She slept for two days. None of the court physicians could explain why and nothing would wake the Princess from her deep slumber. Her father spent most of his time by her bedside, holding her hand and talking to her about anything, hoping that she would hear him and respond. The whole palace was on edge, unsure of what would happen next.
Then finally on the evening of the second day after the Princess’s return, she woke up. She didn’t open her eyes at first, her ears picking up the smallest sounds in the room, the crackling of the fire, the breathing of the person sitting next to her bed, the sound of pages turning.
‘What are you reading?’ She asked, her voice loud in the quiet room. She forced her eyelids open to look at the person sitting next to her.
‘You’re awake,’ Felipe said, smiling and putting his book down. ‘We were all really worried about you.’
‘How long have I been asleep?’ Rowena tried to sit up but her head began to spin and she dropped back onto her pillows.
Two days. Your father was starting to worry you wouldn’t wake up.’
‘My father. Where is he?’
‘He’s been sitting at your side almost constantly since you fell asleep. It would be the time I insisted he go get some rest that you wake up.’
‘How is he?
‘He hasn’t been looking too good over the last few days. Now that he’s got you back he was devastated at the thought he would lose you again so soon. Can I get you anything?’
‘Some water would be nice,’ Rowena said, suddenly aware of how dry her throat was feeling. Felipe stood up and walked over to a small table next to the head of Rowena’s bed and poured a tall glass half full with clear water.
‘Let me,’ he said, helping her to sit up then carefully handing her the glass. ‘Can you manage?’
‘I’m not an invalid yet,’ Rowena joked, sipping timidly at the water. It was ice cold and made her teeth hurt, but it soothed her dry, cracked throat. ‘Thank you, that’s much better.’ She handed the glass back to Felipe who put it back on the bedside table before sitting back down.
‘Your father speaks very highly of you,’ the Prince said, unsure where to look. ‘He is obviously very proud of what you have grown up to be. I can see why. You are a very strong woman.’
‘I hope so,’ Rowena said. ‘I’ll need to be strong for when the day comes when I must rule my country.’
‘I suppose so. I’d forgotten about that. Not only does your father get his daughter back but the country gets their heir to the throne too. It’s such a good thing you are alive.’ There was silence as Rowena plucked up the courage to ask the question she would rather ask anyone but Felipe. But she had to know the answer.
‘What happened to Damia?’
‘Banished,’ Felipe said simply, not looking at Rowena. ‘The council were very lenient, or so they tell me. If some people had had their way she would have been executed for attacking a princess, but Phedio thought that was a bit harsh. It’s for the best I suppose.’
‘I’m so sorry you had to see her in that light,’ Rowena said, genuinely affected by the Prince’s distress. ‘The Damia I knew was a kind and caring person. A little cold at times but a good friend. At least that was what I thought she was.’ She noticed that Felipe still wasn’t looking at her. ‘Are you angry with me?’
‘Why would I be angry with you?’
‘Because everything was great before I showed up. You were going to be married and be the king. I’ve ruined everything for you.’
‘I would rather I knew that the woman I was going to marry was a psychopath with anger issues than find that out after we’d got married. So you actually did a good thing showing up.’
‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ Rowena said, blushing. ‘In fact I was being pretty selfish turning up here and telling everyone who I was. I didn’t even think if people wanted me back as their heir, or if you would be better off not knowing what Damia really did. I just wanted things to be back to the way they were.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with wanting that, especially given your circumstances.’
‘What do you mean by that? What’s so special about my circumstances?’
‘Well, you’re the Crown Princess so you are used to a certain lifestyle. Damia said that even in the tower you had a servant bringing you your meals.’
‘Vincent was not a servant,’ Rowena objected strongly. ‘He was very good and kind to me, a true friend. He was the one who helped me get inside the palace so I could find my father.’
‘I’m sorry I didn’t mean it like that,’ Felipe said, quickly backtracking. ‘I was just saying that royalty are used to a certain way of living and it is understandable that you would want to keep that high quality of life.’
‘It wasn’t that I wanted,’ Rowena said. ‘Who are you to say what my motivation was? You hardly know me. ‘
‘I’m sorry,’ Felipe said, scared by the accusing look in Rowena’s eyes. ‘I didn’t mean to offend you in any way. I guess I just didn’t think.’
‘Well I might have been just a little oversensitive.’ Rowena looked away, slightly ashamed of her attack on Felipe. ‘Friends?’ She held out her hand for him to shake.
‘Friends,’ he echoed, taking her hand and shaking it.
‘Felipe,’ Rowena said a little cautiously. ‘I feel really bad asking this, but could you do me a favour?’
‘I was wondering if you could go to the kitchens, or send someone else down there to find Vincent Malheur. He’s my friend from the tower and I’d really like to see him.’
‘Of course,’ he said standing up. ‘I’ll go down myself to make sure he is here as quickly as possible.’ He bent down and kissed her hand.
‘Thank you.’ Rowena watched as the Prince left the room. She was eager to see Vincent again and tell him of her success, although she didn’t doubt he already knew of the safe return of the Crown Princess.