Dark Princess Excerpts

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and reluctantly turned to the full-length mirror.  I stood there for a moment with my eyes closed, hoping to be impressed with the BIG reveal and not consumed by inadequacy. 
My eyes slowly slide open to my reflection, like a theatre curtain on opening night.  I could feel myself relax as I let out a sigh of relief.  Everything was fell into place; the hair, my make-up, the dress.  I smiled followed by a growing smile measured her delight in her appearance.

While those around her often gushed at her beauty and charm, she always had an ache deep within her that made her feel different; to different.  Almost like an outsider to the world that she grew up in.  Then there were little things that set her apart from friends and even family members. 

 But not tonight; tonight, she felt really beautiful in her own skin.  A visit to The Beauty Mark Spa & Salon, not only relaxed her, but also tamed and layered her think dark hair allowing it to flow and rest on her olive complected shoulders.  Her darker tone, courtesy of her father, was the perfect contrast to the white, Italian Linen sundress with an array of hand-embroidered multi-colored butterflies accenting the hem.  It was perfect for the occasion.  But her birthday ensemble wouldn’t be complete without her two-carat princess-cut diamond earrings, matching pendant necklace, and tennis bracelet; gifts from her father the previous year.  Everything is looks perfect!  She almost giggled she was so happy.

A knock at her bedroom door interrupted her moment of self-appreciation. Taking one final glance at her reflection, she was ready to make her debut.  Struggling to contain her excitement, she opened the door to a large and small version of the same face, her brothers. 

“Your escorts are here and at your service madam.”  They announced in unison.

Gasp!! “You are two of the finest gentlemen that I have ever seen.  What a wonderful birthday surprise!”  She said, placing her hands on her older brother VJ’s cheeks before turning her attention to her younger brother.

“Marcello Gabrielle Santarelli,” she said leaning down to kiss his forehead. “It is a pleasure to be in your company Mr. Santarelli.  And you too Mr. Santarelli.”  Escorted by both of her brothers, Undria made her was to her birthday extravaganza ready to make a grand entrance to her celebration being hosted in the garden.  The trio crossed the parlor to the French doors bearing the family’s insignia, a faint smoked glass, calligraphic ‘S’, and entered the garden. 

The accommodations were just as she’d imagined.  Though the sun had long set, the garden was illuminated by perfectly placed strings of lights, tables adorned with glowing white table cloths, masterful glass centerpieces that all seemed to sprout different flowers, and of course and area for the musicians and room to dance.  It was her own little ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.  Undria’s elation bubbled to the surface erupting into a brilliant smile.  She felt like the luckiest girl in the world as she was greeted by several schoolmates, friends, family and—

“WHAT THE HELL!” she hissed, “Who in the hell invited Ryan?!”  She asked her brother.
 “The curse of the arranged marriage strikes again!” He teased.

Her smiles of joy were quickly replaced with the whites of her eyes and a scowl that could shatter glass.  “That’s not funny, VJ!”
Trying to refocus her attention on the beauty and elegance of the festivities as well as her guests, she decided to simply act as if Ryan Moretti did not exist; just as she did on any other day.  No need to let one tiny little ant spoil the picnic.  After all, it was a celebration for her, and everything was just as she wanted,  The music was perfect, the food was great, and shortly, a  fireworks display would highlight the exact moment that she was born, on this day eighteen years ago.

A few dances, hilarious conversations later, and with the festivities moving along as planned, Undria realized that it was time to cut the cake, but where was her father, Nonna, and even Uncle Amiglio?  The absence of her family members seemed a little odd.
I smell a surprise!  Putting that part of the evening on hold to scrounge up the family, and maybe get a peek at a some surprise they were trying to hide, she waded through her guests until she caught sight of VJ.  

“Hey, have you seen Pa-Pa or Nonna?” She yelled out over all of the goings on.

“Uuh, I think I saw Nonna go in there.” He replied gesturing toward the open patio doors of the house.  

Undria moved her detective work into the house searching for a clue as to the activities of the missing facets of her family. They can’t miss cutting the cake!  Still very much a Daddy’s girl, she could not imagine breaking their shared tradition and cutting the cake without him right by her side.

She checked all the places that the family usually convened, but her search turned up empty.  Then as she considered retracing her steps, she ventured in the direction of her father’s study, and hit the jackpot.  As she approached the doors of the study, raised voices immediately brought her stride to a halt.  She inched closer to the stained glass doors which usually added a soft artistic beauty to the hallway, but at this moment it served as a shield from her feuding family whose silhouettes mimicked a hostile business meeting instead of a family gathering.  The tension between the three was so thick that it spilled out into the hallway where Undria stood. 

“I can no longer carry this burden!” Undria’s grandmother yelled across the huge oak desk to her agitated father

“It is not your burden to carry, never has been!”  He roared in response.

