I fell on my knees before her, of course, as did Lady Ashley behind me- yet not before casting a quick glance at the Princess. Curiosity has always been one of my many sins, and I figured no-one would think it strange if I stood frozen for a moment, before remembering my manners and kneeling.
Princess Elizabeth was a young girl. That was the first thing I noticed about her- and it was altogether a rather stupid remark too. Of course she was. Wasn't she, too, born in that dreadful year of 1533, without a doubt the worst year our family had ever lived through? Oh yes she was- but unlike me, her birth date was not just some coincidence, a cruel joke of fate. No- she had been the pivot of it all, the centre, the core. Both of us had not been hoped for- by no-one, not even our own mothers. Both of us should have been born sons and Heirs- with the faint and yet so important difference that her father was the King, while mine was "just" an Earl and Heir to a Duke.
So naturally she, the Lady Princess Elizabeth, was my age. And yet she was a very impressive person to look at already. Tall for her age- taller than me!- and yet very thin and slender, with cool, black eyes and long, wavy, reddish golden hair, a sign of beauty of which I- confessions of Lady Fenella Howard- have been jealous on many occasions. Her face was pale, very pale- her golden eyebrows slightly arched in surprise as she saw me. I heard Kat move behind me, and with a soft, respectful voice she murmured
"Your second cousin, M'Lady. Lady Fenella Howard."
"Stand up, please."
Her voice was that of a girl, barely more than a child, but there was a determinedness in it which marked her as a Princess without a doubt. It was polite, her voice, but it also was the voice of a person who knew what she wanted- and who would do every possible thing to get it.
So I stood up again, my frock crackling as it brushed the stone floor, and, with one, last curtsey, turned my eyes towards the girl before me. She was not much taller than me, actually, and her black eyes bore into mine. I had never encountered truly black eyes before- dark brown, yes, dark blue, yes, but never the way the Princess Elizabeth's eyes were black- the black of coals, the black even a night sky could never reach.
"Elizabeth, this is Fenella, and she is to be your Lady-in-Waiting." the Queen's resolute, serious voice interrupted my trail of thoughts, and I curtseyed once more, lowering my eyes in what I considered an appropriate way. Peeking at her through my long eyelashes, I saw her raise her reddish eyebrows, and in her calm, proud tone spoke
With this, she turned away from us and left the room. I saw Queen Catherine cast her a helpless look, before turned towards us again in apology- walking out of a room without greeting was, despite the fact she was a Princess, still considered very impolite, especially with the Queen present.
"I apologize for the behaviour of the Princess, Fenella. She is still very young and both I and, so I know, Lady Ashley, fear that she may have inherited the temper of her late mother. I do hope, though, that you and she will soon become close companions."
I, dumbfounded and shocked because of the Princess's actions, barely noticed the fact that she did not spoke of "becoming friends", but of "becoming close companions". It was not only considered as a lower degree of intimacy, it was another reference to that damned word "journey" as well!
But could we ever be companions, that proud, cool little Princess and I?
Time would tell.
We left the Queen's quarters- for that, so I later realized, was where Kat had lead me to- soon afterwards. I didn't know how to feel- the only thing I knew was, that I was very tired, more tired than I had been before meeting the Queen and the Princess.
On the one hand I was happy- very happy even- because grandfather hadn't forgotten me, because I would be able to continue my so precious education. I was also surprised, surprised by the kindness of the woman who was our Queen, and impressed by both her and Kat Ashley, whom I immediately liked very much.
There was also fear, though. As Kat and I entered the room I would grow to call my own, I realized there was indeed a fear- and a very strong one, too. Kat was nice, the Queen was kind, the room was beautiful- even larger than my room at home, with a large four-poster bed and a soft mattress, covered by expensive, silk sheets. But the Princess was who I'd come for, and the Princess had not exactly been very welcoming.
And all of a sudden, I realized what I'd left behind, and what for. I'd left a cold, harsh mother and a distanced father, true, a sister who lived with the certain idea that she was better than I- and probably was, too… but also, and before everything, my only friend Betsy, my grandfather, my little brother Henry…
Even before Kat had closed the door behind her back, my silk pillow was already stained with one single tear.