Clarisse and Amanda dashed into their father’s study shouting, “Papa! Papa! Can we have a doll, please?”
King Henry looked up from the numerous reports on the kingdom and smiled at his two daughters. Clarisse was nine, with vibrant red hair and glowing blue eyes. Amanda was seven, with bouncing blonde curls and shining brown eyes. They wore matching green dresses trimmed in gold and diamond tiaras in their hair. Clarisse wore a gold necklace with a ruby rose pendant while Amanda’s pendant was a diamond dove. The two girls were more precious than those gems to him, and he was only too glad to turn his attention to them. “A doll?” He asked, laughing as they skipped around him. “You want a doll?”
“Yes, Papa!” Amanda begged.
“A doll, please!” Clarisse added.
He sat back and considered the request. “My two girls want a doll. I suppose it couldn’t be just any doll, could it?”
The girls giggled and shook their heads. “Nope!”
“I want a special one!” Amanda said.
“With pretty yellow hair!” Clarisse said.
“Made by you!”
King Henry stroked his red beard thoughtfully. “Made by me? Are you sure?”
“Yes, Papa, yes!”
“A good doll will take time. Are you willing to wait?”
“Yes Papa! We’ll wait!” Amanda assured him.
Clarisse was silent, but she nodded when her sister nudged her. “Yes, Papa! We’ll wait!”
“All right! Then I shall make you dolls, and I promise they shall be the best in the land!”
The girls squealed delightedly. “Thank you, Papa!” They climbed onto his lap, peppered his bearded cheeks with kisses, and ran out of the room laughing with giddy excitement. Their happiness was contagious, and King Henry laughed pleasantly as he turned back to his work.
Clarisse and Amanda ran back to their nursery. Like everything else they owned, it was beautiful, made specifically to be the best for them. Their father had made it himself, painting the walls blue with scenes of pretty pink castles and frolicking unicorns over which soared a shining rainbow. The room was filled with little white furniture, chairs and a table with a porcelain tea set, a chest filled with handmade toy animals, two rocking horses, and a small bookcase filled with picture books.
“Papa’s going to make the bestest dolls ever!” Amanda said contentedly as she grabbed a picture book and sat down on the lavender carpet.
Clarisse climbed onto her rocking horse and began riding it. “How long do you think we’ll have to wait before we get them?”
Amanda shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t want to wait, Mandi. I want my doll now!”
Her sister looked up at her in shock. “But, if you get a doll now, that means Papa didn’t make it. And if Papa didn’t make it, then it’s not the bestest doll ever!”
“I don’t want the bestest doll ever. I just want a doll!”
“But Papa will make our dolls pretty and beautiful and gorgeous and the bestest dolls ever!”
“But I don’t wanna wait, Mandi! Maybe Nurse will make me one now!” Clarisse brightened at the idea and started to climb off her horse.
“But Nurse isn’t good at making dolls. Then we won’t have the bestest like Papa wants us to have.”
“I want a doll now!”
Amanda pulled at her sister’s arm and whined, “Please wait, Clari? Papa won’t take too long!”
Clarisse looked at her sister for a moment and then pouted. “Fine. I’ll wait. But it better be the bestest doll ever!”
“It will be! Just wait! You’ll see!”
Clarisse climbed back onto her horse and Amanda went back to her book.
Days passed, and weeks followed. Clarisse and Amanda begged King Henry every day for their dolls, but he lovingly encouraged them to keep waiting because they weren’t finished yet. It was becoming increasingly difficult for little Amanda to get her sister to wait, and the little princess herself was getting a little discouraged at the long wait. Finally, Amanda made her way back to her father’s office by herself to find out what was taking so long.
King Henry smiled patiently when his little child came to him. “Am I taking too long, Amanda?” he asked, his rich voice gentle and understanding.
Amanda scuffled her feet and avoided her father’s eyes, embarrassed and slightly ashamed. She managed to muster enough courage to meet his steady gray gaze and squeak, “Why does it take so long, Papa? Aren’t the dolls finished yet?”
“Not yet, my child. The best things take time to make.” He went over and knelt in front of her, lifting her quivering chin so that she would look at him. “Be patient, Amanda.”
He smiled and stroked her hair. “Thank you. To help you wait, would you like to see yours?”
