Kiss of Twilight
I couldn't remember my childhood. It's as if my memory started when my little brother, Christopher was born. I had lost nearly three years of memory. Was it too traumatic for me to recall? Mama told me not to worry about it. Nobody remembered their early childhood. Yet, it still lingered on my mind, a misty fog that was almost tangible, but when I tried to reach it, it faded away.
Like most young ladies in Kratin, I was raised in a mansion of sorts. We had beautiful rooms, and Christopher and I would spend hours exploring every nook and cranny. Papa told us that there were five secret passages. We found four. The last one remained a mystery even today. We also had quite a few servants, all of which I knew by name. Also like my neighboring noble girls, I had a nanny: Melissa.
However, that was where the likeness ended. I had a deep secret that I wanted nobody to know of. I was deformed. I had been that way since I was born, and it unnerved me. What would the others say if they knew? Would they reject me?
My legs were uneven. As such, without the proper shoes, I had an uneven gait. This had always bothered me. When I looked into a mirror, I saw a beautiful young girl with blonde hair and blue-green eyes, and yet I knew…I knew what I could not see. I was a monster…a disfigured monster like the ones I read about in fairy tales. I was the ogre under the bridge; I was the wicked witch who would eat Hansel and Gretel. There was no happy ending for me. There would never be.
Christopher was completely normal. He looked like mama and papa, and I felt an ugly green monster grasp me when I looked at him. Yes, I was jealous of his brown hair and brown eyes. He had mama's aura of intelligence and papa's twinkle of mischief. I knew it was wrong to feel that way about him, so I smothered my jealousy and tried to be the best older sister I could. He was my brother, and I had to love him. I wouldn't let the green monster of jealousy get to me.
"Helena!" Melissa called out from downstairs, "Your cousins are here!"
I suppose that my name was also unusual. However, it didn't bother me. Papa called me his Helen of Troy. He said that he would cross oceans and fight countless armies just to rescue me if need be. Mama laughed at him and called him frivolous. That was another thing that was different about my family. My parents were still very much in love.
"Helena!" Melissa shouted. "What are you doing up there?"
"Waiting for my prince to come," I replied, laughing.
That was what I did. I hid my true thoughts behind laughter and smiles. If anyone were to know how I really felt, they'd worry. I didn't want any of them to worry.
I heard her footsteps coming up the stairs. Moments later, my door opened, and Melissa stood there, glaring in all her glory.
"Come. Your cousins wish to see you."
I pouted, and clung to my bedpost. "Grandma Nadine said I didn't have to come out."
Melissa made an irritated noise in her throat. "That woman always opposes me."
"And so did Grandma Francine. Three against one: we win."
"Oh really?" Melissa asked, stepping up to my bed.
I clung tighter to my bedpost.
Melissa was a beautiful woman with dark hair and gray eyes. She was easily the most beautiful woman in Kratin, and I often told her this. She would laugh at me and call me silly. She did not wish to marry, an idea I found to be strange. Mama and papa were so happy, and the storybooks all ended in marriage, so it made no sense.
"It is my sworn duty as your nanny to make sure that you do the proper things," Melissa stated.
She wasn't going to do it, was she? I watched her as she leaned over me. Then I hid my face and burst into giggles as she tickled me. Instantly, my grasp was loosened, and she carried me out of my room. Crossing my arms, I frowned. Why did that always happen?
She put me down at the foot of the stairs, and I stepped across the marble floor. I ignored the hideous clicking of my shoes, a reminder of what was not visible. The sound was mocking me, reminding me of what lay beneath my dress and slowly driving me insane. My hands clenched at my sides, and my smile fell momentarily. After what seemed like an eternity, I entered the sitting room.
"There she is," papa called out, "my Helen of Troy."
"Alex, must you always say such things?" mama asked.
Papa stepped up to me and wrapped me in a hug. "Of course I must. You don't understand our bond, Dru. Can't you see? She's going to be the most sought-after girl in all of Kratin. And when that time comes, I'll be ready." He pointed to a sword mounted above the mantle.
My aunts and uncles laughed and gushed at how big I'd become. I was ten, not yet an adult, but I sometimes felt older than papa. I briefly wondered if that was wrong to think.
All the aunts and uncles that came to visit were from Astaire, a prosperous kingdom to the northwest of Kratin. Aunt Stacey, my mother's sister, and Uncle Edward were the king and queen of Astaire. As such, I was sure that the neighboring nobles would be arriving this evening. Nobody wanted to miss visiting royalty, especially when they had children that were the young princes' ages. Their sons were both banes of my existence. One was a know-it-all, dull boy named Vincent. The other was always getting in trouble: Eric. Luckily, neither boy was in the room.
