“But father!” I screech loudly, throwing my hands up in the air.
“Anahita!” My father says sternly, silencing me with a glare. This news comes as no shock to me or my family. But even though I always knew that I would never have any control over my life, I still clung onto some sort of hope. Some hope that one day, I may be able to escape the clutches of my burning kingdom. I was stupid to think such thoughts, and weak for wanting them to be true.
“Yes father.” I say weakly, bending into a low curtsy. My dress shifts around me, resembling a puddle of rain water after a storm. Slowly, I get to my feet again and turn around towards the huge double doors leading to the Royal chambers.
“So it’s decided then?” Mother asks, coming up beside me to take my hand in hers.
“Yes.” I manage to say through gritted teeth. After all, this wasn’t my mothers idea. And all she had ever wanted for me anyways, was the best.
“Very good.” Mother mutters under her breath, so that even I have to lean in to hear her, “And I hear that the Royal family of FoxFire is coming here shortly?”
“Yes.” I say again. “Tomorrow.”
“Well, that’s awfully soon isn’t it?” Mother says, sounding shocked herself, even though she helped plan this huge invitation to the Royal family of Foxfire.
“Oh?” I say, startled. “Were they not supposed to come so soon?”
“No, no. That’s not it.” Mother tells me, letting my hand slip from her tight grip. “It’s just that...well, it didn’t officially sink in until now.”
It takes everything I have not to flood the whole palace, with the strength that I have come all too well to knowing. Instead, I nod silently.
“And for me as well.” I say, straightening my back as we continue to walk through the long corridors, each turn taking me closer and closer towards my own Royal chamber.
“Anahita.” My mother says softly, taking my chin in her soft fingers as we come to my room with a halt. “You will be every bit the queen as I was. And even more so.” Mother explains, her maple brown eyes piercing into my heart with every word. I had almost forgotten. With every marriage, came out 2 new rulers. And I was about to be one of them.
Every day, my maids come in, and every day they polish and paint me into the dainty princess that everyone has come to expect. But today, instead of my usual makeup of soft blue eye shadow and peachy blush, they outline my features with dark eye shade that looks as if I’m a storm, and vibrant pink blush and soft rose lipstick. Today I do not resemble a princess, I resemble a queen.
Even my dress is more magnificent than any other that I have ever worn. It is a swirling blue shade with lace and pearls crafted into the flowing skirt, and whenever I walk it swishes around like water. Staring at myself in the mirror, I look nothing like myself. I look like a beautiful Queen of StormsEye, and even though I am a princess, I never expected to truly rule a kingdom one day.
My maids rush out of my room, or rather the place that I am currently occupying until I move to the kingdom of FoxFire with my soon to be betrothed husband. Yay, I think to myself sarcastically. But at least FoxFire is a beautiful kingdom, I try to reassure my mind, searching for anything to keep me out of the hands of the sadness I had known far too much of in my life.
“Madam.” One of my maids gestures for me to hurry. I nod, slipping on my last bit of accessories. A simple silver necklace with a single pearl surrounded by tiny diamonds in the center, a blue jeweled bracelet, rope anklet, even though no one will be able to see it beneath my layers of skirts, and dangling pearl earrings with a blue diamond in the middle of them both.
“Coming.” I tell no one, as I walk gracefully out of my room, my dress parting around me in a huge circle of fabric. A couple times I almost trip over my huge gown, and let me say, 4 inch diamond heels do not help with that, but I manage to stay upright as I round the corners of the palace.
“Here Miss.” The same maid that told me to hurry in my room, motions for me to step forward. “Their in the dining hall.” She whispers to me.
“Thank you.” I smile at the maid, and in my mind I make a mental note to ask for her name later. Walking slowly, I make my way to the dining hall. And as soon as I get there, I stop. This single step inside a huge room of Royals would determine the rest of my life. Gasping in a breath of air, I nod at the guards standing in position outside the Hall, and they open the doors for me on command.
The dining hall is a huge part of the palace usually reserved for parties or special events that my parents throw on very special occasions. And today is certainly one. As soon as I step through the doorway, all I can see is the crowds of people surrounding me. But instead of talking to everyone as I usually would, I stare straight ahead of me, and make my way over the marble floors to where I know they will be.
The noisy crowd grows suddenly silent, as I continue walking to my usual seat, and all I can here is the beating of my heart and the click of my shoes on the floor. They must have noticed my change in appearance as well as my attitude. Mother always told me that to act superior was to be superior, and today was my day to do just that.
“Anahita, it is so nice to see you again. You have grown so much since I last saw you.” King Mishal says, gesturing towards the seat in the middle of the table.
“It is a pleasure to see you again as well, your highness.” I agree, bowing my head in acknowledgment. My eyes wander to where I know he will be. Prince Brenton of FoxFire. He has definitely grown since I last saw him. But of course he would have. The last time I had seen him was when he was 10, and I was 6, when our families first set up the marriage between us. But even now, me 18 and Brenton 22, he embraces the same features that I remember him having 12 years ago.
“Please, sit.” King Mishal says, already standing to hold a seat out for me.
