Derek followed Marie with his eyes as she moved about the ballroom, desperately trying to ignore the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears. He had to make a move to walk towards her eventually, he was standing at the side of the room like a stalker just staring at her. How many times could she change into a dress that knocked the wind out of him? The plum colored dress she wore flowed around her feet as she walked, giving the illusion of her gliding as she moved. A slit went up the side that gave him a peak of her long legs every now and then. It had a sweetheart neckline void of straps and hugged her natural shape in a way that made him envious. Her hair was up and pulled back into a soft-looking curly bun with little curls hanging at her temples. She stopped to chat to a couple, smiling pleasantly as she did.
Conversation starters rolled around in his head. What could he lead with? Definitely not the musical. Even with a gun to his head and a death threat Derek wouldn’t have been able to describe the musical. His attention bounced from the stage to Marie to the music to Marie back to the stage then back to Marie and repeated. He honestly tried to pay attention, but his mind kept wandering back to what he would say when he finally spoke to her. Then he would look at her. She seemed so composed as she played. How could she be so relaxed when his mind was running wild?
Marie lowered to her haunches and only then did he notice that there was a little girl with a big, fluffy afro and a pink dress with them. Marie smiled brightly and gave her a wave. The girl smiled at her shyly before stepping forward and gave her a hug.
Derek’s heart skipped a beat. For the first time in his life he considered what it would be like to be married to someone, to have a child. He suddenly felt lightheaded. What if that’s where this was going? What if his dad was right? What if he loved her? He was certain he’d never felt like this about anyone before. They weren’t even really dating and he was having thoughts like this.
But some part of his soul seemed to clutch onto the idea. Being married to Marie. Waking up to her every single morning, coming home to her playing the piano to him or teaching it to a child – their child. He tried to push the thought to the back of his head, but the feeling lingered. He was terrified. But amongst that terror still held a spark of excitement.
Damn it. Where was Shane with that flask when you needed him?
Marie stood up and gave the girl one last wave then smiled at the couple as they walked away. Derek sucked in a deep breath. Okay, one step at a time. He began moving towards her.
He froze in his steps and turned around to see Marie’s father walking towards him. Suddenly the desire to sprint in the opposite direction sounded very appealing. What now? He wasn’t sure what Marie had told her dad about the two of them, if she had said anything at all, but all of a sudden Derek felt less confident about the whole ordeal than he had before.
"Can I have a word with you about Marie?" Mr. Balaco asked. Derek felt cold sweat break out at the back of his neck but he straightened up. "Sure," he said, turning slowly. The corners of Mr. Balaco’s lips tugged with amusement.
"Relax, this has nothing to do with you dating my daughter. We’ll have that talk at another time."
Derek wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be set at ease by that.
"I see you’ve met Grace. Adorable, isn’t she?"
Marie spun around. A grin broke out on her face instantly. "Rose!" she said. Her cousin, princess Rosaline, gave her a composed smile then reached out to hug her. "It’s so good to see you! Where’s Rosie?"
Marie pulled away in time to see Rose roll her bright green eyes. Marie took a moment to just stare at her cousin. Whenever she saw Rose the girl became more beautiful. She and her sister, Rosemarie, were twins but it wasn’t difficult to tell them apart. Firstly, although they both had the same yellow green eyes, Rosie’s – the younger twin – were adorned by little freckles dashed across her nose and below her eyes. Both princesses had the same deep black brown hair but Rose’s always had a bit more volume than Rosie’s due to the fact that Rose’s hair was naturally curly like Marie’s and Rosie’s was straight.
Then there was Rose being Rose. No one ever said it out loud, but Rose always seemed more entrancing than her sister, than anyone for that matter. There was something about Rose that stopped a room when she entered. She was confident, graceful, and serene. She was also absolutely fearless. Marie was sure Rose was capable of walking through a warzone in heels and stop the entire fight there and then. You felt her presence and when she spoke you listened. Rose was the type of girl every other girl just hated from the get-go. Your self-esteem took a knock just by being in the same room she was.
"Where do you think she is? The love of her life just came on break, no one else exists anymore," Rose said. Marie laughed. "You can roll your eyes all you want, I know you’re happy for them," Marie said. Rose’s eyes softened. "I am," she said with a tender smile. "I would be even happier for them if Ethan would finally propose," she said and glanced around the ballroom. Marie followed her gaze until she found what Rose was looking at; Rosie and her long-term boyfriend, Ethan, walking towards the dance floor hand in hand, looking completely in love and oblivious of the rest of the world as always.
"You’re horrible, by the way."
Marie looked back at her cousin and lifted an eyebrow. "What did I do now?" She asked.
"Giselle told me you’ve got a new boyfriend. Now who’s going to be bitterly single with me tonight?"
Marie laughed. "Mark’s still single."
"Mark is never ‘still single’ he makes sure to find some female companionship whenever he wants and you know it."
"Ah." Marie faked a pout. "It’s a pity you’re so selective then," she joked. "Look around this room, Rose, you could have any single man in here, quite possibly even the ones that aren’t," Marie said. Rose glanced around the room again. "They’re not bad, I’ll give the Balaco boys that," she said, referring to the university students that took part in the musical. Her eyes stopped at something on the other side of the room and she flinched then dropped her eyes. Marie looked over until she spotted Prince Shane chatting with one of the musicians. He threw his head back with laughter. Marie felt her lip tug at a smile. Shane loved laughing and his laughter was often contagious. She adored him like an elder brother.
