A/N: The end is here. Sorry it is later than expected, but some, er, house guests dropped in on me and I had to switch my normal schedule. The guests were fun and everything, but I was a little thrown off, and so I fell a bit behind on my writing and actual work. Tsk tsk. Anyway, this story was a good distraction to get my brain firing correctly, but time to return to my longer stories, meaning that they will be getting updated, if I have to force myself to update them.
Some of this is a little cheesy, but it is based off of a fairy tale, and fairy tales are saturated in cheese. Now read and review please, don't leave nasty reviews. Nasty reviews serve no purpose as we writers here on this site do this for fun, and aren't getting paid. If I wanted nasty reviews, I would make you purchase this in book form. ;)
Review please, and I hope you like this conclusion
Of Pumpkins and Glass Slippers
Bella got halfway home before the magic carriage started disappearing. The brunette quickly fled the vehicle and watched as the golden carriage, horses and coachmen quickly turned into a pumpkin and a few field mice. She smiled as the mice started to eat the remnants of the pumpkin before turning to look at the road ahead of her. Hesitantly taking a step, Bella finally noticed that she had lost a shoe somewhere along the way. "At least I still have one," she murmured, leaning down to pull off the remaining slipper. Holding her dress up, Bella hiked the remaining few miles to her house.
The brunette rushed into the manor and realized she had nowhere to hide her ball costume. "What am I going to do with this stuff?" She puzzled, "I don't exactly have a closet where I can hide them…" Pausing for a moment, Bella remembered something that her father told her. Hurrying into the kitchen, the brunette counted the rows and columns of bricks above the hearth until she found the right one. Bella dug out the mortar around the brick, and removed it. "A hollow brick," she murmured, examining the opening in the brick. She turned and shook the brick over her hand and a key fell out of the opening. "A key," she whispered, "A key to his room!"
Dashing out of the kitchen, Bella made her way to the top floor where her father's study was located and shakily inserted the key into the lock. The brunette released a cry of victory as well as a sob of relief when the key turned stiffly in the lock and the door clicked open. She hesitantly opened the door and entered a room that has been closed to her for nearly ten years. Bella reverently ran her fingers over the soft leather of her father's desk chair, removing layers of dust. She noticed a letter addressed to her on top of her father's desk and quickly opened the piece of paper.
If you have found this letter, then that means that you have remembered about the key I've hidden in the hearth and retrieved it. I hope that I am still away on business instead of something more tragic, and even then I am sorry for leaving you. Hopefully you have found some solace in your Stepmother and Stepsisters.
Many people criticized me for keeping all of your mother's things, thinking that I had not moved on, but really I was keeping them for one purpose, to give them to you when you had grown. In the closet you'll find her favorite clothes and things, along with her jewelry box. Use the jewelry and dresses for dates with future suitors, who I'm hoping to meet at some point. On that note, I chose to marry your mother for love, it would be hypocritical for me to ask you to marry for any less.
Love, Your Father
Bella sniffed and quickly wiped away the tears that gently made their way down her cheeks. Opening the closet in the room, Bella found everything exactly where her father said they were in his letter. She gently peeled off the golden dress and placed it in the closet and also placed the mask in her mother's jewelry box. As she was taking it off, the brunette noticed the tiny transparent gems, mostly likely diamonds, decorating the mask around the eyes. "Kate really went all out didn't she?" Bella murmured, delicately brushing her fingertips over the gems.
"Got to stop reminiscing, they're only going to be gone for another hour or so," Bella said, quickly placing the mask down and fleeing the room in her undergarments. She found the dress she had been wearing folded up on top of her other things in the kitchen. Slipping it over her head, Bella rolled out her straw mat in front of the fireplace and drifted off to sleep.
"Cinderella!" A shrill voice drug her out of unconsciousness and Bella sleepily opened one of her eyes.
"Coming Stepmother," the brunette said, slowly trudging upstairs, "Good, well, good morning Stepmother, stepsisters, did you all have a pleasant evening?"
"Yes yes, it was delightful, now shut-up you stupid girl and help us out of our dresses so we can go to bed. I think a brunch later on will suffice instead of breakfast, but I do still expect you to be up at your regular time doing your chores," Sulpicia prattled on as she motioned for the girl to follow her up the stairs.
