"A New Life"
She stood there, silently gazing at the young woman reflected in the mirror before her. Her mother's maids bustled around her, attending to last minute details before she was to be left alone. At least until the time arrived.
A small, stoutly woman smiled sweetly at the young girl as she finished touching up her makeup. Rouge and a slight bit of color to her lips were applied liberally along with a bit of color for her eyes. More makeup was being applied today than the girl had ever worn before. But, of course, there was a reason. One that loomed just outside of those doors that held her within the room.
"I hope I'm not out of my place in askin', Miss, but…why so sullen?"
She smiled weakly at the kind woman with whom she had spent all of her eighteen years with. The woman had been nothing but kind to her. Caring for her when her mother couldn't. She had become as close with the woman as she could over the years and thanked the heavens each day that she would be able to accompany her after today.
"No reason at all, Caroline. Just a bit frazzled from my travels and all the preparations. Nothing more. There's no need for worry."
She smiled graciously at Caroline before another maid hurried to try to finish curling her long brown tresses. After a few moments, the maid stepped back, reviewed her work and smiled before curtsying and scurrying off.
Once the maid had left, Caroline dipped down and whispered into the young girl's ear.
"You'll do wonderfully, my dear. You've been given a new door to life."
And with that, the girl felt that familiar weight on her chest. She looked up into the mirror and blinked back tears at the sight of her late grandmother's diamond chandelier necklace being carefully placed around her neck.
"You're absolutely radiant, my dear. You look just like her."
She stood there, still staring at her reflection in the mirror before her. She gently ran her fingertips along the stones around her neck and then down over the beaded silk of her white gown as a lone tear fell from her cheek. She had only met him a week ago and she never had any say in the matter.
It wasn't like she ever did with anything. She had been brought up in a societal world where women had no say. While the rest of the world's women had their rights and privileges, she had grown up in a system that allowed none of that. She had been schooled by the best in every subject imaginable. She could speak five different languages fluently and knew each of the countries customs. She had been taught to ballroom dance, learned to play piano and sing, and was devoted to her daily etiquette lessons. She was taught never to speak out against a man nor while a man was speaking. She had tea with her mother's friends and their daughters alike every Wednesday and attended numerous amounts of balls at any given time of the week.
She lived the life of a princess. Because that's exactly what she was. Princess Elizabeth Anne Camden. Born to King Joseph Camden III and Queen Stephanie Louise Camden. She was sister to none and had only one best friend.
The life she had led for all her years was the reason for why she found herself standing in front of her grandmother's elegantly carved mirror, staring at a stranger.
She knew everything there was to know according to her tutor. Yet she still felt as if she weren't ready. As if she wouldn't be enough.
It was all his doing. He had chosen her. Her and nobody else.
He was one of the wilder of the royals she had come to know through the years. Always had a smile on his face, always greeted people with the respect they deserved. But when away from his royal duties...he could he a royal pain to keep up with.
Elizabeth had learned about his ways and vowed never to understand him. He had a sweet personality but loved to party and go out with his friends.
His picture was always in the tabloids along with his latest stunt. The newest articles of the past week or so were all about his new bride-to-be.
She looked down to the veil sitting neatly on the pillow-stand next to her as another tear fell from her eye. Her fingers glided over the intricate swirls of diamonds in the tiara as she picked it up and held it in her hands.
This was the life she was born into. She had no power, no say in anything. Her life was already planned out for her. And this was only the beginning...
She watched as his sister and a few other girls made their way down the aisle in their beautiful crimson red dresses holding fresh bouquets of white roses. Elizabeth's stomach churned as she thought about the moment when it would be her turn to walk down that same aisle.
Ruby Whitmore, her best and only friend and now her maid of honor, stood facing her, smiling and holding the tips of Elizabeth's hands.
"Liz, he's wonderful for you. He'll be a gentleman and he'll do everything that's good for you. He'll keep you safe and give you things that you like. I've known him. He's a wonderful person. You're going to have a beautiful and prosperous life together. I know you will."
She bit back the tears and swiftly nodded her head. Ruby sighed and smiled before kissing her cheek and preparing to make her way down the aisle. Before she began her journey, Ruby turned around and winked.
"Not to mention…he's certainly a looker. Be glad you got him. Because he would be mine in a split second if you hadn't."
Elizabeth cracked a smile and Ruby added, "And I'm always here for you. No matter what. Just remember that."
She was soon pushed down the aisle, laughing, by a disgruntled wedding-planner. However, with the elegance and poise of a princess, Ruby quickly brought herself to the graceful smile that aristocrats of her standing were so accustomed to and slowly walked down the aisle, leaving Elizabeth to wait alone.
The minutes ticked slowly and agonizingly. She closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath as she heard the church organ begin playing the wedding march.
