There was something stressful about awaiting your advisors. Eric put it off for as long as possible, though he still had to face them near every single day. There was one in particular that was more nerve-wracking than the rest.
There was nothing necessarily annoying about Clarence. Apart from the news he brought, Eric liked him. He trusted the man, which was important for his occupation. Clarence was a thirty-five year old that excelled in personal hygiene. His already graying dark hair was always neatly combed back, his clothes never had a rumple or fluff on them, he had composed and focused brown eyes, and he always did his job diligently. Unfortunately, he was also the advisor who was on the search for the new queen.
And dealing with this first thing after getting back from Southern Palanadia was the last thing Eric wanted. It had been like a holiday to see the kids again. They had all grown so much since he saw them a year ago, some had been adopted, some had left and he was happy to find out that most of the ones who matriculated were either in universities or collages. The program seemed to be working.
He brought his mind back to the present when Clarence placed a file in front of him. Eric frowned as he looked at it. The problem wasn’t exactly finding a new queen, it was finding one whom the kingdom could benefit from and knew her place. The only thing that annoyed Eric about Clarence was the fact that he had to give reports every day, much like any other advisor, but his news was something that began to tear away at Eric’s resolve. Finding a bride was not Eric’s forte. Today in particular was a bad day to review the latest file. He wasn’t in the mood. If it were up to him, he’d still be touring and visiting the kids. The details of the woman held inside the brown file covered document could have said that she cried diamonds and Eric would have rejected her, making him unsuitable to judge.
He slid the file back without opening it to Clarence who stood on the other side of the desk. "New rule, Clarence. These sessions take too much time out of my day and each usually ends the same way as the last. I propose you collect all the data you can from each of the potential candidates, contact them to find out if they would be interested in the proposal, then get back to me at the end of the month with any information you find relevant. Only the things you find relevant, discard the rest. No, wait, that’s not a good idea. Filter everything through Shane first but don’t add photographs or names to the files when presenting it to him. Shane gets too easily persuaded by a pretty face and God forbid he actually decides to research them himself."
Clarence only obliged before exiting Eric’s office. Eric sighed heavily the moment the door closed. Finally, a moment of peace. He stood up from his chair and turned to face the large window behind him overlooking the kingdom. Eric leaned back against his office chair and brought a hand to the stiffening muscles in his neck.
"Well, at least that’s one less thing to worry about for a bit," he mumbled as his eyes ran over the tops of the buildings and trees.
He wanted his dogs. Maybe he could squeeze in some play time before dinner, sure he’d smell like dog but at least he’d be more relaxed. Eric smirked and shook his head. As if that would be proper around guests. He’d have to ask Ronan if he could see them after dinner. They could sleep in his room tonight.
He lowered his eyes when he noticed the palace gates open and a car pull in. Eric tilted his head to the side a bit.
Giselle was back. He made a mental note to ask her how things were going then smiled to himself as the memory of her jumping from instrument to instrument surfaced. He wondered if he could persuade her to play again like she did at the ball.
A scraping sound outside his door caused him to look over his shoulder. Someone knocked on his door before it opened. He turned around fully to see Shane cruise inside with a skateboard held up in his right arm and another under his feet. From his left hand dangled a pair of black converse high tops. He came to a slow stop in front of Eric’s desk and grinned. Eric lifted an eyebrow and gave his brother a neutral stare.
"If you’re gonna barge in without waiting for an answer, why knock in the first place?" He asked. Shane smirked. "You act like you’re not happy to see me," he said and tossed Eric the sneakers. Eric caught them swiftly as Shane gestured towards the door with his head. "Now come on. You need a break. First one to the family tapestry gets the other’s dessert tonight."
Eric smirked and loosened his tie as he kicked off his oxfords. "You’re almost nineteen years old and you’re still putting dessert on the line as a trophy."
"Somehow its importance has never declined through the years. Besides, I don’t see you backing off," Shane said with a cocky grin. Eric straightened from putting on his sneakers, tossed his tie onto the table and took the board from Shane’s hand.
"Do I ever?"
