Subject: The Reluctant Princess
My excitement about our project remains unbounded. I have no problem with the concept, in theory, of providing the even numbered chapters, as we agreed at the outset. However, in the continued absence of a synopsis, it is difficult to know how to proceed with chapter two. Am I supposed to pick up with where you left off in chapter one, and we will go back and forth like a Second City improvisation? I would be much more comfortable if I had a better idea where we are heading. Why is Charlotte reluctant? You know these stories must follow a pattern of initial attraction, confusion, obstacles, and in the end the triumph of true love. So what obstacles do you intend for us to throw in the way of these callow, perhaps a bit too callow, lovers? Also, I must confess I do have a few quibbles with your preliminary draft of the first chapter.
My dearest Ellie, I am not sure how to phrase this politely. It would be so much better if we could arrange again to meet face to face. I regret that you are reluctant to use Skype. I understand that you feel like you look like the wicked witch of the West, but we could perhaps just use the voice part— well, never mind. I will screw my courage to the sticking point, and come out with it.
When we agreed to collaborate on this effort, what I had in mind was a Romance. Not Erotica, not even Romantica. A Romance. Something I could sign my own name to, and could boast about at choir practice. Something that I could watch my friends read without blushing in embarrassment.
So, when I find the following:
Charlotte did her curtsy, just as she had been trained. Perhaps it was the champagne, or the weight of the Duke's eyes upon her bodice, that made her stumble. She fell forward, catching herself in time to avoid complete humiliation, but her breasts popped out even more. She was sure she could feel the cold draft of the ancient hall directly on her nipples, but she was afraid to look. She was frozen in the intensity of the Duke's scrutiny, unable to adjust her dress, unable even to remove her hands from the floor, lest she topple onto his gleaming boots.
“Enchanted,” he said, and he bent down, so close she felt the heat of his breath on her bare flesh, “Enchanted.” He said it again, and he took a step closer to her. He was wearing leggings, skin tight and bright green, of a very sheer fabric, and a codpiece that did little to hide just how enchanted he had become. It was almost in her face now, and she could smell him, the sweet scent of well scrubbed flesh, and something else, something musky and chalky that made her tremble.
“My lord,” she babbled, but he took her wrist in his hand. He lifted her upright with casual strength.
“We must introduce you to my nephew.” It was a command, not a request.
He had his arm around a slender, gawky boy. She had imagined a younger version of her father, a younger version of the Duke, slender perhaps, but not skinny, skin smoother perhaps, but not blotchy. Of course, she knew what the boys in her village looked like, she knew what her brother looked like, but she had never imagined....
“The prince?” She gasped it, and then, losing all control, swooned into the Duke's waiting arms.
Really, this is just too ... too. Actually that is as far as I got.
WTF? Me, the wicked witch? Dear heart, I did not give a hundred performances of Hansel and Gretel without the need for makeup.
As for Charlotte's reaction to the Duke—what did it feel like when guys started staring down your dress? Especially dirty old men? Or maybe you never had that problem?
As for using Skype, I don't like to do it when Charlie is home, which he always is in the evening. If he ever got wind that I was Bliss Hilton.....
That was a remark you made yourself. I'm sorry if it offended you. As for me, when I go “Mirror, mirror on the wall,” it just starts to laugh. It's been that way for a long time now.
As for guys looking down my dress—at least I had something for them to look at. They didn't need to get out their reading glasses. Did I ever tell you about the time Abby Horowitz puked down my dress at the Senior Prom? He'd brought in one of those little silver flasks, filled with something clear and almost tasteless. Now I know it must have been vodka, or maybe aquavit. We had wandered out into the side hall, and he was starting to kiss me. But then he just lost it. I made him lick it up. No, you are not going to put that episode into your sordid little story.
As for your husband discovering your sordid little secret—what are you afraid of, dear? He'll tie you up, flog you and sodomize you? Maybe that would cure your potty mouth, or more accurately your potty fingers.
