When we arrived back at the castle, I asked Nick to take Jack upstairs and make sure that he’s fine. I saw Challan’s knights riding away on their horses so I slowly went up to him to say goodbye and to thank him for being so understanding of what happened, and me in general.
‘So, I guess you’re leaving.’ He notices me and smiles, leaving me on the verge, again.
‘I’ll be close if you need me.’
‘Thank you.’ He hops onto his horse and rides away with his knights at his side.
‘Your majesty, how was dinner?’ Layla approaches from behind me.
‘It was good. How come that you didn’t come with us?’
‘I was busy. Next time I’ll come, I promise.’
‘Busy with what?’
‘Oh, nothing in particular.’
‘Alright, if you say so. Now would you be so kind and prepare me a hot bath.’
‘Right away.’ She makes her way to the castle.
‘Oh, and Layla.’ Layla turns around swiftly.
‘Yes, your majesty?’
‘Bring an extra towel.’ I wink and she smiles.
‘Your majesty?’ I see Nick coming outside of the castle.
‘I just wanted to say that I’ve persuaded Jack to invite Challan to come over.’
‘Why would you do such thing?’ I guess Jack isn’t responsible for this after all.
‘Because I see how lonely you’ve become. This island needs a strong alliance with someone. I mean, after all these riots that keep happening in the city we need to assure people that their queen is thinking about them. And what better way of showing how deeply you care than to make an alliance with someone.’
‘It’s okay Nick. Besides, Challan doesn’t seem so bad, after all.’
‘I’m glad you like him.’
‘Like him, that’s all. For now. We’ll see how it goes.’
‘Very well. Just remember, your majesty, any difficulties you just tell me and I’ll be right here by your side.’
‘Thanks, Nick. I appreciate it.’ I smile and we make our way to the castle.
After a long and exhausting day, I can finally relax. I feel that I can fall asleep right here with Layla by my side. But eagerness and curiosity keep me awake.
‘So, Layla, are you feeling more conformable now that you’re a vampire?’
‘I’m slowly getting used to it.’
‘I mean look at the bright side. You don’t have to prepare food anymore.’
‘I like to prepare food. The food was never my problem. That’s the reason why I was hired to work here, your majesty.’
‘Yes, yes I know. But you are not obligated to do it anymore.’
‘Yes, I guess. Right now, I’m doing it for pleasure.’ Her food was everything but pleasure. Most of the times the food was either raw or burnt.
‘Well, I’m sure when you find someone who appreciates your cooking, that person won’t get enough of it.’
‘Your majesty, I met someone.’ Well, that was fast.
‘It was before this whole vampire thing occurred.’
‘What is his name?’
‘Roger. He lives with his mother at the town’s periphery.’
‘Oh, I’m happy for you Layla. Why haven’t you told me that before?’
‘I didn’t think that it was anything serious.’
‘So, what changed?’
‘He asked me to marry him.’ Layla lifts her hand up from the water and there it is. A beautiful flower-shaped diamond ring.
‘Oh, Layla! How does he look like? Tell me everything!’
‘Tall, handsome, brown hair and brown eyes. Nice lips and beautiful personality.’
‘How old is he?’
‘Couple of years older than me. Why?’
‘Why does he then still live with his mother?’
‘I don’t know. Personal preference I guess.’
‘Hmm, weird. But you’re not gonna live with his mother after you marry him, right?’
‘Well, I’m still not sure about that yet.’
‘Well, if I was you I’d make sure to find out that information as soon as possible.’ Layla smiles and the rest of our conversation fade in into the late-night hours. After we’re done, I go upstairs to my bedroom and fall asleep within a minute.
‘I told you that she would be hiding there.’ I can hear the hollow voice coming from my sister.
‘Please mother! I didn’t mean to do it!’ I scream as I feel another hit on my back with a cold leather belt, which my mother always used on me when I behaved badly.
‘I told you! I warn you, not to run away. And to use your little sister to justify your actions is purely sick!’
‘Please mother! I swear I won’t do it anymore!’ My voice cracks as I feel another hit.
‘Mother, maybe that’s enough. I think she learned her lesson.’
‘No! She needs to learn how to properly behave and respect her only parent!’
‘You’re not my only parent mother!’
‘What’d you say?!’
‘I have my father, and he’s gonna save me from you!’
‘You’re father never liked you. He left you with me as soon as Anastasia was born. He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself.’
‘I am not! And you need to shut your mouth young lady!’
‘NEVER!’ I close my eyes firmly as I feel another hit bounce on my skin.
I wake up, all sweaty and exhausted. I can’t even sleep properly anymore. I try not to think about my dream but it’s impossible. The weird thing is. Why do my dreams go in a chronological order? Where do my dreams lead? To what exposition is this building up for?
I go to my vanity table and open the first drawer. I take my diary and my pen and I start writing. I write about today, about Challan, about how Jack got drunk and how Nick helped him get better. I write about Joshua’s funeral and my absence on it. I write about what kind of a eulogy would I prepare. I take some time to think about it and then I write an introduction of how would my eulogy begin if I attended the funeral.
A sudden noise stops me. A silence that follows makes me confused. Did I hear it properly? Am I still dreaming? The noise occurs again, coming from the window. Someone is throwing rocks on my window. I walk nonchalantly to the window, completely careless of how dangerous might that be. Who knows who is throwing rocks at the window or what else do they might have to throw at it or at me when I open it.
On my relief, it’s Prince Challan. Still wearing the clothes from earlier today. But his armor is missing.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Would I fine lady like you join me for a ride?’
‘Where would we go?’
