The Princess Calling: Part Three
PART THREE: Only You, Rosellen
My heart practically leapt from my chest.
Genevieve's yellow eyes flared with an angry fire. "Rosellen Dellamore, how dare you trespass in my room unbidden."
"Oh, Genevieve," I said as she marched toward me. "Do forgive me. I did not know it was yours, or else I wouldn't have entered. I was merely enthralled by the door—is it pure silver? Oh, never mind. Either way, it was wrong of me. I truly am sorry, Genevieve."
Genevieve just glared at me. I must have looked so sorry, or perhaps she was just being nice, but she simply said evenly, "Just don't let it happen again."
"You have my word, Genevieve," I assured her. "I will never snoop again. I must admit though, I was, and am, quite enticed by the beauty of your room. It is stunning."
Genevieve's eyes narrowed. "Thank you..."
I smiled sheepishly. "My room in Satinsand isn't as nearly as nice as this. Why, I could only dream of having a room so gorgeous." At this, Genevieve gazed around.
"Truly, Rosellen? Goodness, but this isn't even the better of the two."
"Of the two?" My eyes widened. "You mean there's more?"
Genevieve shrugged. "Sure. This is only my other room. I hardly ever use it. My main room is in the other part of the castle."
"Impressive. I truly wish I had a room this wonderful. Oh, my room back in Satinsand is quite dashing, but this..." I gazed around. "My, this is absolutely charming."
Genevieve eyed me. "Goodness, but aren't you a strange one."
"Pardon?" I said, turning to her with blinking eyes.
"I mean, you can strike up a conversation like it's nothing," Genevieve replied. "With me, no less. Crazy thing is, you aren't even acting like I'm some queen or something. You talk to me like I'm... normal."
I grimaced. "Do forgive my brashness," I begged. "I fear I'm a bit heedless and horribly unprincessy at times, as everyone never ceases to remind me. I cannot hold my tongue for the life of me. In fact, I should probably leave before I—"
"No." To my surprise, I felt Genevieve's paw on my arm as I turned to leave. With a shocked expression, I gazed up at the taller Kougra. "I mean... you don't have to leave," she explained quickly. "I never said it was a bad thing... you treating me different."
I shook my head. "But you're an established royal. I'm-I'm a mere princess in training."
"Rosellen, you're still young, you know."
"But I'm sixteen," I argued. "I need start acting like a true princess." I sighed, hanging my head. "I fear I'm never going to be good enough."
"Rosellen, don't be ridiculous. I think you'll make a great princess."
I looked up at Genevieve with huge eyes. I was incredulous. "Truly?"
Genevieve's lips curved up slightly. "Truly. You've got something most princesses lack, and that's gut. You can stand up for yourself. You're so... spirited and daring. You're bold."
"You forgot stupid," I mumbled dryly.
"No," Genevieve said with a firm shake of her head. "You're not stupid, Rosellen. A bit impulsive, yes, but fearless."
"'Tis good of you to say such things, Genevieve," I replied honestly, quite humbled. "I admit, I'm quite surprised. Especially because of what I'd heard of you from the other princesses."
"What did they say about me?" Genevieve growled in sudden defense, eyes flashing.
"Oh, no, no," I replied hastily. "'Tis okay; I don't believe them now."
"But what did they say?" Genevieve demanded.
"Only that you were self-centered, arrogant. At least that's what Labella thinks. The others think you are a bit cold, but I don't believe them for a second."
Genevieve's eyes washed over with keen sorrow. "It's shameful to be thought of so."
I patted her arm. "I know, Genevieve. Some neopets are just far too quick to judge."
"But you aren't."
"Well, I try not to be," I said with a smile. "I like to get to know neopets before degrading them or putting them down. I for one have many faults, so I know that people aren't going to be perfect. But we have to accept them anyway. Actually, I found that those who know they aren't perfect are the ones easiest to get along with."
Genevieve stared at me, seeming to drink in my words. "Wow, Rosellen... you make me think about things I never have before."
"Well, for one thing, I am quick to judge. I get angry when people treat me like I'm some queen, because I'm not yet. And even when I am, I don't want people being too cautious around me. I don't want them to act like some stereotypical royal." She sighed slightly. "I despise that. I want people to be honest with me. Just because I'm a royal doesn't mean I'm all about rules and being prim and proper. I like to talk..." She bit her lip, then sighed. "I admit, I get rather lonely at times. My parents are too busy overseeing matters of the kingdom to pay much attention to me, and my younger twin siblings, Rebeckah and Evan, are always so monitored by their nannies and governesses that I can hardly speak to them."
"I'm so sorry, Genevieve," I said.
"And worst yet, I don't even know why I'm telling you all of this," Genevieve admitted in mild disbelief.
I smiled. "It's because I'm willing to listen, I suppose."
Genevieve gave me a weak smile. "You're right. You are listening. You'd be the first really." She heaved a sigh. "You're so admirable, Rosellen."
"Surely you must be joshing," I said.
Genevieve shook her head. "I don't kid, Rosellen. I mean it. You're the way princesses should be. Not completely caught up in 'proper decorum' and being extensively refined. You're decent, polite, kind, and act accordingly. Yet at the same time, you're fun, intelligent, witty, and best all, understanding."
Genevieve's words sunk in deep. I'd never thought of things that way before. I'd never much considered myself a true princess, only that I managed to get by due to sheer luck. But could Genevieve be right? Was I fine the way I was?
"This is quite a load to take in," I admitted. "To be honest, my whole life I've been put down due to the way I acted, by my own parents especially. They thought I was too brazen and simply thoughtless."
"But don't you see, Rosellen?" Genevieve insisted strongly. "Neopia's view of royals is twisted. We're expected to be perfect, and it simply angers me to no end! However they try to get us to act, and whatever we do to try in order to please them, we can never be good enough. No matter how hard we try to be perfect, there's just no way possible we can be. Absolutely no way!" Her paws balled into fists. "And it's so unfair."
I sighed. "I know. I've felt the same way my entire life. The thing is, I never knew how I could change it."
Genevieve shook her head. "Honestly, Rosellen, we're powerless. It doesn't matter what we do. It's just the way things are." She looked at me, sadness in her eyes. "As long as Neopia revolves around the sun, we cannot change it."
I strolled the castle grounds alone.
The next few days I'd been thinking a great deal on Genevieve's words. I kept thinking that she was wrong. There had to be a way to change things. There just had to be. No one could be perfect. Surely neopets were smart enough to know that...?
I groaned aloud, balling up my paws into fists in anger, my insides twisted with exasperation. We're powerless... Genevieve's words echoed in my head. I couldn't make myself believe them.
There had to be a way.
A familiar voice startled me. I whipped around, eyes growing wide. My heart leapt with joy. "Prince Dalton!"
With a broad grin, Dalton strolled toward me. "My, my, Princess Rosellen. Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?" His eyes twinkled. "I daresay you've grown lovelier in the weeks since I've seen you."
"Oh, Dalton," I said with a blush. "It's ever so nice to see you again. What brings you to the castle? Madam Lupine didn't invite you all for another dance lesson, did she? If so, she failed to breathe a single word of it."
Dalton laughed. "No, dear Rosellen, no dancing today, I'm afraid. My father is here on official royal business. I figured I would tag along. I admit I had dearly hoped that I would see you. And look, my desires have surely been answered."
I smiled fondly. "I'm so happy you have come."
"As am I. But tell me, Rosellen, do I detect a sadness in your eyes?" He gazed down at me tenderly.
I couldn't help but sigh. "I admit... I am a bit frazzled. But I do not wish to burden you with my troubles."
"Nonsense," Dalton assured. He took my paw and led me to the nearest bench, one canopied by a broad-limbed blossom tree. "So tell me, what is it that bothers you so?"
I stared off at the trees for a moment, unwillingly chewing on my bottom lip. Catching myself with another sigh, I spouted, "I don't know if I can do this."
"Do what, Rosellen?"
My face contorted with grief as I gazed up at the Xweetok prince. "This. Being me. Being a princess. It does not work for me. I simply cannot be all that is desired of me."
"Dear, dear, Rosellen," Dalton said, placing his paw gently on my arm. "Do give yourself some leave. You are doing wonderfully. Why, I just feel it inside of me. You're going to make a splendid princess. Why do you doubt yourself so?"
I sighed softly, gazing down at my paws in my lap. "I guess..." I began quietly. "I simply wish to be the best I can be. I'm truly trying to be a good princess. Honestly, I am." My words began to come faster, breathy and exasperated. "I try to be mindful of rightful behavior and proper decorum. Honest. But I am so confused because... because there are so many... rules... and... I cannot follow them all. I fail so many times, Dalton. I will never be the princess everyone expects of me." I closed my eyes tight and willed away the tears that threatened. We were silent a few moments.
"Then they must be expecting the moon," Dalton said softly, his voice layered with sympathy.
I gazed up at him, tears pooled in my eyes. "Not even Kreludor could compare to my troubles," I murmured sadly.
"Dear, Rosellen," Dalton said, cupping my chin. "Nobody is asking for perfection."
"But they are," I whispered, a tear trailing down my cheek.
