Harriet gripped the rim of the porcelain sink and tried to steady her hands. “One last time,” she whispered to herself, “One. Last. Time.”
She looked at the filled bathtub, her body ice cold. She pushed herself off the sink and stepped onto the short stool next to the bathtub. She pulled a pair of scissors out of her jacket and shivered. She pressed the blade against her wrist and cut her skin. Blood painted her skin and soaked the blade. She dropped the scissors. Her hand would not stop shaking. She turned her wrist around and let blood fall onto the clear water.
The instant the blood hit the water, circles of waves formed. She watched as with each wave, the water turned whiter and whiter. It seemed to shine.
Harriet closed her eyes. She breathed in and held the breath until it burned. She pressed her hands against her body and let the breath out. She stepped off the stool and jumped into the water, disappearing beneath the surface.
She did not dare open her eyes. The white and the blues that shimmered in the in-between space always fooled her. They made her feel safe. She felt as her body spiraled weightless through the air as If she were dancing. She could feel the forces pull and push on her body. She did not try to fight them. She let them do what they wanted to her. She knew she’d have to save her strength.
Drops of water fell onto her face. They drizzled like rain over her body. She dug her fingers onto her dress and raised her chin. The water cascaded down until it swallowed her whole. Pain rushed through her arm as the water passed by it. She held her breath and waited for her head to break the surface.
Her wet curls fell over her face as she pushed out of the water. She gasped for air and grasped anything she could find. Her hands reached a metallic edge. She pulled herself onto it. She pushed her hair behind her ear and a shiver ran down her spine. She examined every corner of the room she could not forget. Everything was bright and golden, so much it hurt her eyes. She pulled herself out of the fountain and into the floor of the ballroom.
A young man stepped into the room and stopped at the sight of Harriet. He stepped closer with a smile on her face. “Excuse me,” he called, “what might you be doing here?”
Harriet pulled out a wet letter from her pocket, “I demand to speak to speak to the Queen.” She stated.
The man raised his eyebrows, “And who are you?”
Harriet raised her chin, “I’m her daughter.”
Harriet was ten when she found a strange letter on her nightstand. She had locked her bedroom door after she grew tired of everyone saying “I’m sorry for your loss” over and over again. She sat on her bed and pulled her dress down to her knees, two sizes too small for her. She pulled the pins out of her curls and opened her drawer. She stopped. A piece of white paper with nothing but a strange swirl fell in front of her. She didn’t recall seeing it before. She wondered if it was a note that someone had left for her to tell her how sorry they are.
She grabbed the note and turned it around. A poem had been written on it.
A lake, a pond, or a cup
Princess’ blood, a single drop
Wait for the clear to turn white
A daughter by her mother’s side
Harriet scanned the letter for anything else. A name, more instructions, anything. Yet there was nothing.
She read the poem over again. It sounded like a recipe. A lake, a pond, or a cup. Water, she thought. She needed water. Princess’ blood, a single drop. She didn’t know what it meant by “princess’ blood”. She didn’t know any princess or anyone who would come close to being one. She wondered if it meant something else. It couldn’t mean real blood. Blood in water wouldn’t do anything other than turning it red. It definitely didn’t make sense for the water to turn white. Perhaps, she thought, it meant milk. She thought it made sense as the last line did refer to a mother, but she didn’t know what adding milk to water would do and she wasn’t sure why it was referred to as “princess’ blood”. But she had nothing to lose and nothing to do. She didn’t want to go back down and listen to the condolences again. She didn’t feel sad and every time someone said “I’m sorry” made her feel guilty.
She grabbed the letter from her nightstand and locked herself in the bathroom. She didn’t have a pond at hand, but she did have her bathtub. She opened the water faucet and let the water fall onto the tub. She took off her shoes, sat by the edge, and dipped her feet in. She watched as the cold water rose. She flinched the instant it touched her skin but let herself sink into the feeling. She stopped the water just as it reached her ankles.
