The dress was her grandmother’s. She knew the second she pulled it from the box; the smell of lilacs filled her nostrils and stirred her heart. She would never get to enjoy the true source of the smell, only in spirts of memories and false hopes.
As delicately as if it were made of glass, she pulled the dress from the box. It was purple, the same hue of the lilacs her grandmother spread across everything she wore. The girl held it against her bare, pale skin and raised her head to look in the mirror. Breath caught in her throat from the beauty. The color contrasted the skin she had never been able to color and the endless black her scalp produced.
She was beautiful.
She caught a glimpse of her mother in the mirror. My dear Emilee, do get dressed. We mustn't dawdle. The prince has arrived to escort you.
Emilee forced a smile onto her face and nodded, the response her mother wanted. It was practiced, as always. There wasn’t a moment of her royal life that she worshiped. It was rushed, fake. The food was dry, she never had a playmate. With her condition there were only a few who would ever invite her. There was a better life elsewhere.
She chanced a look out the large window that overlooked the village. The people could barely be seen from the high distance the castle sat, but the endless rows of wooden houses and colorful trees reminded her of what could be. Her heart beat faster against the boned cage, desperate for a moment, even just a breath, of freedom.
A heavy palm struck her head. Rubbing the spot, she turned again to face her mother.
Aren’t you listening? She laughed. Of course you’re not. Filthy child. You’re wasting my time. Look at me, I’m not even presentable. Emilee did look. The pressed rose colored dress and tight up do her mother wore sure showed otherwise. If you aren’t dressed by the time I return you will be attending the party as you are now. Surely that won’t help your case with any of the princes. A cold smile snaked across her lips before she turned on a heel and disappeared into the corridor.
Emilee locked her jaw as she stepped into the dress. No tears would dare fall, nor wails from deep within. Her mother was a coward. She never knew how to treat Emilee and she never would. So she resolved to terrible measures and terrible deeds. Emilee wouldn’t ever give it an ounce of recognition. Showing your soul to the devil only builds the temptation.
It took only moments for the dress to be smoothed and her hair to be primped. She bowed her head slightly to her servants as thanks, something her mother would never approve of. It just wasn’t the way. She took one last longing gaze in the mirror. Tears welled in her eyes. The dress fit her perfectly, even though the measurements were her grandmother’s. She breathed again and again, taking in the scent she had missed so dearly since her grandmother left. Nothing was real, but it was all there in front of her now.
She soon convinced herself to do her entertaining for the night and stepped out into the hallway. Just as her mother had said, there was the prince – tall, proper. He had been trained well by his father. Those brown eyes of his rested on her face, no place other. What a gentleman, she thought wistfully. Now if only he would stay one for the night. He would be the first.
A simple smile appeared as he took her hand to kiss it. Prince Ferrel. My dear Emilee, it is an honor to finally make your acquaintance. You are so lovely this night. The occasion surely can’t be my presence.
Emilee took in the way his hair caressed his scalp and neck, the way his blue vest clung to his strong chest, the way his trousers fit him perfectly. He was a sight. She wondered what her mother had to tell him to get him here.
It was then that Ferrel’s lips lost their joy and tightened. The air left Emilee’s body and she trained her gaze on the floor. This was the moment when everything was ruined, when the night would end for her yet just begin for a man to take advantage. Nothing was to change no matter the grace the prince had shown.
She felt his hand move across her forehead and behind her ear. She shuddered at the touch, out of disgust and reasons she couldn’t control. A scolding was in order for her indecisiveness. There couldn’t be any weakness she could show him.
So when he gently nudged her chin for her eyes to meet his, she showed him a defiance he had likely never seen. If it bothered him, he didn’t show it.
Please excuse the intrusion, he said sorrowfully. I only meant to fix that strand of hair. I have to admit though, I might’ve only made it worse. Men aren’t good at fixing ladies’s hair you know. A small light shined in his eyes and his stomach shook. In a single movement, Emilee reached out to grab his hand. He stopped the second she did.
She shook her head and spoke as best she could. No. Don’t stop. I want to hear you.
The perplexed look on Ferrel’s face proved her actions wrong, but it was soon replaced by that smile she had first seen. Then his hands moved.
Emilee closed her eyes, focusing on the slight vibrations of his skin. His laugh was soft and trained, proper like a prince’s should be. But it wasn’t like the rest. There was more joy than pride. He wasn't a prince first.
Perhaps, for once, she had overestimated.