"Rosellen... what is expected of royals is highly unreasonable sometimes. But someday... someday they'll come to accept you, dear princess. I promise you. You've so much potential. Don't ever doubt yourself, Rose."
"Rose?" I whispered. Nobody had ever called me that before. Dalton smiled softly.
"Yes, dear Rose. Someday. Someday you will find your calling."
"Princesses, please heed to my next words. I've a very exciting announcement to make." Madam Lupine was standing before us, and a faint smile actually graced her lips. "It seems that King Lyle's brother Sir Stuart Carmody is planning a royal visit to the castle."
We all stared at her, wondering what in Neopia that that idea had to do with us.
"Ah hah, I see those dumbfounded looks," Madam Lupine said with a wave of her paw. "But trust me, when you shall hear my news, you will be simply bursting with excitement."
"What news?" Emilia asked.
"I will be getting to that," Madam answered with an acknowledging nod. "Patience, Emilia. Now, I wasn't altogether thrilled to hear King Lyle's proposition at first catching word of it, but in the end we both came to the conclusion that it would be a grand opportunity for you all to prove that you can be proper, polite princesses. Also, I feel that this could indeed be the test to see how well you've improved these past couple of months since being enrolled here."
"But what exactly is this proposition?" Hadley begged to know.
"King Lyle is having a ball in his brother's honor; a welcome ball, I suppose."
"A ball!" Emilia looked as if she might faint with delight. "Here, in Greenvelle?"
"How divine!" Hadley exulted. "Why, I've heard that Greenvelle hosts the most exquisite balls."
"I as well," Airyetta stated.
"That statement is indeed true," Madam Lupine nodded. "Now, the ball is in three weeks' time, but we've much to prepare for. Including honing your dancing skills, and deciding on the most elegant dresses you all will wear."
"Will the princes be there?" Emilia wondered.
"Why, yes. There will be princes," Madam Lupine affirmed. "King Lyle has invited several royal families across Neopia. You all may be able to meet other established royals and real princesses as well."
While the rest of the princesses were busy raving about the upcoming ball, the last few days I'd was plagued with seas of doubt and bewilderment. I'd been thinking on Genevieve's words, as well as Dalton's. Someday, I'd find my calling. Would I really? Would I ever be a true princess, or would I continue to utterly fail at it? I'd never been so turned around in my entire life.
I put down the book I'd been trying to read with a sigh. It was hopeless when my thoughts were jumbled up so. The door of my room was open, and Genevieve walked by without so much as a simple glance at me. I leapt out of bed and hurried to catch up with her.
The royalgirl Kougra turned and looked at me, a mite startled. Then she seemed to relax. "Oh, Rosellen. It's you."
"Is something wrong?" I wondered, noting the worry etched in her eyes.
Genevieve looked like she might say no, and then glanced up and down the hall before leaning in and saying quietly, "Can we talk, Rosellen—in my room?"
"Absolutely," I replied without hesitation, and I followed her there. Genevieve surveyed the hall again before soundlessly closing the door behind us.
"What's so secret?" I asked with a bit of smile. The Kougra was acting like she'd committed a crime. Genevieve sighed, shaking her head.
"My uncle arrived today."
"Ahh." I wondered why that was such a horrible thing. "Madam Lupine told us he'd be arriving. Also that a ball would be thrown in his welcome."
"You mean a ball he's throwing on his own."
My brows furrowed. "Oh. All right then. But why are you bothered?"
"I... I don't trust him," Genevieve said.
"Why ever not?" I wondered, a mite shocked.
"My uncle is very... well, he's very... secretive, I guess. Though it could just be my imagination. He arrived today though with these guards in black surrounding him—as if our castle does not have proper protection on its own."
"Hmm, interesting," I said. "Go on."
"Well, he also came with this huge suitcase with a giant padlock. When I asked what it was for, he growled at me for being nosy. He was just being a bit odd. Also, I saw him trying to secretly send a Neomail, like he was rushing before anyone saw him."
"Sounds like he's hiding something," I remarked.
Genevieve sighed. "I don't want to believe that, Rosellen. He's my uncle. Though he is not a king, he's more royal than not. I just feel that something's wrong is all. I might simply be going mad though."
"Don't be too quick to doubt your suspicions," I said.
"I don't know, Rosellen. I'm probably just going to forget about it. I was probably imagining things anyhow," she said.
But Genevieve had me curious. A padlocked suitcase, a circle of guards, secret neomails... It didn't seem right.
But then again, I didn't know her uncle.
"'Tis an awfully nice day," I murmured to Colleen, the royalgirl Bori brushing her curly, sky-blue tresses in front of the large oval mirror. "Why, just look at that sunshine. So warm and inviting. I so do hope we finish our lessons early today. Don't you, Colleen?" I asked, and turned to the Bori.
