The town square was packed with women, all eager to hear who had been chosen. They were all preening, bedecked in finery only a touch less gaudy than what they had worn at the ball. There were those who made eyes at the herald, as if he was the one to make the decision.
From his spot on one of the scaffoldings, Philip held an unobstructed view. He enjoyed both laughing at the women and gawking at them. As a pauper child of thirteen, these were rare sights. He nearly fell from his perch when one of the more energetic women tumbled out of her bodice.
When the herald had stepped up onto the platform, the chattering ceased. All that could be heard was the rustle of skirts and hastily whispered prayers.
The herald lifted the trumpet to his lips, signaling that the announcement was from the royal house itself. At that, even the whispers stopped.
"Hear ye! Hear ye! The Prince has been faced with the most difficult task of selecting a bride from amoungst all the lovely ladies at the Crown Ball. The Prince is still in agony over this decision. Therefore, in one week's time he will state with conviction which of the beautiful women he will wed."
The moment he had finished, the women began talking. Some looked down at their finery and wondered why they had bothered to get dressed-up for such an announcement. Others debated in groups how many women the choice was down to and who those women were.
Philip watched all the women depart, either singly or in groups, before he himself climbed down. He was in luck. The excitement had caused more than one bead to work its way loose and Philip hurried to gather them all before night took away his sight.
Supper was just being cleared when he returned home. His sister, Mala, was pouring his portion of soup back into the pot.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" He cried, grabbing the bowl from her hand and refilling it. "I gotta eat too, you know."
Mala whacked him on the shoulder, sending some of the bowl's contents onto his shirt. "Shh! Mama and Papa'll kill you if they hear you now."
"Why?" Philip asked, licking the spilled broth from his fingers.
"This is the third night in a row you've been gone late. They don't like it."
"Yeah, but look," Philip said, setting down his bowl and pulling out a handful of brightly coloured beads from his pocket.
"Where'd you get those? You didn't steal them, did you?"
"No!" Then, recalling Mala's warning, he lowered his voice. "No. Stealing hurts too much." He rolled his back muscles, recalling with a grimace the lashing he had received when he had been caught stealing.
"The square. There was a herald tonight. That's why I was gone."
"The herald dropped all the beads?" Mala straightened from examining a blue one and fixed him with a scrutinizing glare.
"Not the herald. The women/i.." He continued when Mala merely blinked at him. "You spend too much time in the kitchen and barn, Mala. The women who went to the ball. They were all there, and dressed so well. One woman even fell out of her bodice!"
Mala groaned and rolled her eyes. "Grow up."
Philip pinched her.
She squeaked and stepped back. "Let me see those beads."
Philip emptied his pockets onto the table. While Mala examined each and every one by the light of a candle, Philip busied himself with downing the now cold soup.
"This one isn't real," Mala said, waving a purple bead in front of Philip's face.
"Don't blame me. Complain to the woman who dropped it."
Mala sniffed in disdain and brought it close to the candle again. "It's passable, though. You can't really tell it's fake unless you look real close. Put it on a necklace or fringe of a skirt and no one'll know."
Philip grunted an assent and went on eating.
|10 Feb 2000|| Guadalupe de los Santos|
Seems realistic, again, but the charcters are not totally well developed. Also, it is too short. Continue it, I want to know what happens next!