One day, Princess Annabelle was making invitations for the beautiful ball that would be taking place in the royal kingdom. It wasn't typical for the princess to be making the invitations, usually the servants did that, but Annabelle had really wanted to show off her artistic skills to the other royals who would be attending. Besides, being a servant sounded sort of fascinating to Annabelle, and sometimes, Annabelle pretended she was one.
Annabelle folded the paper into an origami type style so that they would be very visually appealing when they were sent out to all the other kingdoms throughout the countries.
After Annabelle had finished folding up some of the invitations, she realized she needed a place to put them. It's too bad that this desk doesn't have a place to put things, Annabelle thought to herself. But suddenly, she realized, as she bent down to look at where the desk opening should be, there was an uneven board covering up a hole - it must've been boarded up - so there really was an inside to the desk!
"I bet that I can take this board off, all I need is a little bit of strength," Annabelle smiled, rubbing her hands and preparing to pry the board off the desk. Annabelle pulled and pulled, and eventually she got it off. The wood was a tiny bit damaged and chipped at the bottom from where the old, crooked, falling apart nail had once been, but Annabelle couldn't worry about that right now, she had to get the invitations put away.
"Oh look, there's a letter," Annabelle raised an eyebrow and cautiously reached into the desk and pulled it out.
"I wonder what this is?" Annabelle pulled out the neatly folded piece of paper and unfolded it.
"It pains me to have to leave, but I know it is right. I wish I could take Anna with me, Annabelle is so sweet, but I know that would be wrong to take a baby with me," Annabelle read the letter out loud, and then saw it was signed by someone named Clara.
"Who is Clara?" Annabelle questioned, trying hard to remember any visitors or relatives named Clara. The invitations she had been making were soon forgotten.
"Is there anything I can get you, Princess Annabelle?" Servant Rose asked. Servant Rose was from the same servant family as Molly. The girls lived with Ms. Buckle, the "mother" of the orphaned servants, and Molly and Rose were sisters. Molly was most likely dusting book jackets in the library.
"No," Annabelle sighed, but then remembered that Rose was about three years older than her, maybe she remembered someone named Clara. "Well, actually, Rose," Annabelle started, "Do you know anyone named Clara?"
Servant Rose's eyes filled with fear, "Uh, um, C-c-cl-Clara? No, I've, um, er, uh, uh, never heard of...her," Rose stuttered out, her eyes wide with nervousness and worry.
"Rose, if there's one thing you're bad at, it is most certainly lying," Annabelle told her, "You know something about Clara - I know you do, I can sense it!"
"Um, well....," Rose shrugged, still worried, looking as though she had been trapped.
"Tell me, Rose, please, please, tell me," Annabelle pleaded. Annabelle sensed that something was wrong with this Clara person, and she just had to know.
"Fine, I'll tell you - but don't breathe a word of it to anyone else - especially not your parents. You really aren't supposed to know about Clara," Rose told her, whispering, and reading the letter that Annabelle still held tightly open in her hand.
"Let's go to my room - we'll hide under the covers and I'll lock the door and tie the canopy, no one will come in - we'll have to talk quietly though," Annabelle told her, motioning for Rose to follow her. Rose followed.
The girls got under the covers and began to talk.
"Annabelle, well, Clara was your sister," Rose told her seriously.
"What?!" Annabelle asked, nearly raising her voice. She quickly clamped her hand over her mouth.
"Yes, Annabelle was your older sister. Her name was Clara. Ms. Buckle told me a lot about her. Clara was never really happy about being a princess or being royal - she was so much like you, except for that she had shorter, blonde hair and brown eyes - like your mother. She loved you more than anything when you were born - she hardly ever spent a day without holding you for hours. Her nickname for you was Anna - it was your parents nickname for you too, but after she left, that nickname vanished as suddenly as Clara did. One day, a few days before it was time for her to go to finishing school at a fine London boarding school, Clara knew she wouldn't be able to handle that - she knew that she didn't want to learn etiquette skills and all that for the rest of her life, so she escaped. That was probably the letter or diary entry she wrote.""Why didn't any tell me about her?" Annabelle asked, still in denial that she even really had a sister.
"Well, your parents have always been sad about that, and when she ran away, it spread throughout the country quickly - the palace was ashamed - they never talk about her."
"So that must be why my parents and nurse always tell me to be more ladylike, and when they do, they have a worried look on their face - they're worried I'll turn out like her!" Annabelle realized.
"Yes, I've heard through the servants quarters, that your parents are getting especially worried that you are going to end up like her as you approach her age," Rose told her.
