Greta woke up to the sight of a peacefully sleeping Ariel just inches away. She stroked Ariel's cheek with the back of her hand. Ariel opened her eyes slowly and grinned.
"Good morning," Ariel nearly mouthed the words, still partially asleep.
"Good morning, princess. It's your big day," Greta whispered, pushing some of Ariel's red hair from her face behind her ears. Ariel yawned quietly and snuggled her head closely to Greta's chest. It was hard for Greta to resist the soft sighs of the woman who was pressed against her body. She had resisted all night but wasn't sure how much longer she could hold out. She placed a hand under Ariel's chin and tilted her head up. Ariel opened her eyes half way, catching the hopeful look in Greta's big brown almonds. Greta leaned her head forward and touched Ariel's forehead with hers, their noses lightly brushing together.
Suddenly, the sounds of someone turning a key in the door made the women jump up. The door opened half way and in walked Queen Eleanora. She watched as Greta fixed her hair and nightgown in a hurry, with her back to the door. Ariel wasn't as quick thinking, she sat in bed with wide eyes and a suspicious looking grin on her face.
"G-good morning, Queen," Ariel stammered. The queen stared at the two young women long and hard.
"Your grace," Greta curtseyed.
"You can leave now, girl," she commanded to Greta who looked down at the floor.
"I will get your bath ready, princess," Greta said calmly before leaving the room.
"Carlotta will do that. But, you may get my bath ready," the queen suggested. Greta acknowledged her words with a nod and left. The queen closed the door behind her and stood tall at the foot of Ariel's bed.
"Did you tell her?" she asked the confused girl.
"Tell her what?"
"Don't play du-," the queen snapped but stopped herself and sighed. "I know what you saw last night."
"I- I didn't mean to-" Ariel started.
"He's just my- a, well... a good friend," the queen suddenly felt defeated. She slouched her shoulders and sat in the upholstered chair near the door.
"You love him," Ariel said the words for her. The queen sunk her head in her palms with a groan.
"We were in love once," the queen responded with a sound of despair in her voice. "Once upon a time that is."
"I was young and in love with a general in the king's army. I thought I had lost him at war. I was twenty when the king selected me to be his bride. It had been two years since I had seen John and I didn't think he was alive. I cried every night for an entire year waiting for him. When he returned I had already been queen an entire year," Eleanora recounted.
"What did he do? Did he fight for you?" Ariel felt lost in the story, wondering what she would have done.
"Oh, he wanted to many times. The king made him the chief admiral member of his council. It was difficult seeing him every day and not being able to touch him or have him hold me like he once did. But one day, we gave in. The day became a night and that night became several nights. " Eleanora continued. She stood, walked over to the window and stared solemnly at the ocean.
"So you had Adam?"
"I was under a lot of pressure- to have children, that is. Sons specifically. Adam was my pride and joy- and the king's as well. John loves them both dearly and in secret," Eleanora held her hand to the glass. "Look at them, working hard to make the pier for your ceremony beautiful. No one must know of what I've told you or of what you saw."
"No. I would nev-" Ariel began reassuring the queen.
"It could shatter the kingdom. I would be murdered and if word got out that Eric and Adam were not the rightful heirs to the throne, they'd both lose everything. And that includes you. Also, I'm glad we can keep secrets with each other. I'll try not to mention your uh- premarital escapades with the help," the queen said a little more sternly, turning toward Ariel and giving her a piercing look.
"Oh, we weren't-" Ariel's face felt warm.
"It's alright. Your secret is safe with me. Besides, I've had a few girls like her in my day. Curious to find out what this bath will have in session," Eleanora added
Ariel sat there, with no words to say and an empty expression on her face.
"Now, get yourself beautiful for my son," the queen walked across the bedroom floor and opened the door. "And, Ariel, do not go in the hallway without an escort. It would be terrible luck to have Eric see you before the wedding."
Carlotta and Greta both helped Ariel get into her big white dress.
"And why were you in here this morning?" Carlotta interrogated Greta.
