Prier gently grasped the brass doorknob in her gloved hand and pushed open the door of her room. It was pitch dark, with the exception of the full moon shining through the tinted glass window overlooking Pot au Feu city. She closed the door slowly behind her and stood, fists clenched, alone in the inky blackness. She felt the tears coming, but refused to let them roll down her cheeks. She wouldn't cry. She had promised Croix that she wouldn't. Croix. His name echoed through her throbbing head, giving her tears the opening they had been waiting for. Prier sank down to the floor in a defeated heap, sobbing uncontrollably. She could have stopped him, and saved herself from this awful feeling festering inside of her. But he wanted to take this journey. He wanted to repent for his past sins and become a man that he felt was worthy of Prier's affections.
That's right, Prier thought, picking herself up off the floor. He's doing this for me, too. So for his sake…and mine…I've gotta stay strong.
She wiped away the last of her tears and stumbled over to her bed. She laid herself down atop it's soft cotton sheets, and plopped her weary head onto the fluffy, inviting pillows that sat at the head of the bed. Her eyes became heavier and heavier, coaxing Prier towards the sweet embrace of sleep. "He'd better stay in touch." she yawned to herself. Before she could think of anything more, her eyes cemented themselves shut, and young 16 year old Prier slipped into unconsciousness.
********************** 2 years later**********************
"Prier! Culotte! You're back! Did everything go well with the investigation?" Sister Rosemary called cheerfully from her office. A clearly frustrated Prier snorted in response and entered the large cathedral. Her brother Culotte followed her, his attitude the polar opposite of his sister's. "It was a false alarm." he replied enthusiastically. "There were no demons to be found. The only dark aura that I sensed when I was there was Prier's."
Prier glowered at her little brother. "Shut it Culotte." she hissed.
Culotte laughed. "Calm down, sis."
Prier sighed and tried to control her emotions. "Whatever." she mumbled, stomping into Sister Rosemary's office to give her a full report. She sat directly across the pig-headed, mousey woman that had taken Father Salade's place as the head of the Church of the Holy Maiden. Prier waited until Culotte was seated beside her, then began giving her superior the details. "A small group of villagers were all waiting for us when we came into town, pointing towards the forest and saying things like--" The demon went that way," or "The exorcists are finally here!" So, Culotte and I went into the woods, searched for 4 HOURS and didn't find a single demon." she recalled, furrowing her brow in annoyance. "We got back to the village and went to the town hall to collect our paycheck. But the big cheese said that the town never requested our exorcism services and sent us away. It turns out that the group of people who greeted us had rung in a fake demon sighting, for the sake of wasting the Church's time."
Sister Rosemary hesitated, sensing that Prier's temper had reached it's peak, and gave her fellow sister a brief moment in order to calm herself down. When Prier's face seemed a little less flushed than before, she spoke. "Well, at least the townsfolk know we exist, so that if they ever have a real problem, they can contact us. I'm sorry that it was such a complete waste of time. I know how busy you two are."
Prier shimmied out of her seat and turned for toward the door. "Goodbye Sister Rosemary." she called over her shoulder as she waltzed out of the church and onto the streets of Pot au Feu city. Father Salade would've taught those little bastards a lesson they'd never forget., she mused as she headed towards the orphanage on the other side of town. With Rosemary in charge, nobody has been taking us seriously…
Her thoughts were interrupted by her brother's voice. "Prier, you have to stop being rude to Sister Rosemary! I know she's no Father Salade, but--"
"Culotte, just drop it, okay? Nothing you say is going to change anything anyway." she snapped.
She heard Culotte sigh behind her. " Sis, you never change."
They walked the rest of the way to the orphanage in silence.
The children were waiting for them when they reached the orphanage gates. Standing behind them was Father Salade and his wife. " Welcome back Prier, Culotte. The children have been missing you."
Prier smiled at him and swung the gates open. The orphans swarmed her and Culotte, nearly sending them to the ground. They were the only members of the Church that came to visit anymore. Everyone else had either quit or been sent one of many bullshit errands concocted by Sister Rosemary. "How have all of you been?" Prier asked the children warmly. The littlest one of the group, Lydia, grasped Prier's hand excitedly. "We've been good! We missed you and Culotte so very much!"
Prier knelt down and ruffled Lydia's light blonde hair. "We missed all of you too." she replied.
Lydia beamed up at her. "Let's go play, Prier!" she chirped. She and the other children led the two young demon hunters under the large oak tree under which they usually would play. Lydia turned to Prier excitedly. "Braid my hair!" she requested, sitting in a soft patch of grass by the foot of the oak. Prier sat behind her and began to plait the little blonde's silky locks. She heard a phone ring in the background, turning to see Mrs. Salade hurrying inside to go answer it.
