Chapter One: Premonitions
Ben looked out over the courtyard and watched the sunset behind the mountains in the distance, casting a golden hue over the valley as it sank. He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly as adrenaline and anxiety began to flood his veins. He pulled his suit jacket a little tighter, half hoping that the tug would eliminate his nerves. It didn't work.
He jumped as he heard the large wooden door of his palace bedroom creek open. "Almost ready? Usually the guy is the first one ready," he heard his mother say with a chuckle. He turned from the window to face her and felt his nerves begin to calm as their gazes met. One of the qualities he loved most about her mother was her calming presence. When he was younger he was haunted by reoccurring nightmares of turning into a beast. In every dream he would watch in horror as his body morphed: his face was distorted into a long snout with fangs and his small hands evolved into paws with claws the size of a candlestick. Each time he would watch his beastly self run through the castle, only to meet Mrs. Potts in the hallway. She just stood, unmoving in her former teapot form, as his giant paw would raise. His screams always woke him up before he could watch Mrs. Potts be smashed to pieces. Before he opened his eyes he would hear his mother's footsteps rushing towards his room. He would feel more peaceful with each step he heard, and would be almost completely calm before she reached his bed to calm her with her soft touch and peaceful words. Even now, at seventeen-year-old, her presence calmed him. Now, instead of calming nightmares, her presence provided a peace amongst heated trade negations required by his recent kingship and a solid source of wisdom whilst navigating the constantly changing waters of high school and relationships.
"I'm just nervous," Ben said. "I don't know why, but I'm honestly more nervous for tonight than I was my coronation." His mother smiled as she continued to walk closer. She put her hand against his cheek, and she leaned into his comfort.
"Perhaps that's because you knew what to expect with your coronation, we had been practicing for weeks," they both smiled as Ben recalled the hours upon hours of rehearsals led by Cogsworth and Lumiere.
"It's just a dance anyways," Ben said.
"Never underestimate a dance," he heard his father's loud and recognizable voice call form his doorway. "A dance can change everything; it did for us." His parents met each other's eyes, and his mother smiled the way she always did when they saw each other. From the time he was little, one of Ben's only wishes in life would be to meet a woman that would look at him the same way his mother looked at his father.
"I fell in love with your father after that dance," his mother said quietly as she wrapped her arms around her husband. They gazed at each other for a moment, before turning their attention back to their son.
"I do believe your date is waiting downstairs," his father said. "And you guys should get going, you don't want to be late. Prom doesn't wait for a king." Ben smiled and took a step forward.
"You're right," he said. "Is the carriage ready?"
"Of course!" As they began to walk towards the door, his father began to lag behind his mother. "Belle, can you give me and Ben a minute?" Belle looked confused but nodded.
"Sure, but don't be long, Mal has been waiting and you don't want to be late," she kissed her husband on the cheek before heading out the door.
"Is everything okay, dad?" Ben's met his father's gaze, and the former king placed his hand on his son's shoulder with a firm grip.
"I never had a prom," he said. "I was too busy being greedy and ruining a kingdom. But, I did attend my fair share of royal balls, and I know what happens after." Ben looked down with embarrassment, surely his father was not about to give him the talk, again. "I get it, you're young, you have a beautiful girl. Go and have a good time, son. A wonderful time! But don't do anything you're going to regret. Not just with Mal, I'm not just talking sex, although that certainly is included. Just don't do anything that will make you or our kingdom look bad. You're not just any kid going to prom, you're the king of the most influential kingdom in our realm."
"I know dad, I know," Ben said continuing to look at the floor. "You, Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, everyone in this castle has told me a million times." He looked back up to meet his father's gaze. "I know I'm the king, I know. But tonight I just want to be a kid going to prom with his girlfriend. You don't need to worry." His father smiled.
"Good," he began walking towards the door. "Now let's go see your date, she is beautiful, if I say so myself." Ben smiled, thankful he had his father's approval. He knew his father had been skeptical of his initiative a year ago to integrate the children of villains into society. Even after Mal proved herself at his coronation, Ben knew his parents were still skeptical of her. He couldn't blame them. But, for tonight at least, he felt he had their approval.