"Ariel was nervous about her wedding night. I was trying to calm her nerves," Greta replied, quite honestly.
"Hmph! You two need to be more careful. That woman is- well, she's no saint!" Carlotta huffed, talking about the queen. Ariel and Greta locked eyes in the mirror and then both quickly looked away. "And tonight," Carlotta continued, "Will be marvelous! Eric is kind young man, I'm sure he will be a very attentive lover."
"It's true," Greta added, but immediately felt like retracting her statement. Ariel's brows became furrowed.
"Oh, you! You know how I feel about that!" Carlotta scoffed. Ariel stood in front of the full length mirror that appeared in her room after her bath. "You look beautiful, dear! Oh, this is going to be such a lovely ceremony. I should to go make sure Louis is on track with his preparations," she said in a hurry and ran out the bedroom door.
"You really are beautiful," Greta smiled, placing her face next to Ariel's in the mirror. Ariel blushed and looked down at her lap. Greta sighed to herself and pursed her lips. A quick hard knock came at the door and Greta left Ariel's side to answer it.
"Is Ariel here?" a serious deep voice asked. Ariel turned toward the door and observed Greta's frightened stare. Greta looked down at the floor and crossed her arms with each hand touching the opposite elbow. The door was pushed open by what seemed to be a tall figure. For a moment, Ariel believed it was Eric.
"Hello, Ariel," Adam smiled at the door, "I'd like to speak with you." Ariel didn't acknowledge his question or presence, but continued to prepping herself in the mirror. "Leave, Greta," Adam barked, startling Greta who ran out of the room. Adam took a step into her bedroom. He wore a blue military jacket with a golden sash over it and white pants.
"What do you want?" Ariel snapped, secretly watching him in her mirror.
"Only a chance to talk," he said as he began to shut the door.
"Leave the door open," she said, with her voice a bit shaky. Adam laughed.
"Don't be ridiculous," he shut the door and stood proudly beside it. Ariel exhaled deeply. "You look exquisite," Adam stared at the lovely curves formed on her back by the cinched waist of the large dress as Ariel brushed her hair. "Could you turn around and face me please?" Adam said a little annoyed, then exhaled deeply to regain his composure.
"I'm a little preoccupied at the moment," Ariel sounded disinterested, although she was studying his movements in the mirror.
"Ariel, I- well," Adam started a little weakly, then seemed to gain a tough bravado. "I am going to be King one day, my father is ill and when he passes, the role of the throne will be given to me- since I am first born."
"So you came to threaten me?"
"No! Not at all," Adam corrected her.
"Then, what is it?" Ariel felt a little uncomfortable with him in her bedroom and the door closed. She knew what he was capable of.
"It's a great responsibility to rule a kingdom. I'm sure you must know- being the daughter of the great sea king," Adam sat at the edge of her bed and began to shake his leg out of nervousness. Ariel dropped her hairbrush on the floor from her vanity and bent over to pick it up; Adam reached for it as well. Their fingers met, Adam placed the brush in her fingers and enclosed his large palms around her hands. With one knee on the ground and touching her soft skin, he looked into her eyes sternly.
"I have to get ready," she tried to pull back, but Adam held her hands tightly.
"I want you to be my queen, Ariel"
"What?" Ariel was in complete shock.
"You're all I ever wanted. A beautiful girl, with a sense of adventure. The way you saved that horse or how you saved my mother from those sailors, she told me all about it. I need a queen like you, we would be great together. I'd make you happy. You would have everything you've ever dreamed of," Adam smiled sincerely with a hopeful look in his eyes.
"Eric is your brother!"
"He'll get over it, I promise. This wouldn't be the first time," he remarked.
"Adam, you should go," Ariel snapped her hands out of his grip.
"What? You're not listening to me!" he yelled, "You can have everything. You can have me. I know you feel it too, when I'm around."
