"Can't have been that serious..."
"...Plans are still going ahead..."
"Wonder who she was..."
"Bet there was something happening..."
For the second time that day I wandered through the tables with my food and heard all the gossip circulating wildly. James and Tom were in a deep debate when I reached the table. Anna rolled her eyes at me and grinned.
"They've been like this since they sat down." She muttered. The two turned to her.
"Anna, you don't get it," Tom said. "If he was really with one of us, if he has feelings for one of us, it means the biggest re-assigning of roles there's ever been. We won't be masters and the mastered anymore. Especially if he cares enough to bring her up to his position. It will cause a political upheaval that thiss planet has never seen before!"
"Yeah, but if it's all just rumours, then the bastard is going to marry that flouncing pile of crap and she's going to reign over us in a... well a reign of terror."
I was bewlidered.
"How come it's gone from a simple meeting to him considering making her his wife in a couple of hours? The girl I mean, not the princess." Anna asked.
"Jake heard them talking. There's this alien who's organising a wedding! Between the prince and the princess, and half way through he was all 'what of the rumours that...' The poor prince. If he really likes one of us, he's screwed."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because his dad will kill him. I mean, probably almost literally. That is one alien you do not want to cross. I told you about the last time he was here right?"
"Well, someone dripped a bit of wine on him. I've never seen them again. Pretty sure they were killed. If you're serving the king, you had better be good."
I gulped and put down my fork.
"Well he might not even come, surely?"
"To see the future of his line become possible? When the prince marries, they get her lands to rule, and the possiblilty for an heir. Why wouldn't he come? I only hope, for the prince's sake, he doesn't come knowing about the girl in the cupboard."
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY ROOM?"
"I HAD EVERYTHING WHERE I WANTED IT!"
"It was a tip."
"HOW DARE YOU?"
"Because I'm doing my job. If I didn't tidy I'd be in trouble."
"... I didn't ask you to tidy."
"I was told it was part of my job."
She glared at me.
"You know I could have you removed? Or killed?"
"I am aware. But then you would have to do everything yourself."
"I would get another servant."
"Except I was a present from your prince. If you really love him that should mean something to you."
She pouted and sat down, covered in pink and orange.
"HE WON'T COME AND SEE ME! HOW WOULD HE KNOW IF YOU'D GONE?"
I almost retorted that he would, but shut my mouth. Of course he wouldn't notice a servant going missing.
Here I was at a disadvantage. The perfect sabotage tool would be to convince the princess that the prince was in love with a servant. Not me, but just tell her the rumours. But of course, that would probably get back to the King, and I didn't want to hurt him. The prince. I didn't want to hurt him. How much I had changed.
Without a word I left, the princess yelling after me.
"I'm going to get you some flowers! Since you managed to kill off the last ones again." I called back, before heading to the garden. As I picked the flowers I used the time to think. The small pranks were just making her mad at me, not him. It wouldn't make her go away, it would kill me. As I picked the last flower I glanced round at the maze. A small face grinned at me from the entrance. Kevin!
"Kevin!" I cried and ran towards him. He leapt in to my arms as I discarded the flowers on the floor. "What are you doing here."
"He's having his afternoon walk." An alien woman, the one who looked after him, appeared. She smiled at Kevin, and I could see real love shining through there.
"Good, that's good. I am Kayla, by the way."
"Ramona." She smiled at me tentatively and I returned the sign of kindness.
"Thank you for looking after my brother Ramona."
"He's an angel." She smiled at him and he grinned a toothy grin back.
"Really? Must have changed." Kevin frowned at me and I laughed. "Only joking kid." He grinned again, hugging me tightly. Ramona was picking up the flowers from the floor.
"Are these for the princess?" She asked, dusting them off.
"Yes, they are." I tried to keep the exhasperation from my voice, but she heard it.
"Is she giving you a bad time?"
"You have no idea." Ramona chuckled a little.
"Don't worry, none of us like her much. She is far too... well, materialistic for our race. Sure, we enjoy the finer things, but she abuses that." I stared at her in shock. "What? You couldn't imagine we were all happy with her?"
"I just... I didn't think any of you would be so forward about it with me."
"You've got it wrong. Most of us consider you to be the same. A little less intelligent of course, no offence, but overall, we don't think of you as slaves. That's just the law."
"Oh yes. Although it's illegal to think of it like that really. Orders of the King."
"Oh. But there are lots of you?"
"A fair few. People on our planet don't tend to, having never met you. But here, there are plenty that think so."
"I can't believe it."
"It's one of the reasons that there is such small scandal about the rumour."
"About the prince...?"
"...And a human, yes. The ambassador is more shocked because he comes from our planet. But we have not greeted the news unfavourably. Of course, nothing will ever come of it. The King would never allow it." The crunch of gravel disturbed us and we saw two aliens walking towards us. "Quick, give me the child. Take the flowers." We swapped and I curtseyed to Ramona. "We taked this walk every day at two. Join us if you would like." She muttered.
"Thank you." I replied.
"What is going on?" One of the aliens asked, stopping in front of us. "Who is this child?"
"A child from England, found and put under my care."
"Prince's orders." She replied.
"And why are you standing here?" The alien asked, turning to me.
"I was collecting flowers for the princess, and stopped to admire the child."
"That is not your job. Get back to the princess. And you, take the child inside. The prince is walking this way with the ambassador and will not want his path interrupted." We both nodded and headed in the direction of the palace.
"Royal guards. From our planet." Ramona muttered when we were out of hearing distance. That explained their attitude to Kevin and myself. Then we saw the prince and the ambassador coming towards us. Ramona stopped me and stood with a bowed head at the side of the path. I followed her example. For a moment I thought one of the footsteps slowed, but then as they passed us the pace picked up again and I forgot about it. As soon as they were gone Ramona took my elbow and directed me towards the palace once more.
"Perhaps I shall see you tomorrow?" She whispered.
"I would like that." We exchanged a smile, and parted, Kevin waving at me from over her shoulder.