Aunt Penelope and Uncle Leo also were high in stature. Aunt Penelope was Papa's sister, and Uncle Leo was a good friend of Uncle Edward. He had once been a knight, but Uncle Edward released him from duty so he could marry Aunt Penelope. They also had children: George, my gallant hero, and Cordelle, my best friend. Unfortunately, George and Cordie were currently attending lessons and couldn't come. I didn't have to attend lessons until the fall, but Astaire was strict on their nobles' education. The only reason Vinny and Eric could come was because they had private instructors.
Finally, there was Aunt Sabrina and Uncle Aidan. Aunt Sabrina was one of mama's most trusted friends. She was a sweet woman, and her husband told stories about the high seas. That was one thing I desired: adventure. We would all stay up late to hear his tales of encounters with pirates and sea monsters. Once, he met a mermaid, but he warned us that they enjoyed mischief-making. They were called sirens by the Greeks, and they would lead ships into rocks just by singing. He retired from sailing, though. Now he was one of Uncle Edward's knights. Aunt Sabrina also lived in the castle as lady in waiting to Aunt Stacey.
Papa led me to a settee, and I sat between him and mama. After a while, though, I grew bored of their adult conversations. One could only listen to so much about economy and such. As if she sensed my restlessness, mama patted my leg and kissed my forehead.
"Why don't you go play outside, dear? Your brother and cousins are already out there. Take your father."
I turned and looked at papa, who was already asleep. Giggling, I squeezed his hand, and he woke up. He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. Then he looked at mama from the corner of his eye. She frowned at him.
"You didn't see me-"
"Yes, I did."
"Then you probably want me to-"
"Yes, I do. If you can't handle adult conversation, Alex, then go watch the children."
The look on papa's face was comical. Mama and I laughed. Papa grabbed my hand and pulled me from the settee.
"Come, Helen of Troy, we are not wanted here. But be forewarned, Greece, we shall return," he said, leaning down to kiss mama.
"Is that a threat?" Mama asked.
"I'll get you back," papa replied.
"I'll be waiting," mama said, smiling.
Papa stooped down and picked me up. He carried me princess-style out of the house. "Off we go to adventure!" he exclaimed.
"Tally-ho!" we both exclaimed, each raising a fist in the air.
The beach was beautiful, as always. While Kratin had no mountains or lush forests to brag of, it did have remarkable beaches. The water was a beautiful, blue color, but some days it would appear almost green. Papa placed me down on the sand, and I stared at the water. If only I didn't have this deformity…
The sound of splashing interrupted my thoughts, and I saw Chris and Eric playing in the water. Once again, that ugly green monster showed up, and it grew larger when I saw papa race toward them. They were building a raft. They were going to have an adventure, and I was…left alone, afraid to show my deformity to people who already knew about it.
"Helena! C'mon!" Chris called.
I waved. "No, I'm alright!"
"But it's no fun without you!" he replied, pouting.
I sighed. When could I ever resist my brother?
"But my shoes…"
"Take them off," a voice said from behind me.
I turned and almost groaned. Standing a few feet from me was a boy with green eyes and dark hair, handsome by all means and the talk of many of the neighboring girls. As usual, he had a book in his hand, and he looked as if he was bored with the world.
"I can't," I replied, glaring at him.
He shrugged and turned away. "Letting a little thing like shoes get in the way of having fun."
I looked away from him. I didn't like him, and he knew it. So why would he talk to me? He was always so boring. He never did anything. Everything was always about books with him: learning more, gaining more knowledge. It sickened me. But what bothered me most was the alarming amount of time he spent with mama when he came. They would retreat to their own little world of things that I didn't understand. Sometimes Chris would join them. It felt as if I was on the outside looking in when they were together, and it bothered me. That fog that I mentioned earlier as well as that green monster would encircle me as I watched, taunting me, making me feel like an outcast. I hated him.
"You're not playing with them either," I replied.
"That is because it does not interest me. But you…it's tearing you apart."
It did not interest him? Did he believe himself to be too smart to play adventurer? Was that it? I smiled at him, hiding my dark thoughts behind my smile. "I'll go if you will."
"I'm perfectly fine here, thank you," he replied.
I hated the way his voice sounded. It made me feel like I was lower than dirt: like he thought that I wasn't even worth his time. I wanted to scream at him: ask him why he thought he was so much better than me. Instead, I grabbed his hand, causing him to drop his book in shock. "Please?"
