"Why not? We can be queen together!"
"There can't be two queens!"
"When I'm queen, I'll decree you queen too!"
"If a queen decrees something, it has to happen. It's the law!"
"Your Majesty?" It was the nurse.
"Anhia!" The seamstress. "I can't believe you'd bother the princess! What have I told you?"
"She didn't bother me," said Lafrindyx. "We're friends now! I want to come back and visit."
"Your mother might not like that," advised the nurse.
"Can't we just ask?" pleaded the girl, clutching the nurse's long starched apron.
The nurse smiled. "We'll ask. Now let's get you home. It's almost time for your music lesson!"
When the princess was gone, it felt as though the whole shop had dimmed down, as if it too were a living organism whose heart rate had just returned to normal. I was certain she'd forgotten about me.
Yellow light poured over me; my head throbbed. I was in some sort of claustrophobia-inducing alleyway; the walls on either side of us seemed to rise up forever. The floor below was polished citrine. I hugged my knees to my chest, shivering. Nothing about any of this could be good.
"Gah!" I shrieked, stumbling backward and landing on something hard. Looming over me was a face so terrifying it seemed like that of a novel villainness come to life. Razor-sharp cheekbones threatened to pierce through hideous yellow flesh, and her eyes seemed to be three times as big as my own. Worst of all was a grotesque stripe on her cheek of skin that was totally transparent rather than healthy and frosty-I could see in individual blood vessels carrying the blinding poison through her body. A scar.
"Shh!" said the girl, putting a thin finger to her crooked lips.
"Who are you?" I said, my voice muted with fear. "How did I get here? Where's Lafrindyx?" My fingers scrambled against my neck. The necklace! It was gone!