"Don't worry about me Ella," Rosalie whispered as they got to the top, "I'm exhausted. Just help Mother and Alice then get back to bed."
"Thanks Rosalie," the brunette whispered, following her Stepmother to her room. She hastily assisted both Sulpicia and Alice get ready for bed before she returned to her own simple mat, drifting back off to sleep.
"I've met my true love," Tanya announced the next morning to her parents.
"Who?" Didyme inquired, "That lovely young woman in the golden gown from last night?"
"Yes… Wait, what?" The strawberry-blonde asked, "How do you know?"
"Oh dear, we were at the ball and saw that she completely enamored you from the moment she walked in," the older woman returned, calmly sipping her tea.
"Yes, though we also noticed that she left early and you ran after her, what happened?" Marcus asked, looking at his daughter with concern.
"She said she had to get home," Tanya sighed. The princess slumped in defeat over her breakfast of fruit and a croissant, looking morosely down at the plate. "I know so much about her, enough to know that I could easily fall in love with, and yet not enough and not enough to find her. All I have is her name, and a crystal slipper."
"Well, if you have her shoe, you could go to all of the young maidens of the kingdom and have them try on the shoe and marry the one that fits," the King proposed, carefully munching on his breakfast.
Tanya looked at her father in disbelief while her mother shook her head. "Ignore your father dear, he hasn't had his coffee yet this morning," Didyme told her daughter, "What is her name anyway?"
"Isabella," the princess breathed, tasting her beloved's name on her tongue, "Her name is Isabella."
"Isabella," the Queen mused, "That's beautiful. I'm sure we'll find her dear, and then you can begin the courting process if that is what you wish."
"Thanks Mom," Tanya said before gulping down her breakfast, "I'm going to go look for Emmett. I'll see you both later."
"Don't forget we have court this afternoon!" Didyme yelled as Tanya left the room.
"I know, I'll be back in time for that," the princess replied, waving at her parents in a dismissive gesture.
Tanya knew according to Emmett's schedule that he was off duty this time of day, as they weren't allowed to hangout during his patrol. However, knowing he was off duty and knowing where he spent his off duty time were completely different things. After searching a few places, she found the bulky man in the guard stable brushing his horse. Since he was in training to be a knight along with his duty as a guard, Emmett was gifted a young horse from the stables to train properly to be a knight's steed. Emmett's horse was a three-year old chestnut gelding that needed consistent and almost constant attention.
"Hey Em," Tanya greeted after offering his horse a carrot.
"Oh hey man," Emmett returned, smiling at the woman, "I was just telling Bear here all about your lady friend last night. How did that go by the way? Rose and I never saw you again after you guys left for the garden."
"Everything was going great until she had to leave just a bit before midnight, said she wanted to beat her family home," Tanya replied dejectedly.
"Tough luck man," Em said, "Hey, what's the chick's name anyway? Rose said she looked familiar so maybe she can help you find your lady love."
Tanya perked up, "Really? Her name is Isabella."
Emmett paused his movements and turned to face the princess. "Isabella?" He asked, "Rose has a stepsister named Isabella. She might be your girl, would explain why she recognized her."
"Where do they live? Do you know where they live?" The strawberry blonde asked urgently.
"Whoah, calm down," the burly man said, placing his hands, "You can't just go rushing out there. From what Rose has told me, her mother treats Isabella, or Ella as Rose calls her, like a servant or a slave. Rose really admires her, she didn't used to but in the past year or so they've gotten closer."
"Do you know anything else about her?"
Emmett shrugged, "Not much. Everything I know about her is what Rose told me, which isn't much. I do know that she's good friends with some of the people in town. The bar maid at one of the taverns, Heidi I think, and the daughter of the housekeeper that she grew up with. She runs one of the bakeries in town with her husband."
"What do you suggest I do then?" Tanya asked.
The burly man just shrugged again, "I would suggest you visit Isabella tonight, after the others have gone to bed so they don't catch you. Be sneaky about it too."
"Thanks Emmett!" The princess said as she ran out of the guard stable, "I've got some planning to do."
