I'm standing on the dark wooden steps, bright blue sky above me, trying to imagine where things went so wrong.
I recall being sold, not really a big deal, I had known it would happen. Somehow I never thought it would really occur, however, so my goodbyes held the flavor of unreality, devoid of the realization that I would literally never see them again. Sweet family, I replayed our last moments through my head a thousand times, searching for new truths as a tounge searches for raspberry seeds deep in toothy crevasses. We spoke on paper infrequently, but it was hollow and unfamiliar.
Not even the voice of my mother was allowed to come the many kilometers across the border from Austria to France.
They even took my name from me.
No longer could I be a child, I was alone in a den of vipers and I needed to be cunning and full of guile. I failed at even that; so full of sweetness and sugar. It was a small piece of luck that my husband (whom I met days later) seemed rather taken with me, if unsure what to do with me. Unable to treat me as a wife for reasons my pretty head didn't understand, he resorted to doting on me in a permanent courtship.
I was without a purpose. Bred solely to forge an alliance between two huge countries. Once a child secured that link, I was aimless; a pretty slip of art in a symbol of wealth. However, what a price that child came at. The windows would never recover, as would my relationship with courtiers.
Scared of my husband's growing intensity with the war he was financing (again, a permanent courtship over full involvement) I engrossed myself with mindless hedonistic pursuits, sure he would follow me, and in becoming happy, I would find myself fulfilled with the ultimate goal of being a good wife and a good daughter.
He once commented on my shoes; I bought hundreds.
He admired my dinner parties; they became legendary.
"I prefer your hair up."; it never touched my shoulders again.
Despite my machinations, he found me unintellegent, and did not confide in me. I sought to educate myself, but was hampered by the lack of early learning so critical to higher learning later. Indeed, my life became wrapped tight by the cords that had been weaved in my youth. I further dropped into meaningless pursuits, but my poker game improved.
I was unable to understand this swelling sense of desperation, this urgency within myself. I only knew that I desired to please him, to make this strange war-like behavior stop. How little I knew how grave my plight would become. My slightest nod, or even lack thereof, became a herald of chaos on black wings, unseen, hidden behind my huge skirts.
The penultimate blow came from a hideous diamond necklace that I did not desire, yet was gifted from an oblivious dunce. The people of France villified me, and my spirit finally broke. I felt trapped. Surrounded on all sides by unfamiliar and unfriendly faces.
I could sense the fall coming, heavy and dark, like the blood red opera curtain that announced "la fin". I was in denial, as I had been about my Goodbyes, and it seemed whatever the outcome, I was to have no hand in it.
The death of my husband crippled me, but it was the death of my dear little girl-friend that affected me the worst. Her lightness and razor-sharp quips had been the toast of many of my parties, and I could not imagine someone wishing her harm.
My "trial" was a farce; accused of everything and anything, I fought to save myself only where the reputation of my son was concerned. In my vehmenency and desperation, I stole the hearts of many mothers, all who had come to crucify me. This was a small consolation as the judge passed sentance.
This is all a dream, the cakes, shoes, dresses, parties, flowers, mansions, and other extravagencies, a million miles away, as I watch the steel blade, crusted, held up by a scratchy robe straining against the massive weight of the wedge. The smell of blood is eveywhere; I am familiar with it, but it calls up the worst moments of my life, and I nearly faint. Even in these last moments, I think of my reputation, of the reputation of Austria, of my late husband, everything I have struggled for, in my way, as best I could. I grit my teeth, calling up reserves of strength I never knew I had, thinking of my best times, of the way his hair shone in the light, of the tea parties in the garden, of my favorite purfume, of my children.
And I show them how a Queen, how Marie Antoinette, Maria Antoina, dies with dignity; on this bright blue morning.