I soon found out that getting out of the ball was harder than getting in. By this point, Ophelia had been pointing me out, identifying me as 'The First Female Adventurer.' People flocked around me, demanding to hear stories of my travels and were disappointed when I had little to say. Mostly just I'd nod my head and say, "So I've heard." For the ones who pestered to hear my version, I politely misdirected them and moved on. As I inched painfully toward the exit, the stories grew more and more elaborate and down right ridiculous.
I managed to ditch a couple of rather stuffy, old ladies, who kept insisting to know where exactly I was born, by jumping into a bed of shrubbery when they were distracted. I won't describe exactly how I distracted them. I'm rather embarrassed by the whole situation.
I knelt in the bushes for at least a quarter of an hour, until no one was around to see me emerge and question me why I was in the bushes to begin with.
There was a nice stone bench, not two feet from me, which I sat down on. I took off my shoes at once (they were hurting again, damn things ) and looked up to the palace. Above me was the balcony on which Larry -'Prince Laetres.' I ordered myself sharply- had our little chat. Now too young nobles were up there getting very close.
I could have just climbed down. I realized, It would have saved me a lot of trouble.
"Aren't they sweet looking?"
I glanced down and to my left. There was Puss, as calm and cool as could be, acting as if he hadn't disappeared at all.
"Where the Hell have you been? I've been-" I stopped in mid sentence. I really didn't want to admit that I had been wondered.
"You've been what? Worried? How sweet! But to answer your question, I've been spreading stories of your great exploits."
"You mean lies."
"No, I mean exaggerated truths."
"Which explains how me getting stuck in a tree by wild boars with Poki turned into me saving this whole village by fighting off this giant monster, with ferocious tucks and red glowing eyes."
"They took the ball and rolled with it, added stuff along the way. Who says a rolling stone gathers no moss?"
"But you've made me out to be someone I'm not! You've got me in high heels." I shock my shoe at him.
"What do you care? You're getting your wish, aren't you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I wish I was a Queen." Puss mimicked, poorly, "You remember. You were there. Think about it. You're at a palace. There's a prince, heir to the throne. He's single. You're single. He's looking for a bride. You're looking for a king."
"He has a bride."
"A minor oversight. She'll be gone within a week."
"Besides, even if you did manage to chase her off, and I'm not condoning that, I doubt it would work out."
"Whatever are you insinuating, fair Seraphina? I saw you two chummy up to each other. You're such a cute couple."
"I also insulted his fiancée. I'll be lucky if I escape with my head intact. This was such a stupid idea. I don't know what possessed me to do this. I must be mad."
"Only madly beautiful." Puss flattered, "Just keep your chin up, back straight and, remember, smile. Oops, gotta go."
"Puss! Damn you! Don't you dare leave me!"
"Do you always yell at the darkness?"
I stumbled to my feet, now shoeless, to face Prince Laetres. "No, I was just yelling at my cat..." I turned my head back but, of course, Puss was no where to be seen. "Who's no longer there."
I turned back to see Prince Laetres hiding a smile behind is hand.
"You're laughing at me."
"My apologizes, fair Lady Seraphina, but a prince, such as myself, hardly gets to witness such entertain. Most everyone is so formal and stiff in my presence."
"Well, you are a prince." I reminded both of us and moved to sit back down on the bench, miscalculated and landed on my ass.
Instead of helping me up, the prince sat down in the dirt with me. "I get the feeling this isn't a good day for you."
"Oh, no, not at all. It's been a very trying week."
I groaned, "Exaggerations. Trust me, my life is not adventurous as everyone makes it out to be. Sometimes I think I should never have left home."
"Why did you leave home?"
"Ah. Well, I don't know if you believe this, but I think you are very lucky."
"You are not a slave. You are not a peasant. You are not a commoner. You are not royalty. You have your freedom. You're not starving. No one's focusing you to marry. You have no responsibilities. Many people would count their blessings to have your life."
"Exactly." Laetres leaned forward and kissed me lightly on the hand. I've never been kissed on the hand before and wasn't sure how to act. I looked into Laetres's eyes. I could feel the blood in his hand pulse in mine. Right then, if he'd asked me to chop off my own head, I would have.
Oh, God, I've gone and fallen in love. I thought two breathes before Ophelia called out, "Yoo hoo, Seraphina. Brother."
Laetres and I quickly dropped each other's hand. Disappointed, I stood up with the prince.
"Yes, Ophelia." Did he sound almost upset with his sister? Was he disappointed too? I secretly hoped so.
"I just wanted to know if you asked Lady Seraphina yet."
"Ask me what?"
Ophelia ran over and clasped my hands, jumping up and down in a giddy sort of excitement, which I thanked the gods I had never experienced, "Oh, you must come with us to our country house."
"I don't know. I have to leave-"
Ophelia quickly cut me off, "Oh, you must. We're leaving in three days time. You simply must."
"It that a royal command?"
Ophelia laughed. She hadn't realized I was serious.
"It's very quiet out there." Prince Laetres spoke up, "Nothing like court functions. Just Ophelia and me and whoever we invite. Consider this a formal invitation."
The prince was inviting me. He wanted me to be there.
"Will you come?"
Remember what I said earlier, about chopping off my own head? Well, this was much more enjoyable.
"Yes, thank you, Prince Laetres. Princess Ophelia."
"Please, call me Laetres."
He wanted me to call him Laetres. I melted. Defiantly, defiantly have fallen in love.
To Be Continued…
Authors Note: Did Seraphina fall in love too fast? I thought so, until I remember Romeo and Juliet married after one date, so I figure I'm safe.