The small maidservant peered from behind the kitchen door, her green paws clutching the wood tightly as she watched the guests talking and dancing. They were having marvelous fun--she wished dearly that she could be one of the pretty girls out there with the long, flowing dresses that made the invited nobles look so beautiful.
Bell sighed quietly as she continued to watch, knowing perfectly well that she could go out there and have fun too, but with what? Truly, she couldn't help but wonder why her boss had allowed her to go. Bell was only a common green Aisha with her ugly grey kitchen clothes to wear--and none of the handsome guests would want to dance with her. It's better than before. She tried to reason with herself I were just a homeless nothing, but Arthia took me in. She's kind to me.
Bell remembered her past life on the streets too well. Just to survive she was forced to steal and pickpocket. Arthia took all the misgivings away only three months back, and offered a place in her home, to serve as a kitchen maid. Bell had accepted, taking the kindness given. But now... now as she watched the nobles she wanted so much more.
I want to be like them. To walk with them, and to talk. I want to dance like them.
She backed away from the door, sliding to the floor near one of the large preparation tables. The door glided shut, taking away her sight of the brilliant ball going on just a few feet away. She wanted to cry, but knew better. What good was crying? It changed nothing.
Bell sighed again, looking up from where she'd sat rather heavily.
"Weren't you to go to the ball? Arthia is giving you a great honor by allowing you to go."
"Oh, Willow. I can't go out there! Have you seen them?" She didn't let the older Aisha answer. "They're all so beautiful and I'm... I'm nothing. If I go out there like this, I'll only be laughed at." Bell sobbed lightly, "Either way, they are nobles--rich. I'm a kitchen maid. How can they respect someone such as me?"
"Bell." Willow helped the small Aisha off the floor, hugging her lightly. "I won't force you to go out there, but you shouldn't let others opinions stop you. You are yourself. That's who you are meant to be."
"I don't want to be me!" She whimpered. "What if I don't want to be Bell?"
"Then don't be Bell." Willow stepped away, taking her by the paw. "You can run away from all this--your life, but what would that gain? You could be a Cassie, or Daytra, or even Glenda. It won't take away who you really are--or who you're meant to be."
Bell tore her paw away from Willow, shaking her head furiously. "There is no escape." She walked through a door, this one leading to the servants quarters.
Willow's last words echoed through the walls as she left. "What are you trying to escape from? Your life? Or yourself?"
Bell didn't have an answer.
A small Aisha opened a plain wooden door at a time long past midnight. The party had long since ended and the ballroom cleaned. She had finished her final job for Arthia. Now, it was her time to leave. Nothing tied her to the large mansion of a house, not even Willow. It took all the willpower Bell owned not to cry at the betrayal she was about to commit.
All in the course of a night she was going from servant to an all-out criminal, then back to a simple homeless Aisha. What hurt the most was the fact that Bell knew Willow and Arthia would know who committed the crime. They would know.
Bell held her trembling paw over the beautiful necklace lying in her mistress's room, Arthia's breathing staying at a steady pace a small distance away. Bell looked over at the rich Kougra who had been so kind and realized she couldn't do this. She dropped the paw to her sides. If only Arthia hadn't been so nice during Bell's stay!
The necklace was a family heirloom, and meant so much to Arthia...
Bell couldn't make herself take it.
The Aisha turned on her heels, sneaking back out the door, and closing quietly. Tears burned in her gentle eyes as she stalked down the silent corridor to the front door. She quickly uncoded the security alarm, and left the only home she'd ever known. Never could she go back--there were too many good memories.
With no second thoughts, she headed off into the moonlight.
Three Years Later
Bell was a very different Aisha--no one could doubt it.
It was hard for her to remember three years before, when she was nothing but a servant. In all honesty, she didn't care to. She remembered Willow and her kind words of guidance. Oh yes, those were words she would remember forever. Her mistress's name had been long forgotten--too many things had happened since then. Like Jace.
