“Princess Rose, the king and queen are waiting for you.” A servant told her as she waited in one of the majestic halls by the window.
Rose glanced up from watching the lords, ladies, and servants go about their day in the courtyard beneath her.
“Oh.” She mused. She looked back down at the courtyard, seeing her best friend, Smith, running along. A rare smile graced her lips at the thought of what he could possibly be doing. Only Smith could make her show any signs of humor.
Rose shook her head, remembering she had other things to do, like having conversation with the king and queen of Andorra.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, bracing for whatever was coming her way. She followed the servant through the large doors, not letting her stare waver and her feet trip on the long carpet.
The court room was beautiful and spotless (like always) and sunlight shone through huge single paned windows. Golden pillars lined the rooms, making all that walked in it seem small and pointless compared to the tall domed ceiling. At the end of the room, two jeweled encrusted thrones stood side by side. Sitting in them where their royal highnesses, Queen Beatrix, and King Aeron.
“Your Royal highnesses, Princess Rose.” The servant announced before hurrying off to the side.
Rose curtsied. “Hello, Mother, Father.” She nodded at them.
“Rose.” Her mother, Queen Beatrix, said, barely taking her attention off the documents she was reading. Her long brown hair was pulled back in a painful braid and her dress was the same colour as Rose’s, a faded turquoise, except hers was long sleeved while Rose’s was halter top style.
“Yes, Rose, honey, thank you for coming. How have your studies been going? Good, I assume?” King Aeron asked. His brown eyes had a slightly crazy sparkle to them, and his dark hair was streaked with grey. He wore lavishing purple robes with gold trim, giving him the air of an insane rich person.
“My studies are well, thank you, Father. I was just about to go to Kingdom History with Sir Legon before you called for me.”
“Ah, well, let's hope he isn’t too upset then, shall we?”
Queen Beatrix cleared her throat. “We don’t have all day, Aeron. Rose needs to get back to her lessons and we have other business to attend to.”
“Oh, I completely forgot!” King Aeron let out a fake shrill laugh that made Rose cringe. “Rose, we called you here to tell you that we’ve found a great husband for your sister, Rhea.”
Rose choked on her own breath.
“What?!” She exclaimed. Then, remembering her manners, she rephased, “Um, I mean, what do you mean by that, Dear Father?”
“We've got a prince for your sister to marry! He’s wealthy, has lots of land, and it’ll strengthen our alliance with Qevie. We wanted to tell you about the new things that will be added to your future kingdom.”
Rose didn’t know what to say. A marriage treaty with Qevie, one of the most prosperous kingdoms, was amazing for Andorra. And the fact she was going to one day rule it all one day was great, too. But. . . for some reason it made Rose feel guilty. Her sister was being married off to some random guy while Rose reaped the rewards.
Rhea and Rose weren’t the closest, but Rose still loved her as much as she was allowed, and she needed to make sure that Rhea was going to be okay with this Qevian prince.
“Is this prince nice? Is he a total jerk and is going to make Rhea miserable? Is-”
Queen Beatrix clucked her tongue impatiently, interrupting Rose. “Rose, my sweet Rose, your beginning to sound caring and thoughtful.” She shook her head in disappointment. “Tell me, do you remember why you’re named Rose?
“Because- '' She looked at mother. “like a rose, I’m beautiful and delicate, but dangerous, cold, and reserved.” Rose recited. She resisted the urge to hunch her shoulders and try to make herself as small as possible with each word. Instead, Rose continued to hold her mother’s gaze and stood even straighter, trying to prove that she was trying.
And she was.
They just didn’t know about the slips she made around Smith.
“Correct. A rose is the perfect symbolism of how a true leader should be.” Queen Beatrix plucked one from a vase nearby and examined it. “Your name is a constant reminder of it.”
Rose watched in silence as her mother picked the petals of the flower and let them fall. The slight breeze coming from a window made them float and flutter, landing near feet.
“So,” Queen Beatrix said after a moment. “Now we remember that, what do you think of Rhea marrying?”
Rose swallowed and stared at the stray rose petals. “It will be a wonderful occasion for Andorra, and it will help us greatly.”
Queen Beatrix smiled thinly. “Good.” She went back to reading her documents. “You are dismissed.”
* * * *
“Judging from your face, I’m guessing you had a fun little talk with your parents recently?”
Rose walked over to Smith, who was grinning in the shade of a cherry tree in full bloom. He was disheveled from running around the castle and his dark curly hair was wind swept, making him look somehow more handsome.
“How did it go?” Smith asked, taking a seat at the base of the tree. “Really.”
Rose shrugged. “It was. . . fine.” She sat down beside him. “They apparently found a suitable husband for Rhea that will improve our relationship with Qevie and gain more land and wealth for Andorra, which is good.”
“Wait, Rhea’s getting married?”
