As I mentioned I might do in last week’s post about a Broadway Writing Prompt, I have written out a short story based on the three songs “On The Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady), “A Lovely Night” (Cinderella), and “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” (Camelot). It turned out to be longer than I anticipated, so here’s part one. I’ll post the rest of the story next Tuesday.
The Simple Joys of A Lovely Night
Camden stared at his mother. “You’ve done what?” Her repetition of what he had already heard gave him a moment to sort out his thoughts. An arranged marriage to a girl he’d only met once and who was already on her way here was in place. Invitations were being sent out today for a party to celebrate an engagement he was only now hearing about.
He opened his mouth to respond, and his father held up a hand for silence. “Don’t you dare say you won’t accept this marriage. I will not hear it. We’ve given you three years to find a wife on your own, and I’m tired of not knowing you’ll have an heir after I’m gone. You will marry Princess Fleurette.”
Camden ground his teeth, weighing the merits and consequences of renouncing his claim to the throne just to see his father lose his temper. But there was always the chance that his father would take him seriously and name a new heir just to spite him. He would not lose his right to rule over this.
“I’m sure she’ll be lovely,” he said.
Two days later, Celia answered a knock on the door to find a royal messenger outside holding a thick letter with the king’s crown and lion imprinted in the wax seal. He puffed out his cheeks and said, “An invitation for the good ladies of the house form His Imperial Majesty King Reginald the Seventh of Edesh.”
She held her hand out. He wrinkled his nose as he placed it in her dusty fingers. She blushed under his scrutiny, keenly aware of every smudge on her skin and that her dress would be out of style for someone twice her age. It was not her fault her aunts would not let her buy a new dress or hire a maid to do the dusting. “I’ll see they get it,” she said.
Closing the door as he left, she studied the letter. Glancing toward the stairs to be sure she was not observed, she scurried to her room. Behind her closed door, she carefully pealed the seal off, careful to only tear paper that would be covered when she resealed the letter.
It was an invitation to a party at the king’s palace, to honor Prince Camden’s engagement to a princess she had never heard of. Her name was on the invitation, as well as the names of her two maiden aunts.
Lighting a candle, she melted the underside of the seal and re-closed the letter. She waited until the wax had cooled, then carried it upstairs.
“Who was at the door, Celia?” Aunt Giselle asked.
“A royal messenger. He brought this.” She handed her the letter.
Aunt Ethesmie put on her spectacles and shuffled over to read over Giselle’s shoulder. “How nice of them to remember us.”
“We’re not going,” Giselle said.
“Of course. But it’s nice to be invited.”
“What is it?” Celia asked.
“Nothing you should worry about,” Giselle said. She slid the invitation into her workbag and picked up her knitting needles again.
Celia nodded, and left the room meekly. She walked quietly down the stairs and let herself out the back door, then ran down the path that lead to her friend Megan’s house. It was a grand white house with pillars in the front and enough servants to polish the inside and out from top to bottom every day if Megan’s family wanted.
She slipped in the back door, encountering a maid who was heading toward the kitchen. “Is Megan here?” she asked.
“Upstairs,” the girl said.
Celia made her way to Megan’s room. The door was open, so she poked her head through. “Megan?” she asked. “Remember when you said you’d help me if I ever wanted to defy my aunts? I’d like to borrow a party dress.”
Standing stiffly in a starched suit, which his mother insisted he looked handsome in, Camden waited as the carriage pulled into the courtyard. It stopped at the foot of the palace steps. One footman opened the door while another placed steps for climbing out of the carriage.
A tiny foot in a bright pink shoe lighted on the first step. It was closely followed by a girl wearing a dark purple traveling coat over a puff of pink ruffles. Blond curls rested neatly over one shoulder. She smiled sweetly at the footmen and waved her fingers to a knight who was escorting her carriage.
Her eyes finally settled on Camden. She tightened her lips, and walked deliberately up the steps to meet him and his parents.
“Your Majesties,” she said, curtseying.
The king and queen greeted her pleasantly and invited her inside. Camden offered his arm and she slipped her hand into his elbow.
“Tell me,” she said in a whisper, “If I told you that knight had been so particularly attentive to me I thought he was in love, would you be jealous?”
Camden raised an eyebrow and looked at the knight. He was short, slightly pudgy, and at least ten years older than the princess. “No,” he replied.
From that moment, Fleurette had eyes for every man but Camden. There was a fight in the training yards for the honor of joining her personal guard. Paintings of her appeared on the royal painter’s canvas, and songs about her flowed from the minstrel’s lips. There was a supposedly secret bet as to which Lord would win her favor when Camden finally called off the marriage.
The queen watched with her eyebrows pulled together in worry. The king seemed oblivious. Camden waited patiently for his parents to realize he would never marry this shallow child and cancel the ridiculous arrangement.
Celia complained of a headache and went to bed early, begging her aunts not to disturb her with nursing – she just hadn’t slept well the night before and needed to rest quietly. As her door closed, she stood there a moment biting her lip. She did not want them to worry if they found her missing. Quickly, she wrote a note explaining she had gone to the prince’s party with Megan and her family. With any luck, it would be there untouched when she returned.
She went out the window and climbed the vine outside up the her aunt’s sitting room. If she hurried, she would be gone before they made it back upstairs. She retrieved the invitation, slightly rumpled, from Aunt Giselle’s work bag and climbed back to the ground.
She arrived at Megan’s house with just enough time to change clothes and let Megan’s maid pull her hair up into a simple twist. The dress Megan loaned her was a sparkling light blue gown that bared her shoulders and brushed the floor with the skirt’s hem. It was only a shade or two paler than her eyes.
She rode with Megan and her parents to the palace in their carriage, and was welcomed inside with no question when she presented her invitation. Megan recognized someone she knew immediately, and left Celia standing near the entry. Celia stepped out of the way, circling the edges of the room slowly.
The entryway was large enough to set her aunts’ entire house inside. Everyone was wearing clothing at least as stunning as her own dress. They talked comfortably, the men smiling and bowing while the ladies fluttered behind their fans. Celia smiled at people, but avoided eye contact and kept moving to avoid getting caught in a conversation. She would have no idea what to say.
Moving through a door, she saw a vast ballroom with a dais at one end where the king and queen would have the best view for watching the dancers. Nearer the door, a girl wearing a tiara in her blond curls was surrounded by five or six men. Another was approaching her carrying a glass of punch. She thanked him and touched his face with her pink gloves.
Celia felt as if she were being stared at. She moved towards the next door in case she was in someone’s way. Still, it felt as if someone was behind her, and she turned to look. A dark haired man standing to one side of the room pealed away from the wall and walked up to her.
“Lord Devlan, at your service,” he said, catching her hand and bowing over it. “Forgive the impertinence, but I had to speak to you.”
“What ever for?” she asked.
“I adore you,” he said.
She pulled her hand back and walked away. She fiddled with the bracelet on her wrist and glanced over her shoulder. He was following her.
Turning a corner into the next room, where the banquet table was, she spied a curtain hanging over an arched doorway. She ducked behind it and peeked through the folds. Lord Devlan walked past, glancing around the room. He scratched his head, looked once at the curtain, and continued on into the crowd.
She sighed, and turned to see where she was. A tall man with dark gold hair and a crown stood not two steps away watching her. Her knees went weak and she dropped into a low curtsey. “Prince Camden.” Her mouth went dry as she fixed her gaze on the floor. “I am so sorry to intrude.”
Update: click to read part two.