“Be the one who gracefully escapes reality.” - Conny Cernik
AN: This chapter includes self-harm READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
Aline pulls the rest of her wavy black hair back into her loose ponytail before she hops the rest of the way out the open window and onto the ledge. Looking down the row of bricks, she follows the wall’s brick pattern down to where she spots two guards, no doubt placed specifically under her window. This was her last idea of getting out of her room, but that escape route is now out of the question. Making her way back into her room, she hears a knock come from her large door, as she closes the rest of the window behind her. The young face of Yan comes from the small crack that she opens in the doorway, “Your highness, the books that you asked for.”
A sad smile hints at Aline’s lips as she reminds Ms. Yan she can’t call her highness. “Yan, you know you can’t call me your highness anymore, I don’t have a title in court anymore.” Grabbing the books from Yan’s hand, she motions for her to come in and close the door. “Thank you for delivering the books but I think I am going to go down to the library anyway.”
“Yes, your high- yes madam,” Yan mutters out before rushing out the door almost as fast as she came in. Aline sighs, as she strips out of her morning dress and grabs any evening one that had already been laid out the minute she came back from breakfast. As the patterned dress falls against the top of her feet she slips on small flats before heading out her little room into the large hallways that lead to many many rooms around the castle. The castle that used to be her mother’s and the halls that should be hers now. Aline pushes the rising memories of her mom into the back of her head, as she rounds the corner only to face a group of guards that are stumbling and bouncing off the cold walls against each other.
“Oh look, it’s the king’s bitch!” One screams at Aline as he catches his footing before he falls face-first onto the marble floors. His accent is thick which makes Aline realize he isn’t from Eriada, and even though he may know her she has no idea who he is. Holding her head straight, she tries to walk past them without saying anything but when one steps in front of her and pushes her back she loses her patience. She loses it fast.
“You need to get out of my way, now,” Aline commands with a steady voice even though her hands are shaking behind her back. As the soldier dives for her, the rest lean back against the walls waiting to watch this fight that they clearly think their fellow comrade is going to win. Shifting on her feet fast, Aline is able to move out of the way of the soldier’s flying fist. After a couple of stumbles on his own two feet, he comes back jogging at her and yells when he’s missed kick leads his back crashing to the floor. Walking away, Aline wears a small victory smile as she walks into the large library in the East Wing.
Shuffling her way to her usual back corner she grabs a small novel from her stack of books she left there yesterday and goes to sit on the window seat overlooking the garden. Fitting her legs against her chest, her eyes roam over the pebble and plant garden where everyday gardeners work on bushes that need no trimming but they make their rounds anyway. Opening her novel Aline starts reading, but before she can even finish the first page. Yan comes around a tall bookshelf to tell her Radu Bancroft wants her to come to his office. A small sigh escaped Aline but not from her reading being interrupted but the fact that she has to talk to Radu.
Radu Bancroft the man that somehow took over not only her castle but her country. The man that took her mother’s life almost a year ago. A man of no mercy but lets Aline still breathe, still live freely, mostly at least. He doesn’t have mercy so every time that Aline is asked to talk to him, her heart starts beating and her mind can’t calm down because she knows he wants something from her. She just has no idea what he wants and she never knows when he will want whatever he wants.
Before Aline even knocks on the office door Radu’s booming voice comes through the old oak doors, “Come in Aline.” His voice makes a shiver go through her whole body but she controls her shaking body before closing the door behind her body. “Please sit,” he motions as he takes his own seat. He had her mother’s office refurbished the second that he took over, yet he left almost every other inch of the castle the way it was before. Which always stung at Aline’s heartstrings, but maybe that was always the plan.
“Sir, why did you call me in here today?” Aline asks, keeping her emotions hidden so much that her voice almost seems robotic to anyone that is listening.
“Your absence of emotion hurts me,” he tries to tease but it just makes Aline feel more uncomfortable. Radu could be her dad by age but still, he has proposed to her the idea of marriage during multiple attempts, but she never agrees, usually leaving him fuming for days after rejection. “I need to make sure you are listening to me,” Radu tells Aline which leads her to nod her head in understanding. “Words Aline, words.”
“I understand,” she states her face grimacing at the fact that she has to respond to his orders.
“Good because I need to make sure your voice is working for this weekend. I have invited many many people including many powerful people from other countries, and you will be giving a speech to everyone. About how you have been living under my rule and what you have been doing within the walls of my palace.” Radu states matter of factly.
Even though she knows better than to argue against him, Aline knows he can’t abuse her this week if he wants her to look normal this weekend which means she has a chance to speak up, “Radu, I have been walking in my castle, I have been punished in my castle, I have seen my people suffer.”
“They are not your people and this is not your palace! This country is mine, these people are mine!” Radu yells, slamming his fist against the dark oak table. Rising out of his chair he comes around the desk right until his face is inches away from Aliens’. “You are mine, don’t forget that my sweet Aline.” While everything inch of her skin is crawling with the look he is giving her, Aline knows she can’t back down.
“I will not say anything about what I have been doing, because I have not been allowed to do anything,” Aline spits back. Pushing the chair back, she gets up without saying another word and exits the office. Before the door can close all the way, Radu comes rushing out and grabs Aline’s wrist pulling her back towards him.
“I have a surprise for you my Aline, you will meet it this weekend before the party,” Radu says, his eyes seeming to turn black. Grabbing her wrist back, Aline runs all the way back to her room where she instantly locks the door behind her. Her thoughts are on Radu’s eyes turning black again, for the past year anytime she irritated him or he was seeming to hide something his eyes would turn black but then seconds later they were back to normal. Aline thinks about mythical stories that her mom used to tell her, but it couldn’t be true. Tomorrow, Aline thought, tomorrow she will do her research but tonight she will wash her skin.
Stripping from her clothes once again, Aline moves into her private bathroom, turning the water dial to full heat. Shivering at the thought of his eyes roaming her body, she steps into the scorching water. Small hisses come through her tight lips but she doesn’t scream, she needs every cell of skin that was under his eyes to burn off. Moving her hair from off her shoulders she starts to rip at the skin that has already been burned. Small flakes of skin rub off at the friction she makes against her burning skin. Finally turning off the water, as Aline steps out of the shower she watches the smoke roll off her skin. Satisfied, Aline heads back into her room where she finds a tray of food waiting for her on her bed. Wrapping the towel tighter around her, she looks around her room but doesn’t find anyone there.
Opening the small note that sits on the same tray, Aline reads the following lines:
This weekend will be an amazing one, please don’t do anything too harsh to yourself, I will be having someone get your measurements for a dress I want you to wear.
For what seems like the hundredth time today, Aline is filled with shivers at the words of Radu’s words. Crumbling up the note, she throws the paper ball in the small wired trash-can that sits by her desk across the room. Picking up the tray, Aline sets it down on her nightstands and only drinks the water, leaving the food to get cold later on through the night. After finishing her water, she dresses in some silk shorts and a small tank. Curling underneath the thick blankets, her thoughts silence, and her heart calm the minute her head hits the soft pillows.