“Good morning Your Majesty” a woman’s voice startles Simone from her rest. Her exchange with the king had kept her up half the night wondering what she was in store for. Getting out of the bed is not on top of her priority list at the moment. She pulls her covers back over her head and curls away from the sunlight that is somehow streaming in through an open window. Who in the hell opens windows in the morning?
The blanket is ripped away from her face forcefully, leaving Simone groggily shielding herself from thelight of the suns. “Sire I am afraid that the King insisted that I get you up in a timely manner this morning as you have a council meeting to attend. He says you have taken on the ghastly habit of sleeping very late in the mornings.” Simone squints, just barely opening her eyes to see her tormentor. The woman is dressed in uniform common to the servants in the palace. “Who are you?” she pleads like a whiny child. The woman looks down on her shocked before ripping the covers fully away from the bed. Simone decides that whoever the woman is, she must hate her.
“Your Highness, if you are fully awake, might I suggest that you look around you” The woman is annoyed, her voice and posture makes that clear. Her long dark hair and olive complexion makes her look Latina, but Simone never could tell here. Her eyes are the most alluring shade of lavender Simone’s ever seen, but she’s beginning to get used to the varied appearances of the Shandrian people. She hadn’t noticed that they even classified race in Shandria.
The woman is taller than she is, thin with a curvy frame that would make most women jealous. Not even her servants garb could hide that. Simone begrudgingly follows the instructions of the angry woman standing over her bed and looks around. Flowers, he’d filled her room with flowers of every color and variation that she had never seen. A smile crosses her lips as she sits up and admires her gift. Simone is quickly out of her bed to pull different flowers to her and smell their intoxicating aromas. She can’t help but to laugh out loud, Jared was serious when he’d said he would court her.
“I imagine that these are from the king?” Simone says to the woman off handedly. “Yes of course” “Then send him word that I was very unimpressed” Simone says smiling. “I thought you’d be. Your breakfast will be ready in your private dining room shortly” Simone scowls as the woman leaves her room quickly. She’d been the most ill tempered person she’s met since coming to Shandria. Even worse than Sarai when she’s in one of her cross moods.
In little time Simone washes and prepares herself for the day. She dresses in a gown she thinks demure enough to appear before community leaders. It’s a classy green number she’d had her eye on for a while, but couldn’t think of a reason to wear it. Simone follows the scent of breakfast into her dining room and is immediately pleased that she’d brought back on the house staff. Her meal looks delicious. The woman from before serves her and stands off to the side watching her eat. If looks could kill Simone would be dead in her spot. She attempts to enjoy her meal but the woman’s glare is far more than distracting.
“What is your problem?” Simone finally asks, slamming her dinnerware down. She’s tried to maintain the manners expected of the royal family that Sarai has so frequently lectured her about, but this lady is pushing the envelope with her. “I do not have a problem Your Highness.” The woman says seeming more peeved than before. “You obviously do, so say what is on your mind so I can eat my meal in peace”
“Fine”, the woman approaches the table and slams one of her slender hands down on it, nearly knocking down Simone’s juice. “I feel that you have a lot of gall calling me back here after all these years. And then when you see me you act as if you have no idea who I am? I have been your lady in waiting since we were just girls, I do not deserve this type of treatment, just as I did not deserve to be sent away with no notice! You can banish me or make me disappear, or whatever it is you choose to do, but I will not tolerate being back here with you!”
Simone is shocked, shocked into laughter. She laughs so hard that she knocks over the juice that the woman had just barely missed. “Now look what you’ve done.” She says rushing to Simone’s aid. “Forgive me my queen, I did not mean what I said, please do not banish me or make me disappear” she says wiping the juice away before it has the chance to reach the queen. Simone laughs even harder.