"So how was the ball last night?" Bella asked as she moved through Rosalie's room picking up her costume from the night before.
"It was nice," Rosalie said as she brushed her blonde hair, "I spent most of the night dodging Mother and Alice while I spent time with my fiancé."
"I bet you had a good time," the brunette replied absentmindedly, staring at the wall with a dreamy expression.
Rosalie stared at the younger girl for a moment in the mirror, taking in her dazed face and noting that while physically she was in the room, Bella was a world away. "You know I met the princess last night," Rosalie commented, "Emmett introduced us."
"Oh really? That's nice."
"Yeah, she was really nice. She ended up spending the entire evening with a beautiful woman clad in a gold dress and white mask," the blonde said carefully, watching Bella's expression.
"What?" Bella gasped out, choking on her breath.
"I knew it," Rosalie sat her brush down and spun around on her stool, "You were the woman in gold that attracted everyone's attention last night. Where did you get that dress? It was amazing."
Bella blush caused her to resemble a tomato. "From a friend," she replied, "But what do you mean I spent the night with the princess?"
"You didn't know?"
"No I didn't know!"
"Did you at least notice that you were dancing with a woman?"
Bella snorted, "Of course I noticed, but she never told me her name. I asked early on in the evening, but she said she'd tell me later. I guess we both forgot and before I knew it, I had to leave to get home, even lost a shoe in the process."
"Well at least you're that observant," Rosalie rolled her eyes.
"Shut-up, how was I to know that the incredibly handsome/beautiful woman that I spent the night dancing with was actually Princess Tanya? I've never seen her before, and all the books I've read said that princesses wear ball gowns to balls and dance with dashing princes," Bella retorted.
The blonde thought for a moment and nodded her head, "I'll give you that one, I was rather surprised as well with her choice of attire. I mean, Emmett told me that she likes sword fighting and archery, but I didn't think anything of it. Apparently the princess is a bit of a tomboy."
"No joke, I didn't notice," the brunette replied before she flopped down on the bed, throwing her hands over her face, "Ugh, I am so embarrassed, what am I going to do?"
"Give her a chance that's what," Rosalie said, moving from her vanity to sit next to Bella on the bed. "She's a princess, and from the little I know of her from Emmett, she's a really nice person. She can get you out of here and give you the life you deserve."
"Thanks Rose, but I've told you, I don't need saving," Bella replied, sitting up, "Now if, big if there, if Tanya or someone else and I were to fall in love, that would be different than someone whisking me away because they felt sorry for me or they wanted to 'free' me from my servitude."
"So you would only leave this house for love?" Rosalie asked.
"No," Bella groaned, "You missed the point. I will leave when I want. If the cause is that I've fallen in love, or if I finally can no longer put up with your mother and sister."
Rosalie cracked a smile at that, "Alright, I can understand that. Just do me a favor and give Tanya a chance. I didn't meet her long, but something tells me that you both will be good for each other."
"I don't even know if Tanya knows who I am, or will seek me out. But if she does, I will give her a chance," the brunette replied before standing up from the bed, "Now, I have to get back to work. Sulpicia gave me extra work today. Apparently her plan to pawn off one of her daughters on the Grand Duke's son didn't work."
The blonde smirked at her stepsister, "Apparently her eldest daughter disappeared into the crowd, and Lord Edward was too busy staring hungrily at a gold clad figure to notice her youngest daughter."
Bella made a face, "That pansy? Ew, no thank you." With that, Bella exited the room and Rosalie's giggles followed her down the hall.
Bella sighed as she sat outside the kitchen door staring out over the garden. Twilight had descended over the world and the moon had risen over the horizon, bathing the landscape in a cool peaceful light. "Long day," Bella murmured to herself as she pulled a shawl around her shoulder to ward off the chill of the night. Visions of the night before swam through her mind as she reminisced about her night spent dancing with a princess. Before she new it, Bella's body picked her up and she twirled around, humming as she danced. She didn't worry about anyone in the household seeing her since they had long gone to bed.
A snap from the forest just behind the garden broke Bella out of her thoughts and she whirled around to face the sound. "Who's there?" The brunette called, an edge to her voice.
