Angela awoke later that day to a delicious soreness throughout her entire body and a warm, large Axion wrapped around her. She slowly turned to look at Exalon, who was smiling in his sleep. The stress lines he seemed to always have around his mouth and eyes were gone and he looked completely peaceful for the first time since she had met him.
Angela’s stomach growled, making her realize just how long she had gone without food. She’d been too nervous to eat before the ball, so the last time she’d had any food was lunch yesterday. She glanced around the room, trying to find her dress, but her range of motion was severely hampered by Exalon. After a few minutes of careful wiggling, she managed to extract herself from his arms and get out of bed. Unable to locate her sari, she grabbed Exalon’s shirt from yesterday and slipped it on her naked body, biting her lip to hold in her laughter when it hit her at the knees.
Angela took one last look at Exalon’s peacefully sleeping form before slipping into the hallway and entering her own bedroom next door. She found the most cozy clothes she owned in her closet, opting for comfort over Axion style. She slipped on a pair of well-loved pants and a sweater that fell off one shoulder, then left, trying to remember where the dining room or kitchen was.
Unfortunately, Angela ran into Mrs. Cotterhill before finding food. The older woman narrowed her eyes at Angela’s clothes but still curtsied to her.
“Your Royal Sonsara,” she said, trying to walk around Angela, but she was too hungry to deal with the housekeeper’s attitude.
“Mrs. Cotterhill, could you point me to the dining room?” Angela asked before the woman disappeared. “Or the kitchen?” Angela could see Mrs. Cotterhill fidget in discomfort, but she nodded, then turned down another hall.
“Follow me,” she said briskly. Angela practically had to run to keep up with her, but Mrs. Cotterhill led Angela to Exalon’s private dining room.
“I’ll send for some food, Your Royal Sonsara,” Mrs. Cotterhill said with chilling politeness. “Will that be all?”
“Um, yes. Thank you,” replied Angela, rather shocked at how accommodating the woman was being.
Mrs. Cotterhill curtsied quickly and fled the room almost before Angela finished speaking. Only a few minutes later, a young man walked in with two trays covered in a variety of foods. He set them down, quickly set up three place settings, bowed deeply, then left before Angela had a chance to say something to him or just thank him. She knew one of the first things she would be working on were rights for the serving classes. The fact that no one seemed to recognize them as real people was a problem Angela intended to remedy.
Angela was reaching for the food when the dining room door opened and Gander walked in, a smile on his face. He bowed.
“Good afternoon, Your Royal Sonsara. I trust you slept well?” he said with a knowing look in his eye.
Angela narrowed her eyes at him.
“Funny,” she said dryly. “And Gander, please call me Angela. I need people around me who know exactly who I am and where I come from. I can’t just be a royal. I also need to be myself.”
“As you wish, Angela.” Gander gave Angela a paternal smile and sat at the second place setting. He briskly served both Angela and himself. “You will need to develop your own team to help you with the work you’ll have, but there is certainly time for that.”
“I’m hoping you’ll be willing to help me. At least in the beginning.”
“Of course,” he said. “And, if it’s not too forward, I think I have the perfect candidate for your private secretary.”
“Already?” Angela asked, surprised. “That was quick.”
“Well, she’s basically been training for it all of her life,” Gander said, chuckling at the look of confusion on Angela’s face. “My daughter. I’ve trained her personally and I can already tell the two of you would get along quite well and be a very effective team.”
“That sounds perfect!” Angela exclaimed in relief. “Thank you, Gander. I’m aware your workload has most likely doubled since I’ve shown up.”
“Not just yet, but you made quite the impression at the ball. I suspect you’re already receiving social invitations and patronage requests from different organizations.”
“What types of organizations?” asked Angela.
“Most royals sit on the board or personally chair many charities,” Gander explained. “You’ll be in high demand, not just on Axion, but across the Galactic Union.”
“You might want to set up a meeting between your daughter and me sooner rather than later,” said Angela, nervously biting her lower lip.
“Of course,” Gander said with a respectful head nod. “Although I suspect Exalon will want to keep you to himself for the next few days.”
“You suspect correctly.”
Angela and Gander turned toward the door as Exalon strolled in. Gander quickly stood and bowed, but Exalon just waved at him to sit back down. As he passed Angela’s chair, he leaned down to kiss her on the cheek.
“You abandoned me this morning,” Exalon whispered in her ear, making Angela blush.
“It’s the afternoon. And if I hadn’t gone to find food, my stomach would have woken you up,” she retorted. Exalon laughed and sat down at the last place setting.
