Even before she opened her eyes, she could see the contradiction. The softness of her mother’s hazel eyes that mixed like a winding snake through the stern tone that only slightly dimmed the sparkle in her gaze.
“Elizabeth. It is time to wake from your dreams. Let the colors rest, they will reappear once again when the sky turns dark. Elizabeth, I want you to listen to me. Today is a new day, yesterday on the eve of the solstice you began your first blood. Now is the time of change. It will never again be as it was.”
With sleepy eyes, she looked at her mother, regal in her flowing gown of black and gold satin. Yards and yards of fabric draped from her shoulders. Her large breasts bulged slightly beneath the dress, but those were the only clothes the eye could see. every other inch of her, even her ankles and toes were buried beneath her soft gown. An inch tall golden crown ringed the top of her head and a ruby stud stood like a drop of blood atop each earlobe.
Her mother walked towards her bed from the open arc of the doorway she had stood beneath.
“These are yours now Elizabeth, these are the earrings of blood. The gift your grandmother left to you, the gift you will one day leave to your granddaughter, for the blood is the gift of all women. It is the river of life, the red current that flows from your legs.”
She looked into the eyes of her mother, the eyes which were so soft and green, the eyes that smiled at her with the ever-flowing love of a glimmering waterfall. But there was something else, perhaps a sadness, something that Elizabeth had never seen, a sort of pain that leaked from the deepest cracks and fell into her open eyes. She looked from her mother’s eyes to her open hand. In it were two ruby stud earrings, the same as her mother now wore. A lone red stone on a simple gold pin. Red the color of blood, of fresh cut life.
“Wear them,” her mother said. “They are a symbol of what you now carry, of what you can now do, of the power you now have. They are the symbols of a new time. You are new, not as you once were. You are different and the court will now see you as such. Your dolls must be put away, today, all the things of your girlhood will go, you are now an empress.”
The words stung and prickled the place between her own growing breasts, she looked up and saw the weight of them in her mother’s eyes, then she looked around the room.
It was a girl’s chamber, the only place in the entire walled compound that was entirely her own. Pink curtains hung from the series of tall glass windows that overlooked a green countryside. In the corners of her room were the mountains of stuffed animals she still played with and occasionally cuddled at night. There was her collection of dolls on the wooden shelves. Her eyes scanned the room until they settled on the dress hanging over the back of a chair. Her mother looked at her, then to the chair with the pink velvet dress draped over it.
“The dress will have to go too.”
She turned to look at her mother, turning her head more slowly than she ever had.
“No,” she said in a careful tone, “please, not the party dress. It’s the only thing I want. You can take everything else, just please, do not take it away.”
There was absolute pleading in her eyes. A desperation in which her mother would never be able to forget. And though her heart hurt, she pulled the words out.
“It’s a symbol of your girlhood, Elizabeth. How will you be an empress, how will you learn to rule if you cannot separate yourself from the things of girlhood?”
“I’ll be able to do everything, as you have told me before, much of what we do comes from the inside, not from what we wear.”
“It is both Elizabeth. It is how others see us, as well as how we see ourselves. As you begin this new path, there cannot be any confusion within you. You must be clear of your purpose. The dress might only confuse you. You are now a woman and an empress.”
They both turned to the dress, a mess of pink fabric and layer upon layer of a lacy white petticoat. Her mother spoke without turning her head.
“Your first blood has come Elizabeth. It is time for you to understand the change as deeply as the rest of us understand it. The dress is of your girlhood, as are the toys. This is a new phase, the true change will come from within you, you must understand it and come willingly to your destiny.”