In today's story, Rhinestone Princess, a young girl finds beauty in her mom's jewelry box
Today's prompt was inspired by a rhinestone hair clip sitting on my desk. I have no idea if rhinestone princess is a common phrase, but it popped into my head and seemed promising for a freewritten story.
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More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 85 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Rhinestone Princess.
If this is your first time listening, here’s how my process works: First, I choose a writing prompt—or someone suggests one. Then, I sit down and write whatever comes to mind, with no planning and very little editing, and share that story with you.
I stumbled over today’s prompt while sitting at my desk. Well, not literally stumbled, but my fingers did trip over the prompt in a way. See, I was sitting at my desk and letting my gaze drift around the room, waiting for something to jump out and become my writing prompt. As I looked, I began mindlessly fiddling with something I picked up from my desk. When I glanced down, I saw it was a sparkly rhinestone hairclip. Voila.
Or almost voila. I thought rhinestone hairclip was a little boring, or too specific to be a good prompt, so my mind quickly flashed on the phrase rhinestone princess. I have no idea if that’s a common phrase, but it seemed promising, so I went with it.
Here’s the story the came out:
Callie loved looking through her mom’s jewelry box. There were gold and silver pendants hanging from delicate chains, many pairs of earrings, and a short strand of creamy white pearls. There was also a charm bracelet with dangling memories captured and frozen in gold.
The bottom drawer of the velvet-lined jewelry box always stuck a little. With a gentle tug and a rock side to side, it would slide open to show glittering clip-on earrings, two bracelets and two necklaces.
Callie’s mom called the gems rhinestones. Diamonds, she said, were chipped from hard rock in dark caves. While rhinestones were found scattered along the sunny shores of a beautiful river called the Rhine.
It was a half-truth. Callie’s mom didn’t mention that natural rhinestones had been depleted long ago and the jewels in her box were glass and paste. She knew it wouldn’t lessen their sparkle in Callie’s eyes.
Callie would drape the bracelets over her hand and hold them up to catch the light before fastening them around her thin wrists. She’d then ladder both necklaces around her neck, thinking it sad that her mom only ever wore one at a time. Finally, she’d pluck the earrings between her fingers and lightly set their waterfall of gems dancing before clipping them onto her ears.
Sitting in front of her mom’s three-panel mirror, Callie would study the beauty of her bejeweled self with pride. Often, she’d remove one of the necklaces and carefully arrange it over her hair, pretending she was a princess wearing a crown.
Callie begged to wear the rhinestones on every special occasion. Someday, her mom would say, when you’re older. She never said how old older would be.
Finally, when she was thirteen, Callie’s school was hosting an eighth-grade holiday dance. Callie chose a red dress with cap sleeves and a short, full skirt. She begged for a pair of silver high heels, and when her mom said no, she softened the blow by saying Callie could wear her rhinestones. The earrings, one of the bracelets, and one of the necklaces.
Callie had never felt more beautiful or more grown-up, despite her silver flats.
At the dance, Callie saw a lot of pretty dresses and sparkly jewelry. She oohed and aahed with her friends, but secretly felt her mom’s jewelry was the prettiest there.
When Mark Fletcher asked her to slow dance, Callie awkwardly followed him onto the dance floor. With her hands on his shoulders and his on her waist, they swayed and tried to think of things to say.
“You look pretty,” Mark said, darting his eyes at hers before staring vaguely at her mouth and nose.
“Thanks, you do, too,” she answered. Then blushed and said, “Handsome, I mean. Or good? Whatever the guy version of pretty is.”
He laughed and didn’t say anything for what felt like a very long stretch. His eyes dipped below her chin, then quickly back to face.
“That’s a pretty necklace,” he stammered. “Sparkly.”
“They’re rhinestones,” Callie said proudly. “From the Rhine River. Handed down from my mom.”
She didn’t know why she’d added that last part. They were borrowed from her mom, not handed down. But handed down sounded more impressive, like family heirlooms.
“Cool,” Mark said, but Callie noticed a smirk.
“What?” Her jaw clenched as he tried not to laugh.
“Nothing, it’s just—” He stopped, then said. “It’s not like they’re diamonds.”
Callie’s face flushed, as she thought What does Mark Fletcher know about precious jewelry? But it turned out he knew a lot, since his mom and dad owned a jewelry store.
“You know rhinestones are fake, right? Like, not even fancy fakes like CZ. Just glass or something.”
Callie knew no such thing. She also didn’t know what CZ meant. But she did know her mom had said rhinestones come from a beautiful place called the Rhine River, and she believed her mom.
“Maybe some are fake,” she told him hotly. “But these are real rhinestones and they’re better than diamonds dug up in a stupid mine.”
“Yeah, okay,” Mark said quickly, though he clearly didn’t agree.
When the song ended, they separated without a word and went back to their own sides of the school gym. Callie’s friends agreed, no questions asked, when she said he was a jerk. Because they were good friends.
But later, after better dances with boys whose parents did not own jewelry stores, Callie was approached by two friends who had been sent to warn her. Mark was making fun of her. He was calling her the Rhinestone Princess.
“He’s a jerk,” her friends insisted, telling her to ignore him. But Callie didn’t want to ignore him.
She marched right up to Mark, who was standing with a bunch of his friends, and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, she said, “You’re right. I am the Rhinestone Princess. I shine brighter than all the diamonds you’ve ever seen, and you’re lucky I danced with you at all.”
Then she spun on one flat silver heel and flounced away with her friends by her sides.
In later years, Callie thought of that dance and that precious sparkling jewelry. Pride had made her stand up for her mom’s jewelry, even when she’d suspected Mark was right about it. But it was about more than saving face.
In that moment, she’d realized that she didn’t care if her mom’s gems had come from a far-off riverbank or how much they’d cost in a store. She cared that they were pretty and that she loved them, and that was all that mattered.
Long after that night, whenever Callie worried that she wasn’t good enough to do anything she wanted to do, she would picture those sparkling stones hanging around her neck and think, “I’m the Rhinestone Princess. I shine brighter than all the diamonds in the world. I can do anything I want.”
And then, she did.
Thanks for listening. I wasn’t sure where this story was going, but my mom did have rhinestone jewelry I wore to school dances, and I remember how pretty I felt wearing it. I often think it’s strange how we, as a society, place value on certain objects. Like what you like. Enjoy whatever gives you joy, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it.
On that note, if you enjoy Freely Written and think others might, too, please leave a review wherever you listen and share your favorite stories with your friends. While these stories are a fun side project for me, my heart mainly lives in my novels, and I would love for you to check them out. You can learn more at my website: SusanQuilty.com. Links are in the show notes.
Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]