I lean against my wall, which has been encrusted with glittering jewels of all kinds- rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarines, topazes, and on and on and on the list goes. Together, they reflect the entire room, and I can see myself through at least twenty different angles on the other side, shaded from the vibrant gems. It’s fit for a prince- probably because I am one.
My father, King Rolf, opens the door to my room, and I turn to him and bow (yes, he makes his son do that.) He crosses over to my bed, four of his seven (yes, SEVEN) guards following him, the other three stationing themselves at the door.
“Aurelius,” he says, “you have shown disrespect to my rule.”
“What do you mean?” I ask. I’m pretty sure he’s right, though. I break his rules all the time- both the rules he makes as a parent and the rules he makes as a king.
“You did not properly represent yourself at the festival last night. Your crown was lopsided. Your jeans with multiple specks of lint. Your tie wrinkled. You have brought utter scorn to the royal family name! I will not tolerate this! The king must be respected, and for his son to be a- a- a townsperson is ashaming!”
I roll my eyes. “I doubt anyone noticed. I was a hundred feet away from the crowd, tops.”
Father sighs. “Do this once more and it’s a week in your room, no exceptions whatsoever. Understood?”
“Yes, father,” I murmur.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Fine. Yes, your majesty.”
He exits, and lie down on my bed. I wish there was a way I could be free of my father. I wish I could have a normal life. I wish I could do things I actually wanted to do, considering I’m 20. I wish I wasn’t a prince.
But if I took that leap, the shame would follow me forever.
I walk down the streets of the town, doing my best not to notice the stares. Father dosen’t know I’m even out of the castle- actually, I bet he doubts I've ever left the castle at all. But I try to escape whenever I possibly can. Partly to see what life would be like if I wasn’t always being bossed around, and partly because of-
“Fern!” I call out to a girl pulling weeds in front of her small, rickety house. She turns around, and her face lights up when she sees me.
“Aurelius!” She exclaims, rushing over.
Fern is a girl in the third class, her clothes always dirty, her hair a tangled mess. But I don’t care one bit. I’m sure if Father found out, he’d ban me from ever seeing her. Currently, we’re friends, and nothing more. But... I want to be with her more than I want to be with anyone else. Anyone. Else.
But I know that probably won’t happen. Father would never approve- probably not even let her inside the castle. He’d go on and on and on about how it would bring scorn to the family to marry a woman who’s so poor, and instead he’ll arrange for me to marry a princess so our kingdom can get even richer than it already is. I wish he could be just a little empathetic- he was in an arranged marriage too. But now he cares too much about his reputation.
“I’m glad you could come,” Fern says, resting her head against my shoulder. “I mean, you’re a prince, for God’s sake! Don’t you have more important things to do?”
She tells me this every time we meet. But she dosen’t get this. No one ever does, and I can’t blame them. “Being a prince means I have nothing to do!” I vent. “No challenges, no work, no logic, just me sitting in my room, staring at the jewels!”
Fern looks startled. “But- but- but-” she sighs. “You don’t want to be a prince, do you?”
I flinch, and I hope she dosen’t see it. She is absolutely telling the truth. But if someone else knew, then that would make this official. “What do you mean?”
“I know it’s true. You always get that sad look in your eyes when anyone mentions you being a prince. And now… I can understand why you don’t want to be one.”
I decide to give in. I need to tell someone about this, and Fern is definitely the best choice. “It’s not just that,” I say. “I need to be someone other than myself in order to represent my father. He wants me to be all looks, no personality, just to show him off.”
“Oh,” Fern whispers. “I guess I wouldn’t want to be a princess.” She pauses for a second. “You realize you don’t have to be a prince, right?” she asks. “You could run away.”
“No,” I immediately say. “I can’t. I won’t. I have too much here that I’d have to abandon, and as soon as anyone sees me they’ll just take me back.”
“Aurelius, you should run away. You seem like you’re really depressed when you’re in that castle. If you live there for your whole life…” She sighs. “I’m asking you to run away. I know it’s what’s best for you. You should have adventure. You should have the freedom to make your own decisions. You should have an independent, exciting life to look forward to.”
“No! I can’t!” My words are erupting into shouts. “You don’t understand what I’ll have to give up!”
“I understand perfectly.” Fern says. “I understand the situation, and I understand that you don’t really even want what you’d be giving up. Because most importantly… I understand you.”
“Aurelius!” Someone yells behind me. It’s Father. “What do you think you’re doing with a PEASANT? Home. NOW!” He turns to Fern. “And you. Stay away from my son, you ugly disgrace! If I see you with him again, there will be consequences. Big ones.” Fern walks back in her house, and I can see tons of emotions etched across her face. But the biggest one was fear.
“What did she do to you?” He asks as we walk back. “Are you okay?”
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” I ask, ignoring my reflex to bow. No way am I doing that. “Think about what you did to her?”
“Who cares? She’s just a peasant.”
“You know what?” I ask. “I’m done with you. I’m going to leave. I’m going to have a fun, adventurous life.”
“You most certainly will not. As king, I order you not to step a foot outside the castle for… for… as long as my reign continues. Disobey, and I have much harder punishments.”
I sigh. “Fine.” I hope Father didn’t hear the lie stitched into those words.
As soon as I get to my castle, I pack a bag. I hastily grab clothes, a toothbrush, and a few weeks worth of food. I make sure Father dosen’t see me doing this, because if he does then, well, I do not want to think about that.
I go to my room and pry some of the gems out of my wall. Not so many that I’ll be rich, but enough to make a decent living. And before I leave, I take a look around my room. I’ve known it forever, yet this is my last time ever seeing it. But I don’t feel sad.
I feel happy, since I’m moving on.
I slip out of the castle, now wary. I’ve disobeyed the king! But that dosen’t matter. I take out a beige-colored hood I packed and tie it around myself as I walk through town, hoping no one will notice me.
However, someone does.
“Aurelius,” they say. I spin around to face Fern.
“Hi,” I mumble.
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” Fern asks.
“Yep,” I say. A stretch of silence that almost feels endless stretches out before I whisper, “so… I guess this is goodbye.”
“No,” Fern says. “It’s not goodbye.”
“I thought you wanted me to leave! Why are you against this?”
“That’s not it,” Fern answers. “I thought it over after you left, and… I’m coming with you, and don’t you dare tell me I can’t come.”
I stumble back. “Why would you want to do that?”
“Because, Aurelius,” she whispers, “I love you. Don’t you get that.”
Something inside me is smiling. I can feel the warm, tingling sensation. And I say, “I love you too. You have no idea how long I have.” I lean closer to her, sticking my lips out. And… we kiss.
This whole running away thing is already off to a great start.
“Do you mind?” Fern asks, taking a few rubies out of my bag. When I shake my head, she takes them into her house. “A farewell gift to my family. May their lives be much easier now.”
And then we walk off into the darkness, not knowing what’s ahead of us, but instead knowing that we’ll still have each other through whatever happens.