"Where did she go?" Annabelle asked.
"I don't know, Annabelle," Rose whispered sadly, "I really, really, don't know."
Later when all the palace was sleeping (except for the servants in the dinner/kitchen quarters), Princess Annabelle had a very restless night. She drifted in and out of sleep and whether she was awake or asleep, all she could think about was the thought that out there somewhere, she had a sister; something she had sometimes pretended to have when she was very young. All those pretend games had turned into reality for Annabelle within only a few hours of one normal-turned-life-changing day. . Eventually, she did fall asleep, but still, all during that sleep, she had millions of thoughts and dreams of her sister, Clara.
The next morning, at 5 in the morning (Annabelle usually awoke at 8), Annabelle woke up from a light sleep. She couldn't take it anymore. She was bound and determined to find her sister and do whatever it took.
She hurriedly dressed, and decided to keep the palace pearls on just so when she found her sister, Clara would believe her because Annabelle would be wearing the pearls - an old heirloom that had been brought back from Scandinavian territories many hundreds of years ago.
After digging through her massive wardrobe to find some old play clothes that had been replaced with new ones earlier that month, Annabelle hurried out in the crisp morning air and into the servants quarters. Just a month ago, Servant Molly had been captured and Annabelle had persuaded her father to give the servants better rights, so now they had candles to light their tiny cabins in the morning. By the candlelight, Annabelle rushed into Servant Rose's cabin, where the two of them talked quietly. All the other servants sharing that cabin had gone to work even earlier in that day, but since Servant Rose was a child, she didn't start her duties until 7.
"Rose, I'm running off - I've thought about it and I need to find Clara," Annabelle rushed.
"What?" Rose asked in disbelief.
"I'm going to risk my life - whatever it takes! I need my sister, and my sister needs me!" Annabelle told her firmly, "Nothing you say is going to stop me."
"Miss Annabelle, you're crazy!" Rose whispered.
"Maybe I am! But I can see that you most certainly won't come with me, will you?" Annabelle asked.
"You're right I won't! I'd lose my place in the servants quarters if I got caught up in a sort of scandal and crazy adventure like that!" Rose replied.
"Goodbye," Annabelle whispered before dashing off and out of the safety of the kingdom gates.
As soon as she entered town, Annabelle ran into a poor little girl who was dressed in rags, except for the nice, tidy red bandana she wore upon her head, with only her bangs peeking out.
"Do you know anyone named Clara Windsor?" Annabelle asked.
"Isn't she that red headed princess that is always in the news?" the little girl suggested.
"Um, I think that, um, girl is named Annabelle or something," Annabelle told the little girl. Annabelle was hardly aware she was in the news that much - she knew that she was sometimes, but it felt a little weird to know that even a poor little girl knew who she was from an old newspaper.
"Maybe....oh, I gotta go," the little girl raced off to these two little playmates.
"Hey, maybe I'll go check the town hall - they're sure to know of someone named Clara or someone with the last name Windsor," Annabelle thought as she shrugged at the little girl who had long forgotten about her meet up with Annabelle, and was now onto playing with those two girls.
She approached the town hall secretary. "Ma'am? May I look up someone's name?"
"Of course. Who is it that you wish to look up?"
"Clara Windsor," Annabelle replied.
The lady laughed. "Ha! Clara Windsor? Child, are you trying to waste my time? Clara ran off years ago without a trace. I wouldn't be surprised if she's dead by now!"
Annabelle cringed at the part about Clara being possibly dead. Annabelle hoped her cringe wasn't visible. If it was though, the woman didn't notice, "Now off with ye! Don't come around again - I don't want my time wasted by a bunch of child pranksters who think it's funny to see an adult work hard!"
Annabelle wanted to yell back at her - she really wasn't trying to waste anyone's time, but there was no use. Annabelle could already see that Clara wasn't living in this town...if Clara was really living anywhere.
"Thank you," Annabelle whispered, turning away.
Annabelle walked out of the town hall center and looked throughout the town. Kids were playing in a school yard supervised by teachers; nannies were walking babies in nice little prams, and some people were sitting around just doing nothing. Annabelle longed to be a normal part of the society - not just coming out as an undercover girl.
Suddenly, she bumped into this strange little beggar boy. He had a strange purple hat on and wore a crisp but certainly old shirt.
"Hello," Annabelle curtsied.
"Hey," he replied, "Ya wanna a paper?"
Annabelle looked at the old brown newspapers he held in his right hand. "Um, no thank you. I'm just sort of on a mission."
