I stood in front of a large mirror. I looked at myself, a feeling of nausea washed over my body. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I opened them up and looked at myself one last time.
The ivory dress that hung on my body was so light and flowy that it felt like I was wearing nothing. It covered my shoulders and arms with long sleeves that hung loose against my arms. The dress came down the front of my chest in a deep V before it cinched me at my waist. A small ivory belt with a bow sat there before it flowed away from my hips and split open to the side in a long slit. The gown was simply beautiful, the colour making my skin look like porcelain and my hair look six times bolder than it usually did. My hair hung in loose waves against my back. Pieces were pulled back from my face into a braided knot at the back of my head.
I reached up and traced my fingers gently across the small silver crown that Grace had given me. I brushed my fingers against the emerald stones and sparkling diamonds that glittered under the lights.
I’m a princess. To be married to a prince. My old life is gone now. I thought. I must become who I was destined to be.
I turned to the sound of a soft knock on my door. I didn’t get a chance to respond before my door was tossed open and Nix burst through.
She wore a long black dress that showed off every curve of her body. It was a one-shoulder long sleeve dress. Her one arm was covered in silver jewels that flowed down her side. The solid black material of her dress covered her bust and moved down the center of her body in a soft curve. On her left side of her body, from her hip down to the floor the same jewels covered the material. Her dark hair was pulled back into a tight, braided bun. Dark smokey eyeshadow covered her golden eyes, which made it seem like they were glowing.
“This is bad, bad, bad. You’re making a big mistake. Big. Huge!” She threw her arms up in the air. “Should not be him that you’re with. Nope!” She shook her head. “Nope, definitely not him. He’s bad, bad, bad!”
“Nix.” I tried to reason with her, but I knew it would be no use in her current state of mania.
“Don’t you Nix me! I know all!” Her hands were up in the air again. “I know everything. Every little thing. It’s Rupert you’re supposed to be with. Darling Rupert, who’s downstairs waiting for you!”
“H-He’s downstairs?” My throat started to close and my heart began to beat furiously in my chest.
“He’s crazy! Crazy that Rupert! All he’s been doing is pacing and painting! Pace and paint!” She said as she herself was pacing across my bedroom floor. “He only paints you! Your hair, your eyes! Always your beautiful eyes that stare into your soul!” She turned and marched towards me.
I stepped back, away from her crazy moving arms and pointed fingers.
“You!” She poked her finger towards me. “You! You’re all he ever talks about. A wallowing whale baby, crying over you! It’s the whale baby you’re supposed to be with, not evil kenevil Valerian!” She spoke Valerian’s name in a low, disgusted tone.
I tried to listen to what she was saying but her thoughts and words were so all over the place it was hard to keep track of what she was talking about. My mind was spinning at the thought of walking down the stairs and seeing Rupert.
He had been out of sight and out of mind for so long that the thought of seeing him while I was with someone else had my stomach turning and my heart ready to race out of my chest.
“Carnelians are no good. Not good at all. Don’t marry the one you’re not destined to be with.” Her eyes grew wide as she spoke. “Marry him and you’ll end up crazy like me!” She giggled at herself and began to pace across the floor again.
“Yes! You’ll be crazy, psycho, just like me!” She flopped herself down on the edge of my bed. “Don’t marry him. He’s bad, bad, bad.” She shook her head before she reached up and scratched the side of her head.
“I think that’s all I have to say...” Her voice began to slow, her rambling mess of words turned into slow mumbling. “Yes, that’s it, that’s all!” She quickly stood up and marched towards the door. “I’ll see you downstairs!” She pulled open the door and moved through it. Before she closed the door behind her, she poked her head back through the crack.
“You look lovely by the way.” She smiled and popped her head back out of the door and slammed it behind her.
“Wow.” I stared at the closed door for a few minutes before I opened it myself and made my way towards the music and laughter at the bottom of the stairs.
I moved slowly down the stairs, I was in no rush to spend my night dancing with Val, while I felt Rupert’s eyes glaring into my back. My mind drifted over the rambling words that Nix had just spat in my face. Apart of me felt like I was making the wrong choice. A burning pit at the base of my stomach agreed with me.
I paused on the steps and took a deep breath.
This is the right choice. Protect your people. I convinced myself. I opened my eyes, released my breath, and moved down the stairs with a smile on my face.
I moved across the dance floor. My dress fluttered with my body as I swayed and spun in graceful dance moves. My dress felt like a feather brushing against my legs as we moved across the dance floor. Music filled the room, drowning out the quiet hum of chatter.
The chandeliers were glowing, casting a warm light across the room. It hit the glitter on the many dresses that moved across the dance floor beside me.
“Our parents seem to be having a good time.” Valerian’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. I looked up at him before I followed his gaze to the far side of the room.
Kallum and Grace stood beside Valerian’s parents. They seemed to be in a light, cheerful conversation.
“They do.” I nodded my head and glanced up at Valerian’s face.
He was a handsome man. Dark wavy hair, dull golden brown eyes. A strong chiselled jaw, straight nose, wide shoulders to hold up his thick muscular chest and arms.
His eyes met mine and he smiled. I smiled back before I glanced back over at my parents. My eyes connected with Kallums. He grinned at me before making his way over to us.
“May I interrupt this dance?” He looked at me before his eyes moved over to Val.
“Of course.” He replied as he stepped back and let go of my hands.
Kallum quickly moved into step with me and we began moving slowly across the dance floor. This was the first time that I had really spent any time with him. I felt oddly comfortable moving across the floor with him.
“I know this isn’t easy for you.” He said after a moment of silence.
