The Goldfish Princess
She turned her side and the heat of her body rushed to embrace the cold surface of the bed. This was why she had been postponing the moment until her muscles had begun to cramp. The cold, she thought, would one day freeze the blood flowing in her veins, and when that happened, her frozen blood would expand to first crack and then blast open her veins, quite like the water that upon turning into ice, cracked the pipes.
With sleep having fled from her eyes, she lay on her left side, letting her warmth seep out of her body and warm the cold sheet under her. She could have remained in the sunny climes of her homeland, but then she would have been sleeping on the pavement and begging on the streets. Here she was a princess.
Almost a princess.
The faces around her, all white, all different from hers, closed upon her from all sides, like a wall. They smiled and they talked. They talked in a foreign tongue that she couldn’t yet understand completely. They were kind to her, and they gave her a bed to sleep in.
Back home, Mother would be thinking that her daughter was a princess too, and so would all the uncles and aunts and neighbors who lived in the dirty threadbare tents that they had hitched upon the pavements. Back home, back at the pavement, they thought of her as a princess with a tiara upon her head.
Perhaps they were right. She had a roof upon her head. A roof that the wind couldn’t blow away. She had clean clothes on her back, so what if she had only two changes. One to wash while she wore the other. And she slept in a bed. She had a trunk to keep her things in, and a hopper window that she could open to let sunlight in when the sun was almost about to set on the western horizon, except that she was usually busy in the kitchen at that time of the day.
Upstairs, the kind man and woman, and their children, they slept in heated rooms, and they went out, everyday. The children played out in the sun, the woman wore new dresses everyday. They listened to music, they watched television, they played, and talked, and shopped, and did everything that she wanted to do along.
As she fell asleep again thinking of the pavement and the tiara, she wondered how long would it be before the four a.m. alarm went off. The woman, her mistress, was not cruel until the girl caused her grief, and her mistress liked to see the house sparkling clean when she woke up at seven.
And the goldfish had to be fed too.