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Rated: E · Novella · Fantasy · #2149914
What if Cinderella thought she was the ugly step sister? A twist on a classic fairy tale.
         The next day Mother and Bella went out shopping for dresses for the tea with the queen. While they were gone, a carriage arrived at our door. A footman rang the bell and I answered.
         “Carriage for Miss Drizzella,” he announced.
         “I beg your pardon?”
         “The Prince has sent a carriage to fetch Miss Drizzella and bring her to the Royal Library,” he never once took his nose out of the air as he spoke. I was almost afraid his little powdered wig would slip off the back of his head.
         “What?” I repeated.
         The little man sighed and began to repeat,
         “The Prince has sent a carriage-“
         “Oh, um, I’m sorry,” I cut him off, “just a moment.” I closed the door and ran upstairs to change and grab my things.
         I rushed back downstairs and opened the door.
         “Ok. I’m ready,” I told the footman.
         “The carriage is for Miss Drizzella,” the footman repeated.
         “I’m Miss Drizzella.”
         “You answer your own door?” he looked down his nose at me. I glared at him for a moment. Then I brushed past him and refused to let him help me into the carriage.
         When we arrived at the library, his highness was waiting on the steps. Seeing the carriage, he rushed forward and helped me down himself.
         “Hello,” he said. I curtsied.
         “I trust you had a pleasant journey?” he asked.
         “Well your footman was a bit….. surprised that we have no maid to answer the door.”
         Andrew frowned.
         “I will speak with him.”
         “Oh no, please don’t,” I blushed. “I didn’t mean to complain. Thank you for sending the carriage for me.”
         “You’re welcome,” he said, but he still seemed determined to reprimand the footman. If I was being honest, that did not upset me.
         “Shall we?” he offered me his arm. I took it and he lead my inside. We began to stroll through the aisles of bookshelves. He seemed perfectly comfortable to move along in silence, but the lack of conversation unnerved me.
         “Your Highness, this is most likely an impertinent question, but how is it possible for you to court someone from such a poor family?”
         “Court?” he smiled wryly.
         I blushed, and nodded. I cleared my throat, since he let me continue.
         “We have a minor title but very little money. And regardless, is it not more common for royalty to marry into the royalty of other nations?”
         Andrew sighed.
         “That is a bit complicated,” he told me.
         “Oh,” I looked down at my oversized feet. Of course, he wouldn’t explain matters of state to a woman.
         “You see, there has been a great deal of unrest in the South,” he said. My head shot up. Would he really tell me? “There has been talk of rebellion. The lower classes are upset with the nobility, claiming they have been kept too poor for too long.”
         I nodded. I had had no idea there was such trouble.
         “It has been decided,” he continued, “that the best alliance I can make, is one that will keep our nation united- an alliance with the lower classes. A princess of the people, they say. Someone the peasants can love. Your family happens to be in a unique position of having a title that would be acceptable to the nobility, and a humbler way of living that the people will relate to,” he said.
         I had no idea he had put so much thought into this. I felt immediately stupid for thinking he had only fallen in love with Bella at first sight.
         “And everyone loves a beautiful princess,” he added. I nodded, staring at my feet.
         “I do often wonder though,” he continued, “if it is not imprudent, if it might not be better to wait to marry the princess of some country we might need to ally with, or make peace with later on.”
         I nodded.
         “Well you have a sister right?” I asked. He nodded. “As long as she doesn’t marry domestically, you should be ok right?” He laughed at me, but not meanly.
         “That is true, to a degree.”
         By that time, we arrived at the back of the library. There was a small desk there, with a lamp, and a crooked old man sitting behind it. His grey hair went every which way and his spectacles sat low on his nose. He had kind eyes though.
         “This is Jacques,” Andrew told me. “My old friend,” he shook Jacques hand, and flashed his dazzling smile. “He is one of the librarians,” he said out loud, then, cupping a hand to his mouth whispered “The best librarian,” he winked at Jacques. The old man laughed.
         “I remember when this one was running around the halls, barely old enough to walk.”
         I thought I was imagining it at first, but Andrew looked as if he were blushing.
         “And then, when he was old enough to read, but still a little one, he came to me and demanded, commanded really, that I read him the title of every book on the top shelves, just in case he was missing something,” the old man continued laughing.
         “It was my princely right!” Andrew was indignant, but only in jest.
         “Of course, of course. You were right to do so,” the old man smiled at him.
