The princess stood in the corridor outside her room and waited. The door opened.
'I'll be back just as soon as I've fetched your midday meal, princess.'
This was her chance, the princess thought. If she followed Etta to wherever she fetched the food from, then maybe there would be more. She followed Etta down some stairs at the other end of the corridor - not somewhere she'd ever been before. The stairs were lit by small windows at regular intervals, but the glass was so cloudy that the princess couldn't see out of them. Besides, she had to hurry to keep up with Etta.
At the bottom of the steps was a small, plain room. Etta went over to what looked like a cupboard set into the wall and pulled a chain hanging nearby. The princess stepped forward to see what would happen. A bell jangled. Etta opened the cupboard to reveal a wooden tray covered in a selection of dishes that were much less fine than those the princess used every day. Etta took the tray and sat it on a small table, next to a silver tray and dinner service that the princess recognised. She watched as Etta transferred the contents of the dishes on the wooden tray to the ones on the silver tray. It all took some time, and the princess got bored of watching. No wonder it's always cold, she thought.
She looked at the food cupboard. It was quite large, and the back was further than she could reach into the space. It must be pushed through from the other side, she thought. Bracing her hands against the sides, she scrambled up into the space and crawled right to the back. She pushed at the wood with her hands, but it didn't budge. Meanwhile Etta, having finished transferring the food, shut the door and pulled the chain.
The princess sat in the dark and felt the cupboard shudder downwards. She bumped her head on the roof of the box, and her arms and legs felt cramped. She shut her eyes tightly. After several jolting minutes, the cupboard came to a stop. She opened her eyes.
All she could hear was noise - not one single voice, or sound, just a roar of people - more people than she'd ever seen in one room. She crawled to the edge of the cupboard. A man broke away from the centre of the room with a large tray in his hands. She scrambled out of the hole in the wall just in time. The man was so close that her nose was almost touching his sleeve, but she pressed herself against the cabinet until he had gone. She let out her breath.
There was an open door just past the cabinet. She darted into the room and took a deep breath. On the table just in front of her was a plate piled high with little bread rolls, shiny with glaze. She could smell them - warm and sugary. She reached out a hand to take the top one. As she lifted it off, a figure emerged from an alcove in the corner. Startled, the princess dropped the roll, causing half the pile to tumble off the plate and onto the floor.
The princess ducked underneath the table. Footsteps came nearer.
'Pot boy, if that's you, I'll have your hide...'
One searching arm stretched underneath the table. The princess shuffled back, but the hand, clutching, caught hold of her dancing-slipper clad foot, now dirty and covered in dust. She was dragged from her hiding place and given a good shaking.
'You...you can see me?' asked the princess, blinking her eyes and trying to stop her head from spinning.
'See you? Of course I can see you - you and your dirty thieving hand sneaking out for my good rolls.'
The princess tried to pull away, but the woman held her tightly, 'What have you got to say for yourself then, eh?'
'I am Princess Irena Marie Imaldi, and I demand that you release me immediately.'
The woman burst out laughing. She slapped the princess, hard. 'That's for your cheek.' With her free hand, she grabbed a dish-rag and stuffed it into the princess's mouth, '...and that's for telling such lies.'
While the princess gagged at the foul taste in her mouth, and tears smarted in her eyes, the woman marched her to the alcove and pushed her in. The door slammed shut. Through the wood, the princess heard the jangle of keys.
'You can sit in the dark until I've made a new batch of rolls. Then I'll deal with you, my girl, make no mistake about that.'