Chapter 4 - Worthy of Praise
Chapter 4 - Worthy of Praise
Alexandria felt completely overwhelmed. The sight, the sounds, the colors, the chaotic world around her was just screaming with life, so much life, a life that she could be an unseen part of.
Every other time she had come to Town Central City for Market Day it was always as Crowned Princess Alexandria Maxine Georgiana Bell, future ruler of Alminia. People tended to treat her differently because she was the Princess, but at that moment she wasn’t the Princess.
She was masquerading as a woman named Lady Annabell Tompson. Her mother insisted that it would be easier to hide among the market goers if she didn’t lower her status too drastically. Alexandria didn’t argue the point with her mother. She could be Lady Annabell Tompson, an acquaintance of the Royal family from the Kingdom across the Wrinery Mountains.
Her mother had planned out Alexandria’s new back-story. Being connected to the Royal Family would make ordering supplies easier, and it would also offer her a small amount of protection, should something unforeseen happen.
Alexandria wondered how her mother had been able to come up with a new identity for her. Where had her mother picked up such a talent? And why had it been necessary?
Although it intrigued her, Alexandria left the thoughts concerning palace life for another day.
Looking to her left she noticed that her escort was matching her stride for stride. Alexandria was glad that the sixteen year old was with her. Tilly was more cunning than she acted, or appeared to be.
Alexandria felt that her desires to be on her own were mirrored by her escort. It was clear that the soft-spoken girl also wanted to be elsewhere. However, Tilly had the propriety to wait until she was certain that no harm would befall Alexandria, before leaving the Alminian Princess by herself.
They soon arrived at the renowned fabric shop, Pumberly’s Fashion and Textiles. Walking in Alexandria couldn’t help but take a small step back, bumping into the doorframe. Color surrounded her. From pre-made dresses to bolts of shimmery fabric, Alexandria didn’t know where to look first.
“Can I help you?” an excited voice called from below her.
Alexandria lowered her eyes and noticed a young girl with wild red hair, roughly the age of seven, staring up at her with large chocolate brown eyes.
“Do you work here?” Alexandria asked the girl.
“Yes, Lady.” She chirped excitedly.
“Then yes you can help me.” Alexandria responded, matching the girl’s enthusiasm, “I’m looking to have a new ball gown made.
“I can certainly assist you with that.” The young girl smiled up at Alexandria, but then turned towards Tilly. “We will take good care of your Mistress, Ma’am.” She said, her words suddenly turning professional, “This will take a bit of time, if you wish, you can return in four hours or even after lunch. Your Mistress will be safe with us.”
Alexandria noticed Tilly give the little red head a wink before she faced her mistress and asked, “Will you be needing my services Lady?”
“Everything here appears to be in good hands, you are dismissed.” She responded forcing her voice to appear composed.
Tilly nodded, and turned around to exit the shop.
“Four hours?” Alexandria asked the young girl once Tilly had left them. Her mother had only allowed her half a day in the market. She didn’t want to spend all of it in the shop. “Will it take that long?”
“No Lady,” the child answered sweetly, “but I know Tilly you see and she’s madly in love with Richard, the Baker’s son.” She gossiped happily. “Please forgive me if I have spoken out of turn. If you need anything during your stay with us here at Madam Pumberly’s, I’ll be sure to fill in,” the girl paused to catch her breath, “Now,” she continued clapping her hands together, “What type of ball gown did you have in mind?”
Alexandria was silent for a second. The young girl in front of her was a contradiction of spirit and maturity. “Well,” she finally said with a smile on her face, “a friend of mine is throwing a Grand Masquerade Ball, and I need an outfit for the event.
The young girl gasped, “Are you really friends with the Princess? That is truly amazing. She doesn’t come to Town Central City often; I don’t even know what she looks like. Sometimes my momma goes to the Palace and designs Queen’s Valerie’s gowns but that’s as close as I’ve gotten to seeing her.”
“Why do you want to see her so badly?” Alexandria asked curious.
“Well,” The girl stated proudly, “She’s a real life Princess, why would I not want to see her?”
