Two days later, I had finished the painting of Princess Angel. I stepped back to admire it. It was perfect. There was just one thing I was struggling with and that was the mark on her chin. She didn't seem self-conscious about it. In fact, I think if she hadn't been interrupted, she would have told me the story behind it. I thought for a few more seconds before mixing some red and white paint until it came out as a pale pink.
At dinner, Angel was definitely happier. She had lost her desire for riding after what happened with William so she and Hugo had merely done a walk around the castle grounds. She sounded as if she had enjoyed herself greatly. As normal, I kept silent as I ate.
"How goes your painting?" the queen asked me suddenly and I cleared my throat, aware of Princess Angel listening.
"I finished it," I said. "But, like all gifts, I am questioning if it's good enough."
She understood and nodded slightly.
"What is it?" the king asked excitedly and I smiled a little.
"You'll just have to wait and see."
As the time sped by leading to my week alone with the princess, I got more and more nervous. I hadn't seen much of Hugo. The only times I did, he was heading back to his room. When I asked what he did that day, he just simply said it was a beautiful day with her.
On his last day, I was wandering down the hall and heard the sound of a violin. I followed it to the music room and looked in. Hugo was playing while Princess Angel watched on with a beautiful smile on her face. I walked on and wondered about what to do for her. I decided on giving her my portrait then. It would be a good way to say goodbye.
That night, I bumped into Hugo as he walked back to his room. He was smiling but it was a little sad.
"I've grown to care much for her," he confided in me. "She's a beautiful young woman, inside and out. I was worried she'd retreat, change her ind, after what happened with William. He still refuses to speak?"
I nodded bitterly. I had been sneaking to the dungeons to eavesdrop but he was remaining stubbornly quiet.
"I just wish the king would let me go down there," I admitted. "I want to talk to the scoundrel myself."
"Forgive me, but what can you get that the guards haven't?"
"I don't know," I sighed. "Probably nothing." Hugo tried to suppress a yawn but I laughed. "Go to bed. I'm sure you've had a long day."
"Enjoy tomorrow," he said with twinkling eyes.
I didn't sleep. I could only toss and turn. The last time I had been this nervous was when I burned my father's dinner. When the sun rose, Octavius walked in to see my sitting at the edge of the bed, my head in my hands and my hair on end.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Look at me," I said in a hoarse voice, gesturing at my outfit. "I look like a homeless peasant!"
He smiled kindly. "You look fine, sir. Now, after breakfast you are to join Prince Angel in the tea room."
I took a deep breath and nodded. I sat beside Princess Angel. Seeing her in such a beautiful dress and with the floral scent of her perfume floating to me, I felt like an ugly weed beside her. I had worn these clothes before but never in her presence alone.
We met in the tea room half an hour after breakfast. She sat in a white chair, her ankles crossed, with a tea saucer and cup perched on her knees. I tried to find a comfortable position on my own chair, fiddling with my tea cup.
"You look lovely," I said and she smiled.
"Thank you very much, sir," she said.
"Please," I stammered, "call me David. I'm no sir."
She tilted her head, her tiara still in place and I wondered if it was pinned to her head. For some reason, the thought made me laugh and I tried to cover it by taking a sip of tea.
"What humors you?" she asked.
"Nothing," I said quickly. "Just-Just a silly thought."
"Please share. I would very much like to share in your amusement."
I wasn't surprised if my face was permanently red by this point as I answered.
"I was thinking about your tiara," I mumbled finally and she looked surprised. "It never seems to move. I was wondering if they pinned it in place or used some kind of glue."
She giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. At first, I though she was just humoring me. Then she took it off with difficulty, revealing several pins.
"Very observant of you, David," she said, her lips parted in a smile. "Just like how you noticed my scar," she added and I fidgeted again.
"How did- No. Never mind," I said, cringing at the fool I was making of myself.
"I was three," she explained with another giggle. "My father had hoped for a boy and was showing me how to use a sword." Her eyes glimmered at the memory. "Oh, my mother was furious when she walked in to see me holding a dagger. While she yelled, he just smiled because he was embarrassed. That just made me laugh while I was swinging the hair and it slipped. Mother hasn't let me near a blade since."
"That's unfortunate," I said, the corners of my mouth twitching as I tried not to smile. "Though, if you don't mind me saying, I believe a lady should know how to defend herself."
"As we witnessed two weeks ago," she agreed and I took a sip of my cold tea. "When did you learn to shoot?"
"When I was a child," I answered, wishing my memories could be as happy as hers. "My father needed me to learn how to hunt so I went to be taught. I caught on quickly, though, and I soon became known among the village as a clean shot. It's how I earned money aside from farming."
"Do you have a close relationship with your father?" she asked and I was relieved the king and queen hadn't revealed the truth to her.
At first I considered lying but knew that wasn't a good idea; especially should she find out the truth.
"No," I said finally.
"I am very sorry. I can't imagine not having relationships with my parents."
"Work kept me very busy," I said, trying to find a way to exit the subject. "Work and my skills as an artist."
"Yes, I remember you paint and draw," she nodded, finishing her tea and placing the cup and saucer on the coffee table between us. She tucked some of her beautiful hair behind her ear. "Have you done it all your life?"
I nodded. "It was a way to...." I couldn't think of a way to phrase my response so I cleared my throat. "What of you? Do you sketch?"
"Oh goodness no," she laughed. "But I do write poems."
"I'd like to hear one someday."
"And I'd love to see one of your drawings," she smiled and I smiled back at her.
We continued to look at each other and, for the first time, I didn't feel like I had to look away. It was comfortable, looking into those beautiful eyes, and knowing she wasn't looking at me in sympathy like everyone else. I never wanted her to look at me like that.
I couldn't tell what he was thinking. I wish I could. Usually I was good at reading people. I didn't have the gift my mother did, but I was able to see what kind of a person someone was. Part of me felt guilty for not realizing who William was when I had the chance. Thinking about him made my neck burn.
Though I would never tell anyone, I was worried about the werewolf thing.
"Do you believe in things like vampires and werewolves?" I asked, watching his expression carefully.
I could see he knew immediately why I was asking and I hoped he'd answer honestly.
"I'm not quite sure," he said finally, frowning as he thought. "I've always been the kind of person where I'd like some evidence before I jump into belief." I nodded. "Do you?"
"The idea scares me but I'm unsure as well."
"I'm assuming this has to do with your neck?" he asked quietly.
I gave him a small smile. "You know the answer to that question."
He laughed gently. "Yes, I suppose I do."
He tugged at his sleeve, looking embarrassed and I felt a strange sense of pity that I didn't want him to see. I knew he was self-conscious about his attire. Though I knew little of where he came from, I had enough sense to know he was very poor. He spoke of earning money but I doubt he had enough to spare on things he enjoyed. I'm almost certain that suit was loaned to him.
"Do you have many friends in the village?" I asked and immediately regretted it.
His face grew a little dark and he finished the rest of his tea in one gulp.
"I've noticed an abundance of green," he said abruptly and I accepted his unspoken request.
"Yes. It is my favorite color."
"Like your eyes, but without the gold," he said and we both turned red.
"You-You are very observant," I repeated.
Just then, someone knocked on the door.
"It's time for lunch," Juliet said and I was startled.
Had we really been sitting here for that long?
"Thank you, Juliet," I said and she nodded.
David jumped to his feet and helped me to mine, offering his arm. It shook with nerves and I smiled, putting my other hand on his arm to steady him. His timidity and shy nature was so endearing that I couldn't help but walk closer to him than was necessary.