|Photo credit: http://pmatijmuses.wordpress.com/page/2/ (I do not own the original image!)|
Noelle, raised in the palace kitchens, longs only for one thing: To learn more about the father who abandoned her. But when the mysterious princess betrothed to her kingdom's prince needs her services, Noelle finds herself on a path of danger and deceit. Appearing at a ball in the princess' honor, dressed as her mistress, she finds her pauper's masquerade has just begun.
So that's just a very cryptic idea of the story. And now, in honor of Mirriam Neal, I shall post a scene. Sorry it isn't very snarky!
Shaking her head, Noelle tried to pen some more words besides a vague title.
What is freedom? To be let out from a cage, like a bird in flight? To no longer have to scratch, to work, to fight? Why do we all long to let go? Why do we all want to be away from thoughtless words and deeds?
Because they are thoughtless of course, and isn’t it so?
Pursing her lips, the girl crossed out her lines, hating to waste such precious space. “Oh how I wish I had some other paper!”
“There is some in the desk if you so wish to borrow it.”
Emitting a squeak, Noelle turned in her chair, mouth gaping at the sight of Prince Alfred, Crown Prince of Ellern. “Oh. Oh my!”
Noelle dropped from the chair, feeling very conspicuous all of a sudden. She had been caught sitting in a royal chair! She fell to her knees, bowing her head in shame and fear. “Your highness, I beg your forgiveness. Please forgive me… I didn’t mean to assume. I just… I just wanted to write… I’m so sorry…”
The prince laughed, his laugh not deep and milky as the girls claimed, but rather a bit stressed sounding, but somehow still sincere. “Do not fret. It is no great sin. Though I do find it strange… a servant girl who writes?”
Another cloud of fear surrounded her. What if the prince didn’t like for servants, or women for that matter, to write? “My lord, please pardon me. I learned from the old cook who passed away. I thought it might connect me to my father.”
This time the prince’s voice was stern. “There is nothing to pardon. Now, stand. I don’t enjoy talking to the tops of people’s heads.”
Scrambling to her feet in a very unladylike way, Noelle kept her head tilted down, staring at the elaborate embroidery of Prince Alfred’s dressing robe.
“Well, that’s a little better,” the prince said, his voice full of amusement, “But might I see your face.”
Feeling ridiculous, Noelle looked up.
This was the first time she had ever seen the prince so close up before. He had black hair, and dark eyes that glowed with some secret Noelle suddenly wanted to know. There was a deep, endearing dimple in his cheek.
While she was taking in the sight of him, the prince was also surveying her, and he burst into more laughter.
Noelle felt her face, cheeks warming. “Oh, your majesty, I’m so sorry. It’s the soot, isn’t it? You see… I tend the ovens… and…”
He waved a dismissive hand. “There’s no need to explain yourself.”
Noelle curtsied, grateful. All of a sudden, overwhelming curiosity overcame her, and, trying to be careful, she voiced the question vexing her. “My lord, I don’t wish to sound rude, but may I ask you a question?”
The prince raised an eyebrow, and the girl expected to receive a harsh rebuke for her boldness.
“Of course, if you will allow me to put one forth to you.”
Relieved, she bobbed her head. “Yes, sire. You see… every night I have come to this library… to tend the fire; there has been no living soul around. So, if it isn’t wrong to ask, what brings you to this place tonight?”
The prince tapped a finger against his forehead. “A very good question to ask. And the answer is simple. I decided to come read a bit after preparing for bed… my stomach has been a bit out of sorts. And I somehow fell asleep in that chair over there, only to be awoken by your voice, talking to yourself.”
Noelle felt like sinking into the earth. “Oh.”
The prince just smiled again. “Now, for my question, and I hope you don’t think it rude.”
“Of course not,” she mumbled, staring at the floor.
“My question is, why do you dress in this fashion? I believe my mother instituted a dress code, and I only wonder why you do not uphold it?”
Noelle bit her lip. Would she now be punished? Would it be all right to tell what Cook had done?
“You are not in trouble, I only wish to know.”
“Oh. Well. The cook has not given me a uniform. I work in her service in the kitchens, you see… and well… she never saw the need since I don’t work in the palace.”
The prince’s forehead scrunched. “I see.” He glanced at a beautiful, engraved clock hanging from the wall. “I suppose I should be heading to my chambers. Please sleep well.”