Freedom. What a beautiful word. If only more people knew what it meant, knew how it felt to really be trapped. Not like the little things like, "I can't go out with my friends today 'cause I have to clean my room." That is not being trapped. That is nothing compared to having your whole life planned, to always obey others. What do I know of freedom? More than you, probably. You can decide.

It was March, early spring, the flowers just beginning to come out so you could see little hints of green. I was weeding the tiny vegetable garden that was pretty much, the joy of my life. I wouldn't have even been allowed that except for the fact that my stepmother was very frugal about her money, actually my late father's money, and would rather I grow the vegetables than use her money to buy them. Although the vegetable plants were just beginning to sprout, the weeds had grown faster and tried to choke out my plants. So of course, I had to weed.

That didn't stop my stepsisters from yelling at me to do more chores, though. The more chores that I had to do, the happier they were. They actually liked watching as I scrubbed the floor, making my hands bleed or get cut, pricked, or burned doing the number of minor chores that they always told me to do. Sadistic, aren't they? "Ella!" I heard Violette shriek, "Come do my laundry!" I sighed then got up from my kneeling position, brushing the dirt off of my dress. It didn't look much cleaner but my stepfamily didn't care if I was dirty or not.

I walked back to the mansion that we lived in through the back door. The servant's entrance, my stepsisters had sneered. It was an apt title, though for it was hidden by the ivy covering the house and most people just walked to the front then through the front door. I believe that that is a waste of time so I just use the back door like any intelligent person would. "Hurry up, Ella!" Violette shouted, once again, "If you don't get here fast, I'll tell mother on you and you'll get beaten!"

Some people just don't have any patience. "Coming!" I yell as I climb up the stairs. I knock on her door and a hand thrusts out to dump a pile of dirty laundry on me. "Phew!" I say under my breath, "Does she never wash?" I begin to make my way downstairs until I hear another voice calling out to me. My other stepsister's, Prudence.

"Come take my laundry, too, Ella!" I go to her room and fetch her laundry, wrinkling my nose at the smell.

After washing their clothes, I hang them up to dry outside. The wind blowing makes the clothes balloon out, creating an amusing picture. I glance down at my own dirty dress and decide to also wash it. I have two dresses so I go up to my room in the attic and change. As I wash my dress in the creek, I wonder why I put up with this. Life is so tedious and boring. I've tried to run away a few times but I was caught each time and beaten. The first time was right after my father died, when I was only nine. The second time was when Prudence had taken all my old jewelry, when she was thirteen and I was twelve. The only jewelry I had left was the locket that had once belonged to my mother. Inside, it has a picture of my mother and father. And the third time I had tried to run away was only three years ago when I was fifteen. I decided that I was long overdue for another attempt at escape.

I go back up to my room and gather up my clothes, tying them into a small bundle then wrap a kerchief around my long hair to prevent anyone from recognizing me under all the dirt. Most of the people in my town haven't seen me for quite a number of years, except my stepmother's friends and no one would be able to recognize me except for one thing. My hair was my one distinguishing trait. It was copper colored and it fell down to my knees, letting everyone know who I was. So I braided it then tied it up, hiding the color with the kerchief.

I toyed with the idea of stealing a few of my stepsister's gowns, preferably Prudence's for she didn't wear as much lace as Violette, who was the same age as I. I looked down at myself and rejected that idea for the fact remained that both Prudence and Violette were slightly larger than me, I mean that in the nicest way, of course. And practically being starved didn't help. I brought my things downstairs and sneaked into the pantry, helping myself to a large chunk of cheese and loaf of bread.

Finally, I walked out into the open fields surrounding the mansion. The problem with all my other attempts at running away had been that Prudence and Violette had quickly realized I was gone because I had not come running to their demands which were usually quite random. But this time, I had checked on both of them, making sure they were occupied at the time. Prudence had been lying in bed, eating and Violette had been trying on her new dresses so I had told both of them that I was gathering early berries in the forest and they shouldn't expect me back until dusk.

I decided to head toward town for surely, Prudence and Violette would search in the forest for me. The only one I was afraid of would be my stepmother for she is the only one of that trio who is intelligent, at least intelligent enough to figure out my actions and to think up cruel punishments for my disobedience. At first, I stroll along the dirt path leading toward the town but as I think of my stepmother, my pace gets faster and faster until I am almost running. I reach the main road, oblivious of everything except for my thoughts and running away that I don't even hear the clip clopping of hoofs behind me, slowly catching up.

Too late, I realize someone is behind me on horseback when I am pushed off the road, the dust from the horse's hooves covering me from head to foot. "Come back here, you stinking bastard son of a pig!" I yell, furious as I pick myself up from the dust at the side of the road. The horse slows to a trot then a walk as I scream even more insults. I knew it wasn't wise of me but I was angry. The rider turns the horse around and rides toward me, his golden hair glinting in the sunlight.

I stare, aghast. All the rumors of the prince had been true; slightly curly black hair, bright blue eyes, a straight nose, and full lips all made him the very model of male beauty. Which meant that all the other rumors had also been true, the ones of his cruelty and brutality. And I had just insulted him! "Do you know to whom you are speaking?" the prince asked me, a cruel glint in his eyes.

I swept him a curtsy. "Your Majesty," I murmur, "I apologize."

His hand went to my chin and tilted my face back, causing my kerchief to slide back, revealing my copper colored hair. He fingered a lock of my hair that had escaped then said, "You must be the late baron's daughter. No one else has that shade of hair. Good riddance, I never liked him." he paused then asked, "Now do you know what I do to wenches who insult me and my family?"

"No, sir." I whisper, looking down at the ground for he had released me.

"Usually, I have boiling oil poured onto them then they are hanged." he said, as if to himself, "But I believe I might spare you. Where are you going, in such rags?"

This was probably my only chance to escape his punishment so I decided to tell him the truth. "I am running away," I said boldly, looking into his eyes.

He laughed then said, amusement clear in his voice. "Oh, yes, I forgot about your stepfamily. They treat you like a servant, don't they? And you, the true baron's daughter!" I glared at him fiercely as he continued, "I think I'll bring you back and let you stay in your old house for a little while." He patted the horse. "Come up."

"I don't know how." I muttered.

Amusement made their way into his eyes as he said, "You will need to learn someday." Suddenly, he reached down and grabbed me by the waist, hauling me behind him on the horse. I let out a shriek of protest which was cut short as the horse broke into a canter, me holding onto the prince like the world was falling apart and he was the only one who could save me. We flew down the road toward the house I had been trying to escape from.

When we arrived, he leapt off the horse then helped me down. The front door opened to reveal Prudence's astonished face. She gaped as the prince bowed and said, "I am Prince Alaric. Your sister became lost in the forest and I found her so I brought her back to you."

"Th-thank you, Your Highness," Prudence stuttered, still gawking at the prince, "W-would you like to come in?" By this time, Violette had also appeared and was also gawking at the prince like a dimwit.

Prince Alaric shook his head, "I would love to spend some more time with you ladies but I fear that business keeps me from your pleasant company."

Prudence finally seemed to regain her wits. "Ella! Come back in and dust the house!"

I began to walk to the door when a hand roughly grabbed my arm. The prince turned me around to face him. "What is your name?" he whispered harshly.

I tried my best to look regal as I answered, "Orianna Ellanore Dannaquit, my lord."

He grinned then brought his head down to speak into my ear. "I will come back for you." he whispered then leapt back onto his horse and rode away.

I stood shivering in the middle of the yard, wondering what he meant.