The next morning, I was woken up by an alarm clock at six a.m. and rolled over to find Justin long gone. He must have had a ton of stuff to do, being the prince and future heir to the throne. I got up and got dressed in a simple purple dress with pink ruffles and lace. I then slipped on some matching heels and did my hair into a side braid with a fancy barrette in it. I headed out of the room and to the library, the book I read the previous night in hand. As I walked, I prepared myself for a day of 'How to become a proper princess' lessons. I knew everyone was trying to help me fit in more, but acknowledging that I didn't fit in in the first place kind of made me stick out like a sore thumb. But, I was excited for the future, my future, and these lessons were what was going to enable me to do the things I hoped to accomplish.
I opened the door to the library to find Justin standing next to an old fashioned chalk board. He smiled and lead me over to a desk he had obviously set up for me earlier that morning. "Today, we are just going to go over what you will need to knew before you become queen. I will introduce all the tasks to you and then we will begin to master each one of them. As you complete them, they will be marked off the board." He flipped the board to reveal a very, very long list. "No complaining, arguing, stumbling, burping, slurping, bragging, or twitching. Always have good posture, use proper English..." I interrupted him with a snort. "You really think I am capable of always using proper English?" He rolled his eyes, edited that one to 'around subjects', and continue. "Always know what you are talking about, know what utensils to use, never talk about something controversial, always be nice to animals, garden, be humble, have perfect manners, always be polite, take care of your body, be responsible, be kind, always be happy, see the good in everyone, be disconnected to new technology like phones and computers, and curtsy to everyone you meet."
"I feel like the peasant from 'Princess and the Pauper'."
"Well, same concept. Now, let's begin with some of the simple lessons. First, posture."
He suddenly slapped a book on top of my head and instructed for me to walk around like that and don't let the book fall, which I did with ease. First task-achieved. I could see his confusion on how I was already a master at the first task, and I laughed. "When the other girls and I were bored, we would do this to pass the time. Who ever kept their book on their head without trouble got to sleep in their own bed for the night." He seemed a little appalled by our game, but soon forgot it. He then grabbed my hand and lead me to the dining hall where we moved on to the utensils lesson, which I also already knew. Second task- achieved.
"Okay, you have done very good today with completing your first few lessons. You can take a break. I have to go to a conference, so I won't be at dinner. But I won't be as late to bed as I was last night." I nodded and immediately started fast walking towards the library. Before I even got ten feet away from him, I heard him clear his throat and say my name sternly, which was all he had to do for me to slow down, straighten my back, and neutralize the expression on my face. I got to the library and looked at the clock on the wall. I had about three hours before dinner, so I grabbed another book and sat down on one of the plush couches. I started to read, but was always mindful of sitting up straight and never slouching.
I finished the book just in time for dinner and made my way down to the dining hall, terrified that this was going to be my first meal without Justin there. I didn't need him, but he had always discreetly corrected me when I did something wrong. I was afraid that no one else would be as merciful. I sat at my place on the right side of the king, with his wife on his left, and began to eat. I made sure to mimic the king and queen in everything they did so that I could sure that I wasn't doing something incorrectly. At the end of the meal, as I was making my way back up to the library, the queen came over to me. "You had exceptional food etiquette tonight Lilly. There has been a large improvement in just one day. I can't wait to see what else you accomplish in the future." I thanked her and she left to go outside and sit in her garden.
I went to the library, found another book, and went back to my bedroom. I put the book on my nightstand and walked into the bathroom to go bathe. Supposedly princesses were supposed to bathe every two days but back at the orphanage, I would have been lucky to get to bathe once every two weeks. I filled the claw foot bathtub with warm water, stripped, and eased into it. I laid there for a few moments, meditating, until I looked over to the window sill right next to me and saw a bottle of bubble bath soap. I giggled like a little school girl and poured half of the mixture into the bath. I was sitting there, watching the bubbles build up, when I heard Justin enter into the bedroom. He paused at the open bathroom door but then walked through. I would have been very embarrassed if the bubbles hadn't been covering everything from my collar bone and down. "I see that you found the bubbles." he said, laughing and sitting on the edge of the tub. My cheeks heated up, but I didn't look away from him. One of our lessons that day had been on no matter what emotions your body showed, you never give into them. "Here is another lesson for you: you don't have to follow the rules of being a princess when the only other person in the room is your future husband." That time when I blushed, I did look away. It was so weird having someone who you just met be able to read your emotions like they have known you for years.
After my bath, I got out of the tub and wrapped a towel around myself, picking up the dress I had worn that day and walking into the bedroom. There, I found Justin sitting on the bed and reading the book I had taken from the library. "This is a really good book." he said, not looking up.
"I wouldn't know, I haven't started it."
"Well I'm just on the second page. I can start over and read it to you...if you want."
I accepted, but on the condition that he turned towards the window while I put on my nightgown. He laughed and turned towards the window without having to be asked twice. "You know, we are going to be married soon. A duty of the queen is to have the king's children unless physically unable. What are you going to do about your shyness and modesty then?"
"Well, hopefully by then I will actually fancy you."
He gasped playfully, like my remark actually upset him. "Well, I guess I have a few things to work on." I rolled my eyes and then pulled the green nightgown over my head. Once he heard me climb onto the bed, he turned around and made himself comfortable before beginning to read. It was a really good book, but I was getting so tired that I felt myself falling into a deep sleep halfway through it.