Alexandria couldn’t stop the smile that appeared on her face. She admired the spirit and the honesty that the little girl possessed.
“You know,” Alexandria said slyly, “I remember hearing the Queen praise a seamstress the other day. Is your mother the owner of Madam Pumberly’s?”
The young girls face could not have lit up more. “She sure is. My name is Kimmberline Coesealet Pumberly. Kimmberline is an awfully long name so please just call me Kimmie. My momma said that because of the many customers the shop will be getting, I will be in charge of manning the floor while she is busy.”
“And where is your mother?” Alexandria inquired looking around, “Her Majesty, the Queen, said that she would be able to find a fabric to suit me.”
“She is currently helping another costumer at the moment,” Kimmie informed, “but you can speak with her when she is done.”
“Then it seems you will have to take charge and make since of all this for me.” Alexandria said motioning to the many bolts of fabric and ribbon. The young girl smiled at her with contagious energy.
An hour and a half later Alexandria had Kimmie laughing so hard that tears were streaming out of her eyes.
They started out looking; quiet diligently, through the numerous aisles of beautiful fabrics. Then a truly horrendous bolt quickly inspired an unorthodox game. The rules were rather simple. Each of them would search out the worst fabrics in the store and then pretend it was a beautiful ball gown. Soon however, their little game escalated into a contest to see who could get a bigger laugh out of the other.
It didn’t matter how many people stared at them. Alexandria wasn’t the crowned Princess at that moment in time; she was just another nameless face in the group. It didn’t matter if they stared.
Based off of the rules of their new game, Alexandria was winning. She paraded around happily in her imaginary orange and brown plaid dress, with an accompanying heinous green feather sticking up out of her upturned hair.
A cough caused both Alexandria and Kimmie to turn abruptly.
Alexandria paled as her focus latched onto a woman who was clearly the shop owner. She had never actually met the woman, but her mother often spoke highly of the lady’s unusual fashion since. Also, she looked like an older version of Kimmie. Madam Pumberly’s attire was exceedingly vibrant and very whimsical. She appeared to be covered in many squares of fabric, all strategically sown together in an intricate, almost quilt-like mural.
Alexandria tried to use the hideous plaid as a wall to hide behind, but she relaxed when she noticed the small glint of amusement in the older woman’s eyes.
“It seems that someone has been able to keep my daughter entertained in my absence,” She stated impressed, “what’s your name dear?”
“Lady Annabell Tompson, Ma’am,” Alexandria answered trying to unfurl the many layers of draped brown and orange from her person.
“Momma, Momma!” Kimmie said bouncing up and down filled with more energy than before. “Lady Tompson is a friend of the Princess! And,” she clucked drawing the word out, “she said that she heard the Queen speaking highly of you!”
“Did she?” the woman exclaimed in slight surprised. “It is a great honor to have you in my shop, Lady Annabell any friend of the Royal Family is most welcomed here.” The woman paused suddenly, “I’m sorry did you say that your last name was Tompson?”
“Yes, Ma’am I did.” Alexandria confirmed.
The woman appeared to be thinking closely about what Alexandria had just told her, but her thoughts were interrupted when a voice called out. “Madam Pumberly, I really can not accept such generosity. My cousins would not be able to-”
“Noah!” Young Kimmie screeched abandoning all signs of the maturity that she had shown earlier. She bolted, running towards the man that walked down the aisle.
Alexandria’s whole body stilled at his appearance.
He was young, and clearly a member of Society. He wore a pair of dark charcoal grey trousers, with a matching vest and soft cream-colored shirt. He had a jacket but he didn’t wear it. He had it draped casually over his right shoulder. The whole outfit was rather simplistic in appearance, but the quality of the materials hinted that he was the son of a high class Nobleman.
Alexandria was caught off guard when the man that had walked down the aisle bent over and easily scooped the charging Kimmie into his arms. He didn’t seem to care if someone saw him, or if the girl might mess up his attire.