Two hands slowly poked out from behind a tree and a figure followed out of the shadows. Bella gasped as she saw her dancing partner from the previous evening, minus the elaborate outfit and mask. "It's you," Bella breathed, staring into the crystal blue eyes of the slowly approaching figure.
"Isabella," Tanya whispered out, her voice like a breath on the wind. She lifted her hand and brushed the backs of her fingers against a soft cheek, taking in every detail of the other woman's face that was previously hidden by a mask.
Bella lost herself for a moment in Tanya's touch before she snapped back to reality and pulled away. "Is it true?" She asked, a hard edge to her voice, "Are you the princess? Princess Tanya?"
Tanya flushed hotly at the questioning, slightly embarrassed. "Urm, yes?" She replied weakly.
"Why didn't you tell me?" The brunette demanded, "How do you think I felt finding out from my sister that the person I spent half the night with was the princess?!"
The strawberry blonde winced, "Sorry, I was planning on telling you, but I-I lost track of time and then before I knew it, you were gone, with only a crystal shoe to remember you by. I didn't want to tell you who I was just after we met because, well, because I was afraid."
"Why were you afraid?"
"I really liked you," Tanya said, her eyes meeting Bella's, "I like you. I didn't want you to treat me differently knowing I was the princess, and I didn't want you to act differently knowing the truth either."
Bella studied the other woman for a moment before sighing. "Those are pretty good reasons," she murmured, "I really want to dislike you though, or at least be annoyed with you, but I can't."
"How about we start over?" Tanya suggested, "Fresh start and all that." The blonde princess bowed low at the waist, "Greeting Milady, I am Tanya Anastasia Denali, Crown Princess of Voltura. I prefer to have men's clothing tailored to fit my extremely feminine form as they are much easier to move around in."
At Tanya's words, Bella giggled. "It is an honor to see you your highness," she replied through her giggles, "I am Isabella Marie Swan, only daughter of Lord Charles and Renee Swan, also known as Cinderella by my Stepmother and Stepsister, and Ella by my other Stepsister. However, my friends call me Bella."
"Well then, Lady Isabella," Tanya said, taking one of Bella's hands and kissing it, "I insist that you call me Tanya, and inquire as to whether I have the right to call you Bella, or would you prefer Ella?"
"Bella is fine," the brunette replied, "Only Rosalie calls me Ella."
"Right of the older sister then?"
"Something like that," Bella replied laughing.
The two shared a soft smile before realizing it had gotten even darker and the cold of the night was beginning to seep through Bella's thin shawl. "I should get back inside," she stated, staring into Tanya's eyes, "I have to get up early to get started on the chores."
"Can I see you again?" Tanya asked, almost pleading, "I want to be your friend Bella. Well, truthfully I want more than that, but I'm willing to wait, to develop a relationship with you, to court you I guess, i-i-if you want to of course."
"Well, it is only proper," Bella replied, her face a deep red, "We did get more familiar with each other than what is considered appropriate." The brunette adopted a thoughtful expression for a moment, "I am open to exploring a relationship, but slowly, I don't really know much about you other than you're the princess."
"I don't know much about you either, other than I would love to know more," the strawberry blonde murmured.
"Sulpicia cannot find out," Bella insisted, "She would not be happy about this."
"I want to take you out on a date though," Tanya said, "What do you suggest?"
"We can't afford to meet here at the house, too much of a risk," Bella murmured, thinking out loud, "And town wouldn't be good… Although, I do have a few friends in town that might help us out, and Rosalie and her fiancé might help us too. She told me he was a palace guard and a friend of yours?"
"Yes, Emmett, he's my best friend," Tanya replied nodding, "Who in town can help us?"
"Two good friends of mine. Leah and her husband run a bakery in town, The Black Wolf Bakery, and my friend Heidi runs The Fisher's Tavern."
"Ah, Heidi with the large er, um," Tanya trailed off blushing.
"Heidi with the large eyes?" Bella continued, teasing the princess, "Heidi with the large hairdo?" Tanya gave Bella and exasperated look and the brunette just laughed. "Yes, that Heidi. She's a good friend. Both Leah and Heidi are good friends."
