Yeah, that last chapter wasn't very exciting and nothing really big happened. All books have those chapters, though, right? Most do, anyway.
Anyhow, on with chapter 20!
I watched another two peasants leave the hall. I wasn't sure how I was doing, but I hadn't called the guards on anybody yet, as my uncle had done many times. Suddenly, a messenger appeared at my side. "Her Highness, Princess Lucy, should like to come and observe." I nodded and he left, promptly followed in by Lucy.
"Dearest Eli," she said, grinning and sat down in a chair next to me. "How are you handling this?"
I shrugged, motioning for the next peasants to come in. "Alright I suppose."
A woman stepped in tentatively, looking a bit bashful. An angry man pushed past her and they came up to us. The man bowed and the woman curtsied. "How can I help you?" I asked.
The man growled and said, "This woman stole meat from my stand! She won't confess to it, when I saw her do it! She should be…"
I held up a hand for him to stop talking. "I will decide what should be done. Let me hear the woman's side of the story." She looked scared to say anything, so I prompted, "Ma'am, did you do as this man insists? Please, tell me. I assure you nothing terrible will be done to you."
She looked down at her hands. "Yes. I was hungry though!" she said quietly. "My husband can't work, and my children are starving. It wasn't that much meat! Just enough to keep us alive!"
I looked to the butcher. "How much would the meat have cost?"
"One silver piece and a half bronze coin."
I shook my head. "That isn't that much, good man. Why is it that big of a deal?"
"Because she denied stealing! She lied and stole- it's got nothing to do with the money," he stated.
"Alright, how about I pay you one silver piece for the meat and she will repay you the half bronze coin," I said, sighing. I then asked the woman, "Ma'am, do you work?" She nodded. "What do you do, and how much are you paid?"
"One silver piece a week is all I get for helping the butcher and a loaf of bread that wasn't sold that week if I do well," she answered meekly.
"I will give you a job here at the palace in the kitchen for two silver pieces and two brass coins at the end of the week. It will be in the morning and five days a week. I cannot hire you for much else," I informed her. I glanced at the servants lining the walls. I pointed to one. "Could you take this woman down to the kitchen and explain things to the chef?" The woman followed the servant and I returned to the man. "The table over there, by the door, is where you can pick up your silver piece."
He bowed and left. I sighed and looked over at Lucy. She smiled. "Good job, Eli." I smiled back at her and yawned.
A servant entered through the doors that the man had just exited, waiting for me to call in more cases. I looked at him and said, "That's all for today. Remind them there will be no peasant court for the next week." He bowed and exited. I stood and Lucy followed me. "So, the preparations for the ball tomorrow finished?"
She groaned. "Not fully." Shaking her head, she changed the subject. "Father is ready to step down and let you become king within the next two years. Have you considered marriage yet?"
"Marriage, Lucy?" I asked. "Let's just get through with this ball first."
She laughed. "No, stupid. Think about it- a ball is the best place to propose."
"So you want me to propose when I haven't even considered marriage at all?"
"You're kidding, Eli. You've got to be. There's not one person that you have even thought about marrying?" she chided. She paused. "Not Ama?"
Ama. Of course I had thought of marrying Ama. That was always far away, never right there in front of me, where within two days I could be engaged to her, ready to spend forever in her company. I just never actually seriously considered it. "I don't know if she'd say yes. She barely would come back to work for you at my asking, or let me teach her," I argued.
"Ha! That was a long time ago. You're so thick, Eli. It's obvious you both love each other. There is no reason for her to say no to you."
I didn't say anything. Perhaps I did propose. Could I imagine myself ruling, with Ama by my side? I answered myself quickly. Yes, I could picture myself with her, no matter what. What was stopping me? "Should I, Lucy?"
She smiled softly. "Eli, I couldn't imagine you happier. Propose to her."
"At the ball?"
"At the ball."
I laughed, more elated than I had ever felt, then sensed the panic seep in. "But I've got no ring! And when at the ball… and where? Oh! Uncle! I've got to ask him about it!"
She gave me a hard whack on the head. "Stop. First off, the ring my father used is the ring that is passed on for generations. You use that. Secondly, you won't have a problem with my father. Remember, my mother was a peasant." I opened my mouth to ask something, but she stopped me. "Yes, he told me about that. As for when and where, I can't say. Ask your uncle."
I nodded slowly. "Wow. It feels so… final.She smiled happily. "Tomorrow night you'll be engaged, Eli. Ama will be at your side forever."
I grimaced as my hair was pulled and tugged at by a hairdresser. Lucy watched over the process, already finished with her preparations and waiting on my- literally- last minute hair styling. "Ama, don't squirm. You need to look beautiful for Eli."
"Why? He's seen me worse, hasn't he?"
"It's a ball, Ama. This is different," she argued.
"Why aren't the others having their hair done special?" I asked.
She sighed. "They're not going with the prince, you dolt. Everybody's eyes will be on you. You must be gorgeous."
"I don't care what other people think."
"Well, no matter that, you still look gorgeous."
A final tug and the woman cried, "Finished!" She held a looking glass out to me. I frowned and looked at my reflection.
