Poppy hadn’t expected to be captured in a glass jar today, but, alas, it seemed the world was against her when it came to the unexpected.
It all started that morning when she awoke in her bed. It was a humble thing, made out of an old jewelry-box drawer to act as the box spring. A dozen feathers Poppy had spent months collecting made up the first layer within the jewelry box, followed by an old dish cloth for her to lay atop. Her blanket was a pink handkerchief that used to belong to one of the princess’s ladies in waiting.
Poppy happened to find it beneath the princess’s ottoman and had snatched it up immediately. Even the fabric these royals wiped their noses with were made of the finest cloth, and after a good washing it made a magnificent throw for Poppy’s bed.
In fact, all of Poppy’s furniture was second-hand. What else could she do in a world built for giants?
Her chairs were wine corks and her table was an upside-down teacup. She used a broken shard from a mirror to observe her reflection and stored her clothes in a matchbox. She didn’t have much to wear, but what she did have was made from discarded scraps of cloth. Even the smallest swatch of fabric disposed of by one of the castle’s tailors could make the most lovely dress.
Poppy’s breakfast that morning had been an oatmeal-like mash that she concocted with ingredients she stole from the kitchen. It was her last choice, and it typically meant her food supply was running low. Today would be a scavenging day.
She dressed in a blue cotton shirt and faded grey pants--it was her favorite pair and subsequently wearing thin at the knees. Poppy tried not to wear anything too bright when she scavenged, just in case a bright color might catch the eye of one of the giants.
Poppy’s first rule was this: never be spotted. Her most important rule, however, was to never be caught. The giants were curious creatures, especially the younger ones, so if Poppy were to be spotted, they might come looking for her, or worse, set traps. If she were to be caught by one of the giants, well, she’d consider herself dead. She’d seen the way they treat other small pests in their kitchens.
More than once she’d heard the snapping sound of a mouse getting their neck caught in one of those horrendous-looking wire traps. She shuddered just to think about it.
Poppy’s home was located against a bay window in one of the guest bedrooms which hadn’t been used in more than two years; the castle was so massive that it had been a very long time since more than half the bedrooms were needed. The window was curved inward toward the room, engulfing a bench on which a giant would sit; however, Poppy used this flat space to place all her furniture.
The sunshine would surround her in the mornings and act as her natural alarm clock. Although, the window was located on the west side of the castle, so the sunsets were much more breathtaking. Red and orange rays of light leaked into her room every day at dusk. Her small collection of jewels and other baubles she’d found on the castle floors would reflect the light, sending it ricocheting across the expansive walls of the bedroom.
Poppy tried to never miss it. It was a part of her daily routine, not to mention she was a bit superstitious. If she missed watching the sunset she’d feel out of place until she managed to watch it again the next day. Perhaps she was going crazy from being alone for so long, or maybe it was just a tendency to cling onto the repetition of everyday life.
Poppy stuck her feet into the oddly-shaped boots she fashioned from cotton; she hadn’t been able to find a leather suitable enough to be crafted at her scale. The boots giants wore were made from a material much too durable and tough for her small hands to work with. She then threw on her dark-blue cloak, grabbed her satchel, and made the descent down from her home-base.
She used a rope with intermittent knots to get to and from her bay window. At the top it was fastened to a nail she managed to pry away from being flush with the bench. After carefully sidling down the rope and setting her feet onto the plush carpet, Poppy set off in the direction of the bedroom door.
It was tea time, so the castle staff would be on break for the next hour or so. This was the best time for Poppy to make her excursions to the kitchen, since even at night there was someone on duty, either mopping the floors or perhaps keeping an eye on some marinating dish. Visiting the kitchen at night was especially dangerous during the wintertime because that was when all the slow-cooking stews would be requiring attention for up to twelve hours. It had taken Poppy a while to learn the staff scheduling, so in the beginning she’d often go hungry.
Poppy slid out from a gap beneath the door, careful not to let her clothes tug on the scratchy wood above her. She made sure to stick her head out and observe the hallway for signs of movement before emerging completely. No one was within sight, nor was there a sound, so she began marching towards the kitchens, keeping her body close to the wall.
The bedroom she lived in was rather close to the kitchens, but it still was a fifteen minute walk. This meant that she’d only have thirty minutes to scavenge before having to return. She’d become very efficient, however, and often timed herself using the clock mantled onto the kitchen wall. She’d even grown accustomed to the seasonal rotation of food types, so she always knew where the varying foods she needed were placed.
Poppy walked straight for several minutes, then turned rightward down another meandering hallway. All the floors were made of dark wood with a royal-blue carpet running down the center, and all the walls were painted a lilac color, so someone like Poppy could easily become lost. She did, actually, become lost several times in the beginning.
