As summer faded into fall, the leaves changed colors, painting the world around her in orange and brown hues. Rebecca loved playing in her family’s garden during this time because the weather was perfect and she could stay out until the sun sank. At six years old, Rebecca spent a lot of time pretending she had siblings to play with, but unfortunately, her parents could not grant that request. One late summer day, a boy came into the garden to play, his black hair and brown eyes sparkling as they ran around. His smile was as bright as the sun that shined above them, making the day stand out amongst all her lonely times in her childhood.
His name was Sebastian Johannsen. His family had long been friends of hers. As they ran around in the garden, happy and full of energy, no one could guess what would happen the next day. The darkness of the human heart knew no bounds, but that was of no concern of Rebecca’s. Sebastian walked into the living quarters of her home with a sad expression on his face, different from when she last saw him. As she wondered what made him so sad, her mom pats him on the head, a grim frown on her face. Rebecca wanted to see him smile, so she held out her hand to him when her mother began speaking.
“Rebecca, you remember Sebastian, right, sweetie?” Her mother had asked that next day. “He’s going to be staying with us for a while. Be sure you are kind to him, okay?”
“Yes, Momma!” She had replied, unsure of what was wrong with her new friend. “Is Bastian sad?”
It was then that she woke from her dream and looked around herself. Today, Nobility would present their single daughters before the other Princes of Rel. Unfortunately, Rebecca had wished this day had never come. At seventeen now, finding a husband should have been her primary goal, but she wished to remain single. Her uncommon hazel eyes wandered the room of her chambers before she rose and began preparing for the day. The soft scent of roses from the vase on the table carried to her nose, causing a soft smile to lift her lips. Sebastian must have brought them, hoping to cheer her on today.
“Mistress? I will help you prepare for the meet and greet today.” Her maid said, walking into the chamber. “We must do something with your hair since you always have bed head.”
“Becca, hey…” Sebastian started, walking into the room with his hand stroking the back of his neck. “Your mom and dad are hoping to arrange a marriage between you and one prince before Crown Prince Landon marries Princess Evangeline.”
Sebastian had grown from a cute young boy to a handsome young man. Looking quite charming in his blue robes, he stood a head taller than her now, but he always met her gaze when he talked to her. Those brown eyes always sparkled when they talked, and his short black hair always framed his face perfectly. Since he took care of things around her parents’ home, he had very well-defined muscles. He had already turned down several marriage proposals as well, or so she was told. Part of her wondered if it was because it was something she desired since he did not leave her family home.
She knew. Had known for a long time. Prince Aaron had been glancing her way for several months since she had come of age, so she had a feeling that now she was old enough; he would begin courting her with her family’s permission. Or possibly request that their parents arrange their marriage. Sighing softly, she locked gazes with her ‘brother’ in the mirror before looking down. Not that he would be a terrible option, especially for her family’s status, just that she had a major issue with how he treated her. He was never mean to her, no, more like he was far too nice and only because of her kindness, which compared to another woman the prince loved.
“I wish I did not have to go,” Rebecca replied softly, eyes stinging with her held back tears. “I do not want to marry royalty. I do not want to leave this house.”
“Mistress, you should not say such things.” The maid scolded gently. “Anyone would be fortunate to marry one of the handsome princes.”
Sebastian had known as well. Rebecca had been a shining light for him since his parents died all those years ago. He was fortunate that her family had taken him in. However, now everyone treated him as though he were her brother. Even though they were not blood-related, no one would ever accept his love for her, so he had never confessed to her. Though he understood her situation, too. Her parents were also seeking a marriage partner for him as well, but since he was male, he could reject them. As a female, Rebecca did not have that option.
Obviously, her parents wanted her to be happy, but they only focused on material happiness, not the happiness that being in love could bring her. That, and the status that their family would receive should she marry the Prince. Sebastian sighed as he watched her done up in makeup and a beautiful hairstyle that was as elaborate as it was simple. Since he first met her, she had dazzled him, the way her eyes sparkled when she gave a genuine smile, or how she always rubbed her left elbow when she was nervous. Rebecca is a talented woman with more strengths than weaknesses, at least, in his opinion.
When she had grown into the woman she was now, she became even more beautiful; her face taking on a natural oval shape similar to her mother’s. Her hazel eyes and light brown hair always seemed to glow. Rebecca had filled out as well, with full breasts, wide hips, and a small waist. Frowning slightly, he remembered the first time he had accidentally seen her naked; he turned his head in shame. The memory had burned itself into his brain; her flushed cheeks and wet eyes. She forgave him in an instant, bringing up how they used to bathe together when they were children. If only things were that simple.
“There is our beautiful future Princess!” Her father said, walking into the room, arms wide with pride. “Sebastian, what do you think of your beautiful sister.”
“Yes, she is beautiful,” Sebastian replied, feeling the pain from the reminder in his chest. “She looks just as lovely as her mother.”
“Rebecca, I always knew you would make a wonderful Princess.” Her mother continued, walking over to hug her precious daughter. “Prince Aaron has had his eyes on you for a while. You know, he is twenty this year. Such a handsome Prince to be asking after our daughter as a bride. He will give you anything you want.”
“But…” Rebecca hesitated, causing Sebastian’s eyes to be drawn back to her. “I do not wish to marry, mother…”
The surrounding air seemed to tense at her words. No one would smack her for her disobedience on a day like today, but the atmosphere made it appear they would. Sebastian sighed inwardly as he watched, feeling more and more like an outsider. He knew her parents had already received a notice for an arranged marriage from the Royal Family, but kept hoping they would reject it. Now he knew it would not be so. Maybe she just needs more time to grow accustomed to the idea. Maybe she would be happy once she got to know him. Who knows, really? But the sad expression on her face twisted Sebastian’s insides into a knot.
“Rebecca Bennett, Prince Aaron has requested your presence himself. We do not wish to upset the Royal Family.” Her mother said sternly, pulling away to pinch Rebecca’s waist. “You should recall what happened to Marissa’s family last year when the family was angered.”
Sebastian watched as Rebecca sighed before she bowed her head to her parents. When she lifted her head, she wore a smile; but he knew it was not real. It seemed passable to her parents, so they left the room along with the maid, leaving just the two of them. He never knew what to do when she looked so sad. Opening his arms towards her, he gave a wry smile when she ran into them, but despite that, he stroked her back. The soft curves of the woman that fit to him like a missing piece caused his heart to speed up a little. Her beautiful hazel eyes lifted to look into his before she nuzzled closer into his chest.
“I just wish I could remain here with you.” She mumbled, her head against his chest. “Then, I could be happy.”
The best thing he could do for her was let her go. Frowning in dismay, he found he did not want to. His fingers tensed as he gripped her shoulders, his eyes stinging as he did his best to control himself. If Rebecca had found out, if she knew he loved her, it would change nothing. Her family would still release her to Prince Aaron, and there was nothing he could do to change it. Sighing, Sebastian released her and turned away. He could not understand how her parents could force this situation on her. Not when seeing tears on her face was enough to destroy him. He attempted to swallow several times to clear his throat of the sad lump that formed.
“The carriage will be here shortly, Becca.” Even to himself, his voice sounded raw. “I’ll see you after the party.”