With the preparation for the celebrations finally finished, I made my way to my private bedroom to get ready. The guests would arrive soon, and they would expect their king to look the part.
I shut the door to my room and pulled off the annoying gold band from my head. I tossed it on the bed and ran my fingers through my long hair.
Perhaps I should cut it all off, I thought as I looked at the ends now hanging at my shoulders.
I couldn’t, the girls love it too much.
I waited for my bath to fill and when it was ready, I stripped off my clothes and climbed into the hot water. I relaxed into it, and let my body float on the surface.
I had so many things I needed to decide on, so many matters that I should have a decision for, but all I could think of was whether my surprise for Laylar would be here in time.
I cannot believe how lucky the timing is.
I cleaned myself then got out of the water. I walked to my bedroom naked and wet, leaving footprints on the stone floor and stood by the waist-high window, looking out at the forest. I knew no one would dare to just walk into my bedroom without knocking, so I felt free to stand there, letting the air dry my skin.
In a way, the fact that no one would dare to do anything with me made me angry. I wanted to have fun again. To be surprised by someone, or to experience something unexpected. But everyone in my Kingdom was too respectful to do that.
I let out a sigh and decided to dress and get ready.
Once I entered the grand hall, the walls decorated with bright red and blue flowers, a large table filled with gifts, and hundreds of people standing and talking all around, I made my way to my throne.
As the people parted for me, my ever loyal guards at my side, I looked around and almost wished something would happen. Anything to change the routine I have lived for so long. No one came to speak to me. Not unless I spoke to them first. No one joked or made me laugh. At least not since my brother left to find Connie.
I sat down at the main table at the front of the hall, on my oversized and elaborate gold throne and watched as Laylar moved around the room, talking and laughing with other people her age.
My eyes drifted to the doors every few minutes, hoping that my plan to surprise her would work as I pictured.
I stared absentmindedly at the people as they walked past the table, each one bowing their heads to me. I always teased my brother about these events when he told me he couldn’t stand them, but I was beginning to see what he meant.
Perhaps if they were not all the same, I wouldn’t grow tired of them.
A young servant approached me with a tray and a bottle of Pali wine, “My king, would you like some?” She asked without looking into my eyes.
I stared at her. Look at me.
She didn’t move, just stood there, head dipped, waiting.
I sighed, “Yes, please. Thank you.”
She poured the wine and placed the bottle on the table before she scurried away.
I let out a long breath and reached for my drink. As I took a long sip, one of my guards came to me, “My King, it’s time. They have arrived.”
I nodded to him with a smile and stood. I gave the guard at the main doors a nod and he banged on the large round plaque with a metal pole, causing a loud chime to ring out. Everyone in the hall stopped talking and turned to look at me.
I held out my hand to Laylar and she came to me with a bright smile.
“Thank you all for joining me to celebrate my beautiful daughter's birthday. As her father, and as the King, there isn’t much I can gift her, that she does not already have. But, as her father, I also know what her heart wants,” I turned to my daughter and looked into her eyes, “Laylar, you have grown into the most wonderful woman any father would be proud of. I know I am. I want you to be happy, to always feel love, and to never be without the things your heart desires. So,” I turned her to the main doors, “I arranged the one thing I know you wanted on your birthday the most,” I said and waited for my surprise to walk in.