The crowd are cheering but I'm not really paying attention to them. Instead I'm focusing on Soraya. She's stood at the edge of the room, in her dusky pink suit with her trousers just brushing her ankles showing her matching heels, her snow white hair pulled into a simple high ponytail, with a French braid down the centre. Her makeup is just a lick of a lip gloss with a dash of golden eyeshadow, to accentuate her bright blue eyes.
As I return to my seat I can't stop looking at her, and the way she acts. So regal, but she seems closed off. Like she doesn't laugh or smile all that often. And it makes me sad to think that such a beautiful girl doesn't laugh. So as the dancing begins I walk down the steps and start to head towards her but get stopped by multiple people asking about me and my mother, before offering their sons for marriage. Each time I politely decline and move on, only to be stopped by another Queen who asks the same questions and then offers her sons hand in marriage. And so the battle continues as I try and reach Soraya who is stood against the wall, looking at her nails. The last person stood in my way is Penelope, who unsurprisingly strikes up a conversation with me.
"Lillia dear, where are you going in such a hurry? Trying to reach Princess Soraya are you?"
"Yes now please let me past." I say in an exasperated tone.
She shakes her head saying "Well, I don't think you should bother her. She doesn't deserve to be hurt by you like you hurt my daughter. Also how would you feel if your child was trying to talk to a girl?"
The comment snaps my already frayed patience so I say raising my voice
"We all know Penelope that you are a homophobic, obsessive, self-absorbed, snob of a woman. And that you don't give a monkeys about your city or your daughter. All you care about is yourself and how you reflect on everyone else and how other people see you. And you damn well know that your daughter broke my heart, because she was so very desperate to please you. So in actual fact I guess I should thank you because otherwise I would not be here today where I am. Enjoying my life while you rot in your own custom made prison of insecurity, jealousy and snobbery."
Then I barge past her and finally reach Soraya, smoothing my dress out and taking a deep breath. She looks up at me with a smile on her face and I smile back as she says her voice as soft as a cloud, "Took you long enough."
I push her playfully into the wall with a mock glare, as though we'd known each other for years. She laughs, a sound as clear as a bell.
"That was amazing and deserved by the way. What you said to her."
I nod smiling at her "Well she's a homophobic horrible snob who I used to live with. And work for."
"What do you mean? Work for?" She asks, only curiosity in her tone.
"I used to be a maid in Loutocia, and then I became Princess Genevieve's lady in waiting and then girlfriend and yeah. But then I found my family and now I'm here." I say happily.
Suddenly the orchestra starts up and Leon, Lola, Miles and Dalia start dancing, people moving further back the bigger the circle they dance. Then Miles lets go of Dalia and walks over to me, the crowd around us clearing as he does.
"Cousin, would you care to dance?" He says bowing and holding his hand out.
I laugh before curtsying, taking his hand and saying with a smile "I would be honoured."
Then I'm being spun around the floor, Dalia and Soraya laughing from the sidelines. Then I'm spun out of Miles' arms and taken into someone else's. Looking up I see Leon stood smiling down at me. I tip my head back with laughter taking the next spin in my stride, ending up in Alex's arms. And so we dance, me, Lola and Dalia, spun around and around.
Then all of a sudden I'm spun by Miles but I'm not caught by anyone. I keep spinning thinking maybe someone will. But no one does, I start to panic when someone grabs my arms and spins me back and into their arms, immediately starting us dancing. I blink a few times to clear my dizziness before looking to my mysterious dance partner to see Soraya.
"Soraya? Why are you dancing with me?" I ask.
"Well Lillia, Miles spun you at the wrong time, right into my arms, so I figured we can dance as friends can we not?" She says, a cheeky smile on her face.
"We can." I reply.
I have no idea what I'm doing. I mean all I saw was Lillia spinning towards me not in control of where she was spinning and decided to just catch her and start dancing. And now here we are. Waltzing around the ballroom floor, chatting and laughing. When my insides are going crazy. My brain doesn't know what it's doing, my heart has never beat this fast and stomach has a whole damn rave going on.
Suddenly the music ends and I spin Lillia out and bow as she curtsies, a smile on her face.
Soon the entire party are dancing, the music changed and the food not quite ready. Me and Lillia retreat to the balcony, empty because everyone's dancing. We stand looking up at the sky, the stars shining under a crescent moon and reflecting in Lillia's eyes.
"So, Soraya. Are you and your family planning on sticking around?"
I reply casually "Maybe. I mean Dalia might kick us out if my mother gets too picky with things about the wedding but other than that, we're staying until the wedding."
She smiles at me and I smile back, my body just reacting to her instantly.
"You have a strange effect on me you know." I say not expecting to say it, before pushing off the balcony and walking into the crowds.
