"This way." Mother leads Brenton and I up a twisting staircase and to a large sitting room with patterned rugs and a more rustic feel, like no place that I've ever been in the palace.
"Where are we going?" I ask again, struggling to keep up with Brenton's long legs. My hand is still pressed against his, even though no ones watching us anymore, and I don't know whether to be excited, scared, or sad about it. So far, I'm all of those things and more.
"The room you two are going to be sharing for the duration of your time together at StormsEye of course." Mother explains, looking back at both Brenton and I. Her eyes find my hand in Brenton's, and I resist the urge to snatch it away.
"Oh." I say instead, dread filling my body now with every step we take. "Why can't I keep my old room?" I wonder aloud.
"Well, you two are engaged now. You were bound to share a room sooner or later. And Anahita, your room is not meant for two people. In the publics eyes, you two are in love. So it's time to start acting like it." My mother smiles at us, probably still thinking about our holding hands, and stops abruptly at a wooden cabin-like door at the end of the hallway. "Here's the key. Don't lose it." She adds, handing the key to Brenton, and then she quickly disappears back the way we came.
"Alright then." I sigh, disbelief still sinking in. I can't believe that my parents would actually do this to me! It's just so humiliating. Brenton slides the key into the keyhole, and twists it, the sound making me jump.
"Sorry." Brenton tells me as he reads my expression. He opens the door slowly, and we both trudge inside wearily.
"It's ok. I'm just a bit jumpy right now." I tell him, as I walk over to the one bed in the center of the room and collapse onto it in a pile of silk-like waves.
"Aren't we all?" He chuckles, his laugh deep and reserved. Nothing like the laugh I had just heard this morning.
"Well, um...about this, arrangement..." I stammer clumsily, my thoughts elsewhere.
"It's alright. I'll sleep on the ground." Brenton smirks as I sigh in relief. "It wouldn't have been that bad anyways."
"Thank you." I tell him, nodding my head in appreciation. For a second everything is silent, until I realize that I'm still holding Brenton's hand. I can feel the pink start to shade my cheeks in embarrassment, as he realizes the same thing. But instead of pulling away like I assumed he would, he starts to trace little circles on the back of my hand. It's the most calming thing I've ever felt before, and I can't help but stare at him intently while he continues to calm me from all the stress I've carried with me for the past day.
"My mom used to calm me this way." He tells me, as he see's me staring. Suddenly the feeling of his hand in mine is gone, and replaced with a strange loneliness.
"We can take turns." I try to change the subject. "I'll take the bed tonight, and the floor tomorrow."
"Ok." Brenton agrees, pacing the room in only a couple long strides.
"What?" I ask him, as he stops pacing in the middle of the room. I lean to the side facing him, putting my elbow on the bed to brace myself.
"Just thinking." He mumbles, starting to pace yet again.
"Could you just stop and relax for a moment? You make this seem like a prison!" I blurt out before thinking carefully like my mother always taught me to do. To be a lady, she always told me, meant to be seen and not heard. To be graceful and polite, but never speak whatever's on our mind. It's better that way, she'd always told me whenever I asked her why. "Sorry." I whisper, looking down at my dress, the floor, the painting in the corner, anything but Brenton.
"It's ok." He say's softly, and I feel his hands on my chin, willing me to look at him. "I agree with you." He adds, and at that I look up at him. His eyebrows are arched and his forehead scrunched together in thought. Without thinking, I reach out and smooth the lines there. They disappear with a brush of my hand, as his frown turns into a grin. "There she is." He mutters softly in my ear.
"Thank you. Again." I smile, for real this time. Sliding my hands down his forehead, they come to rest on his arms. They are fairly think and musceled, and I can't help but wonder what he's been up to.
"It's my pleasure." Brenton's smile widens, and his hands travel up my chin to my hair. Every since I was a little girl, my worst physical feature has been my hair. It's elbow length and a straight string of pure black against my pale skin and clear aquamarine eyes. When I was 13 I had gotten blue streaks of color put into it, but it had looked even worse that way, and the next day it got colored over. Brenton takes a strand of it into his hand, and twists it over in his fingers. "Just as I remember." He speaks softly, and I have to strain to hear him.
His eyes find mine, and my heart beats faster. So fast that I'm sure he can hear it. But if he can, he doesn't show it. Gently dropping my strand of hair, he takes my left hand in his own, and tugs me up off the bed and into his arms. It's comforting to know that he's right here in front of me, his arm's around my waist and his head in my hair.
"It's lunch." He whispers to me after a minute of standing in silence. But I don't want to leave the embrace, and it's clear he doesn't either, as his arms tighten around my waist.
"Ok." I answer after another moment of nothing. Reluctantly, I pull away from him and his warmth. His hand is quick to find mine, and soon enough we're holding hands again. The message is clear. We're in this together.
