The dress is lovely and delicate, all airy folds and white lace.  The neckline dips coyly but not too far; the waist tapers in and the skirts flare out.  The sleeves taper.  It is the sort of thing that was made for a princess, sewn by fairies with light fingers and clever eyes.  It is the sort of thing that would make a plain woman pretty, a pretty woman beautiful, and a beautiful woman ethereal.

This will be my wedding-gown the princess says: of course.  A present from her godmothers, who otherwise would have nothing to do with the palace.  It was made for her, and surely the sun himself would pale in envy on her wedding-day.

Would.  Would have.  Would never.

A dress like this is difficult to put on with no help.  There are small buttons in the back and laces that must be tightened, all cleverly concealed by froth and frills.  Fairy magic does not work like and does not like hers; there is hiss and recoil and hooks digging into her flesh.  She catches a brief glance of herself in the mirror as she leaves.  It looks like cobwebs and feels like stone.

Upstairs someone is knocking.  The princess had her room at the top of the tallest tower but the fairies liked to work in the cool underground, where things are softer and harder and the light is kinder by being absent.

She ascends the stairs.  The skirts foam around her legs like breaking waves, forward and back.  The smell of dust is heavy in the air: there was no time even for decay, as if a hundred years passed in a single heartbeat.  Everything is silent except for her feet upon the stone, but she has been to enough weddings in her life to know the song that plays as the bride walks alone.    Was there supposed to be a parent on her arm?

But there was no one left.  This is not her wedding-day, after all.

Upstairs someone is knocking, and she goes, and she opens the door wide.

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