"I look forward to meeting them then," Tanya replied, brushing her fingertips over Bella's cheek. The younger girl shivered from the princess's touch which brought the strawberry blonde back to the reality of the night. "I should go, it's getting darker and colder out."
"Yes, and I need to get to sleep," Bella replied, staring regretfully into Tanya's eyes.
The princess leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on the shorter girl's lips before disappearing back into the forest towards the road. Bella sighed and turned around only to come face to face with her older Stepsister.
"Well that was amusing," Rosalie said, smirking at the younger girl.
"Shut-up Rosalie," the brunette muttered, making her way back inside.
The two young women shared a quiet laugh as they both retired for the night.
"Wake-up Tanya," Didyme's voice came floating through her mind dragging her out of her unconscious state of sleep.
"Wha-?" Tanya croaked, face buried underneath her pillow.
"I want to know about your secret rendez-vous with your lady love last night," her mother said, sitting on the bed next to her semi-comatose daughter.
"How do you know about that?" Tanya asked sleepily, rolling over to face her mother.
"I told you darling, I don't miss much, neither does your father," Didyme replied, patting Tanya's leg. "Now tell me."
"She agreed to give me a chance," Tanya replied shyly, sweeping her long reddish gold hair away from the face, "We're going to take it slow though. I'm going to meet her in town in a few days at The Fisher's Tavern. Her friend works there."
"Why not just meet at her house, or have her come here?"
"Her Stepmother can't find out. She's just a horrid person, treats Bella like a slave," the princess vented, standing up.
"Is that why you're doing this, to save her?" The Queen questioned.
Tanya shook her head and laughed, "Bella's not exactly the kind of person that needs saving. She can take care of herself. I like that about her. Would I love to get her away from her wicked stepmother? Yes, yes I would, but only for the right reasons, like love or…"
Didyme smiled at her daughter, "I sense a wedding in the future if you keep going the way you are. The only question is, will she agree to be your bride in time for the coronation?"
"I hope so mother," came Tanya's reply, "though for that to happen I need your and father's help."
"Well then, get dressed and we can discuss it over breakfast," Didyme said, walking out of the room.
Tanya cleaned herself up and dressed, running out of the room to meet her parents in the dining hall. "Hello Father," Tanya greeted once she reached the table, "Since mother rudely barged in on me this morning, I don't have to greet her."
"That's rude Tanya, I am just trying to show interest in your love life since you finally opened up about it," Didyme replied, sipping at her coffee, "Now tell us how your father and I can help you with your lady love."
"It's not just for me, but Emmett as well," Tanya replied before turning to her father. "What do you know about Lord Charles Swan?"
"Good man, hard worker, though her was an utter wreck after his wife's death. His business started taking off so he married Aro's widow to watch over his daughter while he left for the East," Marcus rattled off, "Why do you ask?"
"He's Bella's father," Tanya said simply, "And he needs to be here in order to give permission for her stepsister Rosalie to marry Emmett, or if things progress further between Bella and I."
"Ah yes, the law," the King nodded his head understandingly, "And from what I remember about Sulpicia, she wouldn't exactly approve of her eldest marrying a castle guard, but why wouldn't she approve of you and Bella?"
Tanya shrugged, "Judging by the way that Sulpicia treats Bella, I'm assuming she doesn't think much of her. If she knew that I liked women, she would probably see it as an opportunity to shove her daughters at me. I wouldn't do that to Emmett and as for the other one, Alice," at this Tanya shuddered, "She seems… off to me, like a little unhinged."
Marcus nodded his head thoughtfully before speaking, "I understand your dilemma, and Emmett's as well. I will send a few of my best knights east to look for Lord Swan. Though I warn you it will take time, it takes nearly two weeks to get to the very eastern edge of the kingdom, and depending on which kingdom Lord Swan is in, it may take some months to get him here."
"That's alright Father, I feel that it'll take me several months to get Bella to agree to marry me," Tanya said.
"Not one to believe in true love or love at first sight is she?" Didyme chuckled.
Tanya shook her head, "No, she does, I asked her, but she's also a realist and knows that good relationships are based on more than that."
"Sounds like your intended has a good head on her shoulders," the King said, "I can't wait to meet her."
