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What happens after happily ever after wears off.
Once upon a time... that is how the story is supposed to begin, right? Telling of the damsel in distress and the knight in shining armor come to rescue her? Well, it's a great story... Love conquers all and such
Rubbish! What happens next? HMM??

10 years ago, my biggest concern was angering my step-mother. I thought the extra chores were unfair. True, the woman was merely helpless, and those daughters of hers wouldn't know which end of the broom to push. I thought it was all so unfair.

Now, I have a castle full of young maidens whose parents look to me to keep pure. While they make cow-eyes at any knight who follows my "dear husband". I have a huge staff of servants who would rather be carousing and drinking then any of the daily chores. I have 2 sons and 3 daughters who are a lot like my step sisters. My children are so pampered they can barely dress themselves.

And what you may ask, happened to my "loving prince?" He has plenty of love to share with any passing serving wench. While I am too busy fighting of the wondering hands of his "loyal knights" to care where he spends his evenings.

After 10 years of running the kings castle, I long for the peaceful days at my step-mothers house. The quiet undisturbed sewing I got done in the garden. The early morning light that brought about the songs of the birds. Fixing breakfast for 4 women before feeding the 2 dozen or so animals instead of breakfast for 200 people and making sure the 500 head of cattle are taken care of.

I see the peasant women on the street in the market place. I know what they dream of when they gaze at my carriage. I see the longing in their eyes when they look towards my palace upon the hill. What I wouldn't
Trade them for their life. I would gladly exchange my "happily-ever-after" for their "run-of-the-mill".

There is a young woman in the market place. I talk to her frequently about her carefree days. She travels with the entertainers who sometimes perform for my family. She speaks with a passion I remember in my once young heart.

Her name is Jasmine, or at least that is what she calls herself. She refuses to call me Ella; she says it isn't my name. She tells me Lady will have to work until I chose a more suited name.

Her passion tells of long dusty roads and late night revels, of gypsy fires and dancing till dawn. Watching unfamiliar stars in lands I have heard of only in legends. Some days I sit and listen to her for hours.
She makes my heart beat wildly with the fire in her eyes... the passion in her voice. The touch of her hand upon my burns my skin in ways I haven't felt in years. Her untamable spirit calls to something that hides deep within me.

She often jokes about taking me away with her. She says she can see the road lying just behind my eyes. She makes just leaving the palace seem a great adventure. Telling of how panicked everyone would be, of the searches and quests that would be declared to find me. How, when I was never found the entire country would mourn for the loss of their queen.

Every time I see her she asks me if I have decided to leave yet. And everyday I say not yet with a heavy sigh. It is almost autumn now, time for the harvests. Jasmine will spend the winter in a far away town. She tells me that I should come with her, that she could show me wonders I have never dreamt of. Everyday she tells me of a location to meet her at, where she waits from just before dawn till mid-morning.

Tonight I lay awake listening to my serving women giggle. They believe that I am asleep, like so many nights before. Together they talk about which of them my Lord prefers. Of course I am too old and worn out to be his first choice. But for the first time in years their giggled taunts do not bother me.

I lay awake almost trembling with anticipation. Beside the door is a bundle of everything that still matters to me. Come morning my serving women will awake to an empty room and a missing queen.

Jasmine will no longer wait down by the bake shop, for come sunrise she will find her Rosemary waiting to begin a new "happily ever after".
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