I waited for Matthew outside the dining room and could clearly hear everything from inside. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but, wow, listening to Matthew stand up for himself especially against my father made me stop. I didn’t know Matthew had it in him. The doors opened and I jumped. Matthew looked at me, surprised.
"Hey, what are you doing out here?" He asked. I pulled up my shoulders.
"We were going to for a swim," I said, refreshing his memory.
"Oh, yeah," he said and smiled a bit. I smiled as well. My strong older brother. I had new respect for Matthew. He looked at the bag on my back and smirked.
"You’ve already gotten your stuff?" He asked.
I glanced over my shoulder at the neon orange bag then back at him with a smile. Matthew messed up my hair. I laughed and ran my hand through it.
"Okay, let’s go swim in the lake though," he said as we passed the royal gardens. I heard a soft tapping on the window and my eyes widened. I looked at the massive window and realized gentle raindrops were pleasantly rolling down the window. I stopped dead in my tracks and smiled at the rain.
"I told you it was a perfect day for a swim," he said. I turned towards him and smiled again.
"I’ve been so distracted, I didn’t even realize," I said. Matthew smiled.
"Come on. I’ll go grab my stuff and meet you outside?" He asked. I nodded and opened the glass door to the garden.
The rain dropped on my hair and wet my face gently. I turned my face towards the sky, wanting to feel the rain. I started giggling. Rain, was one thing that always seemed to help with everything I could be going through. I bit my lip on a smile and closed my eyes, feeling giddy inside. I heard a smooth laugh.
"You never told me you liked the rain." My eye shot open and I turned around and my heart almost stopped.
"Eric," I said, my wet hair stuck to my face. I released a breath when I realized he looked too calm. Shane hadn’t told him yet. Eric with his hands in his pockets, was still standing in the castle.
"Don’t you want to come inside? It’s a lot dryer in here," he said. I blinked, then walked towards the castle. When I was inside, the need to giggle had completely disappeared.
"You’re still here," I said. Eric nodded.
"Yeah, Shane’s around here somewhere as well," he said, I dropped my eyes.
"Oh," I said.
Eric touched my arm and I looked at him.
"Hey, I know it’s quite uncomfortable right now but, trust me, I’m not so bad a guy. Can’t we just try to be friends?" He asked. I smiled a little.
"I never thought you were a bad guy and yeah, trying to be friends sounds like a good idea," I said. Eric smirked.
"So what’s the bag for?" He asked. I laughed.
"I was about to go swimming with Matthew," I said. Eric raised an eyebrow.
"In this rain?" He asked.
"Why not?" I turned around at the sound of Matthew’s voice and smiled. He had a bag on his back that was the same color as mine.
"It’s the perfect weather for a swim, right Rose?" He asked sarcastically, and put his hand on my shoulder. I shook my head. Eric laughed.
"Swimming in the rain?" He asked and pulled up his shoulders.
"I’ve never done that before," he said.
"Well, you should," I said.
"Meet us by the lake in ten minutes and get ready for a cold experience," I said and grabbed Matthew’s arm. Eric laughed nervously.
"You’re serious?" He asked. I tilted my head a bit.
"Yes, Eric, I am serious. Why? You’re not up for it?" I asked and raised an eyebrow teasingly. Eric laughed.
"Okay, I suppose I might as well try it," he said. I smiled.
"Great, we’ll see you later then. Let’s go, Matt," I said and walked with him outside. I sighed, feeling relieved when I felt the rain hit me once again.
"Hey," Ethan said when I met him outside the castle. We stood under his umbrella, sheltering from the rain. It was overwhelming to be out. Mrs. White was kind enough to help me escape. She said she knew Ethan well. It felt so natural explaining things to her. It just seemed like she understood. Everything just seemed brighter even though it was raining. Ethan took my hand.
"I can’t believe you’re doing this," he said. I smiled up at him. He looked so much more handsome in his black sweater and dark jeans.
"It’s something I have to do," I said and squeezed his hand. I stood on my toes and kissed his lips briefly. He smiled.
"I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that," he said and gave my arm a light tug.
"Come on, it’s close enough to walk," he said.
I looked at the wet, almost deserted streets and towers. It all seemed like a dream. When I was outside, my whole body felt tense, but now that I was out of the castle and had Ethan’s hand in mine, my shoulders felt so relaxed. I had never realized just how beautiful our kingdom was. After walking a while, the old bridge came into view. I squeezed Ethan’s hand a little tighter. He squeezed my hand back. I looked up at him, expecting him to look as excited as I felt but instead of excitement in his face, there was something else; concern, fear, I wasn’t sure.
"Hey," I said. He looked at me.
