The slippers fit perfectly. They sparkled on Ella's feet, glittering in the light of the setting sun.
"Stand up" I smiled. Though Ella most likely didn't recognize it, I knew the slippers were fairy made. Years of royal tutelage had taught me well.
"They'll crack for certain if I do."
I doubted any glass slippers crafted by fairies could break. "Maybe not."
Ella heaved a theatrical sigh-I suppressed a smile at her antics-and rose. It was amazing; the slippers seemed to mold to her feet, caressing her every move. Ella grinned up at me, before taking a few steps.
I watched her twirl; realizing suddenly that the orchestra music from below was drifting up to our hideout. "The young lady must not dance alone." It was an impulsive move; I stepped forward and bowed.
Ella stopped still in her twirling. I could see her brows wrinkle together delicately, considering. Suddenly my heart began to pound. What if she refused me?
Hesitantly, she held out her hand. I took it, relief coursing through my body. My heart did not stop pounding as I drew her close, breathing in the light scent of her hair. Was she aware of it too? Could she possibly know how heart skipped, how my ears rang?
"So," I coughed. "Sir Stephan told me you just made it to the giants' wedding. Did you find who you were looking for?"
Ella bit her lip. "Yes."
"Oh really? So your trip was successful?" I prodded gently. If only this girl wasn't so full of secrets!
"Very successful," Her eyes twinkled. "I may now finally tell my cook that she does not grow the biggest watermelons around."
I laughed, acknowledging the joke. This was how it always was with Ella. She was so bright, so spirited, so incredibly fun to be around. We fell silent, concentrating on our dance steps.
Just kiss the girl…
The sun was setting in the distance, casting a warm orange glow upon the sky. If we turned at just the right angle, the last rays of warmth bounced off Ella's hair and made it look multidimensional, breathtaking. I noticed that sometime during our many dances, I had pulled her closer and closer to me; I could make out the many iridescent shades in her bright emerald eyes. Her lips were mere inches away from mine.
Feeling heat flood into my cheeks, I hastily stepped back to increase the distance between us. Swallowing hard, I forced myself to concentrate on what Ella was saying.
"... And now they are forced to love each other. What do you think of such a present?"
The answer was automatic. "I shouldn't like to be under a spell to love someone." I couldn't imagine being forced to spend time with a faceless lady of the court.
A frown crossed Ella's features. "Sometimes people are forced into wedlock. If they must marry, perhaps it's better if they must love."
I couldn't imagine not being allowed to choose whom I loved. "Do you think so? I don't."
"It doesn't matter for you." Ella sighed. "You can marry anyone."
"And you cannot?" I couldn't help the jolt of fear that shot through my body. Was she promised to someone she didn't love? Did her father arrange a betrothal with some backwater Duke?
Bright green eyes glanced downwards abashedly. "I suppose I can. We're both too young to marry, in any case."
The relief that washed over me upon hearing those words was just as real as the fear of a second before.
Just kiss the girl...
I grinned. "Are we? I'm older than you are."
I had a feeling I was definitely not too young for marriage.
We stayed up in the tower room for hours, just talking and laughing together. I noticed Ella was shivering in the frosty wind and debated fiercely with myself whether or not to move closer. I could stave off the cold by sharing my own warmth. In truth, I did not understand how Ella could be chilled at all. My body was tense, but I doubted it was from the cold. In fact, I was rather warm.
I couldn't bring myself to shift closer to her.
As we watched the sun slide below the horizon, I quietly told Ella about my upcoming trip to Ayortha. She looked to be as disappointed as I felt.
Venturing a smile, I explained. "Father says it's time. I'll write to you. You shall know all my doings. Will you write me in return?"
I had asked the question, but my mind did not register the answer. I had noticed that from below there were the sounds of people leaving the party. My time with Ella was ending.
Just kiss the girl…
Ella noticed the noises wafting up from the ground. She approached the window and looked out.
"The fairy's still here, standing at the bride's side."
I joined Ella at the windowsill. "Perhaps she means to monitor the effects of her gift."
"Would she?" Ella bit her lip. "Do you think so?"
"I don't know. I can tell her to go." I glanced at the fairy. "She would hardly like a prince for an enemy."
"Don't!" The sharpness of Ella's voice caught me. "Let's just watch."
She looked back down, observing more guests as they left. Finally, the fairy disappeared. Surprised, I couldn't suppress a startled gasp.
After the fairy left, Ella and I picked our way back to the entrance hall. As my gaze landed on the main staircase, I had an idea.
"No one is here," I gestured. "You need resist temptation no longer."
Ella's smile lit up her entire face. "Only if you slide too."
The banisters weren't as tall as the ones back home, but I can honestly say I've never had a more enjoyable ride. We slid down twice before being interrupted by Ella's new family. I struggled to get my laughter under control as I exchanged greetings with the newly wedded Sir Peter of Frell.
Ella did not stop laughing. Just the sight of her giggling away made me feel like bursting out again. I quickly made a final bow and hastened away to my carriage.
"Back to the Castle, John." I settled back into the cushions of my seat and found my mind drifting back to my time with Ella. I smiled over my memories of her, sighing as I realized that soon I would have to leave Kyrria for an entire year. I wouldn't be able to see her for an entire year.
I would miss her. The revelation slid over me slowly.
You had the perfect chance, you know.
I would miss her. She meant something to me.
You had her nestled in your arms.
Heaving a sigh, I ran a hand through my hair.
Why didn't you just kiss the girl?