         “If you need anything,” Andrew told me, “You can ask Jacques. He can help you find any book you like, or help you choose something to take home. He makes the best book suggestions.”
         “At your service, Miss…” Jacques waited for my name.
         “Drizzella,” I told him.
         “At your service Miss Drizzella,” he smiled.
         Then Andrew and I walked back into the stacks.
         “The name Drizzella does not seem to truly fit you,” he told me. I nodded.
         “I’ve never liked it,” I admitted.
         “Hmm,” Andrew seemed about to add something, but instead said, “ah, here is the philosophy section, now look,”
         The prince and I spent a lovely afternoon then, browsing through the library. He showed me where everything was located, and asked about my favorite books and authors. He told me his too. We talked and laughed. I told him about the first time Ana and I had tried to make a cake for Bella’s birthday, and we had ended up with flour everywhere and a cake that had been hard as a rock. He told me about playing chess with his sister, and how he always lost.
         “Mother, Father, and the court always assume I was simply being nice and letting her win,” he told me. “But I truly cannot beat her!” he laughed. “She really is very good. But she never tells anyone, to spare my pride.”
         “That’s very nice of her,” I said.
         “Not at all,” he chuckled. “She reminds me of it anytime she needs something.”
         I laughed.
         “I think you would like Clara,” he considered me. But then he looked up. “Oh, the histories are here. I think you would like A Brief History of Europe, if you have not read it already.”
         “I haven’t,” I informed him.
         “Oh good. Wait here then,” he left and disappeared around a corner for a moment. When he returned, he was pulling a big ladder along with him. It had a set of wheels on the bottom and another resting against the shelves so that it could be moved up and down the aisles.
         “A Brief History of Europe is on that shelf there,” he pointed. A Brief History was quite a large book in fact. He gestured for me to climb the ladder.
         “Oh I couldn’t,” I backed away from the contraption. “I’m terribly clumsy...”
         “It’s not so hard,” he waved his hand. “I promised to teach you how to navigate the library, and this is a key skill,” he motioned for me to climb again. I gulped, and hesitated. But he continued to look at me expectantly.
         Finally, unable to disappoint him, I grabbed the last rung of the ladder. I began to climb, but I suddenly became aware of my billowing skirt and how it exposed me. I was shaking, but I tried to hold my dress to my body and climb at the same time.
         It was an awkward business, and I had to keep reminding myself not to look down. I mostly succeeded, though, until I reached the top. Taking a deep breath, I let go of the ladder to take the book. As I reached I lost my balance and teetered backwards and forward, and then backward again, and this time I could not pull myself forward again. I reached out for the ladder, missed, and fell backwards.
         I screeched as I hurtled towards the ground, with my skirts billowing up around me and the books rushing by. I felt a pit in my stomach as I dropped and thought of slamming into the floor.
         But then, just in time, something broke my fall. My skirts were flying everywhere, so at first I could not see what it was that had saved me. When the meddlesome material settled though, I could see that I was in someone’s arms- the prince’s arms to be exact. I turned and found myself nose to nose with him, and dangerously close to his deep blue eyes. I froze. He was breathing heavily, from having run and caught me.
         “Perhaps,” he breathed, “I was a bit hasty.” I nodded, though I could not tear my eyes away from his. It felt like he was staring straight into me.
         “Ana was right,” I murmured, thinking of the time she told me about Fred catching her.
         “What?” he put my feet down, and my hands naturally fell to his shoulders.
         “Nothing,” I stepped back quickly. “Thank you,” I said.
         “It was my fault,” he pushed back his hair, sheepishly. I shook my head.
         “No, I’ve always been clumsy, you saved me,” I insisted. He shook his head, but said
         “Always happy to be of service,” and grinned. His grin made my knees weak. Or perhaps I was still unsteady form the fall.
         “Shall I show you the math section then? No ladders required,” he said. I smiled weakly and nodded. Soon we had found our way to the front of the building once again.
         “Thank you for showing me the library,” I said, throwing an arm out to the vast room.
         “It was my pleasure. I have not had such an adventurous trip to the library in a long time.”
         I curtsied. He laughed.
         “I’ll call the carriage,” he said.
         “That might be safest,” I joked. He laughed again. I liked making him laugh.
         “Will I see you at tea next month?” He asked, handing me into the carriage. My heart fluttered.
         “Yes.”
         “Good. I will introduce you to Clara.”
         “I look forward to it.”
         He bowed, and the carriage rode away.