He quickly pulled out of my grasp. What? Was he terrified of getting germs? "Sorry," he mumbled and walked off, picking a spot beneath the only tree on the beach.
I bit my lip and turned away, wondering why I was on the brink of tears. I hated him, and yet the thought that he thought as little of me as I thought of him depressed me. I turned and looked at him, my smile melting into a frown when he didn't once look up.
"Helena!" Eric called. "We need help! Uncle Alex doesn't know how to tie a knot!"
I held my breath and knelt to unclasp the wooden shoes on my feet. "Please, don't let anyone see me," I whispered.
The moment the warm sand hit my toes, I stopped to revel in the feel of it. My feet were cramped from being in those shoes for so long. The wind blew, and Chris and Eric were shouting for me to go over to them. Papa tossed the rope onto the pieces of driftwood. He looked up at me and waved me over. Laughing, I raced to them, bending the knee of my longer leg a little extra to ease the embarrassment of having uneven legs.
I shrieked as the cold water rushed up to meet me. Chris laughed at me.
"Your dress is all wet!" he exclaimed.
My smile grew, and I splashed him. "Your face is all wet," I replied.
He let out a war cry before jumping onto me and knocking us both underwater. We resurfaced, laughing.
Eric pointed at us and laughed. "You're in so much trouble," he stated.
Papa turned and knocked him over. He spluttered and splashed in the water.
"Mama's going to kill me," he whined, then paused, a grin spreading on his face.
Christopher, Eric and I shared a look, and we advanced toward papa.
Papa laughed and held up his hands. "Now kids, don't go after adults. I fought in a war once. I know tactics. Hey, are you listening?"
We splashed him until he was soaked.
"Alright," Papa said, a hand in the air. "In the words of the late King Henry, 'All those who oppose me shall be brought to their knees in mercy. I will not stop until I hear the word 'surrender'!'" He chased after us, splashing us until we finally shouted surrender.
We got to work on the raft, and I ended up tying all the knots. It became large enough for us all to sit on back-to-back. Papa and I sat on one side, Eric and Chris on the other.
"You knew King Henry, papa?" Chris asked, looking out along the beach.
"I fought in a war with him," papa replied.
"You mean you lived in Exultia?" I asked.
Papa smiled. "Yes, once upon a time."
"What happened?" Eric asked.
"I met your Aunt Dru, and we moved here."
"There must be more to it than that," I said, resting my head on papa.
He put an arm around me. "I'll tell you it when you're older, my Helen of Troy."
"What about me?" Chris asked.
"Of course, Sir Christopher," Papa replied, reaching over and patting Chris's head.
"I want to know now," I said softly.
Papa sighed. "I know."
Eric was silent, and I wondered what he was thinking. Surely, it couldn't be anything good. The last time he was silent, I ended up stuck in the tree Vinny was sitting under. The time before that, it was on the roof. He had wanted to make a ship that could reach the stars, and Cordie and I were to be the pilots. Of course, when supper was announced, Chris and Eric went down the ladder and took it with them. I bawled my eyes out until George came back with the ladder. Thus, he became my gallant hero.
I heard a squeal, and my head shot up. I glanced at the sky and wondered how it had become so late.
"Prince Vincent! I didn't know you were here," a voice cried out in fake surprise.
This was exactly what I didn't want to happen. I saw a group of girls stepping onto the beach. The green monster gripped me. It was my beach that they were on, and they were coming out of my house. They had no doubt already spoken to my mother and my relatives. And now, they were talking to Vinny. I didn't really care about that, but how was I supposed to get back to my shoes? They were going to see them, and they were going to say something. The green monster suddenly changed an array of different colors as I was filled with fear and anxiety.
While I sat there, trying to figure out exactly what I was going to do, Chris and Eric exchanged looks and raced out of the water. They ran to my shoes and raced back, each carrying a wooden shoe. Tears slipped down my face, and I hugged my brother and cousin to me, thanking them both.
"Well, we love you, Helena," Chris said, looking away and handing me a shoe. I put it on.
"Yeah, you're my favorite cousin," Eric added. He, too, handed me a shoe.
"I love you both so much!" I replied. "How can I ever repay you?"
They shared a grin, and I suddenly wished that I hadn't asked that question.
"Tomorrow, we're going to build a sand castle," Eric said, "and you will be queen of the castle."
That didn't sound so bad. I nodded. "Okay."
"And then Eric's going to come and kill you, and we'll bury you in the sand."
