The person in the mirror wasn’t Evelyn. The person strangely resembled her, with the same chocolate coloured hair and glistening green-blue eyes. Down to the shape of her shoulders and the length of her neck. Still, despite all the uncanny similarities, the person was not Evelyn.
The person mostly identified themselves as Princess Evelyn, the beauty, the legend, the fulfilled. Evelyn was none of that. She wasn’t a legend nor was she partly fulfilled. The contradictions mocked her, smiling obnoxiously at her face, hailing hateful waves then disappearing into thin air only to reappear again in a different position as a method of intensifying their impact on Evelyn.
She watched the person through the mirror, as the hairdresser carefully set the final touches on her hair. Her eyes locked on her cold ones, stone cold and unbreakable. Except, Evelyn didn’t feel cold or unbreakable, the pain was in the form of scorching, blazing heat that fired and burned, even cooked, her insides. The glass that is Evelyn started breaking more, the cracks opening and shattering and cracking as the heat only set the reaction faster. She wondered when the heat will finally turn to cold and she can say she conquered the west.
“All done,” The woman said, smiling at Evelyn through the mirror. Thankful, Evelyn snapped out of her toxic thoughts and smiled at the hairdresser, examining they way her brown hair was eloquently made.
She nodded her hair approvingly, “Thank you, Lily.” Without further thought, she stood up and met Ivory’s eyes at the bedroom door.
Evelyn didn’t hear her walk in, too busy fighting down the toxic unhealthy thoughts. Nonetheless, she tucked her chin in and greeted Ivory as she did the same.
“There’s going to be some new guests at the ball,” Ivory spoke, already dressed in her gown, ready to dance with men she has zero interest in. At her words, the hairdresser exited the room.
Evelyn quirked an eyebrow at her.
“There’s going to be more people from the Orb coming. Two, to be precise.” Ivory’s voice was nonchalant, unaffected.
Evelyn blinked, the information digesting. Why didn’t Everest warn her? But then again, she hardly spoke to him that day.
“The other prince, Prince River - Prince Everest’s twin brother and his date - Lady Clover.” Ivory spoke the words robotically as if reading from a boring book.
Evelyn remembers Everest discussing his twin. She recalls the look on his face when he told her that River got the good genes, and how he’d be perfect for ruling, even his own father thought so but unfortunately, he’d never get the chance. Everest was simply born earlier. A few moments his father wished he could reset and fix.
Their relationship was strained, one wanting to be the other, Everest free and River king.
Evelyn merely nodded her head, assessing the new information. “Although, why are they suddenly showing up?”
“Your father invited them,”
“What?” Evelyn’s eyes narrowed, “Why?”
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” The recited verse sent chilling shivers down Evelyn’s spine.
Of course her father would do something like that, but the fact that he didn’t pass the idea by her first only snapped more of her heartstrings. Such faith Evelyn bitterly thought.
Evelyn didn’t react, just maintained her mouth in a firm line.
She didn’t even nod when she wanted to flinch.
A few seconds passed, the silence hanging in the air. Evelyn did not know if the atmosphere was tense or awkward because she was far too busy with her thoughts.
“Evelyn?” Her name rolled out of Ivory’s mouth, voice soft and almost fit to speak to a baby.
I’m not that vulnerable Evelyn wanted to scream.
Instead, Evelyn only hummed a reply.
“About the meeting this morning,” Ivory started, the volume of her voice decreasing with each letter until she trailed off.
At her words, Evelyn’s eyes met hers, and she nodded. She knew where this was going. “Yes?”
“Do you think it’s possible Everest is unfaithful? If he’s just manipulating you and he’s really a monster who craves power like his father?” The words tumbled out easily, no filter to dampen the effect on Evelyn.
Evelyn just watched Ivory, “He’s not unfaithful, and he certainly does not crave power,” She told her, “You forget your place.”
But Ivory didn’t stop, she grabbed Evelyn’s arms, hands firm as she spoke, “I’m your best friend, that is my place.”
“A best friend doesn’t keep secrets,”
“Same goes to you.” She let go of her arms and crossed her own over her chest.
“I don’t want him to hurt you.” Ivory nodded towards Evelyn and continued, “Maybe Lord Abdon was right. Maybe Everest was with a woman.” She shrugged her shoulders as if considering the possibility of Everest’s nonexistent unfaithfulness as kindly as possible to not hurt Evelyn’s feelings. Unfortunately, they were hurt.
