A.N.: Yeah, it's been a long time since I updated. Like I say in my bio thing, I haven't had much interest in writing anything recently. Thanks for all the encouraging comments; I'm having a surprising amount of fun writing this for someone who finds romance novels extremely dull. :-)

"Marie—and Adelaide. Come quickly, girls!" My mother adds my name as an after thought.

I turn from the window, breaking my captivation from the gardens below.

"Girls!" Mother repeats. "The ball is about to begin! We must make haste!"

Marie runs from the bathroom and goes over to the full-length mirror, pinches color into her cheeks, then rushes out the door behind Mother. My father and I follow, forgotten, in their wake of perfume and rustling skirts.

We stop behind a long line of royal snobs waiting their turn to be announced. It seems we're the last people to arrive at the ballroom. Mother begins gossiping with the woman wearing red in front of her, and Marie listens in. Father and I simply stand there, bored and waiting for something to happen.

After what seems an hour, though is more likely fifteen minutes, we are second in line for the door. The woman red-dressed woman breaks off her conversation with Mother and is announced as Clara Jillian Gerald, Duchess of Hanberry.

Then it is our turn. "King Reginald Arthur," the tall, long-nosed man at the door bellows. My father steps forward and bows. "Queen Sarah Caroline," Mother curtsies. "Princess Marie Elizabeth," Marie smiles coyly at the royal family, "and Princess Adelaide Silvia of the royal family of Kleedria."

As I curtsy I feel eyes upon me and glance up; the prince. I didn't notice him before, but now I take a moment to look at him. Medium height, slim, dark hair, and gray-blue eyes. He has an open face, which now wears an expression of slight astonishment. Probably wondering how anyone as plain as me could be a princess, I guess.

I give him a half smile, unsure of what else to do, but his expression doesn't change.

I move towards the edge of the room, resigning myself to an evening of standing by the wall and lurking behind flower arrangements.

Marie, of course, is instantly asked to dance by dozens of nobles who all seem to be flattering her as much as humanly possible.

After a while a thin, reedy young man with a large nose and unruly hair approaches me. "P-p-p-princess, w-w-would you do me the honor of a dance?" he stutters. I am not sure if the stuttering is induced by nervousness or if it is a natural affliction.

I look around. There seem to be no other dance partner prospects in sight. "Why thank you, my lord, I will."

As it turns out, Prince Geoffrey, as he later introduces himself, is quite a good dancer, better than me, actually, since I'm rather rusty. Unfortunately he is quite a bore to talk to, mostly talking about his fencing awards—of which he seems to have many though he does not appear very athletic.

As we finish one dance, I hear my sister laugh loudly. I look over; she is talking to the prince, proudly watched by my mother who is also making sure Marie becomes our family properly with her manners.

So what do you think? Tell me, please.