Chapter Three - Introductions (c)
“If you’re in an arranged marriage, I assume you came from a rich family, am I correct?” he smirked.
“I guess we can call it that way,” I replied, hesitant. I’m not the kind of person that’s proud of his title and parades his wealth outside of the castle. To be completely honest, I prefer to look like a normal being whether I’m inside the castle or not. Boasting what I have was never an attitude of mine.
“One order of tea and apple pie, ready to be served!” a worker shouted behind Grandpa Ben, putting the meal on the counter behind him.
Laura then appeared from the workplace, grabbed the tray, and headed towards me. “Here you are, good sir. Tea and a freshly-baked apple pie,” she said as she put my order directly in front of me. “Enjoy!” she smiled and started to head back to the workplace.
Grandpa Ben let out a chuckle. “I’m sure he will,” he teased Laura.
She then turned around and stuck her tongue out to Grandpa Ben. After their little moment of playful banter, Laura headed back to work.
“Go ahead, son. Try it,” he reverted his attention to me.
I smiled as I gently lifted the cup of tea closer to my mouth. As the hot liquid touched my tongue, I could say this is one of the best kinds of beverage I’ve ever tasted. “Sir,” I put the tea down. “I mean, Grandpa Ben, I have to say that this is one of the best teas that has ever touched my tongue.”
“I’m glad you liked it. Rodrigo was the one who makes all the beverages here,” Grandpa Ben said with a sense of pride. “He said his recipe has been handed down through his family for generations and it is a well-guarded secret. Whoever created the recipe was a genius and all thanks must be given to its creator.”
“A genius, indeed,” I smiled. My eyes then turned their attention to the apple pie.
“Since you had, as you said, the best tea you’ve ever tasted, are you now ready to taste the best apple pie in this place?” he asked, his expression full of enthusiasm.
“Well, by the looks and the aroma of this pie, it must be mouth-watering,” I complimented, pulling the slice of pie closer to me.
“Though I must warn you, boy… those who have tasted Laura’s apple pies went mad about them. They would always return here and eat as much pie as they could,” he replied as he handed a fork to me.
I stuck my fork into the pie when someone from the baking area started to ring a handheld bell. “It’s almost time for lunch, everybody! Lunch is almost here!” he continued to shout as he walked around the baking area with the bell. “Enough with all the breakfast pastries and beverages. It’s time for dessert!” he continued. After ringing the bell and shouting like a mad man inside the bakery, he went back to this workstation.
“You have someone who keeps time in check here, Grandpa Ben?” I asked.
“Oh, yes, we do. We have to,” he answered as he folded his arms and laid them on the counter, supporting his weight as he leaned towards me. “We want to be different from other bakeries here as much as possible. We don’t want to be a bakery that bakes bread and only bread. Our treatment in the workplace is like family. So, every time a customer enters that very door,” he pointed to the shop entrance briefly. “We serve breakfast, snacks, and desserts for everyone’s delight,” he added.
“What time do you normally close the bakery?”
“When the street clocker starts to ring his bell during the evening, we take it as a sign that it’s time to close the shop. If there are people who wanted midnight snacks, we would deliver them after we close the bakery,” he explained. “Now, that’s enough talking. Go ahead and try the apple pie,” he pointed at the pie.
Oh, right, the pie! I turned back to the pie and carefully sliced a small bite. As I lifted it, it looked just too delicious that you just wanted to eat it with your eyes alone. I was about to take a bite when Lady started to whiny in front of the entrance.
“Your horse has a bit of an attitude, son,” Grandpa Ben snickered.
Lady doesn’t usually act that way unless there’s a crowd. What’s happening with her? Is she trying to tell me something? I turned back to Grandpa Ben, “Grandpa Ben, do you know what time it is currently?”
“Hm… well, for starters, it isn’t officially lunchtime yet. The street clocker hasn’t announced it yet,” he explained.
Right after he said that, I heard someone shouting outside on the streets. “It’s time for lunch! Time for lunch! Those who are currently working, it’s time for lunch!” a young man started ringing a bell, along with five other men who were beating their drums. He continued to shout as he passed by the shop.
“Well now, it’s really time for lunch,” Grandpa Ben laughed.
