The next morning (After Ella brewed the herb mixture that Lucinda gave us,) I felt much better. By noon my sniffles were gone along with my fever and cough, though my throat was still sore. But hey, I took what I could get! After taking Annelise for a ride (I was teaching her to improve her riding. We still weren't friends; though so don't get the wrong idea! I just felt sorry for her gelding!) we were all really busy for the rest of the afternoon. Our stepfamily was messing around with their hair (though our stepsisters secretly asked for Ella's help. Wise move on their part if you ask me!)
Once again, the three of them left haughtily and once again Lucinda was there to help.
The Gown she created this time was as stunning as ever. It was apparently silk (But Ella would know more about that then I would) and was a whole array of absolutely gorgeous colours that really suited her.
The dress was mainly a brilliant gold with a silver trim and shiny blue things (were those Sapphires? No Wait Diamonds! Okay, if she gets jumped, not my fault. Although if she does, whoever does it will die a long and painful death, needless to say) Once again, matching mask. I had one too this time, though there was really no point as the stupid thing didn't stay on longer than around 30 seconds so I stuffed in my pocket.
My livery changed again, this time it was now black and gold, as was the pumpkin. (Lucinda had to use the rotten pumpkin; it was all we had left, so she improvised!)
"Uh, Lucinda," I said a little nervously, "I don't suppose we could stay longer...could we? Just like a minute or two to make the get-away easier?" The Fairy shook her head
"Better weather guaranteed?" I begged "Please don't make me walk home in the rain again!" Lucinda just smiled or rather smirked and replied
"Don't worry. This time it shouldn't rain."
"You sure? Coming from a fairy who's still looking for a functioning wand..." I trailed off. Looking back, I guess I was pushing my luck a bit, but fortunately she seemed to be in a good mood and only chuckled a little.
So once again, it was off to the ball with us!
Prince Derrick couldn't help himself. He was nervous. HIM! He refused to admit it, but he was pretty sure that he was in...love. Conrad definitely was, but he was...just...Conrad! The guy was nice enough, in fact, in some cases he was too nice, but he was completely out of it! Derrick was supposed to be the down-to-earth one! The whole 'marrying the commoner' never worked!
And yet, he was head-over-heels for the cross-dressing girl he had met twice. This time, she wouldn't get away so easily.
I was getting pretty good at navigating the palace halls. Within only a few minutes I'd found the Courtyard from the servants entrance. He was there, of course. And of course he saw me. However, I decided to make him work a little this time and stayed where I was, inspecting the rose bushes meticulously. I huffed a little in disgust. There were at least 2, no wait! THREE weeds! Not to mention dead blooms, and a rotten stem. These people were supposed to be professionals! Sure an amateur wouldn't be able to tell the difference, but a gardener would be able to!
Anyway, while I was fussing over the flowers I could hear him come up behind me. I don't know what he was thinking of doing, but he didn't catch me off guard like he seemed to think he would
"Don't even think about it." I said sourly.
"Think about what?" He replied innocently
"What ever you were thinking of doing."
"Ha ha. Funny." He chuckled. God I hated that attitude! Now I know I never acted like that! (Okay, maybe around the hags, but in my defence-LOOK at them! They practically BEG for attitude!)
"So what's a pretty girl like you doing out all alone? Shouldn't you be looking for a husband around now?" He drawled with that despicable smirk! Now there was no way he was getting away that remark
"Well maybe I'm looking for someone that can disappear quickly if you take my drift. Then again, I could always hit you and leave." I growled. Not my best threat, but oh well.
" Oh yeah, I'm REALLY scared now." He drawled.
"You should be. I can take down a guy twice my size." He looked at me in an odd way and then sobered
"Actually, I believe that." He said seriously. Then he sighed. "I hate balls, but I like the time I spend with you. Say, do you know how to play chess?"
"Of course." I replied wryly, smiling despite myself. Time to put this guy in his place.
We walked over to a fountain where he had placed a chessboard. No need for chairs, neither of us really cared if we got our clothes messed up and sat cross-legged on the grass. The chessmen were solid gold. One was studded with sapphires and one with rubies. I raised an eyebrow at this.
"You actually play with these? You know you could sell these things and feed your country for nearly a decade!" I exclaimed. He merely shrugged.
"My father likes chess. He got me into it. This was a present for my birthday 2 years ago. Now, Blue or red?" I picked the rubies and we began playing.
"So Derrick." I began "What's it like in your kingdom?" I pinned his rook.
"Not bad. A little boring sometimes." He replied with a shrug. He took my bishop.
"Well how boring can it be? You're the prince. You have the run of the place." I captured his rook and trapped a knight.
"Yeah right. All the rules and regulations to follow! I never get to do anything fun or in the least bit dangerous. I wish I had a sibling. Then I wouldn't be the only heir." He countered my excellent trap. We continued on like this for a bit, and I lost all track of time. It wasn't until after I checked him that I looked up at the large clock and swore. I had less than 5 minutes!
"Will you look at the time-Gotta go!" I said and started to get up to find a hand on my arm.
"Let us at least finish the game first." He said calmly, though I could see the pleading in his eyes. I rolled mine, moved my knight and checkmated him. Then I started running. However, as I headed for the ball room, I jerked to a stop when I saw Ella standing in the entrance to the maze with a guy in gear even fancier than Derrick's. They were just about to kiss when the clock began it's little song that it plays at midnight. Once that was done, there would be the chimes. And after the last chime it was by-by dress-up, hello rags. Ella started to pull away, but the guy held onto her hand. I don't know what they said to each other, but when she reached me and we ran together there were tears in her eyes. Yanking my mask on and holding it in place with my free had we both raced through the hall to the steps with Ella's suitor hot on our tail.
When we were running down the steps to the carriage, Ella tripped then cried
"My slipper! It's fallen off!" Pulling her with me I exclaimed,
"No time! We've got to get far enough away that they won't catch us!"
Somehow we reached the carriage and I slapped the reigns a little harder then necessary (which I apologized for to the horses/mice, don't worry) and the horses started galloping. We managed to get into the forest before the magic faded completely and we were left sitting in our old rags and in pumpkin mush. Upon hearing the sound of hooves, we dived for the cover of the bushes, Ella clutching the little mice to her and I held the cat...(away from the cute little rodents which he thought of as dinner.) Ella was sobbing quietly, tears running down her cheeks.
"Ella, Ella what's wrong?" I asked. She sniffed
"That, that man. He was the one I told you about. He-he told me loved me, and that he wants to marry me. And now I'll never see him again!" She cried into my shoulder as we got up and started walking home.
"Hey, its not so bad. We'll think of something. What are you in such a rush for anyway? You're only 17. It's not like-you're limping." I ended the soothing statement with the blunt fact. She was. I closed my eyes and counted till ten inside my head when I saw what it was. The stupid, stupid, stupid (did I mention stupid!!!) slipper. Glass of course. She did the sensible thing and took it off. Walking barefoot was much easier than just one impractical shoe.
Things were about to get very interesting.
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