Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All?
By: Aanya Kothari
“Serafina Darling, you need to hurry up. You're going to be late.” Elise called from outside of the closet door.
“I know, I just need to make sure-”
“You look perfect, yes I know."
The Chambermaid sighed and entered the room, sliding the door closed behind her. Serafina was glued to the mirror. Even from a young age, she was obsessed with her appearance. Before leaving her room, she sat on the velvet chair in front of her vanity, gazing at her image in the glass. Combing through her ebony hair, re-applying various ointments, and changing her jewelry before entering the corridor. She needed to look perfect. Serafina turned around to face Elise.
“Well, what do you think?” She spun and her dress billowed beneath her.
“You know I think you look divine, Sera.” Elise gave her a small smile and walked over to the princess, brushing her thumb across her cheek to blend her rosy blush. Serafina turned her head over her shoulder and inspected her figure in the mirror.
“Mother is right, I need to lose some more weight,” Elise groaned.
“You need to stop listening to every single thing your mother tells you.”
“Don’t let her hear you say that or you’ll be executed for treason,” Serafina giggled, turning back to face the maid.
“I’m serious Serafina, you already look perfect, there is no reason to start dieting again.” Elise reached out her hand, grabbing the Princess and dragging her out of the closet, “Besides, the Royal council is convening in ten minutes. You need to make a good impression on your Father’s advisors and I highly doubt that being late is going to do that.”
“How am I going to sit through that boring meeting discussing policy and foreign relations when I know that the only thing they care about is what I look like,” Serafina grumbled, placing her gilded tiara atop her head.
“By gaining their respect. It's only an hour sweetheart, I’m sure you're going to be just fine.” Elise pushed her door open, watching Serafina glance in the small mirror and take a deep breath before gliding into the foyer. She plastered a composed smile across her face, waving politely at the guards stationed outside of her room
“Your Highness, I think the biggest concern that the people and the council have is the escalating tension between Our kingdom and the Alynthians. The violence on the border has been resulting in more and more casualties, and the civilians are demanding an explanation for why no troops are being sent to assist them. This isn’t a problem we can ignore.” The Regent said, tracing his finger along the jagged edges of The Enchanted Kingdoms on the map in front of them. As one of the head advisors, it was his job to inform the royal court of the country's main issues, but Serafina winced at the judgmental tone in his voice.
“Are you implying that this is something I have been dismissing? That my priority isn’t my people and the subjects of this kingdom?” The King growled, slamming his fist on the table. Serafina closed her eyes, taking a soft, fleeting breath before opening them again. Her father and the regent had been bickering for the past fifteen minutes about the situation at the border.
“If I may interject,” Serafina said, “I believe that I have a potential solution to the problem we are facing at the border.” The Regent glared at her, but her Father nodded, giving her permission to continue.
“We need to make it clear to the people that they are the main priority, without expending the limited military that we have. I propose that we use other resources to relocate civilians who are endangered at the border. This way we emphasize public safety and keep our soldiers where they are required.” Seven pairs of eyes glazed over her as she spoke, exasperated at Serafina’s attempt to engage in the conversation.
“Princess, with all due respect, you don’t understand the scope of this issue. You are here to observe the meeting, to gain wisdom from your Father and the Council so you may aid your future husband in making decisions for his country.” Serafina kept her hands delicately folded in her lap, digging her thumb into her palm to prevent her decorum from crumbling. The senior advisor nodded, his eyes washing over the princess.
“Yes, I completely agree,” He faced the King, his words floating right over Serafina's head directly to her father. “Your daughter should be entirely focused on finding a husband, and in turn her presence in high society. Her appearance, clothing, and public image should be her top priority.” My father listened carefully, devouring every word gushing from the old man's mouth.
“The Queen mentioned introducing Serafina to a new diet,” Another advisor chimed in, “Primarily to maintain her beautiful hair and skin for her first audience with her suitors.” He hurriedly added. Flames of boiling rage licked the insides of Serafina's mouth, coercing it open, desperate to singe the men in front of her.
“I’ll instruct someone to talk to the chambermaids immediately so that her majesty can begin as soon as possible,” the regent suggested. Serafina let her eyes rest on the wooden floor. “Princess, we appreciate you attending this meeting, and we hope you will take our advice into account.” The council members arose, and bowed in front of Serafina, indicating that her presence was no longer necessary. She stood up, curtsying in her father’s directions, and letting her feet guide her out of the room.