Evelyn laughed at Ivory, turning around as she continued with her fit of giggles. “How do you not understand?” She managed through the hysteria, clutching her chest that begun to be deprived of its precious oxygen.
“Understand what?” Ivory was confused, face scrunched up in annoyance and eyebrows quirked in question.
Her laughter died down and faced her once more. “I was the woman with Everest. The woman in the blue dress that Lord Abdon saw.”
Her confession only confused Ivory once more and her brain went haywire. “Are you protecting him?”
Evelyn’s mouth fell open as she gaped at the girl who wouldn’t understand. “No.”
Evelyn barely paid any attention to the halls as she walked towards the room where her family stood. She was caught in her reverie, not acknowledging Ivory slowly trailing behind her nor the dress she wore. She was too busy with her own thoughts.
As she approached her parents, heels gently clapping against the floor, Queen Erika called upon the arrival of her daughter.
“Evalina,” She spoke, a smile beginning to form across her face, “you look beautiful.”
Evelyn could only smile back. She tucked her chin upwards in a nod of acknowledgement to the people staining the walls of the room. The room stood behind the throne room as they waited to be announced. Ivo, Ivory’s father, stood next to his wife, Irania, and soon was joined by their daughter.
At her mother’s comment, Evelyn began noticing the details on her dress.
Indeed did Evelyn look beautiful, with the combination of blue and gold on her gown adding sparks to her eyes. It ended right at her ankles, a slit up to the centre of her right thigh, the dress hugging her small waist and curves specifically placed in the correct spots. Her bone structure, her face’s and collar’s, emphasised with the thin straps of the dress and the neckline gently laid over her breast.
A thick cape flowed behind her obsessively from around her waist, carrying the same golden swirls and spirals. Her fingers decorated in rings, bracelets wrapping her wrists tightly, like a pair of manacles. At least that was what they felt like for Evelyn.
Eleazar began conversing with Ivo, leaving Irania to Erika, but Evelyn stood still. Her mind replaying the same sentences she heard the night before. She dances quietly in everyone’s shadow, awaiting the hour.
She started recalling where she read those words. An image of a green book cover, covered with big preppy words flooded her eyes. It was the book she was obsessed with as a child, one she carried around religiously where ever she went.
The riddle echoed in her skull and she slowly remembered the answer. Her eyes widened, breath hitched as she slowly whimpered.
Death dances silently in everyone’s shadow. It’s always there, following one around wherever they go. It can never touch them, not even at noon when the shadow is so close to touching their toes, and when the time comes, they finally annihilate them.
The realisation struck like a bolt of lightning, the charge electrifying her muscles and burning her vision. Then, she ran.
She turned and ran. She didn’t care if her feet were in pain from running in heels nor did she care that her parents were yelling her name. She just ran, the cape of her dress flowing behind her in blue waves, her hair strings starting to untangle themselves from the bun.
She slammed against the bedroom door, lurching herself into the room as she entered her closet. She hastily opened a cabinet, breath coming out raspy as she pulled the massive pile of books out. She kneeled on the ground, hands shaking like a baby’s rattle as she flipped through the pile. Books went flying in every direction until she finally found the right one.
The book was as she remembered it, worn out by excessive usage. The green had faded into grey, the edges torn. Her index finger slowly traced the messy scrawling on the far corner of the cover. Princess Evelyn.
She swallowed tightly before opening it and searching for the riddle from the index of the book. Evelyn flipped through to the page and sucked in a breath as she found the word she dreaded written right under the sentence. Death.
She was right.
At that instant, Clio, one of Evelyn’s servants, showed up.
“Princess?” Her voice startled Evelyn, and she jumped a little from fright. Clio approached Evelyn nonetheless and helped her stand up.
“You’re shaking,” She spoke, leading Evelyn out of the closet. Evelyn sat on the vanity stool and watched silently as the hairdresser returned and began fixing her hair.
Someone is going to die tonight. The thought chilled Evelyn and she could not help but think, what if I die tonight? Would that be so bad? What would Everest think, what about Mom and Dad? What about Ivory? Anton?
Erika’s voice snapped Evelyn out of her toxic thoughts and suddenly she was back into the room from earlier. She could hardly remember leaving her room, nevertheless walking all the way across the palace.
Eleazar’s unappreciative expression was enough to solidify her answer. He would only wonder who would rule after him.
“I am sorry.” Evelyn spoke, “I needed some air.”