“...I now pronounce you man and wife! Prince Edward, you may kiss your bride!” Heather kissed her new husband and a joyful wedding march sprang up as she turned and waved her hand to her loyal subjects. In front of her eyes a crowd of happy people stood, cheering the newlywed prince and princess. Shouts of joy reached her ears, but slowly became harsh and argumentative. The rosy glow of her imagination faded away, and she suddenly found herself in her bedroom, with no prince at her side, a handful of fake roses in her hand, a plastic tiara on her head and only an audience of dolls before her as adoring subjects.
But the shouts. The shouts remained, frighteningly loud and angry. The flowers fell from her hand as she crept towards the door to the hallway. The stairs of the house were very convenient, with a twist in them so an eavesdropper could listen undisturbed. Heather crouched next to the twist and held her breath, listening.
“Harry, I am tired of this! Day and night, it’s the same thing! Why don’t you just go and live somewhere else? You don’t care about us, so why do you still hang around? I’m sick of the sight of you!”
Daddy responded angrily, and the voices rose louder and shriller. Heather clutched at her doll that she hadn’t even realized she’d taken with her out of her room. Mama sounded so angry. Like she did nearly every day. Daddy would come home from work late, and mama would take out the frustrations of the day on him, and in return, he would blow up at her.
When the fight would finally end, both would stomp off to their separate corners and smoke cigarettes in stony silence, leaving Heather to sit in her room and pretend that nothing had happened. By morning, they would be cool and civil to each other, but to Heather, they would be as kind and loving as possible, acting as if everything was all right.
But everything wasn’t all right, and Heather knew it. It almost seemed better for them to yell at her than at each other. Many a time she had gone to her room and whispered fiercely to her dolls, “I’m not the only one in this family! Why can’t they love each other as much as they love me? Or why can’t I bring them together?”
Creeping back to her room, Heather cast about for her prettiest crown. Finding it nestled safely on the middle shelf of her closet, she held it gently, looking at the sparkling rhinestones. Daddy had gotten it for her last year, at a carnival....
“It’ll make you look so royal, Princess Marigold,” he said, setting it on her hair. “There. You look just like your mama. She’s a queen, and you are our princess.”
Heather smiled. “That makes you the king, daddy.”
He laughed, and swung her up onto his shoulders. “Yes. We’re quite the royals, aren’t we, princess?”
Plucking a leaf from a tree, Heather set it on her father’s head. “Yes, we are. Now you have a crown as well.”
Daddy pulled her down from his shoulder and held her against his chest in a hug. “Thank you, princess.” He tucked the leaf into his pocket. “Get one for your mama now. Our lovely queen must not have a bare head, now should she?”
Heather plucked another leaf and daddy began to put it into his pocket, but Heather stopped him. “Wait, how will you tell them apart?”
Daddy paused, then lifted mama’s leaf to his lips and kissed it. “This one has my love on it,” he whispered, as if sharing a secret with Heather. “Your mama will be able to tell. That happens when you love someone....”
Heather set the crown on her head and gazed soberly in the mirror. “What happened, daddy?” she asked softly. “Why did you have to change?”
But it wasn’t only daddy, of course. It was mama too. In the space of a year, her parents had turned from being passionately in love to hating each other, barely standing the sight of the other, not able to speak kindly to each other anymore.
Heather went to her dresser. A frame stood, partially hidden behind a jewelry box, in which a picture of two people was incased. She touched her fingers gently to the smooth glass, the tip of her fingernail on her mama’s face. How vividly she remembered the day that picture had been taken...
“Why’re you all dressed up, mama?” Heather spun around and around her mother, her eyes taking in the beautiful dress, the upswept hair, the high heeled shoes. “Is it because you’re going out with daddy?”
Mama laughed, a bubbling, happy, giddy laugh. “Partly, darling, but more because of the reason we’re going out. It’s your daddy’s and my anniversary.” She took Heather's hands in hers and they waltzed around the dressing room. Mama was humming a tune and laughing, and soon Heather was giggling; mama’s happiness was infectious.
“Here, you do it like this,” mama instructed, her hands steadying Heather’s waist. “Now, one, two; one, two; one--”
“Excuse me, madam,” daddy’s voice addressed Heather from behind. “But I believe you are dancing with my partner.”
Heather jumped to the side as daddy swept mama into his arms and they began to dance. Mama leaned her head against daddy, his chin touching the side of her forehead. Heather smiled and danced around them, not making a sound.
The dance ended with daddy swooping mama right off her feet and into the air, then twirling her around. When he finally set her down, they kissed for a long moment, and he turned to Heather a bit out of breath. “And that,” he smiled, straightening his tie, “is the way you dance. Farewell, my princess, your babysitter-- er-- royal governess, will look after you. I now take my wife away.”
He bowed gravely to mama. “My lady?”
“Coming, your majesty,” mama smiled, letting him kiss her hand. “Be good, Princess Marigold.”
Heather pressed her face to the window and watched as her parents walked down the path to the car, hand in hand. Daddy was saying something, and mama was dimpling, looking up into his face, the sun playing on her smile...
Heather stared hard at the picture frame. Mama had given it to her when she and daddy had come home that night. For a while, it had sat in plain view on Heather’s dresser, but when the fights had begun, it had eventually been shoved back, out of sight, but not out of mind. Not out of Heather’s mind, at least.
All was now quiet downstairs. Heather slipped down the steps and into the living room. Mama and daddy were nowhere to be seen. The only evidence of the recent fight was a frame lying against the stone of the hearth. Heather turned the frame over and a solitary tear came to her eye.It was a photo of mama, daddy and Heather on Heather’s sixth birthday party. The frame was only a year old, and had been in good condition up until now. Through the middle of the glass, a long crack ran. Heather touched the sharp edges and sighed. The crack ran between her mother and father, separating them, and ran right through the middle of Heather, breaking her in two.
This was the first scene for Plot Bunny #2.