a modern princess learning to open up and love
I was woken by the sound of someone banging on my door. I groaned as I tossed my pillow over my head trying to drown out the sound. I looked at the clock on my nightstand. Eight o’clock flashed at me in red. The pounding resumed, more determined than before. I groaned again and rose from my bed. Someone must have a death wish, I thought.
I threw the door open. My half-sister, Joy, pushed her way into my room before I could protest. I sighed. This ought to be good. If Joy was waking me up this early then something must be wrong.
“I don’t remember asking for a wake-up call,” I said coldly.
“Father sent me to get you,” she explained.
“And why didn’t he send a servant?” I asked as I crawled back into bed. I didn’t fall asleep until five last night. So, I am in no mood for this crap.
“Because he knew that you’re not the most pleasant person in the morning,” she retorted. “Now get dressed.”
She snatched the covers off my bed. I shivered at the blast of cold air that hit my bare legs. This is what I get for wearing shorts to bed. I reluctantly rose from my bed again. I let loose a string of curses under my breath as I went to my wardrobe. I skimmed through the clothes, finally deciding on a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. I was tugging my pants on when my sister said the most horrifying thing.
“Father has a surprise for you.”
My father is terrible at giving surprises. And only with me. Five years ago he gave me a baby to take care of. He thought it would be a good lesson for the future. Don’t get me wrong I love Kevin, but seriously? Who gives a twelve-year-old a child? And okay the baby was abandon but still. After raising Kevin I decided that I ain’t having any kids. That is just too much work. And I don’t like to work hard. It makes me sleepy. But that is beside the point. The point is that if Father had a surprise for me it is best to assume the worst. I bet it’s an arranged marriage.
“You should probably wear a dress,” Joy suggested, seeing that I dressed casually.
I snorted. “This is the twenty-first century.” I pulled on my sneakers. “Just because I’m a princess doesn’t mean that I have to dress like a damsel in distress.”
“You know Father’s going to be mad,” she retorted. “You know he’s still mad because you added purple streaks to your hair.”
“Father is always mad when it comes to me.” I wasn’t bad-mouthing my father. I’m just stating a fact.
“Why must you antagonize him?” Joy sighed.
“Why must he try to change me?” I countered.
Joy opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by Kevin, my adopted son, bursting through my door. He made a beeline for me and crashed into my legs; nearly knocking me over. He was trembling badly, not to mention cutting off the circulation to my legs. I reached down to gently remove his arms from my legs. I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt the blood course through my legs once more.
“Kevin, what’s wrong?” I asked sweetly.
He just shook his head. He moved to attach himself to my legs again but I held him firm.
“Kevin?” I looked closely at his face. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. His shoulder trembled with the strength of his sobs. I broke my heart to see him like this but I couldn’t help unless he told me what was wrong. “I can’t help unless you tell me?”
“I don’t want you to leave!” Kevin wailed.
I blinked. “But I’m not going anywhere,” I assured him.
“But I hearded Grandda says that you was leabing.” His grammar becomes terrible when he’s upset. And his voice shook to the point where I almost couldn’t understand him.
“Trust me, I’m not leaving,” I promised.
He seemed to accept that. Kevin fiercely whipped at his face. I couldn’t help but smile. I reached down and gave him a hug. Normally, I don’t hug but Kevin is one of the few people that I allow. But what could he mean that I was leaving. Last time I checked I hadn’t planned any trip.
“Why don’t you go find Scarlet?” I suggested. Scarlet is the maid that watches Kevin when I’m busy. “I think she had a picnic planned for you guys.”
Kevin instantly perked up. “’Kay!” He ran from the room in a burst of energy.
I straightened and look at my sister. She looked almost as surprised as I was to hear about me leaving. So, she didn’t know what the surprise was either. That’s good. That way she could be just as shocked as me when we find out.
“Let’s get this over with,” I sighed.
We left my rooms and made our way to the throne room. The room was a huge and grand. It was sometimes used when Father or Mother wanted to host a ball. There stained-glass window lining the side walls. A great crystal chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling. Father was sitting in his throne when we entered. It was a large silver chair with and intricate design of flowers and moons carved into it. I looked over at the smaller throne where Mother would have sat, if she was there. I continued to look around. Manson, the steward stood beside Father. Then there was Michael and Adam, who stood off to the side at attention.
