Somehow, I managed to procure father’s word. All I wanted was to return, so I briefly excused myself. I stepped into the halls and stood still, taking breaths to calm my nerves.
As soon as I stepped into the hall, I saw the two soldiers who guarded father’s bedroom and my own guard, Klaus. It was supposed to only be those three. The one I never expected to see took a step in my direction, the hard sound of contact on the marble floors with geometric patterns echoed down the hall. I froze and almost retreated, but the mahogany door was at my back. I had nowhere to run.
A monotone voice—one which seemed to be suppressing fury.
I prepared myself for the worst and raised my hanging head.
Confronting me was a youthful woman with her lady-in-waiting in tow. She had snow white skin and bewitching red lips. A beautiful nose and faintly rosy cheeks. The arch of her brows showed her strong personality, and her blue eyes, the color of jewels, were fixed on me.
The fabric of the dress she wore was dark green velvet of fine quality. A flower was embroidered on the front with gold and silver threads, and the cuffs were tastefully adorned with a moderate amount of lace. Her elegant dress and carefully arranged platinum blond hair gave this very beautiful woman a mature image appropriate for her age.
Why can’t I ever go anywhere without encounters like these?
With a heart full of sighs and complaints, I put on a fake smile.
“How are you, madam?”
The moment I greeted mother, a deep frown minced into her brows. Whoa, how terrifying.
Her cold glare made me want to run for the hills, but I endured.
Mother opened her mouth, ready to lay into me, and stopped. She probably realized it wasn’t a good location, because she called me into her room, which was right next to father’s. What sort of torture was this?
This time I definitely wanted to run in the opposite direction, not looking to either side, but I resigned myself and obediently followed after her.
I was being led to the executioner’s chair…ahem, to her room. Extravagant furniture furnished the room. The opulent interior, which heavily favored the use of stucco in its design, suited her. The ceiling was carved with fine details, and a huge chandelier made of beaten gold and adorned with precious stones hung from it—the candlelight, as it reflected off the chandelier, was painful to the eyes.
The black wood sofa with its curved legs and balled feet had red upholstery detailed with gold and silver designs. To complete the set, we had a table with curved legs and balled feet, which stood between my mother and I as she sat down. She scrutinized me from across the table.
My stomach pains came back as the silence lengthened.
What was this, an intimidation tactic?
Her painted red lips finally parted after more than half a minute had passed.
“What were you doing in His Majesty’s room, I wonder?”
When even I seldom enter, the end of her sentence implied.
Since I was coming and going so often, she would have found out eventually. I knew the censure would come, but reality was still more scary than the imagined.
Beautiful but severe people are terribly intense, I thought distantly.
The royal couple kept separate bedrooms.
I don’t know the reason, but I decided he probably preferred to sleep alone. To be honest, I wasn’t really interested so I never pried.
“I spoke with my lord father a little.”
I chose innocuous words, but the intensity of her gaze did not relent. I knew: entering father’s room was already a crime to her.
“His Majesty is busy. You must not allow your selfish ways to inconvenience him.”
I nodded obediently. “Yes, madam. My apologies.”
Her cold expression did not grow warmer.
“His Majesty is a man of great benevolence, but that is not an acceptable reason cause him bother. Do you presume you will be forgiven merely because you are a child? Discard your spoiled behavior.”
It took a moment come out, but I thought I managed to say it well.
Father, benevolent? Was something wrong with her eyes? Did she really think I was a lazy person who used her status as a child to get away with things?
No, father was not the type to make exceptions for another, regardless of their age or gender. Even mother should know this much.
She merely couldn’t accept that the one who had been allowed to go near him was not herself, but her daughter.
“If you have something to ask, consult me first. Do you understand?”
I couldn’t say it.
Mother had always been like this. She believed it was only natural for Johan and I to listen to whatever she said. She assumed it was reasonable for children to obey their parent, and never tried asking how we felt.
Whatever I have on my mind when I approach my father was none of her business.
Her voice sharpened as she grew impatient with my lack of answer. Her cat eyes narrowed.
I knew she was just about ready to explode. The sly part of me knew putting on a false front and pretending to obey her would have been the safest thing to do, but I was barely my own friend as my mouth started moving.
“My apologies, however, I cannot do that.”
Mother’s eyes flew open. She was speechless, but I could guess her thoughts: Good heavens, is she openly defying me?
Come to think of it, we haven’t seen each other at all recently. In my mother’s heart, I’m sure I haven’t grown since I was five years old and confined to my room. Still the same expressionless, charmless, obedient child.
So that’s the extent of her interest in me, I thought, empty laughter welling up. To think, she hated us having any contact with our older brother that much, and yet she never even bothered to interfere.
Truly, nothing mattered to this woman except father.
I couldn’t hate such honest single-mindedness, but I could not imagine wanting to follow her example. My blind guess left me feeling cold.
I needed to be careful not to follow in her wake.
“Rosemarie… Do you understand what you are saying?”
Her hands were shaking, perhaps from too much anger. She clasped them tightly together.
I looked at her as I nodded. “Yes, madam.”
There was something I needed to do, and the deadline was steadily drawing closer. I don’t have time to be stalled in a place like this. If she wanted to stand in my way, so be it. I could climb over her.
“I received permission from my lord father to enter his room. Even if you are my mother, you have no authority to overturn it.”
“If I am causing him trouble, my lord father will tell me himself. Until then, I do not plan to refrain. I am only doing what I need to.”
I knew I was picking a fight, but I had no intention of backing down after coming this far.
I’ll probably frequent father’s room often over the next two years. If she stops me every single time, I won’t get anything done.
Her voice sounded like it was rumbling from the ground up, but I already said my piece so I stood to escape.