"I don't want you. The only thing I feel when you're around is disgust," Ariel continued to fix herself in the mirror. Adam slammed his fist against her vanity, making some of the items on it shake and some fall off. "Get out!" she shouted at the big, muscular man.
"But why? I have everything a woman could ever want!"
"You don't know how to love anyone but yourself! You're cruel and nasty; especially to women. Why would any woman want you as a husband? I bet you don't even have friends. Everyone's too afraid of you to tell you the truth- but I'm not! You're hurtful and abusive. You'd betray your own brother. And you ask me why? You're a- a tyrant! A beast!" filled with rage, Ariel lost control of the volume of her voice.
For the first time in his life, Adam felt hurt and ashamed. Adam wanted to lash out, to hit her or shove her to the ground. But he couldn't bring himself to. She was right. If any woman were to love him, it wouldn't be because of who he was but, what he possessed.
"What's going on in there?!" shouted a deep voice at the door.
"I'm sorry you see me in that light, princess," Adam said seriously, getting up from his knee. "I'm certain you and my brother will be very happy together. Congratulations," he bowed his head slightly and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him. There was some commotion outside her door she didn't bother to listen to. After a few moments of self-righteousness, Ariel felt remorseful. She feared she had been too hard on Adam. She definitely could have handled him in a different manner, she thought. Afterall, he was Eric's brother.
"Are you alright, dear?" Carlotta charged through the door huffing and puffing.
"Yes, I'm fine, Carlotta. Thank you," Ariel reassured the short stocky woman.
"To be honest," Carlotta whispered with a giddy smile, "I've never heard anyone speak to him that way before."
"You heard that?!" Ariel was mortified.
"I don't know who didn't!"
"Oh, no. What did Eric say? Did he hear it too? He's going to be ups-"
"Calm down, child. Eric is outside, waiting for you with the others," Carlotta said, helping Ariel with her shoes. Ariel let out a big sigh of relief. "Let's get you ready, there's a surprise waiting for you downstairs."
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Eleanora scolded a moping Adam who was slouching in a big chair of her bedroom's sitting area . Grimsby was present as well.
"Don't be dramatic, moth-"
"Silence! When you are king you will need a queen who is obedient and heeds your words. That girl is too wild and headstrong. What if she had said yes?! You need a woman who will be by your side, not constant defiance," she lectured, never seeing her oldest son with this much feeling toward anything, especially a woman.
"Just like you're by father's side as he lies in his deathbed," Adam retorted. "You never loved him."
"Sentiments won't be necessary when you are king. Your duty it to your kingdom, not love," she explained, walking over to him and placing a hand on his shoulder.
"So were you a queen or his obedient whore?" Adam jeered with a sinister glare.
"Don't talk to your mother that way!" Grimsby shouted, losing his cool and with his finger pointed at Adam.
"What will you do about it? You old has-been. You walking corpse!" Adam said to Grimsby. Grimsby marched over to the young prince but stopped when seeing the queen hit Adam hard across the face. Adam gripped the arms of the chair in anger to keep himself from hitting back.
"Strike me! It would be the last thing you do. You will not insult me. I am your queen. Not your friend, not your servant, not one of your- girls. I am above all, your mother. I can murder you- in public- and get away with it. Don't step over that line unless you truly want to see first hand who and what I am!" the queen had a dark, cold shriek in her voice. "Now, go stand by your brother's side on his wedding day. Tomorrow you can go back to doing whatever ungodly things it is you do in that castle in the middle of nowhere."
Adam stood up with much conviction and stared into his mother's eyes like two bulls about to charge. He turned and walked toward the door, pushing Grimsby on his way out the door. But instead of going downstairs, Adam waited and listened by his mother's door.
"Oh, John!" she sobbed,
"There, there, Nora. I'm here, darling," Grimsby replied. Darling? Adam thought.
"You must come back to the kingdom with me, I can't do this without you anymore. I feel so lost," she sniffled.
"I've made my decision-" Grimsby started, but Adam chose not to listen to anymore.
