The third day was up to me to plan. After the queen's insistence, and slight nagging, I decided to bring Angel to the painting room after breakfast.
"I have been here a few times," she said as I pulled the seat out for her at one of the tables. "I never have quite gotten the hang of drawing, though."
I smiled. "You will after today."
She looked at me, surprised. "You're going to teach me how to draw?"
I nodded and handed her a piece of paper and quill. She bit her lower lip, looking doubtful. It was an adorable expression.
"It's not as hard as it looks," I promised. "It's much easier than poetry."
She laughed. "I might have to argue with that."
"We'll start with something simple," I said and drew a line, motioning for her to do the same. "A tree was the first thin I learned how to draw." I drew a line parallel to it and she did, too. "The best part is the leaves."
"Leaves are so intricate, though," she said, doing her best to keep her lines straight.
"Not when you do it like this," I told her and loaded my quill with ink again. "Here, watch me before you do it."
She leaned over, her shoulder brushing against mine. From the left branch all the way to the right, I drew what resembled a large cloud. I added a few squiggled lines here and there to give it a little more definition and finished the tree with a dark oval in the center of the trunk.
"It's that simple. You try."
She still looked unsure but imitated my leaves. Her eyes lit up.
"I did it!" she cried and I grinned at her joy.
"See? Let's try flowers."
For the rest of the afternoon, we drew. She had become infatuated with trees and flowers and I couldn't blame her. They were relatively easy to draw and, as a poet, nature was her main inspiration to begin with. When dinner came, she showed her pictures to her parents and Hugo.
"David taught me," she said, beaming at me and I helped her into her seat.
"They are gorgeous," the queen said, winking surreptitiously at me. "You have quite the teacher, don't you?"
"What did you do today?" the king asked.
As Hugo told everyone about his exploration of the library, I realized I had two more days with her. That meant I had one day to plan on how I was going to present her with my gift. After saying good night, I walked back to my room preoccupied. I also wondered what we would do the rest of the week before her birthday celebration.
On the fourth day, she took me to the music room.
"I've been taking piano lessons for two years," she told me, unlocking the door with a special key she kept in her pocket.
There were many instruments in the room. Among them was a grand piano, a cello, a violin, a mandolin, a harp, and even a trumpet.
"Can you play all of these?" I asked as she sat on the piano bench.
"Oh, no," she said. "Just the piano and the harp."
I sat on the couch as she straightened her back. She took a deep breath and I leaned back as she began to play. Whatever the melody was, it was absolutely beautiful. The music floated through the air, soft and gentle at first, then fast near the middle. Her eyes were closed and her body moved with her hands. It was mesmerizing. I hadn't even realized she had stopped until she turned to me.
"That was beautiful," I said and she flushed in pride. "What was it?"
"The first part was my lullaby," she answered. "The middle and end are just a few notes thrown together. Do you know how to play?" I shook my head and she moved over on the bench, patting it. "You taught me to draw, I will teach you to play."
I chuckled and sat beside her. She showed me where to put my fingers and taught me a few scales. I was barely paying attention, though. I kept getting lost in her voice and the sweet scent of the floral perfume she always wore.
"The lesson is pointless if you don't look at the keys," she whispered suddenly, looking at me with a nervous smile on her lips.
"It's hard to with you sitting beside me," I whispered back.
I don't know how it happened, but suddenly our lips were touching. It was gentle and short but the most exhilarating thing I had ever felt. Her hand touched my cheek and I was surrounded by her scent, hair, and the overwhelming presence of her body. When we pulled away, I couldn't look away from her eyes.
That was the moment I realized I had fallen in love with her.
The fifth morning dawned and I stared up at the ceiling. I had requested that she and I meet in the evening instead of during the day. For my presentation of the portrait, I wanted it to be special and not just a normal day. As I paced the atrium in the suit James had lent me, Hugo walked out.
"Hey David," he said, joining me and I smiled. "So, how was your week been?"
"Amazing," I breathed. "You were right. She's... gosh, I can't even think of the right word."
He grinned. "What are you doing tonight?"
"I've asked the kitchen to prepare a special meal," I answered. "We'll eat out here and I have a gift to give her. A way of saying goodbye," I added and he frowned.
"Are you going somewhere?"
I looked at him in surprise. "It's obvious she'll choose you, Hugo. She'd be a fool not to."
There was that look of pity again. "Do you really think so little of yourself?"
I shrugged, turning my back on him. "I don't see one redeeming quality in me above yours."
He put his hand on my shoulder, turning me again. "Frankly, I think she'll choose you." He smiled at my obvious shock. "Whatever she decides, I'd like to remain a friend."
I smiled back and shook his hand. "So do I."
The sun was starting to set. "Good luck."
As he went back inside, his words echoed in my mind. I'd like to remain a friend. He wanted to be my friend? I had never really had a friend before aside from James but he was more of a big brother.
I hurried up to the room and wrapped the portrait in simple fabric the queen had given me. I double checked that the suit was wrinkle free and propped the portrait up against the table. I checked in on the kitchen and they assured me everything was as I requested. I fidgeted with my tie, my back to the castle and looked up at the stars.
I turned at the sound of her voice. She was wearing a midnight blue dress and smiling that beautiful smile of hers. I was speechless as I helped her into her seat. The servants brought out our meal.
"I wanted something special for tonight," I stammered. "That's why we're out here instead of the dining hall. I, erm, found out what your favorite food is and... yeah," I finished lamely, gulping down some wine.
She smiled kindly and we began to eat in silence. She kept glancing up at the stars and I would lose myself in the way she seemed to glow in the moonlight. When we finished our meal, I pulled at the collar of my shirt and stood.
"I-I made something for you," I said and she looked up in surprise. I got the portrait out from under the table. "H-Here."
She stood to unwrap the portrait. She looked at it for a long time. I was nervous. Did she not like it? Her finger traced the very fine line - almost invisible - of the scar on her chin. I pulled at my sleeves as the seconds turned into minutes. Then, finally, she set it carefully on the table and turned to me. I couldn't read the look in her eyes but I soon got my answer.
She kissed me, wrapping her arms around my neck. I was stunned but kissed her back slowly. It felt so right, natural. Time seemed to stop around us and the rest of the world disappeared. It was just me and Princess Angel; a woman who lived up to her name.
Her hair tickled the back of my hands as I held onto her waist. I never wanted the moment to end but knew that, like every good thing, it would have to. Then she whispered something that shattered my heart.
"I choose you," she whispered against my lips.