The Grand Ball Room was a spectacle to behold. Lights shimmered around the room, making the room shine. The music stopped as Mouse stepped into the room with Arya and she felt every set of eyes fall on them. Arya was a spectacle herself in her beautiful deep green dress and her long dark hair tied back in a braid. She looked like a Fairy Princess, beautiful and stunning. Mouse heard the gasps of many men as they beheld her beauty.
"I would like to thank you all for coming tonight," Arya put on a smile for her guests. "I will try my best to meet and speak with each of you tonight, but until then, feel free to dance and socialize and taken advantage of the delicious buffet." With that, the music resumed and Arya was instantly engulfed by hundreds of men. Mouse struggled to stay by her side as the men desperately tried to catch Arya's eye. Finally giving up, Mouse excused herself from Arya's presence and went to stand on the far side of the room. Within seconds, Lord Penton stood beside her.
"It's good to see that you can follow orders," he hissed in her ear. "Now here's my next one. Resign."
"And why would I ever do that?" she snapped at him. "This is all I've ever known. This is my life!"
"Exactly," Lord Penton smiled distainfully. "A little street urchin like you shouldn't be the one caring for the Queen. You should be out there, who knows maybe running a bakery or being a seamstress or even off exploring the Kingdom. You don't belong here."
"Arya's safety is the only thing that matters to me," Mouse replied sharply as she stared at Arya who was talking to a man with short dark hair. "Don't try to tell me that I don't belong here, because I do. I belong at Arya's side, no matter what you or anyone else may think. I was meant to be here."
"The only reason that you're still here is because the Queen took pity on your sorry life and because no one else wanted you," Lord Penton smirked. Anger flared through Mouse.
"That's not true!" she said through clenched teeth as she tried to hold in her anger.
"Oh it's true," Lord Penton grinned, happy to have upset her. "Why do you think that no one came forward to reclaim you? Because you weren't wanted. Your parents didn't want you, no family wanted you, no one wanted you. Face it, pest. You are unwanted!" Mouse could not help the tears that sprung to her eyes. Lord Penton's harsh words had aroused her oldest fears and pain. Not wanting him to have the satifaction of seeing her cry, she stormed away from him, quickly ducking out the balcony doors. Unfortunately, there were other people outside as well, and Mouse did not want to be caught crying in front of them either, even though they were on the far side of the balcony. Seeing no other choice, Mouse strode over to the opposite side of the balcony and threw her legs over the railings. She grabbed ahold of the vines that trailed down the Palace walls and slowly eased herself down to the ground. As soon as she reached the bottom, she let the tears flow as she dashed off into the Royal Gardens, wanting nothing more than to be alone.
She walked through the Gardens, tears streaming down her cheeks as she thought about Penton's words. She knew that he was just trying to upset her, but for once his words actually had hit home. If her parents had wanted her, why didn't they reclaim her? Even if they were dead, surely someone must have cared for her, so why hadn't they stepped forward?
Maybe I really am unwanted, she thought sadly to herself as she turned another bend. Looking up, she was startled to see someone else sitting on a bench a little ways down the path, their head buried in their hands. Their body was slightly shaking, a movement that Mouse recognized as crying. She was about to turn around to leave them in peace when they suddenly looked up. Mouse was startled to find herself looking into the blue-green eyes of the blond haired man that she had seen earlier that day. His beautiful eyes were red from crying and though his lips were in a frown and his nose was slightly running, Mouse still thought that he was the most handsome man that she had ever seen.
"I'm s-sorry," she stuttered, her words tumbling in her mouth. "I'll leave you alone..." She turned to leave but his voice stopped her.
"Wait!" his musical voice, though laced with sadness, was still beautiful. Mouse turned back to face him and felt embarrassed as he looked her over. She knew that her eyes would be just as red as his and quickly wiped away the dribble coming from her nose. He gave her a slight, sincere smile as he patted the bench beside him. "Want to join me?" Mouse felt her insides do a flip flop as she walked over and sat down beside him.
