Chapter 3

On the other side of the door, Anastasia went straight to the room which she, her mother, and sister had been given. She began to feel nervous once again. Anastasia knew that her mother would ask her why they wanted to speak with her, which meant she would have to lie to her. Even with what she now knew, Anastasia still was unsettled by the thought of having to lie to her own mother, even if it was for her benefit, as well as that of the king and prince. She also feared that her mother wouldn't believe her. But she supposed that country came before family, as her mother had essentially undermined the monarchy. She took a deep breath before entering the room. Drizella's head shot up the moment she saw her sister enter the room. Her mother immediately walked towards her.

"What did they want?" Drizella asked apprehensively.

"Have they found out about the wand?" her mother asked bluntly.

"No, mother, they haven't. They didn't ask about it , so I'm guessing they haven't. Nothing has changed," Anastasia said rather quickly. "We will be staying in the palace as guests for a while. The Grand Duke is arranging rooms for us."

"I trust, then, that there will still be a wedding?"

Anastasia nearly froze. She didn't know if the wedding would still take place, or if Prince Charles would even think of marrying her after what she told him. She realized she would have to tell the prince about this quickly. A small part of her still wished that he could still somehow fall in love with her despite what she told him, but that seemed unlikely. She knew her mother would use the wand on the prince again if she knew what had really happened. Anastasia felt she couldn't let that happen. She had to make up a story quickly.

"Yes, but they felt it best to postpone it for a while. The king wants it to be a very big wedding, since it will be an important occasion, as I am about to become the princess. They need to plan a lot for it."

Anastasia silently prayed that her mother would believe her. Lady Tremaine narrowed her eyes when her daughter said this. She was not particularly thrilled about postponing the wedding for any reason at all. Any delay also meant a delay in her obtaining wealth and status, but she also knew that there was no longer any urgency to proceed as quickly as possible. Cinderella was gone, and if the prince still intended to marry Anastasia, as she had claimed, that would mean that he had no further plans to search for her. But she had to find out for certain that they would not search for her.

"And just how long has the wedding been delayed?" her mother asked curiously.

"I couldn't say for certain. They also want to make sure that I'm ready to handle royal duties. I don't think they know when exactly the wedding will be."

"And what of Cinderella? Did either of them ask about her?" she asked.

Anastasia felt the sting of guilt once more at hearing her stepsister's name, but she tried her best to hide it. It was necessary to avoid drawing any suspicion from her mother. She was able to maintain her composure and said, "No mother, they did not."

Her mother seemed to accept this.

"Excellent," she said with a grin. "Well then, Anastasia, it appears that you got your wish. I won't have to use the wand on him."

Anastasia nodded, feeling relieved. "Thank you, mother," she said softly.

It was now early evening, and shortly thereafter the Grand Duke came to their room to escort them to one of the dining halls for their dinner. When he opened the door, they saw a long table set for three in the middle of the room. Lady Tremaine took the seat at the far end of the table, with Drizella sitting on her left and Anastasia sitting on her right. After the three of them took their seats, the Grand Duke promptly left. A few minutes later, a young chambermaid brought them drinks, bread, and a large bowl of salad. She briefly tossed the salad before placing some onto Drizella's plate, before moving on to Lady Tremaine's, and finally, Anastasia's. Once the chambermaid had left, the three of them began to eat. As they ate, Lady Tremaine noticed that Anastasia was unusually quiet. She was about to ask her about this before she noticed Drizella eating her salad rather noisily. It was getting rather annoying, and she felt it was unbecoming for someone of their social standing to eat so tactlessly. She would have to put a stop to it.

"Drizella!" she shouted.

Drizella winced at the sound of her mother's voice and accidentally dropped her fork, which made a loud clanking sound when it landed on the plate. She looked up nervously.

"Yes, mother?" she asked fearfully.

"What did I tell you earlier this afternoon?" her mother asked harshly. "Are you trying to ruin this again? Your sister is about to become royalty, and I expect you to behave as such. That includes your table manners."

"I'm sorry, mother. It won't happen again," Drizella said quickly.