All sadness abandoned Amanda and she nodded eagerly. King Henry took her small hand in his and led her over to his work table. He helped her climb onto his chair so she could see, and he pulled a brown box to the front. She leaned on his arm, watching the box intently. He lifted the lid and tilted the box toward her so she could see inside. She gasped in delight. The doll’s head was made of porcelain, with fine, gleaming blue-black hair. His face wasn’t painted, and he had no clothes yet, his half-stuffed white cotton body glowing dully in the candlelight, but Amanda could tell that her father was making her something beautiful.
“Can I have it now?” Amanda asked, reaching out to touch it.
King Henry gently pulled the box away. “It’s not ready yet.”
She turned her chocolate brown eyes to him, letting them grow large and moist. “I’ll still love him anyway.”
“I’m sure you would, but he’s just not ready yet. You’ll love him more when I’m done, Amanda. I promise you.” He shut the lid and pushed the box to the back of the desk.
Amanda looked at it longingly, but she nodded obediently. “Okay, Papa. Will we get them soon, though?”
“When it’s ready, and not before.”
She nodded reluctantly, and her father helped her climb down from her chair. “I love you, Papa,” she said as he led her to the door.
He kissed the top of her head. “I love you, too, Amanda.”
Amanda scampered back to the nursery to tell her sister the good news.
“Clarisse! Guess what!” she cried, bursting into the nursery at full speed. She skidded to a stop when she saw her sister, and she stared at Clarisse in confusion. Clarisse was playing with a doll. It was cloth, with green buttons for eyes, a red stitched smile, yellow yarn for hair, and a patchwork tunic and breeches. “Did Papa make you that doll?” she asked.
Clarisse shook her head vigorously. “Papa was taking too long, so I asked Nurse to make me one instead.” She reached beneath the folds of her fluffy dress and retrieved a second doll, just as ugly as the first. “Look! Nurse made one for you, too, just like I asked her to! Now we can play together.”
Amanda looked at the doll hesitantly. She knew her sister meant well, but she couldn’t help comparing that doll with the unfinished doll her father was making her. “We were supposed to wait for Papa.”
“Papa won’t mind. It’s okay. You can have it. Or you can have mine if you like it better.”
Amanda shook her head. “No, thank you, Clarisse. I’ll wait for Papa’s doll.” She went over to the bookcase and grabbed a book as her sister shrugged and began to play with both dolls.
Two weeks later, King Henry called the girls to his study. Amanda bounced excitedly all the way to the study, forcing Clarisse to keep pace with her.
“Maybe our dolls are ready now!” Amanda said, grabbing her sister’s arm and pulling it giddily.
Clarisse shrugged nonchalantly. “I’m tired of playing with dolls. The other toys in our nursery are just as good as any doll.”
“But Papa made these dolls just for us! They’re going to be so beautiful and pretty and perfect!”
“They’re just dolls, Mandi.”
Amanda decided to ignore her sister, and they hurried into the study. Their father immediately scooped them up into their arms in a bearlike hug and swung them around. The girls squealed with delight, and they squirmed when he set them down only to cover them with kisses. Then he took them over to his desk. Amanda was bouncing on her toes, unable to contain her excitement. Clarisse just stood there, hands clasped patiently behind her back as she waited for her father to give her the doll and let her go back to play with her toys.
King Henry took the first box and brought it down to his daughters’ level. Amanda gasped in delight. The last time she had seen the box, it had been quite plain. Now it was stained a deep red, with a grand crown in the middle, surrounded by lilies and doves. Clarisse accepted the box when he held it out to her, and she opened it. Amanda waited for the look of astonished wonderment to etch itself on her sister’s face, but no such look came. Clarisse just smiled and pulled the doll from the box. His silken hair was golden blonde, his glass eyes were a shining sapphire blue, his lips were parted in the most beautiful smile, and he was dressed in the satin clothes of the highest prince. Clarisse hugged the doll mandatorily and then hugged her father.
“Thank you, Papa! He’s beautiful!” She kissed King Henry’s cheek, tucked the box under her arm, and scampered back to the nursery without waiting for her sister.
Amanda watched her father’s face fall with disappointment and tugged his hand. “Papa?”
King Henry looked down and smiled distractedly. “Oh, of course, Mandi. It’s your turn now.” He pulled the second box from the desk and handed it to his daughter.
Amanda opened the box eagerly and squealed in delight when she saw her doll. He had rich brown eyes and a cocky smile now, and his clothes were similar to Clarisse’s doll. Amanda hugged him and then jumped into her father’s arms. “Thank you, Papa! This is the bestest doll ever!”