         I had the carriage leave me in the town square, claiming I had business there to attend. The footman looked at me as if he assumed I was there to shovel manure for the city or complete some other demeaning task, but this time, said nothing. I glared at him anyways as he climbed back into the carriage and rode away.
         In truth I had nothing to do in town. I just didn’t want to go home. I could still feel where Andrew’s hands had lingered on my waist as he set me back on the ground. My mind ran over and over how warm his hand been when my hands rested on his shoulders. I walked back through every piece of what had just happened, every bright smile he flashed at me, every gleam in his eye. The panic of falling, then the completely different panic of being in his arms. How close we had been, how little space between his lips and mine….
         As I wound my way through the city streets however, the butterflies in my stomach began to turn to knots. What was I thinking? The prince loved my sister, he was destined for Bella. He was my family’s salvation and my baby sister’s future. The knot in my stomach tightened and I thought again of when we were face to face, a breath away. That was much too close. We could never be that close again. Never touch. I shook myself.
         That was fine. What did I need with the prince and his snobby footmen? Andrew wasn’t all that great anyways. He doesn’t even- I floundered trying to think of a flaw. He probably spends too much time in front of a mirror to look that way, I told myself. He made me climb the ladder even though I didn’t want to. He probably cares more about his hunting hounds than most people. I bet he ignores his mother most days.
         It was a silly exercise, but it helped a bit. I was grounded in reality again. Bella would marry Andrew, and I would get away from this place. More than ever before, I was sure, I had to get away.


