Awakened

By , Clayton, OH
I sit on mama’s wooden stool as she clasps the silver necklace around my neck. It reaches just between my collarbones. When it made contact with my skin I felt it burning. Not just my skin, but it looks like it was melting, becoming some form of liquid. Green liquid. Like the forest trees melting and becoming one. It starts to hum softly and I touch it, willing it to calm down. I look at the emeralds that frame the mirror beheld in front of me. The necklace has a series of webs that fold together in an intricate pattern, catching the light of the candles that are lit about the room in a striking way. From the way the stone looks like I can tell it’s a chrysoprase. I glance at mother. Her face shows sadness mingled with contentment. At that day, I never knew what that expression that fell across her face meant. When I was of the age 4, I thought that everything was a fairy tail. A reverie told by many of the wise men in the kingdom. The way I would watch mama brushing her hair slowly with silky consistency made me feel so unworthy. The way every move she makes, she takes them with a sudden elegance. Now I know exactly why she is the queen. The highest to the kingdom. Second to papa, the king. It never occurred to me to compare her beauty with mine. From what papa would whisper to me at the night, I knew that I had her eyes. The same startling forest- green eyes that seem to captivate anyone within distance.
The way she would dress up for the ball with papa still held my reminiscence. How he would take her in his arms and dance to the moon light. There was nothing more pure about the love that flowed into that ballroom that night. From that day on I became enthralled by their beauty and dedication to the kingdom. My unadulterated little heart had no proposal for what would soon become of it. All I had to hold on to, with little faith was the talisman that hung around my soft neck, embracing all power that it contains.










CHAPTER ONE



I lie on the green pastures that encircle the kingdom. I remember this from when I was a kid. The way I would lay on the sun-kissed earth and papa would pick me up and reel me around until I screech in mirth. The dandelions prickle at my nose. I remember distantly that I would come here with mama and pick the dandelions that have long been passed and kiss them, hoping that they would become well again. Even though I knew that that would probably never occur, I still hoped.

A horn blares somewhere off of the kingdoms tower, signaling that it is almost time for supper. I jump up and grab a fist full of my green gown that has a net of lace on it and run towards the garden.
The garden. My garden. Mama’s garden. The awe that rushes to me is still raw as I look at the beautiful display. After being here for years, I still can not hide the astonishment that bubbles up in my throat as I look across the landscape. To my right are lady’s hook, Bougainvillea, clematis, cypress vine, and Dutchman’s pipe, forsythia, and morning glory plants. To my left are virgin’s bower, Chinese wisteria, woodbine, trumpet honeysuckle, periwinkle, and passion flower. When I say that there are many vines and climbing plants, I am not being melodramatic. At the very back are poisonous plants. I asked mama why she kept them there and she said that all flowers are beautiful. Whether or not we are aloud to eat or touch some of them. The most stunning plant is the primrose. It’s yellow, which is my favorite color. Mama always said that these poisonous plants are like me. Beautiful on the outside but dangerous on the inside. I asked her what she meant by that and she said that I have a talent. I keep things hidden from view and if roused I spread my venomous strike at all things evil. She said it’s a gift that I inherited from her. Anything inherited from her, good or bad, is my haven. Everything that this kingdom holds is sacred. I was raised among all of these plants, so I know everyone of them as a memory. These creations are what my mother holds dearest, among the kingdom, her kids, and papa.

I walk through the garden, with steady steps, so as to not crush any of the plants. A European earwig climbs on my finger as I brush my fingers across clematis. Lifting my face to examine the insect, I whisper, “Hey little guy.” As if alarmed by my voice it jumps off my finger, narrowly missing my nose. I walk over the little pond and kneel down watching the frogs leap from lily pad to lily pad.

The horn plays again, signaling that there is five minutes to spare till supper. I jump, anxious by my own clumsiness to time. I walk as fast as I can, without tarnishing the plants, to the doors. I climb the wall by setting my foot against the tree branch and climb onto the threshold to my balcony. Papa would scold me for climbing. He says it is not a lady-like thing to do. But I take pride in balance. Opening the doors, I step in, examining my gown at the mirror surrounded by emeralds. I brush my hair and hold it up with a sapphire barrette. Next to my jewelry box, is a separate box. It is emblazed by dark red ribbons and white pearls. Inside is what I like to call a talisman. It is my most priced possession. Mama gave it to me when I was really young. Even though I know it probably does not have any special gifts, I shall still call it a talisman. Because anything given to me by mama is magical.

