A/N Please keep in mind I just wrote this and it's a pretty rough draft :) I know some of it is a little messy. Thanks!
I can't wait to change my name. Gwendolyn Fitzherbert- yech. On the other hand, I really don't want to get married just yet. Mum got married when she was
eighteen, so why do I have to get married when I'm sixteen? Yeah, I know "Grandmother knows best" and "It's safer for the kingdom" and "We need to have ties with
Gorschhaven" and "We need grandchildren as soon as possible". That last one makes me shudder. I can still remember that weird conversation with Mum and Nurse
Fannie. Ew. It's not that I don't like boys—if anything, I love them. I know this sounds kind of reckless, but I want to be able to have partners without commitment.
That's fun—being married? Not so much.
I guess you could say that in this regard I'm the complete opposite of my younger sister Annalise- Annie for short- who can't wait to get married. She and I are
different in a lot of ways, actually. Everyone says she's the spitting image of my mother, Princess Rapunzel. Her hair is shoulder length, blonde as the wheat fields in
summer, and her green eyes glimmer like elvish fire. Annie's the dreamer of the family. You can almost always find her humming to herself, picking petals off daisies, or
just gazing off into space.
I'm running down the cobblestone path from the castle at the moment, please pardon my ankles. "Gwen!" oh, great. Mum's calling. I look over my shoulder and see
her, short brown hair and deep forest green gown. "Yes?" I'm biting my lip as I answer. "Gwen, darling, we need to have you fitted for your coming of age gown—
now!" she calls. Why me? I'm trotting back when I meet my sister Maddie, or Madeline (that's MAD-uh-leen), Annie's twin, walking oh-so-thoughtfully towards the town.
Maddie practically lives with the commoners. She's apprenticed at the bookbinder's shop, and spends most of her days in the village square, reading, or writing. Today
she's wearing her usual white blouse, long brown skirt, and brown outer-corset. The cap on top of her neatly pinned hair and her spectacles just finishes the look.
What look? The look of the sophisticated, respectable, reasonable bookworm princess. If the villagers had to pick their favorite royal, I'd place my money on Madeline,
for sure. She, like me has dark brown hair (though hers has a bit of a curl to it) and rare blue eyes, which Grandmother says is from her great-grandfather. Talk about
recessive traits. Unlike me, she has no interest in boys whatsoever, as far as I can see. I think she'd like to get married, but she's more into books than secret
meetings with lovers in the back kitchen cupboard—not that that's ever happened to me, of course… Then again, she's only fourteen, what can I expect?
Mother rubs her belly, pointing at something on the silk gold dress I'm to wear for my coming of age party. My little brothers, Philip and Samuel (nine and seven,
respectively) run around in mock battle about the chamber. "Children!" Mother scolds. The two of them freeze, eyes wide. "Yes?" they squeak. "To your bedchambers,
please." She answers. I'm noticing a hint of exhaustion there, right? Maybe I'm just imagining things. "Gwen, baby girl, please turn around." She says. I turn around,
hearing the taffeta swish below me. The dress, I must admit, is fabulous. It has a piece of fabric that drapes around my upper arms and chest, sort of like a shawl. The
body hugs me until it reaches a bit lower than my hips, where it flares and ends in a bubble hem. "Good, good." She mutters. Mum doesn't seem like her normal self
today. She's usually very upbeat, bubbly, and—I don't know how else to put this—sunshiney… Today, she's just kind of—well, down. "Gwen change back and call your
sisters. I need to have a talk with you." Mum says, falling into the plush sofa nearby.
"Gwen, can you tell us what she needs, please?" Maddie asks. "I really need to get back to town. I have a class to teach at the library at three." Annie's struggling to
catch up as she tries to make sure no breadcrumbs fall onto the marble floor from her pink skirt she's holding in a bowl-shape. "Yeah, Gwen. I was feeding the
ducklings." She says. "Look, I told you. I have no idea what Mum wants!" I sigh and say for what I hope is the last time. Queen Raina, our grandmother, sweeps past
us. Then, she stops and turns around. "Oh! Girls, you're here to talk to your mother, aren't you?" she asks. Before I can say a word, she turns around and opens the
doors to Mum and Da's chambers. "Come in!" she calls from inside. "Sorry about this, girls." She tells us once we're inside. "I have to speak with your mother for a
moment—important kingdom business. You can come in after a few seconds." She says and closes the inner chamber door behind her. So we three sisters are left
standing in the receiving area.
