Authors: April Bowles
“Almost perfect. Now make it dark red like the undertones of Muscles’s hair.” We all seemed to look at Darius. It was a little odd that she still called him that but he didn’t seem to mind and we put our looks back on her. “What? It’s a nice color. I’ve had a lot of time to look at it.”
“And I’m just thrilled that you had to share that with us.” Adele said, turning her dress that exact shade of red.
“Jealous.” Darius smiled.
“I don’t take things that aren’t mine. Don’t tempt me to.”
She walked passed him back towards the bed and I watched his eyes followed her, his smile even wider. “Perhaps I should then.”
I didn’t hesitate. I stepped towards Darius and dropped him back on the floor with a simple move of my leg and put my foot on his chest to keep him down. “Perhaps you should rethink that.”
“And perhaps you should—get off!” He grabbed my ankle quickly before I could do anything about it and pushed me aside. I tumbled to the floor hard and Darius rolled to me, pinning me down while I wrestled to get control. Just like old times it seems but he did have an advantage, he was stronger than me.
“You know I never will.”
“All right. That’s enough.” Ruby reached for Darius and started pulling him away. It seemed easy for her until I looked up and I saw her red eyes fading away. Her strength helped and it was even enough to stop Darius. I had to remember that.
“Thank you.” I said. “Is Adele doing her hair?”
“Yeah. She just went back there for a mirror but you wouldn’t have noticed since you were busy.”
“He deserved it.”
“I know but no roughing each other up when we’re supposed to be going out and looking nice.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I joked. “Won’t happen again.”
I turned my eyes to Darius and the joking was over. “Keep your thoughts off that kiss. It meant nothing and you’ll never get it again.”
He laughed. “Zayden, relax. I wasn’t even going to mention it.”
“What kiss?” I turned my eyes again and realized that Ruby was still close enough to hear what I said. I forgot that she didn’t know. Well—until now.
“It was nothing.” I assured her. “Adele tested him the night before we got here.”
“Oh.” She turned but I didn’t really know if that was a good thing. She could have just done it to hide her red eyes.
“So, we ready?” Adele walked out of the bathhouse with her hair done up to perfection.
“I don’t know.” Ruby snatched before I could answer. “Have anything you forgot to tell me?”
Adele looked around at all of us a little strangely and she definitely didn’t know what she was talking about so I thought I’d enlighten her. “She found out about your test on Darius the other night.”
I figured Adele would have been nervous that she knew but she took it rather well by laughing. “Oh! Ruby, come on. Grow up. It was harmless and he clearly proved that he wanted you.”
“Then don’t ever do it again.”
“Never planned to. I have what I need for now.”
She looked at me and smiled and I was glad she was taking our relationship well.
“So, we ready?” She asked again. “Or do you want to bitch about something meaningless some more.”
“Hey!” Darius cut in.
“I didn’t mean you. The situation.”
“No. We’re fine.” Ruby said, stepping towards Darius and putting herself in his arms.
“Good. Then we’re ready.”
“Actually, I was thinking.” Jaylyn said.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Will your father actually want us to be going out if he said we were just to be kept busy? You know, because you’re supposed to be—getting married.”
I sighed to mentally thank her for mentioning it.
“Yeah!” Darius laughed. “People seeing you with another woman may bring up things.”
“Not if they thought it was Adele!” Ruby smiled to share in the laugh and change her mood back from her momentary jealousy.
Adele ended that quickly and hit her arm. “Shut up!”
“Who says they even know?” I asked.
“Oh, they know all right!” Ruby laughed, moving herself away from Adele to the other side of Darius so she wouldn’t be able to hit her again.
“What does that mean?” Darius asked.
“Have you not asked her how it is we got out of the base without being ravished by everyone in there?”
I was a little worried. “Should I have?”
“Oh, yes! It’s a frightfully good story.”
“Oh, please.” Adele cut in. “I did what I had to and it worked!”
“What did you say?”
Adele sighed like she had no choice but to tell me. I thought the same thing. “I may or may not have told them that—I was the one you’re marrying.”
“What?!” Darius laughed.
He shifted his eyes to me and I think I was paralyzed for a moment. I was lost in thought with my eyes becoming blurred towards Adele.
“But it was just to get us out of there. It’s the only way I knew they’d listen to me.”
I snapped out of it quickly and forced my voice out at her. “You actually said that when we weren’t even supposed to be friends?!”
“They’re the ones that believed it. Senians are so narrow-minded.”
Really? Is that what she thought? Maybe so but I thought to remind her of one very important thing. “Remember that you’re part of this.”
“I haven’t been in a long time. Those stereotypes don’t apply to me.”
I let her have that but dreaded what I had to do next because I already knew how she’d react. “Just so you know, you brought this on yourself.”
I snapped my fingers and Troy turned around to the stand that held my crown and opened a small drawer, pulling out a box that just fit inside. He turned back to me and held it out to Adele, opening it at the same time.
“Now you have to wear this.”
Adele gasped when she saw the Senian Princess crown inside that was resemblance to mine but more feminine for the perfect match. She seemed instantly overwhelmed from seeing it that she backed away from it like it was a plague. Another insult?
“You’re serious? Just because I said that so we wouldn’t end up killing anyone, I have to pretend to be your Princess? No. That’s a little too much for me. I didn’t agree to anything of this extent when I said what I did.”