Lady Tremaine sneered at her. "See that it doesn't. I do not wish to see another mishap from you," she said before taking a sip of wine.

Drizella shivered and went back to her salad again, this time trying to eat as quietly as possible. Anastasia looked at her sister in confusion. What had happened to Drizella? Why did she suddenly seem so afraid? She wanted to ask her why she was acting so strange but she felt uncomfortable asking in front of her mother. Lady Tremaine then turned her attention back to her younger daughter. It was time to figure out what was behind Anastasia's behavior.

"Anastasia?" she asked.

Anastasia, who had been eating a piece of bread, looked up to face her mother, fearing what she would ask next.

"You've been awfully quiet since the king and prince spoke with you," she said in a gentle tone of voice that Anastasia no longer believed was sincere. "Is something bothering you?"

"I…I'm sorry, mother. It's just that I haven't much to say, I'm afraid," she said, thinking fast.

"Indeed," she said disbelievingly. She suspected that Anastasia might have been hiding something from her, but whatever it was could not have been anything important, since she told her that nothing had changed. And she knew that Anastasia could be shy at times, so she simply brushed the thought aside for the moment. "Perhaps it's just the weather," she added. Anastasia nodded. The door then opened and a palace waiter brought them their main course. The rest of the evening passed without incident.

A few hours later the Grand Duke showed the three of them to their rooms. Anastasia remembered that she needed to tell the prince what she had said to her mother about their conversation. She waited until both her mother and sister had gone into their rooms for the night before turning to the Grand Duke as they continued down the hallway.

"Your Grace, if it's possible, I need to speak with the prince early tomorrow morning," she told him. As he stopped in front of the door to her room, the Grand Duke looked at her suspiciously and asked, "About what?"

"After I got back to our room, my mother asked me if the prince still intended to marry me. I panicked and said that he did, because I knew that if she found out that I'd confessed everything, she would use the wand on him again. I didn't want that to happen."

Anastasia shuddered slightly once she had explained what had happened, out of fear and uncertainty at how the Grand Duke would react. She was relieved when the Grand Duke simply nodded and said, "Yes, he'll need to know about this as soon as possible."

He then opened the door and led Anastasia inside. The room was dark, and the only light came from a candle which the Grand Duke was carrying. Placing the candle on the dresser nearest the door, he gestured to a rope hanging from the ceiling.

"If you need anything, you may pull on this rope. It will ring a bell and an attendant will come to your room. You may ring the bell at any time," he told her.

"Thank you, Your Grace," Anastasia said softly. The Grand Duke nodded and walked out the door. In the candlelight, Anastasia now had a better look at her room. A large bed was at the other end of the room, with a nightstand on its right and a large window overlooking the palace gardens on its left. On top of the bed lay a nightgown which had been provided for her. Anastasia picked up the candle and placed it on a vanity on the side of the room near the door. She quickly undressed before putting on the nightgown. The gown was somewhat loose but felt comfortably soft against her skin. She turned and looked at herself in the mirror. She frowned slightly at the reflection that stared back at her. I wish I could be as beautiful as Cinderella, she thought to herself. But mother now has the wand. Maybe I could use it to make myself more beautiful…but is it right?

Anastasia silently blew out the candle and the room became dark. She looked out the window. The moon now provided the only light in the otherwise dark room. Anastasia could see the raindrops that had gathered on the window. It had rained continuously since the afternoon. Tears began to form in her eyes as her thoughts drifted to her stepsister. She should be the one at the palace. She should be a guest of the prince. I'm so sorry, Cinderella. If I ever see you again, I'll apologize for everything I ever did to you. If I ever see you again, I'll ask you, no, beg you, to forgive me. If I ever…oh God, I just hope you're alright, wherever that ship goes. She fell to her knees and clasped her hands in prayer. "Please, God, keep her safe," she whispered. "If anything should happen to her, I'll never be able to forgive myself."

Anastasia climbed into her bed, pulled the covers over, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

Many miles away, Cinderella sat shivering on the main deck. The rain continued to fall and a strong wind blew through the air. They had been sailing for several hours now and land was nowhere in sight. Night had fallen and the sky had been dark for some time. She felt completely out of place amidst the crew, so all she could do was sit there and stare out blankly towards the horizon. Many of the crew had given her weird looks when she was brought aboard, and it made her feel uncomfortable.