Somebody knocks softly on my door. “Come in.” I say as I clip the last barrette, which is the color of jade, to the back of my head.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, my lady, but it is due time for supper. We must hurry, for we will be late.” One of mama’s maids informs me, curtsying. I straighten up a bit and look around my room. The mantel and fire place is unlit, my bed, which is made up of ancient black oak, sunk skillfully to the floor. Its four posts hang with red and black draperies. There is a window at the very left that shines a twilight glow into my bedroom. Everything is ensuring. Even though we have maids to tend the dirty rooms, I still take pleasure in cleaning up anything that feels out of place. Aretha, one of mama’s maids, insists on doing all the work. But I just brush her off. Taking care of things is my way of behaving like a lady.

We walk down the hall that is made of marble. Gold and purple embroidered walls in a beautiful way. On top of me are chandeliers. All hanging down. They are too far for me to reach and too far for papa to reach. But I still hold great interest in them. The way that the light captures one speck of diamond and it shines upon anyone within reach. Turning another corridor we come to the head of some stairs.

I grab my gown and trek down the stairs. Slowly. For I do not forget what happened when I was very little. Every step I take, I take cautiously. When everyone is in view, I look down. Everyone looks at me and gawks. I have gotten used to this. This is the way I imagine mama feels in the presence of everyone. I take no heed in the attention. The tables are set with all kinds of foods. At the very front is a harpist. Papa meets me at the bottom of the stairs and kisses my hand. Mama’s maid curtsies formally and walks off to sit with the rest of her family. This consists of papa’s second man, which is her husband, and her son of 3 years old.

Papa leads me to the front. Where all the tables are set. Mama leans down to kiss me on the cheek when we arrive. She is wearing a black gown, embellished with silver linings. Her hair is pulled up delicately and braided inward. As always, she is beautiful. She smiles her startling smile and she and papa sit on the two chairs up front. I take a seat next to my cousin Barathelew. He is of the age 16, so he is older that me for a year. But I still take bliss that I am more of a scholar. I have to say that he is the only thing close to a sibling and I treasure him much. His parents died in a carriage and papa thought that it was his duty to take care of Barathelew because it is his brother’s son. So now Barathelew stays at the palace.

“Good evening, lady?” He says bowing his head slightly. As he, also, takes his seat.

“Good evening, Barathelew?” I whisper. “You don’t have to call me lady. Or bow.”

“I know that.” He mocks.

Papa announces that it is now time to eat. The harpist plays a ballad that I can not make of but I find it peaceful and beautiful.

On the table are all types of foods. From red grapes, meats, wine, rice, and seeds. I take no part in eating the meat of an animal, so I put some grapes, rice and some seeds on my plate. I take a sip of my wine and glance at Barathelew. He is eating the meat very ravenously. I look at him disgusted and go back to eating my rice.

The harpist switches to another ancient ballad. But this one is more forceful. It reminds me of some sailors trying to catch a fish. The hard work put in to it is what makes the harp play vigorous. I finish eating my grapes and the song that comes in next is a smooth song. It reminds me of the lullaby mama would sing for me as I slept. People start to gather at the center of the room and dance.
A boy reaches at my side. He is a few years older than me for what I can forecast. On his face is a mask. A Gold mask with black lining. Not the lady masks that you have to keep hold to your face but the ones that tie at the back of your head. He bows and kisses my hand. His dark hair brushes my wrist slightly. He is wearing a splendid topaz coat with a wide revere all admirably embellished with gold and red curls. A moon colored lace cravat at his throat. He also has on some luminous shoes with hoary colored clasps.

“My lady, do you care to dance with me?” I glance at Barathelew. He looks like he’s containing a scornful laugh. I have been asked by many boys to dance but none of them have been this prince-like. Or none-the-less worn a mask unless there is a costume party.

The boy escorts me to the center of the room. I put my hands on his neck and he places his on my waist.

“What is you name?” I ask, staring at his intriguing mask.

“Gregory,” He blushes. “What’s your name?”