The drive back to the palace was disheartening, what came after might possibly be worse. Giselle hated being idle and that’s what happened the moment she entered the castle gates. For the past four days she had gone out every morning after breakfast and attended shows and festivals according to a schedule she and her escort, Madam Evergreen, had worked out on the night of her arrival. Though the Palanadian music was wonderful and lively, she couldn’t seem to connect to it and that killed Giselle on the inside. The fact that she could feel so liberated by the music during the day then have no inspiration the moment she stood in front of an instrument was torture. She enjoyed the performances, even loved speaking to some of the old and young musicians who added their own swing. Palanadian music focused a lot on their brass instruments. They adored their saxophones and Giselle adored their passion and spontaneity. People danced in the streets, musicians jumped off the stages and waded through the crowds, there was never a dull moment. And everything was so new. Every performance was a different sound yet they all held the same flair Palanadian musicians seemed to have. She laughed and danced, much to the annoyance of Madam Evergreen and the two bodyguards that seemed to always hover nearby. Giselle tried to be respectful and stay close and quiet as the forty-something woman advised, she didn’t want to make the woman’s job difficult, but as soon as the musicians tossed their inhibitions away, so did Giselle it seemed.
Giselle sighed as she watched the palace gates open to allow them in. She knew what was wrong. She still wanted to be in Paris. Her father had called, reporting that the play was a great success, that the tickets sold out within a few hours and he had one of his musical epiphanies. He could barely keep up with his own mind. She, on the other hand, felt the buzz of the day wear off more and more with each word he spoke. She told him about how much she enjoyed the music, but couldn’t bring herself to tell him she was stuck with her own. She didn’t want to leave without having something to play when she got back.
The thing about the next couple of days was that she would have a lot of time to focus on her music since nothing was scheduled for her. Though she was drained from the excitement and needed some rest, Giselle was saddened by the idea of entertaining herself. She considered going to a museum, but the thought of spending an afternoon in the company of Madam Evergreen and her stoicism without music was a bit more than Giselle could bear. Giselle had given up on trying to connect with the woman on day two. The two men that guarded her were easier to talk to though Giselle wasn’t allowed to distract them from observing for potential dangers. The madam made it abundantly clear that she was only doing a job, nothing more and nothing less.
When Giselle opened the door to her room she was surprised to see Rose sitting on her bed with a tablet between her fingers. Rose looked up and put the tablet down. "Hey! Finally, I was starting to think you’d be gone until dinner time," she said and stood from the bed.
Giselle lifted her brows and dropped her bag onto the floor next to the door. "Uh . . . I’m sorry, Rose, did we make plans for today that I forgot about?" Giselle asked earnestly. She hadn’t received any messages from her cousin. Rose had spent the last few days too lost in Shane’s eyes to notice her. Did Rose ask her to do something and it had just completely gone over Giselle’s head or did Rose forget to mention it in the first place?
Rose smiled apologetically. "No, I just realized what a jerk I’ve been for the last few days. I basically ignored the fact that you were here."
Giselle let out a breath slowly. "No, it’s okay. You’re in love." Giselle looked at her cousin and smiled. She had been annoyed that Rose had barely noticed her the last few days but more than that she was happy for Rose. Watching her and Shane together was hilarious and beautiful. "Regardless, I’m sorry. I mean, I’m here with thee Giselle Balaco, the best cactus killer in the world. I should be more appreciative."
Giselle snorted. She put her hands on her hips and tied to look noble. "I do have a talent." She shrugged. "I don’t want to brag though." Rose giggled. "Come on. We haven’t really hung out in months. And I really miss you. Let’s do something. We could go have a quick tea in the gardens, maybe bake together sometime this week, I know you still love baking, or – oh – they’ve got a bowling alley."
The corners of Giselle’s eyes wrinkled as her eyes narrowed slightly. "Rose, a bowling ball is twice your weight," she joked. Rose’s jaw dropped. "Hey, I’ll have you know, I’ve started lifting in the gym."
"Oh really? Which weight are you on?"
Rose opened her mouth then closed it, deciding against what she initially wanted to say. "I have started lifting in the gym," she said with a sassy bob of her head. Giselle laughed. "And you’re one to talk."
"I’m taller. I’ve got bone mass on my side," Giselle said with a smug smile. Rose rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You know I can win this argument if I tried."
"Yeah, but you’re too clever for that. If you win you lose a chance to hang out with me," Giselle patronized. Rose sighed, smiling slightly while holding her cousin’s gaze. "I really want to win though," she said. Giselle let out a breath of laughter then looked longingly towards her bed. Resisting the urge to roll back her tense shoulders, she looked back at her cousin. "Rose, I would love to spend some time with you but right now I just need to rest a bit before dinner time if that’s alright."