“Noah,” Kimmie said again, surprising Alexandria with the use of his first name, “What are you w-”
“Now Kimmie dear, don’t be a nuisance to our guests,” Madam Pumberly informed her daughter sternly before whispering something in the child’s ear.
Alexandria was confused at the man’s reaction to Kimmie’s informality. He didn’t seem to be upset that she ignored the rules of social conduct. Perhaps he hadn’t heard her, or he just easily forgave young children.
Kimmie looked at her mother clearly confused by what the woman had whispered to her, but the girls face soon lit up with excitement. She jumped out of the young man’s arms, raced back to Alexandria and all but dragged her towards the others.
“Lady Annabell Tompson,” Kimmie stated properly this time, “I would like to introduce you to Lord Noah Jenkins,” She said with a giggle. “He’s visiting Alminia also.”
Alexandria lifted her eyes off the young girl below her and looked towards the man in front of her. ‘He was just a Lord?’ her thoughts questioned.
In the next moment, Alexandria’s world stopped as she gazed into a pair of icy blue eyes. Eyes so light that she could have mistakenly called them white. Alexandria could feel her heart pounding and feared the whole shop could hear it. Her own hazel eyes refused to look anywhere but at the face of the person in front of her.
If his clothes had not screamed that he was titled his features alone would be all she needed to know that he was a member of Society. Still, he appeared to be higher classed than a mere Lord. His dark blond hair hung unusually long, but the style softened his sharp features. His nose was slightly bent, but she found comfort in the small imperfection.
Alexandria couldn’t stop her visual investigation of Lord Jenkins. He wasn’t overly tan, but his skin clearly spoke of many hours in the sun. She glanced back at the ice blue eyes that had fixated her, and noticed that they were fixed elsewhere. Her heart pounded as his hand reached up towards her. A thousand scenarios flashed through her head in a moment, but her racing heart soon sank as his hand retracted holding the hideous green feather that she had forgotten to take out of her hair.
“Interesting color,” the young lord stated with a smile pulling at his lips. Alexandria was captivated by his words. She found herself returning his smile in order to keep from blushing with embarrassment.
Their eyes locked. Alexandria’s heart quickened and a strange sensation of comfort mixed with desire flowed throughout her being.
It was a cough from Madam Pumberly that finally seemed to break the connection between the two of them.
“The young lady said that you were visiting,” the Lord asked, appearing to make small talk. “Is it right for me to assume that you are not from Alminia, Lady Tompson?” His voice was kind and filled with such respect.
“Yes,” she stammered forcing words from her mouth. She struggled to remember her persona, while fighting to utter coherent sentences. “I’m from Londain,” she managed “just across the northern mountains.”
“She’s visiting her friend the-” Young Kimmie squealed, before her mother interrupted.
“Lord Jenkins,” Madam Pumberly scolded, “you should not question my customers like that.”
Alexandria didn’t know why Madam Pumberly had cut her daughter off, but for some reason she was glad for it. As simply Lady Annabell Tompson she was on the same social level as the person in front of her, and it made her feel giddy.
“Forgive me, Lady Tompson.” he apologized to her with a bow. “I did not intend to be disrespectful.”
Before Alexandria could insist that he hadn’t been disrespectful at all, Madam Pumberly chimed in. “Now follow me Lord Jenkins. I shall ring up your purchases and you can pick them up on your way out of town today,” the woman’s voice sounded warm, but she practically dragged Lord Jenkins towards the front of the store.
Alexandria noticed a look of deliberation on the man’s face, but it disappeared as he turned to exit the aisle, “Thank you, Madam.” She over heard him say, “You have been most gracious.”
The young Lord soon disappeared completely, and for some unknown reason, it pained Alexandria to see him go.
Lord Jenkins had left the store a while ago, but Alexandria had not stopped thinking about him. She couldn’t understand it. Why was her mind fixated on the Lord with the ice blue eyes? It didn’t make any sense to her.
Kimmie’s mother had sent her to help the other customers in the shop so Alexandria had only Madam Pumberly to ask if she wanted to know more about the man that Kimmie had so easily called Noah.