I laugh, “Is that a joke? You have to know my name.” He looks at me questioningly. Does he mean to say that he doesn’t know that I’m going to be a princess soon? Perhaps not. “Zara.” I touch his cheek with my left hand. We sway slowly. He blushes at the contact. “You’re shy.” I say.

“Thank you for dancing with me.” He says, not looking me in the eye but looking at my forehead.

“Well I’m glad you asked me.” I say lifting my head so he is forced to look me in the eye. His eyes are a startling gray inside the mask. I gasp.

“Is everything okay?” he whispers franticly.

“Beautiful.” I murmur, touching his cheek again. My hand goes warm touching his face.

“Excuse me?” he asks, swaying me again.

“Your eyes are beautiful.” I say staring at them. He lowers them.

“Thank you.” He mumbles.

“Do you live at the kingdom?” I wonder, because surely I have never seen him around before.

“No. I’m just visiting.” He says cautiously.

“Oh. Do you like it here?

“Yes. I noticed as I first got here that you had flowers everywhere. On windowsills and some near the gate.”

“Yeah. It’s been said that flowers have an aura that makes you happy automatically, well, unless the flower reminds you of something. But otherwise, it attracts onlookers. That is mostly why people provide flowers to the ill.”
“Wow. You know a lot about your flowers.” He says amused.

“You should come and see the garden. It’s really pretty.”

The next song is a fast song. It feels like someone trying to run away from something frightening. Gregory searches my face to see if I want to dance again. I smile and we break slightly apart. Except for one of my hands on his neck and the other extended sideways to meet his. As the song gets more drastic he raises my arm high and twirls me around. I stifle a laugh. As the song ends he dips me and smiles at me. He grabs my hand and kisses it again but this time with more feeling.
“I would love to see the garden. Where is it held?”
“An hour after supper, meet me in the courtyard and I’ll show you.” I say
I curtsy and we depart. My face feels flushed and my body feels jumpy. I walk to where Barathelew is sitting, drinking some wine. When I come to sit next to him, he laughs and almost chokes on his wine. I narrow my eyes at him.

“What are you laughing at!?” I cry. He just shakes his head.

“That was active. Be careful, Zara. Don’t guide him. You’ll just break his heart.” He says care freely drinking the rest of his wine.

“Oh stop your riffraff!” I spit. “I was not guiding him.”

“’Your eyes are beautiful,’” He ridicules. “’You should come and see the garden. It’s really pretty.’”

“How did you hear that?”

“Ears like a hawk, my lady, ears like a hawk,” He says getting up and brushing off invisible food from his coat. “I must leave now. Thank you for you presence.” He trots up the stairs with the rest of the people and disappears somewhere in the hall.

I rush to my room and brush my hair out. I open the door to my balcony and step on the tree branch. I can see Gregory below me. He still has his mask on. As I jump from the last tree branch, he yelps.

“You frightened me!” He says, laughing.

“You ready to see the most magnificent garden.” I say enthusiastic.

“Sure am!” I lead the way around the trees to the garden. He gasps when it comes in view.

“Impressed?” I ask, raising my eyebrows.

“Am I.” he says, eagerly.

“Ok. I’ll spare you all the details of what the flowers are called. Here to the left and right are vine and climbing plants,” I explain. “This orange plant with bristles is called a hop. It’s used for flavoring wine, and it helps in medication. This here is a lady’s cook. It also is used for medicine. I can go on forever but I will just tell you the important ones. The ones in the back are poisonous. These over here cause skin irritation when touched and these over here are poisonous when eaten. This is the primrose,” I say, pointing at my favorite one. He just nods. “It is an herb. But never shall a man eat it. It can come in various colors. Like yellow, white, or red.”

“It’s really pretty.”

“I know. It’s my favorite,” I say. “And this over here is our pond .The little frogs leaping from lily pad to lily pad.” A butterfly lands on his hand. He holds very still.

“It’s okay. That’s a wood nymph. They are my favorite. You want to think that its color is gold when you see It.” it flies swiftly away.

“Wow! I don’t know what to say. I wish my kingdom was this nice? Our garden isn’t half as nice as this.” He sniffles.

“When are you going back?” I asked.

“When the moon appears.” He says reluctantly.

“So soon?” I cry.

