The Winner's Crown

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Chapter 20 (Desmond)

My father sits on his throne right before us, my mother right next to him. Her face is steady, but she is holding her emotions towards the situation back, I can tell. My father stands up, addressing my sisters, brother, and myself. No one other than the Royal family, and Carolyn, was allowed inside. The wedding has been postponed. Lydia made sure of that.

I smile with the image back in my mind, of her lips on mine. I had been wanting that to happen ever since I met her. She is so intriguing, like a good mystery novel, except that the mystery behind her I can't seem to solve so easily. But she had kissed me, and that had to mean something.

In the corner of my vision, I can see Carolyn take ahold of my brother's arm and say something. It is too light to make out, but he nods and then she stares back at the king. It is as if the two of them are getting married. It has been that way ever since she arrived, and half of the time I have no idea where she is. I'm not sure if that is what romance is supposed to feel like, but I suppose not.

I am not, and never will be in love with Carolyn Bennett. She drives me crazy, yes. But in the angry sense, not the love stricken side. Lydia drives me crazy too. But with her, it is completely different. I have not told anyone about it, but my sister's act like they know.

They smile when I walk by them. They never used to do that before. And it seems as if they want us to be together. Especially Sara. She is young, but old enough to know romance when she see's it. I want to ask her what she see's happening between both Lydia and I, but I never can work up the courage to do so. That would be so awkward in any way, and I cannot stop feeling like Sara will not tell me anything. She will want to teach my to let myself learn, to observe, and to act when the time is right.

I have always been bad at seeing the signs. I have never loved anyone either. Not in an "in love" way. Of course I love my sisters, I love my mother...but I have never had a fiance before. And with Carolyn, it does not feel right. She does not care for me, the only person she seems to care about in the slightest, is Richard. Maybe it is because he is who she has spent the most time with. I have seen them before, when we were all younger, sneaking around together while maneuvering their ways throughout the palace.

I guess I always thought it would be Richard to marry Carolyn. But my father thought differently. He said we need a queen, someone to rule beside me when I inevitably take the throne. But I would prefer to be in love, at least once. My father does have a point, I need someone, an equal, to help me rule. But everything else he says is wrong. I do not want to keep the competition. It is wrong, I have known that for awhile.

My mother used to tell me that she wished the competition could be ruined, done, over with. I had asked her, why couldn't she stop it? Why couldn't she convince father that it is dangerous and selfish? She had smiled sadly back at me, and said words that would then stick with me for the rest of my life.

"Your father, I love him dearly. I do. But he won't listen to reason. One day, when you take the crown, you must rule differently. You must rule fairly. Don't make innocent people suffer Desmond. You are much better than that." Then she had kissed my head and left my chambers. But I lay awake all night, remembering and repeating the words to myself that my mother had spoken.

My father clears his throat, and I straighten my back, as do my siblings. We were always taught that posture is polite, and never to forget that. Or my father taught us that while my mother sat still like any other day. She has lost her energy, her strength to make things right. She has lived too long on this unfair world, so long that she is now tired. I don't know if she will ever be better. I don't know if she will ever be happy again.

"I have news for you all. News that some of you may find shocking, but it is to happen anyways. No fussing. Sara, you leave the room." He looks at Sara as he speaks these words, but she doesn't keep his eye contact, looking at mother. Mother nods to her, and Sara takes a deep sturdy breath before speaking.

"Father, whatever you have to say to everyone here, I am old enough to hear as well. It would be improper if I was not to hear the news at the same time as everyone else. And I would be uneducated on the fact that I am too immature to hear it. I assure you father, I am much more mature than you may think." She says all this calmly, but there is a fire in her eyes that I have never seen before. Father must have seen it too, because he nods, backing down from the subject.

He has never given up so easily, but Sara is persistent. Mother taught her well she did.

"Don't say I didn't warn you well." Father goes on, "I have made an arrangement for both the prisoners. They know too much, and they may not be allowed to go back to their normal lives. Too much has changed for them, it would be too risky to let them free. So I have come to the conclusion, that they must be killed."

