FRIDAY #FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #35-A Surprise.
“You have 30 minutes before you must prepare for travel to the site of your birthday party,” a man wearing a red smoking jacket said.
“Can you disappear for a few minutes, grandfather?” Jean Ella asked. “It makes me nervous when you float above me.”
“How would you convey that sentiment were you talking with Queen Arlenia from Frangeria?”
“Why should I care?” Jean Ella said with ample sarcasm. “The only things the nose-in-the-airs have over there are coal mines and oil!”
“Do not forget the diamonds and a rich vein of gold,” he replied. “How would you say…?”
“All right! If you do not mind, I require a bit of privacy,” Jean Ella said with a perfect British accent a queen would love.
“Very good,” her companion replied, dissolving in front of her.
Jean Ella picked up a pen, opened a blue journal, and began to write.
Every year on my birthday, mom surprises me with a gift. When I turned 9, she gave me the pink diary she always wanted. After I caught her reading it, I asked, “Why?”
“It reminds me that I’m not insane,” she told me.
That, I could understand, but I still made her promise never to read my diary again. She knows our companion would tell on her if she tried it. He tells on me, too.
For my 10th birthday, she gave me sapphire blue ballet shoes and tights. I loved them! I just wish I loved ballet. Tiffany, one of the girls in my class, calls me Trailer Trash. She showed everyone the story about my former mother and stepfather going to jail and how Detective Erin Jonas adopted me.
I used to be angry at Tiffany until my companion said, “Once you learn grace and poise in all situations, people will forget your humble beginnings.” He tells me jokes in ballet class when it’s Tiffany’s turn to dance. She thinks I’m laughing at her. I think he’s the one who needs grace and poise lessons!
For my 11th birthday present, we moved to a better part of town. I love our house! Mom gave me the master bedroom, and it’s bigger than the dilapidated trailer I used to live in. All my old toys are still lined up on a floor-to ceiling shelf that mom said she got grey hairs trying to put together.
Last year, mom gave me a party at the best hotel in town. My friends from school were all there with their parents. My best friend’s father is a senator and he came to the party, too. There were a few people I didn’t meet. They sat in a corner talking to the senator. I asked mom if they were royalty or something. She smiled and said, “They’re the reason you can afford to live in this neighborhood and go to the best private school.”
This year for my birthday, I had my hair done and…
“You’re back again? Already?” Jean Ella asked.
“I have been consoling your mother,” her companion said, holding a drink he remembered from another era.
“Why would she need to be consoled?”
Detective Erin Jonas knocked on the door jamb. Jean Ella smiled at a box her mom carried to the queen-sized bed, the blue wrapping paper dressed with a white and silver bow shining from the light through Jean Ella’s bay windows.
“Go ahead. Open it,” Detective Jonas said.
Jean Ella carefully uncurled the ribbon, pulling the tape off so that most of the paper could be saved. She tore the tape off the box, and frowned at what was inside.
“A pink dress? You know I hate pink!”
“It’s a gift from one of the guests at your party today,” her grandfather said. “Remember… grace and poise.”
“The ghost is right,” Detective Jonas said.
“I do not like to be called…that,” he replied with umbrage, standing taller than his body had once towered.
“I’ll change into it for my party and meet you both downstairs,” Jean Ella sighed.
“You don’t want to look through the rest of it?”
In typical 13-year-old fashion, she snipped, “No.”
Jean Ella couldn’t believe how well the satin masterpiece fit her, but the hem seemed a few inches too long. She held up the front of her dress to meander from the bathroom to her bed, finding a pair of satin pink 4-inch heels waiting in the box for her. Underneath that, piles of designer clothing…
“Jean Ella! Our limo is here,” Detective Jonas shouted.
Walking down the hallway with the grace of a model, her grandfather hovered in front of her a few feet off the carpet, a light shining from his aura. “You have made me proud,” he said, lifting his eternal drink in a toast.
The ride to her party gave Jean Ella 20 minutes to think about why someone wanted her to dress like an adult. She felt beautiful, graceful…and loved. Wasn’t that more important than asking why?
They departed the vehicle, protected by a canopy, into the same hotel she had visited last year. The perfect place to show off her new dress! Why were people muttering, why were they staring at her, and why were they headed for the diplomats’ ballroom? She wanted a party, not a stampede!
“Grace and Poise,” a voice reminded her.
“If I hear that one more time, I’m gonna throw up,” she mumbled, stopping at the entrance to an elegant ballroom. “What the hell is Tiffany doing here?”
“Her father is a congressman,” her companion said.
Sauntering inside, Jean Ella acted as if she owned the place. Tiffany pointed at the birthday girl and whispered to her father, who smiled.
“Where is my mother?” Jean Ella asked.
“This is your day to shine. Do not help Tiffany ruin it. Remember, the best revenge is enacted with grace, dignity, and a smile.”
Jean Ella walked with dignity to the edge of the dance floor, just a few feet away from Tiffany. Turning toward the entrance, she wondered about the entourage entering the ballroom, cameras flashing around them. Two men in funny outfits stood at either side of the door, an old lady between them.
“Ladies and Gentleman,” a voice announced, “Queen Arlenia of Frangeria.”
The leader of her country wore a red dress complimented by a simple pearl necklace, her thin tiara sparkling with pearls and diamonds. Drawn toward the pink dress, she stopped a few feet in front of Jean Ella.
With a graceful swoop, Jean Ella bowed. As expected, she tilted her head downward, her hand accepted by the queen, waiting for her majesty to speak.
“Like a diamond cut to perfection, you are the essence of culture and beauty,” the queen said.
Jean Ella heard a faint chuckle to the right of her, recognizing it as Tiffany. The ghost of her great, great-grandfather had said to her mother 4 years before, “I have tried so hard to teach her the ways of royalty. Am I to be stuck trying to educate trailer trash for the remainder of my existence?”
“Your highness,” Jean Ella said with her best royal accent. “I am humbled.”
“When I was told of your origins, I sent emissaries to provide a report on your progress. We have watched as you continually exceeded our expectations,” the queen said. “We offered to provide you with a proper home and a school. In return, your mother agreed that when you reached the age of 13 you would live in Frangeria every summer, where you will learn the skills of a queen.”
“Queen Jean Ella?” Tiffany shouted out, laughing until the tears ran from her eyes. “She’s nothing but a low-class redneck!”
“Take that unruly child out of Baroness Jean Ella of Frangeria’s presence,” The Queen ordered.
With a gracious smile, Jean Ella stood, meeting the eyes of a woman who considered her family. “Thank you for the honor you have bestowed upon me, grandmother.”
“Well done, child,” Jean Ella’s companion said. “Revenge well served with a smile.”
She bowed to the queen again, mumbling toward the ground, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
She lifted her body, stood next to the queen, and smiled at the stream of curses coming from the apparition as she sweetly received congratulations from people she’d only met in magazines.
© Joelle LeGendre 2016