My chest kept hurting, the further I pondered about the events of the past. The most painful being my sudden dismissal from court — one, I never imagined facing despite the queen's threats.
But the deed had been done, leaving me stunned, shameful and breathless — struggling for survival anytime I thought about the heinous crime against me.
They threw me out in the most embarrassing and humiliating way, increasing the anger I had in my heart for Charles.
I was going to murder him someday as his reward for ruining me, my image, my household and my town.
He had the audacity to fucking set me up, after accusing me of being intimate with Adrian.
Tears rolled out from eyes uncontrollably, the more I replayed the clip in my head. I was hurt and broken, felt stupid wishing I had perceived his evil intentions earlier, but I was just the pure, innocent and naive girl he took advantage of.
Still finding it difficult to breathe as I lay on my bed, gasping for air — like I was choking on tears and hiccups. I clutched my hand on my chest, pushing lightly to calm the uneasiness I was going through.
Luckily, the duchess came just in time. “Aris! Aris!” She called out and charged to me on the bed, pulling me up softly “What is wrong?”
“I'm sorry” was all I could say looking at her, I immediately remembered how my father's face was lowered throughout in ridicule on that day, well, that was what I assumed because he couldn't even glance at me.
“It's okay, my child” she hugged me, comforting me.
Although it's been seven days after my dismissal, and I was back home at Rythfork, the duke was yet to utter a word to me. I hadn't indeed seen him.
“But Father is still furious at me. I didn't do it ma.........”
I added sadly in between coughs. It seemed I was now bearing a huge burden.
Sighing, she was stroking my hair. “Its alright. Your father is not mad at you, princess. He's just feeling guilty of everything and trust me, we know you're innocent. We know who we raised. We recognize our child,” she pulled aside, beaming at me tenderly.
With her hands, she wiped her tears off my face. “Now stop crying and cheer up. Later today, I will address the people on this issue. Okay”?
“Ok,” I breathed. “Where is father?”
“He's gone to the capital. An emergency council session was called”.
My eyes widened and my body tensed up at her response. “Emergency” I echoed in a low tone, feeling anxious and nauseated.
“Yes! Report has it that the prince is back and...”
She paused, gazing at me before whispering “was never sick as speculated”
I clamped my palm over my mouth instantly, my heart beat racing faster than normal and the second phase of tears building in my eyes.
“When did he get back?” I asked her and she gave me an incredulous stare.
“You knew he was away all this while?” She queried, her face puckered into a frown and her lips in a thin line.
“Mother........” I squealed, indignant and impatient waiting for my answer. “When did he get back and is he okay? ?”
Appalled at my actions, she swung her head disappointed then answered casually, “I guess he got back two days ago”
Two days I muttered and broke down in tears again — My shedding tears signified two things. Firstly, it was tears of comfort and secondly, tears of sadness, fear and uncertainty.
Negative emotions of the prince had abandoning me engulfed me, increasing my body's temperature and heart rate.
Because, there's no way he wouldn't have found out about the situation yet nothing- no comment whatsoever from him, he was literally acting unbothered.
“Hey, Aris. Please stop this crying. This is mostly what you've been doing for a week now. You're going to hurt yourself at this rate” The duchess scolded, depositing her hands on my shoulders and exhaled. “Look at you...... emaciated and unkept...... okay! I think I've had enough of this ridiculous behavior of yours..... she stood up to her feet. “Now get up and go freshen up. You're leaving for a vacation”.
“No! No!” I shook my head “No holiday. I prefer to remain in my room on my bed” and suddenly, she snapped at me angrily and dragged me out of bed and into the shower.
Going on vacations to relax and explore was my understanding of vacation, not taking one to escape my troubles and heartaches.
But after much persuasion from the duchess, I agreed on one. Hopefully it will heal me.
Still, here I was anxiously expecting my father to return from the capital after two days of his absence. I was drunk for information- any at all.
Many times I'd wished Troy would just appear or show up for me. I was nevertheless optimistic he would show, maybe with time. I missed Adrian too and my friends Echo and Dorothy.
Over the couple of days, I'd cheered up and lightened up a little. I was consciously concentrating my thoughts on random stuffs, like going to the beachside for my vacation.
But somehow my thoughts always had a way of drifting back to Troy. It was like an attractive force — and that got me worried about what Troy would think of me.
Apparently, not one person has asked me exactly how it happened and undoubtedly I had no answer to give if they eventually did because I still could not remember a thing.
I would probably only narrate from when we started discussing Adrian, and then he gave me drinks and that was it.
“How did it go?” The duchess asked my father as we sat down to dine. Since he returned from the palace, I've only greeted him and now I'm forcing myself to dine with them, so I could get all the information I need.
