At ten o'clock that morning, I entered the throne room to begin the morning's duties. I was feeling a lot happier, due to the fact that I had spotted Cousin Rosia walking around the Palace Gardens with Coal. I was glad that I wasn't jealous since being a vessel for so many negative feelings was very unhelpful in a position of responsibility.
Charity was seated at the end of the room, waiting patiently for me.
"Hi," I said, feeling slightly nervous.
"Hey, Selena. Are you feeling any better?"
"Lots, thanks," I replied, smiling. I walked up to her and sat beside her. Today there were only two thrones in sight and all the other chairs had been moved to the edges of the room.
"That's good. Now, as you know, the High Princess serves as a counsellor for the young women of the kingdom: that is one of her roles. The other main things she is responsible for are advice in an emergency when someone in a higher position than her is unavailable, help from time to time in centres of health, teaching young ones a subject she may be interested in, and visiting towns around the kingdom to check there is not serious poverty and that a reasonable standard of living is being maintained.
"Today I will be performing the role I first mentioned while you, as part of your training will be looking after some children. Since you have no specialist subject yet, you will be reading them a story. After that, we will visit Wavia Hospital then collect magical ingredients from a sorceress who wishes to bestow her blessings on the Palace. Do you have any questions before out subjects are let in?"
I shook my head.
"Then your duties will commence in the nursery."
Feeling anxious and desperate to do a good job, I walked to the nursery where I found a maid singing nursery rhymes with half a dozen infants who could not have been older than 7 years of age.
"Princess Selena!" a young girl with fair hair and green eyes exclaimed as she spotted me standing nervously in the doorway.
They all jumped up and ran up to hug me. The maid stood and smiled.
"Will you be needing any help, Your Highness?" she asked warmly.
"Perhaps," I replied shyly. "I don't have much experience of little ones at all. It was nursemaids who were responsible for looking after Terrence."
"I see. Well, I'll sit in the corner and be there if you need me."
I smiled. "Thank you."
One of the little girls was stroking my hair. "Your hair is so pretty," she murmured, twisting the end of the light brown locks, admitting the way they caught the sun and shone like gold.
"Why thank you," I replied. "So is yours."
It was true. Her rich brown curls looked magnificent: there was no doubt that she'd grow up to be very beautiful.
"Thank you, Your Highness," she mumbled shyly.
"Call me Selena. What's your name?"
"Wow, I really like that name." Addressing all of them I said "Why don't we all sit in a circle and introduce ourselves."
"Yay!" they said delightedly, including the only boy there who seemed to like females - unlike Terrence who had refused to talk to them until about two years ago.
They tugged at my dress and led me to the wide open space in the centre of the room. There we sat, all cross-legged on the floor, all equals despite my position.
"Oh Your Highness," the maid cried, standing up, looking flushed. "Take my chair."
"Nonsense," I said. "This is fine."
She sat down, cheeks still red.
To the children, I said "So, as you know, my name's Selena. I know Yasmina's name - who else wants to tell me theirs?"
At once, five hands went up - the hands of the children whose name I didn't know. "Oo! Pick me!" they exclaimed.
First I chose a rather pale-looking girl with long black hair cascading down her back. Her eyes were so dark a brown they almost looked black."
"I'm Amelia," she said.
Next, I picked a blonde-haired girl with blue eyes. Her name was Sophie.
I worked around the circle, learning the other children's names.
The boy, whose hair was chestnut brown and curly, and whose eyes were olive green, was called Mertin.
The girl who had first spotted me was called Jade.
Finally, the last, a girl with silver hair and grey eyes, was called Alicia.
When I had memorised their names, I got them to shake the hand of the child either side of them, saying "Hello, I'm ..."
After that, I stood up and fetched a book from the bookshelf. I sat back down with the unusually quiet infants and told them the well-known story of George and Julietta, two twins who get lost in a wood and have to ask a Wise Old Owl how to get back out.
By the time I had finished reading, every one of the six children was fast asleep. They looked simply adorable and their calmness was contagious.
I turned to the smiling maid who indicated with a nod that I should go and rejoin Charity. I then made my way downstairs to find I was right on time for our next ‘duty'.
At the hospital, we helped the midwives deliver triplets to a young woman with peach-coloured skin, long wavy dark brown hair and wide blue eyes called Tally.
This was a very moving experience for me, and I couldn't help but cry along with the mother when she was allowed to hold her daughters and her son.
To top things off, the girls were named Charity and Selena, and both my sister and I were allowed to hold them, as well as the boy, Thomas. I knew in that moment that this was a day I would never forget, not even when I was old and grey.
At our next destination, we had a really super time. Besides just being given a basket of herbs and flowers to plant in the Palace Gardens, we were taught by Martha (a surprisingly young sorceress with flowing green hair and bright, purple eyes) how to shape water into dolphins and sea horses. I was presented with a ruby pendant (a late Crowning present) and we were encouraged to "drop by any time" to help Martha look after the gorgeous kittens her cat had recently given birth to.
Charity and I were wearing big smiles on our faces as we returned to the Palace and got ready for lunch.
Yet, it was with a sick apprehension that I remembered my appointment with George, which I would surely have to attend during the hours of freedom I had after the meal.