King Henry laughed and squeezed her lovingly. “I’m glad you like him, my child.”
“I love him, Papa! Love him!”
He kissed her cheek. “Good.” Then he set her on the ground and patted her head. “Now, go join your sister in the nursery. I’m afraid I have more work to do.”
“Yes, Papa.” Amanda obediently skipped to the door, but she paused and looked back. Her father was standing at his desk, holding the chisel he had used to personally craft each of the dolls’ faces. He looked so sad, so discouraged that Amanda said timidly, “Papa?”
He looked up. “Yes, Amanda?”
“I’m going to name my doll ‘Henry,’ and he’s going to be just like you.”
King Henry’s smile returned. “Thank you, Mandi.”
Amanda grinned and then dashed off to join her sister.
Eleven years later, Clarisse and Amanda had grown into two beautiful young women. Clarisse’s red hair danced like fire in the sunlight, and her blue eyes dazzled any who looked into them. She was renowned for her intelligence and quick wit, and she was a masterful pianist. Amanda’s hair shone like a waterfall of gold, and her brown eyes could melt a mountain’s heart. Her kindness and sweet temper had brought her the love of all the people of the realm, and every night she would entertain the people of the court with her beautiful voice. King Henry’s pride and love for them grew with each passing day.
Kings and princes from the surrounding kingdoms flocked to the castle to court them and make them their queens. They would bring gifts of gold, jewels, horses, and palaces in hopes of earning their favor. Unfortunately, every noble that arrived at the gates in hopes of winning the princesses was turned away by King Henry.
Clarisse and Amanda stood at the window, watching as yet another king was turned away.
Clarisse pounded the windowsill angrily and marched away. “I can’t believe this! How many suitors is he going to turn away? He’ll have turned away every king and prince in this world if he’s not careful, and then where will we be? Old maids and spinsters, that’s where!”
Amanda turned away from the window, just as disappointed as her sister. “I know, Clari, but Papa knows what he’s doing. He’s just waiting for the right ones for us.”
“According to him, no one’s good enough for us. He won’t even let us meet any of them! I don’t want to be an old maid, Mandi! I want to have a beau! I want to get married! And I don’t want to be forty when I do!”
Amanda was silent for a moment and then she suggested, “Why don’t we ask Papa?”
Clarisse scowled. “He’ll only tell us to wait, like he always does.”
“Come on, Clari, let’s just ask him. It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
Clarisse groaned, but she followed her sister out of their room and up to their father’s study. King Henry was standing by the window in his study, and he turned and smiled when he saw his daughters.
“My girls!” he said, holding out his arms to them.
Amanda ran to him and gave him a hug, but Clarisse hung back.
“What was wrong with King George?” she asked. “He’s kind to his subjects, treats his family with respect, has a lot of money, and he’s considered to be a very wise and strong man. Why wasn’t he good enough for us?”
King Henry frowned. “Nothing was wrong with him, Clarisse. King George is a good man, but he’s not the man I’ve picked out for you.”
“Do you have a man picked out for me, Papa?”
“Of course, my child.”
“Then where is he? Why I can’t I meet him and get to know him?”
“Because he’s not ready. You have to give him time and wait.”
Clarisse threw up her hands in disgust. “Ugh! I told you, Mandi! He wants us to become old maids!” She spun on her heel and stormed out of the study.
King Henry’s shoulders sagged as his daughter left him, his eyes watering slightly at her departure. Amanda looked up into her father’s sorrowful face and squeezed him tightly, trying to comfort him as best she could.
“I’m sorry, Papa, but you know how Clarisse is. Don’t mind her.” She paused and then asked, “Do you have a man picked out for me?”
He looked down, smiled, and stroked her hair. “Yes, of course, my child.”
“Is he a prince or a king?”
Amanda looked at her father in surprise. “Then what is he?”
“He’s a servant.”
“Yes. Come to the window and see.” He retrieved a spyglass from his desk drawer and guided his daughter to the window. “Look down in the courtyard.”
Amanda put the spyglass up to her eye and looked down. There in the courtyard was a young man with blue-black hair and a cocky smile helping an old woman carrying baskets of bread to the kitchens. His clothes were filthy, and his hair was matted, but he carried himself better than any king. When he finished carrying the baskets, the woman thanked him profusely, and he went back to the stables and picked up a pitchfork.