Chp. 8

         A week later, I was called away from my reading by the sound of shouting. The house was in turmoil. I peeked into the drawing room and saw Anastasia crying, and Mother pacing. I went into the kitchen and found Bella anxiously peeling potatoes.
         “What happened?”
         “Mother found Ana kissing Fred in the stables.”
         “Oh dear,” I said.
         We could hear shouting coming in from the other room.
         “But I love him!” Ana pleaded through her sobs.
         “I knew I should have fired him a long time ago.”
         “We’re not hurting anyone!”
         “Ana, we are about to lose the house. You can’t afford to be infatuated with the stable boy!”
         “We’re going to lose the house?” Bella asked.
         “Shush,” I told her.
         “What does it matter?” screamed Ana. “We’re not rich! We’re barely titled, what does it matter if we lose the house? Why not go live in a cottage somewhere, stop pretending, and just be happy?”
         “What would the prince think!?” Mother’s pride was outraged.
         “He already knows!” Ana shouted.
         “What?”
         “That’s right! He knows! And he thinks nothing less of us, or me or, Fred! It is only you who is so close-minded!”
         “What?” Mother hissed.
         “After Bella and the prince are married, the prince will help Fred find some good position, a well paying job, and we will be perfectly comfortable! You’ll keep your precious house and everything will be fine!”
         Mother was quiet for a long moment. I held my breath. She was much more frightening when she was silent than when she was shouting, and I dreaded her shouting.
         “Your sister is far from married,” she said quietly, I could hear her anger shaking, barely contained behind her voice. “If Bella does indeed marry the prince, you may do as you like. But until then, I forbid you to see him.”
         “You can’t do that! You can’t watch us all the time!”
         “Anastasia, as long as you live in my house, you will obey my word,” Mother said stonily.
         “We’ll run away then! You can’t do this!” Ana sobbed.
         Finally, Mother sighed. I peeked in and saw her sit on the couch next to Anastasia.
         “Ana, I’m not doing this to hurt you. A stable boy can’t support you.”
         “He won’t be a stable boy forever!”
         “You have no guarantee of that. And you have no guarantee that Bella will in fact, marry the prince, or that the prince will give Fred a good job. What you do have a guarantee of, is that if you continue to see this boy, you will ruin your reputation and never be able to make another match,” Mother sighed and squeezed the place just inside her eyes, on either side of her nose. “All I want for you is a secure future. I know I haven’t been able to do that very well so far, but I know that this isn’t a risk you can afford to take! Call off the engagement. If he loves you like you say he does, he’ll wait for Bella to be married. Until then, do not throw your whole future away.”
         Mother looked her in the eyes, stony, steady and unmoving as a mountain.
         Ana burst into fresh sobs and ran from the room. I heard her slam her door at the top of the stairs.
         Bella and I met eyes.
         “We’re going to lose the house?” Bella repeated, wide-eyed. I nodded sadly. Bella gulped.


