Because of the father's overwhelming love for his younger daughter, he carried her away from her mother and her older sibling, and in a distant land he held her in a series of towers and caves, castles and keeps. As the younger's childhood waned he began to suspect that her most beautiful day was soon to arrive, and by his unlimited resources he commissioned great dresses, one for each day, but without the fashionable girdles that might confuse her shape or give it to him falsely—he wanted, he said, only to see her exactly as she was. In each consecutive dress she was more lovely than in the dress before, a terror he soon could not stand, because while each day's showing had brought him more joy, he knew there would come a day when the next would bring him less. And because he could not live with this knowledge he sent her away from him, or else not away but up, but down, into taller towers and deeper keeps, where the showings would continue without him, held before flawless mirrors bought at the younger's demand, for she too had come to love the lace and the stockings, the heels and the necklaces, was almost stupid with vanity, her father thought—but where he also thought he would not have to watch her as she learned, one day, to lessen.

Matt Bell is the author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods.