The words were ringing in my ears. “You belong to the kingdom of Tara and you are to be married to Sir. Axel and that’s final!“. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want any of this. My life had become a reflection of my parents’ dreams for their own failing lives. “But Papa we have been at war for years. Can’t I at least wait until I turn seventeen to start worrying about marriage!” I say in a drawling tone. “No Victoria.” Mother had chimed in. “You have been putting this off for far too long. You must find well-fitting suitors if you are to become a strong leader of this kingdom and that’s final.“. Mother said before she and father left and I am left alone.
“I am to meet Sir. Axel later for dinner.” I announce to my sister, Eloise, as she enters my room. “He is quite handsome though don’t you think?“. She quickly responds in an excited tone. It is no secret she has had a crush on him from a very young age. “Yes, he is handsome I presume but I am not in love with him. All I have ever wanted in life is to be able to live not to be controlled by another man but Father doesn’t understand that.” I look to Eloise who is sitting near the tall window that looks out to the garden. “Well, maybe tonight he will at least bring you some of those nice flowers he has or he’ll take you to see the flowers in the garden that Mother never lets us touch. I could always use some more of his flowers to use to decorate the table with though. They always end up matching up with the walls” she utters slowly trying to change the subject slightly to a lighter tone. “You know I will come back later. I am feeling quite tired from walking in the garden earlier with Pearl” I say as I leave to go to my room. I feel bad lying to Eloise like that. Pearl was in the kitchen with the rest of the maids right now and never once today took me out into the garden for a walk. Hopefully, she won’t tell Eloise. I don’t want to make her more upset than she already is.
A couple of hours later Pearl comes knocking on my door to tell me that Sir. Axel has arrived. I dreadingly decide to walk out of my room with a fake smile on my face. I have decided to wear one of my favorite dresses to try and make me happier. It is a lighter shade of blue with pink flowers on it and smaller green details. “Hello!” Sir. Axel says as I finish walking down the last few steps of stairs. “Hi, Sir. Axel” I say trying to sound happy. “Oh please Victoria call me Axel.” He says as we start walking together. My mother has set up for us to eat in the room that feeds into the library. “So I heard that Eloise is here tonight.” He awkwardly states trying to mask over the obvious tension. “Yes, she is here tonight.” I say. It is no secret that Axel and Eloise have been long time friends. "She was very excited to hear that we have been getting closer. She sees you as... a great friend.” I say as I make eye contact with him and continue walking down the long hallway of the castle. “Looks like we have arrived.” I say with a smile on my face and sit down at the table
“So Sir. Axel, what do you like to do in your free time when you are not worrying about the war?” I ask after taking a bite of a lemon tart my mother made this morning. “Believe it or not, I like to read.” He says in an enthusiastic tone. “Victoria is it true that you like to read as well? Your father has told me that you spend hours in the library.“ I quickly respond “Yes, I do enjoy reading. What else is there to do in times like these?” I respond back to him awkwardly trying to joke with another fake smile on my face. To be fair that was only a half-lie. I do enjoy reading sometimes but I am very picky when it comes to books and I most certainly do not spend hours in the library reading. “Um, Axel would you like to take a stroll in the garden? My mother just had new roses put in they are quite delightful!” I ask hoping he will say yes. Maybe getting a change of scenery will help with the awkwardness. I have known Axel for years but I think both of us aware that we are to be married after years of strictly only friendship has tainted our once okay relationship. Thankfully though Pearl enters before he can even respond and tells me that my father wants to speak to me. “I am so sorry that I have to be pulled away from our evening so early Axel.” I say apologetically as I get up from my seat. “That is okay Victoria it is quite late anyway. I am sure my mother wants to hear everything about tonight anyway. I’m sure you remember she is quite the gossip.” He says smiling as he stands up to walk me out of the room and then to follow another maid, Shelby, who leads him out.
“Say, Pearl what does my father need to speak to me about?” I ask her. “Oh, my dear he doesn’t need to speak to you about anything! You don’t think only your sister knew just exactly how much you were dreading tonight did you? Plus I heard that conversation trust me you needed an escape plan.” She laughs softly as I look at her with my first genuine smile of the night. “Well thank you, Pearl.” I respond back to her with sincerity.
I walk up to my room and lay down and try to go to sleep but I can’t stop thinking. It’s not that I don’t like Axel it’s just that I do not want to marry him. I do not love him and I probably never will. Plus it feels wrong to be with someone my sister has been in love with for years. I know this is hurting Eloise more than I ever could imagine. I will have to see him again tomorrow for my Fathers annual luncheon of the year. Maybe it will get better but for now, I will have to pretend to be as happy as I can.