“Yeah, to the prince of Qevie.”
Smith shook his head in bewilderment. “So, what did you say? They must have wanted your approval.”
It was adorable that Smith actually thought that her parents would want her opinion. They valued her ideas as long as they were what they wanted her to think.
“Not really. They just wanted to tell me what’s happening, and all the cool stuff Andorra gets from it.” Rose sighed. “I tried to make sure the prince was a good guy, but my mom shut it down pretty quick.”
Smith’s constant smile faltered a little. “Do you think Rhea’s going to be okay?”
Rose lowered her eyes to the stray cherry blossoms littering the ground. She ran her hand across them, thinking. Smith deserved to know what she really thought, but what she thought wasn’t what a rose was supposed to. As future queen she couldn’t let personal ties and emotions control her decisions.
When she looked back at Smith and felt her brain mush when his eyes met hers. They were the same shade of brown as well-worn leather and they had this sparkle that made Rose’s heart stop. How could she lie to eyes like that?
So, instead of saying something queenly, she said, “I don’t think she’ll be to happy, but she’ll do it anyway for the sake of the kingdom and, of course, our parents.”
Rose wanted to smack herself for slipping up and not being a proper rose. Why did Smith make her lose focus and make her heart start speaking? Why did she feel suddenly so happy whenever he came into view or spoke?
The question she should’ve been asking was why she couldn’t admit she knew the answers.
“That makes sense.” Smith said, bringing Rose back from her thoughts.
They sat in silence, Rose absentmindedly braiding her dark brown hair while Smith stared into the distance.
After a bit, Smith finally said, “Oh! I almost forgot-” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a slightly crumpled rose. “A rose for a Rose. Well, a smushed rose for a Rose.”
Rose laughed. Smith could be so ridiculously sweet.
“Thank you.” She took the rose from him. Their fingers brushed for a second, sending her heart into flutter mode.
She stared at the flower, so Smith didn’t see her blush. Its petals were soft and red, like a blood soaked sheet and it’s dark green thorns dared Rose to touch them.
“I have to go, sorry.” Smith said. “Bye.” He waved and started walking back to the castle.
Every time Smith left, Rose felt a part of her heart break, but when she saw him again, it all fixed. Rose still hated watching him leave, even if she knew she would see him in the next few hours. Rose wanted him to be next to her and never go. Maybe that’s why she called out, “Wait! Smith, come back!”
Smith turned around as Rose ran up to him.
“Something wrong, Princess?” He asked.
“Ummmm. . .” Rose looked down at the rose in her hand. Come on, Rose, she thought, just say it. Of course, though, she couldn’t. The words seemed to be stuck in her throat and no matter how hard Rose tried, they wouldn’t unlodge.
Ugh! Rose needed to stop all this crazy talk. She was the future queen, for gosh sakes! She is supposed to be beautiful and delicate looking, but cold, reserved, and dangerous. Falling in love was the last thing she should be doing.
So instead of telling Smith her feelings, Rose rolled her eyes and snapped, “Nothings wrong, Smith. Or commoner if we’re going by proper titles.”
He laughed, even though it wasn’t really a joke. “What do you want, then?”
“Just. . . see you tomorrow?” Rose hoped he could see the pleading in her eyes.
Smith’s smile was so sweet as he said, “Of course.”
He continued walking back. When Smith glanced over his shoulder before ending inside the castle gates, Rose could’ve sworn he looked almost disappointed.
The garden was cold and silent now, which didn’t bother Rose. She needed the silence. Her thoughts and stupid feelings were already too much for her.
Rose sighed. She had acted like a perfect rose and didn’t let her emotions get the better of her, but her heart still hurt.
She rested her head against the huge tree trunk, trying to stop the shouts of her heart and mind. Rose wished she could shut it all off like her parents wanted her to. It would be so much easier to meet their demands if she could.
But did she want to meet them?
Her entire life she felt like she was lying to the world. Every word spoken, every action made wasn't her own, but what her parents wanted. Rose knew they were preparing her so she would be a good future queen, but why did it feel so. . . wrong? Like did she really need to be cold, reserved, and dangerous to be queen?
“You have a right to doubt.” A husky voice whispered.
Rose jumped. “Who said that?” She called into the garden. The pounding of her heart made it impossible to tell where the voice was coming from.
“You don’t have to be stuck in this world. You can go somewhere where you don’t have to be cold,”
The voice sounded like it was getting closer.
Rose whipped around towards the wall of trees surrounding the garden.
“or even dangerous.”
A cloaked woman appeared from behind one the trees. She seemed to float as she moved toward Rose, who was frozen in shocked. Her dark robes billowed and wisped with each step, even though there was no breeze. Her face was mostly covered by the cloak, except for a pair of black painted lips and a strand of ashy hair.