Colleen gave a hint of a smile and rolled her lips together. "I suppose so," she finally remarked. Then she swiftly spun her locks into a long braid down her right shoulder, fastening the end with a golden tie.
"Goodness, but do I wish my hair was as darling as yours," I said. I walked over to the mirror and fingered my short, dark purple locks that fell to my chin and slightly curled at the ends. I sighed. "My hair is so... boyish. The color is so dark."
"Well, I think it's... pretty," Colleen murmured. She looked at me in the mirror. "It suits you."
A small, reluctant smile formed on my lips. "Yes, but you and the other princesses have such long, vibrant hair. Why, Labella and Airyetta have hair past their waists, and it's so full and lush. Even Hadley's hair, though short, is rather stylish. Though I suppose Emilia has the same drawback as I do. Her hair is shorter than mine, but it's such a nice yellow that it hardly makes a difference, especially with those large eyes of hers. But alas, my fur color remains such a dull and dismal hindrance. It shall never be anything to flaunt over."
To my greatest surprise, Colleen clicked her claws at me in a snap. "Rosellen Dellamore, such talk is strictly unacceptable," she scolded, her voice louder than I'd ever heard it. "You are by far the prettiest princess of us all. And I think it's because you're so genuine and selfless, and those are two beautiful qualities."
I was utterly dumbstruck. Then my face split into a broad grin, and a delighted peal of laughter escaped me. Colleen, who took my laughter as mocking, recoiled and looked slightly wounded.
"I... I wasn't trying to be funny," she fumed, residing back to her quiet, timid voice.
"Oh, Colleen," I laughed. "I did not think it was funny at all. In fact, I think it was just about the sweetest compliment that anyone has ever paid me. Furthermore because it came from your lips. 'Twas so refreshing to hear you speak so. Why, Colleen, no need to look so contrite! You've such a lovely, delicate voice. I do wish you would use it more."
Colleen licked her lips nervously, her cheeks flushing pink. "I surprised even... myself," she murmured, eyes going downcast.
"Colleen," I said softly. "No need to be so shy around me. Around any of us, as a matter of fact. We're princesses like you. We're your friends, Colleen."
Colleen looked up at herself in the mirror, eyes glimmering with some sort of hope. "I've... I've never had... a friend before."
Just as we had all hoped, Madam Lupine did allow us to finish our lessons earlier than usual. She too, felt it was such a glorious, bright day. She said we ought to enjoy it, for rain was expected in the days to come. So we princesses trooped outdoors, Hadley and Emilia rejoicing over completed lessons and tasks.
"Whoop! No more work! All fun!" Hadley exulted.
"Oh, let us play a game," Emilia said, turning to me with paws clasped at her chest. "Rosellen, what game shall we play? You know them all. Tell us."
"Well..." Truthfully, I didn't much feel like playing a game. I'd have rather sat in the sunshine and chatted. But with those hopeful eyes gazing at me, I could not refuse. "Let me see. I've shown you most of the games I know." Hide-and-seek, Rosellen says, tag, baseball with sticks and stones we find lying about the courtyard (for one could never find a bat and ball in a castle), charades...
"How about tag?" Hadley offered.
"Hadley, you know that game is an utter failure," Labella huffed. "We always trip over our dresses. It simply makes us look like fools, and we end up with faces streaked with dirt and tears in our clothing."
"True," Hadley said with a slight sigh.
I admit, I was amazed at their transformation. When I'd first met them, these princesses hated playing games. They despised running and getting a bit dirty. Now, they were actually anxious to play them. I suppose that was mainly because of my doing, yet still it was a surprising accomplishment.
"Why don't we rest today?" Airyetta said. "It is such nice weather. Let us enjoy it."
"Yes," Labella said gruffly. "Finally, Airyetta speaks truth. Besides, I'm simply tired of games. We're princesses, for goodness' sake. We need not be running around like wild Doglefoxes without worthy demeanor."
Hadley seemed to come to a revelation. Her excited spirit wilted, her smile vanishing in a wink. She heaved a great sigh. "You all are right. Games are for silly commoners. We are princesses. Plus, we've a ball coming up. We need to start practicing our good behavior. And as for the princes, we must show them we are capable of handling ourselves as honorable princesses do."
Emilia, though frowning, murmured softly, "Agreed. Theodore was such an admirable prince. I wish to show him I am an admirable princess too."
With long faces, Hadley and Emilia embarked on their separate ways. Labella sighed, glared at me, and then sauntered off by herself as well. That left Airyetta and Colleen and I.