Why don't we meet in the library again? We are wasting time swapping notes like this. We should be able to knock this off in a couple of afternoons.
Oh, and I am still waiting for some clue on how to proceed with the next chapter. Not that I have gotten much further with the first one.
Maggie dear, one advantage of boobs that don't droop is that you don't need a bra. After all, if you are wearing a bra, what's the big deal if someone is taking a little peek? You might as well be wearing a bathing suit.
As for conflict—the prince is gawky little twerp who is having an affair with Charlotte's father. That should be good start. And if that isn't enough, they get kidnapped and forced into prostitution together. You can write the kidnap scene as the next chapter—pirates maybe, lots of blood and gore, swashbuckling sword play, that sort of thing.
Maybe we could try the Starbucks again? I don't think we can go back to the library for a while.
The prince is doing WHAT? And prostitution? Really, that is stretching it. Maybe just hold them for ransom and have them ravished. No, wait, your Charlotte needs to remain a virgin. Oh, I know what you’re thinking in that little potty brain of yours. Well, that is your chapter. Just leave her maidenhood intact.
I guess you didn't read the rest of the chapter after all. There is a touch of innuendo, but it is pretty clear. Isn't it?
“The prince,” the Duke repeated. He had caught her effortlessly. In fact, he could have prevented her fall completely, but instead he let her body collapse onto his, briefly. The electric touch of his flesh was enough to jolt her back into awareness. She drew back, full of consternation and something else. Was it the champagne that was making her feel so reckless, or the ridiculous dress, more like a nightgown, something only a whore would wear, but all the young girls were dressed like that, baring themselves shamelessly. She tugged at her dress to adjust it— to pull it down, not up.
“Eric, meet Charlotte.”
She barely had time to take in the slight figure before her, the extended hand, before she realized that another curtsy was in order. This time she kept her balance, but her dress failed completely. That last little tug had been too much for it. She pulled herself up and back together very quickly, trying not to blush, trying not to smirk into the Duke's dancing eyes. They were playing a little game of flirt and dare. She didn't know the rules, she didn't know the risks. She didn't care.
The slender, delicate hand was still offered to her. She put hers onto it, and the prince leaned down to bestow a polite, indifferent kiss. His eyes never drifted in the direction of her neckline, or to be more precise, mid chest line. No, that wasn't true. He did take a good look at the sapphire nestled in between her breasts. I'm rich, I'm rich it was screaming, you can have all this luscious flesh and it comes with a nice dowry, too. He wasn't as short as her first impression, nearly the same height as the Duke, but half the thickness. The purple leggings revealed scrawny legs beneath, and the tunic could not hide the narrowness of his shoulders and chest. A boy, he was a boy, compared to the Duke's virile manhood. A boy most likely her own age, perhaps a bit older even, but look at her, radiant and perfect, in the prime of her beauty, and look at him—still years away from what he might become. Prince he might be, but she gave him a smile that indicated her total lack of interest in him. Charm him, her father had said, win his heart, but it was the Duke's heart she wanted—no, not his heart. His heart was the last piece of his anatomy she was concerned with.
“Charlotte.” There was a familiar voice behind her, a familiar hand on her bare shoulder. Her father's hand, but it was squeezing into her, nails biting. “I see that you have already met our honoured guest.” He gave a little inflection to the word honoured, he gave a little harder squeeze, digging in his nails. How many other girls had been tricked out like harlots this evening in the hope of catching the eye of the prince? She had been sizing them up, as they walked in. There might be a one or two with as pretty a face, but not the deep green eyes, the dark red hair, the perfect arms, perfect legs, swelling breasts. No wonder the Duke was eyeing her with his mouth watering in anticipation. More than his mouth. She was wishing her father had allowed her pantaloons. She was moist, strangely, as if it were the wrong time of the month.
“Yes, Father.” As she said that, she saw the prince's eyes widen, his face flush. He was looking past her, at her father.
