I walk into my room, I'm my robe and open my wardrobe and stare at the many dresses. What am I going to where?
I don't want to wear dresses. Frowning, I sit down on my bed and gaze into my wardrobe, waiting for something to seem appealing enough for me to wear to appear.
There's a knock at the door and I glance towards it.
Ester walks in, one of the many servants and my one confidant.
"Morning Juliet. How are you today?"
I nod, "Fine. You?"
"Ester, I can't find anything to wear!"
She chuckles and approaches my wardrobe. "You've got so many pretty dresses! There has to be something."
"Yes, but I don't know what."
"How about this?" She pulls out a dark blue gown and holds it up. "Can Ms see herself in this today?"
I grin. "Yup! Thanks! You're a star."
"Juliet, your mother wants you in the parlor as soon as your ready."
I frown. "Why?"
"I'm not sure but I think the dressmaker is here."
I groan, taking my gown and heading towards my washroom. "What does she want now?"
"I need to be heading down. Be sure to come as soon as you're done or you'll be in a spot of trouble."
"Alright Ester, I will."
Sighing, I change, slowly, not wanting to go downstairs.
She looks up, irritated. "Where have you been? Come on. They need to take your measurements."
"For what?" I ask, not moving from my place.
"For your new dresses!"
"I don't need new dresses Mother."
"You will... soon."
Once you get married, I add under my breath. Gritting my teeth, I stand on the stool they've placed in the middle of the room.
"You can choose the dress patterns. Whichever ones you like." Mom's expression softens.
I nod. For an hour I stand, as they take measurements for each and every dress, asking me how I want the neckline, how long the dress should be, what style of sleeves. Finally they let me be and I rush out of the room towards Dad's study.
Opening the door, I slip inside and walk towards the desk. I sit down on the chair opposite, tucking my feet under me. Dad doesn't look up and I watch him as he goes through papers, signing off things and crossing out things.
He finally looks up and his face softens into a smile.
"How are you sweetheart?"
I nod, smiling back, "Surviving. How are you Dad?"
He nods but the smile doesn't stay on his face as he watches me. "What it is? You're upset with me, aren't you?"
"Dad, why didn't you say no?"
He sighs and looks down. "I couldn't. I didn't want you to be told that way, but you know your mother."
"But why?" I ask softly.
He rubs his eyes and leans back into his chair. "Darling, I'm not at liberty to explain all of this to you. Only Prince Stephan can. I can promise you though, you'll be happy."
"But Dad, you know me." I gulp, trying to push down the lump in my throat.
He gets up from his chair and comes around the desk towards me. Leaning against the desk, he pulls me close and I rest my face in his side as he runs his fingers through my hair.
"Darling, you can't predict you won't love someone and make up your mind not too. If I didn't think that you'd be completely happy, I wouldn't go through with it for the world, whether the Queen had asked for you or the Prince himself. I know how you are, my precious jewel, and your father wants the best for you." He stops as the door opens and I look up to see Mom at the door.
"Juliet, I need you in the garden honey."
Dad nods, "She'll be there as soon as I'm done with her."
Mother nods and then closes door.
"I did what I could though. Your mother will probably tell you now. We're going to the castle tomorrow morning. The wedding was supposed to be this weekend."
"What?!" My exclamation is muffled as Dad's hand comes over my mouth.
"Not very lady - like honey. But I was able to pull some strings to postpone it, so that you would get time to get to know the Prince at the very least."
"But Father, I don't want to! I'm not ready!"
"Darling," he crouches down to be in level with my eyes, wiping away the tear that escapes. "You'll never be ready unless you're put into the situation."
"Okay. If you say so." I take in a deep breath, wiping my eyes.
"And Juliet? Your mother means well. Whatever she says."
"I know. But sometimes..."
"I know Jules, I know. But always remember, true love can't be spoken off, it's best expressed with words."
I gulp, taking in a deep breath. The closer we get to the palace, the harder it's getting for me to breathe.
I slowly turn to look at Mother.
"You look beautiful." She blinks quickly and I lean in.
"Are you crying Mom?"
Her gaze shifts and she shakes her head. "No. I'm just really happy for you."
I smile and slip my hand into the one she holds out.
Once the carriage stops in front of the palace, I take in a deep breath. Dad holds out his hand and taking it, I step down, off the carriage. He smiles and holding my hand leads me towards the stairs and leads me up. The guards hold the doors open and we walk in.
"Right this way. The Queen is waiting for you in the grand hall."
I exchange a glance with Dad and he smiles back encouragingly.
The doors open and I make sure my jaw is still intact as we enter the beautiful room.
The marble floor is shining as are the pillars. There is a rich maroon brocade hanging in front of the huge windows, now pulled back to let the sun in. There are servants all over the room, polishing the windows, sweeping the floor.
At the far end of the room, there's a platform and two thrones, upholstered to match the curtains, stand. From there the Queen descends.