I'd seen Lillia confront my mother although about what I wasn't quite sure as the entire time I had Zachary yapping in my ear. Then she barged past her and started talking to someone, I'd pulled Zachary to a better angle to see who it was and it was only Soraya. It had to be Soraya. The girl who is as cold as ice, no one ever gets close to her. Ever. She never smiles, never laughs and never talks. But there she was, smiling, laughing and talking. With My Lillia.
But then Miles had come and asked her for a dance, making a spike of jealousy flare up as they spun around the dance floor. To make matters worse was that after a few minutes dancing, Leon is suddenly dancing with her, and then my own dad. Like seriously. My own father. And then. And then, Miles spun her but at the completely wrong angle so she goes flying off, unable to control herself and I'm about to catch her and woo her all over again but who gets there first. That snarky Soraya. She swoops in with her fancy spin and her fancy waltz, Lillia laughing her perfect laugh with stupid Soraya. Now they're stood on the balcony, chatting, Lillia smiles and so does Soraya before saying something that makes Lillia blush and walking off. I follow Soraya through the crowd, dragging Zachary with me. I catch up to her just as she's about to leave the hall,
"Soraya! Wait up!" I shout only loud enough for her to hear. She turns around to face me.
"How are you?" I ask.
She looks at me suspiciously before replying "Fine."
"Good. Good. What are you doing with Lillia?" I say suddenly, not intending to say it so soon in the conversation.
She pulls a face that says 'so that's what you want' before she replies "None of your business."
Beginning to get frustrated I say through gritted teeth "Are you just messing with her because she's Crown Princess?"
"What? No! I'm not like that. I'm not a... a gold digger. No." She exclaims in an exasperated tone.
"Look, I'm just making friends with someone who is my age and is funny and has some of the same interest as me. Is that wrong?" She asks me.
"No." I say feeling like I've been backed into a corner. I turn around and pull Zachary away, leaving Soraya to leave the hall.
"You have a strange effect on me." She said. What does that mean? Is it a good strange or a bad strange? If it's good, why? If it's bad, why? She can't just leave me with that sentence without context, but for some reason I don't follow her as she walks off into the crowd. For some reason I stay put on the balcony staring up at the stars, twinkling in the low moonlight. The crescent moon illuminated the gardens, making them gain a hue of colour. The funny thing is that she has a strange effect on me too. I mean she's funny and pretty, intellectual. That white hair that suits her skin tone fabulously, accentuating her ice blue eyes. Those eyes. They aren't like any eyes I've ever seen, I mean it's like an explosion of icicles sparkling in the sunlight, with snowflakes frozen in time surrounding them. My body just feels compelled to react to every little thing that she does, her smile makes me smile her laugh makes me laugh. And in the few hours that I've known her she hasn't left my mind, and I have a feeling she won't leave it for a long time. I turn around to spot her in the crowd, a familiar figure following her. Wondering what Genevieve's intent is, I walk through the crowd towards them, but not close enough for them to notice me.
"What? No! I'm not like that. I'm not a... a gold digger. No." Soraya exclaims in an exasperated tone.
"Look, I'm just making friends with someone who is my age and is funny and has some of the same interest as me. Is that wrong?" Soraya asks Genevieve.
Genevieve thinks Soraya's a gold digger? Why? I have no money? I mean I guess I'm Crown Princess but like, that means nothing until Lola steps down or dies. And even then Miles has the choice to take the throne, although I don't think he will. I reckon he'll probably wait till Dalia is Queen and be King of Bamberall. Looking back to Soraya and Genevieve I see Genevieve storming through the crowd, Zachary in tow and Soraya slipping out into the hall.
Checking no one notices me, I slip out too and follow Soraya's retreating figure down the hall and towards the gardens.
She stands in the parlour as though deciding whether she should go out or not, after standing for a while I say "They're really pretty."
She jumps turning around, "Oh my word you scared me. Don't do that."
"Sorry." I say giggling slightly, "but the gardens are beautiful."
She nods before opening the door and stepping out, holding it open for me. I rush through it, closing it with a click. We stand side by side, Soraya looking out onto the flower beds. Me looking at Soraya in the moonlight, her hair with an iridescent glow. I look away before she notices as she says quietly "They really are like you said, beautiful. Look at all the different flowers and plants, the ponds and fountains placed perfectly to accentuate certain plants and the rock beds also. This is heaven."
I smile at her enthusiasm, "I take it you like flowers?"
"Like? I love flowers. I adore them. They calm me down. Bamberall, being a mostly mining kingdom, doesn't have many lush green land, so this is literally heaven. I'd love to live here. Just sit with them all day long, reading about all of them." She says wishfully.
"Well, you have until the wedding. And you won't be asked to do anything so you can spend all day, every day out here if you want."
She sighs "I'd love too. Could you come with me?"
"I might be able to but now I'm Crown Princess I have certain things I have to do but after those I can come work with you yeah. I'd love that."