(CozItRunsInMyBlood) owns the plot.
(RobzBeanie) is a lifesaver and she beta this.
(GrandeDame) is my soul-mate and per-reader.
A huge thank you to (janosch73) for the push she gives every now and then with blessing this with her approval.
"I'll get you out of here."
Out of here. The only thing I'd longed to do since I stepped a foot in this very room, two days ago.
Out of here. The only thing I'd never wanted more in my whole life than I wanted it.
Out of here. The only thing I never thought I'd want so much, yet when I saw a hope of it coming true, I'd feel so much worry and … fear.
It was really confusing. I knew with every cell in my body that I wanted to leave the kingdom, that I wanted that 'Out of here.' That I needed to go back home. I knew it in my heart. I knew it in my mind, in my soul. But when Alice spoke the words, fear crept into my heart, and for a split second, I thought that it wasn't actually something I wanted to do.
"Uh … what?"
"I'll get you out of here, Marie," Alice whispered again.
"What do you mean 'get me out of here'? You mean I can leave? To my country?" My eyes were wide open and my throat was tightly closed.
"Yes. That's what you want, right?"
"Uh …" What's wrong with you, Isabella Marie? You should be screaming in joy! "I mean … uh, yes, of course. But your broth-"
"I know what he must've said, but just forget it, okay? I can't stand the fact that you're staying here against your will on top of everything else that has happened to you. Because of me, that is. I'll get you out of here and you'll forget all of this in no time, like a bad dream, I promise," she said, tears streaming down her face.
"There is no but, Marie, let me help. Please, let me fix my mistake, please. I want to fix this."
What. Is. Wrong with you? A voice in my head screamed at me. I really didn't know what was wrong with me. The way I was acting, all hesitant and scared, it wasn't me. I knew I should be jumping up and down in delight. I was finally getting my wish. I was going to get out of this hellhole, with the help of someone who knew the place very well. I wouldn't need to search for anything or run without any clue as to where I was going like I had planned to do. I should be grateful. I should pray and thank God for answering my prayers. Why the hesitation? Why?
Suddenly, doubt filled my heart. What if this was all a game? What if Alice was testing me just to learn of my intention and then go tell her brother? What if this was her way of getting back at me for causing all of this trouble between her and her husband?
But, no. It couldn't be. She wouldn't do that. She didn't look like the kind of person who would do that. Just look at her. She was broken and hurt. She was begging me to let her help. She was regretful and only wanted to 'fix her mistake' as she put it. She couldn't be that mean. Or, at all.
I shrugged the thought away from my mind. It was crazy. I was being really paranoid. I should be thankful. Thankful, not doubtful and suspicious.
"Uh – how?"
Alice was just opening her mouth to speak, but before she could do so we heard a knock on the door.
I just stared at the door then looked at Alice when she didn't say anything. She pointed with a side nod of her head towards the door, motioning for me to say something to let the person – whom I assumed to be Mona – in, reminding me that it was my place.
Where the heck did that come from?
"Come in," I called.
Like I'd assumed, Mona came in, her face now no longer covered. In her hand was something golden that looked like the World Cup, only without the ball, and there was smoke coming out of it.
She looked surprised when she saw Alice but she didn't say anything, only nodded her head once in greeting or acknowledgment which Alice returned with nod of hers.
Mona then came toward me with the World Cup thing and held it near my face. My eyes widened in fright and I jerked myself back and away from it, shielding my face with my arm, which earned me confused looks from both Mona and Alice.
"What are you doing?" I asked in terror. I couldn't believe that Mona wanted to burn me with that thing.
"Uh, what do you think, Princess?" Mona asked.
"Think of what?"
I moved my head a little from behind my arm and peeked at the World Cup, the strong, warm scent hitting me immediately.
"Oh!" was all I replied with.
"Do you approve, Princess?"
"Approve of what?"
"Uh, is the scent okay to you for me to spread it all over the wing? It's a tradition, but you have to approve of the smell of it," Mona explained.
"Uh, yeah, okay."
Mona moved around us, filling every corner with the sweet, exotic smell. It smelled like a very strong kind of musk but with a hint of ambergris mixed to it. It smelled amazing, like nothing I've ever smelled before, and it kind of relaxed me anxiety a bit.
There were no more words spoken between Alice and me; she seemed to be drowning in her thoughts while I watched what Mona was doing in amazement. It was an amusing sight.
Mona then opened the sliding wall that separated us from the other side of the room and started doing the same thing with the incense as she had on this side. My eyes roamed all over the place searching for the prince, wanting desperately to know what he was doing for another reason unknown to me. I couldn't find him.
Finally, Mona knocked on the mirror-door that led to the sunroom, and the prince came out once she stepped inside, but only after waving the smoke in his direction, obviously enjoying the smell.
The deep inhale of breath I watched him take in, and the way he closed his eyes in enjoyment, then the look of peaceful bliss that was painted on his beautiful face and the sweet, soft smile with his eyes still closed – it all did something to my stomach. It fluttered.
