|Not So Happily Ever After
Author: Jalissa Chase PM
Sienna is living an awful life. Her stepmother drinks, her stepsisters both have problems with drugs and sex, and their lives seem to be going down the drain. Can she save them with a newfound relationship with a secretive and suspicious Prince?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Family - Chapters: 14 - Words: 28,280 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 02-02-13 - Published: 01-20-12 - id: 2990301
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Matt was waiting at the door. Sienna unlocked the door, managed a smile, and let herself out.
"Sorry, I was talking things over with my boss," she said. It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the whole truth, either, depending on how someone might look at it. For once, Sienna didn't care. She was still mixed up on the inside, and even more confused, but at least she wasn't lashing out. "Did you wait long?"
"Not too long," he said with a smile that bordered on glamorous. For a moment, Sienna saw someone different then the boring boy she'd seen before. "You ready to go?"
"Yes," she said, taking his hand. There was no heat as she took his hand. Not even her nerves could hold her back. What she felt toward Matt was nothing but friendly, no matter his situation. She began to wonder if she'd ever develop feelings for him or if this was doomed from the start.
Brushing it aside, she let him lead her to his car. It was a black limo.
Well, she thought, so much for acting casual. I guess we've hit that point where everyone knows who I am and that we're doing things together, so why bother hiding anymore?
It was a casual thought as he helped her in and then got in and sat beside her, rejoining their hands.
They picked up idle conversation, but Sienna found her eyes drawn toward his ear.
The earring was gone now. Still, Sienna could remember it clearly, as if it were still there. Why did it bother her? If Matt was gay, why was he still here, picking her up? It didn't make any sense.
Shaking her head, she cleared her mind of all thoughts and let her mind be absorbed by Matt's small talk.
As they arrived at the palace, Sienna let one more thought cross her mind before she remembered where she was and with whom.
Why did Frank thank me? He did so much for me, not just today, but from every day since I started working for him. I really admire him. He's got a story, too, and he makes a lot of people smile. I want to be like him.
Taking Matt's arm, she looked him in the eyes and asked, "Have you ever been to that bakery before?"
"The one where you work, you mean?" Matt asked in surprise.
"Once or twice," he mumbled.
"Next time you go, try the pies," she said. "Frank makes them fresh every day. They're his big sellers."
"Oh," Matt said, clearly surprised by the turn in conversation. "Should we have brought one with us…?"
"Next time," Sienna said, taking his arm. "It'll make Frank's day, I think, seeing his work being enjoyed by royalty. His business has progressed so much over the last few years."
Matt gave her a smile, but it was confusing. It made her insides stir uncomfortably.
"What?" she asked.
"How can you do that?" he asked, amazed. "One moment, I think I've figured you out. You're a funny, witty, intelligent girl who managed to casually slip into my life, and yet, you're kind and considerate. How can you be so many things and still be who you are?"
Sienna was startled by his sudden forwardness. Hanging her head, she tried to hide her blush.
"I'm not anybody special," she said.
"How can you say that?" he asked. "I wish everyone was like you. Since I met you, I've never heard you complain or speak ill of anyone. True, you haven't confided in me a lot, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to know."
"Know what?" she asked.
"How you do it," he said. "At the ball, when we go out, when Camryn stepped in: not once did you show weakness. How do you get that strong?"
He was wrong. Everything he saw was wrong. Sienna stood, frozen, wondering how she could make him see.
"I'm not strong," she said. "If anything, I'm weak. There's so much I want to do, but so little I can do. I want to make people happy, but I don't do it to please them, I do it so I'm happy, too. When somebody smiles because of something I did for them, when they feel relieved or unafraid or safe, it makes me feel like I accomplished something. I don't want to abandon anyone."
I don't want anyone to be abandoned by me the way she abandoned me.
"Why?" he asked, as if reading her mind.
"Isn't it obvious?" she asked, taking up his arm again. "If I don't try, I've already failed."
Matt laughed and led her up the stone steps into the palace. They walked through the foyer and into the back toward the stone patio. Several maids were scurrying about, but Matt paid them no mind. He was more interested in the person waiting at the end of the hall, standing in front of the double doors that led out to the patio.
"James," Matt exhaled sharply.
"Lord Matthew," James said, bowing.
"Is there something you need?" Matt asked. His tone was annoyed. "I'm kind of busy."
"Pedro sent me to tell you your brother has arrived."
Matt's face fell. "Oh…I apologize."
"It's not your fault, your majesty," James's words did not match his tone. He was clearly just as bitter as Matt had been annoyed. "Do you wish me to return to Pedro?"
"No, no," Matt waved him off. "I'll join Leonardo and Pedro. Will you escort Sienna into the gardens?"
