There are two peas in a pod. I don’t know which one to pick for under the princess’ mattress tonight. They told me that it has to be a special one, but how do I know which one is special? Both peas are in front of me, peeking from the half-open pod. I pick one up and hold it in my hand. It is so round and green. I try to get a feel for it. Can this pea make itself known under twenty mattresses? Can it bear the pressure? Can it last the whole night through and emerge victorious in the morning?
Maybe I should choose the other one. I look at it, half hidden by the pod’s lips. I suddenly take my eyes away, my cheeks aflame. It looks like a woman’s private parts. I confess, the sight embarrasses me a lot. I did not even know what my private parts looked like until the prince showed me in his mirror. Ah that mirror! Clear, noble, pricey, just like the prince holding it. The other maids had told me about it but I never believed them. Each claimed to have heard about it from one of their friends as none of the maids would admit they had been close enough to the prince to see it. There were a lot of words about the prince and his, um, noble foibles. I never was one for gossip but then the prince noticed me while polishing the library shelves one day and he started asking for me…and well, he showed me his mirror and myself in his mirror among other things. He liked to acquire fine things and then show his treasures off. Like he did with me.
And now, this rain-drenched girl in the castle is going to get everything. If she is who she says she is of course. She is certainly finely made, with thin wrists and ankles, dainty hands and feet, and long blond hair. she could be my twin really. I could have come to the castle looking like something the cat dragged in from the moat and claim I was a princess. Hence the pea under the mattress. One of these round green soft balls here will determine the fate of a whole kingdom. If she is a princess, she will be so finely tuned to the pleasures of a noble life that she will feel something is out of order. Even if it is a little pea under twenty mattresses. Or a little prick under twenty petticoats.
I mentally slap myself. Why have I become so crude? Being forced to view oneself’s most intimate secret should not be a reason to shed all propriety and civility, even with my lowly maid position. I am after all nobility and I should act like it.
I square my shoulders, jut my chin forward, grab the other pea from the pod and purposefully walk to the room where the alleged princess will sleep. I shove it underneath the mattress tower. Actually it is not really a tower. The prince must really like this one for the mattresses are only a little thicker than blankets. Oh well, good luck to them both. I think. I wonder if the prince will show her her own secrets on his clear mirror as well. I wonder if they will be the same as mine.
I take the pod with the single pea in it and I put it on the dresser in prince’s room. I am sure he will not get it, but it is a strangely satisfying and soothing gesture.
And then I go about my daily duties.