"Are things still awkward between the two of you?" she asked then looked back at her cousin. Rose lifted her shoulders. "Everyone in my family with the exception of my parents ended up marrying the person they first fell in love with, but my parents’ marriage was arranged so it shouldn’t count. Matthew and Chanelle just got married, Giselle and Eric will be soon, and don’t tell anyone yet, but Ethan asked my advice on a ring." Marie’s eyes widened with excitement. Rose gave her a small smile. "Shane and I were different. No one I’m close with understands what it’s like to break up with someone you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with." She shrugged. "Maybe it’s a sign that I should one day marry for the better of my kingdom. I mean, with my personality I don’t think I’m meant to marry someone who actually loves me," she said with a bitter laugh.
Marie’s smile shortened. It was true that Rose was the image of perfection in the public eye, but the stress of maintaining that expectation must get to her every now and then. To others, Rose seemed like an open book. She answered questions honestly and openly, but Marie had enough experience with half-truths to recognize it in someone else. Marie had only seen glimpses of Rose’s deeper feelings as they grew up, but she knew Rose had insecurities and fears. Rose loved deeper than most people, but she did a good job of hiding it from the world. Even after her break up with Shane she was well composed and seemed in control, but Marie knew her cousin well enough to know it tore her apart. Losing Shane did something to her that she wouldn’t allow other people see. The cost of perfection was that you weren’t allowed to be vulnerable, you weren’t allowed to be hurt, you weren’t allowed to show people how you actually felt.
That must eat at Rose every now and then.
"Hey, Rose, let’s have a sleepover one night, just the two of us. We haven’t had a good chat in a while and coffee or brunch won’t be long enough."
Rose looked at her and smiled. "That sounds nice. I’d like that." Marie smiled as well. "So when do I get to meet your new man?" She asked. Marie dropped her eyes and bit the inside of her lip to keep from smiling.
"We’re not actually dating. I mean, it’s a bit more complex than just that."
Rose raised an eyebrow. "The only guy I’ve ever said ‘I love you’ to is less than 100m away from me and he just so happens to be the brother of the only guy I’ve ever been engaged to, whom, in case you have forgotten, is now engaged to your sister, my cousin. My twin sister is dating someone who used to work in the palace. One of my brothers just got married to a girl who he has been in love with since before he could grasp what love was, that same girl grew up with me and got the whole kingdom’s elderly’s bloomers in a twist just because her father’s black and she’s a different skin color than her now husband." Rose’s brows lifted quirkily. "Complex seems to be the theme in this family. So try me."
Marie bit back a laugh. "All of a sudden my relationship with Derek doesn’t seem all that complex anymore," she said and scanned the room. "But you’ll meet him soon, hopefully. He’s supposed to be here but I can’t find him."
"I think I might have. He might be the one who just had a chat with your father on the balcony and is making his way over here," Rose said. Rose tilted her head a bit and smiled brightly.
"You must be Derek. I’ve heard quite a bit about you."
Marie stopped breathing and turned, the hair at the back of her neck lifting. Derek gave a bow.
"Princess Rosaline. It’s an honor," he said when he straightened and glanced at Marie, making her heart skip a beat. "What, uh, what have you heard?" He asked and looked back at Rose. "Enough to know that this is my cue to leave but I hope to have a chat with you about my brilliant cousin and your intentions."
Marie’s eyes widened and she looked at Rose intently. To her surprise, Derek laughed. "Yeah, well, you wouldn’t be the first. It seems I’m risking more than just my dignity when it comes to my intentions with Marie," he said. Marie felt heat flush through her body. What the bloody-hell was going on?
Rose pressed her lips together and closed her eyes slowly as she tried to contain her laughter. When she opened them, she looked at Marie. "I like this one. Hold on to him," she said and gave a small how. "I will see you two around," she said and left them to talk. Marie shook her head and took a deep breath before looking at Derek.
He caught her eye with a smirk. "Well I needed an ice breaker. Your cousin did a pretty good job of sorting out that problem for me," he said. Marie dropped her eyes again. She couldn’t him in the eye without losing her sense of balance. "Can we talk? Please," he said. She nodded and lifted her eyes again. She managed a small smile.
"Yeah, I think we’re due for one," she said.
Butterfly: Haha. Own the lunacy! That is so flattering! Thank you :)
And Shane and Rose. While writing this story I thought back and realized that realistically they wouldn't work out. They fell in love when they were very young and so quickly - if you look at it, the story stretches over just a couple of months - then they tried to take on a long term relationship and they only really got to know each other's actual personalities after all the engagement stress and drama so they didn't really see the real Shane and Rose throughout that story.
BUT that just means their story goes on. I've got the rough draft on my laptop but it'll take a month or two before it is ready and I'm very excited about getting the ball rolling with that one.
Miha: Haha. That is awesome to hear!
I'm not sure about Giselle and Eric's story right now to be honest. I basically finished it but I don't know if I'll submit it, maybe as just five or six chapters. I do love their story, and I love their growth as characters together but I'm just not sure it'll ever make it online - fingers crossed though.
As for Derek and Marie, they just come together in the strangest way for me. I get as lost in this story as anyone else reading it (hopefully), so I usually re-read some things and just laugh at how they've both come to find each other.