Tiffany heard the box call for it was time for one more story. She had never told anyone she had a magical speaking box as a friend, but she was glad to enjoy its wisdom.
That night her depression was back to torture her sanity again. Being lonely felt like life wasn’t worth it because if no one came in to help her or vice-versa, then what was the purpose?
She approached the box and sat on the floor in order to listen to it.
'Good evening,' a male voice said calmly, 'why are your eyes so tearful, my dear?'
‘I need a new story, please. I’m feeling sad again because I haven't seen anyone else other than Mary, our maid, for a week and she’s always too busy to have long talks. Also, I think I bore her. I’m afraid that she tells me she has to work so she doesn’t have to put up with me.’
‘Has she ever given you any evidence of that?’
‘Well, I’m not sure. According to what I interpret from her facial expression, she never seems to be particularly amused by anything I say. I can’t ask her to stop working and listen to me as my husband is the one who pays for her service. I’d also like him to be with me more often, but he works in the US now and his boss keeps him busy all the time. I wonder if he’s trying to avoid me too. What other reason would prevent him from coming home for an entire year?’
‘It depends, there may be loads of reasons. If you don’t know what’s really happening in their minds, don’t you think it’s a little unfair of you to assume they don’t care about you? I believe you must work a bit on your self-esteem. The first person who should love you is yourself. I’ll give you an example:
Once upon a time, a princess called Rebecca was sitting on her throne as she usually did all day long. She spent the day listening to her people, whether they were noble, peasant, administrators, or military leaders. That exhausted her mentally and sometimes she just pretended to be paying attention and then asked her counsellors what certain people had said.
This listening routine was good to solve the problems of the kingdom because the Princess would say it all to her parents, who tried to come up with a solution. However, she had never really understood why she should help those people if they didn’t care about her. That was a formal daily activity with no concern towards the monarch’s problems. If she was a human being too, why didn’t anyone ask her how she felt or what she needed or if she just wanted to tell anything to have a friendly conversation once in a while? Everyone appeared to be always so busy for her. Then she started to think people were selfish, considering they seemed to care more about formality and their own problems than her.
This time Rebecca was bored while listening to a border guard who was reporting that the neighbouring kingdom had complained about lazy national farmers going to the other side and picking up foreign crops to sell them in the market of Rebecca’s country.
This wasn’t the first time that she received such a complaint, but the Princess had already got enough of it because it was now a lie. It had happened a few times, but measures had recently been taken and the problem had been solved.
National farmers could no longer cross the border to steal due to the fact that they were forbidden to visit the other nation without their king and queen’s permission and they had to present a good reason for it. If they tried to come back with a bag full of food, they wouldn’t be allowed to enter their home kingdom again. Moreover, if they were caught stealing, they’d have to pay a huge fine both to the next-door farmer and to the state.
The royal family just thought their neighbours still complained because they wanted to keep receiving subsidies for supposed product losses.
After the guard finished speaking, he waited for Rebecca’s answer or, as he desired, to tell him he could leave. However, instead of that, the Princess wasn't simply reacting as if she had gone to somewhere else and forgotten to come back to her body, which prompted people to mutter among them. One of her counsellors spoke:
‘Your Highness, would you please say anything to this loyal vassal? There are more people outside waiting to enjoy your generous attention.’
‘No, no. This is not right.’
‘Well, I know our relationship with our neighbours hasn’t always been the best, but…’
‘No, not that. This!’ the Princess used her arms to indicate the whole room, ‘I am tired of it and I would like to make some changes or else I will not be able to continue working. It is the same thing over and over. Do you not agree, my good man?’ the guard was just staring at the monarch with no answer popping up in his mind.
‘Of course you do. So I want everyone to leave except for this guard and the counsellors.’ Everybody looked quite confused, but Rebecca insisted, ‘Yes, you heard me: go outside and tell the other people to get in.’
Another counsellor asked, ‘Your Highness, what…’
The Princess raised her hand indicating he couldn’t speak. As for the others, they obeyed her order despite feeling rather confused. Mutters could be heard all over the room while those people got out and, a few moments later, the new ones came in. Unlike the previous audience, this one was composed of peasants who were told to occupy the seats the nobles had left free.
