Part 2 - The Surprise Birth
Charming threw the door open to the castle's library and began stalking along the shelves, glancing at the books every now and again, trying to find the subject he was looking for. He didn't have the first clue about children! How did she manage to…
Well, he knew how. But why… why now, of all times, when he was doubting his own future as King… the responsibility of a child was not something that he needed. Finally, he came across what he had been searching so angrily for, and stormed down the small corridor, surrounded on all sides by books. When he didn't know about something, there was always a book on it. So surely there'd be a book on children, right?
He glanced along the shelves, running a finger along the spines of the books, reading titles as he went. 'The ins and outs of embroidery' - nope. 'What to do when your mare has a foal' – closer, but still nope. 'The Idiots Guide to Babies' – Charming glared at the title for a moment, looking both ways to ensure that no one else was coming his way, and quickly made a grab for a book, pulling it roughly from the shelf, and nearly dropped it in the process. He held it between his fingers, listening intently to make sure no one had heard the noise, and then proceeded to open the book up to the first page. He was greeted with a list of obscure titles, none of which he liked the look of.
"Expecting a baby – the signs." Charming read, and shook his head. It was almost definite she was expecting, though perhaps she could read that later, just to make sure. "Creating a nursery. Preparing yourselves for the arrival. The Birth." They were all too much to read up on, just yet. He hadn't even thought about the birth, and didn't want to till at least the eighth month. "How to change a baby."
That would do for now, something light and easy. Anyone could change a baby, right? It was one of the simplest things to do – he'd heard all the Princes talk about changing their babies, how they had dreaded it so, but how it had not been too bad… His mind made up, Charming turned to the page number specified and was given step by step instructions on how to get rid of a baby's wrap, and how to put a new one on. The instructions included pictures, he noted with a shudder, as he gazed at the crude image of a child staring up at him. As he attempted to read the instructions, he found that the first sentence made little sense to him.
With a wistful sigh, he closed the book and carried it under his arm. This was going to take him a while.
Aurora stood up, glancing at the mirror opposite her, for perhaps the ninth time that day. Her stomach was clearly protruding now; there was no doubt as to her condition. She'd had to buy new dresses, and adjust old ones, to allow her space to grow even more. The sickness in the morning had gone, as she hit her fourth month, which she was grateful for, but now she just wished that she would stop growing. It was getting rather depressing, not being able to fit into any of her old dresses. Even her favourite simple crimson gown had gone into the back of a wardrobe, ready for when she had given birth.
But, according to Jasmine and Belle, even after the birth, she would have difficulty getting into her old dresses. Now that would be depressing… coping with a bawling baby and still not back to her old figure?
How on earth did women do this? She wasn't quiet sure she could, she couldn't cope with the fact that she was only going to get bigger... that was depressing in itself, but why couldn't her stomach just shrink back to it's original size, the way it was before? Not only was she going to have to cope with a screaming baby who wouldn't sleep through the night, but she was going to have to try and lose weight too - this whole mother thing was not good, at all.
Charming hit his mug on the table, trying to get the attention of the barmaid. Dashing, once again, sat in front of him, with a mug of ale in one hand, and a drunken expression on his face. Their tavern expeditions had decreased, somewhat, but both men needed them, apparently to keep sane.
"Father's sending me on some sort of journey," Dashing said, with a small sigh. "He says that I might be able to find a damsel in some other kingdom. And now that Aurora's got you under her thumb, there's nothing for me to do but go find myself a wife."
Charming nodded absently, watching as the barmaid refilled his mug, her revealing outfit becoming even more so when she bent over to pour the drink. She gave him a small wink and then wandered off to find some other customer to get money out of.
"It's probably best that you find someone." Charming began, taking a drink. "I tell you what though; women get so moody when they're having a baby. The other day, Aurora threw a vase at me, when I suggested that she sit down. A vase, she could have killed me!"
Dashing just smiled – his brother seemed unaware that he sounded exactly like the other Princes when they had found out about their princess's condition. Every single one of them had complained about their wife's mood swings and unruly behaviour. It wasn't long before Aurora would give birth, and then Charming would really have something to complain about.
"How long is it till she gives birth?" The words rolled off his tongue easily, despite his drunken state. Perhaps he was getting too used to this ale.
"Not long. About a month." Charming replied, glancing up at his companion. He was scared, there was no doubt about it… and the book had been no help at all! He'd tried to learn how to change a baby's wrap… he'd even practised on Belle's son (though, when no one was watching, of course), but he just couldn't get the hang of it. And he hadn't even started on feeding a baby, and putting a baby to sleep… never mind the… birth.
He gulped and took a larger drink from his ale to hide his fear. His parents had been overjoyed at the news of Aurora's condition, and his mother had soon set about setting things up – including the nursery, to Charming's gratitude. He had absolutely no idea where to even begin with the preparations (he hadn't touched that chapter either), and was glad that at least one person did. Dashing seemed to be leaving him to his own thoughts… or perhaps he was just too drunk to talk anymore. Charming glanced up at him and shook his head, leaving some gold coins on the table.
