Chapter 1 – July 1901
Ringlets of curls fell around the six year old girl's little face as she stared down at the book on her lap. She read out loud to the small but enthralled audience gathered around her.
"He thought her more charming than ever, and, a few days after, married her. Cinderella, who was as good as she was beautiful, gave her two sisters a home in the palace, and that very same day married them to two great lords of the Court. The End."
She looked up and smiled at her admirers as she heard clapping coming from behind her. She turned toward the sound and beamed at the lady standing in the doorway.
"Grandmother!" she exclaimed as she jumped to her feet and ran to her.
The woman laughed heartily as she scooped her up and kissed her cheek. "Hello darling. Who are you reading to?"
"My dolls. Molly and Kristen. I was teaching them the story of Cinderella."
"Teaching? You mean reading to them," the woman said correcting the very forthright child.
"No, I wanted them to learn it, like school."
"Ah, I see," the woman said as she carried the pretty girl over to the child's bed and sat down on the edge, shifting the girl to her lap. "Does that mean you like school?"
Smiling brightly and with a new enthusiasm, "I love school and my teacher."
The older woman chuckled, "That's wonderful news. Let's hope it stays that way."
Suddenly a knock and a man's voice from the door interrupted, "Mother, it is time."
"I will be there in a moment," she said to the man as she moved the girl off her lap and onto the bed, "Now be a good teacher to Molly and Kristen. Soon you will have a real baby, a baby sister or brother, to teach."
"Oh! It is that time," the child said, jumping to her feet and running for the door but her grandmother interceded, "No, you stay here. We'll come get you when your sibling is ready to meet you."
Her face full of disappointment, the girl looked up at her grandmother and sighed. "Alright."
The grandmother smiled as she bent down and hugged and kissed the girl, "No matter what you will always be my special girl. I love you Esme."
"I love you too grandmother."
And with that the woman was out the door to attend to the birth of a second child by her daughter and son-in-law, leaving her only grandchild playing with or teaching as she liked to say, her few dolls.
"Esme, come here and meet your baby sister," her mother called out softly from the big bed.
Shyly, still clutching her grandmother's skirt in the doorway, Esme peaked over at her mother and the bundle in her arms. With a gentle nudge from her grandmother, and her father stepping forward to take one of her hands, Esme made her way to the bed.
Her father lifted her up and sat her next to her mother so she could examine the bundle closely. Her mother smiled at her as she adjusted it so that she could see the tiny sleeping face.
Esme's eyes grew wide, "She's so small!" cried out the astonished girl.
The adults in the room all laughed at Esme's amazement and she looked around bewildered from face to face.
Her father sat down next to her, and positioning her arms just right as he said, "Here Esme, put your arms like this."
Still in awe, her mother placed the baby in her arms, "Esme," she said, "meet your sister, Millicent."
Esme's eyes were glued to the real baby in her laps as she tried unsuccessfully to repeat the name. Esme's mother chuckled, "You can call her Millie."
"Millie," Esme repeated still staring at the baby. "Nice to meet you Millie. I'm Esme. I am your big sister."
"And as big sister, you need to watch over Millie and protect and guide her, right dear?" quizzed her mother.
"Of course!" Esme exclaimed, braver now, beginning to rock the baby slightly.
The entire time, her grandmother stood against the wall by the door silently watching the happy family, especially her dearest Esme. The child was all light and warmth. It's not that Catherine and Robert were cold, far from it. They loved their daughter dearly and were so happy to finally be blessed with a second child. But Esme was special. She knew it from the day she was born and it wasn't just because she was her first grandchild. She was a good baby, giving her mother little trouble and rarely ill. She has always been particularly bright but she also was just full of joy. She radiated love, more than she ever received back from her parents and now as she watched her looking down at this baby, she knew that Millie would be the most cared for little sister who ever lived.