Standing behind Mother and Father, I can openly watch her as she approaches us, smiling. The crown is sitting on her head, tall and elegant.
I take in a deep breath as she stands in front of us.
"Good afternoon your majesty." Dad answers. Mother answers likewise and the Queen smiles.
"I pray your journey was pleasant."
"It was, thank you my lady." Mother smiles and I can tell she's starting to feeling comfortable.
"Now, where is your daughter?" Mom and Dad step aside and the Queen smiles. "My! Such a beauty."
"Your Majesty." I smile.
She holds out her hand and I slowly place mine in hers.
"This, child, is where your engagement party is going to take place." Her arms sweeps around the length of the room and I glance around, panic rising in my throat by the second. "Of course that is, after you and Stephan have settled the date." She smiles kindly at me and I return it, weakly. "Shall we go into the parlor? It will be a much better place to talk."
I don't want to talk. I gulp as she leads us out of the grand hall and into the parlor down the hallway. I don't have the energy to look around and marvel at the beauty of the castle. I'm too scared.
As we sit, I keep in mind to keep my back straight, my ankles crossed. Queen Fleurice offers us some tea and calls in a servant to get some for us. She and Father talk about some business for a while until she turns to Mother and strikes up conversation with her. I move uncomfortably in my seat, not really bothered about ball gowns and tucks and frills to join the conversation.
"Darling, your father was telling me, you love flowers." Queen Fleurice looks at me, smiling. "Why don't you see our gardens. I'm sure you'll enjoy them."
"No, it is alright. I'm fi-"
"Oh nonsense!" She calls one of the servants and asks her to take me to the gardens. After shooting Mother a glance, where she nods slightly, smiling, I get up and follow her out.
She leads me through the hallways and I look around, glancing up at the huge chandeliers, and looking at all the plants they've got inside. Reaching a door, she holds it open and steps to the side and I step out.
"Wow." The air's warm, there are birds chirping in the trees and I can hear the whinny of horses nearby.
"I will be right here if you need anything my lady."
I nod at the girl and start walking towards the arch of roses that marks the beginning of the gardens. Stepping through, I'm surrounded by the fragrance of so many beautiful flowers. I walk through the perfectly trimmed bushes, admiring each and every flower. At the center of the garden, there's a huge fountain, made of marble, I think, and the water spraying against my face is refreshing in the warm summer air. Spotting a bench further inside, I start walking towards it before something catches my eye.
Making sure my gown doesn't get caught in any of the plants, I walk towards the hedges. They are all trimmed to display different things, a rabbit, a squirrel, hearts, stars. There are so many shapes that it's almost a whole grove of trimmed hedges. The one in the center though is the one I'm interested in.
Walking over to it, I tilt my head, trying to decide if it is what I think it is.
"I'm not sure if it does me credit, but I would love to hear what you think."
Taking in a sharp breath, I turn around and come face-to face with... with...
He smiles, "I'm glad, I do not need to introduce myself." I open my mouth to answer but I can't seem to articulate any words at the moment. I just take a moment to take him in. Of course I've seen photos of the Prince many times but this is certainly the first time I've laid eyes on him.
He's tall, must be about 5"6 or something. At least taller than me. He has sandy brown hair and amazing dark green eyes. I wonder who he got them from? Queen Fleurice has brown and the King had blue eyes. He's got a firm chin and he doesn't look arrogant or over-confidant. He's well-built, at least from what I can tell. He's wearing a blue shirt on dark blue navy pants.
"I heard we had a guest and I couldn't let her leave without introducing myself." He holds out a hand and I place my hand in his, heat rising in my cheeks. Which is ridiculous.
"Since the fair lady knows who I am already, who am I having the honor of meeting?"
I gulp, hoping my voice comes out properly. "Juliet Sanders."
He smiles and bending his head down, places a kiss on my hand before gently letting it go. "Well, Juliet, it is a pleasure meeting you." He looks behind me and chuckles. "So? What do you think?"
I look at him, puzzled, "About what?"
He points over my shoulder and I turn to look at the hedge that supposedly looks like him.
"Oh, it's very pretty."
"Really? Is that what you think?" He glances at me from the corner of his eyes. "Do you really want to start this journey of ours with that answer?"
"Well, if I must be truthful, then it doesn't even resemble you at all. Except the height maybe."
He laughs, a quiet pleasant sound and I smile, turning to him. He meets my eyes and his laughter fades as he gazes at me. I stare at him for a moment before taking in a breath.
"Why me?" I ask, something that's been bothering me ever since Mother broke the news.
He simply looks at me and before he can answer, Father's voice breaks through the air.
"Juliet! Come on honey."
I glance at Prince Stephan and he's busy looking towards where my parents are standing.
"I have to go." I say, a tad bit hurt.
He turns to me and smiles. And it's a genuine smile. "It was a pleasure meeting you Juliet." He bows and I'm about to do the same but he reaches for my hand and kisses it again. "I look forward to seeing you again."
I nod before turning and walking towards my parents.
Well, that went well.