She stepped behind the old oak doors, waiting. They swung open and suddenly...all eyes were on her. She scanned the crowd, looking for familiar friendly faces but found none. They were all there out of duty. Duty to the royal families that were soon to be joined through the marriage of their children. Every smile she saw was only a mask. She knew it. They were only here because it would have been a social scandal to have been invited to the "Wedding of the Century" and not shown up. It was how their society worked. And Elizabeth was only just realizing the rigid control rules had over her.
She sighed and looked to the front, finding Ruby's beaming smile and laughed lightly before beginning the trek into a new life.
One that would change her. One she would never have expected...
Once a chaste kiss was exchanged, the newly married couple made their way down the aisle once more, smiling through the cheering, applause and tears. She would never again be a Camden. She had said goodbye to her old name and had taken on the new.
It was her new name now.
Elizabeth Anne Clare.
Daughter of the Camden royal family. Sister to none. Friend to Ruby Whitmore. And now wife to Christian Jonathan Clare.
They had finally gotten through the ceremony and, after exchanging pleasantries, out into the awaiting carriage to take them to their reception. He had been the gentleman and helped her in before literally jumping in himself.
Elizabeth scooted to the opposite side and watched as the civilians lined up along the streets to watch the wedding procession to her parent's estate where the reception would be held. She sighed and placed her hands together lightly on her lap just as she was taught while watching the different faces roll by.
She sighed quietly as she felt his eyes on her. Taking a deep breath, she turned forward, her back remaining as straight and rigid as a board, and said nothing. She felt him watching her but she remained in her place, steadily looking forward.
"You know, you're going to have to talk to me sooner or later, my dear."
His breath skimmed over the tips of her ear as he whispered quietly. She shivered at its effect but remained impassive, staring again at the opposite side of the carriage, noticing the intricate details stitched within the leather of the cushions. Silence sank over them once more before Christian leaned against the wall and rested his head on its velour covering.
"You know. I think you're going to be a fun wife."
Elizabeth blinked at the word wife. She mentally reprimanded herself and told her mind to get used to it. That it was something she couldn't change. At least, not any longer.
"Well, I certainly hope I meet your standards, Mister Clare."
"Please. It's Christian. You're my wife now."
She quietly sucked in a breath and nodded her head. After a few moments, she felt his fingers touch the underside of her jaw. He lightly pulled her so that he could see her face. He smiled down at her as he saw her eyes shimmer with doubt and uncertainty.
"You know. I chose you for a reason."
Elizabeth nodded her head but continued to look straight forward as she attempted to hold back her tears for the second time that day.
"Elizabeth. I chose you because you stood out. You were beautiful and elegant. And I honestly thought you had the most potential."
Silence hung over them like a cloud. Christian sighed and shifted in his seat. He watched her for a moment and then said, "You know. I don't really want one of those pacifist I'll-agree-to-everything-you-say kind of wives."
He watched her a while longer before saying, "And I saw something in you. I knew you were exactly the type of girl brought up to be that kind of wife. But there was something different about you."
Her head snapped toward him, her eyes wide with curiosity. She knew she could never be anything other than what he had just admitted he didn't want. It wasn't in her blood to be someone other than that. She had been brought up as such and had it nailed permanently into her memory.
So what was she doing married to a man who didn't want what she was?
He chuckled at her expression and nodded his head.
"Yes. I saw a girl who didn't want to be who she was. One that had a need for change. For something different from what she had been taught the rest of her life."
She stared at him as he tried to analyze her. Fervently shaking her head, she became impassive once more, replacing her confused expression with a stoic one. She said, "I'm sorry, Mister Clare but you must have been mistaken. You didn't see anything. And, pardon me for my rudeness, but if you did, it was purely your imagination. I've met many gentlemen like yourself. Trying to win over a girl's heart by making her feel vulnerable and exposed. No. You were wrong. And I'm sorry. Because, now, you can't fix it. Unless you want a scandal for the papers, I'm permanently attached to you."
She heard him sigh and sink back into the leather of the seats. Elizabeth dropped her gaze to her hands that sat stiffly in her lap and let one single tear fall and puddle on the back of her hand...
The night moved on as they arrived at the Camden's estate for the reception. Neither of the couple could get a moment's peace through all the congratulations and toasts given in their honor.
It wasn't long before it was time the newlyweds shared their first dance. The crowd had gathered around the floor as the moment was announced and Christian led Elizabeth out into the middle. The music began to play and the two began the first waltz of the evening. Moments later, the King and Queen of both countries joined them on the dance floor soon to be followed by many others.
Halfway through the song, Christian leaned down to whisper in his wife's ear.
"I will prove to you that this isn't who you want to be. This rigid and proper rule-follower you so profess to be. Even if it takes me a whole lifetime together with you...I'll do it."
Her gaze slowly rose to match his and she could see the warm intent that gave her shivers. She said nothing and continued to concentrate on the intricate steps of the waltz, all the while dancing gracefully in his arms, thinking he would never change her mind.
But knowing in her heart that he might actually could...