“Eric and I have already spent some time together.” There was a chuckle in her father's voice. “He went with us on our latest hunting trip.”
“My father thought that life at court had become too easy,” Eric offered. “He thought I needed some time in the country.”
“Roughing it,” the Duke added. “The King wanted us to make a man out of him.”
She could feel her father shuddering behind her, trying to control his laughter. Eric was blushing, tears were coming from his eyes, but they were not tears of sorrow.
“It is a pity,” her father said, “that the King could not join us.”
“Ah yes. His health will not permit it. The death of my brother affected his heart, so it seems.”
P. S. We're going to make Charlotte a “technical virgin” – yes, I like that idea. The pirates or whatever will be allowed to ravish either end of her digestive tract, but they must respect her maidenhood. Of course, they'll be doing the same to the poor little prince.
WHAT?? My dear, you did not include that sordid little fragment in your last note. Just as well. It might have been too much for me.
Well, what can I say? You expect me to accept that Charlotte's father, so eager to marry his lovely daughter off to this Petit Prince, is going to put him through some Deliverance style rite of passage out in the back woods? Come on now, are you going to have a flashback of the poor prince bare assed, bent over a log, squealing like a pig?
Been there, done that. It cured me of camping for a long time. There's definitely something to be said for a nice soft mattress and lots of lube.
Seriously, the idea is not so far fetched. When Erasmus wrote his treatise on the virtues of married love, it was to combat the rampant homosexuality of the upper class. There might very well have been something like a rite of passage. And wouldn't a long hunting trip with your father's trusted retainers be perfect for it? One far enough from the court to provide some privacy? Remember, there weren't paparazzi in those days. People still knew how to keep a secret.
I want to make Charlotte's father sinister, ambitious, willing to sacrifice his daughter for his own selfish ends. Of course, she, poor innocent thing, is struggling to deal with this. She wants to be a good daughter.
Does Charlotte have a living mother? I know it's almost a convention to have the mother die in childbirth, and in truth, that might be wishful thinking. Mothers can be so annoying. I know my daughter told me once I was the meanest lady in church.
At least she called you a lady. You know, I've been fretting over that. I want to put in something about how her father is flinging her at the prince, but maybe it could be her mother doing it. You know, the little talk that a mother might have with her child before her wedding night. That sort of thing.
What, did your mother have a “little talk” with you?
It was sooo embarrassing! She dug out a sex manual from the 1930's – I didn't even know they had them back then! She just handed it to me and said she didn't suppose there was anything I didn't know. Then she asked if Charlie thought I was a virgin.
She asked you WHAT? What did you tell her?
I told her that I was a virgin. She didn't believe me, of course. But it was true. I was, technically, a virgin.
Too much information. I am sorry I asked. I hesitate to even raise the question, but what did you have in mind for the mother's instructions to her poor innocent daughter?
Something like this.
“My dear.” Her mother had come in while she was taking her bath. She had started to wash Charlotte's back, just like when she was a little girl. “Hold your hair up, we mustn't spoil it now.”
“Yes, Mother.” There had been a sense of urgency, of unease in the 'my dear' that had little to do with the state of her hair.
“You're so beautiful.” The sponge strayed forward, over Charlotte's breasts, and she found herself wondering it that was an appropriate thing for her mother to be doing. She loved it when Hannah washed her, so slowly, so soothingly, but Hannah was a maid. “I'm sure the men at the ball will have eyes only for you.”
“Yes, mother. As for you, when you were a young girl.”
“Ah yes! You know, the Duke and your father nearly came to blows? It broke the Duke's heart when I married your father.”
There was a little sigh. “I loved them both, I think. My family was better served by marriage to your father.”
“And if the Duke had been the eldest? If he had been the royal heir?”
“Ah!” Her mother gave a little giggle. “Then there might not be a beautiful Charlotte sitting in the bath, waiting to go the Duke's royal ball.”
“The prince will be there. He is visiting the Duke, for quite a while, it seems. There are rumours he has been banished from the court.” Her mother waved to Hannah, who came with another pot of steaming water.
