I was vaguely aware of the buzz that had taken over the hall that had been silent just half a second ago. Eric looked at me and smiled. My legs felt limp and my jaw had dropped. Eric moved the mike away from his mouth. "That's what I said," he said. My mouth suddenly felt dry. I tried saying something but all that came out was a gurgling sound and I stopped trying. Eric smirked and turned back to the confused crowd after giving my hand another squeeze.
"I know you all came here tonight to celebrate our engagement, but as we were flying here I realized that there was nothing to celebrate. Why celebrate a marriage that's based on the wrong reasons? If one marries, it should be for love. Not for uniting two already very stable kingdoms. Uniting these kingdoms would mean a great deal to both parties, but if it's at the expense of a good friend's life, then it's not worth it." Eric smiled at me. "And that's what Rosaline is; a good friend. That's why I want her to be happy and have the freedom to fall in love and marry whoever she wants. I can't take that away from her. I want to become a fair king and this, this marriage; it's not fair to her."
I couldn't decipher what I was feeling yet. The shock was too great. He lowered the mike from his lips again and kissed me on my forehead. "Go after him," he whispered. My eyes remained wide. "What are you doing?" I asked when I finally found my voice. Eric shrugged. "The right thing. It would be cruel to push you into this. You love him, don't you?" He asked. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. I just stared at Eric. I blinked, desperately searching for my voice. Eric laughed. "You don't see the way you look at him, Rose. Go. I'll sort things out over here," he said. I suddenly smiled. I was on the brink of having a laughing fit when I finally realized he was serious.
I couldn't stop the smile from spreading across my confused face when I saw Rose hug Eric to death. When I saw tears roll down her face, I felt my own burning the back of my eyes. I heard someone clap and turned to see Mark and Matthew were the culprits. I laughed shakily and clapped with them. The rest of the hall joined in. I laughed again and turned toward the king and queens. I was shocked for the second time that night when I saw my father clapping along. My eyes widened. I elbowed Mark hard.
"Ow! What the-"
"Look," I cut him off. Mark was silent for a second before laughing. I turned my attention back to Rose and Eric just in time to see Rose descend the stairs, lifting her dress so she wouldn't trip. "She's going after Shane," I said but realized how wrong I was when she turned toward me. She hugged me tightly and I hugged her back, laughing. "I'm so happy for you," I said. She laughed as well and let me go, sniffing and wiping at her face. I wiped at my own tears. Rose sniffed again and composed herself. "Okay, before I officially break down. I need to sort you out," she said, taking my hand and leading me toward the side of the hall where the musicians were. My eyes landed on where Ethan was sitting. He turned toward me and meeting my gaze straight on. "He's been staring at you the whole time," she whispered and my heart skipped a beat. Rose turned away from Ethan and I frowned, disappointed and confused.
"Where are you taking me?" I asked. My mother walked toward us and I felt even more confused. What was going on? "She wants to speak to you," Rose said when we reached my mother. My mother was in a sleeved royal blue dress that flowed all the way down to her feet. The color made her crown look more magnificent. She smiled at me and I prepared myself for whatever she could throw at me. I took a breath and waited. "If you two would excuse me." Rose laughed and let go of my hand. I noticed that her hands were still shaking. "I need to find Shane," she said and was off as fast as she could, in those shoes. My mother's brow wrinkled with confusion. I laughed a little and she looked at me. "It's a long story," I said and looked at my mother. She nodded. "It seems I've been missing a lot lately. Rosaline told me you're in love with our new pianist," she said. My face got hot. I was about to apologize but then realized that, that would solve nothing. I wanted to go to sleep tonight knowing that I tried. I sighed. "Yes." I admitted to her and myself for the first time. To my surprise, she smiled. I didn't even try to hide the surprise on my face. "I didn't want to believe it at first. I told her you would never fall in love with a boy of his stature, that you were a princess and you were only interested in gallant men, but I was just telling myself that because that's what I wanted for you. I know why you didn't tell me. It was because you knew I wouldn't accept it, right?" She asked.