Blush crossed Sienna's face. The last time she had seen James, back in the valet lane during the ball, he had been giving her a look of disapproval. Was it alright to ask this of him?
"Of course, sire," James said.
This, at least, wasn't bitter.
"Thank you," Matt sighed in relief and turned to Sienna. "I'm going to go meet Leonardo at the other side of the palace. Is it alright if I entrust you to James?"
Sienna mustered a shy smile. "Of course, I trust James with my life."
Matt blinked. "You do?"
"Of course I do," she released Matt's arm and took James's waiting arm. "He took great care of my baby the night of the ball. He's okay in my book."
James's face brightened slightly. "There you have it, sire—she'll be safe with me."
Something passed between them, an unknown conversation that barely lasted a few seconds. Chills rushed up Sienna's arms. Holding James's arm tighter, she tried not to look startled.
"I'll see you in a few."
"Take your time," James said. "He is your brother, after all."
Matt let out a snort and turned to walk down the opposite hall.
"Are you two not friends?" Sienna asked.
"It's complicated," James said sharply.
"Oh," Sienna lowered her head. "I'm sorry."
James turned and saw her expression. "Um…sorry; I didn't mean to be so aggressive. It's just…that guy…" he sighed angrily. "That guy and I…as I said, it's complicated. Now…" he pulled her along by the arm. This, too, seemed to be an unknown to him. "Shall we make our way to the gardens, Ms. Carlton?"
"Sienna," she clarified, smiling. "My name is Sienna."
"I know, Ms. Carlton," he said, leading the way outside and down the steps. "It's just, I'm the help and you're…"
"I don't care," she said. "I don't come from nobility or royalty. If anything, your position here is higher than mine outside. To me, you're James—so I should be just Sienna to you."
James let out a small laugh as they reached the end of the staircase. "You know, you're not going to fit in here at all."
It was like Frank was right there, speaking to her: Don't ever look back and regret what you've done, because one day, you'll be glad you did it…
"I don't need to fit in," she said. "No regrets, right?"
James smiled. "That's right, Sienna: no regrets."
They reach the wonderfully decorate table on a stone patio surrounded by the endless gardens. Somehow had covered it with a white table cloth and then covered it in plastic flowers and butterflies. It was like they had taken a piece of the flowery paradise around them and put it in the center.
"It's so beautiful," she said.
"Hard work from the gardeners," James said. "This garden is their daily challenge. From dawn till dusk, they tend to it."
"Tell them their work has paid off."
James laughed. "Don't worry; they hear it at least once a day from the Queen. She's a big fan, too."
Sienna was about to ask a question about the Queen when Matt swooped in, grabbing her by the arm.
"Back," he grinned.
Sienna laughed. "There you are."
She and James separated and Sienna turned around and spotted Leonardo, Matthew's brother. He was a year or two younger, with the same shaggy brown hair as Matt that fell over his identical green eyes.
"Lee, this is Sienna," Matt said, putting his arm around Sienna's waist. "Sienna, this is my little brother, Leonardo."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Leonardo," she said, extending her hand.
"The pleasure is mine, Sienna," he said, smiling brightly. "I hear they have a nice tea time set up for us. Shall we take our seats and let the embarrassing stories about Matthew start?"
James, very quietly, was making his way up the stairs to the palace.
"I would love that," Sienna said.
As they took their seats, Sienna couldn't help but think: isn't it a little too early for this? I hardly know Matt…to hear these things about him from someone he cares about…
She tried not to let her nerves show. Sitting with her back straight, poised, she drank as quietly as she could and avoided sugary sweets. After working at the bakery for so long, it was easy to resist the temptation and take only fruits. At the end of the table, Leonardo was breaking into the chocolate cake. Matt, on the other hand, was poking at an enormous pear as if he had other things on his mind then the mindless conversation he was keeping up with Leonardo. Most of it was politics, but occasionally, Leonardo would ask her opinion. Sienna always gave an honest one, but she knew very little about politics. Sensing this, Leonardo changed the subject.
"So…Mom and Dad's ball idea…was it a success?" Leonardo asked. "Have you found your girl?"
Sienna nearly choked on the orange slice she had been eating. Across the table, Matt spat out a piece of pear and looked rather appalled at Leonardo.
"That was subtle, wasn't it, Lee?" Matt said, coughing between breaths. "What makes you jump from politics to that?"
"Who says this isn't politics?" Leonardo asked, narrowing his eyes. "If she's going to be your girlfriend, major changes might be made. Mom and Dad will be thrilled, of course, but—"
"Lee, aren't you getting ahead of yourself?" Matt screeched.
They were the same words Sienna was thinking, but obviously, to Leonardo, they weren't the right ones.
