Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Rejection

Miss K. dreamed of being presented before the Queen.

To start, it was a true dream, born of the subconscious, an uncontrolled creature that came unbidden in the night. That first dream rose, most beautiful, a phoenix from the ashes of the mundane day. Miss K. watched herself, in white like a supplicant, adorned with pearls and roses, floating her leather-clad feet up the marble stairs, higher and higher toward the throne.

The royal guard flanked the stair, hands on the hilts of their swords, unmoving. They might have been statues; only the plumes of their feathered headdresses stirred as she passed. Miss K. ascended to the dais where the Queen waited. The Queen smiled at Miss K., then opened her arms to signify her acceptance of this worthy subject. Miss K. marked the ivory columns, the golden bunting, the cages of songbirds and the ranks of lords and ladies attending. A choir, hidden away in a recessed balcony, burst into harmony.

For some minutes, Miss K. felt herself an angel among the heavens and then, to avoid the appearance of immodesty, took her place among the Queen’s court.

When she woke, the dream lingered. Miss K. felt sincere desire where no yearnings had before conglomerated. From that day on, she prepared for the eventual, inevitable moment.

She went about the task in gradual, but definite steps, gathering knowledge as a child gathers wildflowers to start. She plucked at the closest first, and then the most beautiful, and then, in earnest, collecting up and organizing the details in stunning bouquets of meaning. She learned the history of the royal family, and the biography of the queen’s life. She practiced walking with stately dignity, and climbing stairs. She studied the manners of the court and its rituals. Wherever understanding was offered, Miss K. sought it out and took possession. When the Queen called, Miss K. would be prepared.

For not one moment did she doubt the prescience of her dream. The Queen was known to call her most faithful subjects to court, and there was none so faithful as Miss K.

Meanwhile, she increased her devotion. She attended all the Queen’s public presentations, pored over old speeches, kept company with those who shared her interest.

Her new friends aspired to be presented to the Queen as well, and had taken many of the same steps, and others that it had not occurred to her to take. When not reciting genealogies or memorizing important dates in her nation’s history, Miss K. began studying elocution and posture, as well as designing the gown, jewelry, and flowers she would require.

As her devotion deepened, she watched others attaining that which she desired for herself. Every day, the Queen received many subjects, and Miss K. rejoiced in their fortune even as her heart yearned and coveted. As her circle of friends grew, often those of her own acquaintance were called, presented, and accepted. Some stayed in the lofty tiers of the court, favored by the Queen, while others descended, pleased with their singular achievement, describing the wonders of the experience.

While Miss K. was not the only citizen to desire a call that did not come, she felt keenly the growing disappointment. It seemed as if everyone she knew had been to court. She had prepared herself in every way. She was ready. She continued to follow the important current events of her country, tested herself to be certain that she forgot nothing of her relevant learning, and let it be known that she, Miss K., desired to be presented before the Queen.

She pressed her lips together when those who did not desire the honor so intently as she did were presented and accepted. She bit her tongue when men and women who had not prepared themselves at all also were granted their turns. She waited for her day.

She waited many years for her day, but it did come. She could no longer offer the Queen the sparkling beauty of her youth, but the Queen, they said, cared little for outer appearances. She judged what lay within, and Miss K. held nothing within herself but devotion for her sovereign.

On the appointed day, she adorned herself in the fine white dress, the pearls, and the roses. The palace’s high gold doors opened at her approach, and she made her way through the garden, her head spinning in wonder at the marble steps and the stolid honor guard. High above her, seated upon a crystal throne, her benevolent ruler smiled down.

Miss K. lifted one foot, clad in soft, clean leather, and set it down on the first step. No sooner had she begun the journey, the guards, at an unseen signal from the Queen, unsheathed their swords and barred her way. She questioned, asked, pleaded, beseeched, and begged for entrance, and then, when those went unanswered, for understanding, but no explanation was forthcoming. The Queen would not receive her, and she was escorted from the palace.

She could not face her friends, so many of whom had already achieved this goal. Three further times the Queen called for her, and her heart rose, perhaps a little less joyfully than the time before, and each time the soldiers barred her way—once she mounted several steps before being rejected, once she did not make it past the golden gate before they turned her away.


Only the Queen could say what invisible mark of dishonor lay upon Miss K., and the Queen was not in the habit of explaining herself.

5 comments:

Dragon said...

Yes, I'm still alive. I've had some other projects going on, which I will cross promote eventually. I was reading a book about Kafka while stuck at Chicago Midway Airport, and I cranked out this little gem.

Atica Fernandez said...

The suspense builds as the story progresses. The end of the story left me curious about what might have offended the queen. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you!

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