         Even though the fight was over, the tension in the house was thick. Mother was in her study, massaging her temples and glaring into her paperwork. Ana had locked herself in her room, and Bella was working in the kitchen, trying to pretend she had not heard anything. I couldn’t think of any way to help. Finally, I gathered up my cloak and left to see Georgina.          
         Georgina’s house was a modest place, a one-story building with no grand architecture to distinguish it. It was painted butter yellow and nestled just inside the palace gates. Vines wound up the walls outside and inside one was never far from the hearth. The whole place had a pulsating glow and warmth, like a beating heart.
         Georgina looked up from her needlework when her maidservant led me in.
         “Oh hello dear,” she smiled without getting up. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
         “Have you sent the letters about finding a governess position?” I blurted out. All I had been thinking about on the way over was how to get away, and how to help. I needed a job. “Have you received any replies?”
         Georgina frowned at my manners.
         “Not yet.” She pursed her lips.
         Guilt crept into my chest. I slunk into a chair at her side and hung my head.
         “Sorry,” I murmured, for my rude entry.
         “Don’t mumble!” she dropped her needlework in her nap, exasperated. “Honestly, Drizzella before I disapproved of a lady of your breeding working as a governess, but now I’m more worried for any children whose manners you might corrupt.” She huffed and picked up her work again.
         I stared at her, and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, to have her shout at me after so much yelling that day.
         After a moment Georgina looked back up and saw my expression. She sighed loudly, like letting out steam. Visibly, deflated, she turned to me,
         “Oh my dear I’m sorry. It’s just the pregnancy talking,” she squeezed my hand. “I haven’t sent any letters yet. I thought that if I just waited you might change your mind.” She looked me in the eye. “I don’t want to see you throw your life away. This is something you need to be sure of, not something you can do to run away. Go for a holiday, or visit a distant relative if you wish to escape for a while. But don’t rush into this life.”
         A holiday. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I looked at my hands and changed the subject.
         “Bella has been invited to have tea with the queen,” I offered into the silence.
         “Oh honey,” Georgina put her hand on mine.
         “We’re all invited,” I said, trying not to let my anxiety show.
         “Well that should be very exciting,” she said. But her eyes said something else that I couldn’t quite understand.
         “That’s not all,” I told her.
         “Oh?” she lifted an eyebrow. I nodded, and started to tell her about Anastasia and Fred.
         I had only begun the story when Thomas walked into the room.
         “Drizzella!” his booming voice greeted me as he entered.
         “Hello Mr. Thomas,” I said politely, if unenthusiastically. “How are you?”
         “Very well, thank you. And you?” He replied.
         “I am well,” I answered.
         “Well I’ve only returned to fetch a book his highness requested. I can’t stay long,” he disappeared into one of the other rooms and reappeared with a book in his hands.
         “Say,” he reached up and touched his bushy mustache, “Drizzella, why don’t you help me deliver this to the prince?” He held up the book. “I’m sure he would be glad of your visit.” Then he murmured something that sounded like, “He could use the distraction from his work, boy works too godda-“
         “You’re mumbling dear!” Georgina sang out while making a tiny stitch. Thomas stopped abruptly at her gentle reminder.
         “Anyhow,” he addressed me. “Would you like to come?”
         “Oh I couldn’t, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to see me. I’m not properly dressed, and I-“
         “She would love to go,” Georgina interjected, getting up and putting hand on my shoulders. “If you want to be a governess, you should at least see what you’re missing,” she whispered in my ear. Then added, “Now go to my room and run a comb through your hair then be on your way. The dress you’re wearing will do just fine.”
         Before I knew what had happened, Thomas was leading me through winding palace hallways, up curling stairwells and through rooms that looked like little more than a blur at our brisk pace. He finally released his strong grip on my wrist as we strode through a simple doorway and skidded to a stop.
         The dark wood floors of the room were covered in a large, soft rug, embroidered with a dark green hunting scene. A chest lay open, with a bow and muddied boots falling out of it. The chest stood guarding the end of a four-poster canopy bed, with green curtains detailed in blue.
         Across the room, French doors had been flung open to a wide balcony looking over a field that melted into a forest. The chirping of birds and smell of clean grass floated in from it. In the corner of the room, between the balcony and the bed, was a hulking dark wood desk. I could only tell it was dark wood because of the legs and side-paneling. The entirety of the desk space was covered in multiple layers of papers and books with no obvious pattern of organization. It was over this mess of a desk that Andrew was bent, intently reading.
         Thomas cleared his throat
         “Andrew?”
         It was odd to hear someone address him so casually.
         “Just a moment,” Andrew did not look up. I patted down my dress and hair. After that I could not for the life of me think of what to do with my hands. I couldn’t remember why I had come in the first place, how could I decide what to do with my hands? Finally, I decided to toy with the button at the waist of my dress.
         The prince was still reading, and so I took a moment to look at him. I blushed to notice that his doublet was flapping open, and his feet were covered only by socks. His chestnut hair fell over his face as he was bent over, and his broad back was hunched as he looked closely at his documents. I could feel my nervous heart slowing, then melting. I blushed and started to scoot backwards towards the door. Perhaps I could slip out before Andrew looked up, and then he would never know that I had been looking at him like that.
         “Your Highness,” Thomas coughed more loudly after a minute.
         “Thomas I told you just a moment, can’t you see that I am-“ Andrew cut short his irritated speech when he saw me peeking out from Thomas. For a moment, he simply stared.