“Yes you did, you meant every word, except that disappearing part.” The woman bows low and speaks again. “Forgive me, I will leave the palace now.” Simone nearly chokes, jumping from her seat, “No! Please don’t go. I am not angry I want you to stay. You are the first person I’ve met who does not seem to be afraid of me, thank you.” The woman eyes Simone strangely, “Yes of course your Majesty”. She slowly walks back to her place against the wall, unsure what to expect next.
“Have you eaten? Please serve yourself and eat with me, I am dying for company. What is your name?” The woman moves slowly but does as she is asked. “You truly do not remember me do you?” “ I am sorry, I do not remember you or anyone else.” “I am Celia, I have been your Lady in waiting for most of my life. I have always been your servant, but we were also friends.”
Simone is ecstatic, she’d had a friend. The queen had a best girlfriend before she went crazy. Celia had been her friend since childhood. They shared each others intimate secrets and had been basically inseparable. Celia didn’t struggle at all with the concept of her losing her memory. She’d known the queen too long to believe she was capable of the type of cruelty that she’d doled out. Celia said that she had never believed it for a moment.
“So, your husband is sending you enough flowers to fill a room, what has he done?” Celia asks clearing their plates after breakfast. Simone’s smile and lack of response tell their own story, “You are smiling the way you did when we were young and you first admitted you liked him” Celia’s smile is warming. “He says that since I do not remember being in love with him, he’d simply make me fall in love all over again.” She can’t wipe the grin from her lips.
“Oh my, the king is as cocky as ever! I thought that he’d have grown out of that after all of these years.” “Is it true, were they really as in love as he says they were?” Simone has to ask. The way the man speaks of their love gone by is poetic. “More, the two of you were sickening. You are confusing me the way you speak as if you are not the queen. Is that what you believe, that you are not her?” Simone shrugs, “I don’t know anymore. At first I thought it impossible, but the longer I am here the more I believe it. Maybe I just want to believe it because this is so much better than the life I was living.”
Celia looks Simone over curiously, “I don’t believe you are our queen” “You don’t, why?” “Because the queen I know would not be caught in a gown so outdated in public. Shall I call your seamstress in? She can have you more appropriately dressed for the day before your council meeting.” “Absolutely”
Simone is amazed at how quickly Celia has the seamstress in her dressing room ready to work. The middle aged woman scoffs at what Simone is wearing. “You were going to go down in that? I created that gown so long ago that I’d forgotten about it!” The short pudgy woman is amusing at best as she begins combing through Simone's dresses. Simone cannot say for sure exavtly what she is. She is no more than four feet tall, stalky, and dons a pair of thin gossamer like wings on her back. Simone can imagine that gravity would allow such fragile wings to lift such a thick, bulgy woman, but somehow she still flutters about the room.“This room is a museum! We must begin again, I must reinvent you.” Celia grabs Simone’s wrist and stifles a private giggle between girls.
The woman works so quickly, using her abilities to create and alter gowns to Simone’s figure and her own very picky specifications. If Simone made suggestions she would simply reply, “I do not tell you how to rule Shandria, do not tell me how to create a masterpiece! It may have been many years since I have had the pleasure of pursuing my passion, but it never disappeared!” Simone takes that as her cue to shut the hell up and be grateful the woman even showed up.
“I’ve escorted mistress of the needle from your quarters, finally” Celia muses returning to Simone’s dressing room. They’d given her that nick name under their breaths while she worked. “Tell me something Celia. I don’t think I understand the concept of time that you have here. In my memory, where I am from I am only about 30 years old, give or take. Here I was married 15 years ago. Exactly how old am I and how does time here work?” Celia lifts her neatly manicured eyebrows in shock. “Thirty! That is a mere child, a toddler! Simone you are more than three hundred years old. In fact you are nearly three hundred and ten.”
Simone’s jaw drops in amazement “Are you serious, how is it possible to be that old and look so young?” “We aren’t that advanced in years,I’ll have you know. I will be three hundred and eight soon and I feel as young as I ever have. When we start nearing five hundred, then we will discuss getting old.” Celia puts her hands on Simone’s shoulders and turns her towards the nearest mirror. “Look at yourself, you are still very young and very beautiful. In fact, lets dress you up so that you can still make your meeting, but also give that husband of yours something to work towards.”