So that’s what Lady was trying to say! It’s time for lunch. It’s time for her lunch and I need to be heading back home. I don’t want my family to know I was out of the castle, especially James.
“Grandpa Ben, I have to go,” I replied, standing up as quickly as I could.
“What?” he stood up, his brows were knitted together in confusion. “But you still haven’t tried the pie yet.”
“Maybe next time, Grandpa Ben. I can’t be late for family lunch,” I answered. Without wasting any more time, I ran towards the entrance.
As soon as I reached Lady, I wasted no time and quickly jumped onto her back.
“Wait!” a voice shouted from inside the bakery. I turned to see Laura as she raced towards me with a basket in her arms. “Here you are,” she said as she handed over the basket, covered with a plaid blanket.
“What’s inside?” I asked as I received it.
“You didn’t get the chance to finish the pie so Grandpa Ben told me to put it in a basket and give it to you,” she smiled. “It’s still fresh and as I can see, it wasn’t touched so it would be a waste if we threw it into the trash,” she put her hands on her waist.
“Oh, thank you, Laura but there’s no need for this,” I started to hand the basket back. “I told Grandpa Ben I will try it on my next visit.”
“Don’t fight us back, son,” another voice came from the entrance. Grandpa Ben then walked towards us and stood behind Laura. “Take the pie home with you. Share it with your family. They might like it.”
“But Grandpa Ben--” he then put his hand out to block my protest.
“It’s all right, son. I don’t want to hear any excuses. You’re bringing it home,” he smirked as he rested his hands on top of his cane.
How can I fight back? There’s two of them. I’m outnumbered. I must accept defeat this time. “So, when’s the next time we will see each other?” I asked Laura as I turned to her.
She smiled before she replied, “I guess we’ll have to wait for your next visit, Robert.”
“I certainly hope I’d see you again,” I returned her smile. One way or another, I’ll find a way to keep seeing her without my family knowing. For once, I think I found someone with whom, I think, I can share my thoughts.
“We will, Robert,” she smirked as she crossed her arms.
I was about to answer but Lady began to whiny once more, even threatening to stand. “Well, I must be on my way. I will see you again, Laura,” I replied then I turned to Grandpa Ben after. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
“Come back anytime you want, son,” he smiled. “You’re always welcome in our bakery.
I nodded in response and went on my way back to the castle.
I quickly dismounted Lady as soon as we arrived at the stables. As I fed Lady her food today and gave her some water, somebody hugged me from behind. By the looks of the soft, blushing hands, I could tell it was Mallory and she was sobbing. Her tears were enough to soak the back of my shirt.
“Why can’t you love me, Robert?”
I carefully removed her arms from my body. “Mallory, I don’t have time for this,” I turned around.
She hugged me once more, her tears soaked the front of my shirt. “Tell me, Robert, why can’t you love me?”
I removed her hands from me again, this time with a bit of force. “I told you already, Mallory: I only view you as my sister,” I explained as calmly as I could. I can sense myself slowly losing patience as the blood rushed to my cheeks. I felt suffocated in this situation.
“But that’s not how I feel for you,” she protested.
I groaned as I swiped my hand across my face out of frustration. “Mallory, even if I did try to love you romantically, it would never work. Out of all the people in this castle, you’re one of the few who know that I’m arranged to marry someone else,” I spouted.
“I don’t care!” she suddenly shouted as she shook her head. “Give me a chance to be with you even just for a little while. After that, you can forget that there was ever something between the two of us,” a river of tears continued to run down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry, Mallory but I can’t do that. I would be lying to myself and I would be lying to you,” I answered. “As a sister, the last thing that I want to do to you is to hurt you by pretending that there’s a chance between the two of us. You deserve a man who will love you wholly.”
“Can’t that man be you?”
And with that, I went on my way to the kitchen. I wanted to turn back and make sure that she will be okay but at this rate, she doesn’t want to be comforted by me. She will only continue to push her request and that will only prolong the conversation that could easily turn into an argument.
The very moment I stepped foot into the kitchen, the first person I started to look for was Nana Olsa. I had to keep this apple pie safe and she’s the only one I trust with matters such as this. But no matter how hard I looked around, she was nowhere to be found. And it didn’t help that the staff was hurriedly preparing the food for lunch.