“Yeah,” He looks down at his shoes. “Thank you for showing me this.”

“No problem.” We start to walk and when we reach the threshold, he kisses my hand and walks inside. I climb my tree and jump onto the balcony. Once inside I lay on my bed. I really wish he wasn’t leaving.














CHAPTER TWO


As I slowly start to sleep someone knocks on my door. “Come in.” I say, sitting up. Mama opens the door slowly and walks over to kiss me on my forehead. She opens the box with the talisman in it and takes it out. It gleams unearthly at her touch. And it seems to light up the whole room. I jump up and look into her hands. The stone throbs as if it is a beating heart.

“What is happening, mama?” I whisper, frightened.

“It is time, my dear one,” she says, taking my hand with her free hand and sitting me down next to her on the bed. “You have matured enough to hold the secret. This is a day that is of importance for you and us all. This may frighten you a bit, but I want you to find strength from within.” She says, placing the stone in my hand. It stops throbbing.

“What happened to it?” I ask, disappointed.

“You have to look inside yourself.” She declares.

“How?” I inquire.

“Remember when you were small and I gave this stone to you?” She asks

“Yes.”

“Remember how you felt when I placed it on you neck?” she asks. “Well, I want you to bring that memory back and imagine how it felt again.”

I recall the way it was humming and the way it would burn within itself. I squeeze the stone in my hand and shut my eyes. ‘I felt it burning. Not just my skin, but it looks like it was melting, becoming some form of liquid. Green liquid. Like the forest trees melting and becoming one. It starts to hum softly and I touch it, willing it to calm down. I look at the emeralds that frame the mirror beheld in front of me. The necklace has a series of webs that fold together in an intricate pattern, catching the light of the candles that are lit about the room in a striking way. From the way the stone looks like I can tell it’s a chrysoprase.’

I open my eyes and look at the stone in my hand. Sure enough it’s throbbing. Like a pounding membrane. I stare at the stone and I feel a hot bright flash of pain from the liquid. My head goes light and my ears pump. I can feel my whole body shattering. Mama holds me in her arms and I feel my heart beating in unison with the stone. I open my eyes and the whole room is a soft green color. My mind goes to a land. For which I can not see but I can surely feel. The dampness of the air captivates me. I don’t know how long I stood in that land for when I went back to my body I was lying down in my bed. Mama brushes my hair from my face and kisses my forehead.

“What just happened?” I tremble.

“You’ve become a woman. I now trust you as myself.” She purrs.

“What?” I ask, flabbergasted. “As to where be me just now?”

“You were in a purifying city. The dampness of the air was to cleanse you from within. Things may not seem understandable right now, but I believe you will be strong and overcome all the challenges.”

“Challenges?” I ask, drowsily.

“Yes. The power that has been given to you must be held carefully.”

“So the stone really is a talisman?” I ask, hoarsely.

“Yes and no. You already had the power but this just adds to it. Makes you stronger, shall I say.” She says. Surprisingly, I believe her. Now if Barathelew were to tell me that I possess a special power I would have called him silly.

“Why do I need the power?” I ask.

“Darkness will soon fall upon us and you will be sent to save it.” She says holding my hands in hers.

“Darkness?” I whimper.

“Yes. But no need to worry as of this time,” She says. “You are going to Chapdelaine Kingdom to meet a prince.” She says. My stomach churns.

“Prince? So soon?” I ask.

“No worries. You don’t have to marry him.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about. I’ll have to leave you to live at their palace wont I?” I ask, sitting up.

“You’ll visit us very soon.” She says, her eyes shadowed.

“Ok,” I say, biting my lip. I will not cry in front of her. I will show how unworthy I am about the gift she gave me. “Which prince? And what kingdom?”

“You’ll see.” I look at my hands.

“What about the gift? How will I know how to use it when darkness befalls upon us?”

“Oh, my dear Zara. You will be prepared. It will be in you blood and you’ll act instinctively.”

“What kind of darkness?”

“I should not have mentioned it. You will know, now get some sleep. We have a long trip tomorrow.”

“But—“

“Goodnight.” She says, kissing me on my forehead. She lights a candle and places it on the windowsill, turning off the lights.

“Wait, what long trip?” I ask fast.

“To meet a prince for you, dear one. Now get some sleep.”

