Challenge: Guava #14 - The Best Is Yet To Come
Word Count: 1,342
Summary: It's almost the big day, and Carissa's got a nasty case of nerves.
The dress was huge. Not that she’d been expecting any less, all things considered — compared to everything else the dress was the least of her worries — but coming face to face (bodice?) with it brought it home to her with all the force of a slap. It was... meringue-y. Even its frills had frills.
“It’ll look so beautiful!” She winced; she could hear the italics in the voice. That was never good. Two firm hands, deceptively slender, gripped her upper arms in the vice of excitement. “Have you tried it on yet?”
“Not like this, no-o,” she said uncertainly, twisting just enough to release some of the pressure on her already-numbing arms. “Not yet.”
“Oh Miss Carissa, you simply must. You’ll look so darling in it!” The hands slid up to her shoulder and gave what was probably intended to be a comforting squeeze, but instead made her feel like both arms were about to pop from their sockets.
The dress had the menacing look of an overdone pavlova; she eyed it nervously. Carissa Belle-Summa Blu-Canbel distrusted dresses as it was, and this one took, as it were, the biscuit. “Do I really have to try it on today?” As hard as she tried, she couldn’t keep the plaintive whine from her voice.
Her assistant emerged from behind her, finally relinquishing her grip on her now aching shoulders, and frowned down at her. “Well no, sweetie, not if you don’t want to, but it’s not long now and you really should make sure it fits.” She gestured to the dress. The argument held no water, of course — she’d been to so many fittings during the damn thing’s creation, stabbed with so many bloody needles, that she just knew it fit. It was only that Miss Westen wanted to see her in it before the — gulp — big day. “But we can put it off for today if you want...”
Oh that she wanted, very much, even if the wistful tone in her companion’s voice touched a guilty nerve. Even if putting it off for today meant wearing it tomorrow instead. ‘Miss Carissa’ swallowed, knotting both hands in the folds of her hated skirt, silently thankful that clutching onto it made it finally useful. “Do we—” she hesitated, feeling the fear rise up before crushing it back down with the strong will she’d been told so often she’d inherited from her mother, “do we really have to go through with it?”
Miss Westen gave her a bemused look, her eyebrows slowly creeping up her forehead. “Of course we do, sweetie. You know that.” All the conviction of an adult; she had enough for both of them.
Carissa sighed. “Yes, of course.” The room seemed to swallow the words, as if it seeped into the regalia on the various stands surrounding them. It was trying to bury her fears, she was sure of it, but it was doing a damn poor job of it. Maybe there was more fear than it could cope with; she could feel it radiating from her pores. “Can we go now?”
The infinitely fascinating eyebrows, plucked to within an inch of their lives, slowly dropped into a frown. “Are you alright, Miss Carissa? You look a bit pale.” A hand snaked out to press an icy palm against her forehead with preternatural speed. Carissa was transfixed. “You do feel a little hot, I do hope you’re not coming down with something, it’d be so unfortunate and with you so looking forward to all this—” She let the words drift in one ear and out the other, just so much chatter. Miss Westen was so convinced this was all she wanted it was infectious — to everyone but Carissa herself.
She only returned her attention to her aide’s words when the expectant silence indicated a reply was due. “Mmhm,” she said with a faint nod, trying to focus her attention on the woman in front of her. Darn, what if she really was coming down with something? Just what she needed...
Miss Westen’s brows knit together as she gave her young charge a critical look. “I think we can put aside the crown fitting for today too, we don’t need to make you any warmer and with only two days to go as well, oh dear oh dear.” Those strong hands caught her shoulders again and turned her around in one fluid movement, propelling her inexorably towards the door. It was comforting, in a way, to not have to think or make any great effort to move, to allow herself to be steered by the overzealous woman and only contribute by remembering to move her legs. “Warm food and an early night I think, best thing for this type of thing,” the door came and went, open and closed without any interaction from the young woman; she was sure Miss Westen must have a spare pair of arms hidden somewhere about her person, “and it won’t be long at all before you’re right as rain again, and oh dear—”
Carissa’s vision suddenly shrank as one of Miss Westen’s hands slipped in front of her face, shielding her eyes. Behind her she didn’t have to turn to know that her aide’s own gaze was fixed firmly on her neck. They didn’t stop, the flash of half-armoured, clawed feet passing by in her peripheral vision the only indication that ‘they’ were there. A few steps more and the hand was raised again, the hallway dazzlingly bright in Carissa’s gaze, bright and empty. Behind her, the meaningless prattle started up again, only a little breathlessly. Miss Westen had never liked them. Carissa couldn’t blame her, but the woman’s insistence on protecting the young princess from them was starting to drive her mad. She was more than capable of averting her eyes as they insisted, she didn’t need it doing for her. But any attempts to raise this met with the same hurt look and the usual “you know I only do it to protect you” by way of an explanation. She’d given up trying to remonstrate.
Her looming bedroom door was opened by whichever amazing means Miss Westen used and she was propelled towards the bed. Her nightclothes had been laid out over the quilt — another dress, she couldn’t even escape the things in her sleep! — and it was only the sight of the four-posted refuge that brought them both to a halt. The hands were removed from her shoulders, although she could only tell from the sound of rustling fabric; her shoulders themselves felt as though they were still being gripped. “You get changed now and I’ll sort out some nice food from the kitchen,” the older woman said briskly, giving Carissa’s hair her customary pat. When she’d been younger it was a tousle that left it standing out at all angles. She quite missed it. “You really need your sleep, it’ll be a long day tomorrow you know?” She sighed softly with a faraway smile. “All the rehearsals...” If she noticed Carissa’s silence, it went unremarked. She probably put it down to tiredness, or overwhelming enthusiasm, Carissa thought with a sourness that shocked herself. Maybe it was illness, or just stress; there’d been that bug going around… Lost in her own thoughts, going through the motions of undressing herself, unlacing the fiddly bits and laying the dress as neatly out on the chair as she could bring herself to, she didn’t register Miss Westen leaving until she heard the soft click of the door closing behind her. A sigh rivalling her assistant’s escaped from her lips as she slid the nightdress over her head and let it drop the length of her body. It still dragged on the floor. She stared down at herself and sighed again, deeply. Flat chest, skinny body, same as always. No longed-for miracle there.
Frankly, she thought as she climbed back into bed, anyone who wanted a scrawny teenage girl for a queen had to be out of their minds.