"What’s wrong?" I asked. He looked ahead.
"I just... My house isn’t a castle," he said. I was confused.
"I know," I said. Ethan pulled up his shoulders.
"And I’m not rich," he said. I sighed and held his hand with both mine.
"All that honestly doesn’t matter to me," I said. He looked at me and I smiled encouragingly.
"Look, I don’t care where you live, what you do for a living or whatever your circumstances are. You’re not like most of the rich snobs I’ve grown up with. You have something that I know I won’t easily find again and if it wasn’t for the way you grew up, you wouldn’t have had that, so I am grateful for wherever you came from," I said.
He held my gaze for a while then smiled a bit. Ethan kissed the top of my head and I giggled then looked ahead. During my little speech, we had crossed the bridge and I could see his house in the distance. I smiled. It was a two-story house, built with black bricks, without fences, two heavy and big windows faced the front and one long window stretched over the top. The house was surrounded by trees. I jumped against Ethan when a squirrel ran past me and then sprinted up the tree next to me. When I got over the surprise, I laughed. My heart raced when I heard Ethan’s rich laughter harmonize with mine. I felt my chest close up as I felt more nervous with each step we took closer to the house. When we were in front of the house, I stopped. Ethan looked down at me.
"I’m scared," I said and looked at him, my chest closed up a bit and I knew my fingers would be trembling.
"What if they don’t like me?" I asked. Ethan laughed and I could detect some nervousness in his laughter.
"You are worried that they won’t like you?" He asked. I took a deep, shaky breath.
"I mean, what if they see me like everyone else?" I asked and bit hard on my lip. Ethan seemed confused.
"What if they only see me as Princess Rosemarie? I don’t want them to treat me like a royal," I said. Ethan smiled.
"They will get used to you." He looked at the door. "My father will probably just think you’re another pretty town’s girl. He doesn’t really care for magazines and gossip as you can imagine," Ethan said.
"But the royal wedding has been in every magazine and newspaper worldwide with photos of Rosaline and Ethan exploited all over," I said. Ethan smiled.
"My dad’s really bad with faces, just wait," he said. The door flung open and an excited little girl stood in the frame. The smile dropped from her face when she saw me. Her eyes went from Ethan to me and back.
"Madison! It’s raining outside. You can’t-" Another girl, I’m assuming was Jaylinne, stopped dead in her steps on the bottom step of the staircase when she saw me.
"Hey, girls," Ethan said and looked at me. "This is Rosemarie. Rosemarie these are my sisters, Madison and Jaylinne," he said. I smiled awkwardly and gave a slight wave.
"Hi," I said, barely even audible. There was a frozen silence for a few seconds and I felt like I was going to drop to the floor any second if this continued.
"Was that Ethan I heard?" A man just a little taller than Ethan walked into the room. He had a round belly, a black and gray beard, light brown eyes and a friendly smile. I felt my shoulders relax a little. He looked from the girls then at the door. He smiled even wider when he saw me and I let out a breath of relief.
"Hello," he said cheerfully. "You must be the girl that’s been putting my son into such a good mood lately," he said, standing in front of us. I had to stop my jaw from dropping. He had no idea who I was. Ethan laughed.
"Dad, this is Rosemarie. Rosemarie, this is my father." I smiled and let go of Ethan’s hand to shake his father’s outreached one.
"Pleasure," I said. Mister Oaks’ big, warm hand enveloped mine and he pulled me closer into a bear hug. The jersey he wore was warm and soft. I was so surprised that I stiffened up.
"Uh, dad, careful," Ethan said and chuckled. Mister Oaks released me and smiled warmly. Ethan put his arm around my shoulders and held me closely. Ethan sniffed.
"Dad," he said and smiled knowingly. His dad’s eyes widened and he jumped.
"Oh, sorry," he said and headed around a corner.
"Kitchen," he explained before he disappeared.
I took a deep breath and realized the house smelled delicious. Some sort of stew or something. I couldn’t tell but it made me hungry. Then I realized Ethan’s sisters were still staring at me. Jaylinne jumped the last step on the stairs and my eyes shot to her. She smiled.
"Uh, welcome to our home... Rosemarie? Was it?" She asked when she came closer. I nodded.
"Yeah, it’s incredible to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you two," I said and looked at Madison then back at Jaylinne. Jaylinne nodded and looked at Ethan seeming slightly annoyed.
"That’s interesting because we’ve only found out about you yesterday and my brother here forgot to mention one very important detail," she said. I looked at Ethan.
"He didn’t tell you I was the princess," I said and dropped my eyes.
