‘I’ll do it now.’ Rowena leapt back from the door, scared she would be discovered when Felipe opened it. She ran back across the room, and jumped into bed. She had just hidden back under the covers and looked like she was asleep, when the door opened quietly. She heard the click as the door shut followed by the soft sound of feet moving across the floor towards her bed.
She let Felipe sit in his normal chair beside her bed, pick up his book, which he always left on her bedside table, and begin reading before she started to stir. She opened her eyes a crack to look at him. He was sitting calmly with his book open on his lap. If she hadn’t heard his conversation with Phedio only moments earlier, she wouldn’t have guessed anything was wrong. But she knew he was trapped in a corner with no way to escape.
‘Good morning,’ she said brightly, pushing the covers away from her face and sitting up.
‘Good morning Rowena,’ he said, smiling at her as he closed his book, putting his full attention on her. ‘How are you feeling today?’
‘Much better, thank you.’ Rowena suddenly felt rather nervous under the Prince’s gaze, knowing what he was going to ask her.
‘I’m very glad to hear that. In fact, now that you’re feeling better again, I was wondering if I could ask you something.’
‘What is it like outside?’ The question escaped from Rowena’s lips, panic seizing her. The Prince looked confused but humoured her.
‘It’s quite a nice day today. But although I haven’t been out yet, I’ve been told that there is quite a cold wind blowing. Winter is definitely on it’s way.’
‘I fancy a walk in the gardens. I didn’t get to see them when I first arrived back and I would like to see what they have done to them while I’ve been away.’ She got out of bed, going straight to her closet to choose a dress to wear. She couldn’t turn to look at Felipe, scared to find out how he was looking at her.
‘Are you sure you’re well enough to go out?’ Felipe asked, concerned.
‘I’ve been stuck in this room too long. If I don’t get some fresh air soon I think I will go mad.’
‘I can always open a window,’ Felipe offered. ‘That way you can get some fresh air without endangering your health by going outside.’
‘I’ve spent too much time locked away in rooms unable to go outside,’ Rowena said, thinking back to her time in the tower. ‘I think a walk will do me good.’
‘Then do you need me to call someone to help you dress?’ Rowena finally turned and saw how uncomfortable the Prince was looking, unsure of what to do.
‘No that’s alright,’ she said taking a dress from the closet and moving towards the screen on the other side of the room. ‘I can do it myself, it won’t take long.’ She disappeared out of sight, behind the screen and began immediately lacing herself into her corset. She was now even more glad of the time she had spent with Artem and his group, where she had to learn to lace her corset alone. ‘Are you alright Felipe? You seem a little… strange this morning.’
‘I’ve just had some bad news, that’s all.’ Rowena couldn’t help but feel slightly hurt that the prospect of marrying her was seen as bad news by Felipe. They got on well, and surely a lifetime together, even without romance, wasn’t the worst fate in the world.
‘I hope it’s nothing too serious,’ she said, her voice unable to hide the hint of resentment she felt at the thought of being considered a prison sentence.
‘My country is in a bad place. Something terrible is going to happen and I’m not sure I can fix it. I don’t know if I should save myself and betray my country and my principles or stand my ground and risk dying in the process.’ Rowena’s heart went out in sympathy for the Prince. He was clearly torn.
‘Surely it won’t help your country if you’re killed. I’m sure they would understand if you chose to save yourself and explained the situation to them.’
‘But I’m scared that if I take the action I need to protect myself, I will be hurting someone I care about.’
‘I’m sure your family would understand,’ Rowena said softly, immediately assuming he was talking about his relatives back in Madrimar.
‘It’s not them I’m worried about. They disowned me years ago.’
‘Then who are you so worried about? Your aunt?’
‘I can’t tell you,’ the Prince said, his voice almost as quiet as a whisper. Then it hit Rowena, as she tied the laces on the bodice of her dress, that she was the person the Prince was so worried about hurting.
‘Then I won’t press you,’ she said, a little more cheerfully as she stepped out from behind the screen. Her blonde hair was still slightly messy from lying in bed, still un-brushed, but it didn’t distract from her beauty. The dress she had chosen was a gift from one of her supporters who had visited over the last few days and was one of the few garments in her closet that still fit her. The blue of the fabric matched perfectly with her bright blue eyes, both the colour of the sky on a clear summer day, and the lacing up the front of the bodice was beautifully delicate, despite the fact it was there to keep the dress together. ‘Shall we go?’ She asked, heading for the door.
‘Not without a coat,’ Felipe insisted, going to the closet and taking out a long thick navy blue cloak. ‘This will have to do.’ He handed it to Rowena who immediately hung it around her shoulders, the hood drooping down her back for the moment.
‘Right, let’s stop hanging about and let’s go,’ Rowena said, putting on the air of an excited child, bouncing towards the door.