I found myself watching him really closely and staring, enjoying and admiring, wishing really hard that he was closer so I could ogle better and see him even more clearly.
I exhaled when he did, my exhale of breath coming out in a soft sigh that left my mouth parted and my eyes focused on the face of the most attractive man I'd ever known.
The prince opened his eyes and as they found mine, the feel of being in his arms came rushing back to me, consuming me with warmth and safety and making me blush under his heated gaze.
The small smile that was on his lips grew into a one-sided, crooked one that I was very sure had broken so many hearts before. Said smile was infectious and it infected me, because the next thing I did was mimic it, giving it back to him, biting my bottom lip eventually and looking away when my blush deepened and my stomach flipped again.
I heard him approaching and looked up. He stood behind where Alice was sitting and then said, "I apologize if I'm interrupting, but Alice should offer her prayer before the time is up."
"Oh, yes, I should," Alice told me as she got up, straightening her clothes. "Can I use your bathroom?"
"Uh, yeah, sure."
Alice smiled small and walked to the same door she'd come from that led to the living room, then closed it behind her.
I frowned. "That bathroom has another door?" I pointed behind me.
"Every room has another door or ... three, Princess," he said. "This room has eight."
My eyes widened.
"She's not going to use this one, though. It's only ours. There are four others she could use; she knows the place well." He smiled softly.
I really didn't know anything in here at all. And I had missed that tour yesterday when I passed out.
Ours. The word rang in my ears again. Why did I like the sound of it so much?
"Excuse me," the prince excused himself and went to our bathroom.
Alice came back after a few minutes and asked about the prince. I pointed to the closet and she came and whispered, "Soon," into my ear, then sent me a look of assurance that held the unspoken promise of freedom.
I nodded my head and begged my heart to settle down, for fear had found its way to it again. Fear of the unknown and fear of what I already knew. I was going to escape. It was big. Huge. But I was going to go home. It was all I wanted. So I calmed myself down, shrugged my fear away again. It should be fine. God would help me. He would.
But I was going to be leaving him as well.
What is wrong with you?
What is wrong with you, Marie?
Stop it. Stop it, now!
By the time I woke up from my dazed and troubled thoughts, Alice had already followed the prince to the closet and hadn't come out. My legs took me there.
The closet was as big as the living room, which meant very, very big. Tons of shelves, hundreds of hangers, two dressers, a big wooden chest of drawers in the middle of the room and a large, magical chandelier above it.
And I'd thought my closet was huge.
The prince stood near the chest of drawers, and beside him – but with a step behind – stood Alice, her hair covered and her hands folded on top of her stomach, the same position the prince was taking. I watched with amusement and a frown as they bent, kneeled and touched their heads to the ground - that had two small mats on it above the carpet - then got up and did it all over again. It seemed to me that the prince was taking the lead and Alice was following.
The way they were standing, the humbleness in their poses, the quietness of their voices and the peaceful hollow that surrounded them made it easy to understand that they were praying.
I'd never seen how Muslims prayed before, never really thought about it, but to be truthful, it was such a beautiful sight. Organized and neat.
The fact that the two of them threw their problems away and stood together to pray before God was heartwarming. Because this was what religion should be about. Only this. Worshiping. Standing in front of God to pray, to thank, to ask. Religion is a feel. Faith. God should only be in your heart, to love him and be loved back by him. There should never be anything other than that. No killing in the name of God, or fighting over who was right and wrong, because after all – religion is peace, love and … worshiping.
We believe that we all worship the same God. Alice's words found their way to my head, and my fingers found their way to my cross. I held it in my hand and hugged it to my chest, closed my eyes and prayed … just prayed. For God to be with me. And I knew my prayer would be answered just like every other prayer I'd ever prayed.
"We only speak in English in the princess's presence, Alica. I'd appreciate it if you'd stick to that," the prince told Alice when she said something to him in Arabic after they finished their prayer, causing me to smile softly.
"Oh, of course," Alice said. "I'm sorry, Marie."
"No, it's fine."
"I was just asking, why are we praying in the closet?" she asked the prince.
"She's yet to see any of the other rooms; you know the tradition," the prince answered with a sigh.
"Oh!" Alice's eyes were shocked, then they were sad, then ended up with being regretful.
"Uh, what tradition?" I asked.
"The husband is not allowed into any room before his wife," Alice answered. "It's a sign of respect."
That's … nice.
I nodded with another soft smile. I didn't tell them that it was my first time to see this closet and he has already been in it more than a few times. I didn't want to upset him … for some reason. But it was really nice of him to respect this little detail of their traditions, even with him knowing that our marriage wasn't like any other marriage and he shouldn't stick to the rules that much with me, or at all. I wasn't going to judge. Heck, I didn't know any of it in the first place.
I wasn't going to judge because I didn't know …
Was that what the prince had been telling me? 'Don't judge without knowledge,' he had said earlier. Was it true that I didn't really know anything about Arabs or Muslims and I shouldn't be judging them to be killers and peace haters? But … I did know that. I knew enough.