Celia picks a pale yellow gown that fits every curve that her body has to offer, only at her calves does it loosen and puddle just two feet behind her. A soft pastel flower print traces the length of her physique down her right side turning into a pool of flowers on her small train. Celia pulls her hair into a high bun off centered just a bit, but not so much where she appears informal. Simone smiles at her reflection, she’d have never imagined dressing up like this on a day to day basis.
“What did Jared say? When you told him that I wasn’t impressed, what did he say?” Celia laughs, “He hardly even looked up. He nodded at me and said. ‘I will simply have to work harder then, won’t I Celia?’ Cocky I tell you, the man is very cocky.” She takes in her friend’s reflection for a moment. “Lets reward the kings efforts a little shall we?”
Celia leaves the room and quickly returns with a bright pink exotic flower from the massive bouquet that Jared had sent. She places it in her hair in a style that reminds Simone of Billie Holiday. “There, perfect. Now lets get you down to the hall. I don’t know if you remember this or not, but once we are out of your quarters I will be very formal with you. I will not speak at all unless directly addressed by you. I will behave like a proper servant, but I am still here for you.” “Thank you”
As promised Celia’s demeanor changes as they exit the family quarters and head towards the hall. Celia signals Simone to wait at a side entrance while she prepared the council for her entrance. Sarai is there waiting for her. “ You are certainly dressed differently” “Celia picked it, do you like it?” Simone cant help but smile, she feels beautiful. “I suppose so. I must go in now and take my seat. I will be here in the back watching my queen.” Simone is not sure if that is said as a comfort or a warning. “Be brave in there Simone, you can handle this” Celia whispers as she returns and the doors are swung wide open. “Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I present to you your Queen”
Simone takes that as her queue to step into the room. Everyone is kneeling low, but Jared only bows. He freezes when he catches sight of her. Simone is a vision, a portrait. She is more beautiful than any work of art he’s ever seen. The soft yellow against the caramel crème of her skin is mesmerizing. He stands erect, but takes her in slowly from the flower in her hair to the tips of her shoes. He was not expecting this. The style of her hair reveals her long slender neck where the final words of her wedding vows are imprinted. She is magnificent. The rest of the council stands. No one seems quite prepared for her angelic appearance.
A whisper goes through the room that Simone knows is about her, she only wishes she could judge what it was they were saying. Jared approaches and takes her by the hand. Before he can escort her further into the room she surprises him by curtsying low to the ground reverently. “Your Majesty” she says hushed, but in the silence of the room everyone can hear her. Jared bows again, and Simone stands erect before him, ready to be lead to her seat.
You truly do not play fair my love. Simone hears his voice clearly, but Jared’s lips remain sealed. Jared walks slightly ahead of Simone, and leads her to her throne in the discussion hall. Simone is in awe of the ivory and pearl masterpiece. An audience of five men and four women, all older than she, sit before her. Sarai watches silently from the back of the room. Simone simply nods before sitting, mimicking every queen she’d ever seen in a Disney movie back home.
Jared takes his place at the head of the room. “The queen and I have called this meeting to discuss the present struggles of the people of Shandria” he says, sounding very diplomatic. “Struggles she herself imposed on us, your majesty” the eldest man of the group announces unafraid, if indeed he can be called a man. He seems to be more of a troll, or at least what troll’s look like in Shandria. Simone wonders if there is some way these craetures may aso have exhisted in her world before they faded into fairytale. Simone has seen may different types of people since her arrival in Shandria. The Council appears to hold s few of them all.