"I'm Vyron Queué," he said, extending a hand to her.
"Mouse," she replied, taking his hand and giving it a gentle shake.
"Mouse..." his eyebrows furrowed as he tasted her name on his lips. "The Queen's personal servant, right?"
"Yes," Mouse smiled. "Are you here for the Ball?"
"No," Vyron replied. "My fleet was relocated here about two weeks ago."
"You're a Knight!" Mouse exclaimed, surprised.
"Yes," he laughed. "People always seem so surprised when I tell them that. Just because I don't have huge muscles doesn't mean that I'm weak!"
"Oh trust me, I know," Mouse smiled wryly.
"Oh do you now?" It was Vyron's turn to be surprised. "Don't tell me that you know how to fight."
"How am I to protect the Queen if I didn't?" Mouse replied.
"But you carry no weapons!" Vyron commented. "And I doubt that your strength could stand against-" He was cut short as Mouse pressed the blade of her hidden dagger against his throat.
"You were saying?" Mouse laughed, taking the blade away and re-sheathing it in the hidden sheath in her sleeve.
"How did you..." Vyron gaped in amazement. "You did that so fast! That's incredible!"
"I've had a lot of time to practise," she smiled, proud to have been able to show off her skills.
"How many blades do you have hidden on you?" he asked, looking up and down her body. "I honestly couldn't tell that you even had one!"
"A few," she smiled slyly. "Not that I'd ever tell you where. A girl needs to keep some secrets secret." She winked at him playfully, then inwardly scolded herself. Why am I flirting with him? He's courting another woman!
"I can't do this," she said suddenly, standing up.
"What do you mean?" Vyron asked, standing up as well.
"This!" she motioned between them. "Whatever this is! It's not right for a man and a woman to be alone, especially when the man is courting a different woman!" Vyron's eyes fell and his shoulders sank as he dropped back down onto the bench.
"She no longer wishes to be with me," he said softly, sadness creeping back into his voice. "She told me that we weren't meant for each other and that she is in love with another man." Tears began to trickle down his cheeks again.
"She is a fool to be giving up on someone like you," Mouse sat back down beside him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You are an amazing guy! Don't let one bad relationship make you forget that!"
"You don't even know me!" Vyron commented. "For all you know, I could be some player trying to woo you over through my tears."
"You're not," Mouse replied, certain. "I have a pretty good sense of judgement of people and I say that you are not a player, but a sweet, sensitive man who deeply cares for others and believes in true love."
"Wow, you hit the nail right on the head there!" he commented, slightly smiling. "What about you? What brings you crying into these woods? Are you having relationship troubles too?"
"No, just old fears and worries coming back," Mouse replied tentatively. "I was reminded of how no one came to claim me after an incident year ago."
"When you saved the Queen's life?" Vyron asked.
"How did you know about that?" Mouse asked, surprised.
"Everyone knows about it," Vyron smiled. "You saved our Queen's life. If it were not for you, we would not have our Queen."
"I know..." Mouse sighed. "But what hurts me about that memory is the fact that no one came looking for me. Not my parents, or guardians, or friends. No one. It just makes me feel unwanted sometimes." Mouse lowered her head as tears rolled down her cheeks. She felt Vyron's finger lightly touch her chin to turn it towards him.
"You are wanted," he spoke softly but sincerely as his eyes stared deep into her own. And for the first time in her life, Mouse believe it. Looking into Vyron's eyes, she could see how he truly believed what he was saying. She saw something else in his eyes too, but before she could ponder what it was, they disappeared behind his eyelids as a soft, tender touch warmed her lips.
It was the first time that she had ever been kissed and it was like as if two stars had collided and sent sparks flying everywhere. Her eyes closed as well as their lips explored each other's. Her first kiss was magical and she smiled inside, knowing that it would not be the last as one thought filled her mind: I am wanted.