And she did.
Alexandria stilled and wondered why. Why should she want to know more about him?
It didn’t make since, and yet.
“Madam Pumberly?” she asked nervously.
“Yes, Lady Tompson?” the woman responded happily while she pulled out different bolts of fabric.
“I wanted to ask you,” she inquired softly “about the man from earlier.”
“Which man, Lady Tompson?” Madam Pumberly asked distractedly.
Alexandria took a deep breath to calm herself, “I was wondering if you might be able to tell me more about Lord Jenkins.”
“You should not concern yourself with N,” Madam Pumberly gasped suddenly causing the bolts she was holding clattered to the ground.
“Are you alright, Madam Pumberly?” Alexandria asked concerned.
“I am quiet alright, Lady Tompson, no need to worry yourself.” The woman paused for a moment deliberating something, “Tompson?” Alexandria heard her mutter quietly to herself, “As I was saying, Lady Tompson,” She remembered, “you mustn’t be troubled by Lord Jenkins’s actions earlier. He was exceedingly forward, and I would like to apologize personally for his behavior.”
Alexandria remembered how fast her heart pounded just from his proximity. “There is no need to apologize.” she assured wondering what was wrong with her. Before she could talk herself out of asking, Alexandria blurted, “How long will Lord N... will Lord Jenkins be visiting Alminia?”
The shopkeeper stilled at Alexandria’s words. She looked at her carefully, and released an exasperated sigh. Then suddenly she chuckled for no apparent reason. Eventually the woman’s face dropped into a look of deliberation. “Lord Noah Jenkins,” She began slowly using the Lord’s first name, “is... a distant cousin to the Lord Montego and his family. He came to my shop to help Lady Cathliene and her sons with the preparations for the Masked Ball that is being held in honor of Princess Alexandria’s birthday.”
“Will he be in attendance?” Alexandria asked embarrassed that she had spoken the words out loud.
She wondered why her voice seemed so hopeful, but the embarrassment didn’t provoke her into taking back her question.
The shopkeeper’s eyes softened, “Lord Jenkins was not invited, Lady.”
“Is that so?” Alexandria questioned, confused at how her internal thoughts continued to escape.
Madam Pumberly didn’t respond immediately. “My Lady,” she began, “the Royal Family could not have possibly invited every Noble in the thirteen kingdoms to attend the ball. There are simply too many to do so.”
“Oh.” The Princess muttered unable to hide the disappointment in her voice, but quick thinking prompted her to add, “It seems such a waste for him to travel here to assist his relatives for an event that he himself will be unable to attend.”
“What are you trying to ask me, Lady Tompson?” Madam Pumberly asked eying her cautiously,
“I,” she began “that is, I believe that he should be allowed to attend.”
“Do you?” She questioned.
“Yes.” Alexandria stated strongly. She had decided that as Lady Annabell, she could be as strong willed as she pleased. “That is what I believe.” She confirmed.
Her words caused a mischievous smile appear on Madam Pumberly’s face. The woman seemed to be remembering something from her past, but Alexandria had no idea what it might be. Madam Pumberly boldly looked Alexandria in the eyes and said, “I shall personally assure his arrival, Lady.”
“Truly?” Alexandria blurted, shocked at the woman’s words.
“I promise you Lady Tompson.” She said emphasizing Alexandria’s alias.
There was a comfortable silence between the two women, which was soon broken when Madam Pumberly expressed, “Now we should put those thoughts behind us and focus on finding you something to wear to the Princess’s Masquerade Ball?”
“You are right, Madam Pumberly.” Alexandria agreed. “Where should we start?”
“We shall start, my Lady, with first names.” The woman informed. “It will help you to trust me as a seamstress.”
Alexandria thought about her words, before nodding in agreement. “You may call me Annabell,” She informed, remembering her persona.
The woman frowned at Alexandria’s statement, but she hid it so swiftly that Alexandria wasn’t sure if she had actually seen it. Madam Pumberly nodded, and then said, “I am Willaminia.