“Goodnight!” I blurt as she closes the door.













CHAPTER THREE







I fall asleep very fast and before I know it, its morning. I climb out of bed and examine what I’m wearing. Mama must have helped me into a nightgown before I went to bed because I do not recall wearing thing last night.

I lavish in the bathing tub, washing myself with lilac perfumed soap and massaging shampoo into my tangled hair. I always take bliss in bathing because it feels like washing off all of the sadness and draining it. But of coarse that doesn’t really happen because I still get sad, but it’s a small start. Especially because I am to leave today to search for a prince.

I dry off and comb my hair as one of the maids come in with a dress over her arm. It is a startling color of green and the laces are black. The maid puts a shift of silky white muslin over my head then the beautiful dress. She laces the tight bodice of the gown down my front and curtsies.

“Thank you,” I say. She blinks surprised and walks to the door. “Wait! Would you like to do my hair.” I know that this maid has always loved to do my hair. She makes it really pretty. Probably prettier than I could do myself. She gushes and nods. I smile at her. I really hate to think of her as my maid. I think she should be a lady. She seems about 20 years old. The way her hair is carefully put up in the morning only to be ruined in the afternoon is earth shattering. She has a petite body and a heart shaped face. From my judgment, I think she should be a princess. Or at least someone of higher power than a maid.

She loosens my hair and with a little entwining she pulls it back at the front and braids the back leaving the rest to gush over my shoulders.

She steps back to examine her work and turns me around to face the mirror.

“Oh!” I gasp. She laughs.

“You look wonderful, my lady.

“Thank you so much!”

“Would you like some powder?” she wonders.

“If you put it on. Do what ever you want. Those hands of yours are pure wonders.” I say in admiration, touching my hair softly.

She picks up a can of powder and lightly puffs at my cheeks and she sprays a cloud of mist that smells slightly like jasmine. I thank her again and she stalks off. Clearly proud of herself. I don’t get why other people don’t treat her like this. It seems like she is not always proud of her work. I personally think she is the best out of all the maids.

I walk out of the room and turn a corner and look upon the balcony. The sun has almost set, sending little light across the courtyard. I can see about five carriages set below for the trip. Swallowing my fear and anxiety, I trot down the hall till I came to the head of the white stairs. I hike down the stairs, grabbing a fist full of my dress. My slippers make a soft clink on the stairs as I walk. When I come in view, everyone starts to clap. I blush a little bit and wave at them with my free hand. At the bottom of the stairs papa takes my hand and leads me to the platform and up the two thin steps to the table where we sit.

Papa sits down next to mama in the middle and I take a seat across from Barathelew who looks at me appraisingly

“What!” I say.

“Nothing, nothing.” He teases.

“You have something to say, so say it!” I cry.

“Ok. So you’re going to meet your prince right?” I nod. “What are you going to do about Gregory?” my heart stops.

“Well... I’m sure he’ll find some other girl. And he left so he probably won’t remember me.

“I sure hope you’re right!” He taunts.

“Stop it!” I hiss, slapping his arm. “Anyways. Why are you not wishing me farewell. I am sure to be gone for a while.”

“Goodbye my lady.” He says kissing my hand. I whack his nose slightly.

“Thank you. But I tell you Barathelew, if you call me lady one more time you will meet a sorrowful fate.” I threat.

“Ok. Let us rewind. Goodbye my Zara.” He says kissing my hand again.” I sigh. “What? I did what you said!” he laughs.

“Child!” I cough.

Father signals that we shall be leaving very soon so I finish my glass of apple juice and stand up. Barathelew gets up with me and we walk up to the threshold. Everyone gathers up to wish me luck and departure.

Mama’s maid, the one who did my hair this morning, brings my baggage and stores them in one of the carriages. I wait for her to turn around and when she does she jumps a little. She curtsies.

“Goodbye,” She says. “My lady!”

I laugh. “I never got you name.” I point out.

“Mirabelle.” She says, her eyes on her feet.

“That’s a pretty name. I’ll remember you. Oh. Thanks again for all you’ve done.” I say. She blushes and curtsies again, jumping away.

“Look how you dazzle everyone.” Barathelew says from behind me. I jump, not realizing he was there.

“Come here!” I say, grabbing his head and kissing his forehead. He laughs then pretends to act disgusted.

