Chapter One


I sunk onto the bed, my emerald green eyes closing. "What?" I asked in a weak voice, sweat began to make my cheeks clammy. I wiped at the sweat nonchalantly though I could feel more sweat budding on my skin. A hidden thought pricked my mind, the source of my nausea.

Too warm hands rubs my arms. "Are you okay?" It was Eugene. His spicy cologne announced his arrival, and I struggled to breathe evenly through my nose. I was nervous about tomorrow, and dwelling on it made nausea churn in my stomach.

I couldn't bring myself to look at him, I felt sick. I shook my head at him and a stab of pain had me lurching toward the gate. I ran past Mother and Father, who were walking in, probably asking a question and I slammed the heavy door behind me. I didn't want anyone to see me like this and try to guess the cause.

No one came out to check on me and relief made my head spin. I was sick in the bushes. My stomach rolled and I trembled as I saw the world spin around me. The pain began to ebb slowly and gradually, my head stopped spinning. My ears rang loudly, but I was no longer sick.

I felt weak but I managed to stagger to my feet. I didn't make it far, just halfway to our bedroom before I sank down again. I was mildly frustrated with myself. I had been sick all day, and the off-on bouts of nausea were tiring.

Strong arms grabbed me and pulled me to my wobbly legs. I looked up to see Father's green eyes. "Are you all right?" Father smelled warm, almost sweet. Like baking raspberries and sharp bark. It was an acquired smell, but I felt myself relax as Father held me.

I couldn't bring myself to answer and I just shook my head at him. I was fine, until the next bout of nausea.

"I'll take care of her. It's probably a stomach bug." Eugene said, coming up from behind us. His light brown eyes spotted me on the floor and Eugene crouched down, his lightly tanned arms reaching out to me.

Eugene grabbed me by the hand and kept me on my feet. I couldn't hold myself up, I was still a little woozy, so he got his other hand and scooped me up bridal style.

"Are you okay?" He asked absently, but I caught a trace of concern in his eyes. His light brown eyes gazed at me, and Eugene tried to look relaxed, but the worry was very clear.

"I'm fine." I knew why I was sick, or having the uncomfortable nausea that never seemed to go away. "I'm just worried about the wedding." Saying what had made me so nervous made me relax the tiniest bit, and then my stomach churned again.

Eugene nodded and placed me gently on the bed. He got me a glass of water. I drank it slowly, trying to make myself think about something else. Our room door was open, and my eyes went to the tidy room. The hardwood floor was shiny, the result of a brutal waxing from a week ago, and the fireplace was ash free.

"One more day." Eugene breathed happily in my ear, his voice light. Happiness chased away the remaining nervousness and I nodded excitedly. Eugene sat down beside me on the soft cotton bedspread and I peered at him from the corner of my eyes.

Sometimes it was hard to believe I was really out of my tower. It seemed too good to be true. It was almost like I had slipped into a dream, or maybe someone had woken me up. I was among family and I had Eugene, a man who was no longer a thief. An honest man. The man I would marry.

I really hoped I wasn't dreaming-

"Want to go to the fair?" Eugene suggested, breaking my train of thought. "It's for us, you know. The whole kingdom would be sad if we didn't show up."

"Okay." I was starting to feel like this was another day now that the nausea was gone. Sure, the wedding was tomorrow, but I was fine for the moment.

I hopped off the bed and walked to the windows. My hands pulled back the silk curtains and I saw that the afternoon was starting to end. "Let's go now, before it gets too dark!" I had only been to a few fairs since I had moved into the palace. Each one seemed more fun than the last.

Eugene left me to change into my traditional dress. It hadn't changed a bit. It still had pink sleeves with the same lavender bodice with the same pink laces and the same white frills. Once I had moved in, Mother had made an effort to have more than one copy of my gown made. They all felt the same, so I didn't really notice it at first.

Eugene came in after I was done wearing a black vest with his traditional pants and boots. He winked at me and we left the palace.

We went to the celebration fair that was for the wedding. It was getting dark, a few minutes after sunset. There were pink streamers on the houses and shops with lanterns attached to them. I smiled at the decorations and rolled my pink sleeves up a few inches. It wasn't cold, with autumn being months away.

I marveled at watching the young girls dance and listening to the parade play. I recognized the red-headed triplets and waved at them, smiling when they waved back. They had gotten older since I had last seen them. Eugene went over to one of the stands and came back with two frosted cupcakes. He smirked at me and gave me one of them. I giggled and nibbled on it self-consciously.

After I finished my cupcake, I noticed the maids were among the young girls, dancing in pairs. After a while of fast music and quick dances, the parade began to play a slow song. Immediately, the knights and men swarmed to their significant others and everyone started swaying to the music.

"May I have this dance?" Eugene looked at me and held his hand out as the song began. The dim sunset casted shadows on his face while at the same time, it brought out the light brown in his eyes. He smiled at me, a flash of white teeth, and winked.