I looked away, uncomfortably and nodded a little. "Yes," I said quietly. "And I was going to fire him and forbid you from seeing him," she said. I looked at her quickly, my throat feeling dry. She took my hand. "I won't," she caught me and I breathed again. "Because Rose showed me this." My mother pulled a folded piece of paper out of her sleeve and handed it to me. I already knew what it was, even before I took it from her. It was the letter I had written for Ethan. I sighed and dropped my eyes. "You read this?" I asked, feeling a bit angry. It wasn't her or Rose's right to invade my privacy this way. "I know you must be upset. That was a very private letter but it convinced me to have a talk with him." My eyes shot back to my mother. She actually talked to him. She smiled brightly. "I can understand why you fell for him," she said. I laughed breathlessly as I felt the relief flood me. "We got talking and the way he speaks about you, Rosemarie..." She trailed off and shook her head. "I could tell he wasn't in it for the status or the money. He truly cares for you," she said.
Tears stung the back of my eyes and I bit my lip as I tried keeping them back. "He told me everything. He's an incredibly honest person. He told me about how you were still missing your grandfather and ... you wrote a song." She laughed in disbelief. "He played it for me ... Rosemarie, I didn't even know you were still playing," she said. I dropped my eyes again and smiled. "He got me to start again," I said and looked at her again. She smiled and hugged me around my shoulders. I hugged her back. "Now," she said when she let me go. "What has been going on with Rose, Mark, and Matthew?" She shook her head. "I can't remember the last time I've had a proper talk with any of you." She looked ashamed. I looked at Ethan. He was playing and I knew he would be for a while. "Unless you would like to go speak to Ethan first," she said. I looked at my mother and smiled. "I don't want to bother him now, and I've got all night." I said.
I watched as Rose walked out of the hall, then at my mother and Rosie talking on the other side of the hall, then at the Oaks family gathered by musicians as their music filled the now buzzing hall. "I think tonight went pretty well," Matthew said. I turned toward him and laughed. "One for the History books," I said and picked up two of the champagne glasses behind me and handed my brother one. "To one hell of a night," I said and we toasted. Each of us, took a sip and looked around the hall. A journalist came to us with his notepad and pen ready. I straightened up. He was about to speak when I stopped him. "Please, no questions, we would like to enjoy this night further and what just happened can wait until tomorrow for any interviews. Right now, you can write about what you've heard and witnessed, but now you need to leave, so excuse me."
I gestured toward the head guard to come toward us. "Would you please escort all the media out of the castle? I don't want my sisters or our guests interviewed or interrogated tonight," I said and the guard nodded, taking his orders. I took another sip of the champagne and smiled. Matthew chuckled. "Playing king already?" He asked. I nodded. "You know it," I said and noticed Chanelle sitting by Aqua and Hope around a table. I smiled a bit. Looks like Aqua really did mean it when she said she'd sort things out. Chanelle forgave easily when someone apologized sincerely and that was the only way to get her forgiveness. "Dude, how are you handling it?" I asked and looked at my twin. He raised an eyebrow and looked at me. "Handling what?" He asked. "You know with Chanelle moving and all," I said. His eyes stretched. "She's what? Where?" He asked. I raised an eyebrow. "She didn't tell you? Her dad won custody and he's moving to Australia," I said.
Matthew looked hurt. "Why wouldn't she tell me?" He asked and looked at Chanelle. Matthew put the almost empty glass down. "Excuse me," he said. I expected him to walk toward Chanelle, but instead he headed toward the exit. I emptied my glass and put it down, then my eyes landed on Jeremy who was sitting at one of the tables with a full glass of wine in his hands. I walked toward him, pulled out the chair next to him, and sat down. Jeremy stared at the ground but I knew he had noticed me sitting down. "Look, I am truly sorry about everything that happened. I would say I feel awful and I do, don't get me wrong, but I'm glad you could find out what she really was," I said. Jeremy looked at me and smiled sadly. "Yeah, I get that," he said and put the glass on the table. "It's just that, I believed her, man. I thought she was perfect," he said and sighed. "I feel like an idiot," he finished. I smirked. "If anyone should feel like an idiot, it's her. She messed up her changes with a great guy that has a bright future, who was really crazy about her," I said. Jeremy smirked and looked at me despondently but smiled a bit. "That was really gay, dude," he said. I laughed.