Michael and Adam are Joy and my bodyguards for when we leave the castle. They are also our secret fighting coaches. Father thought that it wasn’t very lady like to be able to defend ourselves. “Why would you need to learn how to fight when you have bodyguards?” he had argued. And I had pointed out that if we knew how to fight there would be no need for bodyguards. Not that I don’t like Adam and Michael. I actually have a slight crush on Adam. Not that I would ever tell him that.
Father cleared his throat capturing my attention. I looked at him defiantly. No way was I giving him the satisfaction of seeing me nervous. Normally, I would have bowed but I didn’t feel be formal and polite at this very moment. So instead I crossed my arms over my chest and stood as if I had better things to do. Not that I did. I was on summer vacation and I nothing special planned today. Father saw that I was planning to be difficult and frowned.
“You sent for me, Father?” I said sarcastically.
But the sarcasm was completely lost on him. “Yes, I did,” was his superior reply.
I had to fight not to roll my eyes.
“There will be a ball held in your honor tomorrow evening,” Father continues. “Our guest will arrive at a quarter to seven. I expect you and Joy to arrive promptly at eight.”
The hairs on the back of my neck began to stand on end. I hated balls. I don’t like dancing or dressing up. Everybody knew that. And what did Father mean that it was being held in my honor. Honor for what? I must have spoken my thoughts out loud because Father answered.
With his frown deepened, he said, “I have arranged for you to marry the heir to the Bestail throne. He and his family will within the hour.”
So it was an arranged marriage, I thought bitterly. I looked at Joy. She looked as shocked as Adam and Michael. Serves her right for being so happy about me getting a surprise. Didn’t see this coming, did she? I looked back at Father, who was waiting for my reply. And, Lord knows that I don’t want to disappoint Father.
“That ain’t gonna happen,” I proclaimed.
“This isn’t a joke, Nalay,” Father snapped.
“Trust me,” I snapped back. “I’m not laughing.”
I told him years ago that I wasn’t marrying anyone. Marriage is not my sort of thing. I like sports and fighting, not being paraded around like a prize on the arm of some stuck-up prince. I’m sorry but this just isn’t me. It never has been…and it never will be.
“There is no way in the Nine Circles of Hell that I’m getting married!” I shouted.
“That’s not for you to decide!” Father growled at me.
“The hell it ain’t!”
My fist clenched at my side. I can’t believe that he’s doing this to me, I thought in disgust. I hate marriage, especially arranged marriages. What on earth possessed him to set me up with some guy? Why not Joy? I mean, I know that her mother is one of Father’s concubines, but still. She’s the older and all that. Man, sometimes I just hate my father, especially when he does stupid stuff like this and expects me to be happy about it.
“I understand that you’re in shock, but you will marry Prince Todd,” Father said firmly, like it was no longer up for discussion. If he thought that this was over, then he was sadly mistaken. He obviously forgot how stubborn I can – and will – be. I am not someone who is good at following orders.
“We’ll see about that,” I promised.
I turned and left before he could retort. As I walked the corridor I muttered curses under my breath. I was in no mood to deal with anyone right now. Not after that blow my father delivered. I went to my favorite place: the north tower. The tower was practically bare, except for the few shelves and the desk and chair I had installed and binocular I thought I lost. I would have added a television but this was one of the rooms that didn’t get renovated. I went over to the window that had no glass and sat in the frame. The brisk air blew softly upon my face. The sun warmed my cold limbs.
Sitting here I thought of what to do about this arranged marriage. I wouldn’t go through with it. I will never have a marriage like my parents. I won’t stand back and pretend that my husband isn’t sleeping with other women. I won’t pretend that I’m not hurt by it like Mother does. I know that she’s hurt. I can see it in her eyes every time she looks at Joy or any of my younger and older siblings that live with their mothers. In truth there are only four legitimate children. First, there is my older brother August, who is off traveling the world. Then there is me and my twin who is married to the king of Opan. And lastly, there is my younger brother Dante, who Father sent off to boarding school.
