“What The Prince Thought Of The Goose Girl” by Lauren Reynolds

In truth I was
to learn it was the Goose Girl
who was my intended wife.

I didn’t know what to expect
of my arranged bride:
of the savage warrior Queen.

But we were at war.
Her mother wanted it.
My father arranged it.
Her and I would have no say in the matter.

I was terrified
when the procession arrived
and my bride-to-be  astride
the chestnut warhorse.

I was surprised by how much
I liked the victory in her eyes,
charmed by the clumsy way
she sat upon her horse,

as though it was rare for her.
She did not wear
armor or fur or
anything else I had expected

but a stunning gold dress
and she wore it well.
Like her very bones knew
this was her destiny.

Perhaps that was the moment,
as I rushed forward,
carried her down from her horse,
And swung her around,

that I fell in love with her.
She was a charming woman:
sophisticated and strong
but not savage,

bold and boisterous
but not brutal,
cool and confident
but not cunning or cruel.

She knew when to be quiet
and when to talk,
When listening was power
and silence more deadly than a sword.

And there was resilience
in her quietness,
and a stroke of rebellion
in the curve of her cheek.

No one dared mistake her silence
or obedience,
not when her eyes burned.
And when she spoke it was coldly

or sweetly.
She knew how to charm
and manipulate.
When to be sweet

and when to be sophisticated.
Efficiently she ran my household,
governed internal affairs,
attended the masses and kept the Sabbath:

a true Queen.
My own mother
would’ve adored her.
My father found her charming.

What more could I have asked for?
Of my wife and Queen?
And yet when we were alone
gone were all her masks,

the gowns like armor,
the sweet words like gypsy spells
and calculating eyes
behind her silence.

With me she was just a woman
and I just a man,
no crowns or contracts between us.
Just a man and a woman

talking about anything
and everything
until the wee hours of the night,
and well into the dawn.

She blushed when I asked
if I could kiss her.
Blushes still as she nodded
and pressed her lips to mine.

I think she loved me too,
as she pressed her head to my shoulder
and when she smiled at me
it was a true smile.

I knew she had a secret
and one that troubled her greatly.
I saw her flinch whenever she passed
that chestnut mare.

I had it killed for her,
hung its head
though it still spoke
but only to the Goose Girl.

I didn’t even notice the handmaiden:
her skin and hair
so pale and wispy and soft
like her willowy frame.

She was delicate and dainty,
quiet but kind
like a heron or a song bird:
how could I possibly have guessed

that she was, in truth,
the warrior Queen’s Daughter.
She was wild, yes,
but in a quiet kind of way.

Like a deer or a rabbit:
wild in her wisdom,
but cautious as well.
She knew the language of the geese,

the songs to command the wind,
how to tease the Shepherd boy.
She was happier in the loft
than in a palace room,

took naps in the sun
surrounded by slumbering geese,
her chosen flock,
talked to the Wind like a person.

She fancied Conrad, I think,
the Shepherd boy was half-wild himself.
I thought nothing of her
as she herded geese

through the gate where
the judgmental eyes of the horse skull
watched her,
spoke to her.

I noticed only
how her shoulders quivered,
eyes watered not in grief,
but guilt.

It was the same guilt I saw
in my bride’s eyes
whenever the horse’s skull
spoke to her

like some cantankerous god
scolding them both
for their happiness.
I asked many times

my bride
and Conrad too,
asked the Goose Girl
both said they swore an oath

never to tell.
We all learned later,
the savage Queen had died
fighting in some other war

now that ours was over.
Her kingdom ceased by the enemy
who’d promised to treat them better.
It was my bride who cried all night,

The Goose Girl didn’t shed a tear.
Whether it was from sadness
or relief,
I never knew,

but it was me,
she gave her tears to.
Me, who held her until dawn
and all her fears had left her.

It was not the Goose Girl
who spilled her secrets
to the fire
but my wife, her handmaiden,

when I saw her burden
had become too great to bear.
It was I who suggested the iron stove.
I promised not to listen

for her secrets were hers to give
not mine to take.
I’d hoped the release would soothe her,
I didn’t know my father overheard,

and was listening at the flue.
She told me the truth
long before he did,
because she loved me so,

told me how the Goose Girl was her friend:
a Princess and a Handmaiden,
both born to controlling mothers,
both born to destinies

that were not their bones desire.
It was her plan, she confessed,
to switch places, however,
the Goose Girl was overjoyed.