“I have not been able to find out why. It is all very quiet. But, banished or not, he is still the prince. Charlotte, my dear, this is your moment of glory. You will never again be quite so lovely. The prince will never again be quite so near, quite so ready to cede to your charms.”
“What if I don't care for this prince?”
“Your father has been hunting with the prince.”
“Father is going to meet us at the ball?”
“Yes. He sent me a letter. He assures me that the prince is quite charming.”
“Oh, wonderful. Prince Charming.”
“Charlotte, mind your manners. Your father's instructions were,” her mother paused, “quite explicit. He said that I was to instruct you on,” her mother paused again.
“Certain matters.” Another pause. Her mother wrung out the sponge, letting it drip absentmindedly onto the girl's precious red locks. “Charlotte, you're a country girl. You've grown up with horses, and dogs, and ...”
“Pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, pigeons, chickens, cats ...”
“Yes, of course. Surely you must have noticed that male animals are built ... differently.”
“They have tubes they can pee with. So do the boys.”
“Well,” her mother seemed flustered, “so they do.”
“They have contests, to see who can pee the farthest and longest. They laugh at the girls.”
“Really, we should not have let you play with your brothers.”
“Who else is there to play with? You keep me locked in all morning with that dreadful tutor.”
“When you are Queen, you must have an education.”
“Queen? Who said anything about me being the Queen?” Charlotte submerged herself completely, letting her precious red tresses float on the soapy scum. She managed to stay under for at least a minute, maybe two, but when she came back up her mother was waiting for her.
“My dear, why do you think we are having this conversation? Your father is convinced that you can win the prince's favour. He has instructed me to instruct you on certain feminine arts which you might use to your advantage.”
“He wants me to stand like a mare in heat?”
“Something like that.” Her mother could not suppress a giggle. “My dear, you do not yet comprehend your beauty. All the men, all the boys, at the ball will be like stallions vying for your attention.”
“Really? Am I supposed to let them mount me one by one. Or two by two? Is that what Father is suggesting?”
“No! If you do that you will be nothing but a trollop, a plaything, no better than a cheap peasant whore. My dear, you do understand what it is to be a virgin? No one has touched you ...”
“Touched me?” Charlotte thought back to all those games of Spanish Inquisition. “No one has fucked me yet.”
“Well, crudely put. Those tubes that men have, none of them have put them ... here.” Her mother reached between Charlotte's legs. “Have they?”
“I will examine you when you leave the bath.”
“To make sure that your maidenhood is intact. If it is not, your father's ambitions have already come to naught.”
“Is that why we are having this talk? So I'm sure to be a good little girl at the ball?” Charlotte was sulking. “None of my friends have been good little girls.”
“Your so called friends are little peasant whores. You are never to demean yourself again with their company.”
“If things do not go well with the prince, we will be sending you to court to complete your,” her mother paused, “education. If things do go well ...”
“You will be the princess, or the betrothed of the prince. Your life will be very different.”
“And you want this for me?”
“To see you on the throne, radiant, decked in furs and jewels? To see you holding in your arms your son, my grandson, and to know that some day he will rule this realm?”
“But will I be happy?”
“No, of course not. Happily ever after only happens in fairy tales. But you will be wealthy beyond all measure, powerful beyond all measure, beautiful beyond all measure. From these things, eventually, some measure of happiness can be contrived.”
“What are you saying, Mother?”
“Enough for now. These are matters to be discussed at another time. You must win your prince before you can betray him. Charlotte, dearest, you asked me if your father was telling you to be a good little girl. In fact, he is instructing me to instruct you to be quite the opposite. He is instructing you to flaunt yourself, yes, even to prostitute yourself, if that will attract the attention of the prince.”
“Mother? What about my precious maidenhood? Is it all right if it is the prince who takes it?”
“No. It would be disastrous.”
“You must prostitute yourself in ways that do not affect your maidenhood.”