"Come on. Let's go home."
"We're here for moral support." Jasmine smiled as she stepped past Aurora into the lavish bedchamber, following closely by Belle. The two women had been making regular visits recently, giving Aurora both something to do, and sound advice. They had already given her details of the birthing process (which Aurora's mind had buried deep within its recesses), and had also advised her not to allow any fairies to give any gifts at the christening. In fact, no fairies at all had been invited. Aurora had to smile slightly at that, despite the direness of her past situation. At least this child wouldn't have to sleep for a hundred years – Aurora wasn't sure she could go through another one hundred years of strange dreams, never mind banning every spinning wheel in the country. She had only just gotten over her fear enough to allow one in the same room with her.
"I'm grateful." Aurora replied, with a slight bow of her head. She would have curtsied, but her stomach, which seemed to have expanded to become the size of Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, prevented her from doing so. She placed one hand on her overly large stomach, and made her way to one of the luxurious red chairs on one side of the room. The princesses had taken to seeing her in her bedchamber, rather than the more public area of the throne room, as visitors were supposed to do. Then again, when had Jasmine and Belle ever done what they were supposed to? They had visited Aurora's bedchamber more often than the throne room, it had been this very room when all three had realised Aurora's condition.
Aurora glanced at the women, and down at herself, at the simple, loose gown she wore. "I apologise for how I'm dressed-"
Jasmine cut her off with a shake of her head. "Don't worry. We both know how it is. You won't be hearing any complaints from us."
For the first time, Aurora noticed that Belle wasn't holding Maurice's basket and frowned slightly. "Where are Maurice and Christa?" She asked, referring to both Belle's son and Jasmine's daughter. The two smiled at her.
"We thought you could do with a bit of a break from children for a while." Belle replied for the both of them. Aurora nodded, grateful to them. All the talk of children and babies had become a slight irritation, despite the fact that she would be having one of her own very soon. She'd slowly become accustomed to the fact that she was going to be a mother, though she wasn't too sure whether Charming had quite realised that he was going to be a father, yet. He was spending fewer days away, but like today, for example, he was off somewhere, hadn't told her where he was…
She was already treating him like a child… she bet he despised her for it.
She shifted slightly when an ache was sent through her stomach. The aches and pains of having a child sometimes reached an unbearable limit, and she wasn't quite sure how much longer she could cope with the inflated stomach before her. It made her look gross; she wasn't a happy bunny, at all. Not to mention that her husband wasn't even around to hear her complaints. The two women who sat before her were used to her bad moods by now, and easily let her get away with it – they had gone through exactly the same thing with their children, and knew that the bad moods were only temporary… but Prince Charming wasn't so understanding. Aurora had already told them of the time she had thrown a vase at him – he'd been pretty scarce after that.
Aurora shifted again, trying to settle the ache that was starting in her lower back. Once she was rid of these aches and pains, she'd be completely fine. Oh, and she'd be quite happy for the giant pumpkin that was her stomach to disappear too.
"Is everything sorted for the birth, Aurora?" Belle asked, breaking the silence that had fallen among them. Aurora turned to look at her, a strained smile on her face.
"Yes… I believe so. The Queen has organised most of it – I think she's relieved that we're going to be arriving at the thrones with an heir already existing. She believes the expecting phase to be quite stressful…" Her smile turned a little cold. "I wonder why."
The silence settled again, but it was a comfortable silence – Aurora was glad for the company just being there, as she continued to shift her position, wishing, not for the first time, that this entire thing had not happened. Belle and Jasmine knew it was not an awkward silence and settled into their own thoughts, one wondering why Aurora's husband was not here with her, as the birth was not far away now (the kind and gentle thoughts of Belle), and the other wondering why her room wasn't furnished as nicely as this (Jasmine – who would probably voice her thoughts to Aladdin when she got home).
When Aurora stood up and made her way to the bathroom, neither woman thought anything of it, and succumbed to their own thoughts. But when Aurora let out a piercing scream, both women jumped up and rushed to the bathroom and discovered Aurora cowering on the floor, in a puddle of liquid.
"It's the water stage!" Jasmine cried, and immediately rushed from the room to get help, while Belle helped Aurora up, gently. The young woman was shaking profusely, and as soon as Belle lowered her to sit on the bed, a jolt of pain hit Aurora, pretty much like a wall of stone, and another scream was released - though this was more one of pain than surprise. They heard a horde of people running down the corridor to Aurora's room, and Belle could only hold Aurora's hand tightly as the help arrived. It seemed as though this was going to be no quick visit.