Carlotta walked Ariel down the large stairs carefully, trying not to ruin her beautiful sparkling white dress. When she reached the bottom and headed toward the door, she remembered Carlotta's statement.
"Carlotta? What's my surprise?" she asked impatiently. Carlotta smiled and opened the door, letting the sun shine in from the late morning sky.
"Why, your bridesmaids of course," Carlotta said loudly, as if signaling someone.
"Bridesmaid? What is that?" Soon after her question, in flew six very familiar faces.
"Ariel!" they shouted all at once, giggling and bombarding her with hugs and kisses.
"Alana? Arista? Andrina? You're all here! You're humans?!" Ariel beamed excitedly. The ladies wore light teal colored dresses that sparkled.
"Daddy did it," Arista smiled.
"Oh, Ariel, your dress is lovely," Alana touched the silky fabric.
"We met Eric, he's not bad- for a human," Andrina remarked.
"Yes, he's dreamy," Adella added a little doe-eyed, "Does he have any brothers?"
"Ladies, ladies! We must go now, the ceremony is waiting for our arrival," Attina said diligently, trying to get everyone in order.
"You ruin all the fun," Aquata snapped at the orderly Attina.
"Hey! I am in charge!" Attina barked.
"How are you in charge it's Ariel's wedding," Andrina hissed at Attina.
"Middle children are the worst," Alana scoffed. Carlotta gave Ariel a overwhelmed look as the women bickered and argued back and forth. Ariel walked outside, ready for her day and leaving the squawking women behind. That's when she saw a large dark shadow cast over her from behind. The man wore a formal black suit with gold trim and had a long white beard and long white hair flowing down his back. The trident he carried was a dead giveaway.
"Daddy!" Ariel leaped into her fathers arms. Embracing him tightly. "I can't believe you did this!" she started to cry.
"It's only temporary- for a few hours. Eric built the pier so we could watch from the ocean. But I couldn't imagine my youngest daughter being given away by someone other than me," he said wiping tears from her eyes.
"Don't let him fool you, Ariel. He didn't want to, Eric begged him to," Andrina said from behind her.
"Girls!" Triton warned, lighting up his trident. The young women were immediately silent. Ariel giggled, never being able to take her father too seriously.
"Oh, daddy," she laughed.
"Ariel!" a brown skinned girl came running over, "I've been waiting for you!"
"Is that Gabriella?" one of her sisters asked the other.
"No, it's Camellia," Ariel corrected, "But aren't they similar?"
"Your bouquet!" Camellia reached Ariel, finally. She handed her an elegant bouquet of beautiful white and pink rose mixes. "I made it myself last night. We've been working all night at the arrangements. Thank you again, it's been such great business for us."
"No, thank you, Camellia," Ariel smiled and hugged the sweet florist.
"Now, ladies. You know what to do," Camellia addressed her sisters, "Let's get started."
A string quartet played soft, soothing music as Eric stood at the end of the pier next to the tiny old priest. He waved and smiled politely as guests walked down the center aisle and found their seats. Not many people were informed of the event, due to its privacy. Local council members and a few public officials and their wives were there. Queen Eleanora and Adam soon appeared, Adam escorted the Queen down the aisle and helped her to her seat. Grimsby followed soon after and sat behind the queen. Eric noticed many of the seats unfilled and his his entire castle staff gathering around the back, just standing.
"You all back there, it is a very special day for me and many of you are some of my closest friends. Please, join us. Take a seat," Eric welcomed the the staff with an extended arm. "Louis, Paulette, Greta, it's alright." The women smiled and looked excited to be invited to such a private event as guests.
The queen rolled her eyes, "Typical," she muttered under her breath. "Get up there!" she sneered at Adam who was trying not to make eye contact with Eric. Adam slowly rose and stood beside his brother.
"Where've you been?" Eric threw an arm around his shoulder.
"Mother took forever to get ready," Adam joked half heartedly.
"I know how that goes," Eric laughed. "By the way, you just missed Ariel's sisters!"
"She has sisters?" Adam asked.
