Angela’s thoughts were a million miles away from the stylist’s room when she suddenly heard Harrison cry out in triumph.
“Ah! I think this will be perfect.” Harrison had a silky red dress with black embroidery at the bottom in one hand and a black robe with red embroidery on the cuffs and hem in the other.
“I was inclined toward red and gold,” Harrison explained, “but I feel like this will make a more elegant statement. And believe me, you want the elegant option when you meet Her Imperial Majesty.”
Harrison walked over with the clothes draped over one arm and began to quickly scan Angela to get her measurements. He then placed the dress on one mannequin and the robe on another and activated the tailoring system.
“You have the tiniest waist,” Harrison said. “I’m not sure any of these will need serious alterations and none of them will need to be let out. Now, let’s work on your hair and makeup.”
Harrison led Angela over to a seat and began unpinning what was left of the elaborate updo she had worn to fit into Axion culture.
“Harrison, can I ask you something?”
“Of course, my dear, you can ask me anything.”
“What’s the Queen like?” Angela asked, her nerves showing. “Everyone seems a little…well, frightened of her.”
Harrison sighed, starting to brush out Angela’s long hair. He strangely avoided her scalp, but Angela didn’t think much of it.
“She’s certainly intimidating. Do you want a quick royal rundown?”
“Please,” Angela said. “It would be helpful to know what I’m walking into.”
“Well, Her Imperial Majesty didn’t marry until her late twenties. Most titled women get married in their teens, but since the Queen was going to end up on the throne after her father died, she took her time, looking for a partner that could help her govern. She eventually married a high-ranking titled from Wantley and had His Royal Highness a year later. Her father, the king, well…”.
Harrison paused, brushing out Angela’s hair absentmindedly.
“Her father, the late king, killed himself.”
“Oh my god!” Angela cried, her hand flying to her mouth which was wide open in shock. “That’s so terrible.”
“Agreed,” Harrison said, nodding. “The royals worked quite hard to keep it quiet and the official story was that he died in his sleep. But everyone knows. It’s impossible to keep secrets on this planet, especially for the titled. Gossip is the only currency they care about. Anyway, once Her Imperial Majesty became Queen, the Queen Consort spent most of his time on Alpha Station as our GU Ambassador. He was quite good at diplomacy and their marriage seemed to go smoothly when he was away.”
“But, wait-” Angela said, interrupting Harrison. “I thought Exalon had a sister.”
“He does,” Harrison answered, smiling fondly. “Princess Mayala. She was a complete surprise, both for the family and for the planet. She’s fifteen years younger than His Royal Highness.”
Angela did some quick math in her head, knowing Exalon was 31 years old, making the Princess 16.
“Sadly, her father, the Queen Consort, contracted the Huerta virus during one of his diplomatic missions. He died when the Princess was quite young.”
“That’s heartbreaking!” Angela cried. “The poor thing, to never know her father or her grandfather.”
“I know,” Harrison said sadly. “I feel like the planet mourned more for Their Royal Highnesses’ sake than actual sadness over the Queen Consort’s passing. His Royal Highness basically stepped in to raise his sister. Well, I mean, he was 17 at the time, so he had some ability. Her Royal Highness is utterly wonderful. You’ll love her and she’ll absolutely adore you. Between you and me, she was incredibly unhappy with the Prince’s chosen bride and she would pester him to find her a sister she could love. I already know that’s you.”
Angela gave a slight start, surprised and a little scared by Harrison’s immediate assessment of her.
“Harrison, you’ve known me for an hour. How could you possibly know that?” Angela asked with a teasing note in her voice. Harrison grinned as he started weaving the red circlet through her hair.
“My dear, I am an excellent judge of character and you are a wonderful, calming presence this family and this world has missed and sorely needs. I can already tell you’ll brighten the whole planet. Besides, once everyone sees how important you are to the Prince, things will begin to change around here. Around here and hopefully other planets as well. Our class system is much too rigid. You’re just the person to shake things up.”
Angela looked away, staring at her hands. She wasn’t sure how to tell him the true nature of her and Exalon’s relationship.
“Umm, Harrison… Exalon wanted me to warn you they’re planning a Royal Ball. For the very near future. To publicly introduce me.”
Harrison’s hands stopped fussing with Angela’s hair and he stared at her, wide-eyed.
“They would only do that if His Royal Highness was planning on going through with the match,” Harrison said slowly, staring into Angela’s eyes by using the vid screen mirror in front of her.
“He is,” Angela said defensively. “I mean, we are. I mean… Ugh, I don’t know what I mean, just that we’re staying together.”
Harrison nodded thoughtfully.
“I see. Well, we’ll definitely need an outfit that screams royalty. With your hair and skin tone, jewel tones look the best. By the way, is that all your own hair?”
“Yes,” Angela answered, frowning. “Why?” Harrison just waved his hand in the air flippantly, like the question didn’t mean anything.
“Anyway, back to the dress. Most Axion women wear pastel colors, so you’ll be a shining light in a sea of mediocrity.”
Angela could already see the wheels turning in Harrison’s head, so she quickly blurted out-
“We’re Sonsaras. Exalon and I, we’re Sonsaras. So I’ll be wearing the Crown Prince’s Sonsara Pendant at the ball. If that, you know, changes things, how you’re going to design something.”
Angela trailed off as Harrison stared at her, his mouth gaping open. She cringed, waiting for a negative reaction. She was utterly startled when Harrison began to laugh.
“Oh, by the Fates! Oh, my dear! You have no idea how this is going to upend centuries of beliefs in lower class species. Oh, this is too good! I cannot wait to see the expressions on the elite-holes shocked faces!”
As Harrison continued laughing, Angela felt herself begin to smile. It seemed she had managed to make her first friend on Axion and she had a feeling she’d need his guidance to navigate the choppy societal waters.