“I’ll miss you Barathelew.” I say. He rolls his eyes and hugs me.



I wave to everyone else as I walk and papa helps me into one of the carriages. Mama gets in after me and we say goodbye to papa. I asked papa why he couldn’t come with us and he said that someone has to stay to take care of the palace. We continue waving till we’re in town. I fall asleep very face because of the constant carefree chattering of mama and papa and the horse’s clacking.

I wake up to my stomach grumbling. I find my head on mama’s lap. I sit up and mama asks, “Hungry?” I nod sleepily. She reaches behind her and grabs a bag. She fishes out some bread with butter and hands it to me. Then she pours the porridge in a little cup. I thank her and watch the road.

“Are we almost there?” I ask.
“One more hour.” She says. One more hour. I can do this.

I finish the food and watch the road again. We brake through the opaque wrap of the forest and now we are in a narrow road that has bumpy little hills.

Slowly the scene starts to look more like a city and people that are walking look behind and wave. We wave back and keep going.

As we emerged from the narrow roads, a palace came into view. Similar to a giant foreign being. It’s highest point intensifying up to run through the cloth of the sky. I gasp.

“Is this where he lives?” I ask all flabbergasted.

“Sure is.” Mama says. The carriage goes around a bend and enters the palace’s gates. When we arrive there is a crowd of bystanders waving to us with eager faces. I blush.

“I can’t do this!” I say frightened.

“Yes you can. Remember to make eye contact.” Mama says placing both of her warm hands on my face. Somehow that touch calms me and with a quick flick of my hair, I prepare to show off my confidence.

The carriage rider opens the door to mama and as soon as her foot reaches the ground, applauses boom across the palace. She smiles all confident and the applauses get louder. Wow. I don’t think everyone will clap that much for me. The rider extends a hand for me too and I take it hesitantly. I grab my dress and step out. Nobody claps. Just utter silence. Even the birds up above are louder than these people, then the loudest sound comes. Everyone starts screaming and clapping. It surprises me so much that I jump and almost trip on my dress as I walk, but the rider catches my hand. I silently thank him and wave to everyone. Little girls gush at how pretty my dress is. Some of them even start to cry. Saying that they want to be princesses. All around me people whisper and gasp.

“Isn’t she adorable?”

“Startling.”

“Look at that earth shattering smile!”

“The prince will have his hands full with that lad.”

I blush and wave to them, blowing everyone kisses as we walk. Roses and all types of flowers land on my feet and I have to carefully grab my dress and walk over them. I smile again at the crowd and walk over the entrance. But before I get inside, the rider picks up a two roses and hands it to me and mama. I smile and inhale it. The smell reminds me of home already. The door opens for us and the crowd inside is even bigger than that of outside. They are all forming a straight line for us to go through. I remember mama saying that I have to make eye contact but the only thing that my eyes are trained to is the ceiling. The chandelier is mountains high and the color reminds me of the moonstone in my jewelry box. The walls are the color of onyx, the dark brown color that wants to trick you to saying its black. The walls are also overstated with topaz into a delicate pattern. I tear my eyes away from the room and smile to the people. More roses get thrown to the floor so mama and I lift our dresses to walk over them carefully. I make eye contact with some people who, when looking at me, look like they are about to faint.

When we reach a corridor, a maid who has her hair held up intricately curtsies to mama.
“Lady Felinda.” She says to mama over the noise. She curtsies to me. “Princess. Good evening. Supper shall be held at the dining hall. There you will meet our royal family. Shall I show you your rooms?” we nod and she takes us up a smooth white staircase. I glance behind me to find the rider—who is wearing black and gold, the royal colors of our kingdom.

From the way he looks all around us, as if to see for any danger, it looks like he is more of our guard than our rider. As we journey up the stairs, we step into a gold foyer. The halls are very beautiful but the only thing that’s missing is the chandeliers. As a substitute, there are about a million candles standing next to each other only inches apart. Those candles alone are enough to light the whole hall.

The doors to the rooms are all parallel to each other. The maid walks us to the one at the very corner.”Princess.” She says as she opens the door to reveal a bedroom. Unlike the room back home, the bed is made up of brown ancient brown oak; it is not sunk to the floor. Its four draperies hand with black and yellow draperies. It has a balcony that overlooks the courtyard. As the driver stands in attention behind the door, I walk in and open the door.