"Yes, six of them!" Eric nudged his brother on the shoulder, but Adam seemed unenthused. Eric noticed the change of mood in his brother. They had spoken just a few hours prior. "Are you alright?"
"Yes. Just a little beer sick from last night," Adam lied.
"Adam, you don't get beer sick," Eric exposed him, "Is something wrong?"
Suddenly the band began to play the Wedding March as all the guests rose. Eric and Adam straightened their posture. One by one, the daughters of Triton began walking rhythmically down the carpeted aisle in birth order: Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Attena, Adella, Alana.
"There are so many of them," Adam whispered.
"I told you," Eric smiled, excited for his brother to meet a wife of his own. The queen cleared her throat loudly with a stern look, silencing the men.
Finally, Eric saw her, his radiant bride. Looking at her made his heart pound uncontrollably. He swallowed hard a few times as he kept himself as composed as possible. He wanted to smile, but was too nervous to. He watched as the king began walking her down the aisle. Ariel smiled big at every face she recognized in the crowd. People adored her and Eric loved that. He adored her most of all, he felt lucky such a lovely creature would choose him of all the princes to fall in love with.
Upon reaching the end of the aisle, Triton kissed his youngest daughter and hugged her tightly.
"I love you, daddy," she whispered, touching the side of his face as he let her go.
"Thank you, your majesty," Eric bowed to the king. Triton joined the two arm in arm. He then turned to the queen and gave a nod. The queen curtseyed, bowing her head down completely. Soon, all of the guests bowed in respect of the King. He took her hand from her skirt, held it gently in his big grip and kissed it firmly. The queen blushed coyly at the strong, powerful, tanned man who towered over everyone. His daughters giggled, including Ariel. Grimsby clenched his fist, giving the sea-king a nasty glare.
Ariel smiled at Eric, her heart fluttering and mind in disbelief as they walked toward the priest arms clasped.
"Everyone, please be seated. Dearly beloved..." the pruned old priest began to read passages from a large old book. It wasn't long before Ariel became distracted by splashing in the water. She squinted her eyes and saw a yellow and blue guppy dancing around the calm waves.
"Flounder!" she whispered to herself under her breath. She waved to the little fish, her best friend. People in the crowd began to whisper. Before anyone could notice, a seagull flew over and stood right on the oblivious priest's book.
"Ariel! You're getting married!" he shouted.
"Scuttle, go away!" she snapped, "We're in the middle of the ceremony."
"I gotcha! I gotcha! I'll be right here, Ariel. Quiet as a snail!" he said loudly before flying off. King Triton shook his head and sighed in disapproval. Eric found it very humorous, which made the queen sink her head in her palms.
"Another friend of yours?" Eric whispered.
"Yeah. Sorry!" she blushed. The priest continued to read, unaware of what was going on around him. Adella stared at Adam, winking at him a few times and giggling. Adam tried to look away. He could barely look at Ariel and Eric up there getting married. He focused his attention on Grimsby, who was staring at his mother the entire time.
"You may now exchange your vows and rings," the priest announced. Eric reached in his pocket and realized he did not have the rings. He turned to Adam, who looked at him and shrugged. Eric began to panic, feeling around his body for the golden bands.
"I have them" king Triton scrambled over to the couple and gave each of them the other's rings with a wink. Ariel wasn't worried, she didn't care about silly rings. She only wanted Eric.
"Princess Ariel," Eric boomed in a strong loud voice, but then felt silly. He lowered his voice and spoke only to her. "Ariel," he gazed into her sparkling blue eyes. She was in the most beautiful state he had ever seen her. "You saved me, in more ways than one. In these last couple weeks you've taught me what it's like to care for others, human or not. You've come into my world and have helped me understand yours. I wish to learn more about you, your world and I want them both to be ours. You have given up so much for me and I willing to do the same for you. After I found you again, I could never picture my life without you in it. I will never leave you. And I will love you always." Ariel felt a tear roll down her face as Eric slipped the ring above her sparkling seashell diamond. She took a deep breath before starting.