At his words, Tanya blushed. "She's not my intended," she murmured, hiding her smile in her coffee cup. Marcus and Didyme smiled at their daughter and quietly finished their breakfast. Tanya quickly inhaled her food before she retired to one of the castle towers to think, and to plan the careful seduction of her beloved.
"What?" Two voices yelled after spitting out their tea.
"Shush," Bella ordered, hushing her two best friends Leah and Heidi. All three of them were sitting at one of the few tables Leah keeps in her bakery for people to sit and enjoy some of the freshly made baked goods and a cup of tea or coffee.
"Why didn't you tell us sooner?" Heidi asked, her Scandinavian accent more pronounced when her emotions were running high. The busty had moved to the kingdom from one of the Scandinavian territories after the death of her father in a vicious sea storm. The life of a fisherman in the northern seas was a dangerous one, and Heidi made a promise to her father that she would leave their kingdom for one with a friendlier climate if anything happened to him. That was three years ago, and with the little money from her inheritance, Heidi opened the Fisher's Tavern, meeting the local baker, Leah, and her best friend Bella, both of them quickly becoming her friends as well. Leah voiced her agreement with Heidi's inquiry.
"Guys, it's only been a few days since the ball and since Tanya came to see me at my house," Bella replied.
"Yes, but the ball was three days ago and the princess came to see you two days ago," Leah whispered, conscious of the few costumers at the counter, "Why didn't you come yesterday?"
Bella rolled her eyes, "Sulpicia had a long list of things to do: the horses we do have left needed exercising, the garden needed tending, floors needing washing, it was rather ridiculous. The only reason I got to leave today was because Rosalie requested bread from Leah's bakery, and she told Sulpicia that the bread she wanted would take a while to make."
"Does it really?" Heidi asked, looking over at her baker friend.
Leah scoffed, "No, not really, Sam and I make it fresh every morning. So why did Rosalie get you a few hours away from home?"
Bella looked over towards the door and smiled. "I think the answer just walked in through the door," she murmured.
Both women turned towards the door and saw a figure in a long hooded cloak walk into the shop. It wasn't unusual to see people dressed in such a manner entering Leah's bakery as many people would stop and grab some food for traveling before heading out on the road. However, instead of walking to the counter to select from the baked goods, the figure turned towards their table and walked over to the three women.
"Guys, don't react," Bella said, "But I would like you to meet Princess Tanya."
The two women gaped as the figure pushed the hood back slightly to reveal the young royal's face before the cloth was returned to mask her features. "Hello Leah, Heidi," Tanya said, sitting down in the seat next to Bella that the brunette waved her towards, "I've heard so much about both of you from Bella."
They continued to gap at the royal for another minute before turning full powered glares at Bella. The brunette flinched under their stares and hastily started to explain, "Look, Rosalie went out yesterday and ended up taking a message from me and gave her fiancé Emmett who works at the castle to give to Tanya. I asked her if she wanted to meet me today in town. She sent back that she would meet me here, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for you guys to meet."
"Sam, I think we should take a break for a while, so if you could close the bakery for an hour or two that would be great," Leah called, noticing that the store was empty other than the four of them at the table.
The large man looked at Leah questioningly before nodding and placing the closed sign on the window before heading back in the kitchen. "I'll be making some more rolls, do you guys want any?"
"I have some in the oven right now, we'll just take those," Leah replied, turning her attention back to her unexpected guest. Heidi glanced over at Leah and nodded at the other woman, agreeing to treat the princess the same as they would anyone who one of their friends introduced as a potential love interest. They started firing questions at the other woman rapidly, barely giving her time to answer the question before another came out. Many had both Tanya and Bella blushing a deep red, such as the question about Tanya's sexual experience (none with others as she has been under careful behavior monitoring since she came of age, but plenty with herself apparently). Bella protested at some of the questions her friends threw at Tanya, but they just dismissed her and pressed onward.
"Alright," Heidi said finally after she and Leah finished giving Tanya the third degree, "We find you acceptable to date our best friend. But make no mistakes, if you hurt her, princess or not, I'll make pickled herring out of you."
"So glad to have your approval Heidi," Bella said, rolling her eyes, "You too Leah."