Culotte began chasing the feistier kids around the tree, trying to tickle them whenever they came near. Prier watched him as he darted back and forth, an expression of pure joy on his face. She had never really noticed how much her brother had changed in the past two years. He had gotten taller, and had developed somewhat of a muscular physique. His face had grown as well, losing most of it's boyish quality. He had become quite a handsome young man. Prier returned her gaze to little Lydia's hair. She wished she had changed for the better as well, but the only thing that had grown over those two long, tedious years was her waistline…
"Prier!" Mrs. Salade called from inside the orphanage.
Prier got on her feet and sauntered inside. "What is it?" she inquired, noticing that Mrs. Salade had the phone in her hand.
The elderly woman held out the phone for Prier to take. "Phone for you."
Prier took it from Mrs. Salade's withered hand. "Thanks."
Mrs. Salade grinned. "My pleasure dear." she called over her shoulder as she headed back outside.
Prier held the phone to her ear. "Hello?" she said hesitantly, praying to Poittreen that it wasn't Sister Rosemary.
"Hey." a low, husky voice answered.
Prier almost dropped the phone. Her eyes welled up with hot tears as she spoke. "C-Croix…is that you?"
"Yeah." the voice laughed.
The tears began to spill over and down Prier's cheeks as Croix's smiling face appeared in her mind. "How did you know to call here?"
Croix sighed. "I called the Church before, but you'd left already. The woman who answered told me to call here."
Prier let out a choked sob. It was the first time she had heard his voice in two years.
"Don't cry Prier." Croix cooed, trying to soothe her.
"I'm crying because I'm happy." she assured him. "I've missed you so much…"
"I've missed you too."
Prier gripped the phone tighter. Her heart was beating incredibly fast. "So, why the sudden phone call?" she managed to say evenly. "You usually just send me a letter…"
"Would you laugh if I told you that I missed the sound of your voice?"
Prier blushed. "N-no! Why would I laugh?" she stammered.
She heard Croix's velvety laughter floating into her ear. "No reason. I just thought you'd find it a bit cheesy."
Prier furrowed her eyebrows. "Now why would I think that?!" she reprimanded.
Croix just kept on laughing. His happiness soon infected Prier, making her laugh as well. Their hysterics harmonized perfectly as they continued to laugh together. Croix finally gained control of himself. "Y'know…there's another reason I called you…" he began, suddenly more serious then before.
Prier stopped laughing. "What is it?" she asked, wary of his abrupt change in demeanor.
"I have a surprise for you." he replied. "I've left it in your room."
Prier could sense the smile in his voice as he said goodbye and hung up. She dropped the phone immediately and began to run. She ran out the doors of the orphanage as fast as her legs would take her. She flew past Culotte, who was still playing with the children, and dashed between the building's wrought iron gates. Pot au feu city became an flurry of colors and shapes as she made her way to the convent where she lived. She didn't lose any speed as she wrenched open the convent doors and darted in and out of crowds of fellow members of the church, gaining mystified as well as reproachful looks from them as she hurried up the stairs. She stopped only when she reached her room. She hunched over, breathing heavily, waiting for her second wind to kick in. When she felt that she could breathe once again, she reached out and grasped the door's brass handle and turned it.
She let the door swing open with a creak, not believing her own eyes as Croix's surprise was revealed to her. Prier was on the brink of tears as she stepped into the room. "Croix…" she sobbed, her lips trembling fiercely.
There he was, right in front of her, sitting on the side of her bed. He removed his sunglasses and smiled, his bright blue eyes gazing into Prier's dark brown ones. "Surprise.'
Prier rushed over to him and took him in her arms, breathing him in, assuring herself that he was really there. She covered his face with kisses as her eyes spilled over with warm tears. His strong arms pulled her in even closer, stroking her affectionately. "Prier…" he whispered, burying his face in her soft red hair. "I've come home."
Prier nodded, overcome with raw emotion. Her joy was beyond anything that words could describe.
They sat there holding one another, enjoying the moment. The only sound that could be heard were Prier's heavy sobs. Finally, she spoke. "I love you…" she choked out through her violent sobs.
Croix gently grabbed her chin and brought her face merely inches from his own. "And I love you."
He pressed his lips against hers. Prier responded immediately, kissing him back passionately. The two lovers seemed to melt into one being as they devoured each other, afraid to let go of the sensation. Prier felt Croix's strong hands knotting themselves in her hair and sighed quietly. After two long years, her prince had finally returned.