“Nana Olsa?” I started to call out as I walked around the kitchen. “Nana Olsa?”
I felt a sudden tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Madam Purrey, the sous chef.
“Robert, is there anything I can help you with?” she asked with a concerned look on her face.
“Oh, Madam Purrey. It’s a good thing I found you,” I sighed out of relief.
“Is there something wrong, little one?”
“Have you seen Nana Olsa?”
“Nana Olsa is not here, Your Highness,” she replied as she folded her hands in front of her. “She’s currently in the dining hall, assisting the servants in preparing for lunch.”
“Thank you, Madam Purrey. I’ll be on my way. Please let her know that I was looking for her.”
“I will, young prince,” she then stepped aside to make way for me.
After a quick nod, I ran out of the kitchen and started heading to the dining hall. I can only hope that my family hasn’t arrived in the dining hall yet.
As I was running for my life in the hallway, Gonzalo suddenly popped out from a corner which caused me to bump into him in my attempt to stop.
“Your Highness!” he exclaimed as he caught me before I could fall onto the ground.
“Gonzalo,” I tried my best to catch my breath as he helped me stand back up. It’s a good thing he was quick to catch me. Or else, we’d both be on the floor right now. Out of breath, I put my hands on my knees as I panted.
“You’re expected in the dining hall, Your Highness,” he informed me as he put a hand on my shoulder.
I removed his hand as I began to stand upright. “I’m very well aware of that, Gonzalo.” I took a deep breath in and let it all out as I finally got my breathing back to normal.
“Well, young prince, if you’re composed already, I suggest that you change your clothes into something a bit more formal and join your family.”
“There’s no need for me to change,” I shook my head. I walked closer to him. “How dare you send the guards after me, Gonzalo,” I started, my voice lowered.
His eyes widened. “Um, Your Highness, I have no idea of what you’re talking about,” he stuttered throughout his lame excuse. His eyes were quick to land their gaze onto the floor.
“Don’t lie to me, Gonzalo. The guards said you sent them after me,” I replied as I tried to control my anger for as long as I could. He disobeyed my command and now, he has the guts to lie in front of my face?
Gonzalo continued to stare at the floor. He answered as he cleared his throat, “Your Highness, I only did what was right.”
“What was right?! I specifically told you that I don’t want anyone to come with me, especially the castle guards! What if they told the king about what happened?!” I shouted in a whispering voice. “Do you think what you did was right?! Instead of protecting me from the mortals, you made it more obvious that I was an immortal! Do you realize what you have done?!”
He quickly went down on his knees and responded, “Please appease your anger, Your Highness. I ordered the guards never to tell His Majesty about your stroll.”
“And how sure are you that they won’t tell him? What is your guarantee that they will keep everything to themselves?” I leaned forward as I moved closer to him, towering over his crouched figure.
I heard Gonzalo gulp before he said, “I made them swear, Your Highness. But I’ll have a word with them later today.”
“The next time I tell you what to do, I expect you to follow my orders. Do I make myself clear?”
Gonzalo lifted his head to meet my gaze. “But Your Highness, you were breaking the rules. I couldn’t just let you break the rules as you are the heir to the throne of the Western Wind.”
“Does it look like I care about the rules, Gonzalo?” I crouched down to his level and moved my face closer to him. “If I gave a damn about the rules of this kingdom, do you think I would even consider going to the Mortal Realm myself for a simple stroll?”
Gonzalo quickly shook his head in response.
I stood up as I let out a sigh. “I will let this instance go. But if you ever disobey me in the future, I’ll make sure you’ll regret doing so.”
Gonzalo got on back to his feet without hesitation and nodded. “Yes, Your Highness.”
“And because you made an even bigger mess, I want you to modify the memories of those who have seen the fiasco a while ago,” I continued. “I can’t have anyone praying and wishing for someone to send another immortal.”
Gonzalo nodded again.
I handed the basket over to him. “Bring this to my room. Place it under my bed, where no one can find it.”
“As you wish, Your Highness,” he bowed, accepting the basket. He then headed to my room and I made my way to the dining hall. Fixing the sleeves of my shirt and making sure that my hair isn’t a mess, I’m silently praying that there would be no other surprise in store at lunch.