“They already think it’s you and you should just go with it. You’re not going to be here that much longer to deal with the rest of it.”
She was looking down at the box and was almost going to agree. I saw her hand move like she wanted to take it but something changed. “No. I can’t. You’ll have to find someone else.”
“But I can’t. That’s the whole point.”
Adele started to shake and her words flowed out in one continuous strain, not letting a breath in between. “Well, you’ll have to because I can’t. There’s no way. I mean, it’s crazy. What? How? No. I can’t. We’ll just stay here until he decides. I’m fine with that.”
“Adele!” Ruby and Jaylyn groaned.
“It’s all right, Love.” I said, trying to get her to see my way yet again. “You know you don’t want to stay here. Just do this one thing for me and I’ll never ask you to do anything for me again.”
Her eyes moved back down to the box with her question. “Never?”
“Never. You have my word.”
She sighed and lifted her eyes to me only to narrow them. “You owe me big for this.”
“That’s okay. I have just the thing for such an occasion. Third times a charm!”
“Wasn’t the last time the third time?”
“That was the third total time. Last night doesn’t count. It’s a new day.”
Ruby laughed. “And you got angry about hearing of my activities.”
“We’re not talking about this.” Adele said, aggravated she had to even mention it.
“Well, since you’re going to be Zayden’s Princess now, I think a change in design is in order.” Jaylyn smiled.
Adele sighed and looked down at her dress. It was still purple. I didn’t think anything was wrong with it but she put her hands on the silk of the dress anyway and the threads began to change to a shining silver.
I could only stare at her as she moved her hands to her shoulders and turned the straps that crisscrossed over her back blue.
“Is that better?”
“Much more Senian.” Jaylyn smiled. “Don’t you think so, Zayden?” I was still staring at Adele without a blink. “Zayden?”
“Ah—yeah. We should go.” I led them to the door and held out my hand when I got there and looked out. “Wait.” I kept my eye on the corner and made sure no one was coming. “Okay. Come on. Carefully. No one here can see you wearing that.”
“Then remind me why I’m doing it again?”
“Remember, you brought it on yourself.” I took her hand and slowly led her through the halls of the palace, being cautious about any movement from any direction.
It only got worse when we reached the top of the stairs.
“Shit.” There was much more traffic than what was upstairs and I didn’t want to run into anyone, especially anyone Adele would recognize.
“Oh, relax. I’ll just take it off until we get outside.” She removed the crown from her head.
“And put it where?”
“I’ll improvise.” She looked down and lifted up her right leg, slipping her foot through the crown and pulled it to her thigh.
“Be careful with it! It’s special!”
“It’s okay. It’s not getting hurt. As long as you don’t tell her, Bianca won’t know where it’s been. Now, come on.”
“Wait. What?” I stopped Adele from proceeding down the stairs and turned her to me with wide wondering eyes about what she just said.
“How do you know her name?”
“Leccan Princess, right? She’s lovely. We’ve met.”
Ruby laughed. “That was a lie. They have met but hate each other.”
Adele sighed. “Can we please leave? I surely don’t want to stand around talking about this.”
“And neither do I.” I agreed. “We’ll get our horses.”
We walked all the way outside without being bothered and walked inside the stables.
“Well? Come on.” I held my hand down to Adele and she looked at me the same way as last time. She didn’t like it.
“I’m not dressed to be riding on the back of a horse.”
“It looks like you’ll have to ride like a lady. Think you can handle that?”
“Don’t worry. It won’t be for that long. It’s not that far when riding.”
She sighed yet again and reached down to her dress. She pulled it up to her hip to reveal the crown on her leg and slipped it off.
“Good idea. You’ll probably need that first.”
She place the crown unhappily back on her head and took my hand. I pulled her up and she held her arms snug around my waist while I led the way out of the palace gate and through the city, hoping we wouldn’t run into anyone she would recognize.
I looked around while we road through the city, happy to get out. The white buildings shone against the setting sun and it just seemed so peaceful here like there really wasn’t a war. The people surely knew about it but you wouldn’t think that by walking these streets. It seemed like such a nice place to live although I don’t know what I’d do about all of this white. It’s everywhere. I’d be afraid just to get the ground outside dirty.
We turned a corner and my eyes widened to the building we were approaching. Its high peeks seemed to climb into the clouds, the sun reflecting off the silver detail, making it look as spectacular as the palace itself. This must have been The Grand and grand it most certainly was. I couldn’t wait to see the inside.
We stopped just out front by the doors and a doorman came out, bowing his head as an immediate response to the presence of the three most respected men in the city aside from the King. “Good evening, your majesty, my lords.”
“Good evening.” Zayden replied. “Full house tonight?”
“Expected to be as full as usual. Do you wish to attend? We always have the royal box prepared for you.”
“I think we will, thank you.” He, Muscles and Troy got down off the horses and appeared as respectable gentlemen, helping us, their disguised lovely lady guests down into their arms.
“I’ll have those horses taken care of for you while you’re enjoying the show. They’ll be ready when you are.”
We walked in arm-in-arm and my eyes widened again. The inside was just as marvelous as its exterior. The main lobby was huge with several ticket booths sitting just before the entrances to the theater hall and stairs, curling around large stone pillars.
People already started to show up for the event and were looking to take their seats. Zayden led us up the stairs on the left and we went all the way to the top balcony.