He exhaled placing the fork down on the plate. He turned to me then shook his head lightly, I wasn't eating just staring at my plate. “Princess you're not eating”
“She was even worse than this” my mother jumped into the conversation while I shrugged sadly and reluctantly managed to pick up some particles of food into my mouth as the duke cheered me on.
“The minister of foreign affairs has committed treason” he muttered, causing I and mother to exclaim in unison.
“Lord Castor Kamber-Vernadoz!”
“Yes” he nodded with an impassive expression.
“What happened, honey? Castor is a good man, ” My mother questioned in a high- pitched voice.
“Actually he's been working with the Otholians to sabotage our effort of establishing peace and coming to a consensus on the border issue,”
“And how did we know this?”
“The prince brought back the report” he replied as I clasped my hands over my mouth, shocked.
He really did it! That means I was correct all along. In my head, it excited me that Troy understood it.
“He travelled to Otholia?”
“Yes under disguise and without guards,”
“That was an extremely dangerous thing to do. What if they killed him?” My mother scolded again, and I just rolled my eyes at her.
“My thoughts exactly. It's even a punishable offense by the law, but the fact that it exposed Castor and all his shenanigans, the matter will be interred”.
“Thank God” I whispered, exhaling lightly because I was fucking scared that the prince might get punished- and now this knowledge, disposed of my initial fear.
“So father how is the prince? Has he heard? Did you see him?” The words spewed out frantically from my mouth.
“Oh my poor baby…!” My mom cried out “I know how you're feeling. It must hurt so much but -”
“He's heard about it, and he's also broken” he cut through the duchess words and groaned. “But I didn't get to meet him because he didn't want to be seen” He shut his eyes sucking in a lot of pains.
“I know I told myself I wasn't going to confront you about what happened, but the truth is I felt ashamed even going back there for this meeting. We are barely liked or even accepted by most people on court before because of my coronation, and now this. It's just too much...” he shook his head sadly.
As he spoke, tears gathered in my eyes. My mother stretched her hands and rubbed his left hand, squeezing gently and warmly to alleviate his pain while I did the same on the right.
“I'm sorry, father! I'm deeply sorry for bringing such difficulty and shame on our house”
“It's okay, my love.... princess. We will be fine!”
It was like a memorable family reunion. I have never seen my father this way. It pained me that I was the source of his pains and embarrassment and the more reason Charles would have to pay dearly for tarnishing my image and that of my reputable house.
Two weeks later.
“Hey baby” Adrian kissed my forehead smiling settling down beside me “What's going through your mind?”
“Nothing” I looked up from the book I was reading. The cool wind was blowing heavily and sending our hairs fluttering and the leaves and trees waiving and dancing to the wind's rhythm.
“You realize that's why you're here — to forget all that has happened the past month”
“Easy for you to say” I eyed him shifting my gaze to the waters where many people were swimming, playing, skiing or diving. “I can't believe Troy would believe them” I muttered quietly.
“Well I believe you” he smirked as I nudged his shoulders lightly with a small smile. I recognized any day, anytime, Adrian always had my back, and it made me feel safe and secured around him.
“Aris, I know Charles has always been an idiot, but for heaven's sake do you have any idea why he would frame you up. What's in it for him?”
I huffed. “How would I know? The queen and Gemma and duchess Isabel. It's all part of their plan. I know, I was just a fool -”
“You're not sure, so don't say that...” Adrian rebuked me lightly.
“Adrian, I am 100 percent certain” I asserted confidently rolling my eyes at him. “I don't need Charles to confess to that. They used him, he used me as well. I was a fool. That's it”
“Hmmmm” he breathed out. “I would talk to Troy when I get back”
“Whatever” I threw my hands in the air caring less about the person in question, wore my shades back on and relaxed on the beach chair, enjoying the mild sunlight and chilly breeze.
Apparently, I accepted that vacation. The duchess has been cajoling me on and because I needed a companion so desperately, I choose Capri- where Adrian was currently on an official assignment. It had beautiful shores and interesting scenery.
Before I landed here, Adrian was already conversant with the story of what happened to me. But what keeps baffling me is the fact that Troy had not even tried to reach out to me for once.
Obviously, he's believed all they've told him and though he claimed to love me. I couldn't even stay mad at him even when I wanted to because I was fucking missing him, much that sometimes I just cry because it hurts everywhere.
This was supposed to be a healing process for me, but it wasn't just working. I've tried and struggled to let him out of my head, my mind and heart, but he remains. That's what makes it tougher for me.
“Okay babe, I'm going for a run. Care to join me” Adrian asked, stretching his hands forward to me after a moment of reflection.
“Nah, I'm good here” I declined, directing my attentions back to my book to divert my thoughts while he ran off.