Sunday Stories: Sleeping Beauty – Part Nine
Aaaaannnddd… I’m on time this week!!! Yep, I found time today to type up the first part of Chapter Seven, which, believe it or not, is a very long chapter. But I think you ladies (and men???) are going to love where the story takes you this week… I’ll just hush up already so you can enjoy it.
“Oh my goodness, what should you wear?”
It was 4:30 in the morning and Mother was pushing through my newly-arrived trunks like a wild hen. “Does the lace gown I gave you a few years ago still fit?”
I yawned and stretched, rolling over in bed. “Hardly.”
Mother frowned. It was odd to see her in her dressing gown instead of a lavish dress. Sometimes it was hard to imagine that the queen, mother or not, was a normal person.
Mother pulled out a light yellow gown with short, puffy sleeves and a long train. The bodice of the ballgown was laced with glittering diamond specks.
I already knew that gown was itchy. I had tried it on only once, to wear to a neighboring kingdom’s ball, but I had to fake a headache and sneak out early so I could rush upstairs and take it off. It was so uncomfortable, but it had just the razzle-dazzle Mother desired.
“This one’s perfect!” She cried, clapping her hands. She looked so happy that for once I wished I could get even a little bit excited over gowns and jewelry.
“Oh, and I’ll have my hairdresser do your hair. And you’ll have to wear your diamond tiara of course. Oh, oh, oh! Every prince there will fall head over heels, darling.” Mother stroked my dark curls, her eyes shining. Then she snapped back to queen-mode. “Now go take a bath, Valerie. And use your sweetest bath salts.”
I looked in the mirror. My gown was on, my face scrubbed, my hair piled-up, and my tiara glistening. I looked radiant.
But I wanted to look hideous. I wanted to repulse all my unwanted suitors. An idea flashed through my mind. Repulse them.
I sniffed loudly and scrunched up my nose in the mirror. Disgusting. I giggled. And then charming once again.
Mother frowned. “What are you doing?”
I sobered quickly. “Nothing. Ready?”
She sighed and replied, “I suppose.” Then she waltzed down the staircase before me. In her dark green gown, she made a stunning appearance. Down below, I could hear snippets of her announcement to the princes. “Today… lovely… marriage… princess… noble… bravest…wins!” Then she raised her voice. “And now you may meet Valerie Antonia Clarisse, Princess of Caledonia and heir to the throne.”
I took a deep breath. I was soon to be face-to-face with the man who would “win” my heart. Which of the terrible candidates would it be?
I grabbed the skirt of my light yellow gown and slowly descended the staircase. I could hear the whispers and gasps as my gloved hand slid down the rail. Slowly and fearfully, I looked up and felt my eyes drawn with a somewhat magnetic gaze into a familiar face below. Daniel.
I completely froze, gaping at him. He wore servants’ clothes and stood by a tall and arrogant-looking prince. My mind whirled. To think that I should meet him here, of all places, and with him a servant to one of the princes seeking my hand!
I must have looked very unladylike, staring at Daniel all goggly-eyed, because Mother shot me a disapproving glare. I wasn’t to publicly acknowledge a servant. Sadly, my gaze returned to the ground as I stepped off the steps.
Mother introduced me to each of the princes and I curtsied politely, but my mind was miles away. I didn’t dare look at Daniel’s grinning face again, and Mother didn’t bother introducing him to me anyway. “Princess Valerie must return to her chambers now, gentlemen. But she will greet you every evening at supper.”
As I passed Daniel, I hastily whispered, “Arbor.”
His eyes twinkled and I knew he understood. Once I was upstairs, I hastily changed into a simple dress and informed Hannah that I wished to go for a walk.
“Of course, Valerie. I’ll get our wraps.”
What? “Um, no.” I grabbed her arm. “I’d rather go alone, if you don’t mind.”
“I suppose.” She shrugged and returned to her book.
I practically flew to the rose arbor. Daniel was waiting. “Daniel!” I cried, running toward him.
“Valerie!” He grabbed me and spun me around, as if nothing had changed after all this time. “My, you’re even bigger and prettier than ever!” He immediately flushed, but I beamed anyway.
“Haven’t you ever learned not to tell a girl she’s gotten big?” I winked cheekily. “Oh, it’s no matter. You don’t look so bad yourself.” He was much taller than he’d been the last time I saw him. He had finally filled out in his shoulders, but had managed to stay slender. His blue eyes sparkled with mischief as he sat back down. Those beautiful eyes… I blinked. But that didn’t matter in friendship, of course.
He grinned, but soon sobered. “I heard about Ruth.” He pressed his lips together and gently touched my hand. “Thank you for being there when she died.”
It hadn’t even been a week. His pain was still fresh.
He leaned closer and frowned. “Why did you have to leave home? Why do you need a prince?”
His gaze burned. “I don’t want a prince. Mother is forcing me into an arranged marriage. I’m as miserable as a goat.”
For some reason, a smile danced across his lip. “How do we even know goats are miserable?”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know. They just are, okay?”
He grinned. “So what’s your plan for getting out of it?”
I wiggled my eyebrows. “Repulsion.”
He shook his head. “Wouldn’t work. You’re too pretty and too rich.”
I batted my eyelashes. “Have you ever fallen in love with a princess who slurped her soup, burped out loud, and snorted when she chuckled?”
He laughed out loud. “Brilliant, Val! Brilliant!”
To be continued…