         Why had I come? Why had Thomas insisted I come when it would only cause us both discomfort? Sometimes I was certain married people made games like this simply to keep amused. It was cruel.
         “Drizzella! I did not realize you were here,” He ran through his hair and cleared his throat. I saw him make some sort of meaningful eye contact with Thomas then stand up to bow. Before he could though, he looked down at his billowing doublet and the underclothes showing beneath and sat suddenly back down and began to button it up.
         I decided it was a good time to carefully study the button on my dress. I twisted it to the right, until it would twist no more, then twisted to the left, ran my thumb over it clockwise, then counter clockwise.
         “I brought the book from home that you requested,” I heard Thomas say.
         “And more!” responded Andrew. I looked up to find him standing in front of me, fully clothed this time. “I must apologize for my indecency Miss Drizzella, I had no idea that I would be receiving company. My sincerest apologies.” He seemed to have recovered from his embarrassment already but I could not meet his eyes.
         I stared back down at my button and murmured, “I didn’t realize I would be coming either.”
         “What was that?” he asked. I kicked myself for mumbling again.
         “The fault is mine,” Thomas stepped in. “Miss Drizzella was paying a visit to Georgina and I insisted that she come along. I said that you would be glad to see her, and to have to opportunity to take a respite from your work,” he put particular emphasis on the last few words.
         There was a beat of silence, then Andrew said, “Of course, I am always glad to see you Drizzella,” I looked up at the informal address. The charming smile on his face seemed to melt all of the awkwardness out of the room.
         “And I you,” I bobbed a short curtsy.
         “Perhaps you would like to join me on the balcony?” he asked, offering his hand.
         “I would love to,” I took it.
         “Thomas, I would appreciate it if you would look over the numbers I have been working on, they’re on the desk there,” he said over his shoulder.
         “Of course,” Thomas sat down at the desk as Andrew led me to the stone railing of the balcony. Soft evening air ruffled his hair as he leaned on the banister and looked out over the forest. I followed his gaze and saw the sun preparing to set over the horizon of treetops. We were silent for a moment.
         “I’m glad to see you,” he finally said gently.
         “And I you,” I answered, unsure of what he meant.
         “I’ve been very busy lately, with affairs of state. I haven’t had very much time to get away. I suppose Thomas decided I was working too hard and decided to take matters into his own hands,” the corner of his mouth turned up as he said this. “I’m sorry if it startled you.”
         I laughed a little, and tried to think of what to say.
         “I wasn’t quite prepared either. I didn’t know if you would want to see me. I’m sorry I interrupted your work.”
         He smiled.
         “No, as usual, Thomas was right. A break will do me good.”
         “What are you working on?” I asked. I regretted it as soon as I said it. It was not my place to ask and his face fell immediately. He waved his hand.
         “Complicated multi-party trade agreement with Scandinavia. A particularly nasty meeting of politics and math that for some reason I felt the need to stick my nose in,” his nose wrinkled as he said it.
         “Oh, I’m sorry.”
         Andrew sighed.
         “Well, it’s my job after all. Once it’s done it will be a good thing for everyone.”
         Finally he peeled his gaze away from the forest vista to look at me and cracked a smile.
         “Why are you smiling?” he laughed.
         “What?” Whatever emotion had been written on my face was startled off of it.
         “You were smiling at me, just a moment ago.”
         “I was?”
         “I’m sure of it”
         “Oh, well, your dedication to your royal duty is very…commendable, and reassuring as a citizen.”
         “Is that so?” he said, but something playful danced behind his eyes as he smiled at me. I stuck my nose in the air and looked away from him.
         “It is,” I said.
         “Well, it is my pleasure to be reassuring,” he laughed. I didn’t look at him and continued to feign indifference. I wasn’t sure what else to do. After a moment I heard Andrew sigh and looked back at him.
         “Is something the matter?” I asked. Andrew paused a moment before answering.
         “As difficult as these trade negotiations are, they are the least of my worries. The unrest in the South is getting worse. Rebel forces are growing and the cause is taken up in more cities every day. Soon I’ll have to leave and-“ he stopped and ran a hand through his hair. When he didn’t continue, I said,
         “You’re leaving?”
         He nodded.
         “Hopefully not for long, but yes. I am being sent to open up negotiations.”
         “Oh,” I looked down at my hands. Silence sat uncomfortably between us.
         After a moment, I thought he would dismiss me and return to work. Instead, he said,
         “What do you think of the view?”
I looked at the sun setting in the distance, and the sunlight kissing the treetops and made the whole forest glow with fairy light. A purple butterfly danced across my field of vision, dark against the pink and yellow sky. It was like scene of an enchanted forest, absurdly and magically perfect.
         “It’s beautiful,” I sighed. He nodded, pleased with my answer.
         “I moved into these chambers for the view. The real princely suite is in the middle of the palace, with no windows. It’s full of awful red velvet chairs and guilt tables, and terribly stuffy. As much as I like to be in the middle of everything,” he smiled a little at this, “I sleep and work much better here.”
         I turned and looked at his room.
         “It looks very cozy,” I said. Then I looked back at the forest, and back at his room, full of dark wood and green upholstery. “It looks like the forest,” I said.
         “What?”
         I looked back and forth between the room and the view again.
         “Your room, it looks like a forest. With your green canopy and wooden bedposts and the floor and the rug.”
         Andrew looked back and forth as well, and then laughed a big hearty laugh.
         “You’re right!” he admitted. “My room is a forest! It is as unkempt as one as well,” he looked at the pages strewn about the desk and hunting trappings spilling out of their places.
         “I suppose it’s just as well,” he said, as he recovered from his laugh. “I’ve always felt most comfortable there.”
         “You have?”
         He nodded.
         “When I am hunting, or just exploring the forest, that one there,” he pointed out towards the horizon, “It’s always felt like home.” I nodded and looked out.
         “It sounds kind of lonely,” I said.
         “Oh I never go alone. I bring Eric, or Roger, or my squire, or sometimes Thomas. I never want for good company,” he said contentedly. Then he looked at me strangely.
         “I find myself to be very honest with you,” he said.
         “Is that a good thing?” I asked, worried I’d upset him again.
         “I think so. I hope that you feel you can be honest with me as well.”
         I nodded. There was another silence and I leaned against the railing. After a moment, I decided against my better judgment to speak my mind.
         “Mother found out about Anastasia’s engagement today,” I said. I must have caught him off guard because he was silent for a moment.
         “She did?” he finally said. I nodded without looking at him.
         “It was not pleasant,” I pursed my lips. He said nothing so I continued, “Mother wants to give us all perfect, secure futures, but everything is so uncertain now. I do not blame her if she thinks that they should wait. But I can’t blame Anastasia either.”
         “Well, when one is in love,” Andrew said. I felt him looking at me but could not meet his eyes. Instead, I nodded again.
         “I’m sorry if your day has been unpleasant,” he finally said. I was amazed at the amount of understanding he was able to put into a few simple words. But I supposed it was a skill a prince must learn. Still, they convinced me to once again speak against my better judgment.
         “It is pleasant now,” I said and smiled at him, finally meeting his eyes. It made my heart hurt. Looking at him, I knew. I could not wait to find a job. I had to get away, immediately.

As soon as I was home I was at my writing desk.

Dearest Eloise,

I wrote,
         
         It has been too long! Is it already five years that you have been wed? How time goes by. I cannot tell you how I have missed your company these many months, it has been horribly dull without you. Things have hardly changed, for me. Though I admit my family has its fair bit of gossip. I’m sure you would like to hear it, if you have not already. I would love to hear what has become of you and your life as well! However, this business of letter writing is tiresome and hardly sufficient for two good friends. I would love to visit you at your house in the near future—I am desperate for some country air.

                                                                     Affectionately yours,
                                                                                         Drizzella Tremaine

         I set the letter in an envelope, sealed it, and put it on my bedside table. Then I drifted off to sleep while making my plans to deliver it to the postman in the morning.
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