I remember the first time I held a sewing needle, so long in my tiny palm.
Closing my hand around it, its pinch forcing my fingers to spring open.
Mother’s fear when she saw I bled gold, not scarlet.
How she sent me away, as the law mandated, ignoring her own inevitable loneliness.
I remember my first apprenticeship with the seamstress in a village far away.
How she rapped my knuckles with a ruler for not threading correctly.
My concentration on the needle’s eye, poking out my tongue, squinting with one eye of my own.
My triumph when I threaded a hundred needles in a row.
I remember the stories the apprentices shared in whispers
Of a prince who treated his own like rubbish.
Who claimed the entire world lived at his feet.
Whose sister, the princess, had not been seen in years.
I remember the prince’s first visit, my gaze going to the stitches on his shoulders.
His lofty demands for garments finer than any in all the kingdoms.
Staying up day and night to design and cut, to baste and scrutinize.
The prince’s disbelief when he came for his fitting.
I remember the first time I stepped inside the castle, trying not to gawk.
Spending my days determined to find the princess, and her terror when I finally did.
Ignoring the stench in the windowless room.
Fighting for weeks to gain her trust.
I remember drawing blood in front of the princess.
Her gasps pressed back with a hand, her question of why I’d come.
Telling her my calling was to fight the injustice she endured
And that I would do so with needle and thread, not sword and politics.
I remember my needle flying as I gathered information,
Listening to accusations behind fans and bound by seamstress’s tape.
Learning how the women tolerated the worst against themselves
Because the prince threatened to poison their families against them.
I remember letting a stray thought unspool aloud
When the right people came for measurements and fittings.
Raising my eyebrows in innocence at the hints of what I’d heard,
Narrowing my eyes in revenge at what I knew to be true.
I remember the prince boasting of my talents.
Even for one of the gold-blooded, he said, I could behave in a “seemly” manner.
I bowed my head to pretend to be demure
Even as his sister began holding her head high for her true place in the castle.
I remember the day the princess knelt to be crowned.
How she rose with pride, smoothed the front of her elaborate gown.
The finest stitches I ever produced clothing her in power and glory.
As her brother lay in tatters in the dungeon below.
I remember extracting a promise from the queen,
That the gold-blooded would no longer be ostracized
And would find their place in society
Just as she had finally found hers.
I remember the grateful nod she gave,
The announcement in open court that the gold-blooded would now serve as royal tailors.
The way I closed my palm around a needle once again,
Drawing a drop of golden blood, my quest realized flowing into my hand.
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