SEAMSTRESS AND BREAD by Carmen Redondo

Twice through the loop,
out goes the thread,
once down the needle,
one piece of bread…

Twice through the loop, out goes the thread, once down the needle, one piece of bread.

I repeat this mantra over and over in my head, reminding myself what I must do. I need to finish the prince’s shirt, so I can receive my food, just one piece of bread. I was hungry, starving in my bones, which made me steal apples from the palace orchard. I was caught and thrown in the dungeon.

When the guards found out who I was they said to me, “Apricot, town seamstress, you will make a fine shirt for the prince. In return you shall have one piece of bread to settle your hunger. If the prince likes the shirt, he may be forgiving and let you go.”

That was two days ago, and since then I have been living on water. I glance at the shirt in my hands, praying to myself that the prince will like it. I feel weak with hunger, the urge to faint coming and going from starvation as I worry that my craftsmanship is poor.

Lately, poverty spread like wildfire, leaving me without work. No one needs new clothes. As money quickly disappears I ran out of food which made me think I could stupidly take the apples. The orchard is located outside of the prince’s castle, so he does not have the right to claim the fruit as his, but that is the way life is.

My eyelids feel heavy and my head starts leaning forward. It is very difficult to fight sleep when I have nothing fueling my body. As I start to fade into unconsciousness a piercing pain jolts me awake. I look at my left hand and see a tiny trail of blood on my thumb. The needle must have stabbed my finger when I was falling over with sleep.

I took a piece of cloth and wrapped it around the small wound. I could not risk blood dripping into the shirt and ruining what I had done. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, forcing myself to continue.

Twice through the loop, out goes the thread, once down the needle, one piece of bread.

That night I finish the shirt and a few moments later the weakness swallows me up as I faint, collapsing on the floor in a heap of despair.

After several hours, I awake to find that water has been thrown on my face. One of the palace guards is standing outside of the dungeon gate.

“Wake up seamstress, you shall be taken to see the prince now.”

I slowly sit up as my head throbs with pain from hunger. My mouth feels dry and I wonder how I will force myself to walk to the throne room to greet the prince. Before I have time to think anything else the guard opens the gate with a key, storms into the cell, grabs my arm forcefully, and pulls me up.

“Did you hear what I said, you filthy peasant? The prince will see you now. Start walking before I am forced to whip you for lack of cooperation.”

I nod, not daring to look at the guard. Picking up the shirt I limp out of the cell, stumbling slightly. The guard marches behind me, pushing me every few steps. I realize that in order to leave the dungeon I have to go up a long staircase. Swallowing down a lump in my throat I start walking up the stairs and once again lose my step. The guard holds his hands out to catch me before I fall.

“Peasant, I will not help you again! If I see you are about to fall, I will let you. Go up the staircase, you dirty thief.”

I continue, tears burning in my eyes. I hate being called a thief. I had never stolen anything in my life and I curse myself for having taken the apples, which I never even had time to eat before I was caught. Every single one was returned.

The endless staircase finally comes to a stop and then the guard takes hold of my left arm.

“I shall take you to the prince now. I cannot have you walking slowly. Either keep up or I am dragging you by this skinny arm.”

Off we go as I struggle to keep up with his pace. My arm hurts from his strong grip while my right hand is clutching the shirt. I am terrified that I will drop it. I look down at myself, filthy from the dungeon. I have not bathed in days and surely smell awful. This is no way to meet the prince and I fear this will make him reject the shirt, sending me back to the dungeon without food or freedom. I start shivering because my hair is cold and wet from the water that was splashed on my face.

The guard shoves my arm, “Quit shaking thief, the prince does not like weakness!”

After an eternity we reach our destination. I see a young man sitting on the throne, the prince, and my heart starts beating with an agonizing fear. When we are close the guard stops and I do too. He finally lets go of my arm, which I feel will develop a bruise from his grip of steel. I look at the floor, not daring to make eye contact with the prince. I curtsy out of respect, almost falling from the effort. Everything seems to spin, and I tell myself to stay awake. I cannot faint in front of him.

Twice through the loop, out goes the thread, once down the needle, one piece of bread.

“Seamstress?”

A deep masculine voice belonging to the prince fills the room.

“Seamstress? I am speaking to you.”

I take a deep breath, “Yes, your majesty?”

My voice comes out as a whisper, resulting very difficult to talk with the dryness in my mouth.

“Seamstress standing before me, look at me this instant.”

I slowly look up to see the prince. He is dressed in the finest clothes, with a dazzling crown on his head. His figure is tall and strong, with a very handsome face… an unforgiving face.

He nods slowly and points a finger at the shirt.

“Bring me the shirt.”

I walk over and hand it to him quickly, standing back and taking my place.

He extends the shirt, looking over it carefully. I hold my breath and hope he accepts it.

The prince looks at me, “Seamstress Apricot, I accept this shirt.”

I gasp, “Oh, thank you sir.”

He snaps his fingers, “Servants, fetch a piece of bread for Apricot.”

I look down and force myself to speak what I know I must say.

“Thank you, your highness. May I have my freedom as well?”

I slowly glance up and wait for his response.

“Apricot, I hope you will never leave.”

My eyes widen, “Your majesty?”

“Apricot, your beauty is famous throughout the land. I could not believe my good fortune when I was informed that you were in the dungeon. I am in love with you, body and soul. Will you marry me?”

It takes me a moment to process his ridiculous words. A sudden courage fills my body and I am able to speak despite the hunger that is eating me away.

“Your highness, I will not marry you. I do not believe that you love me. If you did, you would not have left me starving in the dungeon. You would not have had me slaving away making your shirt. You would also have told your guard not to treat me in such a harsh manner. I apologize for trying to take the apples and that is all. I want my freedom.”

He frowned, “How do you even know I will let you leave?”

“You said you loved me. You should not want to keep me as a prisoner.”

“I thought I loved you. Now I am not so sure. Fine, have your freedom. I shall let you live free with the knowledge that you could have been my princess. You will learn to regret your decision and that shall be your eternal punishment. If you steal any apples again you will be thrown in the dungeon and you will stay there forever.”

A servant suddenly arrived with a piece of bread that was handed to me. Ignoring that I was still in front of the prince, I devour it instantly. Immediately I feel better but I am still very hungry.  

The prince motioned to a guard, “Escort this peasant out of my palace.”

Once again, I was taken by the arm until we reached the castle gates where I was shoved towards the exit. Outside, I breathe freely, feeling happy that I am liberated. I start walking home, aching to bathe and feel clean. My stomach feels empty as I worry because no food and very little money will be waiting for me. I at least feel content with one thing. I refused the prince because I realized he was not kind. No one will ever be able to take that away from me.

Twice through the loop, out goes the thread, once down the needle, one piece of bread.
Carmen Redondo loves fantasy and fairy tales, which are elements she often includes in her writing. She loves reading a good book, watching a new movie, enjoying warm weather, and eating pizza. She is currently writing her first full-length novel. You can purchase a book that includes two of her short stories here: https://amzn.to/2TP0z0L
You can follow Carmen on Twitter @storieswriting  

Cover: Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff

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Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed it!!

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  2. I always love your stories, they include a moral near the end and I think that is very interesting.

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