewels, and her clothing was of the finest silk. I suddenly became very self-conscious of my attire which was covered in mud. I shook my head at myself and straightened. I may not be rich, but I was a person, same as her.
“My name is Glaiza.”
“Lani said that you were lost, is that correct?” she said, walking over to stand beside the young man.
“Indeed I am. If you would be so generous in allowing me to sleep in your stables tonight, I am sure I could find my way back home in the morning,” I said, already inching toward the door. I did not like the look on Lady RaNila’s face, but in the next instance, it was wreathed in smiles.
“Nonsense, my dear! You may rest in one of our guest quarters!”
“What?” I blurted out without thinking. It took me a moment to register that the man had said the same thing. I looked at him, somewhat offended. Just because I knew I didn’t belong in a fancy house like this didn’t mean I wanted to be agreed with.
“N-not that we wouldn’t be delighted to have you, of course,” he sputtered nervously before turning to the woman, “B-but Mother, you aren’t usually so generous.”
“What on earth are you talking about, dear? That is simply not true,” she emphasized the last word and the man immediately blanched.
“Excuse me, but I really wouldn’t feel right imposing on you like this. I am fine with sleeping in the stable,” I said.
“No, that will not do! We shall prepare a room for you at once!”
I opened my mouth to protest more, but she held up her hand, stopping me. She floated out of the room, leaving me and the man.
“I am sorry, Miss Glaiza, but when Mother is determined, there is no stopping her,” he groaned, running his hand through his hair.
“No, I am sorry. I do not wish to be a burden,” I said.
“Do not worry about that. I’m Kendel, by the way.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” I gave a quick curtsey.
“There is no need to be formal,” he said. “In fact, if I endure any more formality, I may go mad.”
“You seem to have been born into the wrong social class then,” I chuckled.
We stood in only slightly awkward silence as I continued to soak in the heat from the fire. The servant, Lani, came into the room.
“Miss, if you would come with me we will get you into something less…” she surveyed my appearance with obvious distaste, “wet.”
I nodded in goodbye to Kendel and followed her through a few long halls until we reached what I assumed to be the guest quarters. The sitting room itself was twice the size of my family’s entire house. I certainly did not feel at home surrounded by such luxuries.
“This should fit you,” Lani held out a night gown and robe.
“Thank you,” I reached for them but she pulled away before I could take hold.
“You must get that filth off of you first,” she said before pointing at a tub.
“You work fast. How did you draw a bath so quickly?” I said in awe.
“I assume you can bathe without assistance?” she ignored my question.
“Of course I can,” I said, almost insulted.
“Good. There is a plate of food over there, and the bedroom is through the blue door. And yes, you must sleep on the mattresses. It is a requirement of staying here,” she said before promptly leaving me to myself.
“Mattresses? As in plural?” I thought. I opened the blue door and gasped. The room was the largest I had ever seen and it needed to be. There were mattresses stacked one upon the other, each smaller than the one below it, leading as a staircase to the top bed. It leaned against the farthest wall, but the bottom mattress covered nearly the entire floor.
“These people are crazy,” I laughed in utter shock. I turned away and went back to where the bath was cooling every minute I wasted. They were crazy indeed, but they were incredibly generous to peasant girls.
Once I was clean I ventured back into the bedroom. The stair case mattresses were as odd as the first time I saw them.
“You must sleep on the mattresses. It is a requirement of staying here,” Lani’s voice replayed in my head.
I carefully climbed all the way to the top, counting twenty mattresses.
“What sort of people sleep on twenty mattresses?” I thought, shaking my head. I settled myself under the blankets and closed my eyes. Although ridiculous, so many beds provided no discomfort. Soon enough, my long, trying day caught up with me and I fell soundly asleep.
The sun had barely risen when I exited the bedroom. I found my clothes had been washed and hung to dry. I changed and after making sure I looked presentable, I left the room. I met with Kendel as he was walking by.
“Good morning, Miss Glaiza,” he greeted.
“And to you as well,” I said.
“Would you like to join us for breakfast?”
“You have done so much already, I think I should set out and try to find my way home.”