She hated palaces and parties,
galoshes and ballgowns.
She preferred to go barefoot,
and talk to mice instead of bureaucrats,

thought humans more brutal
than any beats.
She hates fighting, killing,
swords, war.

In every way she was
a disappointment to her mother.
She was wild, yes,
but her mother was savage.

My wife had grown up abused
as was her own mother’s
strict tutelage.
A lesson beat to be learned now

or so her mother said,
before it can be used
as a weapon
against you.

For the competitive trade
of a Lady-in-Waiting
was more brutal
than any battlefield.

Never was she to dream
of grandeur or greatness,
to want more than what she had,
to ask more than what was given,

to be wilful or bold,
to forget her place
should man or monarch,
show her interest,

to always keep her dreams small.
Obedience and politeness
we’re a servant’s greatest virtues,
and pride was their worst sin.

And yet in spite
of all this good advice,
still my wife, the handmaiden,
had stars in her eyes.

Still the Goose Girl
who was a Princess
dreamed of freedom,
neither wanted their mother’s inheritance.

So on the way to see me
they made a choice:
it was a mutual thing.
They chose their dreams

over the ones
their mothers wanted for them.
Of course, I forgave her.
How could I not?

When I loved her.
I would’ve been miserable
had I married the Goose Girl
and she me.

What harm was really done?
When the true Queen
ruled besides me,
and the Goose Girl conned her hair

in the wheat field
with the Shepherd boy
and a flock of Geese
she’d chosen for her own.

My father didn’t see it that way.
No one would’ve known
had he’d not been raging
as he always did.

The best part was that
there was nothing he could do,
when I’d already married
my Handmaiden wife

who was truly a Queen,
and Conrad married his Princess
who was secretly a Goose Girl
after she too,

confessed the truth to him,
as well as her love.
we had a double-wedding
in secret with a priest,

and each other as witnesses,
and the furious horse skull.
She protested, of course,
but it was the priest who argued

that the dead could only
bear witness
and not interfere
with the tidings of the living.

My father threatened
Conrad, of course,
and my own wife
if the marriages were not annulled,

and spoke gleefully
of a horse-drawn barrel
full of spikes nails.
But rage made him foolish.

Shame made him blind.
He barely even noticed
the girl he once said was charming
was not in the barrel

as the horses carried it away.
Or that that very same girl
still sat beside me
crowned my Queen

with dyed blond hair.
Or that the Goose Girl,
Her hair black with soot
was making love to Conrad

wildly in the loft above the barn
with the geese honking slanders.
It would’ve been cruel, really,
and a waste

to strip such a strong,
courageous woman,
put her in a barrel full of nails,
and drag her away

to cool the King’s pride.
He settled down afterwards
once his anger was quenched,

oblivious to the trick
and content then
to finally retire.
The gossip eventually

became a fairy tale.
But no matter,
no one but I and Conrad noticed
when my wife’s blond hair

bloomed black as night,
and the Goose Girl’s
black braids once washed
cleaned up gold,

The truth is no fairy tale,
but much better, actually:
of a Handmaiden
who chose to be a Queen

and became an excellent Queen,
and a Princess
who chose to be a Goose Girl
and found freedom in wildness.

Truancy 10, December 2021

BIO:  Lauren E Reynolds still sees fairies in her garden, talks to plants and butterflies and enjoys long walks through the woods with her loyal dog and decided, rather boldly, her intention in life was to become a writer: she was

8 years old. Since then she has graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a Bachelors in English and pursued an MLS from the University of Maryland College Park. She currently works as a Children’s Librarian for the Enoch Pratt Free Library and is a part-time writer and mixed media artist for her brand Fairy Lights and Curious Things. She has also published several poems and short stories in anthologies and magazines and is currently working on her first historical fantasy novel and a collection of poems inspired by the mythical holidays, transitions and myths associated with the Gaelic Calender. She loved mythology and is an anime junky. She currently lives in Maryland with her family and a very loyal hound.