A crash outside in the hall followed by a groan caused Giselle to spin around.
"That was a mistake," she heard Shane groan out.
Giselle looked back at her cousin. "Besides, I think your boyfriend might require some attention," she said and they both rushed out the door.
"What on earth?" Giselle asked, shocked to see Prince Eric standing with one foot on a skateboard as he helped his brother from the ground. Shane massaged the right side of his jaw as he got to his feet. Giselle took a moment to observe the differences between the princes. Shane was dressed in his white converse high-tops, a dark jean and a charcoal v-neck shirt while Eric wore a casual black suit with a buttoned up white shirt that he had removed his tie from and . . . sneakers! Giselle felt her eyes widen slightly. Prince Eric was wearing sneakers! "I might’ve miscalculated that turn," Shane said. Eric chuckled quietly and gave a shake of his head. He noticed Giselle and Rose watching and lifted his free hand in greeting, grinning like a child. She realized only then that she was smiling. He looked away, making Giselle aware that Rose was half jogging towards them, her burgundy strappy dress swishing from side to side as she did. Shane’s eyes landed on Rose and his gaze softened. Giselle’s smile deepened at seeing him so obviously in love with her cousin. "Idiot," she said under her breath then strolled towards them.
"Are you okay? What are you guys doing?" Rose asked. Shane pulled up his shoulders. "Having some fun." He looked at Prince Eric. "I won, by the way."
The prince’s brows lifted as he smirked. "I don’t know, watching you eat the carpet like that felt like a victory to me."
Giselle felt her brows lift but she chuckled quietly. The prince could joke? Rose shook her head and looked at Giselle. "Boys," she said with a dramatic sigh then looked back at the two. Giselle’s eyes touched each one of them curiously. So she was the only one that found it odd that the immaculate Prince Eric was on a skateboard in sneakers and a suit? Alright, then.
"Hey, it’s fun," Shane said, opening his arms as if he were completely justified then dropped them. "Why don’t you two join us?" He asked. He looked at Giselle. "I’ve got an extra few boards. You can have first pick."
"Oh, my ability to maneuver any transport mechanism without an engine is limited to a bicycle," Giselle said. "She can, however, conduct a train for some reason," Rose said and shot a playful smile in Giselle’s direction. "And fly a helicopter," Rose added, lifting her finger then dropping it. "Impressive," Shane said and kicked up his board as he looked at Giselle. He caught it between his fingers easily. "But useless when trying to cause mischief in the castle."
Giselle put her hand to her chest and pretended to be hurt. "I’m insulted that you think I require equipment for that," she said. Rose giggled. "Oh, right, I should mention that Giselle has a bit of a knack for mischief."
Giselle looked at Prince Eric and realized he was looking at her. She lifted her palms defensively. "Relax, Prince Eric. I don’t plan on roughhousing in your castle," she said, bringing her hands together with a smile. The corner of his mouth tugged. "I’m not sure you can cause more damage than my brother," he said. Giselle’s brow lifted slightly. He would be surprised.
"So what are you two up to for the rest of the day?" Shane asked, looking at Rose. Rose turned to Giselle. "Giselle wants to take a little nap before dinner time."
Shane lifted a mocking brow. "From someone who claims to be mischievous? I’m disappointed," he said, crossing his arms and giving her a challenging gaze, one free of contempt and merely playful. Giselle smiled. "Fine. Do you guys have any archery fields around here? I’m in the mood to shoot something now," she said, giving Shane a pointed look that caused him to laugh. "No archery fields on palace grounds, but we can take you on a little tour of the palace gardens on horseback. You can ride a horse, right?" Giselle grinned at his taunt and nodded. Shane turned towards his brother. "Are you joining us today?" Shane asked. Eric took in a breath to respond but Shane looked towards Giselle before he could. "Fun fact, Giselle, Eric is too polite to refuse a guest’s request. Please ask him to join us. His work can wait," Shane said. Giselle’s mouth went dry. She glanced at the prince and nearly laughed at the expression on his face. He looked like a child awaiting his mother’s reproof. "I don’t think I could tear someone as devoted as your brother from his work," she said. Seeing his features relax, she grinned.