"So..." Annie starts, then gasps. "Are you excited to get married, Gwenny?" Great. "I guess, sort of, not really…" I trail off… Annie puts her hand to her mouth in a gasp
. Maddie smirks. She looks just like Da when she smirks. "Why?" Annie asks, apparently appalled. Maddie steps in. "Of course, she doesn't want to get married. Who
would? It's just tying you down. And being the crown princess, Gwen's expected to produce." She gets cut off by Annie, who asks. "Produce, what?" "Kids, of course!
Once you have kids, you can't really do anything. Your life's purpose gets changed to raising successful children. And I don't mean she has to have one kid. She has to
make loads and loads of children!" she finishes, and I inwardly gag. Annie clasps her hands and brings them to her face. "That's beautiful! I'll be an aunt." These girls
obviously have not received Nurse Fanny's slideshow yet… I think to myself. "Well, I technically don't have to do anything like that yet. Grandmother's still queen and Mum
obviously has enough kids—" Before I can finish, I hear a shriek from inside Mum's bedchamber. Immediatley, three ears are glued to the door.
"No, no, no!" it's Mum. "Thanks, but I can't."
"Oh, but you must!"
"Mom, I love you and I want to do this, but right now I'm pregnant, and cranky, and tired, and this just isn't the right time!" She's pregnant? The three of us look at each other in happiness.
"Darling, it's the perfect time. I'm going to be seventy years old by the end of the year. I can't rule this kingdom anymore. What more, your father is nearly seventy-four!"
Oh, the irony… We're speechless at this point. Our ears come off the door, and Annie whispers something that I can't believe didn't come to my mind until now. "Do you realize what this means?" when nobody responds, she says. "Gwen, they're going to want you married and with child by next year."
My eyes widen, my heart stops, and I'm frozen. "What? No, that can't be right." I say, stammering. "It is, I swear." Annie says. "The Kingdom of the Isle has always tried to have two people in line for the throne—preferably from the same lineage.
The only time that this wasn't followed was with Mum. But even then, they were ready to hand over the throne to Mum's cousin Elizabeth and her son."
I feel faint. "I think I'm going to retire to my bedchamber…" I say, steadying myself on the couch. Just then, Grandmother opens Mum's bedchamber door and walks smoothly away, looking quite pleased. "Come on in, girls." Mother calls.
The four of us sit on Mum and Da's soft bed. I gaze at the countless paintings on the wall. Mum's a great artist. "Girls, there's been a change in plan."
I look into her eyes and my mind brings me back to a time when we used to sit on the bed, all in a circle—Da, Mum, the twins, and myself. They'd tell us amazing stories about fighting with frying pans, how they first met, and stories of adventure. I wish I could have adventures like theirs.
Snap back to reality.
"First of all, Grandmother's stepping down." I'm not sure whether to pretend to be surprised…. "We know. And you're pregnant." Confesses Annie almost instantly. Mother's eyes widen, but not too surprisedly. Then, her face breaks into the ever-so familiar glowing smile of hers. "You were listening at the door, weren't you!" We smile sheepishly.
Then the moment passes, and Mum's face is solemn again. "Listen, please, all of you." She starts. "Since I'm to be… the new queen…" she pauses, as if still trying to soak that in.
"Gwen will have to have a baby next year, right?" Annie blurts. Maddie elbows her. Mother looks shocked. "Oh, well we found a way around that. That's what I'm trying to tell you."
A way around it? I think. "Gwen, darling, you are betrothed to a Prince in Gorschhaven." Mum says. "I know that, but what does this have to do with this matter?" I say slowly.
"Well, rather than have the Prince move here, you'll be moving to Gorschaven to be their queen." Mum says.
"What?" we all exclaim. Mum puts out her hands in the usual way, and waves them almost frantically. "Calm down, calm down!" she says.
"Then, Maddie will be crowned heir to the throne and Annie will be next in line." I open my mouth to protest when mother squeezes her eyes shut.
"This wouldn't otherwise be allowed but if the crown princess is proved infertile or she has a twin, she is not obliged to have a child." She says too quickly.
"The deal is done, and I'm sorry if you don't like it, but I think you will after it sinks in. See, now you don't have to have a child by next year and as a perk, you get to pick which prince you want to marry."
I spot Pascal on Mum's shoulder as usual, giving me an encouraging look. Or is that a frown? You never can tell with chameleons.