She noticed that her Uncle was oddly placed between the two as they engaged in their power struggle, and even worse he was tasked with trying to mediate between them.  Poor Uncle Amiglio-

 “The poor child has lost so much in one lifetime and she doesn’t even know!”

 “Mah, that’s enough!” yelled Vinnie. “You will not talk to me about loss! I know loss…I have given up everything I ever loved for this family.”

“Really?!  Your love was a disease…it killed those it touched. There was one birth that day, but two deaths!”

“Mah! How could you?” Amiglio bellowed which drew a look of aggravation from his mother.

“How could I?  Vinnie forgets that he was never in this alone.  We are a family. Let us not forget that Isabella died that day, too! But on the inside.”

“What would you have me do Mah?  I can’t, I just can’t.  It would drive her away! I will not lose her too, I would make my own bed in hell first!” Vinnie interrupted. 

“You already have!” Nonna replied out of her growing anger. 
Gasp!  Undria covered her mouth so as not to alert them to her presence.

Her words flew through the air like daggers hitting their target.  Vinnie, now a casualty, fell back into his chair and began to sob. 

Although Nonna was still very angry with him, she hated to see her son in such pain.  She walked around the neutral ground that the desk represented, lifted his chin, gently brushed his hair from his face, wiped away his tears, and leaned down to kiss his forehead.

She knew that his choices were eating away at him like a cancer leaving him to a hollow existence.  With the family rosary already firmly in on hand, she reached for her sons hand with the other.  The rattle of the sacred relic drew his attention.  He met his mother’s gaze just as she kissed the rosary and placed it in his hands. 

“Pray for restoration my fallen angel,” she said to him. 

And as if Vinnie and Amiglio both dropped their heads almost simultaneously. Nonna released Vinnie’s hands and gave Amiglio a look of condemnation. As she left the room, she began to slowly place every picture of Isabella face down.

Undria realized that Nonna was coming right at her so she quickly ran down the hall, ducking into the closet. She left it cracked
slightly so she could determine when to emerge. She thought to herself, “So much turmoil on my day.” She was confused and extremely intrigued, but now was not the time to go diving off into the unknown.  She finally saw her father and uncle leaving the study and returned to the celebration in the garden. 

As she prepared to cut the cake, her family surrounded her with love as though the argument she witnessed had never happened. Undria was in the middle of thanking all of her guests for their gifts and attendance when her father interrupted her, advising that she had forgotten the most important part of the evening. Looking slightly confused as to what that could be, her father continued, “this is the portion of the evening where I give my Little Princess her gift.” Undria’s eyes lit up like diamonds; again she was daddy’s little girl. 

Vinnie handed his daughter a large envelope, leaving her confused and disappointed all at once. This was far from the extravagant and sometimes exotic gifts she had gotten before.

“Go on, Bella…open it,” Viencino said. She opened it to find that it was a vacation to Paris for the summer. There was a brochure for an elegant second-floor one-bedroom apartment with an office in the heart of the rue Mouffetard area, just near the Panthéon. 

Her gift also included an open account to pay for the apartment as well as any other expenses she may incur. Undria was so excited she could not find the words to express her appreciation. She hugged her father. “Thank you so much, Pa-Pa!” Her reaction made her family and guests even more eager to see what the gift was. 

Her brothers began to ask, “What is it?”

Undria flashed a big smile and announced, “Pa-Pa is sending me to Paris for the summer!” The garden filled with gasps of amazement. 

Vinnie looked at his daughter, realizing that she had always been a pretty girl, but at that moment, he noticed that she had made the transition to being a stunning woman.  He smiled at the excitement and joy on his daughters face.

“Undria…Bella… there is one more thing…” he said as he handed her a 6 x 9 box wrapped in gold paper with a red satin ribbon tied around it.  “...go on, open it,” he nudged.

Undria carefully un-wrapped the box as it was just too beautiful to tear into. As she opened the gift, her eyes welled up with tears.

She was amazed, astonished, and honored as she stared at a black leather bound book with gold letters across the front that read,

“The Blessed Daughter.” 

She opened the cover to find her mother’s name. It appeared to be a handwritten journal. She explored it further, thumbing through the pages. It was a book of several poems. A closer look revealed that they were tribute poems for her mother written each year on her birthday. 

It was beautiful. Tears trickled from Undria’s eyes as she looked at her father. 

Before she could say a word, he began, “Your mother wrote you a poem for every one of your birthdays until, well, I thought you should have it. She would have wanted you to have it.” 

At that moment, a parade of fireworks danced across the sky in celebration of Undria and all that entailed. It was a beautiful storybook moment that Undria couldn’t have anticipated or created in all her planning. As the night concluded she was on top of the world, but in the back of her mind, she constantly replayed the events that she witnessed earlier that evening.  She simply had to get to the bottom of the troubles that were plaguing the elders in her family, but she didn’t know where to begin.