"He's still trying," I mumble, watching my younger brother's progress from my window.
"Well, I hope Beau is nice to him," Alys mutters.
"Beau isn't there," I tell her. "He's left. Audric is with... a girl? Oh, wait, the Prince is there, too! And... Beau is coming."
I watch Beau walk down the moat. He looks dashing in his armour, his hair very disheveled and his striking eyes holding a lazy, mischievous light.
Of course, I can't see all that from here, but that's how he usually looks like.
"Beau is such an Adonis," I say, dreamily. "Don't you think so, Alys? He's even better than the Prince."
I eye Alys and instantly feel envious. I know Beau likes her. I don't blame him. She's the definition of beauty with her silky, dark hair cascading down her shoulders in waves, her topaz eyes, her buttermilk skin, her succulent lips... everything. She looks like a queen, just sitting on the bed with a book on her lap the maids lent her.
"I don't think so," Alys replies, without looking up. "What the hell is an Adonis?"
"Ugh," I groan. "I mean he's attractive!"
Alys snorts. "Well, of course he's attractive," she says. "If the rumours are right, he's a love child. His mother must have been really beautiful, because the Duke wouldn't bed her for no reason, huh?"
"You bed someone, because you love them," I correct. "Not because they're pretty." I observe Alys.
Her love life could be easy. She's beautiful, respectful, goody-goody － the kind of person people like, the kind of person everyone likes.
I've always felt spiteful of her. I'm only thirteen, but I think about the future a lot. Alys doesn't even need to. She's already got a bright future. One day, she will give in to Beau, whether Audric appreciates if or not.
"Cecily?" Addy says, knocking me out of my thoughts. "What are you thinking about?"
"Nothing," I murmur, turning to her.
"Well, if you guys are hungry, I could go and get something," Alys offers. "I'll talk to the Prince or somebody."
"You'll talk to the Prince?" I demand, shrilly.
Alys freezes, her head cocked to one side, her eyes cold, but confused. "Why?" she asks. "Do you think I'm too lowly to talk to the royal family?"
"Of course not," I reply, privately thinking they'd probably love her. She's elegant, graceful, and so disciplined she could look like she is from a royal family herself.
"But," I add, "I could suggest doing that myself. You know, going to meet the royal family - I mean, get the food."
Alys gives me a wary look, but relents, probably deciding she doesn't really care. "All right."
I give her rueful smile and hurry out of the room, when I recall that I'm in a palace. Stride, don't scurry, I tell myself.
I slow my pace and start walking with long steps, as graceful as I can make them. I begin to find my way to the royal throne room.
Everard leads me across the hall. He's very quiet and cheerless. As an attempt to lighten the mood - or to make a good impression on the royal family - I try to engage him in small talk.