Next Rebecca got up from her throne and climbed down the stairs towards the kneeling guard.
'Please get up and take off your helmet,' the man didn't hesitate to do so. The Princess then asked for it by doing a receiving gesture; however, as soon as she grabbed it, she threw it onto the floor. But the moment that really surprised the crowd was when she placed her crown on the guard's head, which gave him a funny look because it was a female accessory, 'you may now sit on the throne,' this caused an overall surprise:
'I don't understand,' the man replied.
'Come on, go ahead,' suddenly, one of the counsellors got up and stood up to the situation:
'Your Highness, forgive my bitterness, but this is utterly unacceptable and, above all, illegal! I don't know what you're trying to achieve, but this non-sense behaviour of yours must end now!'
'Why are you talking to me?' Rebecca answered calmly, 'he is the one in charge,' she declared indicating the man. Facing such a strange attitude, the protester could do nothing but sit incredulously.
As the monarch asked, the guard headed to the throne, however, when he was about to take the first step of the stairs, he looked back at her, who showed through her facial expression that she expected him to do it and he obeyed. By the time he sat, the man felt extremely nervous as he could see from there that everybody was staring at him, including the counsellors that were by his side.
'Hi there,' he said shyly.
The next thing they knew was that Rebecca was kneeling, which almost made the counsellors' hearts explode due to her very expensive dress touching the floor.
'Your Highness, would you please listen to what your humble sister has to say?'
'Sure,' the new "prince" declared reluctantly, however, the conversation was unexpectedly interrupted. The Princess's parents were back from their business trip and the King was quite angry.
'Rebecca, what in the world are you doing?! Get up, you'll have your dress dirty!'
'I think it is already too late,' the Queen remarked, but what really melted her husband's cheese was the border guard sitting on the throne. He was truly angry.
'Hey, you! Where the heck do you think you are?! Get off there or I swear the next place you'll be sitting in is going to be a cell in the Tekuariku desert!' that was the hottest place on the planet where even local animals spent most of the time under the sand, therefore the guard didn't have to hear the order twice.
'Rebecca, I demand an explanation! Why was that man listening to you and not the other way around?! Why are all these people here and for what reason did you tell the nobles to stay outside?! Do you think this task is a joke?! You're twenty-two years old, but your inner little girl was up to play?! Well, she can't! You're a grown woman, Rebecca! Act like one!'
'Are you finished, father?' The King's daughter asked in a stressless intonation.
'What?! How dare you?!'
'That man was on the throne because I told him to do so and, as for me, I wanted to show that all this formality is simply silly. We are all human beings, therefore we should not create a superiority-and-inferiority-labelling society. The second reason for the role reversal is that I would like someone to actually listen to me at least once as I spend the whole day giving people that chance, but I do not get the same back.
I also intended these country people to catch up on what is happening in their own kingdom, considering most of them cannot read and are always away from information sources. They are too isolated, father. Besides, due to the fact that they live more modest lives, they are more likely to be humbler than the nobles, which diminishes the chances of judging me... as you are doing now.
No, I do not think this job is a joke, however, I would appreciate being able to have fun more often. During my whole life, I have always done what you wanted: I studied a lot, I had etiquette lessons, I learnt to play the violin and the piano and now I listen to every sort of people all day long, but my question is: when is it going to be my turn? When am I going to be able to have time for myself? I want to do whatever feels right to me because I am a different human being from you two, so I naturally need different things.
I have done nothing but act like an adult, therefore I think it is time for me to be a child a little more frequently.’
The box stopped speaking out of the blue and Tiffany was extremely excited with the story. She wanted to know its end so badly, although she felt a bit confused as well.
The container was taking long to start narrating again, leading the woman to say:
‘I don’t get it. Are you suggesting that I should do something completely crazy and scandalous in order to get Mary’s or my husband’s attention? Box?’
She opened it and, to her astonishment, she saw the most amazing thing any human could witness: a real goblin. There was an actual fairy-tale creature in the magical speaking box.
Tiffany just didn’t know how to react, what to say or… what to think. However, what shocked her the most was the fact that the goblin was lying motionless. Was he dead?