Art & story by Sherry West. Colored by Kathy English.

Once upon a time, long long ago, in a dry desert land far, far away, there lived a King and a Queen. The King and the Queen had just one child, a little daughter.

Many people had children, but some did not. Those who didn’t would have given everything they possessed in order to have a little child. Girl child or boy child would not have mattered, whether the child had light or dark skin, had physical or mental delays, none of these things would have mattered. They just wanted a child of their very own to care for and love each day.

The people who lived in this kingdom learned over time that the King and Queen really didn’t care for one another and, even less so for their only child, the little girl.

The little one had very pale skin, deep blue eyes and hair as black as the night sky, struggled to walk with the heavy heavy metal leg braces the physicians insisted she wear, and struggled even more to speak. But, beyond her “deformities,” she was a good-natured little thing, never giving them any trouble, always content to happily play alone in one of the little rooms with whatever bits and pieces she could find to cobble together into a toy for her own amusement.

But this didn’t seem to matter to her parents, who did what they were supposed to to “take care of” her – giving her food when necessary, clean clothes and a place to sleep, but nought else, but who were focused on fussing and fighting with each other day in and day out.

You see, the child was not wanted. The King and the Queen made a mistake. A rather large mistake with a capitol M, if the truth were known, and they were were doing their “parental duty” to the child by regularly feeding, bathing, and providing the requisite shelter for it, but not much beyond.

The Queen, to give her some credit, was trying to be a good mother, but she was so young, she had no experience, and no one to help her know what to do or how to do it. She had left her parents home many lands away to come here to this place, alone.

She thought she loved this young King – handsome, charming, tall, blond -haired, blue-eyed and broad-shouldered like the great gods of ancient myth. The King was not content with his beautiful wife, she of the night black hair and clear-blown glass eyes, and instead, when he was out having fun with his friends beyond the castle walls, let his eyes and wayward heart stray to others of her kind – but different – because he preferred the lovely princesses and royal ladies with honey locks and eyes like the summer sky. And, his Queen had given birth and was no longer slender as she once was. His eyes roamed to the others, and he followed them with his feet.

When the Queen learned her husband’s heart was no longer hers, she was greatly dismayed and despondent. And this in turn disastrously affected her heart for his child.

While he roamed the land with his band of friends, eating, drinking, singing and living carefree with his fellows, she remained in the castle, alone in her rooms with their small one, caring for her the best she knew, always waiting, always hoping, always wishing the King would come home to her and their tiny daughter and remain there. Then, they could be a FAMILY. Could he not see what he had waiting so lovingly and patiently for him at the home in their small but dear castle?

What did those ladies have? Why did he prefer them? Why did he prefer his friends? What did she not give him? What was so amiss in her that he would so despise and use her so? Did she not wash his clothes with her own hands? Did she not try so hard to scrub and clean their little home until it shone? Did she not prepare his meals with her fair hands, tenderly creating the choicest dinners for him – always hoping he would look at her then and see how much love she poured into her work for him – see her heart and how it beat only for him?

Alone each day, she worked at home with her hands, being the Queen of such a tiny kingdom meant she had no money and no servants. What she had for her husband and her daughter came, or not, from her own hands. If she needed ingredients for their meals, she didn’t have a horse or even a cart to get them. She walked, and she walked far, carrying her little one on her hip there, and back with the heavy packages.

The King took their only horse and carriage for his own use and pursuit of pleasure, never thinking to offer it to her.

And this is how they lived. He during the day out and abroad with his friends and ladies, returning home in the evening to quickly gulp down what she had so lovingly prepared with no word of thanks or appreciation. And her, at home, alone with their child.

And then one day, her heart could bear it no more.

Heavy of foot, one dragging behind the other, matching the rhythm of her heart, she slowly gathered her meager belongings and those of the child, carefully folded them and placed them in a small bag.

Her little daughter looked up at her with eyes like the ocean, wondering, then somehow understood to remain quiet, yet reaching out her little chubby hands with starfish fingers outstretched, her mother gathered her into her arms and carried their few belongings.

And then she walked out of the castle.

And never returned.

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