"A mission?" he asked with interest, "What sort of mission?"
"Well, I'm trying to find Clara Windsor."
"Clara Windsor?" he asked. "You mean the runaway daughter and disgrace of that darn, terrible, evil king!"
Annabelle felt hurt inside when he talked about her father this way, but was wondering what he had against the king. "Hmm."
"My mother died and my dad was forced to be a servant under the king. My dad took care of that cute little Annabelle and I guess he still does. I was forced to go homeless with my little sister - I think I saw you talking to her earlier - she's the one with the red bandana on. Many people in the town have faith in her- that Annabelle one.""Really?" Annabelle asked, also realizing that the father that the boy talked about must've been Servant Jonathan who was the wise elder of the Servants. Wow! She never realized how many people really admired her or took interested in her placing in the kingdom. It sort of gave her more of a self importance.
"Yeah, why you lookin' at me like that anyway?" he asked.
"Oh...nothing, it's nothing," Annabelle laughed, "So, do you know where I might find Clara Windsor?"
"Sure - she's about a mile out of this town - living in one of those poor London homes in the poor part of town. She's in the 4th one. Do you want me to walk you there?" he asked, "Oh, and my name's Peter."
"Nice meeting you Peter," Annabelle curtsied once more, "I shall go on my own. I thank you kindly though."
"You've got royal like manners," Peter laughed, "Bye - see you 'round. I hope you find that Clara girl."
"Bye," Annabelle got a bit flustered after realizing she had used proper manners. She never felt like using manners, but right when she could act however she wanted, she ended up using them!
Annabelle walked on and eventually got to London's poor section. The streets were crowded in that part of town, and a dirty, musty smell hung in the air. It was hardly even part of London - it was right outside of it. Not a single horse was on the street, it was just flocks of people, which sort of made Annabelle nervous, because even though she had dreamed of not being brought up royally, she still had been and couldn't survive on her own quite as well as she thought - or liked to think.
Finally though, she approached the old, falling down buildings that Peter had spoken of.
At the door, she hesitated. Within just a day her life had changed forever; and Annabelle wasn't sure if it was for the better or for the worse.
Hesitantly though, she knocked on the door, and sighed.
At the door, a blonde haired, brown eyed girl, with hair that wasn't short as Servant Rose had remembered, stood.
"Hello," she said in that beautiful English royal accent all the royals had.
"Hello," Annabelle curtsied.
"You're Clara, aren't you? Clara Windsor?"
Clara looked flustered and almost wanted to turn away. "NO....I'm not."
"Are you sure?" Annabelle asked as Clara just stood there shaking her head, "Because........I'm Annabelle."
Clara stepped a little closer. "Annabelle, my Anna Annie? Is that really, really you?"
"It's really me," Annabelle replied. "You're my older sister - the one I always dreamed of and played pretend of. You're her, aren't you?"
"Yes...." Clara trailed off.
"Are you sure you're really Annabelle?" Clara asked suspiciously.
"Look at the beads," Annabelle motioned to her neck, where a string of pearls hung - those royal pearls.
"Goodness, you are Annabelle!" Clara cried out in tears of joy, reaching out to hug her sister.
The two of them hugged so tight, like they would never let go. "Oh Annie Anna, I missed you." Clara cried.
"I missed you too - even though I didn't find out about you until yesterday!"
"How'd you find out?" Clara asked.
"Well one of the Servants told me about you after I found a running away or going away letter signed with the name Clara. I can't believe that you were waiting out here in this amazing world for me all this time."
"I love you Annabelle. But you know that I had to leave, right?"
"Yes, I understand."
"How did you get here?"
"I ran off this morning and this nice boy named Peter on the streets told me where I could find you - his father is a servant in the kingdom."
"You risked your life to come out and find me?"
"Yes. But I didn't think of it that way - I thought of it as a, more, well, I don't know, adventure, exploration, or anything like that! But, am I who you thought I would turn out to be?"
"Well, I have to say...no. I always thought you would love being a princess and that I was the only one out of the royals to think that way. But you're me. I was anxious to get out and go exploring or learn about the latest news, or make friends with the servant girls. You're living my life."
"I love it...the way you said it like that. Will you come back to the palace with me?"
"What???" Clara asked almost preparing to turn away.
"Please, Clara? Father and Mother are still hurting I'm sure. Won't you come back and stay for the Christmas ball? Please, won't you? I want a sister to be there with me. Sure I'll have cousins and stuff - but I want a sister like you to be there. Please, oh please can't you come?"