“You should have something to eat first. I insist,” he said, leading the way to the dining room. I opened my mouth to protest more but my stomach agreed with him.
When we entered the room, Lady RaNila warmly greeted us.
“I trust you slept well?” she asked.
“Yes, very well. Thank you so much for letting me stay here last night,” I said.
“Y-you found your bed comfortable?” she said, seeming surprised.
“Very comfortable. Although if I may ask, why do you have so many mattresses stacked upon each other? I’ve not seen anything quite like it before,” I said, accepting the seat that Kendel held out for me.
“You didn’t feel anything odd? Like there was something under the bed that there shouldn’t have been?” Lady RaNila said.
“Then you must not be her,” she sighed.
“Must not be who?” I said, confused.
“I cannot believe I have been so foolish! I let a… peasant girl sleep in my house!”
“Excuse me, but I made it quite clear that I was willing to sleep in the stables last night,” I stood, not sure of the reason behind her sudden mood change, but I did not like it.
“No, please sit. I apologize for my mother’s rudeness,” Kendel said, sending a warning glance to Lady RaNila.
“Would you be so kind as to explain why I was so welcome last night, and not this morning?” I said slowly, staying standing.
“Mother had this crazy idea that if you had been a true princess with extreme grace, poise, and all of that nonsense, then you would have not been able to sleep last night due to a pea she put under the bottom mattress. The idea is ridiculous, and I am truly sorry,” Kendel said hurriedly, obviously embarrassed.
“What on earth are you talking about? No normal person would feel a pea under twenty mattresses! And I could have told you that I was no princess!”
“That is for certain. Unfortunately, there has been word that the Princess of Liberana is in these parts and I was certain that you must be her. I see now how wrong I was,” Lady RaNila scowled.
“Why would you even think that? If I was a princess I’m sure I would not have arrived covered in mud. And why would you need to put anyone under such a strange test? A pea under a mattresses?”
“I will only allow a true princess to marry my son.”
“I have told her many times that I do not wish to marry a ‘true’ princess, whatever that means, but only a girl with a good heart. Yet she continued on with that silly test,” Kendel groaned.
“A girl with a good heart is nothing without high standing in society. And you cannot get any higher than princess,” Lady RaNila cried.
“You say a good heart is nothing without high standing in society? Lady RaNila, I beg to differ. I know a great many good-hearted people with not a penny to spare that are worth 10 of your high standing society folk. They would give the shirts on their back for their fellow man, and you say that if you had known that I was a peasant you would not have allowed me to stay the night, although you clearly have more than enough room. Your son seems perfectly amiable, and I dare say he has a good heart. Too bad he doesn’t seem to have gotten it from his mother,” I stalked out of the room, as I heard her gasp and Kendel applaud. I heard him follow me and took a deep breath before turning to face him.
“I am incredibly sorry for my mother’s actions. You are right. The social class one person is in has nothing to do with their goodness,” he then blushed slightly before saying, “Do you really think I have a good heart?”
“I do. You have been nothing but kind to me, and you did not think I was a princess once, did you?”
He shook his head.
“Then you are smart as well. I thank you for your kindness, Kendel, but I’m afraid I must be getting home now. I do not wish to keep you from your breakfast,” I said.
“Do you live in Sterling Creek?” he asked. I nodded and he continued. “I know the way. Would you do me the honor of escorting you home?”
“Your mother would not be pleased if you were to do so,” I said.
“I have been listening to whatever she tells me to do for far too long. I believe it is time for me to make my own decisions.”
“Then I accept your offer of escorting me home,” I smiled.
“Good. I shall go grab us something to eat for the road and we shall be off,” he returned the grin.
I stood in the hallway for a moment, contemplating all that had just occurred. Lady RaNila thought a pea determined whether or not a girl was a true princess or not? What silliness. The trueness of a person was not determined by how they could feel something under many mattresses, but by the beauty of their heart. And I knew that the beauty of my heart came from my Creator. So really, who needs the affirmation of a pea?
Well, here is my first story that I am posting to this blog. It’s not perfect, but I had fun writing it. 🙂
Anna Christine ❤