Mrs. Cotterhill practically shoved Angela into a bright, colorful suite of rooms, where a Vlaxan was waiting, carefully draping fabrics over mannequins. When he turned and saw Angela, he gave her a huge smile, striding over and giving her a tight, comforting hug.
“You’re Angela?” he cried in delighted surprise. “You, my dear, are just divine! Those eyes! Your figure! You’re not even wearing makeup and you look like you should be plastered on vid-ads across the galaxy!”
Angela laughed, his enthusiasm contagious. People from Vlaxa were known for their creativity. Almost every titled family had Vlaxans working for them, whether in fashion, painting, sculpting, music, architecture, or anything else that exhibited the Vlaxans, and therefore their titled benefactors, good taste.
“I’m Harrison, the Royal Stylist,” he said as he released Angela from his hug. “Well, mostly I style Her Royal Highness. She is much more adventurous than Her Imperial Majesty. Some of the high ranking houses also utilize my services, but I’m bound to House Trufora and now to you too!”
“Harrison, please remember His Royal Highness’…guest won’t be with us long,” Mrs. Cotterhill said, sniffing again when she briefly looked at Angela. “Try not to waste good material on someone who will only be with us a few months.”
Angela ground her teeth together, getting really sick of Mrs. Cotterhill’s attitude towards her. Before Angela could say something she would most likely regret later, Harrison jumped in.
“Mrs. C, we can’t let her be underdressed. She’ll be spending time with the Royal Family and other high-ranking titled nobles. Her outfits will directly reflect on Her Imperial Majesty and His Royal Highness.”
Mrs. Cotterhill pursed her lips together, but didn’t say anything to disagree with Harrison’s assessment. Apparently, shaming the Royal Family was something she refused to do, despite her feelings toward Angela.
“She is expected at a family dinner tonight at the Royal Palace. The Queen and Princess will be there. Make sure she has an appropriate outfit and we’ll worry about the rest later.”
With that, Mrs. Cotterhill swept from the room, disapproval at the whole situation still radiating off her every inch. As soon as the doors closed, both Angela and Harrison let out a relieved sigh. They looked at each other, then laughed.
“When I heard the Prince had made an ABA match, I was surprised. When I heard it was a human, well…”. Harrison trailed off, blushing slightly. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I mean, as soon as these titled elite-holes lay eyes on you, they’ll understand.”
Angela just laughed. She noticed that Harrison’s hair, a vibrant blue when she walked in, was slowly morphing into a bright red.
“Holo-hair?” she asked, curious. Angela had never actually seen someone wearing it, but the concept, hair color continuously changing due to miniaturized implants embedded in the scalp, wasn’t unheard of on Triford.
“Oh, yeah,” Harrison said, absentmindedly patting his extreme mohawk hairstyle. “What do you think? I’ve been trying to develop some drives that will change the style as well as the color, but I’m having some issues with all the different hair textures. Oh, and check these out!”
Harrison rushed over to Angela and opened his eyes wide. His eye color matched his hair, both currently morphing into a deep green.
“Wow, that’s amazing! I’ve never even heard of ocular implants that can be programmed with holo-hair.”
“That’s because I invented them,” Harrison said rather smugly. “Aren’t they utterly fabulous? I’ve already had dozens of requests, but I want to perfect the coding. My poor husband has basically become my personal guinea pig for all the things I come up with, but he’s drawn the line at letting me use the kids. Come, come! Let me get a good look at you.”
Harrison led Angela to a low, circular platform surrounded by vid-screens currently imitating mirrors. He circled her slowly, seeming to assess everything from her hair to her shoes.
“You, my dear, are a rare breed,” Harrison said after concluding his examination of Angela. “Beautiful face, beautiful eyes, beautiful figure. Your hair is absolutely gorgeous. Oh, that reminds me, we need a matching circlet. I’ll call down for one.”
Angela didn’t have a chance to tell Harrison about the Sonsara Pendant before he activated his comm link embedded at the back of his ear, near the ear drum on the outside.
“Your Royal Highness, I’m sorry to disturb you, but we need a matching circlet for Miss Winslow.” Harrison paused, then frowned in confusion, turning towards Angela. “His Royal Highness wishes to speak to you. They’ve set up a secure line to your comm link.”
Angela frowned and activated her comm link by thinking Exalon’s name clearly in her mind three times.
“My love?” Exalon asked. Angela couldn’t help but smile at the term of endearment. She wondered if the meaning in Axion was different from what she was hearing. One of the wonderful things about universal translators was that they could take slang terms and translate them into a form the other person could understand.
“I’m here,” she replied.
“After speaking with Gander, we believe it’s wise for you to wear the matching gems for now.”
Angela’s heart stopped and she swayed slightly.
“Does this…”. Angela tried to clear her throat from the tears that were quickly forming. “Does this mean you’re changing your mind?”
“Of course not!” Exalon replied vehemently. “You are my Sonsara and I’m not giving you up, nor are you leaving me. You are mine and I am yours. However, news of your arrival has spread far quicker than we anticipated and I have a feeling every titled family will have at least a member or two at the Royal Palace to try and figure out what’s going on.”
“I thought that was the point, though. They see the…”. Angela trailed off, glancing at Harrison, not sure how much she could tell him. “They, um, they see the gems and know exactly who I am.”
“That was the plan, but as Gander rightly pointed out, it would make a much bigger and longer lasting impression if you debuted the Pendant at a ball,” Exalon explained. “We’re already arranging one. We rarely have Royal Balls, so everyone will be there and they will see I’ve claimed you in the most public setting I can manage.”
“Do you really think I’m ready for something like that?” Angela asked, biting down on her lower lip, feeling nervous and overwhelmed.
“I know you’ll be perfect,” Exalon said reassuringly. “I’ll see you tonight. Oh, and you can tell Harrison what’s going on. He’ll need to make you an outfit fit for a Sonsara Princess, so you better warn him now.”
“Okay. I’ll see you soon, Exalon.” Angela disengaged her comm link and found Harrison staring at her.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“You called him by his first name,” Harrison said with a hint of awe in his voice.
“So? Is that strange or something?”
“Only His Royal Highness’ family and closest advisors call him by his name. This is more than just a plain match, isn’t it?” Harrison asked astutely.
Angela was saved from answering by a light knock on the door. A young woman around Angela’s age walked in with a small box and handed it to Harrison with her head down. As soon as he took it from her, she scurried from the room, not looking up or trying to make eye contact with anyone.
“What was that about?” Angela asked when the young woman was gone.
“What do you mean?” Harrison said distractedly, opening the box and lifting out a circle of red gems.
“Why was she so scared?” Angela asked rather forcefully. Harrison looked up, frowning, and stared at the closed door.
“She wasn’t. She was just doing her job.”
“And her job requires her to not speak or make eye contact?”
“The more invisible a servant is, the better they are at their job,” Harrison said, dismissing Angela’s worries. “Now, let’s see what I have that goes with red.”
Harrison went over to the racks of gowns and robes, muttering to himself. Angela stared at the door, bothered by the young woman’s behavior. If this was truly how servants were treated, something needed to change. Angela knew, despite the overwhelming feeling that threatened to swallow her, that tackling how the lower classes on Axion were treated would be one of her first priorities if she and Exalon were lucky enough to get married. There was absolutely no reason why a servant should fear their employer.