"Eric, that was beautiful. The kindness and love you have shown me is overwhelming. I would save you everyday if it meant I could be with you only a few moments. You're the first thought I have in the morning and the last one I have before bed. You are the smile on my face, the sparkle in my eyes and the flutter of my heart. You're the one who has rescued me and have given me everything I could ever dream of. I would do anything for you. Words can't express how much I love you. I'm yours, forever," Ariel placed the ring around Eric's finger, he helped her by pointing to which finger and chuckled.
"...If anyone has any reason why the two should not marry, please speak now or forever hold their peace," the priest read and paused a moment.
Adam looked at Ariel, standing there with his brother. He pictured himself instead, marrying Ariel at the palace and hosting the biggest ball in history. He imagined making love to her every night and having her look at him like she did Eric. They'd ride horses and conquer lands together. Soon she would become pregnant and give him sons who were strong and agile, just like him. They'd worship each other.
Triton couldn't get the thought of flooding the entire event with a giant wave and taking all his daughters home to the sea. He'd build a giant bubble around Atlantica to forbid any of his girls from ever leaving. They would stay unmarried for the rest of their days. He smiled to himself.
The queen carried a large burden. What if she confessed then and there and the entire wedding was canceled. Her and John could escape with the boys and live together like they were meant to. If only she could go back in time. But now would be the best time, if any, to fix it all.
Greta's feelings were bittersweet. She adored Eric and she loved Ariel. Everything within her fought back standing up, taking Ariel's hand and running off into town. She didn't have any money, but they could make their own way together - on love. She thought of them reading to each other, curled up by a big fire or out for a steamy swim in a lake. A small tear escaped her eye. Camellia, who was next to Greta the whole time, took her hand, held it firmly and smiled from ear to ear.
Eric felt a knot in his stomach. He knew he was surrounded by very strong-minded individuals, each with their own reservations about his marriage. He prepared himself for someone to speak, anyone at all.
"Since no one has any objections. I now pronounce you, prince Eric and princess Ariel, husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
Ariel felt her heart pounding. This is it! she thought to herself as Eric closed the gap between them by placing a hand on her back and pulling her gently against him. Ariel became entranced by Eric's slate blue eyes. He brought his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly. Their kiss made their rings glow on their fingers, causing a tingling sensation. They both looked down at their rings and smiled. The small crowd around them clapped and cheered as Ariel tossed her arms around Eric's neck and pulled him in for a deep long kiss.
The display was too much for Triton to handle, putting his hand over his brows and shaking his head; as the couple did not stop kissing.
"I know how you feel," Eleanora appeared suddenly at his side. "Accompany me to the cruise?" The adjoining dock was only a few hundred feet away. Triton stood proudly and bent his arm at the elbow, inviting the queen's arm through. A few of the girls followed behind them and a muttering Grimsby not too far behind. Adella and Alana ran to Adam.
"Can you walk us, prince?" Adella asked.
"Why, of course ladies," Adam responded, taking one on each arm. He looked back several times at the kissing couple- lost in their own world. He glanced at Greta as he passed, who was staring straight ahead. He knew how she felt, he thought. The other guests and the band began to slowly clear out and make their way to the celebration on the cruise ship.
"Mhhh, I don't get tired of that, " Eric whispered, releasing her lips from his kiss.
"Everyone's gone!" Ariel laughed a little nervously.
"Good," he growled, kissing down her neck and to her collarbone.
"Eric!" she squealed, "My father is around."
"Uh- aren't you my wife now? He'll have to fight me for you," Eric slid his hands down her back and squeezed her bottom.
"Oh!" she jumped up and pushed him playfully. "Come on, you silly human." She took his hand and led him down the aisle.
"My little mermaid," he smiled. "Yeah, let's go save Adam from your crazy sisters," he joked. But Eric noticed Ariel didn't laugh.
Wow! It's taken so long to get here!
*** Please review! Send me any questions you'd like.