“Lady Felinda,” the maid calls mama. “Right this way to your room.” I look at mama and she puts up one finger, signaling that she’ll be just a second. I open the door to the balcony fully now and see what it over it. Sure enough, a tree is under it. It’s kind of a tall tree so it will be a challenge to climb in and off it. Sadly, there isn’t a garden down there. I’ll have to ask the prince if I can build a garden in honor of mama and myself.

I lie on the bed, testing the mattress. It has a memory foam feel and the room smells like vanilla bean. I walk outside and try to think where my mom is staying. I really don’t feel like waiting for her to come and get me. All the bedroom doors are closed and I’m starting to think that nobody is behind them. Much less sleep in them. The hallways are unvoiced and the candles flicker as I walk.

I hear footsteps somewhere and I get a speck of hope. Maybe mama is on her way here. As I round the corner I find out that it’s not mama.

He looks a few years older than me and slightly familiar. He stops in his tracks when he sees me.

“You.” He says.

“Me,” I laugh weakly. “Do I know you?” he studies my face.

He shrugs, “I guess not in technique sense.. At least not yet, now that you’ll be living here.” That voice…

“Princess.” Somebody calls from behind. I turn around and find the maid waving at me. When she sees the guy I was talking to, she curtsies. I glance back at him and he smiles a shy blushingly smile and walks back to wherever he just came from. I turn around and see the maid.

“Your mother requests for you.” She announces. I walk over to her and let her lead me to a room that looks exactly like mine except it has green and red draperies and the walls are a cream color.

“Can I have your name?” I ask the maid who is clearly taken aback.

“Anne.” She says cautiously, as if I might, any second, pounce on her.

“Thank you Anne.” I say and she smiles.

“Tell me if you need anything.”

I walk over to where mama is, on the balcony. When she sees me she bursts out crying. My heart just about stops. I’ve never seen her vulnerable like this since that day she gave me the talisman. I start to cry too. She pulls me into a hug that reminds me so much of when I was little. The way I would cuddle up in her arms when I would accidentally touch one of the poisonous plants. I remember the way she would put a weird mixture of her carefree plants on my hand. Those memories come rushing back to me at record speed.

“Stop crying mama.” I cry.

“My dear,” She sobs as I hold her tighter. “Everything is all right. I will just miss you is all.”

“I’ll miss you too, mama,” And this time the tears come faster and more forceful. “You’ll stay for a while before you leave right?”

“I will. But not for long.”

“How long is not long?” I sniffle. Why must I be so weak?

“Till you get settled and meet everyone.”

“That could be today!” I cry.

“I’ll stay more than one day, my child.”

“Will you teach me more about this gift?” I ask, changing the subject.

“Teach you I will. Time, we have not much. But you will learn.”

“When is the war?” I ask, my voice sounding like that of a child.

“There is no war. Just darkness. I don’t want you to worry about it,” She kisses my forehead and then my cheek. “When time comes, you will know. And these special gifts will come to you slowly and you’ll feel it from deep in your core. But for right now, we have a kingdom to impress. As well as a prince.” She takes my hand and directs me her bed. Her small bag of luggage lies on top of the bed and she picks it up to find a handkerchief. She wipes at my eyes and then wipes hers. When she is done, she pulls out a tin and in it is some powder. She puffs a little on my cheeks and some on hers. She takes out a brush and carefully removes the braids from my hair and makes new ones.

Anne knocks on the door and mama answers it.

“It is time for supper.” Anne announces. No bell or horn? Mama offers her hand and I take it as we make our way down the candle-lit halls. When we reach the grand staircase Anne says, “Follow those stairs and you’ll meet my sister. She’ll take care of you from there.” Mama says thank you and holding our skirts, we trail down the stairs.

As if on cue, someone with a deep loud voice says, “Here ye. All people of Amaranth. We have been granted a princess from Laranethia.” I pause in the middle of the stairs. A few more steps and everyone will be able to see me. Mama, who was behind me, nudges me a little bit. I look at her and find the driver behind her. He has his eyes set as if detecting for danger. I swallow my fear and nervousness and take the rest of the steps. When I come into view,





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