Sara's face jumps with fear, and Venus holds her in her arms to steady her. In the corner, Carolyn looks at Richard, and he looks back at her steadily. They do not look the slightest bit unsettled, and I am repulsed by their behavior. My eyes frantically find my mother as she sits on her throne. Her eyes are pained, but she does not move to make any objections.

"That is all I have to say. It will be private, the double execution, and it will be set for tomorrow. Then the wedding will take place the day after, this time for real." My father gets up from his throne, gesturing for my mother to walk with him. She shakes her head, and for a second he looks hurt. But it is gone in no time at all as he pushes past us all, leaving the throne room quickly.

My mother's eyes catch mine, and she nods me forwards. In the background, Venus is taking Sara somewhere to get her mind off my fathers plan. Carolyn and Richard link arms, walking out of the room as well. I can feel tears burn at my eyes, but I don't let them trickle down, holding them back steadily.

My mother gets out of her chair, and I help her as she wobbles. She has been weak for awhile now. She is not sick, my father has spent so much time, so much money, making sure of that. But she is much different than she usually is. Instead of smiling, laughing, having fun, she is distant. Never cold, just distant. It unsettles me, and I know my sisters are afraid as well.

This woman, does not seem like what our mother used to act like. What joy she used to embody. Doctors say she is only sad, and that it will not last, it is only temporary. But in my heart, I know it is not. It will last, and the saddest part is that I do not think she will live long enough to see the world become fair. She used to tell me stories, legends really, of how the world used to be.

People lived in peace with each other, not caring about any status. That is all she has ever wanted the world to go back to, and she might never see it.

"Desmond." My mother makes sure I am listening, and I nod my presence. "You must get her out. I have a key, I can help you." She tells me, but I just stand still, not knowing what to do or to say to this.

"Why?" Is all that comes out of my mouth, and I wait for her response. It doesn't come for some time as she thinks to herself. The light coming from the stained glass windows right behind her illuminates her in light, and I can tell why she became queen. Not only was she born a pink, but she was trained to have all the elegance and grace a queen could possibly embody. Looking at my mother, the queen, standing in thought with the colors of the rainbow falling all across her, she looks almost calm. But her face quickly changes, and the moment is gone.

"Because she is the only way everything can become right again. She is a yellow, right?" I nod at the question, still confused on how this can help the kingdom. "Yes, good. Then she will know what to do to make things better all around. Living a life full of wrong doing, it can open someone's eyes to see every small detail around them. She needs to be the next queen." My mother explains to me, and I agree.

My father knew that I, or someone, would try to stop his plan from happening. So he arranged his guards to line around the holding cell, made for prisoners facing execution. It is outside, on the border past the gardens, in a place right by the "deadly tree," as Venus made up when she was little. The tree in which people of any wrong doing get hanged. I wince at the thought. My father's plan for Lydia and her brother is private. No one would know that they had died, and the fact makes me shiver with rage.
I have snuck around the palace since I was a little boy, and my father must have forgotten about that, because he didn't place guards in any of the right places. When I was younger, I would sneak inside the cells by climbing up the familiar vines roping around the tall building, and climbing inside the only window of the structure. It was simple, and I hope it still is since I have grown quite a bit since being only a child.
Richard and I used to be closer when we were kids. We used to pretend that we were palace guards. We used to "train" together, and that is why I am so experienced with climbing up and down the vines that surround the palace.
The guards circle around the building, and I crouch in the bushes, waiting for my chance at climbing up the tower.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4,
I count down the seconds it takes for the guards to circle back around the building. Only ten seconds, but that is all I need. My father taught me well in working out, in training for the unexpected. Maybe he taught me too well, because his plan backfired when he became my teacher, and taught me to be well in stealth.
I take my chance as all ten of the guards disappear around the corner, and I leap up and onto the vines, going up higher and higher. My muscles are sore when I reach the window, but I made it just in time. The guards turn back around the corner right as I tuck my legs inside the tower. And with that, I turn right around, expecting to see Lydia and her brother Kenneth behind bars. But instead, I am greeted by the sour face of my father standing right before me.
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