"The games were indeed fun," Airyetta said, her voice soft but resolute. "But we must be reasonable, Rosellen. We are royals. And royals simply do not play games."
"I know that," I shot, a bit defensively. "Goodness, but everyone seems to be against me. I feel you all deem me blamable. Yet I never forced you all to join in my fun. You all seemed so eager, I went ahead with it."
Colleen's ears flattened in shame at my cross words, the Bori's head hanging ever so low. I sighed. "Colleen, I'm sorry," I said helplessly. "I never meant to cause you grief. It was ever so wrong of me to persuade you all to partake in my mindless antics in the first place. We are princesses, just as Airyetta said. I've only myself to blame for things being so tense between us all. I shall never beg any of you to participate in my acts again."
The words I spoke, though they saddened me, were ones I aimed to keep.
As I had said, things were tense between us princesses. Instead of conversing and laughing as we all once had, everyone seemed distant from one another. In fact, they were all acting like such... princesses. Emilia never sang anymore, Hadley hardly laughed, and even Labella walked with regal airs. Such things were highly unusual. I was tremendously bewildered.
"Something wrong, miss?"
I looked up into the largest golden eyes I'd ever seen. I offered Siri a small, weak smile.
"Sure. Everything is grand," I lied. "Why should you ask?"
Siri blinked at me, then with a troubled look, went back to folding my dresses and hanging them in the large wardrobe.
"You simply seem troubled is all," Siri said softly.
"Well, I'm completely fine," I declared, rising from my bed where I'd been moping about all morning. No more pity-parties for me. I was going to pick myself up and keep moving. Everyone may have been treating me with indifference, but I aimed not to let it grate on my nerves so. I picked up one of my dresses and proceeded to fold it. Siri drew a gasp, her face engulfed by two enormous golden eyes.
"M-miss... miss... miss... Rosellen..." she stammered.
With a wrinkled brow I stared at her. "What is it, Siri?"
"No... no... you... mustn't..." She pointed to the dress and a pained look crossed her face.
"Oh..." Understanding dawned. "You're upset because I'm helping you. Well, you needn't be, Siri. I'm happy to help." I smiled broadly at her before hanging the dress up and reaching for another.
Siri continued to gawk at me, seemingly horrorstruck. "You... y-you mustn't," she stumbled.
"Siri." I put the dress down and eyed the young Aisha maid sternly. "Just because I'm a princess, doesn't mean I am unable to assist you. In Satinsand, I helped do laundry and clean all the time. I quite enjoyed it too."
Siri shook her head back and forth, grimacing. "Please... you mustn't."
I gazed into Siri's eyes, kindly yet seriously. "Siri... please don't be afraid of me. I may be a princess, but I do want so to be your friend. Don't shut me out; let me help you." I waited while the solemn little Aisha seemed to ponder on my words. "You can trust me, Siri," I assured softly. "And please know I speak truth. I'm not some arrogant princess who will order you around. I'm Rosellen. I'm a friend. Please... won't you let me help?"
Siri seemed to be thinking very hard, staring off. It seemed like an eternity before she even moved. Then she hesitantly lifted her huge eyes at me, nodded faintly, and though that was all she did, I could not help but smile.
"'Tis truly a shame that you all gave up playing games," I said, rising my voice and purposely trying to sound persuading. I was sitting at the pond's edge, my discarded shoes lying on the grass beside me. I kicked around a bare foot in the water loudly, creating splashes. "My, but the water's so inviting," I gushed. "So refreshing and inviting, especially on such a hot day. Why, if I weren't wearing a dress, I daresay I would jump right in."
"Rosellen Dellamore!" Hadley cried in pure horror.
"How brash of you," Emilia scolded.
I laughed. "Well, 'tis only true." Playfully, I kicked water at where princesses sat on the nearby benches. They all shrieked as the droplets fell upon them.
"Rosellen Dellamore!" Hadley screamed.
I nearly fell back with laughter at the looks on their faces. "You said that already!" I said through my laughs.
"You wretched Moehog," Labella snarled, and Hadley, fuming, got up from the bench and marched over to me.
"Well, Rosellen," she spat. "Two can play at that game." With a smirk, she scooped up a pawful of water and tossed it at me. I screamed with delight, then kicked back water at her. Hadley squealed with laughter and yanked off her shoes. She stepped into the pond and we proceeded to splash each other. Water sprayed everywhere.
"You're getting me wet!" Emilia cried out, but the Zafara was already dashing to the pond and giggling as she scooped up water to throw at me. Before we knew it, all of us had joined in—among the laughing and water droplets everywhere, I even saw Labella make a few splashes!