Serafina looked at her half-naked reflection in the mirror, tears slowly trickling down her cheeks. After entering the closet, she ripped the dusty pink fabric off her body, the zipper’s hem tearing as she yanked the dress. A heap of tulle and silk incarcerated her, forming a ring around her feet. Her hands shook as she brushed them over her thighs, tracing a figure she wanted, one that she would love. Serafina inhaled sharply, watching her waist pinch in, and stomach flatten. She exhaled slowly, watching the small rolls, and excess outward curves return. The tears started streaming down faster. Her eyes were fixed on the mirror as she grabbed her stomach, pinching the fat between her fingers. Pain jolted through her stomach, dancing across her nerves up to her brain. Her anger began to thicken, coating her in syrupy self-hatred. ‘I wish I was perfect,” She whispered. She brushed her hip dips in disgust. ‘I want to be perfect’ Her voice shook. She shoved her hands into her waist, trying to mold herself into an hourglass. ‘I will be perfect,” She closed her eyes, letting the sobs rattle her chest. Her cheeks glistened, her legs trembling as she took a step away from the mirror. Serafina took a shaky breath and turned around before opening her eyes.
“Serafina?” Elise called from outside the room. “Dinner’s are almost ready, and your mother is requesting you.” Serafina opened her mouth, but words failed to escape her lips. She could hear the door creaking open and immediately rushed to slide the closet closed.
“Honey, how did the meeting go?” She asked, her voice much louder. Serafina frantically cleared her throat, wiping away the shiny layer of tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand.
“It was ok, they basically ignored me the whole time.” Her voice wavered slightly, teetering like hesitant feet atop a wire.
“I’m sorry sweetie, maybe you could talk to your father about it at dinner,” Elise suggested.
“Yeah, maybe,” Serafina whispered. She took a deep breath, desperately trying to drain the color from her face. She grabbed a loose dress, the material repulsed by her sloping outline. She didn’t look in the mirror when she left.
Serafina later discovered that her mother’s diet included restrictions on not just what she ate, but how much she ate. Her meal sizes shrunk. When Serafina left the table most days she was unsatisfied, her stomach still growling for substance. She ignored it. Months passed by and her Mother began to praise her progress, raving about her improved self-control and a newfound dedication to her public image.
“Darling I’m truly proud of you. You finally understand that antecedence your image and appearance has as a princess,” The queen lamented one evening. “I know it hasn’t been easy, but this will help you find a husband and ultimately lead you to a prosperous life.” Serafina wanted to cling to the soft, nurturing tone in her mother's voice and revel in the warmth of her approval. Instead, her mother stepped in front of the thin ray of light, casting a boundless shadow. Serafina shivered, resentment blotting the remaining memories of tender luminescence. She plastered a fake smile on her face and nodded at her mother as her compliments brushed over the ghost of her body.
The Princess began to gain a reputation, stories of her beauty flooding through nearby kingdoms and countries. Thousands of people serged the Enchanted Forest to bask in the radiance of the fairest in the land. As her fame grew, so did Serafina’s vanity. She had requested the installation of hundreds of more mirrors throughout the castle, indulging in every opportunity to glance at her reflection. Hours of her time were spent idly staring into glass, searching for invisible flaws and consumed by her title. Thousands of men begged for her hand in marriage, ready to surrender their lives to obtain her.
“I have a gift for you.” Her father strode into her chamber flanked by four servants carrying a large wrapped present, “In honor of your growing reputation and abundance of potential engagements.” Serafina smiled, hopping off her bed to embrace her father tightly.
“What is it?”
“It’s an enchanted mirror. Since my daughter is the most beautiful girl in the land I needed to give her an incredibly special gift.” Serafina tore off the wrapping paper, gazing at the shimmering glass. In the center of the mirror, a ghost-like figure floated. Serafina gasped as it opened its eyes, bowing to the princess.
“Good afternoon your highness, I am your magic mirror, I am here to answer any of your questions and ensure that you continue your reign as a Beautiful Queen,” Serafina stated in awe, a small smile etched into her lips as the mirror was hung on the wall.
“Mirror mirror on the wall…” She began.
“Yes My Queen?”
“Who's the fairest of them all.”
“You are, your highness.”