for: anythingbutgrey; 914 words; pg-13 for language.
Long ago, a woman who was not yet a queen scratched at a window with the sharp edge of a ring. You think about her often, hair like flame heavy down her back as she railed against her cage; eyes sharp and keen, watchful as she carved at the pane with a diamond, etching something which was neither a confession nor a denial. Elizabeth, you feel, would have made an excellent tightrope artiste, poised even as the weight of her skirts tried to unbalance her and the hounds tore at her heels.
You don't scar the glass this way.
You press your face against the condensation, let the droplets slip down your cheek like tears. Softly, you trace out words in the mist, secrets spilling out from the tip of your finger. It's reassuringly temporary, fleeting. You don't incriminate yourself.
Long ago, a woman became Queen with the eyes of a nation (the doubts of a nation) burning into her and the burden of expectation draped like ermine across her shoulders. You touch a finger to the illustration in your textbook. The orb she holds is topped with a cross; it looks like a grenade, like a bomb. You wonder how much it cost her not to explode.
You sit in a tree, book open idly in your lap, fruit in your hand. The sun is hot on your shoulders, but you don't want to move quite yet. You relish the knowledge that freckles are blooming across your back, that your mother will purse her lips and look away. Potential is tart like apple on the back of your tongue, coiled low and delicious in your stomach. You don't look at it too closely. It's enough to know it's there, in your arsenal.
Your brother is far below you, shouting loud and harsh. Without thinking, you reach up for a round red globe, hurl it down at him because you can. He stands for a second, stunned into silence, and so you rip another apple from the branch and let it fly. It hits his shoulder, smashes into pulp, and he's running to the house, face an ugly twist of anger. You sit in a tree, shaking.
Your mother loops the apron round your neck, the strap tight and painful on your sunburn. Her mouth is tight in the face of your pointless denials, the smear of flour on her forehead a silent accusation. You carve crosses into pies with the point of a knife and bite back your bile.
Long ago, a Queen broke down everything she was and rebuilt it. She stripped herself back to nothing and became an icon, untouchable. With white paint and shorn hair and a dress with a thousand eyes she made herself more than they had told her she could be. She was Queen and goddess both, Gloriana, moulded by nothing but her own will. This is who I am, she said, and fuck you all. She probably didn't phrase it quite like that, but you think it's close enough.
You run. You suspect you could run faster; the spikes on your new shoes tear up the grass behind you. You stare at yourself in the mirror, turning in front of the glass, watching your body become leaner, harder. You cut your hair short; it's aerodynamic, you say, and don't tell them how you love the kiss of the sun on your skin. You store power in the muscles of your thighs, and your mother shakes her head at the bulk of it. You smile sweetly as you take a bite of apple; you don't tell her that one day you will run and keep on running, so far and fast that the tarmac will melt under your feet.
You run on a track until the painted oval can't contain you, until, breaking the bounds, you streak across fields like a bird, like a bullet. You grin at the sound of the starting pistol, imagine it smoking in your hand. Fuck you all echoes in the burn of your lungs.
Long ago, a Queen tried to outrun her mother's legacy. Witch, they hissed at her, whore, and she stiffened her back and led them to war with fire flashing in her eyes, until they bowed their heads, said Elizabeth and not Anne. You wonder, sometimes, if tear-tracks ever smudged her white mask, rusted through her armour.
Your mother runs her fingers through your hair; you shrug her hand away like the benediction it is not.
You lean your head against the cool window, allowing yourself this moment before you run into the dawn, before you continue the work of forging yourself into something better. New light glints through steamed glass, and when you squint you can see the palimpsests of old dreams, the smudge of childish fingers, marks you thought had faded with your innocence. Suddenly, shockingly, you can see them all; faint with the naivete of youth, but there nevertheless, and it horrifies you, the weight of all these words. You run for a bottle and a cloth, and you spray and spray and wipe until there is nothing there but the light, no trace of the girl you used to be.
You put your fist through the window. The air is crisp and sharp like blades.
Long ago, a Queen stood dying, with all the carbon-hard defiance of diamond against glass.
The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.
Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth ELIZABETH prisoner.