I sat in the front parlour of the house and watched as people made their way down the street towards the centre of town to find the best spots to sit for the parade. They held blankets and bags full of food as some walked down the street with their closest friends and others chased after their young children. The happiness and laughter that surrounded these people made me think of my own childhood back home in Canada. The small town parades for Canada Day and for Christmas were the highlights of my childhood. The endless supply of candy thrown at you, the excitement for fireworks and to see Santa. I smiled, as I thought about my six-year-old self bundled up in my snowsuit, layered under blankets as I bounced in my mother’s lap waiting to see Santa come down the street.
“Ready?” Rupert walked into the front room, his voice bringing me from my own thoughts.
“Yeah.” I smiled and got up to follow him. I collected the blanket off the back of the chair I was sitting in and made my way out the door.
We walked in silence on our way to the downtown core of the town. Hundreds of people already lined the streets. Some sat in chairs while others stood leaning against the shop walls that lined the street.
“Is it always busy like this?” I asked.
“Always. You never toss up a chance to miss seeing the King and Queen.”
Over the last two weeks, I had finally begun to let myself understand this place. I wasn’t going to be able to leave, there was no way out. The magic kept me in, kept all of us in that didn’t have the power to open and close the gates. I spent a lot of time watching. Watching the people go in and out of shops, watching how they interacted together. I spent most of my time watching Rupert. There was something about him that drew my eyes towards him. When he was around I knew it was him, there was something in the air that alerted me when he was near. I was drawn to him, there was no denying that. How I felt about that though, that was a whole separate issue. I was comfortable with Rupert. I was fine being in the same house as him, I found myself over the last few days looking forward to our shared meals together. I found that I was excited to be shown the ins and outs of the town, to get to know the people that inhabited Emerald City. As more time went on I found myself getting more and more comfortable, and that scared me.
It scared me because in the short amount of time that I had been here I was already calling it home. My captor was no longer my captor but was now more a friend. Nix, who seemed much like a threat when I first met her, was now just as much of a friend to me as Rupert was. My comfort level was that of someone who would be at home.
We found an adequate spot in front of the local bakery. From this spot, we had a good viewing point. We would be able to see each member of the marching band as it made its way around the town square and the carriage that carried the King and Queen. We sat in comfortable silence, as we watched the children settle on the curb of the sidewalk waiting for the parade to start.
“Do you have any siblings?” Rupert’s voice brought me out of my thoughts.
“No, I was an only child.” My eyes flicked back to the children that laughed and played in front of us. “I was adopted. My parents couldn’t have kids.”
“D-Did you enjoy your life back in your world?” He stumbled over his words, almost like he was afraid to ask me.
I looked at him, his beautiful lavender eyes were assessing me, trying to read what I was truly feeling.
“Yes and no. Yes in the sense that I’ll miss my friends and the career that I had. I’ll miss learning about the history of the world and the travel.” I shrugged my shoulders as if I was trying to roll the tidal wave of emotions off my body.
“But you won’t miss it?” He asked confused.
“I won’t miss it in the sense that I won’t feel out of place and alone. Other than my friends I didn’t really have anyone else. My parents died a few years back -” I cleared my throat. “My mom got really sick and passed away and then a few months later so did my dad. Sometimes I like to believe it was from a broken heart, but he struggled with health issues his whole life so...”
“I’m sorry.” Rupert’s voice was so soft I almost didn’t hear him.
“It’s okay. It was years ago. You learn to live with your grief.” I replied. “What about you, any siblings?”
“Biologically, I’m not sure.” He crossed his ankles and leaned back against the building, his arms crossed over his chest.
I found my eyes drawn to the defined muscles of his arms. His biceps were flexed, and the veins in his arms were thick and defined. I quickly brought my eyes back up to his face before my thoughts drifted farther into the steamy hole I was finding myself going down. I found his eyes already looking at me, I blushed seeing the smirk on his face.
Get a hold of yourself woman! I mentally smacked myself.
“My birth parents left me in the fairy hills for the Changelings. In this world, I have one sibling. She’s married now and off living with her husband in Moonstone. My parents gave birth to her naturally, and like you I was adopted.”
“Why? Why were you left in the fairy hills?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea. I’m thinking it was probably because I was unwanted.” He looked out at the people around us. “My parents always told me that when they got me there was nothing wrong with me. I wasn’t sick, I didn’t have any disabilities.”
We both looked back out at the people that surrounded us. This time, I truly looked at the children and people of this city. I noticed that some walked with obvious limps, others had hands made from metals and plastics. I noticed that some of the children that had gathered around us had large purple birthmarks across their neck and face, others with cleft lips. All things that aren’t considered “desirable” in the society of my world. In this world though, everyone was the same. Equally loved, equally viewed, equally appreciated. That was the most beautiful thing about this place. Everyone was loved no matter their differences. It was a place that you felt like you belong, a place where you fit in.
I smiled at the laughing children, my heart swelling with an emotion that I didn’t understand. Their innocence was so pure. Their excitement radiated off of their bodies, their smiles bright and wide, stretching from cheek to cheek.
