It was a bright and cheery morning in the kingdom. Cheery enough that those who were giving to singing as they worked began to do so. One such person in particular was a round-faced brunette with a wide smile and sparkling brown eyes. She slipped through the door to a grand bedroom chamber, one of the grandest in the castle, and eyes the fireplace.
“I cannot wait for the spring,” she sang under her breath. “For in the spring there’s no fireplace to clean.” She could never remember words to songs, but it rarely bothered her. She simply made new lyrics for them, usually based on what she was doing.
“And in the spring, a wondrous thing,” she continued. “No more wool for washing.” She did not even see the figure in the giant canopy bed beginning to stir. Instead she took the scrub brush in hand and began to vigorously wipe away the soot that had escaped from its stone prison.
“I do not mind the soot, you see,” she sang. “But I cannot stand being on my knee.” By this point the figure in the bed was sitting up and looking at her with a mixture of confusion and amusement.
“Do you always do that?” He asked with a grin. The girl straightened suddenly and turned to face the startlingly handsome young man in the bed.
“Oh, Your Highness,” she muttered. “I didn’t know you’d be awake.”
“And I didn’t know chamber maids waited so long to clean the fireplace,” he replied. She blushed slightly, but looked him in the eyes as she replied.
“They don’t, but I didn’t arrive at the castle till late last night,” she replied. She picked up her scrub brush and resumed her work. “The housekeeper is merciful…well at least as merciful as anyone can be in her positon…and let me sleep in. Although if I knew what a chore your fireplace was, I would have woken up before dawn.”
“I didn’t know that maids were allowed to be so chatty,” the man scoffed.
“And I didn’t that princes were allowed to sleep in so late,” she replied. “I may have woken late, but I have still been awake for hours longer than you.” She smiled at the soot triumphantly. The prince threw back the covers and jumped out of bed. He was a sight, with his golden hair all mussed and his long nightshirt hanging of his body.
“I’ll be talking to my parents about the servants we’re hiring.” He said sharply. The maid turned to look at him with a frown. “What’s your name? And don’t lie.”
“Theodora,” she replied dutifully. “But friends call my Dorie. The prince’s eyes narrowed.
“I said don’t lie,” he spat out the words.
“I’m not,” she insisted.
“Oh really?” He stalked towards her. It was quite the scene, the nightshirt clad royal looking down at the soot-covered maid. “You just happen to have the same name as my mother?”
“My village loved her,” Dorie replied. She looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes. “When your father was away at war and the village was stuck with famine, your mother insisted on sending the supplies to keep people alive. When she died, they decided that the very next girl born would bear her name.”
“And you were the lucky one, then?” Despite his royal hissy fit, the prince was intrigued.
“I’d hardly call it lucky,” Theodora replied with a laugh. She turned back to the job at hand. “The way they treated me growing up, you’d think I was the reincarnation of her or something. They scrimped and saved for all sorts of tutors and lessons. When I got this job, you’da thought I was going off to my own coronation.” She laughed again.
“You were striving to become a chamber maid?” The prince quirked a brow.
“I used to live in a thatch hut,” Dorie replied as she wiped her brow. She only succeeded in getting more soot on her person. “Now I live in a castle, with real money that doesn’t depend on the harvest. Where I come from, that’s living large.”
“What a way to shoot for the stars,” the prince laughed. Dorie sat on her heels and turned to glare at him.
“It’s easy to say that when you’re in a tower so much closer to them,” she replied angrily. After a moment she sighed. “Beggin’ your pardon. Guess I shouldn’t be taking shots at royalty my first day on.”
“No, you shouldn’t,” the prince replied quietly. He sat back on the bed and waited as she finished cleaning the fireplace and began lighting a new fire.
“These…lessons…” he asked suddenly. “Did they include dancing?” Dorie stood up, wiping her hands on her apron.
“A bit, yeah,” she replied. “Not that it’s much use to me.”
“Do you consider yourself a good teacher?” He asked. She frowned.
“Well, yeah,” she replied. “When you’re the only one in the village getting the lessons, you get people asking for lessons of their own. Why, do you know someone that needs teaching?”
“Uh, well…” he cleared his throat. “There’s a ball coming up in my honor. And…well, I should really be able to dance at it.” Her eyes widened.
“You don’t know how to dance?” She asked. “But you’re a prince! Shouldn’t you have had your own lessons?”
“Well, I did…but I hated them,” he replied honestly. “And I could always convince my teacher to end it early or to just sit and talk or something.” He chuckled. “It helped that they were all female.” Dorie stared at him in shock for a long moment before bursting out into laughter.
“Oh good lord, they were right!” She squealed. “You really are Prince Charming!” The prince’s jaw tightened at her words. Her laughter stopped when she caught sight of his face.
“What is it?” She asked. “It’s not like ‘charming’ is a vice.”
“No, it’s not,” he replied angrily. “But it’s not much of a virtue.”
“I don’t understand,” Dorie replied in a small voice.
“They’re not calling me ‘Prince Kindness’,” the prince replied as he stood up. “Or ‘Prince Wisdom’ or ‘Prince Loyalty’. No, I’m just ‘charming’.” He rolled his eyes. “They might as well call me ‘Prince Flirt’.”
“I suppose I hadn’t thought of that before,” Dorie mused. They stood there in an awkward silence before the maid finally spoke again.
“Alright,” she said. “I’ll give you your dancing lessons. But they’ll have to be at night, when I’m done with my chores. I can’t lose my job already.”
“Of course,” he nodded. “I wouldn’t want anyone seeing us anyway.” Dorie bent to pick up her things and turned to leave. But before she walked out of the door, she stopped.
“If you don’t want to be called charming, what should I call you?”
“Edward,” he replied. “Prince Edward.” With a nod and a smile, the girl returned to her singing and as she sashayed down the hall with bright streaks of black soot covered her entire person.