Today had been quite possibly the most miserable day of her life. After years of torment at the hands of her step-family, she finally had a chance at happiness, only to see it torn away from her once again by her stepmother. With the help of her fairy godmother, she had been able to make it the ball the previous night, and had the pleasure of dancing with the prince himself, and the next day she learned that prince intended to marry her. But that same wand would later result in her dreams being destroyed. Her stepmother somehow had somehow stolen the wand from her fairy godmother and made the prince forget all about her, and then arranged for her to be banished from the kingdom.

Suddenly, a huge bolt of lightning flashed across the dark sky, and the rain began to fall harder. The wind also began to blow harder. A storm was coming. The captain began shouting orders and the crew sprang to life as they tried to steady the ship amidst the growing waves. Cinderella could only watch and stay out of their way. She didn't want to cause any trouble. The ship bobbed up and down as it was tossed among the waves. Suddenly a huge wave crashed into the side of the ship, causing a hatch to break open. Water began to pour into the ship as it slowly listed towards one side.

The captain ran to that side of the ship and called for some of the sailors. Several crewmen rushed to that side of the ship in order to try to close the hatch and pour the water out of the ship. Another much larger wave then crashed into ship, breaking in another hatch. Water began to pour in much faster as the ship violently lunged further. It was then that Cinderella lost her balance and fell overboard. As she landed in the water, Cinderella frantically tried to stay afloat, but it was no use. She didn't know how to swim. After a few minutes of struggling she sank beneath the waves and began to drown.

"No!" Anastasia cried as she woke up. She was trembling all over as she sat up in her bed. She looked around her room and saw it was still dark. The rain was now falling harder than before. She told herself that it was only a nightmare and began to lay back down before a loud clap of thunder rang out. Anastasia shrieked and cringed at the sound before hiding under her comforter. She remembered the first time she had experienced a thunderstorm, when she was just four years old. It was also in the middle of the night, and the lightning and thunder had absolutely terrified her. It had scared her so much that she ran all the way through the dark to her parents' bedroom, crying. Her father reassured her that she was completely safe and took her back to her room. He then tucked her into her bed and kept watch over her until she fell back asleep. With the storm and the nightmare she had just had, Anastasia felt like that frightened little girl again. When she heard another thunderclap, she threw off the covers and jumped off her bed. She ran towards the door and began ringing the bell frantically. She was still pulling on the rope when the door suddenly opened and someone entered the room.

"I'm sorry," the attendant said quickly. "I had already fallen asleep by the time you rang for me. I came here as fast as I…" the attendant stopped suddenly when she saw Anastasia's face in the candlelight. She was a young chambermaid with chestnut brown hair. "Oh, hello," she said rather cheerfully. "I don't believe I've seen you before. Did you come to the palace recently?"

The young redhead nodded softly. "Yes, I only came to the castle this morning, so I wouldn't expect many people here have seen me before. My name is Anastasia. My family and I are staying here as guests of the prince."

The chambermaid smiled and placed the candle on the dresser. "Oh, of course, I was told about you. It's nice to meet you, Anastasia. My name is Abigail. I'm actually going to be your personal servant while you're here. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you sooner."

Anastasia was surprised. She hadn't expected to be given a personal servant. "It's alright. I think we've all been fairly busy today."

"What can I do for you, Anastasia?"

"Company," she said.

"Company?" Abigail repeated.

"I'm sorry. I just had this horrible nightmare that scared me half to death. Then when I woke up I saw there was a thunderstorm outside, and the thunder scared me even more. It reminded me of one back when I was a little girl, and how afraid I was. I know I'm asking for a lot since it's so late at night, but could you please stay here for a while and keep me company?" she asked shakily.

Abigail looked at the shivering girl with concern. She wondered if there was more than just the nightmare or the storm that had scared her so much. Whatever had happened had obviously shaken her up. Abigail wished she were still asleep, but at the same time she could see that something had deeply troubled Anastasia. She couldn't leave Anastasia alone. She nodded and said, "Of course, I can stay with you for a while."