The sound of bagpipes, drums and horns met our ears. The music sounded far and continued to grow louder and louder as the marching band grew closer. As they rounded the corner I could see the band members in the signature emerald green uniforms. The bagpipers wore emerald green dress shirts with black and green plaid kilts. The rest of the band members that followed behind them wore black pants, with matching green jackets.
The music flowed without any flaw from the band members as they marched. Along the sides of the band, volunteers passed candy to the children that sat along the edge of the sidewalk. The kids happily accepted the candy and would turn to their parents to show them what they got.
As the band continued on, the crowds got more and more excited. People leaning against the buildings began to stand straight and push their way closer to the streets. Parents picked their kids up and placed them on their shoulders so they could see the King and Queen as they made their way down from the top of the hill.
Four black horses pulled the large white carriage. Emerald green reins were attached to each horse that were held in the hands of the driver. He wore a black and white suit, with a black hat to shield his face from the blinding sun. Behind him sat two people, two of the most beautiful people I had ever seen.
As the carriage pulled closer and closer to where we were standing my heart began to pump faster and faster in my chest. I could feel my chest move in short pants as I tried to suck air into my lungs.
The Queen’s red hair was pulled back into a tight bun, a few strands were pulled from her bun and curled to the sides of her face. Her skin looked soft and fair, her lips were painted a deep red to offset her hair and the sage green dress that she wore. Her dress shined as the light from the sun hit it, beautiful golden sparkles reflected off her dress and shined against her skin and face. Her most striking quality that I noticed was her beautiful golden, violet eyes. They shined with happiness and pride as she waved to the townspeople who cheered and clapped as they rode by.
My eyes left her and moved to the man that sat beside her. He wore the royal attire that you would expect a king to wear. Black slacks, with the emerald green jacket, equipped with golden accents. His white-blond hair was nicely combed back from his face. His golden-green eyes were bright against the deep green that he wore.
The carriage was only a few feet away and something inside me clicked. I felt my breath stop short, my hand reached out and grabbed onto Rupert as I felt my knees give out. I felt his arms wrap around me to keep me upright. His arms were warm, butterflies swarmed in my stomach. I heard the mumblings of his voice next to me but I couldn’t understand the words that were flowing out of his mouth.
My eyes locked with the Queen. I felt the air leave my chest, I felt my body vibrating in the arms of Rupert. Her golden violet eyes were calculating, wide with disbelief. I felt the wind stir and kiss my warm skin. Goosebumps arose, covering my whole body. My eyes never left hers, as the carriage continued to take her past me she turned to keep her eyes locked with mine. I blinked my eyes when her eyes moved to her husband next to her. His hand moved to her shoulder as if he was sensing something was wrong with her. Her eyes quickly snapped back to mine, the king following her line of sight.
My eyes locked with his and I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I could feel myself shaking uncontrollably in Rupert’s arms. His voice still lost to my ears. The king was just as stuck in this moment as I was. As I watched him and the queen, laughter met my ears as pictures began to flash before my eyes.
I could hear his voice, his voice was so strong, deep, as he spoke to his love in front of him.
I promise to protect them and show them the light of our ways.
That line played in my head, slowly becoming a soft whisper in my ear. I sucked in air, filling my lungs with the oxygen that had been clawing against my body, desperate to fill my lungs with what they were crying for.
“I know them.” Three simple words softly slipped off my lips.
“Ariella! Jesus, breath!” My body zoned back into what was happening around me. Rupert’s voice met my ears like a tsunami crashing into shore.
I blinked, my eyes wide. I turned to look at him. His eyes were frantic, desperate for me to come back to reality. His arms were still tightly wrapped around me. I felt his warmth surround me, I gently placed my shaking hands against his warm skin. Electric currents flowed through my body as I tried to compose myself.
“What the hell was that?” He asked, concern and fear laced into his voice. “Are you okay?”
I nodded my head, as I looked around me. The crowds still cheered and clapped, unphased and unknowing to what had just taken place.
“I know them,” I whispered again. Their eyes, their faces, smiles, their hair. All of it, I knew all of it because I had seen it before.
“The cliff...the people I saw...” My brain was a mess, my thoughts scrambling as I tried to make sense of what I just felt. “I-It was them. The King and Queen, they were the ones standing on that cliff. They were the ones that exchanged vows.”
Rupert stepped away from me, allowing me to try and stand on my own. He kept his hands on my elbows to make sure I was fine before he let go.
“This is a lot to take in...all of this just doesn’t make sense. Why do I feel like there’s something scratching at the back of my brain trying to break free? There’s more to it, I just don’t understand.”
Rupert grabbed onto my hand and pulled me into the alleyway beside the bakery. We began walking back towards the house, avoiding the large crowds. I took my hand from his, not understanding any of my feelings at that moment.
“Why would I see their marriage? Why do I feel like I know more than what I’m actually understanding.” I rubbed my fingers against my temples, feeling the beginnings of a migraine starting to form.
“Let’s just get you back home.” Rupert’s voice was soft.