Life After Life

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Chapter 3 - Everose

Veryan was waiting for me at the main gate when I arrive back.

“We need to get you bathed and ready for the ball tonight!” She was glowing as if the ball was for her. We hurried up to my room and as soon as the door closed Veryan jumped on my bed and squealed, instantly I was excited to hear why she was so happy.

“While you were gone the Queen came and talked to me.”

“My mother?”

“Yes, your mother, who else? Anyways she told me how she knows how close we are, and she’s always considered me her daughter since we were little.” She paused and glanced at me, Veryan’s mother had served the queen as her lady in waiting until 5 years ago when she fell ill. Veryan didn’t know who her dad was, her mother never told her.

“So, she asked me if I would like to go to the ball tonight with you! Not as your lady waiting but as a Royal guest! She even said she had a dress made for me.”

I stood there in front of her silent for a moment, until I screamed a smile breaking over my face, like the sun coming over the mountains in the morning. Veryan grabbed me and we both fell onto the bed giggling. After we finally calmed down we sat up, Veryan looked at me.

“Did you pull up your corset, to make your chest look bigger?” I blushed a deep shade of red.

“I just wish I looked like you.” Veryan was beautifully curvy, while I wasn’t completely lacking I didn’t have an abundance. Veryan just pulled me up and into a hug.

“I love you Everose.” I hugged her back, taking a moment to appreciate my best friend.

“Now let’s get ready! Sara, Eliza, make us beautiful!” Veryan giggled.

Sara and Eliza came rushing in, all too happy to help. My gown for the ball was blue with gold trim, sheer blue fabric hung off my shoulder and down my arm gathering at my wrist, the fabric split in the middle so that you could see my skin and a long train hand stitched with golden lilies followed me everywhere I went.

Veryan, seeing what I did in the carriage, told Eliza to tighten my corset at the top but loosen it at the bottom. I looked in the mirror, now I looked curvy just like Veryan. My hair had been curled and pinned to my head only letting a few hangs loose. My tiara was placed in the curls and giant gold earrings with sapphire hung from ears along with gold and sapphires around my neck. I asked Sara to help me put my bracelet back on. I felt so beautiful. Veryan walked up next to me so our reflections were side by side.

She wore a white gown with diamond earrings and a necklace. Her hair was in curls pinned so that they sat on her head with one hanging down, resting against her cheek, she was radiant. A knock came from the door, we both turned as Hayther walked in. I could smell the soap that he had used, his uniform looked as sharp as ever.

He saw Veryan first and grinned, he went to make a smart comment but then his smile dropped from his face as he finally he saw me. We sat there just staring at each other, we were both speechless.

“You look stunning,” Hayther said.

I didn’t know what to say, ever since he kissed me in the carriage I suddenly didn’t know what to say to him at all. Veryan put an arm around Hayther and laughed.

“She looks stunning every day, you just don’t notice it.”

As we left the room, I felt a pang of jealousy as Veryan still walked with her arm around Hayther. We arrived at the banquet hall, all the guests were there already except for us three and my parents. Hayther escorted Veryan down the grand staircase.

I stood there waiting for my parents, my mother and father came from the other hall. My mother wore a green, blue and gold dress. I wasn’t allowed to wear a dress with all of our country’s colors until my next birthday. She smiled as soon as she saw me, she raced over to embrace me as my father smiled at us both.

“You look beautiful! Oh, dear I can’t wait for next year! You think this is a party just wait till your 18!”

My mother took my arm and started leading me towards the staircase. Suddenly I felt like I was going to be sick, the guilt I felt for disappointing everyone that I am probably not going to make it through my 18th birthday was overwhelming. My mother stopped right before we were in front of the stairs and turned toward me her faced grew serious.

“Darling your father and I love you very much.” She held my face in between both her hands, speaking. “Exciting things are coming your way, and tomorrow you will begin training with a new tutor.” I nodded, not fully understanding but I didn’t want to question her further right now. She was already turning back to the stairs a smile lighting up her face, she placed her arm through my fathers and descended the stairs.

