a sample of today’s writing:
The servant led the way down a wide hallway, and the sounds of music grew louder as they walked. It was a full orchestra, Ella realized, playing a full waltz, and she felt her heart begin to beat faster. They stopped in front of a pair of huge, open doors, the room beyond clear source of the music. “The main entrance to the ballroom is here,” the servant said. “You’ll enter at the top of the stairs, and make your way down. The herald may introduce you, if you’d like your names announced.”
Raya stopped dead in her tracks. “Is there a side entrance, maybe?” she asked, her tone nervous. “Something like that?”
The servant blinked at her. “A servant’s entrance, my lady? Why would you…?”
“I…” Raya cleared her throat, managing a nervous smile, uncertain enough that Ella, who knew Raya better than nearly anyone, believed it. “I have terrible ankles on stairs,” she said. “If I’m going to slip in this gown, I’d just rather do it somewhere where half the peers of the realm won’t see it.”
“Oh, of course.” The servant actually smiled at that, a real smile, not the placid one she’d greeted them with. “You’re actually not the first person to ask.” She dropped her tone, conspiratorial. “Believe it or not, the Princess tried that earlier, but the Queen wouldn’t stand for it.”
Raya laughed, and Ella couldn’t help a smile. Another point in the princess’s favor, she thought.
Still—Raya wanted to blend into the background of the ball, but Ella wanted to be noticed—by a specific someone. “I don’t mind the stairs,” she said, surprising herself with the sudden boldness. “Can you go on without me?”
A hint of surprise flickered across Raya’s features, but she smiled. “I can,” she said. She reached out and tugged Ella into a hug, and Ella held onto her tight. “Good luck, baby sister,” she whispered, and Ella pressed her face into her shoulder. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” She pulled away, straightening her shoulders and raising her chin. “Do I look all right?”
“You look perfect,” Raya said, just a hint away from tearful. “Knock them dead.” She glanced at the servant, who was waiting patiently. “Servant’s entrance?” she asked hopefully, and the girl smiled, holding out an arm to indicate the direction. With a last glance over her shoulder at Ella, Raya followed her down the hall.
Left alone, Ella took a few deep breaths, waiting just out of sight of the open doors. You can do this, she told herself. It’s just a party. You’ve been to parties before. She inhaled and exhaled slowly, steeling herself for bravery. Closing her eyes, she pictured the prince’s face the way it had looked that day at the market place: open and friendly and kind, looking into her eyes like his soul had somehow recognized hers. That was why she was here, she reminded herself—to see that face again, even if only for a night.
With another deep breath, Ella moved forward, and let the light of the ballroom wash over her as she stepped through the doors.