t e n | An Understanding Of Sorts

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t e n | An Understanding Of Sorts

My eyes opened before my alarm could go off and as long as I'd known it, that was always an internal win whenever it happened—however occasional that was.

Up and at 'em.

After a glance at my nightstand to the picture of mom and me, a quick text to Leah and disabling the alarm set to ring in a minute, I was off to the bathroom. Getting stuff like brushing my teeth and showering out of the way, I got dressed quickly to make it to the kitchen before Bernice.

I was already done with breakfast by the time she showed at eight on the dot. I smiled as I greeted her with a, "Good morning."

She paused at the door, looking vaguely surprised before murmuring with a hint of approval, "Early again."

For the eighth day in a row, yes, I was.

The ninth day, however, Bernice was late

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The ninth day, however, Bernice was late.

Mildly concerned as I sat on the stool at the kitchen island with the finest breakfast assortment in front of me—the chef always managed to outdo himself every single day—I waited for her to appear as she always did.

It was Alexander who ended up walking in first.

I tensed at the sight of him.  He paused a bit at the door when he saw me sitting there still, but continued on as he walked over and seated himself at the opposite corner from where I was. We hadn't exchanged any words since that night in the kitchen, which was more than a week ago, and I was completely fine with that. 

It's not like I didn't see him around. Like now, I'd see him coming in for breakfast around the time I was leaving the kitchen with Bernice. He also visited Uncle Albert regularly and was careful to leave his room around the time I was supposed to go to there for dinner.

It's like we had reached a silent understanding of sorts: don't acknowledge the other's presence.

Which was probably for the best.

Now this is just odd, I thought to myself as I glanced at the clock to see that it was eight thirty-nine already. Bernice was always punctual and had always arrived at eight sharp in the kitchen. I had no problem waiting for her—I didn't exactly have much else to do—but I was worried if she was okay.

It was when I was debating going looking for her that she walked in, waving what looked like a fancy red envelope embossed with shiny gold lettering.

"It's here," she announced before she retracted her hand and gazed at it herself. "It's finally time. Oh, if only you knew how much stress this gives me."

I raised my eyebrows since that explained absolutely nothing. "What is it?"

"An invitation to the annual charity held by the Marsdens." Upon my confused expression, she waved a hand, "You'll meet them. They usually organize benefits all year around, except this is the biggest event in Bellewynn."

"Okay," I said cautiously.

She looked at me expectantly. "This was our target—the event you make your first public appearance at. Of course, there will be no statement declared to the people of Bellewynn yet. Consider this a warm up before your official introduction as the princess. I wouldn't want you to worry though, it will be a relatively undemanding situation. Prince Barrington here goes every year."

Alexander, who had been studiously ignoring both of us, looked up from his pancakes at the mention of his name. Meanwhile, I focused on what Bernice was saying and I didn't miss the indication that things were definitely getting real now. Wasn't this... a little too fast? "When is it?"

"Three days from now," she replied, looking back at me. "We will make the necessary preparations. They most likely expect His Majesty to attend, but he'll be understandably declining. I will send back your confirmation." Then she turned to Alexander, "If you've already received your invitation, I can send yours too."

It was when he nodded in agreement that Bernice turned back to gaze at the invitation in her hand, forehead creased in what seemed like concern.

Was she worried about me messing up? I wondered. It'd be a reasonable worry, I thought, considering I was sure I'd find a way to mess up.

Turns out she was thinking of something else entirely.

"Joy," she muttered and for an excited moment, I thought she was actually calling me by my name for once. However, a look at her wrinkled her nose like I wasn't even there told me that wasn't quite it. Especially when she continued with, "What a ridiculous name. Hardly proper for a princess, honestly."

To be fair, I'm sure she didn't mean anything offensive by it. Okay, I'm sure she didn't mean anything too offensive. Either way, here was a lump in my throat hearing her voice her distaste and a film of my mom in my head playing with her laughing as she called me joy of my life.

Oh, come on.

"Joy is a perfectly fine name," Alexander spoke up and I blinked. Hell, I was sure I could have died of shock, if that was even a thing.

He was suddenly speaking in my favor?

"It's great, actually," he went on, stunning me further. "In fact, I can't think of a better name for the future princess of Bellewynn. Lighten up, Bernie. I swear all that stiffness is going to give you grey hair."

I covered my startled laugh with a cough when I saw her answering expression. If she didn't like the name Joy, she absolutely detested Bernie, and the disgust on her face could not be mistaken.

She simply pressed her lips together for a moment before completely skipping over what he'd just said. "I will get started on the confirmations. Prince Barrington, I assume you understand you will need to escort Lady Simmons."

It should disturb me how she absolutely refused to use my name, but I realized that aside from her evident dislike for my name, her preference for titles was definitely a general rule she favored.

It should also disturb me that Alexander was being forced to spend time with me when he'd made it obvious he clearly hated me, but he simply nodded at Bernice like it was a given.

And I just sat there, taking it all in. I had pretty much given up major control of my life the moment I had stepped into this castle, so I knew things like this is all going too fast wasn't a good enough reason for... well, anything. I'd just take it all in stride.

And I had a feeling I could do that.

That was when Bernice turned to me. "Remember not to worry. With how well you've been doing in your studies, I trust you will be able to handle it very well."

Oh. Okay.

So she thought I was ready. Well, at least that was something.

I guess I was attending my first public event in Bellewynn then.

I hope you're all doing okay and the quarantine is going well! Hang in there, we'll all get through this ❤

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.

I hope you're all doing okay and the quarantine is going well! Hang in there, we'll all get through this ❤

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