I couldn’t stop laughing at the way Laylar talked about her family. She had so many funny stories about the king, Raylon and her mother. Connie sat with Asytar in front of her, plaiting her hair, and I worked on Tomlee’s. The little prince sat on Layla’s lap, playing on a glass screen. The sun was shining, a soft breeze kept the air cool and pleasant.
After lunch, she found us wandering the garden and invited us to sit with her and the other kids.
“So,” I asked after the giggles died down, “Vara is like a family name?” I asked Laylar.
She nodded, “Yes. It’s a name passed from our great great. . . great grandfather, I think. I am not sure of the generations, but when he became the king, the Vara family took over the kingdom.”
“How did he become the king? I thought it was passed down from father to son.”
“It is,” She said as she shifted the prince on her lap, “But if no son is born to a king, then his firstborn daughter marries a royal from one of the other families, and he then takes the throne. That is how our family took the throne.”
“That is so fascinating, I love learning about all this kind of stuff,” I said as I placed the last of the little white flowers into Tomlee’s long dark hair.
“What is your family’s name?” She asked me, “I know Connie is Andrews, is that right?”
Connie nodded and I said, “My full name is Ashley Margaret Jones. It used to be McHarris, but I got rid of that name as soon as I could.”
“Why did it change?” Laylar asked.
“McHarris was my ex-husband's name. In our culture, when a woman marries a man, she takes his last name. But when I left him, I didn’t want anything of his, not even his name, so I had it changed back to the one I was born with.”
I met Connie’s eyes and she gave a small smile.
“Anyways,” I said as I finished off Tomlee’s hair, “I think all that juice has gone right through me. I’ll be back in a minute.”
I stood up and made my way to the nearest entrance to the Palace.
As soon as I walked in, I waited for my eyes to adjust to the change in light, and made my way towards what I hoped was a bathroom. The palace was massive and I still didn’t know my way around at all.
I turned a corner and found the kings standing by himself, his head lowered as he leaned against the wall.
I swallowed, he looks so stressed out.
I stepped forwards, “How are the meetings going?”
He looked up at me, and it seemed as though all the stress just poured out of him at the mere sight of me.
He smiled, “Dreadfully long. I needed a moment to let my mind rest. Are my children behaving themselves?”
I smiled, “They’re golden. Full of beans and they don’t stop talking, but they are so sweet.”
He looked away again, “Good.”
Say something to him. Anything.
“So, are you done with your meeting?” I said and walked up to him slowly,
He looked up at me with a smile, “Sadly, not yet. I must return shortly.”
“Well, if you want, when you’re done, come join us outside.”
“I will,” He said with a half-smile.
I opened my mouth to speak, but the door behind me opened. I turned to look and was met with an angry glare from a man in a red robe.
“King Zasrus, we are running out of time,” The old fart behind me said, “Do you intend to return to this meeting?”
The king took in a long breath, “Yes, Lord Savnor!” He called out to him in an annoyed voice. To me, he whispered, “I will see you later, once I have finished with these fools?”
I nodded, “Sure.”
He gave me one last knee-weakening smile and went back into the room.
My body firmly reminded me why I had come into the palace in the first place and I ran for the door Laylar told me to head to.