Trumpets came to life echoing in the banquet hall, people clapped. Once they had reached the table, my name was announced.

“Please welcome Princess Everose of Delgurany.”

The band played our country’s song as I walked down the stairs. Everyone was clapping and smiling I had to keep looking down to make sure I didn’t trip on my dress, though my guilt still lingered it was hard to keep from smiling. I walked to my seat and stood before my chair finally everyone quieted down. My father started.

“Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate my beloved daughter’s birthday. She is 17 years old today, on the brink of becoming a woman. May her last year as a child be full of memories and happiness. Long live Princess Everose!”

My father cheered, everyone echoed “long live King Ashur, Queen Melena and Princess Everose!”

We all sat down to eat, and I thought to myself I want to live a long beautiful life, I want to live forever.

The long table was adorned with blue lilies and a garland of greenery running down the middle, candles made all the plates and cups filled with drinks shimmer and sparkle. My seat was in between my mother and Veryan. The king from Rimerona, his wife and their son were in front of me, the king from Ardelia was next to Veryan along with his wife and twin sons. They talked about political things and the recent attacks, I would smile and laugh when appropriate.

Though I wasn’t really listening. I kept sneaking glances at Hayther who was stationed against the wall across from me.

“If you keep staring at that guard Princess Everose, I think he may melt.” Veryan whispered in my ear, I choked a little and my mother gave me a look. I apologized and covered my mouth with a napkin. Veryan snickered quietly into the palm of her hand. I pinned her down with my stare and said as sweetly as I could.

“Lady Veryan, you would be wise to keep observations to yourself.”

We had decided to address each other formally so no one would know she was really my lady in waiting. She rolled her eyes and continued eating. A smile still snuck across my face.

Once the banquet was done we all moved over to the ballroom. My father and I had the first dance. We waltzed, and everyone clapped. I then took my seat at the throne and everyone who wasn’t dancing came to pay their respects. At some point, someone handed me a glass of wine, it warmed my belly and made me smile even more. The servant brought me another glass every time mine was empty. My father came up to me.

“I think you’ve said hello to enough people, this is your party after all. Go enjoy it. It’s getting around to that time to start thinking of marriage,” he paused, his deep brown eyes sweeping over the crowd. “Maybe you’ll find a suitor here, the Princes from Ardelia and Rimerona are here. They’re all around your age.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me, the wine made me giggle at this and I happily went off into the crowd.

The only person I was looking for was Hayther. I wanted to see him and tell him of all the times that he made my stomach turn to butterflies or my heart skip a beat. I walked the whole ballroom, got stopped quite a few times by people wanting to talk to the princess, and to get a few more glasses of wine, but I didn’t see him anywhere.

I went out into the hall, almost tripping over my skirt, to see if maybe he had been posted outside the doors. I heard whispering around the corner and went to see if it was Hayther talking to another guard. Instead I walked around the corner to see a guard and a lady in a white dress up against a wall. The guard had his hands on either side of the lady and their heads were very close to each other. I giggled at this sight, I was glad someone was having fun, I cleared my throat.

“Excuse me have you seen Hayther, I can’t find him anywhere.”

The guard whipped around and to my horror I was face to face with Hayther. I stood there with my mouth hanging open, Hayther looked so red he could burst into flames. I wanted to cry but instead I laughed.

“Oh my, well this is awkward. I had no idea you were courting someone.”

I kept laughing until Veryan stepped out from behind Hayther. I immediately turned away and ran back to the ballroom. I heard them both call out my name, but I didn’t turn back. I wanted to cry, but I refused to.

Once inside I was immediately asked to dance, I accepted. My first dance was with an old duke, who I could barely understand due to his thick accent. My next two dances were with the twins from Ardelia, Prince Leo and Prince Warren. I kept getting them confused because they looked identical. They were both tall and lanky, with slim faces, their brown eyes were big and had a golden hue to them, like they almost glowed in the candlelight as they twirled me around. Their copper skin made their green suits stand out even more. They would switch with each other four times in one song, so I never knew exactly who I was dancing with.

