Daughter of the Sun, Aumelan Book One, Chapter Six. YA Dystopian Fantasy.
Daughter of the Sun
Salana squeezed her lids shut and then blinked in quick succession. Leaning over the vanity, she looked closer at her reflection.
Well, Nina’s cream fixed the puffiness, but…
She dabbed more cream on her lids. The glaze coating her gray eyes remained and accentuated their bloodshot state.
She smiled at her image. The glassy sheen glowed from between her lashes. The spray of emerald gems highlighting her temples didn’t help as they dipped toward the edge of her brow and called attention to the sight.
Bigger smile, squintier eyes, right? Can’t see eyes if they’re practically closed.
Her lips tilted as she smiled harder, and the right side of her face squinched tighter, forcing her dimple to deepen. She stared at the lopsided effect.
Pressing her finger to the left corner of her mouth, she pushed it higher and then let her hand drop to the counter. With a sigh, she opted for her signature mild grin.
I just had to bug Khort enough to let me ride the biggest horse in the stables at three years old, didn’t I? With a sigh, she tossed the cream tube in the basin. At least it let me live.
The scent of baked wild berries wafted through the air, and Nina’s cheery voice came from the dressing room’s door. “Oh, don’t you worry none. You’re as beautiful as the flowers you love to roam.” She lifted a plate and motioned with her nod. “Come in here and have some berry tart pie before you have to leave. I’ll secure your band while you do.”
A true smile blossomed on Salana’s lips like a tipped seesaw. She turned her back on her reflection and followed Nina into her bedroom. “I do love your berry tart pie.”
Nina tsked as she placed the treat on the lounge end table. “It’s ten o’clock and you’re living in the darkness.” A loud swoosh accompanied the drapes as she flung them aside. “Those clouds are breaking up, so we might as well enjoy what sun we can get.”
Salana grabbed her book from the lounge, set it on the end table, and then sank into the cushions. “Aah,” she breathed and snatched the plate. Sweet nectar filled her senses as she shoveled a bite into her mouth. “You awaysh know ow do ma fings bedder.”
“Now, don’t talk with your mouth full. You’ll bite that cheek and dribble. We can’t have the nation’s daughter show to the banquet with blue splotches on her ivory wear.”
Salana snorted and forced the morsels down before she spewed them back onto the plate. A cough rode her response. “I’ll angle the sash to cover it.”
“Honestly.” Nina’s little feet shuffled across the plush carpet. “I’ve taught you better.”
“And I’ve mastered eating your berry tart pie. Don’t worry.”
Nina opened the jewelry armoire and removed the emerald browband. “Now. What is it you mumbled through that mouthful of pie?”
A snicker played in Salana’s throat. She puckered her lips as she scooped another portion. “I said, ‘You always know how to make things better,’ Nina.” The truth mellowed her regard and she looked at the slight woman. Daisies and ladybugs seemed to flutter within the print of her airy blouse as it flowed with her movements. Smaller versions batted around the threads of her slacks. You and your bright wardrobe. It always brought her back to her youth…to the day her new nanny entered her life. For so many years, Nina had served as her caregiver and confidant. For so many years, she’d been her friend.
Nina turned to her, a sweet smile pressing her eyes into quarter moons. “Oh, Ducky. I’m so sorry Thomey didn’t make it to see you last night. But, really, he loves you so. All that time at the lab and consorting with those colleagues of his. He’s working hard to be a worthy husband for a Daughter of the Nation. For you. When you come to engagement age, he’s sure to be just that.”
“He’s already worthy.”
Nina leaned her head to the side and closed the space between them. “He adores you. He could have turned his back on the promising when he hit manhood and gone after someone else, but he waited ten years beyond that for you to come of age. And I’m betting he won’t put off proposing for no amount of time.”
Pinching the fine braids at Salana’s temple, Nina threaded the brow band’s ties within the weaves. Three golden strands fell to brush at her left cheek, and Salana ran her fingertips over the numb skin.
A man of Thomey’s stature and knowledge wanting a woman with a maimed face who holds the blood of the nation’s dogmatic territory? “I doubt I’ll see him any more than I do now. He just loves that lab. Half the time he stays and sleeps on the couch in his office. He’ll have the status and I’ll be…”
Salana couldn’t bring herself to finish, to voice her true thoughts on the matter.
“Now, don’t you start thinking he’s only doing this for status? He’ll be coming home to you every night soon enough.” Nina held the band against Salana’s forehead as she checked the level. “Oh, my, those eyes are a sight. Crying yourself to sleep is not healthy for you, Ducky. I’ll see if Belba has some drops in her medical kit. The reporters will zoom right in on them if they get the chance.” She smiled and secured the golden strands. “We can’t have the tabloids creating stories again now, can we?”
Salana flushed as she recalled the times they’d exploited moments in the past. A sigh breezed past her lips. “No.”
Nina took the plate from her grasp. “Now, let’s finish getting you ready to stand in for your parents, and if those drops don’t work, then when you get there, you can dive right for Thomey, hug him hard, and let tears spill to show your love.”
A smile stretched up the right side of Salana’s face. That’s exactly what I’ll do.