"There's the Jeremy I was looking for," I said and stood up. I looked across the ballroom and noticed Eric standing by the dessert table. "Eric!" I called him over. He looked at me and walked over. "What's up?" He asked. I slapped Jeremy's back. "Gentleman," I started and could already see Jeremy smiling as he stood up, but I knew he had no idea what was about to come. "Tonight, I am going to make you two the happiest men alive." I looked over at the table my cousins were sitting at and signaled for one of them to come closer. "Eric, since you are now out of a bride, I would like you to meet my cousin, Giselle Balaco," I said as Giselle came closer. Eric seemed to freeze instantly when he saw my cousin and I knew I had made the right decision. Giselle had big green eyes and long, dark brown hair with gentle features and an hourglass body with long legs, but despite her obvious beauty, she was very shy and very smart. "Giselle, this is Prince Eric, as you already know. Eric, this is my cousin Giselle. Giselle is top of her class and is studying music at a university that goes down far in her family name, the-"
"Balaco University of Classical Music," Eric finished for me and looked at my cousin, astonished. "That's unbelievable. I have always wanted to see that university. I hear it has incredible beauty," Eric said. Giselle smiled shyly. "Well, if you ever come for a visit, I could show you around," she offered and I noticed Eric's eyes light up. "I know the place like the back of my hand," she added. Eric smiled. "That would be great. What instrument do you play?" Eric asked. Giselle giggled nervously and entwined her fingers together behind her back, a nervous habit of hers. "I play the violin, bass, and piano," she said. This was going too slow for my liking. I put one hand behind each of their backs. "Giselle, why don't you go and play Eric one of your symphonies," I urged them on. "I'm sure the musicians won't mind one single act from you." Eric couldn't keep his eyes off her and Giselle was sending all the right signals. I smiled when I saw Eric offer his elbow to her.
"Looks like you might be uniting the two kingdoms anyway," Jeremy said and slapped me on the shoulder. "Oh, that reminds me. I turned and signaled for Hayley to come over. Hayley was another one of my cousins. Hayley had thin black hair that went just below her shoulder blades and mysterious brown eyes that could get any man trying to figure her out. Hayley walked toward me, she was wearing a black dress that clung to all the right places.
"Hi Mark," she said cheerfully. "Up for another humiliating defeat later?" She asked. "Defeat?" Jeremy asked, trying to get her attention. I smiled, knowing I had predicted that. Hayley looked at Jeremy and it almost looked like she was astonished at first. Her smug smile fell from her lips as she studied Jeremy. "Hi," she said. I almost laughed. I was the perfect matchmaker. "Hayley has been whipping my ass at every single other game made," I said. Jeremy's eyes widened. "What's your favorite game?" He asked. This time Hayley's eyes widened. "You can give me FIFA all day, any day," she said enthusiastically. Jeremy's eyebrows shot up. "Okay, I am going to need you to marry me right now," he teased. Hayley laughed. "How about we get to know each other first," she said. Jeremy looked at me. "Mind if we use the game room? I need to check out this girl's skill," he said. "By all means," I said. Jeremy offered his elbow to Hayley. "Shall we?" He asked. She smiled and took it gently and they were off. After a few steps, Hayley looked back at me and mouthed the words "thank you". I smiled and winked just before she turned her attention back to Jeremy.