The anticipation began to build with each footstep down the stone hallway towards the ballroom. The crowd's chatter below quieted as their shadows approached. By the time the two kings reached the grand staircase the crowd was silent. Ben sucked in a deep breath as he looked down the stair case, and saw Mal waiting for him. Her teal ball gown with with sparkles on the chest perfectly complimented her purple hair. He felt the crowd's gaze go from him, to Mal, and back at him.
"You know, usually the woman is the one that usually descends down the staircase," dad joked with Ben through his plastered smiled as they walked down the staircase.
"That wouldn't have happened if you allowed Mal to get ready upstairs, instead of forcing her to stay in the room in the castle the furthest away from mine," Ben replied through his smile. One of the first things royals learned was the art of having heated conversations through fake smiles.
"I didn't realize there would be so many people," Mal said as she embraced Ben at the bottom of the staircase.
"I didn't either," Ben said as he turned his gaze towards his mother. Belle shrugged.
"It was me, dear," Mrs. Potts called as she made her way through the crowd. Mrs. Potts had worn the same variation of an outfit since he was born, and Ben could easily spot her round self and bubbly voice as she made her way through the crowd. Despite her bubbly personality, everyone knew Mrs. Potts, the castle manager, ran a tight ship. Ben knew she had done more to hold his kingdom together than he or his father had.
"It's not every day our young king heads off to his first prom," Mrs. Potts chippered. "You look handsome, my Ben. And Mal, you look ab-so-lute-ly dashing." One of Mrs. Potts' most praiseworthy qualities was her ability to make every person, even those Ben knew she didn't like, feel welcomed and loved with one glance. "Mal, my dear, I hope you don't mind. The staff members here work so, so hard to keep the castle running. I thought it would be a nice treat for them to see you off. Usually, when pretty ladies are here in ball gowns with their handsome dates, they don't get to see them because they are working behind the scenes."
"Of course," Mal responded.
"And, I have a surprise for you, Ben," Mrs. Potts said as she pursed her lips.
"I can't believe you found someone stupid enough to go out with you," Ben heard a familiar voice call out behind him. He turned around to see his old friend, Chip, standing behind him. Chip was tall, just over six feet, with strawberry blonde locks that danced around his neck.
"Chip!" Ben explained, "What, what are you doing here?" They embraced a hug and Ben felt the camera around his neck.
"Mal, this is my friend, Chip. He's Mrs. Pott's son. We used to run around the castle together. He's been off at art school in another realm."
"Not just any school," Chip exclaimed. "Photography school!" He held up his camera, and ushered Mal and Ben closer together.
"I thought it would be nice if Chip came and took the royal prom portrait," Mrs. Potts explained. "You know, this is the first prom one of our royals have ever attended." Ben smiled and pulled Mal closer, savoring the familiar smell of her perfume. As soon as the photograph was taken they were ushered to their carriage waiting out front.
Ben opened the carriage door and helped Mal step into it. Before stepping in Mal looked up at the stars and paused.
"When I was little," she said quietly, "I always thought stars were magical. That the universe surrounding them was somehow where all the magic was, and the stars were the little holes where the magic came in." Ben smiled at the thought.
"Maybe there will be a little magic for us tonight." A cool breeze began to blow, and sent a chill up Mal's spine.
"C'mon Ben," she said as she fully stepped into the carriage and pulled Ben with her. As they got settled in their seats across from each other and made their way down the bumpy driveway towards their school, Mal let out an excited squeal. She reached over and squeezed Ben's hand, their eyes met.
"Tonight is one of the nights we're going to remember forever," she said before leaning in to kiss him.
In the coming years, and decades, Ben would think back on this night often. He would wonder if his father had a premonition to what the night would hold, not only for Ben and the family, but for their entire kingdom. Did Mal know when she spoke how correct she was? That yes, indeed, Ben and Mal would remember this night forever, but not for the reasons Mal had thought. Tonight was not just prom night, it was the night that changed the realm forever.
Hello, readers! I would GREATLY appreciate any feedback! I've worked hard on this story, and would be incredibly thankful for any comments, ideas, or suggestions. I will incorporate suggestions into my upcoming chapters. Thank you! -Kris