"So what…you're only fooling around? Aren't you the gentlemen, Matthew? Sienna looks like a sweet, well-mannered girl. I hope you aren't being a pig."
"Leonardo, that's not…" Sienna felt her throat choking up on her words. What was Leonardo thinking? Matt wasn't… "We're…taking things slow. There's nothing inappropriate. We met by accident. It's hard to say we're in an actual relationship. Right now, the most I would say is that we're friends."
Matt sighed in relief.
"Really?" Leonardo looked from her to Matt. "So she has no idea you're about to take the throne and that, once that news hits headlines, she'll be our mostly likely candidate for Queen?"
Sienna's jaw dropped. "WHAT?"
It came out harsher then she had expected, but Sienna didn't regret it. Yes, she had agreed to go on a few dates with Matt. Did she agree to be future Queen? No way in hell!
"Look, Leonardo…and Matthew…" she stood up. "I didn't…there is no way I can…"
"Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself," Leonardo shook his head. "You still have plenty of time to decide. If I were you, I'd think long and hard. Matt doesn't take the throne for a few years yet. Two or three, sooner then you may think."
Two or three years and Matt would be king. By then, he would be expected to have a princess: someone who would be fit to rule beside him as his queen.
Am I that girl?
Suddenly, her future felt so far in front of her. She couldn't see where anything might lead.
"Let's go for a walk, Sienna," Leonardo said.
"Lee…" Matt warned.
"This is serious!" Leonardo snapped, getting up. He pulled up Sienna gently by her hand. "We will only be a few minutes."
Matt gave her a slight, reassuring nod and said, "Very well."
Sienna felt her stomach fall to the floor. What could Leonardo tell her? Would he tell her to go away, to leave if she didn't want the position? That's what Sienna felt like doing—running far, far away and forgetting she had ever agreed to go on a date with Prince Charming.
Leonardo led her past the flowery garden and into a patch of hedges. In the center, there was an enormous fountain with beautiful angel children statues dancing through it. They shined gold in the falling sunlight.
"I'm sorry I did that to you," he said. When Sienna didn't respond, he went on. "The truth is I'm worried about Matt. When I heard he actually had a girl…" He froze, rethinking his words. "I'm so happy for him. I've known the girl I want to be with all my life, but he has never found what I have. He's been beaten, played, and betrayed by girls for a while. His responsibilities are different now. The fate of the kingdom is on him. I know you may want to walk out on him now, having this huge bomb dropped on you, but please…just stay a little longer. Give him faith in finding the right girl again, and then you can leave. He needs to know someone like you exists."
"So…if I leave him now, he'll be crushed again?" she asked softly.
"It's something like that."
Sienna stepped forward, releasing Leonardo's hand, and put her hands in the fountain.
"Isn't that lying to him?" she asked.
"Just being his friend, like you said before." Leonardo clarified, watching her take off her shoes and step into the fountain. "You're a change for him, that's for sure. He may or may not love you, but if you show him respect and what a relationship is like…he might stop picking the wrong kind of girls and find the right one."
Sienna felt so torn. Somehow, Leonardo had burdened her even more than before. Even if she wasn't the next queen, she had the responsibility of teaching Matt what the next one should be like. Wasn't that too much?
"If you leave him now, Matthew will think he's the one who is at fault and can never be loved."
Guilt flooded over Sienna. Matt was just as broken as Linda, Lori, or Paige. They had not been loved properly, or were without love, and they blamed themselves.
"I can help," she said. It was true, she realized. Even if she didn't love him, she could help him realize who he was and how much he was worth. Paige had found herself, too. "I won't be queen, but…I know I can help him find who he is again."
Leonardo gave a sigh of relief. "Thank you."
"Please don't tell him," she said. "I don't want him to think I only stayed because he was broken."
"I promise," Leonardo took her hand and guided her out of the fountain. His eyes misted over and a tear fell.
"Now, that's not right," Sienna said softly, wiping the tear away. "He's a strong one, your brother. He will definitely be alright."
"No, no, I was crying for you!" Leonardo shook his head. "I can't believe I'm making you do this…so much self-sacrifice…it can be hard on the heart."
"When you do it for the right reasons, it doesn't matter," Sienna assured him, drying her feet in the grass and slipping her shoes back on. "My mother suffered a tragic accident shortly after I was born. My brother was killed in the accident. For years, my mother blamed herself. She lost her way. One night, she just…ended it. She felt she had cast her depression over my father and I and it was too much."
Leonardo held her hand, frozen. His eyes showed he was in complete and total shock.
"And your father…?"
"He died a few years later, after marrying my stepmother, who turned to drinking after he died."
"How are you now?" he asked.
She looked him right in the eyes. There was no fear. He was looking at her with pity, but she did not accept it.