It was true, I did look gorgeous. My hair was curled and some hung down at my shoulders. The rest of it was pulled into a tight bun-type look at the back of my head. My make-up dramatized my eyes with vivid eye shadow, but I felt quite strange with rogue on.
"Come," Lucy prodded, "now that we're finished, we've got to show the girls!"
I groaned and picked up my voluminous dark green silk skirts. The dress was also breathtaking, made for this occasion only. The bodice was laced with black velvet ribbon and the neckline and cuffs were lined with a dyed, darker lace.
I stepped from Lucy's chambers to the parlor and the girls gasped. Portia cried, "Oh, the prince can't possibly resist you know!"
Charlotte scoffed. "He couldn't ever resist her." She smiled. "Perhaps he'll propose!"
I widened my eyes and shook my head. "Stop saying such things!"
Joy frowned. "Stop being modest, Amethyst."
"Doesn't even a small part of you wish for him to propose?" Portia asked eagerly. With a sigh she said, "I certainly hope my beau proposes tonight."
Lucy laughed. "Girls, stop hoping so much. I can't afford to lose all of you!"
Charlotte laughed then said, "So, Amethyst, answer the question!"
I frowned. Did I want Eli to propose? "I suppose it would be nice if he did… but I'm not expecting him to."
Portia laughed. "You're such a fickle thing, Amethyst!'
Lucy laughed with her. "Okay girls. Let's head downstairs. It's time to go."
After all the escorts and their ladies had been announced, everybody began to dance. Eli and I floated along for the first few dances, until he sadly departed so he could please other guests. I sought Lucy's company, or perhaps even Portia, Charlotte, or Joy. Finally I spotted Lucy, but she was with an important looking ambassador. I sighed and glanced around for the girls. Soon I caught Charlotte near the orchestra. I skirted the dance floor and walked to her. She smiled and asked, "Enjoying the ball?"
I nodded, grinning back. "Absolutely."
"Has he proposed?"
She rolled her eyes. "Well, you can't help me from being curious."
I sighed. "No, he didn't. I doubt he will. Heavens." I paused and laughed. "You're starting to sound like Keri."
I shook my head. "Never mind."
The orchestra picked up the beat for a faster song, changing to a gavotte. Eli suddenly appeared and offered his arm. "May I have this dance?"
I smiled. "Of course."
We stepped onto the dance floor, and after some tripping and toe-crushing on my part, we went out on the terrace. It was so quiet outside, and the fresh air felt nice. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. When I opened them again, Eli was watching me. "What?" I asked. "Have I got something on me? Did I muss my hair?"
He shook his head, still looking at me. "No. You look beautiful tonight."
"So you've said. About ten times before now." I laughed at him, shook my head, and looked out across the palace grounds.
"Ama…," he started, but stopped.
"Yes?" I coaxed, looking back.
"I love you."
I blinked at him. That was random, I thought. I smiled at him. "I love you, too, Eli."
He said nothing for a while. "Really? You aren't just saying that… because I'm the prince?"
"Eli," I sighed exasperatedly. "When had I ever done something, just because you're the prince? I never did anything before." I laughed. "What is with you tonight?" He shook his head and finally his gaze left me and wandered off at the stars. I frowned, feeling something was wrong. "Eli, tell me, please, what's wrong?"
He turned back to me and smiled. "Nothing," he replied and held my hand. I squeezed it and he squeezed back, making me reassured that he was alright. Suddenly I saw him get on one knee. My mind could barely comprehend this until he pulled out a ring and said four words:
"Will you marry me?"
I felt my pulse quicken to ten times its normal rate. Subconsciously I heard myself answer simply, with one word:
After the ring was on my finger, he stood and held me close. I couldn't stop grinning, but sobbed into his shoulder with a greater joy than I had ever imagined. Years ago I was in a war torn country with no family, just a slave. I barely had food to keep me sustained. Then I ran off, and Keri became my only family. I was rescued by a spoiled young man and taken to a manor. Within my time there, I learned to read, I slowly rose up to be a stronger person than I ever had.
Now I would marry the man that rescued me, the man that taught me to read, the man that never gave up on me.
Dimly I wondered if this was how Lucy's mother felt when the king asked her. Elated, overjoyed, and nearly sick to the stomach with excitement.
I finally realized that this was the end of a fairy tale, like the ones I would argue with Eli about. The end of my fairy tale. A real and tangible fairy tale.
A story that could let me end with the words I used to scoff:
And they lived happily ever after.
This is the end. Unfortunately.
But I feel that it ended well. That's just my personal opinion as the author, however.
Before I get the reviews on the subject, yes, I shall address that this is slightly abrupt and maybe not as exciting as other stories. But it's like my paintings. If it's just fine as it is, but perhaps not anything spectacular, but just right to be satisfying enough. If I try and add a few things, make it more detailed, I just ruin it. That's how it works for me. Yes, there were some silly, unrelated topics in there (such as Portia's past love for Eli, and the whole turn around with Lucy was kind of queer...). It was all supposed to fit in somehow, but I decided against it. Oh well.
I've got two more stories coming, then after that- more than likely long after- I'll rewrite a few things in my stories. Or maybe a whole story in general.