This piece is rather shorter than my others, and certainly has less Eugene. However, I was looking through the section and realized the Queen is woefully underrepresented. Poor Queen.
Rapunzel liked to run upstairs. And downstairs. Through hallways…around corners…she loved running everywhere, really. The world was just so big—the palace was just so big! She didn't have the patience to walk from one end to the other. There was one corridor down which, however, Rapunzel never ran. That was the corridor which housed the Queen's sitting room. Rapunzel would always stop her mad dash by grabbing a hold of the ionic column at the corridor's mouth. Often her feet would continue sliding on the marble, but they could only slide so far without the rest of her body.
Her parents had recently removed several art pieces from the hallways…though whether this was due to Rapunzel's habit of barreling through the palace or due to Eugene's history of swiping valuables no one, except the King and Queen themselves, was sure.
She'd really have to stop this running someday. She knew that. But that day wasn't today. And, realistically, she suspected it wouldn't be tomorrow. Or the day after that.
But anyway, today she had a good reason to be impatient. Today she had news. Exciting news—exciting news she had to tell the Queen directly. It was all Rapunzel could do to slow herself to a brisk walk and wait for a "Come in" in response to her knock on the Queen's door.
The Queen's sitting room was large, white, and empty. Not quite empty—but almost empty. One bookshelf, one table, three chairs, and one Queen—those were the only contents of a room which had more floor space than the tower in which Rapunzel had spent almost all of her life.
When Rapunzel entered, the Queen was placing a strip of fabric in her book to mark her place. The Queen never kept a book open when someone entered the room.
"Sit down," the Queen instructed Rapunzel, nodding at her with a light smile and gesturing towards one of the two empty chairs. Rapunzel sat down in it…or on its edge, really. Her hands danced around on her knees and she shuffled her feet from side to side.
The Queen watched her daughter in amusement. Only Rapunzel could sit down so actively.
"You look as if you have something on your mind," the Queen stated.
"Can I be a bridesmaid?" Rapunzel asked abruptly.
The Queen placed her book on the table.
"Is this a general ambition or do you have a specific wedding in mind?"
"Big Nose is getting married and his fiancée—Martha—she asked me if I would be one of the bridesmaids. Eugene and I just returned from the Snuggly Duckling."
"And is Eugene one of the groomsmen?"
Rapunzel shook her head and wrinkled her nose. "No. You know, I don't think they like him all that much." Rapunzel paused as she thought over that possibility. Then she shrugged in confusion and returned to the topic that interested her. "So can I be a bridesmaid?"
"Well," the Queen thought, "I cannot think of a reason why you should not be a bridesmaid…" Well…come to think of it, she would be in a wedding party involving, no doubt, a parade of ruffians and thugs. The idea of a royal princess even attending such an event would have caused the Queen's mother—God rest her soul—to faint from the impropriety. But then again, there were so many parts of Rapunzel's life that would have caused that good lady alarm that it was no good objecting on that account. And besides, the idea of Rapunzel wearing a pretty dress at a party bursting with music and merriment was too appealing to the Queen to reject. "Yes," the Queen announced, "you may be a bridesmaid."
"Eee! Wonderful!" Rapunzel leapt from her chair and danced—before freezing and sitting back down in the chair again. She stared at the Queen.
"Do you have something else you would like to ask me?" the Queen inquired.
"What's a bridesmaid?"
The Queen had not been expecting this question. She had been expecting something more along the lines of what dress would she be wearing or could Maximus attend the wedding too. "Bridesmaids are members of a wedding party who accompany and assist the bride on the day of the wedding ceremony," she explained.
Rapunzel nodded at this information and bit her lip. "I realize it probably seems backwards to ask this question now, but…" Rapunzel sighed, "what's a wedding, exactly?"
Sometimes the Queen forgot just how little information had made it up to the tower where Rapunzel had been raised. Her pity must have shown on her face, because Rapunzel hastily explained, "I know a little bit about what it is. I know that a marriage starts with a wedding and I know you and…" she stumbled as she said the next word, "father are married. And I know married people are supposed to be in love and they live together and often raise children. And I also know when a woman is married she takes her husband's last name. And I know the period before a marriage is called a courtship, but we won't study courtship and marriage in my lessons until next month and I—I think I should know this now. And I don't want Manners Tutor to explain it to me. And I'd feel strange having Eugene or," again she stumbled, "father explain it to me. I want you to."
The last four words were said with such sincerity the Queen had to turn away for a moment to collect herself. When she spoke, however, her voice was quite steady. "Marriage," the Queen started, "is a legal state. That means when two people are married, they are officially bound to each other until one of them dies. Therefore, it is necessary for an official of some sort to conduct the marriage ceremony—the wedding, that is. This official is usually a member of the Church but he does not have to be."
"Could you conduct a wedding?" Rapunzel wanted to know. "You're an official."
The Queen shook her head. "I am not royal by blood, so I cannot." She restrained a grin as she anticipated Rapunzel's reaction when she informed her, "you can conduct a wedding, however."
