Chapter 7

Cassandra rested on the heels of her palms, staring up into the lavender sky, not minding the soft ground moistening her skirts. Breathing deeply, slowly, she closed her eyes and relaxed into the quiet around her, the freedom the company of Sam, her oldest friend, allowed her.

"I suppose this will be the last time for a while," he said, breaking the silence. "Everything is changing. Has been changing for some time."

She smiled tightly, turning to look at him. "Hm. We haven't done this for what seems like a long time."

"You're a Princess," nodded Sam understandingly. "Growing up and preparing for your future. There's not much time for a meager stable hand."

She opened her mouth to protest, but their was nothing annoyed or accusatory in his tone, so she simply nodded. His words were the truth. He smiled and gently placed his hand over hers, the warmth of his palm comforting. "Sometimes I've wondered how we were ever friends. We are so different, our situations, are so different."

Shifting, sitting straighter, she adjusted her hand under his and squeezed it softly, smiling, "I have never really known either. Somehow you became my big brother."

Sam chuckled, silence dropping between them. Though there was nothing uncomfortable about the quiet pause, a lovely reverie. He spoke once more, gazing over the Princess with observant eyes, shaking his head,"You have grown so much."

Cassandra laughed tightly, "That's what everyone is telling me as of late."

"It's true," Sam patted her hand. "You're looking like a Queen."

She didn't want to hear that, turning away, looking off toward the gardens, the expanse of green, the palace towers, the horizon. All that was home to her, was her childhood, her past. Time had flown by so rapidly.

The light began to face, the last rays slipping away and the fingers of night stretching across the sky. "You should head back," he said, pushing himself to a standing position and offering a hand. Cassandra took it, straightening, and brushing the stray pieces of dirt and grass from her skirts. "You have a big day tomorrow, and you need your sleep."

"You sound like my mother," said Cassandra lightly. Sam laughed, and the two stood, facing one another, unsure of how to continue.

He carefully stepped forward, wrapping her in a gentle embrace. She returned the gesture, a few loose tears rolling down her cheeks. "Don't change for anyone. Ever. Do you hear me?"

Cassandra sniffed, backing away slightly. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

Leaning forward, he brushed his lips over her forehead. "And don't forget me, cause I won't forget about you."

"I won't ever forget about you, Sam. How could I?" she answered, rubbing her eyes, her voice quivering, cracking.

Sam smiled sadly, taking her in his arms once more, "Just making sure." He stroked her hair reassuringly. "You're going to make a great Queen, I know it."

The End

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