"I have a plan," Charity announced in a mysteriously cunning tone as I woke up and stretched.
"What are you talking about?" I asked, stifling a yawn.
"Last night you said that Tiger Flame would not ask you to dance. Well, then, we must make you look irresistible. The next time you attend an event where he'll be too, we must bring out the rose in your cheek, put a flower and crystal teardrops in your hair, and add a sparkle to the powder we place on your eyelids."
As she said these things, she mimed the acts she had performed on my face the previous afternoon. A dreamy look came into her eyes which informed me she would take great pleasure in making me look ‘irresistible'.
"Your dress shall be made of satin the colour of silver, you shall soak in a bath with a dozen magical ingredients before you put on that dress and the finest perfume in all of Thrift shall hang in the air about you."
"You've really been thinking deeply about this, haven't you?" I asked, amused.
"Of course. My greatest desire is to make my dear sister's dreams come true," she replied.
I thought, quite suddenly, of Charity's refusal to court anyone.
"Why don't you court?" I asked curiously.
Charity shrugged. "I don't want to be responsible for passing the crown down the wrong line. And also, I don't want to be possessed by a hateful man or, worse, forget my fight against the Phoenix-Dolphin conflict because of the impact a well-intentioned man might have on me."
How much more did I adore my sister as I heard this! Such honourable intentions she had!
But... what price did she pay for her nobility?
"Are you lonely?" I asked her quietly.
Charity sighed. "Sometimes I wonder," she admitted, "what it would be like for my heart to belong in a place other than my own body. But I dare not think further than that for fear of the consequences of such fancies."
Her hand clenched into a fist at the passion behind her words.
"I will not let our people down, Selena - I will not let you down."
"If falling in love is so bad," I murmured, "why do you encourage me to involve myself in affairs of the heart?"
Charity gazed at me affectionately. "Because you are young, Selena. But even if you weren't... The decisions you make in life are your own. It would be wrong for me to force you to choose the same path as me. And ... I trust your judgement. Whatever you do, you will be sensible and you will never have cause to regret your actions. I observe your happiness and from it gain my own. I wouldn't have it any other way."
"You are too good, sister. You deserve to fall in love."
Charity smiled. "You are better. Watching your life is even more pleasurable than that."
"Than falling in love?" I asked, but dropped the subject.
Not too long after that, Eve rose from her slumber.
Together the three of us, in nightdresses, dressing gowns and slippers attended breakfast which this morning was held in the gardens due to the splendid weather.
Charity's desire to make me look, as she put it on a separate occasion, "ravishing" was fulfilled one morning at a subsequent date when my parents announced that one of the family was required to be present at Tigra Flame's Crowning.
"I shall go," I said, pretending to look as if attending was a chore but one that must be done by someone.
"Are you sure, Selena?" my mother asked, seeming surprised and concerned.
Making myself appear resigned to my fate, I answered "Quite sure. After all, I should like to make up for my mistake at my own Crowning and develop a deeper loathing towards our enemies lest I should ever forget the ungrateful way they reacted to Rex Waterfall's life-saving actions."
My mother beamed. "Truly wonderful reasons. I am so proud of you, Selena. You would make a fine queen if Charity married and we died before Terrence's Crowning."
Horrified, I said "You must not think such things, Mother. It is most frightening."
"We must consider all possibilities," Mother said, sipping calmly at her tea. "So, we shall arrange for the carriage to leave at four..."
Everything was planned and everyone in the Palace involved given a schedule so that it would be difficult for something to go wrong. After all, I was young. I couldn't take care of myself yet.
After that breakfast, Charity and I laughed in my room.
"Your act was so convincing you belong on the stage," Charity complimented me.
"I didn't believe I'd ever pull something like that off," I confessed. "No Phoenix will be able to suspect you if you perform the same on the day!"
"I hope not. Oh, I'm so nervous - I've never been to Fireland before, Charity. Never even seen it."
"Well, if all goes well, it might end up your home one day."
I grew serious. "Now, let's be realistic, Charity. Our plan could work or it could not. We must not become so full of hope that we forget the possibility of disappointment."
"You speak words of wisdom," Charity said, nodding, equally serious.
But inside I was giddy with excitement. This could be the day, I thought; this could be the day!