This story does not have a prompt, but was inspired by the matchmaker scene in Disney’s animated Mulan. Written 9 June 2020
She sat quietly as her mother combed her hair and her sister painted her face.
“Don’t be nervous. The matchmaker is fair.” said her mother. “She isn’t cruel.”
“She’s quite judgmental.” her sister noted.
“That is her job, isn’t it?” she replied. Her sister giggled.
“She has to be, dear. If the men are unhappy with the match, it affects her livelihood.” their mother said. The girls looked at each other and shrugged.
Her mother and sister finished at the same time, and she stood. She was given a beaded necklace and a carved belt to pull her robes in at the waist. The many layers trailed behind her, and her mother gathered them up to keep them clean as they walked outside to the waiting carriage. She hugged her mother and sister, then stepped into the matchmaker’s carriage.
She said nothing during the ride, and only broke her silence to thank the servants who helped her out of the carriage. They led her to the matchmaker, who was sitting cross legged at a low table. She was a wiry woman, wearing layers of light fabric in muted colors. Her eyes made their way slowly up her gown and over her painted face.
“Sit, child.” The matchmaker beckoned in a reedy voice. She was careful to keep her back straight as she gently arranged her skirt under her. “Tea, please. For myself and you. Milk, no sugar.”
She obeyed, pouring the tea and leaving her own unaltered.
“No sugar?” asked the matchmaker.
“I prefer to taste it plain first.” she replied, taking a sip.
The matchmaker seemed pleased. “What sort of husband do you wish for?” she asked.
She started. She had been under the impression that she had no choice in the matter. “I merely wish to please my family.” she said.
“A diplomatic answer.” she mused. “Do you fear me, child?”
“I think I would be a fool to not be nervous.”
“You seek to impress me.”
“I seek a good match, nothing more.”
The matchmaker nodded. “Are you aware of anyone wishing to court you?” She held out her cup, and the girl poured her more tea.
“Are you practiced in magic?”
“Small charms and enchantments, madam.”
“You sew and cook?”
The questioning continued, all the while she served the matchmaker, keeping her hands in her lap at all other times.
Eventually the matchmaker stood. “We are done. You will be sent home in my carriage.”
She stood as well, bowing to the matchmaker before turning to leave.
At home, she was pressed for details over dinner, and she did her best to sate their curiosity. She and her sister cleaned up after the meal, and when that was done, she told her sister she was going for a walk in the garden square.
“Don’t be too late!” her sister called after her.
She skirted the well tended labyrinth and made her way to the edge of the forest as the sun began to set. She squeezed through dense brush into a hidden clearing, where a broad man waited, pacing. He rushed to her as she entered.
“You went to the matchmaker today.” He said as he embraced her.
“Did you tell her?” he asked.
“I told her I knew of no one wishing to court me.” he smiled.
“And your preference of husband?” he prodded.
She put on a sickly sweet face and said demurely, “Merely one that will please my family.”
He grinned. “It is a good match.” he assured her.
Her smile wavered. “And if it doesn’t work?”
He took her hand. “No matter what happens, I will come for you, my love.” They embraced once more, and she hurried out of the clearing to get home.