I felt my cheeks heat up at his wink. I nodded shyly and he grabbed my hand gently. He seemed moderately nervous, almost more so than me. I could feel everyone staring at us while they danced.

"I'll be nice." He mouthed. He smiled his 'smolder' at me, nodded seriously, and put his other hand on my waist.

The square was almost cool in temperature. There wasn't a breeze, but the air was humid, warm with the leftover heat the sun had made earlier from shining so brightly. The warm air smelled of flowers. Spring had arrived two months ago, and the air was still heavy with the scent of budding roses and growing flower petals.

As we danced to the slow song, I leaned against his chest and closed my eyes. He placed his chin against my shoulder. The hand on my waist rose up to cradle my back as we swayed side to side. I felt admiring eyes on us but tried to ignore them.

I was abruptly very happy as we danced. I was actually with Eugene, dancing with him. We had danced many times before, but at that moment, it felt like we were really dancing together. I felt warm in his arms and safe.

Much too soon, the song ended and we broke apart, our cheeks red.

One of the maids, Fernidia, walked over to me. "It's time to fit your dress!" She announced, smiling at Eugene and I. A few nearby civilians cheered at Fernidia's words and their cheers made the other civilians begin to clap. Her bright blue eyes glowed and her brown hair shone in the dim sunlight. Fernidia curtseyed playfully to the clapping civilians, who cheerfully started laughing.

I looked at Eugene and he shrugged his broad shoulders, nodding in consent. "I'll stay for the fireworks." He smiled at me. It was almost dusk now. The sun was hiding behind the treetops.

"Okay." I turned back to Fernidia, feeling a smile of my own. "Let's go."

I followed her into the castle, away from the fair. I started complaining, the nervousness coming back in strong waves. "It's too far from Eugene. He's going to miss me so bad, he might come in and check on me and then he'll see the dress." Horror made me begin to babble. "Then he would want to marry me right then but he would have to get the minister to come when he was supposed to come tomorrow and we'd have to rush the-"

Fernidia cut me off. "It's okay." She stroked my cheek with her right hand. "We just want to make sure it fits. You'll be back with Flynn-Eugene in no time." Most of the civilians were having trouble saying Eugene's real name. It was a shock to discover that Eugene hadn't always been Flynn Rider. I could understand that, since I was among the first who had known Eugene's name. Sometimes I still called him 'Flynn'.

I nodded at Fernidia's soothing words and started to breathe in and out. She led me into the bridal room, one of the larger dressing rooms, and I gasped at the dress. It was smooth satin, pure white. It had a bodice in the front that had a lavender tint. I dragged my gaze to look at the shoes. I saw that they were the same color as the bodice but had a small heel.

"Do you like it, Rapunzel?" Fernidia looked at me, concern lighting her face as she saw that I wasn't paying attention. All I could see was me standing next to Eugene in my beautiful wedding dress. He smirked at me in my daydream and lightly kissed me on the lips.

Would he like the dress?

A gentle slap on my face made me come back. "Mm?" I watched Eugene smirk at me, still caught up, seeing my daydream in the back of my mind.

"Rapunzel?" Fernidia's voice grew high with more concern.

"I'm fine." My voice broke as I added. "It's so beautiful. Thank you, Fernidia."

She smiled at me, her blue eyes shining with relief. "I'm glad you like it." She gazed at the dress and started bouncing up and down. "Put it on!"

Shock flooded over me. "Now? It's only a day from the wedding! What if Eugene misses me already?" I looked around with my wide green eyes. "Did he knock?"

Fernidia calmed me down again and helped me get dressed. I stared in amazement at me in the mirrors, my skin contrasted beautifully with the color, and the bodice made my rosy cheeks glow.

I spaced out again and Fernidia somehow had me back in my pink sleeved, lavender bodice, and purple dress. She was smiling in amusement and put the dress away in the closet.

Wordlessly, she grabbed me by the hand and towed me out of the bridal room and guided me toward our room.

"Eugene will be here soon." She smiled at me and her bright blue eyes darted around the room. Eugene and I would be sharing this room unless we decided to change locations after the wedding. "Relax," Fernidia said breathily and after an unnecessary curtsey, she closed the door behind her.

I smiled to myself after she left and realized I was alone. Before loneliness flooded over me, I went over to the bathroom and washed up. After wards, I came out and got onto the bed, feeling the nervousness hit me again. Why was I alone?

Then I remembered that Eugene was staying for the fireworks. My feeling of the looming nervousness melted away. I laid down on my side of the bed and tugged the sheets up to my neck, trying to make my running thoughts slow down and sleep like I needed to. Weddings were exhausting. Just planning it with Fernidia and my mother had been tiring.

Something pricked my heart painfully and I caught a glimpse of gold in the back of my mind. It was a blurred shape but it seemed to glow with a pale yellow light. My heart throbbed painfully, almost reminding me of heartburn after eating too fast.

Eventually, after a few hours of lying still on the bed, I felt Eugene's presence in the room but as he started to speak, I began to drift to an uneasy sleep, the pain in my heart haunting me.