“So, Gander, what are the general impressions after the ball?” Exalon asked as he dished out food onto his plate.
“Everything has been surprisingly positive, Your Royal Highness. Not just on Axion, but across the galaxy. Even the official GU ambassadors seem cautiously optimistic about your bond with Angela.”
“Excellent,” Exalon said with a smile. “And surprising. But then, I knew you’d make a wonderful impression, my love.”
“Uh-huh,” Angela nodded, rolling her eyes. “You liar.” They grinned at each other before turning back to Gander.
“The untitled Axions seem overjoyed by Angela and there seems to be celebrations across the GU for the first titled human,” Gander continued. “It’s already starting to calm down the revolutionary talk on some of the outer planets. Angela is most likely going to become a rallying cry for equal rights.”
“I have no problem with that,” Angela said, her encounter with the High Priestess and the feeling of hope it instilled firmly planted in her mind. “I also have no problem chairing or sitting on the boards of charities meant to help the untitled. I’ve been given a tremendous opportunity to help and I want to do as much as I can.”
“You are absolutely perfect,” Exalon said, kissing the back of Angela’s hand and making her roll her eyes.
The three of them continued talking about the various reactions to the ball and to Angela for the next few hours, having moved into Exalon’s study. Apparently the confirmation and firm endorsement of their bond by the High Priestess had swayed not just Axions, but many other titled families across the Galactic Union, into giving Angela a chance, as their respect for the Priestesses of the Fates helped their decision.
Gander left after their meeting, promising to bring his daughter by for an informal interview as soon as possible. Angela had been worried about finding trustworthy people to surround herself with. She had no intention of letting Queen Axala find a way into her personal staff. While the Queen was a formidable woman and Angela knew there was a lot she had to learn from her, she couldn’t let the Queen’s beliefs interfere with the work she wanted to do.
Angela and Exalon continued talking in his study about all sorts of things. Even though they were Sonsaras and fated to be together, there was so much they didn’t know and wanted to about the other. All of the things that make a person tick and make a relationship work needed to be discovered for Angela and Exalon to have a healthy, happy, productive relationship.
After dinner, they returned to their bedroom. Angela’s clothes had been moved in and the rest of her belongings were being brought over from the empty side of the apartment so she could start decorating with her own possessions and make the place feel like her home too. As the sun was setting, Angela was staring out the window at the enormous city at her feet.
“What are you thinking about, my love?” Exalon wrapped his arms around Angela from behind, and she leaned back against him with a happy sigh.
“Just how much my life has changed. After my father died, I had no idea what the next day would bring. When it became obvious that the only way I could stay safe was by joining the Alien Bridal Industry, my life was again left in limbo. Then when you chose me, it turned into one confusing day after another as I tried to learn as much as possible about Axion culture.”
Angela sighed and turned her head, capturing Exalon’s lips with her own for a short, sweet kiss.
“Then meeting you. Finding out what we are to each other. I have no idea what any of my tomorrows will bring, but I know I can handle anything with you by my side.”
“It won’t be easy,” Exalon warned. “People are going to fight against the idea of you, against us, against the changes we wish to make.”
“I know,” Angela said as Exalon rested his head on her shoulder, both looking out over Trufora. “But even that doesn’t frighten me the way it would have a few days ago. We’re going to change this planet, Exalon. We’re going to right the wrongs of the past, no matter how long it takes. I know it in my very soul that we are meant to help people.”
“Not just the people here, my love, but the people across the galaxy. We’ll show everyone there is no such thing as a lower species. We’re equal, all of us. This might not be a fight we can finish, but it’s one we can start, passing the battle onto our children.”
Angela smiled and rested her hands on Exalon’s, sliding them down until they sat on her lower abdomen, right above where their future children would one day grow.
“It’s the work of generations, my darling,” Angela said. “But it’s our duty to start it. To preach equality to everyone. And make sure real changes start happening.”
“I love you more than I thought it possible to love another,” Exalon said, squeezing Angela tightly to him.
“I love you too.” Angela smiled and reached a hand over her head to cradled Exalon’s neck. “From the moment I saw you. Your Fates were right, Ex. We were made for each other.”
“The perfect team,” Exalon stated, causing Angela to laugh.
“Exactly,” she said. “No matter what comes at us, we’ll face it together. As the perfect team.”
As the sun set, casting brilliant flashes of light to rebound off the buildings, Angela and Exalon stared out at the city. They knew their journey wouldn’t be an easy one and they would have to fight for equality everyday. But they also knew it would be worth it. A life truly worth living.
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