“Believe me when I say Bartholomew, things are not always how they appear. The queen before you is incapable of such cruelty.” “You expect us to believe that? We have all been here, subject to her rule. Even we seniors have been forced to toil like servants for the crown!” Another elder objects, refusing to hear such nonsense. Jared begins to question his reasoning when he’d decided to call a council meeting. Simone had abolished them long ago, and these people would certainly make their voices heard on the subject. “I am aware of what you’ve been through and you have my sympathies.” Jared says humbly. “Your sympathies? Do you think we want the sympathies of a king who has lived well in the palace while we suffered? You give us your sympathies, yet you’ve done nothing!” A woman announces her rainbow tinted wings fluttering in angst, “You cowered behind the queen when we needed you!”
Simone can feel the flurry of emotions passing through Jarred, though none show on his face. She can feel the sadness and shame burning just beneath his skin. His pride being crushed at the idea that the entire kingdom saw him as weak and being cuckolded by his wife. Mostly the guilt of the truth in their words. He had failed to save them. Jared holds himself with dignity, allowing the council to speak at will attacking both his character and hers. She can take little more of their barrage against him.
“Do not blame the king for what he had no control over!” Simone interjects forcefully. “He was no more willing to rise against me than any of you were.” The room falls silent at her interjection. Anger and bitterness aside, no one has forgotten what she is capable of. “I was extremely ill. I was ill in a manner that I lost my ability to think rationally. Had he or anyone else have tried to rebel, God only knows what I may have done in my compromised state. Thanks to my husband’s devotion and care I have been able to recuperate and come to my senses after many years of illness. We are all in great debt to the king for being so wise. Had he not, our entire existence may have been destroyed.” Jared silently marvels at her eloquence addressing the assembly. It had been long since he’d seen her behave towards anyone with such grace.
The youngest member of the assembly is the first to speak. Simone thinks the man looks no older than forty, but knowing what she’d learned before knows that he is far older. “If a sickness is enough to compromise our entire existence, then maybe it is too much for the queen to rule.”
Jared’s eyes narrow angrily, “Speaking against the queen is treason Nathaniel,” he says, “but insulting my wife is dangerous”. The entire room shudders at his comment, even Simone finds her throne trembling beneath her. Jared’s irritation causes the palace to quake. Nathaniel quickly takes his seat. Simone is amazed to watch as Jared hears the concerns of his leaders and how he addresses their concerns. He is a born leader, intimidated by nothing. She is so caught up in his very presence that she scarcely hears a word being discussed. This is one meeting she does not wish to record notes of.
The council members voice the distress of their people, the pending civil unrest, and the general hatred the people had developed for their once beloved queen. Through all of this Jared is able to keep them calm and hear their solutions. Simone however had come to this meeting prepared with a solution of her own. “Your majesty, may I speak?” Simone asks and again the room falls silent. She hates how everyone freezes with fear whenever she opens her mouth. “Of course my queen” he reaches out his hand and Simone stands to join him on the council floor.
“I asked my husband if he would allow me to attend this meeting for one reason. Forgive me for allowing your deliberations to go on pointlessly for so long” Jared drops Simone’s hand and he becomes tense as stone. Had she fooled him, had his wife reverted that quickly to her previous state? Had she not really changed at all? “There is no need to discuss the rationing of more food or the easing of labor on the people. As of this moment I relinquish any laws I have put into place holding the people of Shandria in servitude. I understand that the people of Shandria no longer trust me, and for very good reason. I have not been able to serve them as I should, nor have I lived up to the precepts that my parents set forth many years before I was born. I cannot lead a people so unhappy with me. For that reason, as of this moment, I relinquish all authority in Shandria to my capable husband Jared, King of Shandria. He is a skilled and excellent leader who has suffered much on behalf of Shandria that you simply could not comprehend. He will lead you well.”
Simone turns to a shocked Jared and takes his hand again, “You have much to discuss regarding the management of your liberation of the people. If it pleases you, I would like to be excused” “Of course” Those are the only words Jared can muster. Simone bows reverently to him again and hastens to her exit leaving him in her wake. She grimaces to hear cheers as she exits the hall.