6. Princess

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Chitra changed into a pastel pink coloured cotton half sari as soon as she returned from dinner. She sat on the huge marbled windowsill watching the stars as the light frills of the skirt pooled at her feet, she couldn't sleep and the headache was killing her. Probably sleep was lost in that dark sky that she was viewing . The day has been so chaotic she thought but peace has never been a part of her life. The only constant person in her life was Meenakshi, her hand maid.

Her mother died when she was eight in a fire accident, that day she was supposed to sleep with her mother but due to some unknown reason she happened to sleep with Meenamma in her maid quarters. And after that incident nobody even remembered that there was a princess other than Priyamvada. Though she never regretted how she was not treated as a royal princess, moments like these make her wonder why she was even alive.

All she has ever known was that only a marriage can free her from this hell. No one knows better than her the feeling of emptiness. The feeling of being lost with so many people around you.

From her childhood Meenamma's stories were the only ones which filled her with hope. Maybe one day she would find a husband who would love her and maybe she could get a family who would genuinely love her. But now, all her dreams of finding love are shattered. The groom whom the queen has selected for her was already married.

She has seen her mother and she keeps seeing her father's second wife Chandrakala, how they yearn for his love, how they fight among themselves just to spend a day with their husband.  And at the end of the day the wife who has more power crushes down the others, like how queen Sulekha has kept Chandrakala under her thumb. And the most she has is a time of a month and then she would be married off. Just the thought about fighting for her existence like how her mother has fought in this palace scares her to no limit.

Probably, what Priyamvada said is right. She doesn't deserve to be loved and every time she thought that they might be wrong, her situations proved them right. Always.

She just slept on that cold marbled windowsill, tears flowing down her face. Meenamma has always told her that her mother has become a beautiful star in the sky. If in case what she said was true and if really her mother was up in the sky watching her, she prayed to her mother that just a small miracle would do.

A teeny-tiny miracle, just to survive and not to give up on this life.

* * *

That morning, everything was different from her routine. Meenamma never showed up to help her with her routine and when she asked a new maid who was helping her with her dressing, she informed her that Meenamma was sent to the main palace on important work.

Chitra sat down on a wooden chair taking her stitching set. She started her new design and not even halfway through it she was bored. She always wanted to try dancing, how would it feel to tie those heavy ghungroo around her ankle and dance or learn some classical music. But her step-mother has strictly prohibited the royal teachers from teaching her anything.

It was Meenamma who taught her stitching and of course no one knows anything about this.

She should just go to the garden and pass the time till Meenamma comes back. As she entered the garden she found a woman and a man cleaning the garden.

"Princess!!"  Those workers dropped their tools and bowed down folding their hands.

" Please raise up."  She said, feeling embarrassed as not many people acknowledge her as a princess. They raised their heads slightly but didn't resume their work.

"Um..should I just come again after- "

"Oh! No princess! We are almost done cleaning around, we are waiting for your orders." Said that man bending a little more looking down at his feet.

"You can go back to your work, I will just sit on that swing."

"Yes princess." And soon they went back to their work.

She watched them clean those outgrown bushes, they were working with so much dedication and care that it made her feel low thinking that she was the only one who was work-less.

When she was about to go back to her chambers she felt a small hand pull her skirt. It was a small boy, he was dressed in a cotton dhoti and kurta and most of his kurtha was soiled.

"Will you play with me?" The little kid asked with a small grin and his other hand full of mud.

"Bheema!!" Shouted the alarmed woman.

She ran to the kid and made him kneel down,"Sorry Princess! He is still a kid, he doesn't know his limits, please don't punish him! You can punish me- "

"Why will I punish him?" Chitra asked, confused. Maybe the woman was worried that her kid had spoiled her dress.

The woman stopped panicking for a second, she looked up at the princess to see if this royal was serious or was mocking their life.

Looking at her confused eyes, the woman understood that the princess was not aware of the rules.

"We are not supposed to talk or touch the royals, if we did it is a punishable offence."

Chitra was shocked beyond words. Did such rules exist in this palace? How come no one told her about this?

But, it shouldn't be a problem if a royal gave them permission to touch, right?

"I don't think it would be a problem if I give you permission to touch right?"

When the woman didn't reply, she said,  "You go and complete your work, I will have an eye on him till you return." 

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