It took the next three days for everyone to come to grips with what had happened at Rowena and Felipe’s wedding, and then not everyone approved of Rowena’s decision. In particular, Rowena’s father, the King, had refused to speak to either Rowena or Artem since they left the cathedral and had sat sullenly all the way through the feast that followed. Thankfully Rowena’s stepmother, the Queen, approved of Artem and acted as go-between for the King and his daughter.
‘I don’t know how we can convince him that this is a good idea,’ Rowena told the Queen on one of her visits to the Princess’s rooms. ‘Is it because Artem isn’t of noble birth or because he doesn’t approve of him as a man? It can’t be because he’s Madrimian because he was happy for me to marry Felipe.’
‘If you want my honest opinion, I think it’s just your father throwing one of his tantrums. He’ll come round soon enough, I promise.’
‘But the wedding is in a few days,’ Rowena said, panicking. ‘What if he hasn’t forgiven us by then? I have to have my own father at my wedding or the people will take it as a bad omen that he doesn’t approve of my match.’
‘But he doesn’t,’ Artem pointed out, earning an elbow in the ribs from his fiancée for his troubles. ‘What? He doesn’t like me, it’s the truth. Surely if you just go to him and tell him that this is your decision. I’m sure he’ll respect you for that.’
‘I don’t know. The last time I made a decision I ended up kissing a man who I wasn’t meant to be marrying on my wedding day. It’s hardly a good track record.’
‘I think Artem is right,’ the Queen said. ‘If you are really serious about Artem then stand your ground. Tell him this is your decision and there is nothing he can do to change your mind. Then if he’s only being stubborn because he didn’t get what he wanted, he will eventually come round. He won’t stay mad at you forever.’
‘It’s all very well planning what to say to him but you’re forgetting that I’ve tried to talk to him already and he won’t see me. I can’t tell him I am being strong and sticking to my decision if he won’t listen to me.’
‘Then make him listen,’ Artem said, putting his hands on Rowena’s shoulders so he could look her in the face. ‘You have got to stop being so nervous about hurting your father’s feelings. He might be the King but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to sacrifice his or her happiness so he can get what he wants. Go talk to him.’
‘Alright, I’ll go,’ Rowena surrendered, knowing she couldn’t refuse both her stepmother and her fiancé. ‘But can you come with me? If you don’t I may falter when it comes to opening the door and actually saying it.’
‘I’ll come with you to the door, but I don’t think I should come in with you, it might be a step too far.’ Rowena agreed and allowed the Queen and Artem to lead her out of the safety of her room and steered her towards her father’s chambers at the other end of the palace. They arrived at the door and Rowena was left standing in front of it, being watched by her two escorts.
‘I’m scared,’ Rowena said, turning around, away from the door. ‘I don’t want him to hate me, maybe I should just leave it and let him adjust in his own time.’
‘He won’t hate you,’ Artem reassured, turning her to face the door again. ‘Just say your piece and if he doesn’t respond then walk out again. We’ll be waiting for you.’ He gave her a peck on the cheek for luck, knocked on the door and pushed Rowena through it. She staggered into the room and the door shut behind her. Cursing her fiancé, she looked around the room for her father and when he was nowhere to be seen she thought she would be able to walk out unnoticed.
‘Who is it?’ A tired voice asked from the other room.
‘It’s me Father, Rowena.’ Her father appeared from the doorway, looking like a walking ghost as he looked at his daughter. ‘I have something I need to say to you Father,’ Rowena said, her voice calm and strong. ‘It’s about Artem.’
‘I knew it would be,’ he said grumpily walking over to the chair by the fire and collapsing into it. ‘What is it you want to say this time?’
‘Artem is a good man, kind and generous and loving. He treats me like his equal and his friend. Now I know this probably means nothing to you because I don’t gain anything material by marrying him. He has no money or land or title. He’s a peasant from another country, which makes him an outsider who doesn’t even bring an alliance to the marriage. But I also know that deep down you want me to be happy and although Felipe was a wonderful match, I wouldn’t have been happy because I didn’t love him. Artem loves me with all his heart and I love him too. Nothing you can say will convince me otherwise or stop me from going ahead with this marriage. I’m sorry if that isn’t what you want to hear but it’s the truth and if you can’t accept that then I’m not going to change anytime soon.’ Finished, Rowena turned to leave, her hands shaking, partly from nerves and partly from the adrenaline that was pumping through her veins at that moment.
‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’ her father said softly. ‘I didn’t mean to drive you away but I thought marrying a prince was what you wanted, what you’ve always wanted and I don’t want to see you compromising what you want for the sake of someone else.’
‘I thought I wanted a prince to whisk me away and make everything perfect, but I know now that things like that don’t happen. Artem might not have the title of a prince but he’s my prince in spirit.’
‘And he makes you happy? He doesn’t mistreat you or speak harshly to you?’
‘He is perfect,’ Rowena said simply.
‘Then I am happy for you,’ the King said tears in his eyes. ‘I’m just sorry it’s taken this to make me see that you know are old enough to know what you want.’
‘It doesn’t matter now. Will you come to the wedding?’
‘Of course. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.’