Recap of part 1 + 2: Ella’s stepmother, Darla, was abusive and manipulated Ella’s sick father into taking her side when Ella tried to explain the abuse. Unable to take the abuse anymore and after asking her father one last time to choose her, Ella left her father’s mansion to live with her girlfriend, Princess Celeste.
In just six short months, the country of France had become obsessed with the latest royal “it couple”: Princess Celeste, the third in line for the throne, and Ella Dubois, an fresh gown designer that had taken the fashion world by storm as she launches her twentieth fashion boutique and new fashion magazine. Now, the headlines every newspaper had sprawled across their front page the same thing: Royal Wedding in One Week! Princess Celeste is Officially Off the Market Ladies!
Yes, guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, Ella Dubois was finally getting her happy ending after she split with her abusive step-family and traitous father as she cut contact with him six months.
Ella opened the window of her royal bedroom and let her bird, Blu, come flying through the front door. He had one his spiffy new uniform as an official royal messenger pigeon. His girlfriend, Coco, flew in after him, wearing her new uniform as well. Ella smiled to herself as they flew in a circle together. Love was in the air.
Honestly, she doesn’t even think of her father that often anymore. No, siree, he doesn’t waste another second of her time. She glanced at the castle’s yawn before her. A group of servants were hustling inside with loads of ingredients for her wedding cake. Everything was perfect.
“Hey, beautiful,” Princess Celeste, or CJ as Ella knows her from their letters, wrapped her arms about her fiancee's waist and she kissed her on the neck. Ella giggled and leaned against her warm body. “You’re awfully spry this morning, honey.”
CJ chuckled. “I’m just in a good mood, that’s all. And how could I not be—”
“With the never dying stress of planning a royal wedding? I don’t know how you’re going to make something that’s ‘august and fruity’,” Ella quoted from the newspaper.
With a groan, CJ released her finacee. “Is that what they’re saying now? Still better than yesterday’s ‘amatory and adroit’. I feel like they’re just throwing darts at a board of random adjectives.”
“Too true, but not even that can bug me today. I’ve arranged things so we don’t have any royal duties until noon. Until then, I just wanna rest with you, some champagne, and—”
“Your father?” CJ leaned out the window at Mr. Dubois who was causing quite the scene with the palace guards below.
“Please, just let me inside. My only daughter is Ella Dubois; she’s getting married to the princess in one week. I made a mistake. You have to let me in,” Mr. Dubois begged.
“What’s he saying?” Ella asked, peeking out next to CJ.
“Something about a mistake,” CJ said. “He’s pretty far down to hear what exactly. Shall I have someone send him up? He’s your father; your choice.”
Ella bit her lip. While her father may have chosen her stepmother over her, he was under some strong manipulation of hers. Could she really fault him for that if he admits it was a mistake? Weakly, Ella said, “Send him up.”
They met inside the Great Hall. Ella and CJ were both draped in elegant and expensive gowns of Ella’s creation, each costing several million if sold, as a symbol of status and power. Ella wanted her father to see how far she had come despite her stepmother having her wearing rags only six months ago.
Holding her chin up high with her beloved by her side, Ella was the first to speak. “Well, you’re looking well and seemed to have made a miraculous recovery, Father. What have you come here for?”
As he bowed, Mr. Dubois took off his hat and held it to his chest. He had a patched satchel and wore an old suit—definitely not one of his nicer ones as Ella remembered. Ella’s father certainly didn’t look like the affluent man and well respected merchant he was. Darla must have done a number on him. “I came to make amends. I have recently realized what a terrible mistake I had made. My ex-wife is not the woman I thought she was. Darla is a monster,” he spat the word like venom.
Ella almost smiled at that comment—though it was very late.
Mr. Dubois continued. “She was poisoning—both my body and mind with this…” He pulled out a book of plants from his satchel and flipped to the page of…
“Sherre Orchids,” Ella’s eyes widened. That was the flower that Darla had forced Ella to grow and give to her. Seven flowers every week.
“Yes,” Mr. Dubois said. “She would grind one flower per day and brew it into a tea she had me drink. Little did I know that this flower was what was making me sick—that is why the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. Another side effect was that it… it made me more susceptible to her witching lies. She fed me this drug and I completely fell victim to her game.” He closed the book and tucked it away. “However, when you left, Darla struggled to keep the garden alive herself and it died. Without the flowers, the drug’s effects slowly wore off, I got better, and came to realize what a monster she truly was—and how terrible I treated you.”
Ella held her breath as CJ squeezed her hand in support. She knew Darla was manipulative—she had seen it in action when she made Mr. Dubois force her to apologize for things Ella never even did.