Clara turned away, "I'm not going to show my face there ever again! Are you crazy, Annabelle? Mother and Father need you more than me - they know you and understand and accept you and your thoughts and wants. I want to stay here and lead a different life. But you need to get back to the palace."
"No. I'm not going without you! If you love us all so much than why don't you just come back? Please, Clara? I love you too and I just want to have a sister again - only a sister where I'll remember the times we had together, rather than discovering them in baby pictures and paintings of us. Please Clara?"
"No. You are going to go back home without me. Now! NOW!" Clara shouted.
"Nope. I'm waiting back right here - I'll wait as long as it takes - a day, a month, a year, anything! You can't just hide out from me and the rest of the family! I'm onto you now Clara!"
"Okay fine, I'll come home. I guess I don't have any future here. I don't own anything so I needn't pack any bags. Come on, let's go."
Annabelle simply nodded, not wanting to act too excited; in fact, Annabelle was a bit nervous now that it was all happening. Suppose she's kicked out of the palace? Suppose my father, out of anger, throws her in the dungeons for a few days? Suppose she is transported back to her London home and I'm sent away too, for disobeying and running off? Suppose they think I'm doing what she did many years ago and I'm running off too?
Annabelle's mind swarmed with "supposes" and all sorts of wild scenarios that her parents might thrust upon Clara and possibly Annabelle or the whole kingdom!
"Annabelle? Where on creation have you been? We sent out the hounds, the hunters, and everything and we couldn't find a trace of you within the palace grounds. What sent you away? I feared you would never, ever come back. That would be a disgrace!"
"It sure would be a disgrace to the kingdom if two daughters ran away, wouldn't it?" Annabelle surprised her father and her mother.
"What are you talking about?" her father asked in obvious surprise.
"I'm talking about Clara," Annabelle replied as if it was no surprise.
"Who is Clara?"
"Isn't this her?" Annabelle asked, motioning for Clara to enter the throne room.
The King and Queen gasped as Clara walked slowly and almost faintly towards them. Clara looked very pale, so Annabelle held her hand the rest of the way. Clara gripped Annabelle's hand tightly.
"Clara?" The Queen asked, "Oh Clara is that you?" With that, the Queen burst into tears and fled from the throne room into the dressing room.
"Clara," the King spoke in a grave voice, "I see you have come back as a young lady now."
"Yes, sir," Clara replied looking up at him.
"Where did you go?"
"To the outer edges of London, sir, I lived there all the years."
"I see. Did Annabelle fetch you?"
"Do you wish to come back and beg forgiveness?"
"What? NO! I don't wish to come and forgive for something I don't feel was wrong! You all forced me into going to that boarding school, and I ran away! What else is a young girl with no other choice to do? I don't feel that I was wrong, and if you expect me to come in and be a like a beggar and throw myself upon the floor and beg for forgiveness at your feet like the servants do, then I may as well just leave now! Oh, and if I leave, you'll be breaking your youngest daughter's heart more than you can imagine. More than you already have."
Annabelle realized that the youngest daughter was her; Clara really had taken notice of how sad yet happy Annabelle was to see her wonderful sister. Annabelle even began to tear up.
"Well, if that is so, then maybe you better leave now," the King told her.
"Then goodbye. I don't need to say anything to you!" Clara left the room, and Annabelle burst into tears as she watched the large dungeon like, heavy doors slam.
"Father, why?" Annabelle cried out bitterly. "I want my sister again - I want Clara." Annabelle knew that crying was certainly not a good thing to do, but she couldn't help it. Her sister Clara had been in her grasp when Annabelle was a baby and when she'd left, Clara had been out of reach, now, just earlier today she'd gotten back within reach and now, just as quick as she'd gotten within reach, she was out again.
"You like her?"
"Yes, I love her Father."
"Very well, I suppose I really do love her too. Servant Boy - grab that girl."
The servant raced out of the doors and within minutes, Clara was back in the room.
"Clara, I really do love you and all of us do. Please stay. I will say that you cannot ascend onto the throne as a princess in the royal line, but I will let you live here in royalty because family is not something to be pushed out of everyone's lives. I love you Clara."
The two of them hugged and hugged, both crying and neither said a word, except for three words each, "I love you." Annabelle felt so content right then that she dared not to move a muscle because she feared she may be dreaming. Just as she though that, her mother came out and Clara and her mother embraced.
As they hugged, Annabelle just sat down and watched on as her family of three became a family of four. I guess we were always a family of four...I just didn't know it.... and with that, Annabelle fell asleep right there on that floor...................