Amanda lowered the spyglass and looked at her father. “He works in the stables, not the kitchens?”
He smiled and nodded.
“Yet he stopped to help the old woman anyway.” She looked back toward the stables and watched as he started cleaning out the stalls. “And he’s not ready yet? He seems perfect!”
“If he seems perfect now, wait until I finish him, Mandi.” King Henry gently pulled the spyglass from his daughter’s hands. “Now go back and join your sister. He’ll be ready soon, I promise.”
“Yes, Papa.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek before walking out of the room.
Her steps were light and thoughtful. She was excited by the promise of love, but she was a little disappointed that she had to keep waiting for it. However, the man her father had shown her, had promised was going to be hers, looked like a man worth waiting for, even he was just a stable hand. He had been kind enough to help the old woman take those baskets to the kitchen, and he had went back to his filthy job without the slightest hint of complaint. He truly seemed amazing, and her father said he wasn’t done with him yet! Amanda rolled back her shoulders and determined to wait for the man her father had picked out for her.
Amanda was so distracted by thoughts of her future husband that she almost crashed into Clarisse. Clarisse and Amanda yelped in surprise, and Amanda stepped back to see the situation. There was a man with her sister, well dressed and finely groomed. He had red hair combed away from his piercing blue eyes, and they had a hard glint in their depths that accented the self-satisfied smirk on his angled face.
“Clarisse,” Amanda said, unable to look away from her sister’s escort, “who is this?”
Clarisse smiled somewhat guiltily. “Amanda, this is Derrick. He was a prince in King George’s court. He came to meet us.”
“Papa sent King George away.”
“Yes, milady,” Derrick said, bowing reverently. “But I have heard much of you and your sister’s beauty, and I just had to see you for myself. And I must say, the rumors were quite wrong about both of you. You’re a great deal prettier than I’d heard.”
Amanda smiled hesitantly at the compliment and looked to her sister. Clarisse smiled winningly at Derrick and said, “Please excuse me for a moment.” She grabbed Amanda’s arm and dragged her over to the window where Derrick wouldn’t be able to hear them easily.
“Papa said to wait, Clari!” Amanda hissed as soon as her sister had released her.
“Easy for you to say,” Clarisse hissed back. “You’re only eighteen! You have plenty of time to wait! All my friends are married or at least have beaus and suitors! What do I have? Nothing! Why? Because Papa keeps sending them away. Now one has finally sneaked in to reach me, and don’t you dare tell Papa about him or you’ll ruin my chances at love and life!”
“I wouldn’t be ruining anything! Papa has someone picked out for you, and he’s training him to be perfect for you even as we speak! You just need to wait or you’ll ruin your own chance for true love and a happy life!”
“You’re still a child, Mandi, still playing with your silly dolls. You need to grow up and look out for yourself. Papa can’t do everything, and he doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know what’s best for me, I do. I’ll make my own choices, and you and Papa can just get out of my way.” Clarisse spun on her heel and glided back over to Derrick. “Sorry about that,” she said smoothly. “She won’t bother us again. Now come, and I’ll show you the Grand Hall.”
“I’d be delighted.”
Smiling, the two walked down the hall, arm in arm, leaving Amanda by the window, fighting tears. Amanda sniffled and brushed the glistening drops from her eyes. Then she felt a heavy hand on her shoulder and turned to face King Henry. He was watching his eldest waltz down the hall with the prince, and there were tears in his eyes, too. Amanda hugged him.
“Why won’t she wait, Papa?” Amanda asked. “You know what’s best for us. Why won’t she wait?”
He stroked her hair comfortingly. “Clarisse has to learn the hard way that the best things don’t always come right away. One day she’ll learn to wait. One day she’ll learn that I do have only the best for her on my heart. I just pray that she won’t learn too late.” He hugged his youngest and then gently pulled her away. “We can’t give up on her, my child. I promise, sooner or later things will be right again. Until then, will you wait?”
Amanda sniffled and accepted the silk handkerchief her father held out to her. “Yes, Papa. I’ll wait, I promise.”
He kissed her forehead. “Thank you. Now, be on your way. I’ll take care of Clarisse.”
Amanda nodded and obediently turned. She made her way back to the room, retrieved the doll her father had made for her so long ago, sat on the window seat, and waited.