Surprisingly, she wasn’t the most coordinated person, but she forced herself to learn directions whether she wanted to or not. And when she thought of it as a game, like when she timed herself scavenging, she found herself to be much more capable.
The kitchen had large double-doors that would swing inward and outward. Circular windows would allow people to make sure they didn’t push the doors into someone’s face, but Poppy certainly couldn’t reach them. So she had to be careful, hunching down below the level of the door and checking to ensure no one was on the other side, lest the door swing open and send her flying two feet.
Upon squirming her way beneath the doors and entering the kitchens, she heaved a sigh of relief. She knew there wouldn’t be any people inside, but it was still a terrifying possibility. Poppy only had thirty minutes, so she quickly set to work.
The pantry door was open, so she went in there first. It was a large pantry, even by giant standards, as it was for the entire castle. Metal racks ran all the way up to the ceiling and they were stocked full of grains, spices, and other raw ingredients. The racks were perfectly climbable to someone of Poppy’s size because the sides had metal wire spaced far enough apart for her to climb like a ladder.
Poppy could climb to the top without becoming out of breath anymore, but she stopped halfway up to spoon some grains into her satchel. The grains were held in a giant sack which she’d either untie or stab her small knife into. She tried not to do the latter, however, as it may rouse suspicion. The kitchen staff would blame the holes on mice and subsequently set more traps, which would be a problem for both Poppy and the mice. She tried to be thoughtful.
After gathering some herbs, beans, and even a piece of dry cheese, Poppy descended from the rack and headed back into the kitchen. Then something caught her eye.
Up on one of the tables, countless different fruits were piled high. Apples, pears, plums, and even some of the harder-to-find fruits like oranges and bananas. The castle was located in a temperate climate, so fruits of tropical origins were far and few in between. But, of course, the royal rich bastards had access to them.
Well, Poppy wasn’t about to just stand for this injustice.
It was difficult, but through her years of consistent cardio, Poppy was able to climb up and onto the table by tipping over a broom and sidling up it. Upon reaching the top, she was out of breath and crouching over in an attempt to catch it.
The hardest part was over, now she just needed to do some carving. First, she stabbed her knife into the apple and cut out a small chunk. Poppy relished the sweet familiarity of it. It’d been so long since she’d had fresh fruit. Next, she eyed the more unfamiliar options, like the oranges and other brightly-colored and exotic ones which she had no name for.
She’d tasted an orange once before, and it was still tangy enough to make her lips pucker just like she remembered. Next, however, was this large, beige-looking one with spiky green hair. Poppy looked doubtfully at its thick skin and wasn’t at all surprised when her knife barely sunk into it. She frowned and attempted to remove her knife, but it simply wouldn’t budge. Poppy pulled and yanked on it, but she must have stabbed the fruit harder than she thought.
She backed away for a moment, her hands on her hips, and frowned at the fruit. She needed her knife; it wasn’t just something she could abandon. Not to mention, what would the giants think when they saw a tiny knife planted into one of their fruit? They’d be suspicious!
Poppy groaned and turned around in a frustrated circle, only to pause halfway. Her eyes widened into dinner plates as she looked up and swallowed the shriek that built up inside her. She bolted for the broom handle, but something slammed down atop her and she ran into a clear wall.
Poppy bounced off the cool surface and collapsed to the ground. She rubbed her tender forehead.
Large green eyes loomed closer and ogled at her from through the glass. “What the hell,” the giant murmured, “are you?”
Poppy swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. A giant caught her in a glass jar of all things, like a child catching a firefly. How humiliating. Was she going to be dissected for her internal organs? Or perhaps pinned to a wall like in one of those horrendous bug collections she’d heard of?
Then she noticed something. Those piercing green eyes and pale blonde hair. The crest pinned to the lapel of his expensive-looking jacket. It was the same face she’d seen painted in countless portraits across the castle. Poppy could hear her own heartbeat pounding in her ears as she realized this wasn’t any giant, but the crown prince to the Gorryth Empire.
Prince Kai observed her with keen intellect. If Poppy remembered correctly, he was the cunning one of the princes and the eldest of three. She appreciated that he was no longer gawking at her, but somehow the speculative look of curiosity now on his face was more disturbing.
“I apologize,” the prince said, effectively catching Poppy by surprise. “I accidentally used informal language in front of a lady, and that’s not how I was brought up.”
Poppy blinked at him. This boy trapped her in a jar just now and he was apologizing for his language? The royals sure did know where to place their priorities.