"If I had let all that drag me down, would I be standing here?"
He laughed and took her hand. "No," he admitted. "I guess not. Shall we return to the patio, Sienna?"
She gave him a small nod and he led the way out of the maze and back into the flower gardens. They turned the corner and found the table as they had left it except for one extra inhabitant.
Camryn, wearing a short navy dress, was leaning over Matt's shoulder, whispering in his ear. Matt looked amused. Camryn was not. Anger flooded over Sienna. She had still not forgiven Camryn for her stunt at the ball.
When they saw Leonardo and Sienna returning, Camryn stood up and approached them. Sienna was about to say something when Camryn swept past her and gave Leonardo a peck on the cheek.
Leonardo's hand slipped from Sienna's and he swept an arm around Camryn's waist. It was a familiar action for her and she leaned into his shoulder, accepting a kiss on the lips.
Leonardo said he had known the girl he wanted to be with all his life. Camryn had said she could get a prince any day of the week. For Sienna, it all clicked:
The reason they were both so confident was because Leonardo had found his princess and Camryn had found her prince a long time ago.
So why had Camryn cut in on Sienna the night of the ball?
"Sorry I'm so late," Camryn whispered. "I can't believe I missed tea. Luckily, I was able to meet Sienna before the ball so I didn't miss out."
"You know Sienna?" Leonardo said in surprise.
Camryn blushed. "Yes, I'm familiar with her sister, Paige. We're…friends…"
Obviously, something uncomfortable passed between them and Camryn put her face in Leonardo's neck.
"The party circuit again?" Leonardo whispered.
"She's a good kid," Camryn said. "I promise."
"She hasn't been on the circuit since I set her up at Gram's, has she?" Sienna asked.
"No, she's quit for a while, after her nasty run-in. She was lucky you were there. I was…" Camryn flinched, not looking up at Leonardo. "I was occupied elsewhere."
Matt rose from the table and took Sienna's hand.
"Well, I'd better take Sienna home."
"Of course," Leonardo shook Sienna's hand one last time and gave Camryn a kiss to the forehead. "If you ever need anything, Sienna, you know where to find Camryn and I."
Camryn managed to find a small, sincere smile.
"Thank you," she said. "It was a lovely afternoon. Thank you for inviting me out."
"It was actually all set up by Matthew," Camryn chimed in. "We were both busy, but he begged us to come. You two take care."
Sienna tried not to look surprised as Matt led her away. Once they were up the stairs, he turned to her.
"That friend you mentioned the day of the ball…that friend was Camryn, wasn't it?" he asked.
Sienna nodded. "Does Leonardo not like her on the party circuit?"
"He thinks she should get it all out before they announce their engagement, but I think he's being stupid. Camryn could get into a mess of trouble on that circuit. She mentioned a nasty incident with your sister. What happened?"
Sienna remembered how casually Paige had spoken to Matt, as if they were old friends. Her mind took over defense.
"Nothing," she said. "It was just a little misunderstanding."
"Paige getting into trouble again?" he asked.
"How do you know Paige?" she asked.
He backtracked, realizing what he had said.
"Okay…I guess there's no better time to mention this…" he sighed, stiffened, and said, "I worked the circuit, too, once upon a time. I was a mess. I got into a load of trouble. My parents were furious. Paige and Camryn bailed me out. Now, tell me, what happened with Paige?"
"Some slimy guy got a little too…intimate with her," Sienna said. "Paige is a tough girl; she fought him off and called me."
"That's not nothing, Sienna. That's a big something. What if it had been Camryn and not Paige?"
"Paige is just as important as Camryn!" Sienna said, pushing him away. They halted in the foyer. "Paige is a fifteen-year-old girl who got into something that is way ahead of her years! What if she had gotten hurt?"
Matt looked like she had just swung a punch at him.
"No, you didn't," Sienna calmed her voice and thought of Frank again: Rich folks, they just don't understand; our lives are hardships and struggles, but that don't make us any less of people…
"Me, too," Sienna said. "You were right, if it had been Camryn, she would have been in trouble, too."
"And it was terrible that it was Paige. I'm sorry I said anything otherwise. In fact, if I knew who the shithead who did it to her was, I'd give him such a…"
Sienna felt the laughter out of her mouth before she could stop it. "Sorry, sorry," she muttered, trying to control her laughter as his expression went from anger to surprise. "I just…I can't imagine…"
Matt laughed, too. "I think we just had our first fight and it ended in you giggling at me sticking up for your honor."
"Not my honor," she corrected him with a peck on the cheek. "Paige's—but that doesn't make it any less important. I think Paige admires you."
Matt slid his hand into hers. "Come on," he ushered her toward the door. "Let's get you home."