I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I was awoken by the sound of a car driving up the gravel driveway. I looked down at the approaching limo. I blindly reached for my binocular. I watched as four people stepped from the back. Must be my ‘new family’, I thought sourly. They looked as stuck-up as I pictured. At least the parents did. The father wore a dark blue Armani suit. His face was scrunched up as if he smelt something awful. He looked down his nose at everyone that crossed his path. I felt bad for the driver.
His wife was no different. She wore an elegant blue dress suit. The skirt had a slight slit that came to mid-thigh. Her pompous nose was raised so high in the air that I could almost see inside of her nose. She, too, looked as if something stunk. I took sample sniff, but all I could smell was sent of trees and fresh air. I sighed. There was no way that I could marry into this family, no matter how cute the groom was to be. I would either end up killing them or myself.
I turned my attention to the two boys standing next to each other. The younger one seemed to be about thirteen. He wore a similar suit to his father. The only difference was the color, which was a pale blue. The boy wore a bright smile that almost made me want to smile. I switched my gaze to his brother and froze.
This is my fiancé, I thought as I stared. Unlike his family, he was dressed a bit sloppily. He still wore a suit, a black one, but it was messy. His tie was crooked. His shirt was only half tucked in and the sleeves of his jacket were rolled up to his elbows. His hair was messy and uncombed, but it somehow worked for him. In all, he was sexy. But his face expressed that he thought that he had something better to do. That’s what made me sigh. He’s going to be a problem, I thought. I can already tell that he was too arrogant for my taste. Why were the really hot one always trouble?
Just then the father looked up. I could tell that he spotted me by the way he pointed at me. The rest of the family looked in my direction. I lowered my binocular. It’s a good thing that they were too far away to make out my features. To them all the saw was a black figure. And that’s a good thing. Because if Father found out that I was up here instead of coming to greet them I would be dead.
Suddenly, the sound of the large oak door opening reached my ears. I raised my binoculars once more. Father and Mother followed by Manson. I zoned in on Mother’s face. She did not look happy. I came to the conclusion that I was the cause. Oh shit. I’m in so much trouble. If there was anyone to be afraid of it was definitely my mother. She even scares my father, though he would never admit it.
I zoomed out to watch all of them. They greeted each other. As Father and Mr. Fiancé’s Dad spoke, Mother whispered to Manson about something. All of a sudden Manson looked up in my direction. Busted, was the thought that ran through my head. Dropping my binoculars, I hurried from the tower. No doubt Manson has already carried out whatever order Mother has given him. I guess what they say about mothers is true. They truly do see all. I was met half way to the foyer by Manson and a couple of guards.
“Her Majesty, requested that I bring you to meet the prince,” Manson said in is low dry tone. “By any means necessary, should you resist to cooperate?” His hand swept over the two guards.
Only two? I’m insulted. I took up a defense stance. “Bring it on, pork chops,” I taunted the guards.
One of them to a step forward but Manson held him off. “Her Majesty told me to tell you that should you resist you will spend the next two days trying on pink dresses,” he warned.
I barely concealed the shudder that went through my entire body as the image flashed in my head. Mother sure knows my weaknesses. I dropped my fists and followed Manson out to the courtyard. I sighed. I’d rather meet this ‘fiancé’ than try on pink dresses for two days.
The sun blinded me for a minute when I stepped out the door. I winced at the pain in my eyes. I waited for my eyes to adjust to the bright light. Once adjusted, I made my way over to the group before.
“Nice of you to finally join us, Nalay,” Father said sarcastically.
I chose not to respond. I actually had to clench my teeth. ‘Cause I knew that if I opened my mouth I would say something that would like get my teeth knocked in. I just narrowed my eyes at him.
“Would like to meet your fiancé?” Father asked.
“Not really,” I murmured under my breath.
“What was that?” Mother said in an icy tone.
“I would love to.” I forced a cheery note into my voice.
I went to stand next to Mother. “Welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you here.” I managed to choke out a polite enough tone. But for some reason they just stared at me with a surprised look on their faces. I don’t know why they would be surprised. I’ve never met them before. I would have remembered. Unless, of course, they were expecting someone else.