We were all a giggly, dripping mess... every single one of us heedless to the appalled royal Lupe suddenly standing before us. Madam Lupine was Spardel-eyed, mouth gaping in horror.
"Girls!" she screamed, though we did not seem to hear. "Princesses, ENOUGH!"
That got through to us. The splashes and laughter ceased immediately.
"M-Madam Lupine!" Emilia babbled.
"Oh no," I heard Labella mumble with a huff.
"Great kings of Greenvelle, WHAT in Neopia were you all thinking?!" Madam Lupine cried. "All of you, out of the water THIS INSTANT!" she roared. We all scrambled out like the water had turned to fire. "Just look at all of you," Madam Lupine moaned. "Your dresses, nearly ruined! I'm thoroughly ashamed of you all. Who dared to suggest such a foolish act?"
At first there was silence. Then Labella mumbled, "Who else? It was Rosellen."
Madam Lupine's wide eyes flashed to me. "Why, Rosellen!" She glared at me with an angry fire in her eyes. "I should have known. Only you could be the one to suggest such a thing."
"Oh, Madam," I said with great sorrow. "I am truly sorry."
"Sorry will not fix what mess you've made," Madam Lupine said angrily. "Now, I want all you to go into the castle and change this moment. I am completely appalled by your reckless behavior."
"We're so sorry, Madam Lupine," Hadley mourned.
"Yes, truly sorry. I knew such a thing was truly horrible yet I did it anyway because well everyone else was and now you're very angry and I am such a wet mess. And oh, how truly sorry I am," Emilia babbled on, wringing her paws.
"Rosellen started it. She splashed us first," Hadley spouted.
I wanted to glare at her. I wasn't the only one at fault... yet I knew it really was all my doing. I hung my head with a sigh, truly shameful. It seemed as if my antics had gotten the better of me. Again.
"Please, will you all even speak to me?" I begged for the hundredth time.
Labella rolled her eyes and huffed. "You expect us to talk to you after all you've cost us? Rosellen, we've had enough of your wretched behavior."
"Indeed," Emilia spouted with a venomous glare. "We nearly weren't able to attend the ball because of you."
"Yes," Hadley threw in with vexed dark eyes. "And if Madam Lupine really had prohibited us to go, I would've hated you forever, Rosellen."
"'Tis bad enough we have to do extra lessons," Airyetta added with a solemn nod.
"And we aren't able to even enter that part of the castle grounds ever again," Emilia fumed. "It had the prettiest flowers too."
I sighed heavily. "Look, I know what I did was horrible. I know I nearly cost us the opportunity to attend the dance. But I said I was sorry, and I truly am. Please, couldn't you just forgive me?"
No one spoke a word.
It rained for the next three days, and the gloomy weather seemed to match that of everyone's attitude. The princesses still weren't speaking with me, not even Colleen or Airyetta, and that fact truly bewildered me. Every time I tried to talk to Colleen in our bedchamber, the Bori would sadly shake her head and not even look me in the eye. I felt like such the enemy.
Now that the rains had stopped, I found myself wandering the castle grounds... alone. Who needed companions anyway? The sigh that slipped from my lips came of the lonely depths of my heart. I missed my friends, the princesses. I hated their silence and indifference. It bugged me to no end.
The breeze ruffling my dress, I stooped to pick at the small stalk of a sunflower, when suddenly a child's laughter filled the air. I perked my ears, turning to the sound. There on the other side of the gate was a small Kyrii boy, flying a bright, yellow kite. I simply watched him. He was such a dirty little thing, dressed in tattered overalls and worn shoes. His cheeks were smudged with grime, but otherwise he seemed happy with his shining brown eyes.
He seemed oblivious of me at first, happily flying his kite with a contented smile on his face. Then he spotted me, his face splitting with a big grin. He waved, and at the same moment a vast gust of air arose. The little Kyrii's kite zipped and even though the Kyrii fought to steady it, the kite took a dive, landing right in the tree on the other side of the castle gate, where I was standing.
With a cry, the little boy came dashing to the gate. He gave many fierce tugs on his string, but the yellow kite remained tangled in the branches. The Kyrii's face twisted up in sorrow. His eyes grew huge and doleful as he gazed up at the kite in dismay.
"What is it?" Hadley wondered. I had not even heard the Gelert approach.
"Seems like the little boy's kite is stuck in our tree," I said. I knew I had to help him. But how?
"Oh, Rosellen, do stay on the path," Hadley groaned as I stepped off of the stone into the mushy grass. "The grass is awfully wet. You'll get muddy for certain."