Jace, the human who had made her what she was to that day.
Jace was a character Bell accepted right away. After she had turned herself into the pound, he'd came only a few weeks later and took Bell right away, not telling until afterwards that he had a single sibling for her--Sonjia. Only a few days after that, she realized that her sister and the boy she cared enough to call 'dad' were well off. Since that say on, she'd been transformed.
Bell still remembered her early dreams to be a Aisha in the beautiful dresses, and smiled from her place within the carriage, which was taking them to another party. She loved parties, but here sister wasn't too fond of them.
"Jace, must we really go to another party? We went to Caty's just last month!" Sonjia wasn't the whiny type, but parties just weren't her thing.
"Bell seems to like them." Jace smiled softly. "And I quite like Arthia. She's been a good friend of mine for years."
Arthia. Bell turned the name over mentally, knowing she had heard it before... somewhere. She sighed and pushed any worries away. She would find out when they got there.
"Bell likes them because she's only had to put up with them for three years. I've been dragged to them once a month since I was able to walk!" The faerie Xweetok huffed from across the seat, fluttering softly as her wings blew back and forth in the gentle wind from the window.
"Oh, Sonjia." Bell gave the pretty Xweetok one of her famous smiles, which tended to make everyone say 'aww'. "It's not that bad. Maybe someone cute will want to dance with you--they always do."
"That's true!" She sat up straighter, smiling. "Well?" she shouted out the window, to the Moehog who was driving the carriage, "What are you waiting for? Faster! Faster!"
Jace and Bell smiled at Sonjia's antics, letting themselves enjoy the ride.
Dusk was tinging the winter sky when their carriage pulled in, depositing it's three passengers just outside the door to the large mansion. Once more, Bell was struck by a sense of familiarity and frowned. This place... she knew she'd been here before. But when? Shrugging off concern, she followed Sonjia and Jace into the place, trusting them. After all, it was Jace's friend. Nothing terrible could happen.
The elegant party was in full swing. Soft beautiful music flowed across the ballroom, wrapping the newcomers in its beautiful notes. The younger guests were all talking on one side of the room, as were about half of the older. The other half, however, were dancing together. "Ooh! Look, Bell! Amiie's here!" Bell's sister took off, losing herself in the crowd. Bell laughed softly from where she stood. Something inside her always told her to be calm at these events, but both Jace and Sonjia were curious about her formality.
"No one expects you to be so formal... we're only fourteen!" Sonjia's words, but they never stuck to Bell. They flowed right over her.
"I'm being polite," Bell always retorted, and received a snort every time.
Bell walked through the crowd, staring off into the distance, thinking old memories. It was always hard to retrieve memories from before Jace and Sonjia, but deep down she knew it was because she really didn't want to. Once, she had lived a terrible life.
That was all past now...
"Ooh!" Startled, Bell gave a small shriek, only to find herself drenched in Thornberry Brew. "Oh my..." She couldn't help but look dismayed at the bright strain on her new dress. And I only bought this yesterday!
She looked up, catching sight of an Aisha who looked as though she'd been rambling apologies for a while. "...sorry. I--"
"Don't go on." Bell stopped the stunned Aisha. Willow..., something from the back of her mind told her. ...Willow... "I can just get another. I didn't care to dance much today anyway." Willow...
Just then, her memory caught on. All those years, she'd been listening to a role model's words echoing through her mind and Bell hadn't been able to remember her face. Memories came back just then... her time at the house, a mere servant for the Lady Arthia.
"Willow," she whispered.
"Ye--" The other Aisha stopped, her bright eyes widening. "How..."
Bell smiled. "It's me, Willow. Bell."
"Bell?" Willow looked shocked. "It is you. You've come home. After all this time..." Bell whispered softly into Willow's ear, repeating the words she always wanted to say.
"I was hiding from myself."
Second story for the Times... well, you know the drill. I'll take all neomail. I'd luv it actually.