"We've been waiting for you two." King Mishan says, standing up to address us both properly. The dining hall that was crowded this morning, is empty now, except for our parents still at the Royals table.
"Thank you father." Brenton says respectfully, and we both bow our heads to our families in appreciation.
"Now are we going to sit here and talk all day, or can we dig in?" My father teases us, and we make our way to the table gracefully as one.
If anyone had told me before today that an arranged marriage wouldn't be that bad, I would have disagreed with them completely. But at least with Brenton we are friends, and it really isn't as bad as it could've been with someone else. As I sit down, I notice the plate in front of me is one of mother's valuables. We only use these plates for extremely special occasions. And barely even then. And cloth napkins also decorate the long table that we sit at.
"Delicious." Queen Pele nods at her food. Cheese raviolis in butter, and a side of salad and bread. One of my favorite meals, I look at my mother gratefully. Of course it was her who had done all of this for me.
"Thank you." Mother agrees thoughtfully, dabbing at her mouth with a cloth napkin.
Underneath the table I feel Brenton's hand squeeze mine. If only I had known him all these years. Then we could have been great friends. And I wouldn't have to dread the moment where I would have to say I do. This whole thing is a lie I keep having to remind myself. Brenton and I do not have feelings for each other because we barely even know each other.
There are 4 kingdoms that span the world. One for water, fire, earth, and air. I have never met the prince of earth or the princess of air, but I have heard of them both in the newscasts that broadcast our every move to the globe. For us Royals we always have to live this way, in constant terrible fear of tripping up. But for most Royals, they get to at least marry the person of their choice.
Of course that person has to be wealthy or of importance, but it really doesn't matter who they pick to marry. The person can be from any kingdom too. This is only because every commoner (person that is not Royalty) does not inherit elemental powers. It is only inherited through Royalty, and that is exactly why we are above the average human. Sometimes though, parents force an arranged marriage to these commoners as well.
But a rarer circumstance is when 2 Royals marry each other. It hasn't been done in over 100 years, because it is a riskier situation of elemental powers mixing, and it is a more popular event that will certainly be on every T.V screen in the world. I shudder at the thought, digging my diamond heels into the marble floor underneath the table.
"You should eat." I hear Brenton whisper to me, his lips brushing against my ear. I oblige, taking a small sip of lemonade and a bite of my salad.
"Anahita, we were just talking about wedding gowns. Would you like a pink blush gown, or a simple pearl white?" Queen Pele asks me, eyes wide like the whole world depends on my answer.
"No, no, don't answer that!" My mother is quick to intervene. "Not while the groom is present." She adds.
"Oh, forgive me." Brenton's mother chimes, folding both her hands on the table in front of her.
"It is quite alright." Mother tells her, and I take another sip of lemonade. This was turning out to be quite the day. Farther down the table I can see father and King Mishan talking to each other. But even as I strain to hear their conversation, which would surely be better than the womens, I cannot hear their words. Sighing, I fall back in my chair in defeat.
"Are you ok?" Brenton asks, his fingers still touching mine softly.
"Yes, just tired." I answer, gritting my teeth to try and stop a yawn. Brenton get's out of his chair then, and I follow.
"We are going to go get some rest. It has been a long day for all of us." He speaks to his mother, and she nods politely with his words.
"Goodnight mother." I bow my head in respect, and let Brenton lead me out of the hall. My dress pools all around me, and I'm quite surprised that Brenton hasn't tripped over it. Looking behind us, I can see my father still deep in conversation with the FoxFire king. They probably don't know even know we left.
Brenton places one hand on my waist, the other still gripping my hand lightly, as he leads me through the palace like he's been here a thousand times before. And very quickly we are back at our Quarters. Brenton slides his hand off my waist, and unlocks the door with a click, ushering me inside.
"Don't look." I tell him, when the door is closed safely behind us. He doesn't argue, closing his eyes in a second, and I am quick to slide my dress off of my small form. It hits the bed with a sound only silk can make, and I dive under the covers of the bed faster than I would ever have thought possible. I am suddenly aware of the fact that I do not have anything on now but underwear. Silently, I curse myself for not wearing a bra today, but that certainly would have earned some stares as my dress is strapless, so I have to say I made the right choice all in all.
"Ok, you can look now." I whisper, closing my eyes as I drift off into a hazy sleep. Brenton was right, it certainly had been a long day. And if I wanted to get anything done tomorrow, I best sleep early and restore my energy.
Beside me, on the cold cobblestone floor, I hear Brenton lay down with a thud. And I have to remind myself that he's made of fire, he won't be cold tonight, so I won't toss him a blanket from the huge cloud-like bed that surrounds me. Instead, I turn my back to him, releasing a huge breath of air I didn't know I was carrying. Brenton and I don't have feelings for each other, I repeat over and over in my mind, and with that, I fall into a deep sleep with my mind still working, and my heart still racing.