“You can be yourself. Not the person your parents want you to be.” The cloaked woman was a few feet away now. Rose wanted to run, but she was also curious. She had to hear what this strange woman had to say. If the women tried to kill her, then Rose will start running. It sounded like a pretty foolproof plan.
“What-what do you mean?” Rose asked.
The faceless lips curved into a smile. “I can help you, Rose. I can give you the power to leave this life and start a new one.”
How does she know my name? Rose thought. She was starting to regret not running away.
But she first needed the women to explain herself.
“Who are you?”
“My name has no importance, but if you wish, you may call me Maige.” The women, or Maige, started walking slow circles around Rose. “I am a humble traveler who only wishes to help those in need.” She reached into the folds of her cloak and pulled out a small sphere attached to a gold chain. Wires around it started spinning and glowing, sending an electric warmth into the air.
“Wow.” Rose breathed.
The smile on Maige’s lips grew bigger. “This little trinket can create a portal to anywhere you wish.” She drew closer. “All you have to do is turn the wire, press that button,” She pointed to a small jewel in the middle of the gadget, “and boom. You're free.” .
A shiver to shoot down Rose’s spine. She had heard of devices that can send the user into different realms, but they were illegal in Andorra and only people with special permission from the king and queen could own or use them.
Was this really happening? This strange woman was giving Rose the ability to end her lie of life and start a new one. Everything Rose wanted was right there in Maige’s palm.
Maige pulled the trinket out of Rose’s reach when she tried to grab it.
“Ah, ah, ah. Not so fast. There are two conditions to my very generous offer.”
Rose sighed. “What?”
“One: you have to give me that rose.”
Rose held up the crumpled rose in her hand. “Why?”
“I need it for a little project of mine.”
Rose’s eyes narrowed. “What sort of project?”
Maige’s smile fell. “None of your concern. Now give me the rose.”
“Fine.” She handed the rose to her. “I don’t know why you want it. It’s mostly destroyed.”
Maige took it from her and studied it carefully. “Never underestimate the broken. They hold more power than they seem. You should know.” She snapped her fingers and a small satchel appeared in her hand. She gently placed the rose in it and hung it over her shoulder.
“And the other condition is no one can come with you or know you’ve left. This offer is for you and you alone. And this is a one-way ticket. If you leave, you're not coming back.”
It took Rose a moment to answer. She was secretly hoping Smith was going to come with her. Him and her, exploring this new world, having adventures, and maybe, just maybe, Rose could gain the courage to tell Smith how she really felt. But Rose knew that was long shot. Smith wouldn’t leave everything he had ever known behind just because Rose wanted him to.
Rose took a deep breath and put on her best queen face one last time. “Okay. So, when do I leave?”
Maige’s smile returned and seemed to seep into her voice as she said, “Now.”
“What about my things? Can’t I pack a bag? I’ll be quick.”
“You won’t need or want anything where you're going.” Maige started turning the wires on the portal maker thing. It hummed loudly. “Are you ready to go?”
Rose glanced back at the castle, at her old life, at Smith. Even though she didn’t want to, Rose needed to get away from it all.
It was time to become her own Rose.
Not her parent’s.
Not the kingdom’s.
Not even Smith’s.
“Perfect.” Maige tossed the portal maker to Rose. “Press the button and you're gone.”
The portal maker was heavy and cool in Rose’s hand. This small, necklace-like gadget was going to save and change her life.
Rose nodded at Maige. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I hope it all works out for you in the end.”
Rose her eyes and took a deep breath. “Yeah, me too.”
Then, knowing her it was time, Rose pressed the jeweled button and was instantly absorbed into a ball of light, whisking her off to a whole different world, one where she didn’t have to be the cold, reserved, and dangerous rose she was. She could be a new Rose, a Rose who loved and lived. A Rose who wasn’t stuck doing what her parents wanted. A Rose who stood up for those she cared about. A Rose. . . a Rose who could tell someone that she loved them and let them love her back.
“I’m sorry, Smith.” Rose whispered before disappearing with light. “For everything.”
* * * *
Maige pulled back her hood. Her long ashy hair cascaded down her shoulders and she brushed it from her grey-blue eyes.
The portal maker lay quiet and still on the ground. Maige picked it up and slipped it back into the folds of her cloak.
She smiled for the millionth time that day. Her plan had gone perfectly. Not a single hitch. Maige opened the satchel to make sure the rose was still there.
She stared at the spot where Rose had vanished. She almost felt sorry for the poor girl. Rose had no clue what was coming her way in the next world. But she wasn’t Maige’s problem anymore. Rose had gotten what she wanted and so did Maige. She just got the better end of the deal.
Chimes from inside the castle rang eight o’clock, signaling it was Maige’s turn to go. She pulled her hood back up and floated toward the forest, fading into the shadows.