“Thank you.” I smile politely, walking gracefully to my seat in front of the crowd.
“Now everyone, don’t let us keep you from having fun, eat, enjoy.” My father tells the people from our kingdom. Either they are extremely wealthy, or of importance to the kingdom or Royal families, but it still surprises me how many there are. And there are more that couldn’t come too. I shudder at the thought of an even bigger crowd as everyone begins to talk and laugh again.
“I hear you are quite popular between kids of your kingdom.” King Mishal addresses me, taking another sip of champagne from his goblet. Outside, I can see the early morning sun rising, and the birds perched on the trees of the orchard talking quietly to one another. I bite back a yawn, it would be inappropriate behavior in front of such Royalty. But I can’t ignore the tiredness over my body. I went to sleep last night very late, not my usual style, thinking about exactly this moment.
"Yes." I answer the king, smiling widely at the memories of visiting the little kids at a few schools across the kingdom. I had convinced my father to put more money into the education of schools, and that had certainly increased my popularity with the kids of StormsEye.
"Well that's very good to hear Anahita. That means you will have no problem raising my grandchild into a strong, intelligent ruler as you have become." King Mishan nods. Next to the king of FoxFire, I can hear my father suck in a breath, and my mother choke on her water. I can't see Brenton directly, but out of the corner of my eye, I think I see him blush. For everyone else this may have come as a shock, but I had always known this was coming. After all, I had been studying the kingdom of FoxFire since I was 6 years old. Ever since the arranged marriage, I had been forced to become a soon to be queen. No one from my kingdom knows about this, but they are about to.
"Thank you." I tell the king, plastering a smile onto my face for his approval.
"You have certainly raised your daughter correctly." Queen Pele joins in the conversation, talking to my parents now, and leaving both Brenton and I to each other.
"So...how are you?" Brenton asks awkwardly, brushing a piece of his wavy brown hair behind his ear as I twist around in my seat to face him. At 6 years old, I wasn't too good a judge of character, but from what I had thought, Brenton was a nice guy. With his caring smile, golden eyes, and shining personality we had gotten along well. Maybe that's why our parents wanted us to marry each other? Because they knew we could be friends? I don't know anything about love, but from what I had read from the fairytales, it was supposed to be true love, and not a forced marriage.
"I'm well. How about you?" I return the conversation to him. Resting my elbows on the table, and placing my head in my hands, I stare up at him in what I'm trying to make look like an effortless flirtacious position. Instead, he laughs out loud. Startled, I jump in my seat, and am quick to notice our parents staring directly at us.
"What?" Brenton asks innocently, still smiling as he resists the urge to laugh again.
"It's almost time." My mother tells us, and instantly Brenton's face returns to normal. I straighten in my seat as his father passes him a silver spoon.
"Everyone, Everyone." Brenton starts, tapping the spoon against his goblet in time with my racing heart. "I would like your attention please." He continues, as the crowd stops talking, falling silently to listen to him.
Brenton looks at me softly, and even I think for a second that his glance is affectionate. Luckily, he turns away before he can confuse me any further, and start's up from his seat, setting the spoon and goblet down before rising.
"The kingdom of StormsEye has shown me that home is truly where the heart is. And I wanted to share this moment with you all as I present my heart to you all." Brenton starts slowly, the crowd looks captivated by his words, and even I have to remind myself that this is all fake. We barely even know each other. Brenton extends his hand down to where I sit, and I get up, my dress slipping all around me in a giant bundle of silk.
"Ladies and gentlemen...my heart." Brenton continues, still holding my hand in his as he get's down on one knee. He opens a blue velvet box, a gorgeous diamond band encrusting a turquoise and gold stone in the center. Fire and water. Us. "Princess Anahita Aqua Cascade of the kingdom of StormsEye." Brenton looks up at me, pronouncing my title as if its his lifeline. "Will you do me the honor of marrying me?" He finishes smoothly. Even kneeling, he is very close to exactly the same height as me, with my heels and all.
"Prince Brenton Kai Uriel of the kingdom of FoxFire, I accept your proposal." I say my line cleanly, and Brenton gently takes my ring finger and slides the immaculate ring onto it with a softness in his face. Another act, I tell myself. It makes me want to laugh and scream at the same time. It feels like every single thing us Royals do in life, is put on a show for everyone else. But that's exactly what we're doing right now.
Brenton stands up swiftly, and takes my face in his hands, lowering his lips to mine until their just a centimeter apart. We stay there for a long moment, until I can't stand it any longer, and rise up on my toes, crushing my lips to his, as I wrap my arms around his neck, straining on my toes to reach up to his full height.
The crowd around us roars and cheers for us, and after a minute we pull back from each other, but Brenton still keeps an arm protectively around my waist. My face feels like it's burning, from the fire the prince can control just by the flick of his wrist, like I can control water? No. But from how willingly I had kissed him, and how he had kissed me back. Even the memory makes me weak in the knees. I had definitely not expected this, and as I look at Brenton, I can tell that he didn't either. But as Brenton leads me from the dining hall, his hand in mine, I can't help but think...what the hell had just happened?!