My name is Elizabeth, and I’m a cheater.
Most people will tell you that this is not a good trait, and therefore is not a good introduction. I would point out to them that my sisters were not cheaters and they are dead, while I am a cheater and am alive, which is proof enough that it is a positive trait.
It makes sense. Most people learn to be strong or cheaters, so saying you’re a cheater usually means you’re weak. You’d think that that would be a good thing, since they usually don’t like strong girls, but apparently I’m supposed to be weak and not a cheater and not lose. I imagine that other people are just better at lying than I am.
I learned very early on not to lie. That’s why the Folk killed my little brother, because he told a lie. I suppose that could have made me a compulsive liar, like one of my sisters, but I went in the other direction. I decided: if they are going to make me play their game, I will sit down and play it, and I will follow every rule.
To the letter.
I’m alive because of that. Not because I could win, precisely, though that is what got me out—I saw a way that was supposed to be too small for me, so I starved myself and slipped out. They’re not supposed to let you out after you eat their food, but I didn’t go out through one of the normal doors, so they don’t count me as having left. That was cheating, and I’m proud of it. I went into the Realm younger than anyone else I know, and still managed to wriggle out. They can’t take me from here, unless I’m bad, and so I’m always honest and forthright and clear.
And I cheat. That’s what my eldest sister would have called it, anyway, so that’s what I call it. I make myself look smaller than I am and dirtier than I need to be, though never so much that I don’t look cute. I use what I have. And there’s always someone who’ll give a poor, little, dirty, cute girl food. I’m good at figuring out which one.
The dreams are the hardest.
I wriggled out through a gap in the bars, but that doesn’t count as getting out, so I go back when I sleep. At first, they offered food, but I was smarter than that, this time. Soon enough they started getting meaner.
I travel town to town, on my own to feet, begging food when I can find it, and mourning the parents the Folk took and the siblings they took after. Even with the dreams, it’s better than what happened when I was in the Realm.
My name is Elizabeth, and I’m a cheater. Since I’m a cheater, I’ll never win, never prosper, but since I’m a cheater, I’m alive and I’m out.
I’ll take that trade.