"I can." Rose turned to face Eric. "I insist that you join us, Eric," she said with a smug smile. Eric looked at her, clearly fighting a grin. "A suppose a half an hour of riding wouldn’t hurt," he said.
Chapter 5 - Part 1
It was difficult not to notice the light Giselle Balaco carried with her. Eric glanced over as she chatted with his mother. She was bubbly and cheerful and full of surprises. She was also quite well read on history, much to Eric’s surprise. He sat next to her at the dinner table, closest to the head as she and the queen conversed over him. Shane sat opposite him with Rosaline next to him, opposite Giselle.
"But by the end of it I was so thankful that I swore I would never again question a man with bagpipes," Giselle said, barely able to contain her giggles.
Everyone laughed but Eric smiled as he watched his mother. It had been awhile since someone had entertained her the way Giselle now was. When Giselle sobered up she continued.
"Now I carry at least three instruments with me wherever I go."
She pulled up her shoulders. "You never know."
The queen laughed again and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. Eric glanced over at Giselle. Somehow in the few days he was away, Giselle and the queen had become great friends. After showing the girls the royal gardens and putting the horses away, the group separated to wash up for dinner. When he stepped through the doors of the dining hall, he stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of Giselle sitting on the armrest of his mother’s chair, back straight, as the queen braided her hair.
His eyes traveled over the tidy dark brown fishbraid that now hung over Giselle’s shoulder. He never even knew his mother could braid hair. Not that she ever needed to explore that talent with two boys.
"Oh, I’ll bet," the queen said with a final chuckle then calmed and grinned at Giselle. His mother’s graying hair was also braided and wrapped around the front of her head like a crown. He had a suspicion this was Giselle’s doing.
"Eric, you haven’t said much tonight," the queen remarked, leaning forward slightly. Eric grinned.
"I’m very happy just spectating," he said. Giselle gave a dramatic groan. "Oh, come on." He looked at her, surprised by the sound. She pointed the back of her fork to him.
"You need to get out of your head a bit more. We’re in agreement," Giselle said, smiling at the queen. Eric’s eyebrows lifted a bit. He looked at his mother then Giselle then back. "Why am I uncomfortable at the idea that you two discussed me?" he asked dryly, making the queen laugh again. "She’s right. We were speaking about it earlier before you came in. You’re working too hard."
He smiled patiently. "I’m fine. Besides, I don’t count tomorrow as work," he said.
"What’s happening tomorrow?" Giselle asked. Eric looked at her and took in just how round and green her eyes were. Everything about this girl screamed elegance while her personality was more fun than he remembered. "We’re going to visit an orphanage tomorrow." As soon as the words left his mouth, Eric felt strange nervous energy build in his stomach. He almost frowned, not understanding where the feeling came from.
He noticed a slight wince in Giselle’s eyes but before she could open her mouth to respond, Shane spoke.
"Join us, Giselle. I know being cooped up in this castle can become a drag after a while," he said. Giselle looked over. Her expression slowly drained of color. Eric almost frowned again when her smile diminished. Odd. "Uh . . ." She set her fork down and pulled up her shoulders apologetically. "I’m not very good with children," she admitted with a nervous little laugh.
He could never have imagined that someone with Giselle’s spirit could feel out of place between children. "You won’t have to interact with them more than you feel comfortable doing. Rose, myself and Eric will be there too. We’ll do most of the entertaining but I know the kids would love a performance from you."
Giselle opened her mouth, but Rose intercepted. "Yes, please, Giselle. Kids can be a handful, but they all love music and I know you love performing. You might as well make a few kids smile."
"I agree," the queen piped in and Giselle’s eyes sprung to hers. "It would be a crime to hide your gift upstairs for this entire visit."
Out of the corner of his eye, Eric noticed Shane’s lip curve. He glanced over just as Shane dropped his eyes to his plate, but Eric knew that look. He wanted to sigh. What was Shane up to this time?
I'm so sorry for already being late with this post but I wanted to add a bit of Chapter 5. The second part of it should be up in a few days :)
Monika - Aw :) thanks!!
Butterfly - Haha. Yeah, you already know how they end up tho'
Miha - Ooh, I LOVE trips! Where'd you go?
Yeah, the two of them didn't have the love at first sight vibe. Eric is way too rational and headstrong while Giselle is so in love with music that she notices little else.
Lol. I've become so old so quickly. A week back at varsity and already I'm clocking out before 2 AM.