A few weeks past just the same as that day: I went to the library in the morning, had a few lessons with Justin, he went to a conference while I read, we ate dinner, and then he read me books at night to put me to sleep. It was very different from what I had imagined. I had pictured parties every night and royalty from other countries coming to visit extremely often, but I was happy to find it simpler than that. I liked how it was. I liked being able to spend a majority of my time with Justin. In fact, all that time spent together actually made me begin to fancy him. I started to get butterflies in my stomach when he looked at me for a long period of time and would become speechless when he said my name. It was odd. I had never been in love before, so I didn't know how to go about expressing my feelings towards him, but he seemed to understand that I was beginning to like him more than when I arrived. I also got a feeling that he felt the same way, but I was always too shy to ask.
One day, as I was reading in the library, two girls walked in. They looked roughly the same age as me, but both were much prettier than I considered myself to be. I stood, setting my book down, and greeted them. "Hi. I'm Lilly. What's your names?" The prettiest one, with long curly blonde hair and electric blue eyes, snarled at me and walked over to a shelf. The other one, who was a bit more plump and had short straight red hair, smiled at me and held out her hand. "Hi! I'm Jolan and she is Katura! Nice to meet you!" I shook her hand and invited for her to sit with me. She accepted and we seated ourselves on the large red couch in the corner. "I don't believe I have seen you around the castle. Are you a princess from another kingdom?" I asked bluntly. Jolan nodded. "Yes, I am. My parents are having a hard time running our kingdom because we are in a sever drought and poverty has overcome half of the population. So, they sent me here so that I didn't grow behind on my studies. Katura, on the other hand, was sent here because her parents just don't want to teach her." I glanced over at Katura, who was looking for a book in the non-fiction section. "Well, it is nice to meet you both." Jolan agreed and we continued to talk until Katura came over to us with a book in her hand. "Come on Jolan. I need to get back to my room to prepare for our special event later tonight." Jolan stood and began to follow Katura until they both stopped when I asked about their event. "Oh, it's nothing extravagant. Us and some other princesses are just going to go down to the lake and swim. You, the heir to the throne, wouldn't enjoy something as juvenile as that." said Katura.
"No, I would like to join you if you will let me. I wish to become friends with the other princesses in the castle. You are my peers after all. We live together, so why shouldn't we be friends."
"Okay, fine, you can come. But don't blame me if you don't enjoy yourself. I warned you. Meet us at the front gates at eight o'clock."
I nodded before realizing that dinner begins at eight. "But won't the king and queen wonder where we went? Shouldn't we tell them ahead of time?"
Katura turned to me and put her hand on my shoulder. "Lilly, is it? You are about to be confined by a life of royal duties and will not step a foot out of the castle unless it is for a social event that you are required to make a showing at. You deserve to live a little before that happens."
I nodded and agreed before wishing them a good rest of the day and expressing how excited I was to go spend time with them later that day.
It was seven fifty-two when I sneaked out of the library and down the stairs to the big front door. I could hear servants setting up the dinner table in the dining hall and took one of them dropping a plate as a chance to open to large door and exit. Once outside, I hurried to the gates, where Jolan and Katura were with two other princesses. "Finally. Geeze, we were about to just leave you." Katura complained as they began their short walk to the lake. All the way there, Jolan talked to me cheerfully and with great interest. I saw a healthy friendship in my future with her.
Once we finally got there, I looked into the water, which was so murky that I couldn't see the bottom. All the other girls began to get to strip there dresses and shoes, leaving themselves only in their underwear, so I did the same. All of them were incredibly skinny with amazing figures, except for Jolan, but she was still beautiful. I felt a little self conscious, being this exposed to these women that I barely knew. I wouldn't even undress in front of my husband to be, so this was a big stretch for me. "Okay, you jump in first." Katura said, smiling. I creeped up to the edge of the dock, wondering how deep the water was. After gaining my composure and holding my breath, I jumped in. Instantly, ice cold water enveloped me. I couldn't see good enough to know where the top of the lake was, so I just went limp and let myself float to the top. Keeping my eyes closed, for fear of getting mud or dirt in them, I began to swim around and told the other girls that they should join me. After waiting a couple seconds for a reply and not receiving one, I opened my eyes to find all of them gone, and my clothes had disappeared with them. I had been tricked! I wasn't as surprised by Katura and the two other girls' betrayal, but I was mortified by Jolan's. I thought we had been getting along wonderfully and that we would soon become best friends, but that obviously wasn't the case. I floated on the top of the water, trying to figure out a plan to get back to the castle without being seen. I suspected that it was about a quarter after eight, and by then Justin would have noticed my disappearance. I decided to wait to see if anyone came for me. But I promised myself that after ten minutes, if no one came, I would walk back to the castle. Even though it would have been humiliating, being in that cold water was bound to make me sick.
Just as I was about to climb out of the lake, I heard someone shout my name. "J-Justin?" I shouted, my lip quivering from the cold. I suddenly saw him step out from behind a large tree and coming over to the bank. "Come, come. You must be freezing." he said, taking his large jacket off and helping me out of the lake. As soon as I was out, he wrapped the large coat around me. "What happened?" he asked, picking me up and carrying me back to the castle. I told him of my encounter with Katura, Jolan, and the other two princesses and what they had done to me." I watched his brow furrow and his jaw lock as he entered the castle and took me up to our bedroom. He sat me on the bed and ran around the room, bragging towels, extra blankets, a heating pad, and a warm cotton nightgown. He dried me off and then turned away from me, instructing me to change into the nightgown he gave me. I did, blushing at how he didn't even have to be asked to turn away. When I was changed, he turned back to me and put me under the covers, pilling the extras on top of me. He then slipped the heating pad under me blankets and sat on the edge of the bed, looking at me, concerned. "Do you think you got a..." Involuntarily, I interrupted his sentence with a sneeze. "...cold?" he finished, sighing.