Angela stood in the stylist’s room, turning back and forth in front of the mirrors. Harrison had left a few minutes ago, after pulling up all the information on the Sonsara Pendant that he could find. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of information, since it hadn’t been worn in over a thousand years; even Axions, despite having a civilization spanning millennia, didn’t keep perfect records of the past. Harrison was returning the next day to see the Pendant and brainstorm outfit ideas with Angela. He told her the Princess would most likely make an appearance as well, since she was passionate about fashion and regularly graced best-dressed lists, despite her young age.
Angela was extremely nervous, but she knew that her appearance, at least, couldn’t be faulted. Harrison had wound the red matching circlet through her hair, then pinned up her curls in a more contemporary Axion style than she had arrived in. The red dress and black robe seemed to flow like water around her and the tight, red belt around her waist was embroidered with Exalon’s House crest in gold, making a very public statement that he had claimed Angela as a member of his House.
“Oh, my love.”
Angela turned, surprised to see Exalon leaning against the doors, his hand pressed to his chest. All of a sudden, she felt calmer and more confident, and she knew it had to do with Exalon’s presence.
“Do I look all right?” Angela nervously fiddled with the robe’s bell sleeves. The fabric was heavier than Harrison would have liked, he told her, but they would have to make do with his current cold weather supply until he could start stocking warm weather fabrics. Exalon smiled at Angela, a look of pure adoration on his face, and quickly strode over to her, cupping her face in his large hands and staring into her eyes.
Harrison had decided to play up Angela’s eyes, so she had a mix of light and dark grey on her eyelids and traced around the edges. Angela had never worn so much makeup in her life, and when she mentioned that to Harrison, he just laughed, telling her she would probably be wearing the least amount of makeup of anyone at the palace, including the servants.
“You look like a Queen,” Exalon said. “My beautiful Queen. My beautiful, perfect, angelic Queen.”
Angela smiled. She didn’t know much about Axion religion, but she doubted they had angels. They seemed to originate from an ancient Earth religion that had long since died. Her translator was again working to find the closest match to the word Exalon actually used.
“We probably shouldn’t say that in front of your mother,” Angela said teasingly. “She might get jealous you’ve gone and found a new Queen.”
Exalon threw back his head and laughed, which made Angela grin and a shiver of pleasure to make its way through her body.
“Is it time to go?” Angela asked, stepping off the platform in front of the vid screen mirrors.
“Not just yet,” Exalon replied. “Gander will fetch us. I actually have something to give you. I wish I could say it’s terribly romantic, but sadly, it’s just practical.”
“Well, then, I suppose the next thing you give me will have to be romantic,” Angela teased. Exalon smiled and leaned forward, gently brushing his nose along hers. Angela had never felt so comfortable with someone before, like she had known Exalon her entire life and he already knew everything about her, good and bad, and loved her anyway.
“I promise, my love, my next gift will be much more romantic.” Exalon took a step back and opened a small, black case she hadn’t noticed he was carrying. A small needle and microchips were inside.
“We need to upgrade your translator, comms unit, and ocular implants. Luckily, our implants can latch onto the current ones and write over the existing code.” Exalon led Angela to a chair and helped her sit. “Unfortunately, you’ll need to go through this at least twice a year, if not more. All members of the Royal Family must have secure implants so no one can hack into them, so we all get upgrades before they even hit the market. Now, hold still for just a minute.”
Exalon quickly disinfected Angela’s neck, then she felt a slight pinch.
“And done! It will take a few hours to fully integrate the new code, but I doubt you’ll need the new upgrades tonight. Honestly, the only one I feel is immediately necessary is the translator upgrade.”
“Why’s that?” Angela asked, causing Exalon to let out a frustrated sigh. She glanced up at him and grabbed his hand, pulling him into the chair next to hers.
“Exalon, if I’m going to succeed at this, at being your partner, your wife, and eventually your…you know…”. Angela kind of waved her hand in the air, unable to say the word “Queen”as she still hadn’t had time to process that information. Honestly, it felt like she might have a complete breakdown once the shock of the whole situation wore off and she fully understood what her new life was going to be.
“Anyway, I need you to help me if I’m going to be any good at this. Let me know what I’m walking into, let me know what I should expect. I know Gander will help me, when he’s not busy running your life, and it seems clear Harrison will help, but you’re going to be the one I rely on.”
Exalon smiled gently and squeezed Angela’s hand.
“Most universal translators use the literal meaning of words and don’t have backup drives of a planet’s older, more archaic language. The titled families, especially the younger members, have a very annoying habit of switching between the older versions of words and the new ones, so the listener isn’t actually getting the entire conversation.”
“You mean they get catty, then laugh about it behind someone’s back because they know the person can’t truly understand what they’re saying?” Angela asked dryly. Exalon just stared at her, then shook his head, laughing.
“You are going to be so good at this,” he told her. “The titled have no idea what’s about to happen to them.”
Angela just grinned, blushing.
“Now,” Exalon said more seriously, “Did Harrison go over proper greeting protocol?”
“Yes,” Angela answered, then hesitated. “Although it’s a little…”.
“Over the top? Elitist? Archaic? Ridiculous?” Exalon finished for her.
“Yep,” Angela said. “All of those and more.”
“Trust me, I know.” Exalon rolled his eyes, then looked back to Angela, smiling. “But did you have any questions?”
“So it’s deep curtsy to your mother, no eye contact allowed, deep curtsy to you, minimal eye contact if needed, and deep curtsy to your sister, eye contact is allowed but firmly discouraged?”
“Like I said, archaic,” Exalon exhaled in a sigh. “But yes, that’s correct. But I will be honest, I’m going to enjoy watching every titled bow or curtsy to you at the ball once we debut the Sonsara Pendant.”
“You’re kind of a terrible person,” Angela said, trying to contain her laughter. “But I love it.” Exalon laughed and helped Angela out of her seat.
“I’ve had to play by these stupid rules all my life. For once, it will be nice to see them used against every traditionalist who swears we must uphold the old ways.”
Exalon grazed his hand down Angela’s cheek, then gently kissed her lips. Angela let out a happy sigh as they rested their foreheads together. A sharp knock at the door had them pull back.
“Enter!” Exalon called firmly. Gander walked in, smiling at both of them.
“Your transport is ready, Your Royal Highness,” Gander said with a bow. “Her Imperial Majesty’s advisors and I are still going over details for the ball, so I’ll be unable to accompany you.”
“That’s quite all right, Gander,” Exalon said with a smile. “I’ll make sure the kitchen knows to prepare a plate for us to bring back for you.”
“You’re too kind, sir.”
“Nonsense,” Exalon laughed. “I’m leaving you alone to battle my mother’s minions, the least I can do is make sure you’re fed.”
Gander gave a smile and bow to Exalon, then turned to Angela.
“You look stunning, Miss Winslow.”
“Thank you, Gander,” Angela said with a blush covering her cheeks. He bowed to her and quietly left. Exalon looked at Angela and offered her his arm.
“Shall we?” he asked.
Angela took in a deep breath, then slowly let it out before placing her hand on Exalon’s arm.
“Let’s do this.”