What? I gaped at them.
"Nobody's going to be killing anybody," Papa said, giving each a reprimanding look.
"It's just pretend kill," Eric said.
"Yeah," Chris mirrored.
"Oh, well that's fine," Papa said, waving a hand and walking onto the beach.
"But…Papa!" I cried.
"You dug your proverbial grave. Now you must lie in it," he replied.
I gaped after him.
"Who knows, maybe somebody will save you," he replied, winking.
"That's not fair, Uncle Alex!" Eric cried out.
"Yeah, papa, not fair at all," Chris added.
Papa shrugged. "All's fair in love and war, and I must rescue my Helen of Troy from any and all adversaries."
Papa smiled down at us and wrinkled his nose. "We need to get changed or it will be trouble for us! Quick, sneak in the secret entrance!"
"The secret entrance!" Chris, Eric and I exclaimed.
We walked up to a wall where a rock was jutting out, displaced with its surroundings. Papa pressed it, and a door slid open. Standing behind it were mama and Melissa. Neither looked amused.
"We can explain?" Papa said meekly.
I laughed, and they turned their eyes on me, causing me to hide behind Chris. He was young and cute. He could definitely win their hearts.
"I found a crab," he said, placing the creature in Melissa's hand.
She screamed and jumped away. Mama was definitely not amused.
"Well imagine that, a crab. Good job, son. We'll have to cook that for…" Papa started, but paused when mama continued glaring, "I mean, shame on you, scaring your nanny like that."
Eric laughed. "But it was funny." He screamed and jumped back, mimicking Melissa.
"That was good, Eric," Papa said, rubbing his chin. He looked at mama. "I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
Mama and Melissa looked at each other, and they both burst into laughter.
"Of course you're not in trouble," mama said. "You're so gullible, Alex." Mama turned to me and held out her hand. "We need to make you look presentable, Helena."
I smiled and took hold of her hand. I loved spending time with mama the most.
"How about me?" Papa asked. "Make me look presentable too."
Mama looked down at me, and I looked back up at her.
"No, papa. Mama wants to spend time with me now," I replied.
"Helen of Troy," Papa said, feigning hurt. He pointed a finger at mama. "I'll get you Greece. I'll get my Helen back! Just wait and see."
Mama smiled. "Greece always beats Troy. You should switch sides."
Papa made a funny face. "You think you're so smart because you read so much."
"Yes, yes. Hurry up and change….unless, of course, you want me to do it for you."
Papa grinned. "Is that a suggestion?"
Mama frowned. "Not in front of the children."
"What do you mean, mama?" I asked.
"I'll tell you when you're older," she replied, leading me away.
Everything was always when I'd get older. I wanted to know then, not when I was older. Yet, my anger was whisked away as if it was a leaf in the wind. Mama took me to my room and went through my dresses. Finally, she decided on a pretty white gown. She looked somewhat preoccupied.
"Something's missing," she declared. "Come with me."
She led me to her door. "Mama…?" I inquired.
Smiling, she lowered herself to my height. "Wait here." And then she was gone. I waited and heard some voices: mama's and papa's. Then, the door opened once more. Mama stepped out. A slightly faded white handkerchief was in her hand.
"You're giving me a hankie?" I asked, frowning.
Mama laughed and shook her head. "No, dear. It's inside the handkerchief." Unfolding it, she took something from the handkerchief and held it up.
A beautiful white bird was on a gold chain. I gasped when I saw it.
"Do you think you're ready for it?" she asked me.
"Will you take good care of it?" she continued.
She stepped behind me and placed the necklace around my neck. "This is a dove. My grandmother gave one to me and one to my sister. Now I'm giving it to you. I hope you'll treasure it always."
I nodded. "I will."
And my fate was sealed.
Author's Note: Alright, the first chapter in the sequel to Or So the Story Goes… No, you do not have to read the prequel to understand this story. In fact, I had my beta forgetting certain things from the first story while she was reading it. This story is based loosely on Sleeping Beauty. Yes, it's been done before, so I'm pretty unoriginal in that sense. However, I hope this will become more popular than the first story. I'm crossing my fingers on that. Anyway, for those people looking for Royal Predicament, it will be updated tomorrow. Tomorrow is still the weekend, right? I still need to tweak a few things, but it'll definitely be there tomorrow. And I haven't given up on The Catalyst either. Maybe that will be updated next weekend. I still have to study for a Biology test yet, so…yeah, it'll take a while. This is so exciting though, isn't it? A new story!!!