She almost stepped on the beautiful bouquet of flowers that sat outside her door. Surprised, Mouse bent down and picked it up and, without looking at the small piece of parchment attached to it (which she quickly slipped into her pocket for safekeeping), suddenly realized who they were from.
Vyron, she smiled, hugging the flowers to herself as she inhaled their sweet scent. She sighed as she quickly slipped back into her room in search of a vase for the flowers. Taking out the wilted marigolds from a tall clay vase, Mouse replaced them with the new vibrant-coloured flowers. There were a variety of flowers in the bouquet, including some kinds that she couldn't name. Picking up the pitcher from her nightstand, Mouse poured the leftover water into the vase. Satisfied, Mouse left the room, glancing back once and smiling at the thoughtful gift. She couldn't stop thinking about them as she walked down the hall. She paused, suddenly remembering the parchment that she had taken from the flowers. She pulled it out of her pocket and opened it.
I could not stop thinking about you last night. I don't understand what we have, but I would like the chance to find out. Meet me down by the lake at sunset? I will eagerly await your response.
Mouse felt her heart beat wildly in her chest as she read the parchment over and over again. It was all real. She was being courted by a handsome young Knight! Her! A lowly servant girl with an unknown background! To think that someone like him could like someone like her... Mouse sighed happily as she continued on her way, but the happiness was cut short as she caught his name on the lips of a couple of passing maids.
No! Not him! Mouse felt herself inwardly panic. Not again! Every time she heard his name she couldn't help but cringe.
Stop it! Mouse scolded herself. You don't know anything yet. He may not be back. It may just be more nonsense gossip!
Taking a deep breath, she continued towards her destination, pushing away thoughts of him. She pushed open the tall, oak door of the kitchen and smiled as she inhaled multiple savory scents. The sound of bacon sizzling filled her ears along with the clanging of pans and shouts from the head cook, Gaston.
"Mmm, smells good, as always, Gaston!" Mouse complemented with a smile as she made her way over to counter table where a large covered dish sat waiting. "Is this the Queen's?"
"Yes, but it's not done yet!" Gaston snapped, smacking her hand that had begun to reach for the platter. "You! You sit! You eat! You never eat enough! Sit! Sit!" He guided her onto one of the tall chairs by the table then placed a plate heaping with food in front of her.
"I'm fine, really!" Mouse protested, reaching for the platter again.
"Eat!" Gaston ordered sharply, shoving a fork into her hand. "No leaving till food all gone!"
"But-" Mouse began but was cut off.
"Eat!" Gaston gave her a 'I'm not taking no for an answer' look.
"Fine," Mouse grumbled, stabbing her fork into a piece of bacon. Gaston's face lit up with a triumphant smile as he turned back to his stoves. Mouse couldn't help the light chuckled that escaped her lips as she regarded the older man. His years as the Royal Cook had not been kind to him as his belly grew with each passing year. His bright blue eyes flickered with the fires from the stoves as they flashed about the room, sharply watching each of his apprentices for any mistakes. His large lips spewed out a harsh voice when he was mad, but Mouse also knew the soft side of it that could comfort when you were upset. A slightly curled mustache sat under his large, pudgy nose, the dark colour matching the coal black curly hair on his head, which was always covered by a sweaty red bandana. Looking at her chubby friend, Mouse couldn't help but smile. Though many of the Court Ladies would frown on his out-of-shape body, Mouse loved everything about the big teddy bear. Though he seemed harsh and strict sometimes, Mouse knew that he really was kindhearted and sweet. And it was because of the respect and care that she had for him that she finished off the food on her plate, even though she would rather not have. She was not a big morning eater, which Gaston knew and frowned upon because, as he often stated to her, "breakfast was the most important meal of the day."
"There, I'm done," Mouse announced, pushing the empty plate away from her. "Is the Queen's food ready yet?"
"Yes," Gaston smiled slyly. "It's been ready since you got here! Now hurry up before it gets colder than it already is!" Mouse gasped as she realized that she had been played, sticking her tongue out at him as she slid off the chair and grabbed the platter.
"If she complains, I'm blaming your poor cooking skills!" she teased, heading for the door. The door suddenly flew open, almost knocking Mouse over, though she quickly regained her balance.
"Elsa!" Gaston roared. "What do you think you are doing, storming in like that?"The dark haired girl stood in the doorway, completely flustered and embarrassed.
"I'm sorry, papa," she stuttered as she fiddled with a piece of her long ebony hair and stared at the floor.
"Look at me when you're talking, child," Gaston scolded. "Now what is the meaning of all of this chaos?" The girl raised a pair of eyes identical to her father's from the ground and they quickly flickered over everyone in the room, pausing slightly as they slid over Mouse, before they finally fell on Gaston.
"He's back!" her small voice squealed with excitement. "Sir Darien is back!"
Mouse felt like as if time had stopped. It was like all of her fears and nightmares had come to life. He was back. Never had such simple words struck such terror and panic into her body. The room began to spin around her and she felt the platter slip from her hands as her body went numb and the world went black. The last thing she remembered was a high-pitched screech and then there was nothing.