"You didn’t tell me you were dating the princess! Gosh, Ethan, how could something like this slip your mind?" Jaylinne asked and looked at me.
"I am really sorry, your highness. I’m usually not this loud but..." she looked back at her brother. If her jaw wasn’t attached to her face, I bet it would have been on the floor. I looked at Ethan, also waiting for an explanation. He pulled up his shoulders.
"I don’t know why but I just couldn’t. I didn’t think you guys would believe me anyway and-" He looked at me. "I wasn’t sure how you would have felt about it," he said. I was about to say something when I realized what he meant. No one in my family knew about us, so what was the point in letting his family know? I dropped my eyes and saw Madison looking up at me. She had a little beret on and a massive smile on her face.
"Hi," she said. I smiled. "Hey. You’re Madison," I said. She nodded and took my hand.
"I want to give you a tour," she said, pulling me away instantly. I looked at Ethan as I followed the little ten-year-old. Ethan smiled and pulled up his shoulders. Jaylinne smiled a little then looked back at her brother. He had some serious explaining to do to her.
I needed to find Eric. The sooner I told him, the better, I might even be able to change his mind.
"Shane!" I turned around to the sound of my brother’s voice.
"Thank goodness, some backup," he said and laughed when he reached me. He put his hand on my shoulder.
"Come on, my fiancé has this crazy urge to go swimming," he said and turned my around, then started pushing me in the direction of the gardens. I was still too puzzled to react.
"Wait, what?" I asked. Eric laughed.
"Rosaline and Matthew invited me to go swimming with them in the lake," he explained. I smiled. That sounded like Rose. My heart dropped when I realized I was about to go swimming with them.
"And you’re actually going?" I asked. Eric smirked.
"She gave me the look, I had no choice," he said. I laughed. The "look" Eric was referring to was that smug look girls get when they are braver than us boys in some departments. Eric almost always felt compelled to prove them wrong but in most cases we boys do not have the, uh, talents all girls possessed. In this case, Eric could prove Rose wrong. I didn’t think he would enjoy it very much, though. I smiled a bit.
"Well then, let’s do it," I said automatically and instantly felt a pang of guilt. Eric and I had a good relationship, different as we were. I didn’t want to lose that... but Rose... she just felt worth it. I couldn’t explain it. I don’t want to hurt Eric. Eric pushed me into the rain and we headed towards the lake.
"It’s freezing!" I heard Matthew’s voice call out from somewhere. That was followed by Rose’s laughter. I could feel my heart react heavily. When the lake came into view, I could see Rose was already in the water, only her head stuck out.
"Oh, come on, you big baby! It’s colder out there in the rain. Just jump and you’ll see!" She called back and turned around, swimming with her back to us. Matthew shook his head and noticed us walking closer. He sighed with relief.
"I’m so glad you guys are here," he said and pushed his wet hair out of his eyes. He was only in a pair of swimming trunks. I looked at Eric.
"And what am I supposed to swim in?" I asked. Eric looked down at my sweats. He raised an eyebrow.
"Did you pack in any swimming shorts?" He asked. I looked up at the rain then back at Eric.
"Yes, Eric, because the weather here is perfect for swimming," I said sarcastically. Eric laughed.
"Then those will have to do," he said pointing down at his own sweats. I nodded. I could understand why Eric would come swimming in his sweats. He barely wore them and I guess he figured if he was going to have anything ruined, it would be those.
"Honestly, how are you guys still out of the water!" Rose called out.
I looked over at her then at my brother. Eric and I shrugged at the same time then took off our shirts. We were both in pretty good shape, since exercise was part of the package when you’re a royal. When my shirt was over my head, I saw Matthew swimming up to his brother. Rose did a wolf whistle and laughed. I smiled at her. She seemed much more at ease in the rain. Eric went in first then I followed. Matthew was right, the water was freezing but so was Rose, the rain was colder than the lake water. It was actually quite relaxing. I dove under the water and swam around a little before coming up again.
"You did that on purpose, didn’t you?" I spun around, surprised at how close Rose’s voice sounded. Rose floated right beside me. The lake was deep enough so that I couldn’t feel the ground under my feet. I smiled at Rose’s suspicious smile.
"I don’t suppose you would believe me if I said no," I said.
Rose smiled and shook her head then dove under the water playfully. Gosh, I loved her. I shook my head and looked directly at my brother. Eric was looking directly at me with an expression I couldn’t explain, but it made me know that the truth would come sooner than I thought. This was going to be one heck of an afternoon.
*Doll: Hope you liked.
*BriBri: Same here. Gosh, it's annoying. What difference does skin make anyway?
Anne: Haha. Parents will be parents.
Anji: I'm glad you enjoy my story.