"A little dirt never hurt anyone," I reasoned with my nose high. "The matter of staying decent is not important to me at this time. I have to help the little boy." I then turned to Hadley with a quizzical look. "Besides, I thought you all weren't on speaking terms with me." Without waiting for an answer, I marched over to the tree. I hiked up my dress and began to climb up. I suddenly heard a gasp and felt a paw grab at my dress hem.
"Oh, Rosellen! Whatever are you doing? Stop that at once!"
I couldn't help but laugh at the seriousness in her tone.
"Oh, Hadley, do lighten up. I am only going to retrieve the kite. And return it to its rightful owner." I pointed up the kite propped in the branches and then to the hopeful-eyed little boy. Hadley's eyes followed my paw but it did nothing to ease her worry.
"But you'll get admonished. Madam Lupine will be furious to see you performing such a foolish act."
I shrugged, continuing to use the branches as a ladder to climb up the tree. "Wouldn't be the first time," I said through teeth clenched with determination. "And I doubt that it'll be the last." I then heard more princesses approaching, their worried voices following me up.
"Oh goodness, Hadley! Whatever is Rosellen doing?" Emilia cried.
"Being Rosellen, that's what," Labella growled. "Rosellen Dellamore, you senseless Xweetok!" she hollered up at me. "You're mad, insane! You're acting like such a child. You'll get banned from the dance for sure after this stunt."
I looked down at them from my perch and laughed at their oh-so-serious faces. They were truly worried of me, though I found their over protectiveness quite amusing. Especially when they weren't even supposed to be talking with me.
"Look, you all are upset with me, so why do you even care what should happen to me? I've got to get the kite for the little boy. End of story." I then caught glimpse of the kite in the branches, smiling triumphantly. 'Twas easier than I thought! I went to untangle the strings from the limbs. However I had to let go of the branches in the process, the action nearly causing me to lose my footing. I heard Emilia and Hadley shriek below, Emilia babbling, "She's going to fall! She's going to fall!"
I was able to regain my grip, releasing a sigh of relief. Then I shouted down at Emilia, "I am NOT going to fall! Please, Emilia, do calm down. You are frazzling my nerves more than they already are." I went back to my mission with massive determination. With much care, I was finally able to untangle the kite strings.
"Success!" I called down at the princesses. Emilia and Hadley cheered. I then proceeded to ease down the tree. I was nearly all the way down when what occurred next seemed to happen quick as a wink. I had set my foot down on a branch when the most horrible cracking noise sounded. Then my foot was dangling, and the action startled me and I lost my grip. I tumbled down, down... landing with an oof! on the damp grass. Spots danced before my eyes.
I heard several loud shrieks and cries, the princesses rushing over to me.
"She's dead! She's dead!" Emilia screamed, nearly in hysterics.
"She is not!" Labella yelled harshly.
"Oh, Rosellen, are you okay?" Hadley said, and it must have been her paw I felt on my arm. I hurt too much to answer. All I could do was groan.
"Get Madam Lupine!" Hadley shrieked. "She's not responding! Go, Colleen, go! Run!"
"No... need," I mumbled. "I'm... fine." I struggled to sit up. My back ached, my ankle throbbed viciously, and my head pounded fiercely. "Help me up," I ordered stiffly. I was able to stand with Airyetta for support. But when I placed my right foot on the ground, I bit back a cry of pain.
"You're hurt!" Emilia cried.
"I know," I said, breathing heavily. Then a frazzled Madam Lupine came swiftly toward us with a castle butler Scorchio at her heels.
"Oh, oh, oh!" she cried, paw flying up to her face in true abashment. "Rosellen! Oh dear!" She turned to the butler. "Get her inside at once and have someone fetch the doctor!"
There was a flurry of activity then. The butler scooped me up like I was some sort of rag-plushie. I fell limp in his arms, extremely tired and aching all over.
"Please make sure the little Kyrii gets his kite," I murmured to Airyetta, whose worried large eyes were nearby. She nodded gravely. Then I was carried away.
I awoke much, much later with the most horrible headache. I pried my heavy eyelids open and peered around the room. It was empty save Siri, who was dusting the bookcase.
"Siri?" I tried to say, but my voice only came out as a dry whisper. Siri's attentive ears caught it though, and the little Aisha scurried over, snatching up a water glass sitting on the nightstand.
"You must drink," she said. I hesitated not. My throat was oh so dry. I drank, and then thanked Siri as I fell back on the pillow with a sigh.
"How... are you feeling?" Siri asked tentatively.
"I hurt," I admitted, my lids drooping. "And tired."
"Then you must rest," Siri urged softly. But already I was fading. Siri's voice became distant as I floated off into oblivious slumber.
The next morning I felt so much better. I opened my eyes to sunlight pouring into my window. Gone was the pain in my head, though my back still ached and my ankle as well when I moved it. But otherwise, I felt wonderful.