She waited for a moment as she tried to figure out a way to sneak into the kitchen without anyone seeing her. Perhaps she could climb out through the tree on her dad’s bedroom and go through the back door. She shivered. She didn’t want to see her dad’s empty bedroom. She thought she could try to close her eyes until she reached the window. It might have worked.
She slid out of the bathtub and onto the tile floor. She took one step and her foot slipped on the floor, tripping her. Her nose hit on the edge of the bathtub and bled onto it. Tears welled up in her eyes from the impact. She pressed her bleeding nose as she pushed herself up.
Her blood slid down the porcelain edge of the bathtub and onto the water. Harriet held on to the sink as she tried to clean the blood on her face with toilet paper. She held her gaze up to try to stop the bleeding. She didn’t notice the waves that emerged from that single drop of blood and how the water slowly turned white.
She looked down for an instant and stopped. The water was white like snow. She looked at the letter once more. Blood made the water white. But she still didn’t know what the mother and the daughter meant. She thought for a second that it might be talking about her and her mother. No, her mother died when she gave birth. That’s what her dad told her and she trusted him.
She leaned in and dipped her hand into the water. She gasped. She could not touch the bottom. She dipped her hand deeper. The water reached her elbow and she still couldn’t touch the bottom.
She pulled her hand out and sat at the edge. She let her legs fall into the water. She grasps onto the edge as she pushed herself into the white. The water reached her waist and she would still not touch bottom.
“Harriet,” she heard her aunt call from outside, “are you in here?”
Harriet turned around. In that instant, her fingers lost grip and the water pulled her in.
Her heart raced. She kicked and tried to swim but she could do nothing. She felt herself sinking further and further and then she fell into the in-between.
“Which daughter are you?” the young servant asked.
Harriet smiled. “I’m this century’s brand new model, princess Harriet.” She mocked, “I was here a couple of years ago.”
“Princess Harriet, of course.” The servant bowed, “I apologize for not recognizing you. You have grown a lot.”
“Apology accepted,” the words came out of her mouth before she could even think of them. She thought it was odd how simply stepping into the place made her change. She examined herself. Even dripping wet, she held her back straight and her chin up high. Her voice had become a lot softer than what she recalled. She shook the thought away. “I got a letter from my mother. Can I speak to her now?”
“You just missed her.” The servant replied, “She’s out for her daily stroll but she should be back soon. Please, let me escort you to your room.” He extended his hand. Without thinking, Harriet took it.
The palace was just as she remembered. Every wall shone white. Swirls and clouds were carved into the edges of the room. Every bookcase was made of marble with the spine of every book blank.
The servant led her through the familiar staircase that spiraled up around a golden chandelier. Harriet let her hand fall onto the railing. The instant her hands touched the cold marble, she flinched back. She didn’t want to be there. She wanted nothing more than to forget she was even there. Every sensation brought her back to reality.
The two reached a large silver door. The name carved into it was beginning to fade. She could still make out the large, curly “H”, but the rest of her name was indecipherable. It made her uneasy.
The servant opened the door and Harriet stepped inside. Nothing had changed since the last time she had been there. Chills ran through her body. Her muscles grew tense. Dolls she hadn’t touched in years lied over her perfectly made white bed, waiting for her. There was not a speck of dust on the nightstands or on the chandelier. The windows let yellow light into the room like she remembered they did. She forced herself to walk into the room. Her heart dropped. The same helplessness she had felt the last time she had stepped into the room was overwhelming her again. “Is everything alright?” The servant asked. Harriet could only manage to nod. “I imagine the clothes don’t fit you anymore. I’ll send some dry clothes and towels up.” The servant closed the door and left before Harriet had time to react.
She made her way to the white bed and sat on it. Water stained the sheets. Her mother hated when she stained the sheets. She didn’t care about her mother’s reaction anymore but she couldn’t help but be bothered by the darkened circles. She covered them with her hands and pulled on the sheets, waiting for her mother to appear and for the monsters she had hidden under the bed to haunt her again.