Chapter 2 -Two Choices
Chapter 2 - Two Choices
“You will not walk out on me.”
Princess Alexandria felt her body stop, while her mind screamed at her to run. “Mother,” she said with as much dignity as she could muster, “I have already told you that it is ridiculous to try and force this on me. The only duty that I have right now is to myself. How can you demand that I be content with this?”
“Darling,” her mother answered in a stern, but calm voice, “you must listen to me. You and the Crowned Prince Philip have been engaged since you were born.”
Alexandria thought that she caught a hint of pity in her mother’s voice, but she couldn’t understand why it would be there.
“Be that as it may,” the Queen continued, unaware of her daughter’s thoughts, “your Father and I have listened to your rather strong and persistent arguments. You want love, and since your father and I did not have an arranged marriage you believe that we have no right to insist that you marry Prince Philip.”
Princess Alexandria released a sigh that would have made her tutors cringe.
“You forget my dear,” Queen Valerie reminded keeping her voice calm; she had dealt with her daughter’s outburst for years, “We have given you an alternative. You choose to believe that you have no free will, that you are trapped, but know that there is always a choice. It is all a matter of opinion.”
“Your words are difficult to comprehend, Mother.” Alexandria interrupted.
Her mother surprised her by rolling her eyes, “That is precisely why one should not leave a conversation before it is finished. Darling, you claim that it is love that you want, and your father and I are giving you a chance to find it. Why are you not elated by this?”
“Because you are using my birthday as the lure for suitors.” she explained. “Mother, how do you expect me to fall in love, in one night at a Masked Ball. And if I do happen to find the one, how will I even know what he looks like?”
Queen Valerie tilted her head slightly, “If it is love, will his appearance matter?”
“If you are concerned,” her mother added, “about being taken advantage of because you are the Crowned Princess, then worry not. Everyone invited is an acceptable suitor, and as long as you keep your identity during the festivities a secret; no one will feel the need to act differently around you. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy being yourself and hopefully find someone whom you could grow to love.”
“You appear to have thought about this for a while,” Alexandria remarked, feeling defeated. “However, that still only gives me one night to fall in love.”
Her mother grinned, “No darling, remember you must listen before storming out of a meeting. Once the clock strikes midnight, you reveal yourself to the guests. The next morning, letters will be sent to the families of your selected potential suitors. After a chaperoned afternoon with each man, you will narrow down the list and continue until you are satisfied with the remaining suitor. If you believe yourself to be in love with this person by the start of the New Year, then your father and I will call off the arranged marriage. If not, then you shall wed Prince Philip.”
“Mother, your plan sounds like it came from a story book. I am not sure I can trust it. What about Prince Philip?”
Queen Valerie nodded. “You forget Alexandria, the wedding between you and Phillip will not be held until after your birthday next year. That gives you over a year to hopefully find love and then plan your wedding. It will be your choice whether that wedding is to Phillip or not.”
Alexandria didn’t care that that her mother was giving her a choice, either way she would end up trapped in marriage. Perhaps she could get something in return. It was a long shot, but if she could enjoy one day out of the stifling castle maybe it would be worth it.
~~~ Later that day
Alexandria took a deep breath in, and tried to hold on to the sensation of silence. She was safe from the chaos of day-to-day life that whirled many feet below her.
No one dared bother her when she escaped to the castle’s tallest tower. Few could even muster the energy to climb all the way to the top, but the challenge hadn’t fazed the Princess.
Alexandria relished in the few moments of actual privacy that her tower could offer her. Her solitude presented her a chance to consider the coming weeks until her birthday. She had six weeks in total. Six possible weeks of freedom before her countless chaperoned visitations with Noblemen.
Had agreeing to her mother’s proposal been a good idea?
Was it even possible that her mother’s drastic plan could help her find someone meaningful?
Would the coming months even be worth her time?
Well even if they weren’t, she had agreed to the conditions anyway.
There was no going back now.