"Well, see you around, Brother." Dashing waved his hand before leaving his brother in the entrance to the castle, making his way to the left wing, where his chamber was. The brothers had been given chambers on the opposite sides of the castle, for obvious reasons… well, obvious to those who had seen them growing up, fighting over anything and everything. They'd grown out of their rivalry, but had never moved chambers. Both brothers had walked to the castle, to ensure that they were sober enough to make sense if anyone spoke to them… though, Charming wasn't expecting to speak to any person, in fact, he just wanted to make his way to his chamber and… sleep.
"Your majesty!" A shrill cry came from the stairs above him, and Charming lifted his gaze to find a guard staring at him with crazed eyes. Immediately, he realised something was wrong – had there been an attack on the castle? Had his father fallen ill? Had he and his brother been found out? "It's the Princess, your majesty… she's giving birth! We've been ordered to search for you, and we looked everywhere."
He spoke so quickly that Charming didn't understand him at first, (could you blame him for being a little slow, really? With his good looks, a lot of intelligence was pretty rare) but then his eyes widened and he ran up the stairs, taking them at about three at a time, running along the lavishly decorated corridors to the chambers that held his wife within. There was a small huddle of people at the door, including Belle and Jasmine who had been promptly kicked out as soon as the birthing woman had arrived. They spotted Charming first, and began waving their hands to him, wanting him over there as quickly as possible.
"When did it start? Is she alright? Has she had it yet?" Charming asked the questions without taking a breath and Belle gave him a small smile. The expecting father – as panicky as any first timer.
"She's been going for around four hours now… the guards were searching everywhere for you, where were you?" Jasmine asked, a hint of anger etched into her features. But of course, a princess shouldn't show her anger, and she quickly hid it from everyone in sight, despite the fact that everyone in sight felt the same way. Feeling a little guilty, Charming walked to the door and pushed it open slowly, hearing his wife's cries of pain before he even touched the door. Aurora was laid on her bed, with two women running around her, one was holding her hand, and periodically wiping her brow with a damp cloth, the other was at the opposite end of the bed, lifting Aurora's skirts and peering underneath. As she lifted her head and registered Charming's presence in the room (which was quickly forgotten), she waited until Aurora's next cry of pain quietened.
"It's coming, your majesty! You need to push some more… I can see the head, the head, it's there!" She cried, sounding rather panicky for a woman who should be experienced in aiding women in birth. Charming frowned at her for a moment, and then remembered exactly where he was, rushing to Aurora's side. It wasn't often that men were allowed inside the room when a woman was giving birth, but he was the Prince of the kingdom… the women couldn't order him out unless his presence was having a negative affect on the birth.
As Aurora looked up and saw her Prince, who was glancing at her with a look of concern, she melted, for a moment. It was almost like he had kissed her again, and she had woken from her sleep of a hundred years, to look up into those blue eyes and…
"I hate you!" She suddenly cried, waving his hand away. "You did this to me! You're the reason I am in so much pain! How dare you come here?!"
Charming gave a glance to the women, who just smiled at him, suggesting that this was completely normal for a woman about to give birth. With a sigh, deciding that Aurora probably didn't really hate him, but it was the pain talking, he grabbed her hand, not letting her pull it away this time. He was going to be for her, to support her, whether she liked it or not.
Aurora knew exactly what she looked like. She had been in severe pain for the past few hours, and was sweating and breathing heavily. She probably looked like the ugliest woman in the world right now, laid on her bed with her skirts hitched up like some… wench. Why was he sticking around when she looked so horrible? She didn't have much time to think on this, however, as the sensation to push became unbearable, she gritted her teeth together and did the only thing she possibly could – she pushed.
She was greeted by the harsh cries of a baby as the woman at the other end of the bed gave a relieved sigh and lifted the bawling baby up, immediately turning away from the princess and her husband, and doing something to their new child on a table that had already been prepared, before wrapping the baby in a pristine white towel (no longer pristine, of course), and handing it to Aurora. But she wouldn't take it, her teeth were still gritted, and the sensation to push was still there.
"You need to get the after-birth out, your majesty." The woman said, quickly handing the baby over to Charming, who stood as still as he could in case he harmed the child in any way. As she moved Aurora's skirts aside, however, a brief look of shock passed over her face.
"You need to push now, your majesty, one last big push!" She cried, and Aurora, who wanted to shout and scream at her that she was pushing, that she couldn't exactly be doing anything else, let out one last cry as she pushed the last object from her body… or so she thought.
A second set of bawling joined the first and the woman lifted a second baby from the bed. Charming stared, his mouth gaping. Aurora however, looked rather angry, having only been counting on the one child, and having no patience for the fact that she had just given birth to two.
"You have got to be kidding me!"
What a happily ever after this was going to be.
Author's Note: In one of the original 'Sleeping Beauty' stories, the princess actually gives birth to twins, and names them Day and Dawn... this is sometimes seen as an extension to the original story, or sometimes a separate fairy tale in itself, but it gave me the idea for the little surprise that the end of this brings. ) And that's the end of this 2-part short story. Actually, it's more a one-shot than a short story, except it has two parts... Thanks for reading!