An announcement went out the following day that Adviser Sayyid was planning an extravagant ball at the end of the week. Anybody who was anybody in the upper city would be there, with King Basir and Princess Izdihar as guests of honour, and for the next few days the adviser’s tower was bustling with preparations. Shahrazad was worried when she heard the news, and when she went to see Izdihar her fears were confirmed. Basir had told her that this was the night when Sayyid planned to propose to her. It was going to become their engagement celebration.
“Are you sure about this?” Shahrazad asked.
Izdihar looked tired and her eyes were puffy, but she was surprisingly calm. “I never had any choice. If I said no, we don’t know what Sayyid might do... I just hope it’s not for long.”
“I’m sure it won’t be. If anyone can find a way out of this, it’s your father.”
“I know. I’m just scared that Sayyid will try to push forward the wedding. We’ve not been able to stop him having his own way so far. Why would that be any different?”
“Oh, Izdihar. I know your father would not let you be married to him. Whatever happens.”
Izdihar sighed. “And how am I going to pretend like I mean it, like I want to marry him? It’s hard enough to stay polite around him as it is!”
“I don’t know... don’t think about it. Pretend that it’s someone else asking you to marry them.”
An image of Faruq, down on one knee, popped into Izdihar’s head.
“And remember it’s not for real. Soon this will all be over. Just... keep it polite... carry on staying out of his way when it’s possible. I know you can do this.”
Izdihar nodded. ”I’ll need to not think about anything too much. In a way I feel better than I did before. This is all I can do to help my father save the kingdom, and I’m going to do it.”
Shahrazad smiled. “You’re the best princess the kingdom could ask for.”
“And you’re the best friend I could ask for.”
Shahrazad hugged her friend and they stayed like that for a while, each tearing up. She stayed for a couple more hours, not wanting to leave Izdihar alone, before eventually she had to go home, worried about Tommy.