‘Is that a yes?’
‘Depends on where are we going.’
‘To the meadows. You don’t have to worry, it’s completely safe there.’
‘Well, judging by the fact that it is four in the morning and anyone that merely wants to do something bad to me is long asleep. Alright, I’ll go with you. Just give me a moment.’
‘No worries Queen Gabriella. I’d will be waiting for you down here.’
As I walk down the entrance stairs, I can’t seem to ignore Challan’s smile. It is wide and beautiful. It brings the sunshine to this dark and gloomy night.
‘Please call me Ella. Enough of this queen act.’
‘Only if you call me Chall.’
‘I don’t like hypocrites. If you get what I mean.’
‘I sure do. Very well Chall. I officially allow you to kidnap me from my own castle and take me away.’
‘Well, you willingly agreed to do it.’
‘Oh, is that how you remember?’
‘Hop on.’ Now here’s the problem. A beautiful but menacing looking horse.
‘I never rode on a horse before.’
‘What? How come?’
‘They drove me, but I never rode them.’
‘I get it. Wait, let me help you.’ He stretches his arm and I hold onto to it firmly. His hands are cold. Too cold. But no way near my coldness. As soon as he touches my hand I can see the grimace on his face. He’s confused.
‘What’s wrong?’ I ask him when I finally get on the horse.
‘Nothing. You ready?’
‘I sure am.’ I smile but he doesn’t move.
‘Why are we standing?’
‘Put your hands around my waist. I don’t want you falling down from the horse.’
‘Umm. Okay.’ I slowly put my arms around his waist. I can feel his abs. I bet his body is in great shape. ‘Shall we go? Or shall we wait until sunrise so I can properly say goodbye to the servants and Nick and Jack?’
‘We may go.’ As soon as the horse starts galloping I jump out of shock. But Challan puts his hand on mine and that calms me down.
As we ride I can see beautiful landscapes. Forest, animals and shimmering ponds all scattered across the hills. I lay my head on Challan’s back and close my eyes. In that moment, I picture myself on the ship alongside William and in the distance, I can see my father barking orders and pirates roaming around. I open my eyes and it’s gone. A long-lost memory. I want to cry, to tear up but the tears never come. Besides, I am with someone that I might potentially fall in love with. I shouldn’t waste my time thinking about the negatives and I should just enjoy the moment.
‘Did you ever been with someone?’
‘Yeah, I had heaps of girlfriends.’
‘I’m just joking.’
‘Well. I wasn’t offended.’
‘I actually had one girl, her name was Eleanor.’
‘What happened to her?’
‘It’s a long story, let’s leave that for another time.’ In that moment, the horse stops and Challan hop down lending me a hand to come down as well.
‘Where are we, exactly?’
‘We are in the most beautiful place that your island can offer.’
‘Oh really? Since when do you know more about my island than me?’
‘Ever since I laid my eyes on you.’ He’s drunk. I get it now. That’s the reason why he asked me to go with him even though we saw each other couple of hours ago.
‘Challan how much did you had to drink?’
‘Not much. Why?’ He burps and it makes me laugh so hard. I move backward but I stumble upon something and before I knew it there he is. Face to face. His mesmerizing blue eyes gazing at me.
‘Are you okay Ella?’ I lift my head up to kiss him but he backs away.
‘Isn’t it too early for something like that?’
‘Yes. You are completely right.’ Even though he’s drunk, I’m the one who’s acting drunker right now.
‘I mean I don’t want to lose what we have.’
‘And what would that be?’ I’m beginning to get angry, even though I don’t mean it, my tiredness gets the better of me. I make my best to sound as neutral as possible. I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
‘Our friendship. Our alliance.’
‘Very well.’ He comes in closer and hugs me. I let my body absorb his warmth.
‘Ella, why are you so cold in touch?’
‘We are in the middle of the forest and it’s four thirty in the morning.’
‘No. I know how a body feels like when it’s cold. Your body is completely different. It feels almost like you’re dead.’ Bingo! How did you know? ‘Sorry I don’t mean to be rude. I’m just saying.’
‘No, I get it. Maybe I’ll warm up eventually.’ He brings me closer to him and firms his hold on me. I can feel his warm breath on my shoulder. His lips slowly kissing it. For a man that doesn’t want a kiss, he is moving pretty fast indeed.
‘Chall, what are you doing?’ My voice sounding breathless, which is ironic because I don’t breathe. I can’t believe that I gave in into the temptation so easily.
‘I love you, Ella. I really do.’ His face proceeds to my face and his hands into my blouse. His other hand starts to unzip my skirt.
‘Don’t talk.’ He kisses me on the lips now. I feel numb. Unable to move. My body is frozen. ‘Would you help me undress?’ I proceed to his shirt and start unbuttoning it.
‘What now?’ We are both naked at this point and I don’t know what to do next.
‘To the pond.’ He suggests and my eyes widen in shock.
‘What? You must be crazy. The pond must be freezing cold.’
‘You’d be surprised.’ He picks me up and we go into the pond which is surprisingly warm. Something that I haven’t expected it to be.
‘Chall. I don’t know what to do.’
‘Let me show you.’ The rest of the night went peacefully. And when I wake up I can feel his hand going through my hair.
‘You’re beautiful when you sleep.’ I smile at him but something makes my smile fade away faster than it did appear.
‘Chall. Why does your hand feel so cold?’
‘It’s eleven in the morning and we are in the middle of the meadow. Don’t worry I’ll warm up eventually.’ He smirks.
‘Challan. What did I do to you?’
‘You bit me.’ He smirks, looking down at me.