Anastasia smiled. She could tell that Abigail was kind, and she was thankful for that. She was already starting to feel better. "Thank you."

Abigail walked over and sat down in the chair in front of the vanity. Anastasia sat down on the edge of her bed. For a while the two of them sat in silence. Anastasia began to look out the window again, watching the raindrops gather there.

"Will you be staying here long?" Abigail asked suddenly. Anastasia looked back at her.

"I'm not exactly sure. I don't think we're staying here for a specific length of time. But I think we will most likely be here for a long time. How long have you been working here? How did you come to work here?"

"I've always lived here, but I've only been working here about three years. My parents are castle servants, too, and the position sort of got passed on to me. How do you know the prince?"

Anastasia didn't know how to answer her. She didn't want to tell her what she told her mother until she could get a chance to talk to the prince again, but she didn't want to make up another story, either. "I'm here because I fit the slipper," she said after a moment.

"Oh, you're the girl from the ball!" Abigail exclaimed.

Anastasia shook her head sullenly. "I was at the ball last night, but I didn't dance with the prince."

"Oh, I see. Does the prince still intend to marry you?"

Anastasia paused before shrugging. "I honestly don't know what his plans are. He hasn't proposed to me." Anastasia no longer felt that his proposal while under the wand's spell really counted. "And can we please just keep this a secret?"

Abigail nodded. She couldn't help but notice Anastasia hesitating with her questions. Was she making Anastasia feel uncomfortable? Since Anastasia had asked her to keep her company, she decided it would probably be best if she were to change the subject. "Are you enjoying your stay so far?"

"Yes, it's been very nice here. The prince has been very kind to me. Dinner was particularly nice. I usually cook for my family, but I'm not really that good at it. I think my sister really liked her salad, but she'll eat practically anything." She laughed as she remembered how earlier that afternoon Drizella had grabbed several large handfuls of food from the wedding samples and tried to shove them into her mouth.

Abigail smiled. "That's good to hear. My mother is actually one of the palace cooks, so it's always nice to hear a guest compliment the food."

"I would imagine so. My sister ate her salad so quickly that my mother told her to remember her table manners." She then remembered how Drizella looked afraid after her mother had said that. Anastasia suddenly realized that Drizella had seemed afraid shortly after Cinderella had tried to retake the wand. She decided to ask her sister about next time she'd have the chance.

"What's your mother like?"

Anastasia shuddered. She remembered how her mother always looked down on Cinderella. Doubtless she would do the same thing to whatever servant had the misfortune of being assigned to her. "My mother isn't very nice. She would never compliment me on anything. I'd recommend you try to avoid her if you can. I'd rather not talk about her. Do you like working on the palace staff?"

"Yes, the king treats us very well. There's a lot of work involved, but it's definitely worth it. The servants' quarters are nearly as nice as the rest of the palace."

"It sounds like you have things very nice here," Anastasia said.

Abigail nodded. "Yes, and since my mother works as a cook, she usually makes sure there's extra food left over for me."

Anastasia smirked. "Oh, don't tell my sister about that, or she'd be all over that." Abigail laughed.

"It sounds like your sister is funny."

Anastasia shook her head. "No, she really isn't that nice either. We fight a lot. We would always get into arguments while studying, and I would try to use what I'd learned to try to insult her. But sometimes it gets funny. One time at a party I told her she was eating like a pig, and she responded by shoving an apple in my mouth and saying that I was the pig."

Abigail laughed again. She looked towards the window. "Oh, it looks like the rain has stopped."

"So it has," Anastasia nodded. "You can go back to bed now if you want to."

Abigail rose from her seat and went to pick up the candle from the dresser. "It was very nice talking with you, Anastasia."

Anastasia smiled. "Thank you, Abigail."

Abigail then opened the door and walked into the hallway. As she closed the door behind her, Anastasia climbed back into bed. Feeling much better now, she quickly fell back asleep.

...

A/N: I really hope you liked this chapter. I put a lot of work into it. Please review it.