That night, I dreamt of Tiger. We were waltzing beneath the stars and gazing deep into one another's eyes conveying a strong emotion that wasn't hatred. The scene was serene and tranquil until Tiger leant down and kissed me, at which point everything became wild and exciting.
I woke up, head spinning and almost laughed aloud for joy. But then I realised it had only been a dream and that Tiger would probably never look at me as if I were special, let alone treat me that way.
Unhappy and resigned, I cursed unrealistic dreams before washing, dressing and heading down to breakfast.
My bad mood failed to fade and it took a lot of effort to act calm and like everything was okay in the dining room.
"You sure we won't poison you?" I muttered in the Phoenix Prince's ear as I passed him to sit beside Charity at the table that had been set up for the younger royals.
Tiger looked bewildered by my seeming change in attitude towards him but then smiled exultantly and replied "If anyone were to make an attempt on my life, my parents would ensure they died a long and painful death."
Charity looked appalled by Tiger's words but Coal (the other stranger at the breakfast table) looked unfazed by them as if he'd heard worse said. Terrence gazed at Tiger in awe, evidently fascinated by a High Prince's indifference to politeness (which made sense because he would be our High Prince in four years. I could imagine him approaching Tiger and asking him to teach him some inappropriate language.
But my response was even more unexpected. Even I was surprised as I replied "But there'd be nothing your parents could do if your enemy was successful: you'd still be dead."
Charity looked shocked then disappointed. Coal's eyes widened as if he couldn't believe his ears. Terrence, on the other hand, gazed at me with open admiration.
"Score for the Dolphins," he whispered, grinning.
I felt sick. Suddenly, I couldn't bear to be sitting at the table. I picked up a peach and stood up.
"Excuse me," I said to the bemused-looking three who weren't Tiger. With that, I walked off.
I stormed into the Palace gardens and found somewhere to eat my peach.
When I realised where I was, I laughed loudly and humourlessly at the sick irony of it. I was eating my breakfast where Henry and Vanessa had sat, after just exchanging unfriendly words with a Phoenix.
Charity came out, looking anxious. She spotted me and hurried over.
"What's wrong, Selena?!" she cried. "Did you decide you wanted to hate Phoenixes after all? I've never seen you act like that before: so cold! I'm scared!"
I chucked the stone into the undergrowth and stood up.
And then, I sighed.
"I'm sorry," I said quietly. "I was in a horrendous mood..."
"No, it was more than that," Charity interrupted. "I could tell. What was it?"
I looked up and gazed into Charity's aquamarine eyes. She gazed back steadily, conveying concern, comfort and understanding.
I looked away. "You said last night that you didn't care how I felt about Tiger," I stated.
"Well, the truth is... I'm attracted to him."
"Oh," Charity said, brow furrowing. "Oh."
"Last night I had a dream. We danced and then he kissed me. I woke up and my memory shattered the dream."
"Oh Selena." Charity sounded sympathetic. But what could sympathy do? Sympathy wouldn't make Tiger ask for us to court. Sympathy couldn't heal the wounds that had been inflicted on my heart. No, sympathy could only hang there in the silence and remind me why people should show it.
I walked past Charity, who was frozen to the spot, saying "I'm going to prepare myself for my duties. I shall see you later."
She didn't respond. She just stood there, staring unseeingly at a leaf on the ground.
I felt numb inside as I returned to my bedchamber.