Maybe I was learning that a few of them were nice, but I still couldn't trust them. And all of those thoughts – the stupid thoughts – I'd had about the prince should be forgotten. I wasn't that dumb. I refused to be.
The prince got up from his praying place and offered Alice his hand; she took it and stood up. "Woah!" she said.
"Are you okay?" the prince asked his sister, tightening his grip on her hand.
"Um … I guess I stood up too fast." Alice sounded out of breath as if she'd just run a mile. "I – uh, I don't feel–" She wasn't able to finish her words before suddenly she threw up all over the floor, her dress and … the prince.
"Alica!" It wasn't a complaint; it was a concerned call.
I took a step back and looked away, listening to Alice as she gagged and apologized with a faint, 'Sorry.' The prince hushed her with soothing promises of how 'Everything will be okay,' and how she 'Will feel better now.'
I thought she would come out of the sunroom since I hadn't seen her leave it, but she came in through the main bedroom door, informing me silently and without me asking that the sunroom had another door.
Too. Many. Doors. I groaned internally.
The prince went to the bathroom and I went to my now-favorite spot in front of the window as Mona took care of Alice.
When he came out, he was shirtless.
I swallowed thickly.
All of the thoughts I'd had about him not too long ago came back full force, wondering and admiring. And all of the thoughts about forgetting said thoughts were actually that – forgotten.
He looked mesmerizing.
"Are they still in there?" He pointed to the closet with the now closed door.
"Yeah, I guess Alice is changing," I told him.
I guess you'll have to stay shirtless for a while … Hmm …
He nodded, moved a hand through his hair and cleared his throat. "Uh …" His words were interrupted by the sound of the closet door opening.
Alice came out without Mona and closed the door behind her. "They are going to clean the floor," she said with embarrassed eyes.
"Mona and Nora – my maid. She brought me my clothes," Alice said.
Her maid? Where the heck did she come from?
"I'm so sorry, Marie."
"Hey, Alice, it's really ok–" I was cut off mid-sentence with the sound of the main bedroom door being opened abruptly and with such force that it jerked back with a loud noise as it hit the wall.
The Queen came running in our direction, and the rage in her eyes made me shiver. She was up to no good.
"Mother," the prince said in greeting, his voice careful and his pose strong but humble.
The Queen started screaming in Arabic – yelling words I didn't think would be nice anyway. Alice was trembling and tears filled her eyes as she looked down, fear seeping out of her in strong waves.
What's going on?
"She was just coming to say goodbye with her husband," the prince said.
The Queen started yelling again, her hands flying in the air, her voice laced with venom and anger.
"Mother, she'll go now; she threw up and that was what delayed her. Everything is fine, she'll go now."
"I'm not going anywhere with him," Alice blurted out with a shaky voice.
If I'd thought that the Queen's eyes were filled with rage before, I now thought they were filled with fire, hateful fire. Scary fire.
"Sagtah!" the Queen yelled, her hand rising up in the air, ready to strike Alice on the face. I watched with terror as Alice flinched but didn't move away – as if this was something she was used to, something that happened on a daily basis.
It broke my heart.
She was royal, a princess, the daughter of the King. She was supposed to be spoiled rotten and treated as if she were made of glass – not insulted, humiliated and abused. And even if she weren't royal, nobody deserved to be treated this way. It was really sad to watch, especially knowing you could do nothing about it. I had to squeeze my eyes shut and turn my head away, because it was the only thing I could do.
The noise the followed wasn't one coming from a slap like I had expected; it was the prince's deep voice, "I told you she was leaving."
I opened my eyes to find him holding her hand up, just an inch away from Alice's scared, pained face.
They stayed frozen in this state for several moments, the Queen shooting him deadly looks and the prince holding her stare until she put her hand down.
She asked him something and he glanced my way for a second before looking back at her, which made her turn her face in my direction and sneer.
"Mona!" the prince called. "Have Nora take Princess Alica to her wing, and tell her to come to me if anything happens," he said when Mona entered the room, his eyes not leaving his mother's. It didn't take a genius to realize that his words held a warning to … the Queen.
Alice left, using the living room door. I assumed her maid would be following or something, though she didn't enter the bedroom.
The Queen started yelling again, causing the prince to huff and then clench his teeth, replying by shaking his head every once in a while and that was it. Eventually he said, "It's just a small problem with him that they'll fix soon; there is no need for all of this."
The yelling continued and I had to roll my eyes and look away. I had a strong feeling the Queen was mental.
Suddenly her shrieking voice stopped and I turned my head again to see if the prince had shoved his fist in her mouth already to finally shut her up. Or so I hoped.
Her mouth was agape, but there were no fists inside of it as I'd fantasized. Her eyes were wide open and fixed on the prince's shoulder. She then grabbed the top of his arm and asked a question, her other hand pointing to his less-than-two-days-old wound.
Sagtah = Slut / Whore.
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