Before she is queen of the dolls, Clara has to be promised for a year and a day.

Because this is not to be rushed, this marriage between the clockmakers son and the young ballerina. The future monarchs of a kingdom that nobody can ever visit while awake.

But they share a connection, so strong now that her eyes need not be closed for her to see him. He appears to her like a ghost sometimes, a figment of her imagination that watches her from afar, playing at the piano during the midday hours in january – christmas over, but the frost still making the windows of their large house dim and spiderwebbed. Pieces of sugar can still be found in the bottom of the glass cabinet, glittering in the light. Her playing at the piano is hardly perfect, but she has been taught well.

Her emotions have always been at the forefront of everything, especially when she dances. Now when she plays the piano, the songs she has memorized during her many obligatory lessons no longer sound repetative or forced, but simply flow from her fingertips – like the music lives in her hands.

When her parents comment on it, telling her what a perfect lady she is maturing into, she smiles but says nothing. He is clapping after her performance, but it makes no sound – not even audible to her ears.

Meanwhile, her golden hair has stopped growing.