“May we introduce our daughter, Princess Nalay,” Mother filled the silence. She turned to me. “Nalay, this is Lord and Lady Caius, and their sons, Prince Stefan and Prince Todd. You will be marrying Todd.”
Not if I have anything to say about it. “Super,” was my bitter answer.
“Excuse me?” Lord Caius spoke up. “But didn’t we meet you lovely daughter last year at her engagement party to King Lucifer?”
“No. Well, yes actually, but that was her twin sister, Mallie,” Mother explained.
“I didn’t know Mallie had a twin,” Todd spoke for the first time.
“We try not to speak of it,” I said through clenched teeth. What did I have to do to get out of here? I need some kind of miracle, or a distraction.
“Kevin, get back here!”
We all turned toward the shout. As if my prayers were answered, a squealing Kevin ran from the castle followed by an obviously frustrated Scarlet. She was carrying a miniature suit in her arms. Apparently Kevin didn’t want to change clothes. I was torn between laughing and feeling bad for Scarlet. Kevin made a mad dash for our group. He swerved around us to hide behind the limo. Scarlet paused beside me to catch her breath. It took her a moment to realize that she had interrupted something. Flushing a bright red, Scarlet bobbed a curtsy and mumbled apologies. I wanted to kiss her for interrupting. Instead I asked what was wrong.
“I was instructed to dress Kevin for tonight’s dinner,” Scarlet explained. “But before I could get him undress he ran from me, screaming ‘suits and gowns are for suck ups trying to please people that don’t need to be pleased’. I don’t know where he heard such a thing.”
I guiltily averted my eyes. Oops. I might have ranted about that once or twice when forced to dress up for people. I didn’t think he would repeat it. Although I am proud that he was listening. But, unfortunately, now was not the time. I discretely looked at my parents. Farther looked about ready to explode. Yeah, definitely not the time, I thought to myself.
“Kevin, come here now!” I commanded.
Kevin’s head immediately popped up from behind the car. One look at my face warned him that now was not the time to play games. His face fell into a pout as he made his way over. I had to fight to keep from laughing. Anything that didn’t have to do with fun made Kevin pout. He gets it from me. We are both fun loving people.
“Go with Scarlet and get dress.” I had to keep my face firm or he would think I was joking.
“But I don’t wanna,” Kevin protested.
“It’s not a matter of what you want to do,” Father snapped.
Kevin flinched and dropped protectively behind my legs. Anger reared its head within me. I turned on Father with fire in my eyes. No one treated Kevin like that. Not even Father.
“I will handle this!” I snapped back at him.
Father’s eyes widened with surprise as did everyone else’s. Normally, I wouldn’t have spoken like that in front of Mother or company, but today Father went too far. Kevin is my child, which means I get to decide what he can or can’t do.
I turned back to Kevin. “I know you don’t want to,” I said sweetly. “But tonight I want you to look especially handsome at dinner. You wouldn’t want to make me sad now, would you?”
Kevin shook his head vigorously. “Good. Run along with Scarlet,” I told him.
He and Scarlet left to get him changed. I watched them until they disappeared. I drained my face of any emotion before turning to face my parents and the Caius Family. No one said anything at first. Finally, Mother suggested that we head inside, saying that the Caius’ might be tired and wish to rest. I was silent through the whole ordeal, for fear that I might snap again if I opened my mouth. Once inside, I excused myself.
“Dinner is at eight,” Mother reminded me. “Don’t be late.”
I pasted what I hoped was a passable smile on my face. “Yes, Mother.” I said politely.
I turned and made my way to my room. The first thing I noticed upon entering was the white blouse and black skirt. There was a note on top of the outfit. I went over and read the note. It was in Mother’s handwriting. It said:
Wear this to dinner. No excuses.
That was Mother for you. Straight to the point with a silent threat. I sighed. This is going to be a long night. I looked at my clock. I have about three hours ‘til it’s time for dinner. Just enough time to take a nap. I set my alarm and plopped down on my bed to fall asleep.