I looked him in the eyes. “It’s fine.” I lightly shrugged my shoulders and looked out into the crowd.
“I couldn’t imagine not being with your mother, so I know this isn’t easy.” He continued. “I just want you to know that even though all of this isn’t easy, I’m proud of you.”
I felt my heart squeeze in my chest. I closed my eyes and blew out a breath.
“I know doing this was a lot to think about, and a lot of ask of you. You’re doing the right thing.” His voice was soft and quiet. He was being careful with his words, gentle to not break me.
I looked up at him and smiled, but I know the smile didn’t reach my eyes. “Thank you.”
“Maybe it was something you needed to hear, but maybe it wasn’t. I just wanted you to know.” He said before he twisted me into a spin.
“I know, thank you for telling me,” I said as the song we had been dancing to began to change tempo into a new song.
I saw Valerian make his way back towards us, he joined me again in another dance while Kallum moved back towards Grace. As the new song began its intro the guests slowly moved to the side to leave Val and I alone on the floor.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together to celebrate the coming union of Prince Valerian of the Carnelian Kingdom, and our very own, Princess Ariella of the Emerald City Kingdom.” A man spoke into a microphone in front of the orchestra as they continued to quietly play.
The crowd around us began to clap as Valerian continued to glide me across the floor. He spun me around the room, my dress twisting against my legs and his. We moved in one continuous fluid motion. As the song’s tempo sped up Valerian’s parents, Kallum and Grace joined us onto the dance floor. We moved in a synchronized dance, my feet and body moving with the guidance of Valerian’s body against mine.
I closed my eyes as I felt the music beat with my own heart. I felt Valerian’s arms pull me tight against him, his hand coming to the side of my hip before he pushed me away from him. I spun under his arm, and out towards the crowd. I opened my eyes, a smile on my face as I glanced out at the people watching us in admiration. My eyes collided with a pair of vibrant lavender eyes. I felt my heart stop beating as my breath hitched in my throat.
He was here, standing there watching me dance with another man. His face was blank, his eyes shined under the soft glow of the lights in the room. His hair was dishevelled, messy against his head. He wore a deep navy suit, his white shirt under the jacket was unbuttoned. I could see the top of his chest and the soft line of his strong chest muscles that disappeared beneath his shirt. I could so clearly see his naked chest in my mind, it was like the image of him was burned into my brain. I looked at him, my eyes followed the dip of his shirt. I knew that if one more button were to come undone the mark that I left on his skin would be visible.
My eyes gave him one last look before I felt Valerian’s hand pull my arm back towards him, my body following his guidance, spun back into his chest. We moved across the floor for another few minutes before the song began to close. Valerian dipped me low, my head tipped back my hair softly brushing against the floor. My eyes collided with Ruperts once again. I closed my eyes and gripped Val’s arms as he pulled me back up.
I smiled at him, “I’m going to grab a drink and some air. I’ll be back in a bit.” I squeezed his arm before I took off in the direction of the doors to the gardens.
I moved down the path, the crisp air was harsh against my warm skin. I felt my skin raise into soft goosebumps as the shock of the air hit my skin. I rubbed my arms as I followed the path down towards the small simple maze that had been created out of thick evergreen shrubs.
I could hear the crunch of gravel behind me as I moved. I didn’t need to look behind me to know who it was that was following me. I could tell by the way that my heart pumped in my chest, and by the way my body began to hum in recognition.
I moved into the maze, the moon shone in the sky allowing me to see where I needed to make the correct turns. I moved deep into the maze before I stopped and turned to look back.
Rupert stood there, his hands deep into his pockets. His hair looked messier than it had been moments before. He was only a few strides away from me, one quick movement and he could have me pinned against the thick shrubs.
“Why are you here?” I asked, my voice came out a lot stronger than I had expected it to.
“I needed to see it for myself.”
“See what?” I folded my arms across my chest.
“If the Princess really was going to marry the Prince of Darkness.” He took a step towards me, and I followed his suit by taking one step back from him.
“I’m just doing what you told me. You made your choice so I made mine.” I narrowed my eyes into a glare. I watched as his jaw grew tight as he clenched his teeth.
“A choice I shouldn’t have made.” His voice was clear. I flinched at his words, my eyes closed in pain.
“No.” I shook my head before I opened my eyes to look back at him. “You don’t get to do this again. I asked you to make your choice, I gave you so many chances to change your mind before I walked out that door. You never did. You don’t get to come back into my life after a month of silence.” My voice continued to rise in anger as I spoke. “I’ve moved on.”
He smiled at me. “No, you haven’t, love.” He moved quickly. Two fast strides and he had his arms wrapped around me and he pulled me against his chest. “I see the way you look at him. There’s no heat, no passion, no happiness. Your body tenses in his arms, yet you relax in mine. You haven’t moved on. You still crave my touch, your eyes still shine with passion and heat when they look at me.” His head dipped closer to mine. I could feel his breath blow against my skin, while his lips brushed against mine as he spoke.
I pushed my hands against his chest as I spoke. “No!” I glared. “You’re done.” I gave him a shove, he moved back. His arms falling from my sides. I instantly felt cold, a small shiver moved up my spine.
“Don’t follow me, Rupert.” I stepped away from him. “You made your choice, and now I’ve made mine.” I moved around him and moved out of the maze. I didn’t hear his footsteps behind me as I moved away from him.
“I’ll fight for you.” I heard him call from behind me. I hugged my arms around myself, squeezed my eyes shut as I held in the emotions that threatened to pour out. I didn’t look back, I continued to walk away. Something I found that I was beginning to get really good at.