David comes from a humble and abusive background. After a fateful night in which he meets Princess Angel, he is chosen to compete for her hand in marriage. What he doesn't know is there is more to his life than he thought.
I woke at the rooster's first caw. As I did each morning, I glanced out my window. I had a perfect view of the palace and always wondered what it would be like to live there.
I put a smock on over my clothing and put on my boots. Taking a deep breath, I knocked on my father's bedroom door.
"Father, it's time to wake up," I said softly.
"Make my breakfast, boy," he grunted.
I closed his door and started a fire in the fireplace. While it got hot enough to cook, I sliced up the bacon we had preserved. I sighed when I realized we were running low on eggs. I'd need to find some work soon so I could buy more. I balanced a heavy iron skillet over the iron rod that we hung the kettle from. Very carefully, I cracked the eggs so they came out in perfect circles. I put four slices of bacon on beside the frying eggs and sighed, not daring to walk away in case it burned.
To my right, my father walked out and I tried to hide my body's flinch. I was unsuccessful, though, and my father laughed darkly. I didn't say anything as I slid the food onto a plate for him. Unfortunately, when I was turning, the skillet fell into the fire and I groaned quietly.
My father put his fork down and narrowed his eyes at me.
"I'm sorry," I said quickly.
"It's no wonder no woman will take you," he hissed, standing up and taking his rope belt off as he did so.
"I'll clean it well," I breathed. "It won't- It'll be fine."
He raised his arm and I waited but someone knocked on the door. We both looked at it then he shoved me toward it, putting his belt back on. I straightened my shirt and opened the door. I was surprised to see a royal messenger standing before me.
"I have a proclamation from King Blackmayne," he said in a loud and official voice.
He held out a scroll tied with an emerald silk ribbon. My father smacked my hand away and snatched it from the messenger.
"What is this regarding?" my father demanded.
The messenger just turned and went to the next house. My father curled his lip and slammed the door shut.
"What have you done this time?" he growled but I knew he didn't want me to answer. He unrolled it and snorted. "It would seem that the princess has rejected every suitor. She has requested that she marry a man in the kingdom. So they're holding a ball tomorrow evening. They have summoned everyone." He smirked at me, his eyes glinting with cruel laughter. "Even you."
I waited. He tapped the scroll in his hand and his eyes glided over to the disaster that was breakfast.
"The eggs were perfect circles this morning," he said. "Go polish my shoes. This damn summons is required anyway."
"Yes, Father," I muttered and walked by him.
He grabbed the back of my neck, applying pressure under my ears with his thumb on one side and his pointer finger on the other. I closed my eyes, wincing at the pain.
"Find something suitable to wear," he said in a dangerously quiet voice, "or face my displeasure."
"Yes, Father," I repeated and he shoved me forward, letting me go.
I opened the drawer and looked at the shoe polish. I sighed quietly. We were out. After waiting for my father to leave, I took the smock off and got my coin purse from under my pillow. He didn't know about this money or he would probably spend it all on alcohol, too. These earnings were the only reason we weren't destitute.
I headed for the shoemaker's, keeping my eyes downcast. I knocked on his door, ignoring the people calling out to me. I didn't want them to see. I didn't want anyone to see.
"David!" the shoemaker, James, said cheerfully and I glanced up at him briefly. "What brings you here on this wonderful morning?"
I cleared my throat. "I know it's early, but I need to replenish my shoe polish."
"Well, come on in," he said and stepped to the side. "Getting ready for the ball?"
"No, it's for my father. I'm not going."
He frowned, pausing in the act of getting out a jar of polish. "Why not?"
I shrugged. "I have things to do at the house and I also don't have anything to wear."
James stared for a moment. "You know, I was the same size as you when I was a young man." He beckoned me with his finger and I followed him up a set of stairs. "My mother was a seamstress and my father a shoemaker so we always had an abundance of clothes. Sometimes, my mother would make random articles because she had too much fabric. She made one thing that I fell in love with that I've kept since I was 25."
