Vals de la Mandragora

She is sitting in front of the window, watching the guests file in from off the rainy street. Her gloved hands have remained in her lap since she sat here, folded in a deceptively demure manner. Her lips are pursed, her eyes downcast and taciturn. She has been clothed in white and red by attendents of Shifting City's palace, stiff cotton and itchy netting. She doesn't understand the significance of the white, or why they seem so adamant on adding it to everything. She scoffs at it; the color has no meaning in her land. Her face feels heavy, stilted and smothered in thick creams, ghost white and deep garnet. Adding to the weight is the opulent crown they had fastened into her hair, a mess of intricate glass beading and metalwork. She can feel the beads swing against her face every time she moves, hear the countless decorations tinkle against attendents had told her to wait in this room until they came to fetch her. Then they had left her alone, alone with nothing but the mirror for company.

She had stood, silently, staring at herself in the mirror with a quiet kind of confusion, struggling to hold her head up, when she was suddenly aware of sounds, life still passing by outside her room. It was such a roar of chatter that she wondered how she had ignored it. Languidly, she had moved to her current seat, gazing down at the strangers who have come to witness her shame.

She furrows her brow at some of the guests, familiar in dress and mannerisms. They belong to her, but she doesn't know why they're here. This is not a celebration for them.

In a few hours, she will take his offered hand, walk arm-in-arm with him until they reach the room with obsidian floors, and she will dance with him. The thought alone is enough to make her stand with sudden energy, her heart pounding. She wobbles unsteadily on her legs, bound in tight scarlet material, but obstinately marches around the room. She paces, her fists and teeth clenched, tossing silent curses to anyone willing to listen, angrily lashing out at all her childhood deities. How dare they allow her to remain trapped in this situation...! How dare they...!

She glimpses her reflection in the ornate mirror again.

How dare they...

She sinks to her knees, her hands once more coming to rest in her lap.

How dare they abandon me, she thinks despondently. She closes her eyes and hangs her head. It's the only explanation she can find for her home's insurmountable string of bad luck. She can not look to the sky anymore: there are no answers there. There will be no help from the world, from the external reality her body exists in, nor from the realm the living could not see.

She exhales softly, opening her eyes and stonily eyeing her reflection.

She will look up into his face when he offers his hand, but she will be aloof. She will hold no hatred or affection for him.

Strength is not something she will be parted from so easily. Dignity is something she will fight tooth and nail for, to the very end. She pushes herself off the ground, stumbling but resolute, and turns to watch the world outside the window again. The sun is dying, desperately sending its weakening rays over the hills before night comes on and extinguishes its heat.

He will never see her cry or laugh, smile or frown.

She raises her chin at the setting sun, proud, secure in her decision.

She will neither enjoy nor loathe his presence. He will be as meaningless to her as the white on her dress.

A/N: Well, this idea was formed from listening to Vals de la Mandragora from the Pan's Labyrinth soundtrack way too many times in a row. It was also written for a class. Um... I'm simultaneously enamored and embarassed with this story, but I'm not too sure why. Hmmm...