Alexandria looked out of a window and watched in awe as the people below went about their daily routines not knowing that she was, once again, watching at a distance.
Why must her desires always be out of her physical reach?
It didn’t seem fair.
Still, her mother had been correct. It was pointless to complain about being trapped in the palace, even if she dreamed of running free along the Alminian Mountains.
She had never been locked within the palace walls. As the Crowned Princess, she was free to travel when and where she pleased as long as a few guards and a dutiful lady in waiting were accompanying her.
No matter how much she wanted to leave, there never seemed to be enough time in the day to expect anything more than lessons, court sessions, hours of studying, extended hours of studying, personal time with her parents, and now, planning her Ball. Alexandria had very little personal time available. She normally couldn’t even consider visiting the shops in Town Central City. Her servant did her shopping for her.
Her mind drifted to the upcoming Masquerade Ball and Alexandria couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if her mother’s plan was successful.
Would she be able to be herself and find someone that she could love? Someone who could return her feelings?
Thinking about love made her wonder what her match might look like.
Would he have kind eyes?
Would he be a lot older than her, or closer to the same age?
Would he have a beard?
Would he be shy or maybe over-confident.
What kind of love would she feel for him?
Would it be a fierce sudden love, a slow growing love or, sky forbid, a one-sided love?
Alexandria wondered at how confusing one’s own life could be at times. She worried about her own fate constantly, and one day, when she was Queen, she’d have to worry about the fate of everyone else.
A soft knock at the door pulled Alexandria out of her emotional downward spiral.
“You may enter,” she called turning towards the door for once thankful that someone released her from her solitude.
A timid girl, only a few years younger than she, entered the room.
“Your Highness?” She had mumbled nervously while trying to hide behind the door. She was new to the castle; Alexandria could tell from the way her eyes wandered and how her voice seemed unsure. What caught the Princess’ attention the most, however, was that even though the girl spoke softly, she didn’t seem out of breath from the climb up to the tower.
That intrigued the Crown Princess.
“Am I being summoned for dinner?” She asked keeping her voice even.
“No, well yes Your Highness,” the girl muttered quietly, “but Her Majesty wanted me to inform your Highness, that she has decided on an answer to the inquiry you made earlier today.”
Alexandria frowned at the girl’s perfect social conduct, but prompted her to continue speaking by replying, “What was her answer?”
“The Queen has decided that she will grant your request with one condition.”
The Princess strained to hear the girl’s words concerned that she had heard incorrectly.
“Her Majesty requests that you bring a chaperone along with you. She expressed that even lower class nobles bring an escort with them to Town Central City Market Days.”
“I am sure that they do,” Alexandria sighed.
“Permission to speak, Your Highness?” the timid girl mumbled softly.
Alexandria looked up at the other person in the room with her in surprise. Although she was soft spoken, and her words seemed to run together, she wasn’t shy or even reserved about her request, just timid.
“Permission granted.” She allowed curious.
“Her Majesty, the Queen, seem rather insistent that you bring an escort to the Market, and that you also return with your escort promptly before evening tea. She repeated those words quiet deliberately.” the girl paused to consider her next words, “However, her Majesty never discussed what you were to do with your escort during your visit.”
Alexandria eyed the mousy girl before her surprised at the boldness of her words. She had chosen them carefully so as not to endanger her position in the castle, but there was a suggestion hidden among them.
“What is your name?” Alexandria asked, curious about the identity of the perplexing person before her.
“I am Tilly Ferguson, your Highness.” She responded softly.
“What is your position here Ms. Ferguson?”
The girl shrank back at Alexandria’s question, but still answered, “I worked in laundry services, but I have recently been appointed as your Highness’s traveling companion.”
Alexandria reviewed Tilly’s words from earlier and felt a plan start to form. She would comply with what her mother had asked. She would travel with her new companion to Town Central City for Market Day, and she would return with the girl prior to tea. The rest of the day, however, she would have to herself.