“So, I was hoping you could find it in your heart to forgive me. I would really like to be at your wedding, to support you,” Mr. Dubois said.
Leaning on CJ for support, Ella felt like she was teetering on the edge. Part of her really wanted to forgive him, but another part of her held back.
“Ella, please, you’re my only daughter, my only child, the last connection I have to your mother—the love of my life. I don’t want to lose you like I lost her.”
Oh, there it was. Her dead mother. Ella’s heart sobbed at the thought of her. Wait, no. That was her eyes. She was crying. “I think I can give you another chance, Father.” Ella swiftly walked over to him and embraced him in a loving hug. She waved over CJ, who pranced over and joined him in the hug.
“I’m so glad to have you back, Father.”
Mr. Dubois smirked like Darla. And dear Father was glad to be back.
Ella and CJ gave Mr. Dubois a small bedroom in the West Wing, on the opposite side of the castle to theirs. It was the only room available, what with the wedding a week away and all the royal guests already unpacked inside the other rooms.
Still, that didn’t matter to Mr. Dubois, all he needed to be was on the inside. A soft caw caught his attention from outside his window. He opened it for a black hawk that had a message for him.
Did you get inside?
Mr. Dubois wrote back.
Yes. I can let you in through the servants’ entrance tomorrow morning at four, before anyone is up.
Everything was going according to plan.
The next morning, Mr. Dubois walked around the palace until he found the servants’ entrance with Darla on the other side. As he let her in, he asked, “When I showed Ella that the Sherre Orchids were poisonous, she seemed really shocked. How can that be possible if she was the one poisoning me?”
“Like, I said,” Darla lied, pulling everything straight out of her bullocks, “While I thought I was using the Ruju Orchids that are nearly identical, Ella had dug those out of my garden and grew Sherre Orchids instead. I didn’t know. While Ruju Orchids could have cured the illness I mistakenly thought you had, the Sherre Orchids were actually poisoning you.
“Of course she would pretend she didn’t know—because she’s still lying to you. Ella wanted you dead so she can inherit your business from you. You saw how her business took off using your old contacts and now no one will do business with you, probably because of whatever lies that no good daughter has been spewing behind your back. We’re broke and out of options thanks to her. Everything is her fault.” Greed glimmered in Darla’s eyes. “So, she is the one that has to pay for it.”
“Isn’t stealing from royalty an execution level crime? Is it really worth it?”
“We won’t be stealing from the royal family, just Ella during the wedding while most of the guards are distracted. She took everything from you after you selflessly raised her. It’s only fair.”
Darla placed a reassuring hand on Mr. Dubois’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. The plan is foolproof and by this time next week, we’ll be swimming in the riches of Ella’s fashion business.” She clapped her hands together. “Alright, from this point forward I’ll masquerade as a servant while you play the part of the sorry father. We can’t afford to be seen together, so we’ll still communicate via hawk. Got it?”
“Is something wrong, honey?” Ella asked as she slipped into bed beside her future wife.
“It’s just—you know how I used to want to be a botanist when I was a kid and since I’m third born and I have more leniency in my career?” CJ asked.
“You mention every time we go hiking then misidentify plants that give us rashes, so yes.”
“Well, I’ve heard about Sherre Orchids and while they are a rare plant known to slowly envemen the victim over the course of months with continuous consumption, I've never heard about any psychological side effects.”
“Ah-huh, ah-huh, and can I have that in French please?"
“Basically, the Sherre Orchid is known for slowly killing if you keep eating it, but it doesn’t have any known effect on the mind. I’m not sure how that would make him more susceptible to ‘her lies’ like your father said. It’s a weird thing to lie about or mention.”
Ella shrugged. “Maybe it was something else mixed with the tea. Who’s to say that he had the full story? Maybe my former stepmother’s lies were so convincing she didn’t even need a drug to convince him. The important thing is my Father is back and he’s trying to make amends. This is the best possible wedding gift.”
Still unsatisfied, CJ decided to drop it against her better judgement. “As long as you’re happy, my love.”
The next week flew by. Mr. Dubois had stepped in for traditional fatherly wedding duties like mastering the father-daughter dance. While CJ had her suspicions close to her chest—a side effect of knowing that people have been trying to assassinate her since she was an infant—she did seem to loosen every time she saw Ella’s smiling face. Eventually, she had to keep reminding herself to drop it as long as Ella was happy.
Meanwhile, CJ wasn’t the only suspicious person—or bird—in the palace. Blu had sworn he kept seeing the same black hawk flying about the palace. He didn’t have a royal uniform as one of the royal messenger birds, which was strange to say the least.
