Coral and Pearl (part 2)
Although mentioned many times before like a far-away scenery meant for a background, the estate was nothing of what its appearance suggested it to be. Wrought from beautifully carved sandstone, the estate stood tall on a hill overlooking the sea. Honoring the resources of the village in which this magnificent architecture was built, the gardens of the estate were not adorned with flowers of many, but with shells and stones found in the shores and deep in the sea which were polished until they shined. The pillars of the building which looked like a mock-up of some Roman architecture reached towards the heavens, making this building approximately four stories tall. The main domed ceiling held a stained glass roof, and the many other windows along the sides of the estate were all decorated with beautiful artistry of sea creatures.
This mansion, which was the most elegantly crafted architecture second only to the Catholic church, is the Haven estate. It was not the Ashburn Estate, which stands in the next town over and belongs to the young Duchess Ashburn who notably saw a girl drown moments before. This estate belonged to the adopted daughter of the Reverend High Priest Revelios Haven, who’s father had customized the artistry of the palace in the name of fatherly love. And it was built in its very location to remind his daughter of the very place where father and daughter first met. It is prompted every morning as the daughter overlooks the Ocean, that it was the waves of the sea that had brought the priest his daughter in a woven basket; like how Moses was delivered by the hands of God to the Egyptian princess. This child, the adopted daughter of the High Priest, the true master of the glorious estate, is the duchess’s noble and sweet friend, Coral Haven. So it is in this magnificent estate, not belonging to the duchess, that the real plot of this wretched story begins…
That same afternoon on which the duchess had experienced a shocking experience at the beach, she now calmly sat in the lounge of the second floor of the estate; sipping black herbal tea and reading a book. The sun now shone up very high and so the windows were cracked open ever so slightly so that it could let in the soft breeze. The duchess was enjoying this hour of tranquility with her light novel as the humid, salty air tickled her nose. She was without disturbance; having dismissed her three maids to go elsewhere and with even the babe in her belly now seemingly fast asleep. It was during this peaceful time for the mother-to-be that the true master of the estate burst into the lounge with her fiance… and another woman.
“Pearl!” Coral embraced her friend and helped the pregnant duchess up from her chair, who immediately greets her friend’s fiance.
“Your highness,” curtsies the duchess, Pearl. “To what honor do I have your visit?”
“The honor is mine,” says the prince. “You are a friend of my future wife, please, drop the formalities.”
“Only the wife of his highness would dare call you by your name.” Pearl says politely. The stranger who had been standing silently, flinches.
“You are a stubborn one, duchess.” says the prince.
“So it’s always been.” Coral hugs Pearl’s arm and looks up at her friend lovingly.
“I am only playing the part of a loyal citizen of Gelum.” Pearl continues to smile. “To what business do I owe being in the presence of someone such as yourself?” she asks the prince. Pearl did not actually care or want to know what swam in the prine’s mind; her intellect and intuition had already guessed this, but proper etiquette forced her to ask. As if waiting for this very moment, the prince happily takes the delicate hand of the stranger and gently brings her forwards; forcing Pearl to finally acknowledge the unwelcome guest.
It was the eyes that attracted Pearl’s attention first. Huge and buglike and very shiny in the irises like big, black marbles. Then it was the hair made up in a simple braid, which was such a pale color that the platinum locks looked almost translucent when the rays of the sunlight passed through. Besides her eyes and hair, the rest of the girl looked quite normal. Although Pearl noted that her thin lips were horribly chapped and the girl looked pale to the point that she looked sickly. Pearl didn’t know what to make of the girl. She didn’t like how the stranger grasped the prince’s hands in a tight manner. But it almost looked like the girl held his highness’s hand in that way only because she knew no better. The dutchess thought to herself that at least the girl had a taste in fashion. The pale pink polonaise dress was absolutely dashing on her.
“This is my dear friend, Star.” says the prince. Pearl did not like the way the prince called the strange girl “dear”. However, as a duchess of such high aristocratic nobility, Pearl clenched her jaw and fully turned to face the prince’s new friend.
“It’s an honor to meet you, Star.” Pearl says brilliantly. “Please forgive me for failing to introduce myself earlier. I am Duchess Pearl Ashburn, friend to his highness’s fiance.” Pearl waited for some sort of reaction from the girl. Perhaps a curtsy and a word of apology for not doing so earlier; which an educated young woman would know to immediately do. But this strange friend of the prince did not even move a muscle. Instead Coral speaks in Star’s stead.
“She is mute.” Coral quickly interjects.
“But not deaf, I hope?” Pearl’s smile wavered, she was now struggling to maintain her good natured expression. She was disliking this new girl less and less.
“Only mute when we found her.” says the prince.
“Found?!” Pearl lost all composure for a moment at the inconceivableness in front of her. She forced herself to pull things back together with a deep breath. “Your highness, thank you for visiting such a humble person such as myself and introducing me to your friend when you are busy with wedding preparations. I look forward to seeing you often in the future.”
The prince bows, understanding that he is being politely kicked out. “I thank you.” As Pearl bows quietly, the prince takes Coral’s hand in his other arm.
“Wait.” Pearl looks back up. “May I have a word with my friend, alone?”
The prince leaves with Star with a nod of his head, then when the door finally closes behind the two, Coral and Pearl are alone. Pearl loses all composure in front of her friend and collapses back into her chair, her gray Edwardian dress sagging with new weight. Then the pregnant woman turned her tired grey eyes towards her only friend. “How could you let another woman get close to the prince?” she says accusingly. “Where did she come from, really?” Pearl refused to believe that the prince of this very country and her best friend had just brought a girl with an unclear background into their circle of friends.
“The details aren’t important.” Coral tells Pearl with a smile. “But we met her on the shores of the beach closer to the palace a week ago.”
“A week ago!?” Pearl exclaimed aghast.
“I’m sorry I failed to mention it until now.” Coral says apologetically. “Wedding preparations have kept my mind busy…” Coral looked back over her shoulder at the door where the prince and Star waited on the other side. “But trust me on everything I say about her. Star is a really nice girl. She’s fun to have around. Lively, and so full of curiosity. And she does many fun things too. I think,” Coral pauses. “I think of her as like a little sister.” Pearl looked at her friend, her expression hardening as if dark clouds now blocked her vision. Suddenly the memory of the girl being swallowed by the Ocean resurfaced without warning and Pearl couldn’t help but notice that when Coral moved, parts of her scarlet hair looked darker. Almost brown.
“Leave.” Pearl finally says. “I didn’t call you back to hear you compliment a mute.”
“Please don’t be mean,” Coral begs. “Star’s my friend too.”
“And what of I and the prince?”
“You are my best friend, and he is my husband-to-be!”
“Good,” Pearl says. “Because I was starting to think that you’ve forgotten where you belong.”
“Excuse me?” Coral sighs. “Look, I know you don’t like associating with those who are of lower status than you, but I’m a commoner too!”
“No, you will become the crown princess. And whether you were engaged to the prince or not, you have me. That girl has no one.”
Coral sighs with defeat. “I think you need some rest Pearl.” she says softly. “And please rest; for both you and your baby’s sake. You are a mother-to-be after all.”
“And you, a bride-to-be.”
Coral turned and walked towards the door to leave the room. But before she pulls the latch to open the large wooden door, she looks back at her friend once more.
“You know Pearl, Star too has a name. And she does have someone. Me.”