We were in his house now. He and his wife lived above their shop and she was currently making breakfast. I bowed shyly. She was deaf but she beamed anyway. James signed something to her and she nodded and signed something back. He gave her a quick kiss.
"Wait here. I'll be right back."
It was awkward being in his home. James and I had a decent relationship. He was the closest thing I had to a friend and, though he would never say so, I had a feeling he knew what happened in my home.
"Here you go," he said.
My jaw dropped. He was carrying a wonderful dark blue silk suit with a black undershirt. A black tie was looped around the hanger. He pushed it into my hands and I shook my head.
"I can't," I said. "It's too-"
He held his hand up, frowning when I cringed but spoke anyway.
"It's been collecting dust in my closet for 30 years, David," he said. "After I married young Belle there, I didn't need it. You do. Take it."
"I-I can't. My father will- I mean, I'll...."
I blundered into silence and sighed.
"Just take it, David," he said quietly. "I know you don't get much at home. Now take this polish and get your shoes ready. You have a ball to go to."
I gave him a small smile before going back downstairs for the polish.
I put the whole coin purse on his counter.
"Hurry up, boy!" my father shouted from the door.
I jumped but double checked that my suit was how it should be. The tie was a little crooked so I straightened it. I walked out, being careful not to scuff my boots. My father curled his lip then left. He had been certain I stole it but his desire to go to the castle and be important was stronger than his desire to beat me. So, miraculously, I didn't receive one last night. When we got back from the ball, however, was a different story.
Men and women were going up to the palace. Young women stayed at their homes, waving and wishing their brothers good luck. The fathers had brought their waves and a few waved at me. My father glared at me, gripping my arm tightly, and I tried not to wince and smiled politely back to them.
Guards were creating a path for us when we got inside. I didn't see much of the entryway for we were immediately corralled to the right. They led us through the spacious dining room and into another room that I assumed was the ballroom.
Many tables lined the walls that were laden with food. An orchestra was set up by the windows and the royal family sat on the far side of the room. I could barely see them and my father shoved me against a wall by a table.
"Don't embarrass me," he snapped then disappeared into the crowd.
I filled a plate with random pieces of fruit. The princess stood from her seat and I watched as the young men of the village surrounded her. I felt a little jealous but stayed where I was. Even though I wasn't able to interact, it was nice to be around other people for a change.
An hour into it, I was standing at the same spot drinking champagne. A few men tried to make conversation but one look from my passing father made me decline. I was starting to get bored and considered leaving when a soft voice spoke.
"Aren't you going to ask me to dance?"
I dropped my glass and swore under my breath. I quickly picked it up and saw a pair of fine slippers in front of me. My eyes slid up as I stood and I flushed.
I gulped and cleared my throat. The princess had her head tilted to the side, waiting expectantly.
"I-I can't dance," I choked out finally.
She stared. "Your mother did not teach you?" I didn't answer and her eyes softened. She took my hand. "Come with me."
I immediately wanted to pull away but there was something about her that captivated me. She led me into the crowd and I looked around for my father, praying for the first time that he had taken a woman home like he had been doing lately.
"Put your hand on my waist," she said in that beautiful voice, "and take my other hand." She smiled when I did so. "Now we move."
"That's it?" I asked and she nodded.
I studied her as we danced. Her hair was the color of golden light and her eyes emerald green with golden flecks. Her pale skin seemed to glow in the light of the chandeliers and candles along the walls. Perched on her head was a silver tiara with emeralds worked into it. I couldn't look away from her.
"What is your name?" she asked.
My name? What was my name? Uh....
Oh come on, David. Don't make a fool out of yourself. Oh! David! My name is David!
I cleared my throat a couple times. "David," I breathed. "My name is David."
Her pale pink lips parted in a smile. "It's nice to meet you, David. My name is Angel."