The wine didn’t help at all I just kept getting more and more confused. During my fourth song, I was dancing with Prince Dorian from Rimerona. He was tall with blonde hair that was very carefully parted to one side. Some of his curls had come unstuck and were standing up in strange ways. His blue eyes were like the color of the Ardelia sea, warm and almost swirling, he was very handsome.

“Princess, you have grown into a gorgeous young lady. It is an honor to be one of the lucky gentlemen who share a dance with the birthday girl.” I felt my cheeks turn red and I knew this time it wasn’t from the wine.

As I danced I saw Hayther out of the corner of my eye, watching me. I was still hurt so I laughed at everything Prince Dorian said, batted my eyes and made sure I danced a little closer. Prince Dorian spoke in a husky voice.

“My you’re quite the dancer for someone who hasn’t stopped drinking since dinner.” I laughed but as soon as he mentioned it I felt little light headed from all the dancing and the wine. “I think that I need some air.”

He stepped back and bowed deeply.

“Please let me offer to escort you on a walk in the garden.” I curtsied back at him graciously accepted, I placed my arm through his and I thought I saw Hayther somewhere in the crowd, as walked towards the doors that led outside.

The cool night breeze felt good on my flushed cheeks, the garden’s lilies and roses were in full bloom. Candles were lit all over the garden bathing it in a warm glow that made it feel dreamy. We found a bench and sat down. “Princess Everose, you know our parents are very close.” I mumbled an agreement and laid my head on his shoulder, I was so tired.

“I’ve been coming to your Kingdom since I was little, we’ve practically grown up together.” I could count how many times we had interacted on one hand, but I was barely listening anymore, I wish I could be in my bed right now, I wish today never happened.

“And I must say.” His lips against my hair, his breath felt hot “I’ve loved you ever since I first laid my eyes on you as a little boy.”

I lifted my head from his shoulder and stared into his eyes, they were gray outside, I leaned forward and before I knew it his lips were crushing mine. He held my cheek softly, but his lips were rough. I tried to pull back, but the wine made my head spin and my arms felt like they weren’t attached to my body, Prince Dorian’s hand grabbed my shoulder and held me against him.

Just as suddenly as the kiss had started he stopped. He pulled away and his eyes looked sad as he whispered “I’m sorry. I can’-”

Out of nowhere I saw a fist come flying and hit Prince Dorian right across his face. He fell backwards off the bench with a loud cry. I looked up to see Hayther standing next to me, his chest rose up and down quickly.

Before I could have said anything, Hayther started “I am your personal bodyguard” he paused, his voice sounded deeper than usual. “Though I may not agree with your choices, that is no way to behave.”

He walked over to where Dorian still laid on the ground moaning and holding his face. I touched my lips, they felt bruised I had never been kissed before on the lips. He grabbed the front of Prince Dorian’s shirt and picked him off the ground a little.

“If you ever try anything on the Princess again, especially when she is obviously not herself, you will sorely regret it.”

Prince Dorian’s eyes were wide with fear he shook his head in understanding.

Hayther sneered “Swear it.”

Prince Dorian’s voice shook “I- I swear.”

Hayther let go of his shirt and let him fall back to the ground without another look. Hayther came back to me and grabbed my arm. I got up to start to walk but stumbled, I could hardly keep my eyes open. I heard Hayther sigh.

“What am I going to do with you Princess?” As he swept me up in his arms, I snuggled closer to his chest and whispered drunkenly

“Marry me?” I wrapped my arms around his neck and fell asleep breathing in his scent.

I vaguely remembered Veryan undressing me and getting me into my nightgown. I collapsed onto my bed, feeling numb. I heard Veryan’s voice in the distance.

“We have to tell her what was really going on.” She paused “What happened to your hand?”

It’s quiet for a long time after that and I thought maybe I had dreamed the whole thing, until I felt someone lean over me.

“I was protecting what I love.” Hayther whispered.

I felt him plant a kiss on my forehead. I was too far gone to open my eyes or even move.

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