A real grin stole across the Queen's face when Rapunzel's reaction surfaced. Rapunzel's eyebrows shot up, her jaw dropped, and she gaped as she marveled at all the power vested in her. She looked at her hands and moved them up and down, as if they had some superhuman strength. "So I could just go up to two people and…and marry them?" she asked, turning her hands over and studying her palms.
"It is not quite as simple as that," the Queen replied, imagining her daughter skipping out to the street and marrying the first two people she found. "It is not common practice for the Princess to marry people. Technically, however, you do have that authority."
Rapunzel's fish-eyed gaping was replaced by a smile. "I can marry people," she murmured to herself. "I can bind people to each other for life. The next time Manners Tutor criticizes my penmanship," here her smile became impish, "I can threaten to marry her to Shorty. Oh, she'd hate that! Or maybe that one stable hand, the one called her 'Sweetums' that one time…" Her eyes sparkled with the possibilities. The Queen was saved from concern by knowing Rapunzel didn't have a spiteful bone in her body.
"I am afraid your threats would not work," she informed her daughter. "To marry people you must have their consent."
"Oh well," Rapunzel shrugged. She stopped staring at her hands and looked up at the Queen. "What's the ceremony like?"
"That depends on the wedding. Usually it is held in a church. The well wishers of the groom sit on one side of the church and the well wishers of the bride sit on the other."
"What about people who are well wishers of both?"
Again the Queen fought a smile, imagining Rapunzel torn between the two sides of the church because she had nothing but good wishes for everyone. "They sit wherever they can find a seat."
"Then what happens?"
"After all the guests are sitting down, the groom and his groomsmen…they accompany and assist the groom…they stand at the front. Then the wedding procession starts. The bride enters, often given away by her father. The bridesmaids enter before her. There is music playing and everyone is dressed up in their finest clothing."
Rapunzel sighed. "It sounds lovely."
Rapunzel sighed again.
The Queen continued. "Then the official begins speaking. Again, what he says depends on the wedding, but eventually he leads the bride and the groom in their wedding vows, where they vow love, fidelity and obedience. They exchange rings and then they are officially husband and wife. From that point the woman takes her husband's surname."
This got Rapunzel thinking. The Queen hastily interrupted that train of thought. "Weddings are different for royalty, however. For one thing, should you ever be married, you will not take your husband's surname."
"Oh." Rapunzel's shoulders drooped. "Not even if I like his last name?"
"Not even then."
"Not even if I really, really, really like his last name?"
The Queen shook her head.
Rapunzel smiled sheepishly at the Queen. "I guess Rapunzel Fitzherbert is a bit of a mouthful," she admitted. "But still, I think it sounds really nice."
The Queen smiled indulgently. "I think so too."
"When Eugene and I get married, will you call me that sometime? Not officially, but after the wedding will you come up to me and say 'you look radiant, Rapunzel Fitzherbert'?"
"I promise I will."
"Thank you. Okay, so the wife has just taken her husband's last name. Is that the end of the ceremony?"
"Of the ceremony, yes. Afterwards there is often a celebration of some sort, usually with food, music, and dancing."
"What kind of celebration would it be without food, music, and dancing?" Rapunzel asked wryly. True, she was still ignorant on many subjects, but celebrations were one subject on which she had obtained a lot of firsthand knowledge.
"Hardly a celebration worth attending," the Queen admitted.
"So that's a wedding," Rapunzel finished. "It sounds wonderful. And marriage—is that wonderful too?"
"If you find the right man it can be. It will not always be wonderful, no matter whom you marry, but it will be wonderful some of the time." To say anything else would have been a lie, and the Queen had determined never to lie to her daughter, no matter how pleasant the fiction was. "Marriage, any marriage, is work, but if you find a man you love and who loves you in return, you will work through the low points."
Rapunzel rose and looked out the window, at what…or at whom, the Queen couldn't see. It could just be that Rapunzel didn't want to meet the Queen's eyes at the moment.
"Do you think I've found him?" Rapunzel asked, her back to the Queen.
"Do you think you have found him?"
"I know I've found him," Rapunzel answered. "But I'm asking if you think I've found him."
"Yes," the Queen responded after very little deliberation. Whatever Eugene had been in the past, the Queen could not deny, nor did she wish to deny, that at the present he was in love with her daughter. She'd known that from the start. If anything, it was Rapunzel's feelings she had been more in doubt of, sometimes wondering if her daughter thought she was in love with him only because he was the first man she'd seen. But then she'd gotten to know Rapunzel.
Rapunzel wasn't stupid. She ran through hallways, disliked wearing shoes, and yammered to near strangers about whatever the most recent miracle she'd come across was. Eccentric, yes. Ignorant about a great deal, of course, but she was still smart. When she did know something, she knew it. If Rapunzel knew she was in love with Eugene, she was. That's all there was to it. The Queen trusted her to know her own mind.
Rapunzel began speaking again. "Does f—," again the stumble. "Does father think I've found him?"
"You will have to ask him that yourself," the Queen replied.
Rapunzel thought for a moment, still gazing out the window. "I will," she announced. Then she turned around and marched to the door. Right after she left she popped her head back in. "Thank you, mother."
Thank you mother. No stumble.