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After She Wakes

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In the palace she’d grown up in, when Miranda said, “I’m hungry,” food bustled into the room of its own will. The sheets pulled back on her bed. She wore what she wanted. She slept when she was tired and she ate when she was hungry. She ran when she wanted to run and she was still when she wanted to be still.

In the palace she’d grown up in, the only people she’d had to talk to were her Father and Caliban. Until Caliban tried to do what he’d done. Until she’d shrank from the very sight of him. Until she’d seen what was in his heart with only just her own hands and her voice to try to save herself.

She’d left the island behind.

Her father died mere days after they sailed into Milan.

Away from their island. Away from food that came when asked or sheets that pulled back. To where Miranda had to wear certain things or speak a certain way. Where it wasn’t that she wasn’t allowed to run. It was that she couldn’t. The weight of her clothes were too heavy. She could hardly breathe with the way her bodice squeezed her.

Still, she loved her Ferdinand. She loved the world that had so many wonders in it.

There were people. Shouting people. Whispering people. Watching people. Loving people. Judging people.

She smiled for her Ferdinand. Her sweet wonderful Ferdinand, who was now both Prince and Naples and Duke of Milan. She was the Princess of Naples and the Duchess of Milan. Although, that didn’t mean that she was to rule. That was for her husband, who smiled and said, “You’ve been so sheltered, my island goddess.”

When they went to visit Naples, her mother-in-law, the Queen would say, “Are you with child yet?” She’d nod. “You have narrow hips. That’s not good.”

Miranda would look down at her hips. She didn’t know how to fix them. She’d say. “I don’t think so.” Then endure an hour of grilling over her eating habits and humors.

At least she knew something of humors. She tried to talk about her Father and the things she’d heard him mention, but the Queen would cut her off. “It’s best you not talk of witchcraft.” The Queen looked out the window. “The Inquisition has ears everywhere.”

Sometimes Miranda went to her father’s grave and asked him, “What should I do? I don’t know how to go about being the Duchess. Why didn’t you teach me when you taught me to read?”

Although, given remarks that various she heard people loudly whisper, her Father had not been renown for his ability in that area. The Countess Constance said, “The only wonder is his brother didn’t depose him sooner, as little time as he spent doing his duty.” Her Count laughed as a reply.

Miranda tried doing her duty. She just wasn’t sure what that was. She asked Ferdinand. Her hero. Her rock on the shore. He kissed her and said, “Why to be my love, my sweet.”

That didn’t really help.

She went to church to pray for guidance. Angels didn’t descend and tell her what to do either. They would have if her Father were there.

She heard her Ladies whisper, “At least she’s pious. Have you seen the state of her nails and skin? Run wild all her life she has.”

She looked at her sun browned skin and scrubbed it. She would have looked at her sun bleached hair, but it was pinned tightly under a cap.

Miranda was expected to know things she did not. Sometimes the ladies laughed at her. When Ferdinand smiled at her and patted her hand and told her, “You’re my innocent island goddess.”

He worshiped her tenderly in their bed. She loved his tenderness. She did. She wasn’t sure what more she wanted. Only that she wanted it.

There was no one thing. It was the hundredth time one of her Ladies laughed and said, “Your Highness, don’t you know…” that Miranda stiffened.

A thin thread of metal inside of became quite hard. She smiled and said, “You are dismissed.”

It turned out that she couldn’t exactly dismiss her Ladies. That she needed to always be accompanied lest someone trifle with her. The clear implication was that if this happened, it would be her fault.

She didn’t intend anything more than needing a moment of freedom in the stifling glass bowl she was living in when she opened her Father’s trunks. When she opened one of his books to find the spell of invisibility. She knew it was there. She’d seen Father use it.

Miranda learned it and she used it. She had to go back to the books to find a spell to leave a simulacrum in her place. It sat in her clothes at her window embroidering flowers in a hoop. She went to explore the city. She went to walk the streets of Milan. It was nothing like the island. Unseen, people jostled her. The yelling voices hurt her ears.

She didn’t intend anything when she made a spirit of clay to accompany her when she walked about her city, listening to her people. She wanted someone to protect her. She wanted something solid to stand behind. She learned a great deal about her city. She learned a great deal about the way people laugh and love and lie.

When she was able to speak intelligibly about a dispute over port rights, Ferdinand looked at her. “How did you know that?”

She smiled and pleated her hands. “I’ve been trying to learn.”

He kissed her cheek. “As long as I don’t lose my island goddess.”

She frowned, because she could hardly see how one had anything to do with the other.

She didn’t intend to keep reading, but knowing something made her want to know more. She learned spells to keep her safe and she learned spells to attack. She learned how to weave her childhood back into her life. Words and gestures. Spells that required only her will.

She heard the whispers about her. She created birds out of feather and cloth to sit on branches and listen to places where she could not go. She was accounted sweet. She was accounted barren. She was thought to be a witch with congress with demons or a saint with all her kindness.

One day, it was Spring, the King of France went to war with the King of Naples. Ferdinand told her, “My goddess, it’s outside the ken of your island,” which was hardly helpful. She was supposed to leave Milan with the baggage and art to be kept safe in Naples in the south. Her simulacrum went.

She fashioned clay men. She made birds. If she wasn’t to have the island, then she would see to her city. It was all Father had meant to leave. Actually, she sighed, he’d meant to leave her in Ferdinand’s care.

When the French were routed by the very earth, when birds flocked to devour their stores, and strange fires burned in the sky, and the people openly talked of the divine intervention protecting their city, Miranda was summoned home. Her thought as she kissed Ferdinand, her love, rock and support was really, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Then she went to read a good book.