The night before the wedding, Blu convinced Coco to cover his work load in exchange for some bird seed he could beg Ella for as he trailed the mysterious hawk.
Sticking to the shadows of the night, Blu tailed the hawk back to the servants quarter where he delivered a message to someone that looked awfully familiar.
Blu squawked in shock. It was what’s-her-name. Ella’s abusive ex-stepmother. She was here in the palace. He had to tell Ella.
As Blu made his escape, the hawk noticed him moving and shot up after him. With warning, the hawk’s razor-sharp talons caught Blu. The poor bluebird didn’t stand a chance.
The hawk delivered Blu at the stepmother’s feet as she grinned at him with a crooked smile. Blu looked for mercy in the merciless woman’s eyes. “You’re Ella’s bird friend, aren’t you? What was your name again, Shoe? Well, Shoe, I’m not the type of gal who—”
Wears deodorant? Blu finished in his head.
“—likes to leave loose ends.”
Blu gulped as the stepmother picked him up and locked him in a closet. He stared helplessly through the window. “We wouldn’t want to ruin the brides’ big day by spoiling my surprise, now would we?”
Noon, the next day, both Princess Celeste and Ella grew anxious on the altar as their ring bearer—Blu—was nowhere to be found. They hadn’t reached that part of the ceremony yet, so there was still hope he would show up, but no one had seen him since last night.
“Maybe we should postpone the wedding and send a proper search party after him,” Ella suggested as the priest spouted something about true love or whatever. “I’m really worried.”
“Blu will be here, sweetie. He’s never let you down and he wouldn’t start now,” Princess Celeste said.
“What if he’s in trouble? Or his wing is broken somewhere and he can’t get help?”
Princess Celeste chewed on the inside of her cheek. She couldn’t completely deny that possibility and she could see the worry getting to Ella. “I have an idea.” In a whisper, she called over Coco. “Coco, go find Blu and bring him back here.”
Coco nodded and took off.
“Relax, my love,” Princess Celeste said, “This ceremony is going to take a while. The priest doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘concise’. We have time.”
Ella gave her a shaky “okay” as they continued.
Na na na na na na Coco!!
A theme song of her creation echoed in Coco’s head as she searched for her lost boyfriend.
Secret Agent Coco on the job!!
As she got near the servants’ quarters, she heard a faint scratching on glass. Inside, she found Blu scratching the glass window of a locked closet with his talons. He looked desperate with ruffled feathers and pleaded with his eyes at Coco to get him out.
“Hang on,” Coco chirped as she went to find someone with thumbs.
A few minutes later, she appeared with a servant’s hair in her beak as she dragged them over to the closet. The servant opened the door and Blu shot out, only offering a “I need to find Ella” tweet explanation before leaving Coco in the dust.
Confused, Coco followed him to the wedding.
“Blu!” Ella exclaimed with joy. “There you are. Wait, where are the rings?”
In a panic, Blu squawked everything he knew.
“What’s he saying?” Princess Celeste asked.
“Ahhh, something about a hawk and a stepmother—wait, my stepmother? She’s here?” Ella asked.
All eyes fell on Mr. Dubois who was looking awfully sweaty for an innocent man.
“What is Darla doing here?” Ella growled at her father.
Nervously, he glanced around for an escape route when Princess Celeste snapped her fingers. A ring of guards with raised swords surrounded him. “Answer her,” Princess Celeste demanded.
Mr. Dubois raised his hands and surrendered “Alright, alright. You got us. Darla and I were going to rob you during the wedding when the guards were distracted.”
“Robbing royalty?” Ella said. “That’s awfully cocky.”
“Not the royal family,” Mr. Dubois explained, “just you.” He pointed at his daughter.
Ella’s eyes widened. “Me? Why?”
“You ruined my business. You’re the reason I lost everything.”
“I didn’t—I never—”
Princess Celeste held up her hand. “That’s enough. It doesn’t matter why or who. This is a crime against the crown. You and Darla Dubois are under arrest and hereby sentenced to execution. Guards, go round up this Darla Dubois. She’s probably by Ella’s safes. Arrest her.”
A group of guards nodded and dashed off. Another group grabbed Mr. Dubois and cuffed him. He begged Ella for mercy, but she was having trouble keeping eye contact.
“Execution? Ella, please, I’m still your father.”
She paused, looking for the right words to say. “No. A father wouldn’t try to rob his daughter on her wedding day. You’re not a father, but a shell of a man that Darla has manipulated you into being. I owe you nothing and certainly not any favors. However, I will spare you from execution. It’s my wedding gift to me—to have you out of my life forever, guaranteed, without the guilt of your blood on my soul. Take him out of my sight. You’re banished.”