"Thank you dearly for breakfast, Siri," I told my Aisha maid with a smile. I gazed down at the tray of muffins, eggs, toast, strawberry preserves, small pastries, and a tall glass of juice. "My, 'tis a feast," I giggled. Siri smiled slightly at me before going to make Colleen's bed. The Bori was partaking in lessons, something I wouldn't be doing for the next few days or so, which I greatly exulted in.
I bite into a flaky pastry that melted on my tongue. "'Tis wonderful! Siri, you must come dine with me."
"No thank you, ma'am," came Siri's soft reply, the Aisha's back to me as she smoothed out the bed sheets.
"Oh, do join me, Siri," I pleaded. "I admit, I am not extremely hungry, though the food all looks divine. It would truly be a shame for it to go to waste."
Siri faintly shook her curls. "Would not be fit... is your breakfast," Siri murmured.
"Aw, but Siri. Wouldn't you just take one pastry? They are absolutely marvelous. Here," I said, lifting a napkin with a pastry tucked inside, "try at least one, won't you?"
Siri took slow, soundless steps over to me. Her hollow golden eyes went to the napkin, then to my face.
"I mustn't," she said, her soft voice resolute.
Concern rippled through me. "Siri... but why? You always say you mustn't do something... I do not understand."
"I am a mere servant," Siri whispered. "You are a princess. It is... unfit for you to request such... unusual things."
Sadness welled inside of me. I lowered the napkin, feeling great regret. "As you wish," I said softly. I looked the Aisha straight into her eyes. I felt overwhelmed by their depths and all that I saw. She seemed so burdened for one so young. Suddenly I wondered of her age, and how she came to be here. Where was her family?
"Good morning, Rosellen!" a cheery Hadley said as she strolled into the room. "Feeling better?"
"Much, thank you."
"Wonderful! You're so lucky, Rosellen. Why, would do anything in order not have to do our lessons today."
"Even fall out of a tree?" I asked coyly.
"Well..." Hadley wrinkled up her nose. "Almost anything."
I giggled. Then I gestured to my tray. "Want some breakfast? Take a pastry, piece of toast, something."
"Oh, as much as it is tempting, no thank you," Hadley said. "Actually, I have got to run before the madam catches me. I simply snuck in here since we were all dying for an update." She scurried to the door, but before she exited she turned and waved with a toothy grin. "Bye!"
"Hadley Wilshire! You get straight back to your lessons this instant!" we heard a stern royal Lupe order in the hallway outside the door. "Rosellen?" Siri and I both turned our heads as Madam Lupine came striding into the room. "Rosellen, dear, how do you feel this morning?" she asked.
"Quite well, Madam," I nodded. "Considering..."
Madam sighed, shaking her head. "Goodness, Rosellen, if you aren't a senseless girl. Climbing trees, imagine! Whatever possessed you to perform such a thoughtless task?"
"I aimed only to retrieve the kite for the little boy," I insisted. "I never expected to fall in the process."
"Well, I should say not," the Madam retorted. "You could have been seriously injured, Rosellen. You are truly lucky to be in as good condition as you are. Now, anyway, I came here in the first place to see if you'd pertain to some company."
"Oh, certainly," I said, never one to turn down companionship. "Send them in."
"Thank you kindly, Madam," a gentleman voice sounded as Madam Lupine exited. I'd know that voice anywhere!
The first thing I saw as the gentleman entered was large, blossoming bouquet of roses. "Oh," I gasped. "Why, Dalton, they're beautiful."
The Xweetok prince lowered the flowers and grinned. "I'm eternally thankful that you like them," he said, pleased.
"Oh, I do. Siri," I said, motioning to the little Aisha, "would you please fetch me a vase?"
"Certainly, miss," Siri nodded and exited.
"Thank you dearly, Dalton," I said in earnest. "You are most kind. You did not have to bring me flowers."
Dalton smiled. "Ah, but I could not resist. Word came that you had a bad spill, and I simply had to see for myself that you were in good standing."
"Well, other than my broken ankle and aching back, I'm faring pretty well," I smiled.
"Aw, Rosellen. Such a true warrior you are." Dalton plucked a rose from the bunch and placed it in my hair. "A rose for a rose," he said sweetly.
"Dalton, you are truly too good to me," I said with blazing cheeks. To cover my embarrassment, I snatched up a blueberry-filled pastry and thrust it into his face. Blueberries oozed from the doughy middle. "Now, please... would you kindly help me eat this food? I have been trying in vain to give it away all morning!"
Dalton laughed heartily.
"Only you, Rosellen."
To be continued...