As I sat on the steps around the football field in the cold night air, I couldn't keep my thoughts together. I stared out at the football field. It always calmed me but I couldn't shake the stomach-wrenching I got every time I thought of Rose and how she looked next to Eric with that ring on her finger. "Stupid ring," I mumbled and dropped my head in my hands. Everything was just messed up. I heard a light clanking sound next to me and turned to where the sound had come from. My brow knitted together with confusion when I saw Rose's engagement ring shining in the stadium lights next to me on the step. I stared at it for a while, my mind not yet comprehending what was happening. "You're right." My head shot up and I saw Rose standing on the step above the one I was sitting on, her hands were behind her dress. "It is a stupid ring," she said.
I laughed bitterly and picked the ring up. I stood up slowly. "Rose, what are you doing out here?" I asked. "Looking for you," she answered as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "Why did you walk out of the hall?" She asked. I sighed and dropped my eyes. "You know why," I answered. I heard her take the step down and the next thing I knew, she was standing in front of me. Rose pushed herself into my view by pressing her chest against mine. My heart raced at how close she was. She stood on her toes and I froze. Pulling away now was impossible. I readied myself for the kiss that might have officially killed me but her lips didn't touch mine, they went to the side of my ear.
"Eric canceled the wedding." My whole body tensed and my already clouded mind seemed to whirl as I tried absorbing this information. I looked down at her, still completely baffled. She smiled and stood on her toes again, this time she kissed me. I couldn't stifle the groan and felt all the stress just shatter in my body when I felt her lips against mine. I didn't realize I had dropped the ring until I heard it falling. I cupped her cheek and all my thoughts melted away into one perfect moment. Rose broke the kiss and smiled up at me. She suddenly seemed nervous again and bit the inside of her lip. "What's wrong now?" I asked, feeling my nerves build up yet again. "You know with all of this going on ... I never really told you ..." She trailed off and looked away. I could only look at her. "What I'm trying to say is ..." She trailed off again. She looked at me with difficulty. "Shane, I-" My lips were against hers before she could finish. I watched her eyes close before closing my own. "Rose ..." I said with my lips against hers, keeping my eyes closed. I put my forehead to hers and opened my eyes. "I'm ... completely in love you," I said.
Rose's eyes shot open and I found myself holding my breath. Her eyes searched mine for a pause that seemed to go on forever. I felt cold sweat break out in my neck as I waited anxiously on her reply. She smiled and her eyes glassed over a bit. "I love you too," she said. My heart gave a flutter. I blew out the breath of air and laughed with relief. The amazement sunk in and everything just felt like a hazy, beautiful dream. I chuckled and lowered my hands to her shoulders then slid them down her arms to her back. I smirked when I felt the texture of a well-used football in her hands. Her smile brightened. "Let me guess," I said and pulled the ball from her hands - the same one I had given her. I smiled at it then at her. "So, Mark didn't push you too hard the first time?" I asked. Rose laughed music to my ears. "I'm still sore actually, so ..." She put her hands over mine. "You're going to have to go easy on me," she said. I smirked. "Then let's get started," I said and started pulling her to the field but she pulled me back. "Not now, they'll be looking for us inside." She pulled up her shoulders. "Plus, you have two weeks to perform a miracle on my pathetic football skills," she said. I raised an eyebrow. "Two weeks?" I asked. "You didn't think just because the wedding was canceled, so was my visit to Palanadia, did you?" She asked and pulled me to her. My heart raced. Two more weeks with her. My mind was whirling at all the things we could do on my home turf, but my thoughts quickly faded when I felt her hands play with the hair at the back of my head. I leaned down and kissed her.
*Lanasha: Haha. It could have been a good twist, but then it would have gotten weird as an anti-climax and then I wouldn't know what to do with Shane.
*BriBri: Haha. I'm at that point where I actually wait for you to comment! Lol. I always laugh when I read your comments.
*Comfy: Haha. We'll, that's basically Shane's happy ending there.
*Anne: Doing my best to keep my readers satisfied.
*Vivienne: Haha. Thank you.
*Cecilia: Haha. I'm running out of replies for the people who said they didn't see that coming.
*Mrblobby: Yay, glad you're enjoying the read.
*Mady: Yeah, sorry for taking so long, I had this camp thing for a week. (No laptop)
*Muskan: Haha. Thank you.