"We know," Leah replied, winking at Tanya. Heidi and Leah started laughing, Bella and Tanya joining them shortly after. The four continued to talk and get to know each other. Tanya instantly liked the busty blonde tavern owner, and the tan baker, appreciating the way they treated her; not like a royal, but as a love-interest of their best friend. Outside of Emmett and her parents, not many people treated her like a regular person.
Bella glanced out the window and saw that the sun was moving further in the sky. "I need to head home soon," she said, "Sulpicia will be wondering where I am, even with Rosalie giving me extra time."
"I need to get back to the castle as well," Tanya sighed reluctantly before turning to the brunette next to her. "Before I go though Bella, I would like to ask if you would do me the honor of going on a date?"
"I would love to," Bella replied, a bright smile on her face, "When?"
"Tomorrow night, after your family goes to sleep, think you can get away?"
"Oh I definitely can," the brunette replied, kissing Tanya lightly on the cheek. The strawberry blonde's entire face lit up with a blush and a smile crept on her face. Leah cackled lightly at the princess as she gave Bella her bag of bread and the younger woman left the store. Heidi and Leah watched as the princess's eyes followed Bella's figure out the window of the shop and down the road until she could no longer be seen.
"Girl, you've got it bad," Heidi commented, before she and Leah burst out laughing. Tanya merely smiled and bid the two women adieu as she made her way back to the castle.
"What are you going to wear?" Rosalie asked Bella the next evening, "Do you know where Tanya is taking you?"
"No clue, probably not some place public since she would attract too much attention," the brunette replied, "And you need to keep your voice down, Alice and Sulpicia are still awake."
"They won't be for much longer," the blonde smirked.
Bella stared at Rosalie for a full minute. "What did you do?" She asked slowly.
"Put some sleeping herbs in their tea," Rosalie said with a shrug, "I asked Sue for the herbs. I know that you don't like the tea that they drink, and I didn't have any. They'll start yawning soon and head to bed. They'll practically be unconscious until morning."
"You know, sometimes I wonder why you started acting so nice to me, but then, I'm glad that you have because I don't want to be on your bad side," Bella sighed, continuing with her task to clean up from the evening meal. The blonde returned to the sitting room where she left her mother and sister when she left to 'powder her nose.'
Twilight had fully descended by the time the blonde returned to the kitchen. "They are out," Rosalie stated proudly, "Now go get washed up."
"I haven't brought in any fresh water yet," Bella started to protest but was cut off by glare.
"Use the water basin in my room, I'll replace the water later, now hurry!" Rosalie hissed, pushing Bella out of the kitchen. The brunette crept to Rosalie's room, not daring to believe that Alice and Sulpicia wouldn't wake up. She finally reached her old bedroom and hurried inside. Lying on the stool in front of the vanity was one of Rosalie's old dresses that was too small for her, but seemed to be the perfect size for the younger woman. A note was left on top of the dress. 'Put This On!' was written in Rosalie's cursive scrawl, and Bella didn't hesitate to comply with the blonde's order, knowing what awaited her if she didn't. Bella striped off her own dress, and hastily washed herself with the water in the basin. She slipped Rosalie's dress on over her head before trying to brush her hair out.
"Well this isn't going to work," a voice spoke in the room.
Bella froze momentarily and whirled around, meeting the gaze of her smirking godmother. "Kate," Bella hissed, "What are you doing here?"
"Are you kidding? Your first real date with your future wife?" Kate exclaimed, "Why wouldn't I be here?"
"She's not my future wife," the brunette muttered, turning back to the mirror and trying to work the tangles out of her long mahogany colored hair.
"Me think she doth protest too much," the bouncy blonde chuckled watching as her charge struggled with her hair. "Stop, stop, you'll just tear it, here let me help." Kate took out her wand and flicked it at Bella's hair.
While her hair did untangle, Bella wasn't amused at the color it turned. "Kate," Bella seethed, "It's blonde."
"I know, don't you look wonderful?!"
"I am a brunette! Change it back!"
The fairy huffed, "Fine." Flicking her wand again, Bella's hair returned to its normal color, free of tangles.
"If you are done complaining about my choice in hair color for you, I think that you will find that your princess is here, and waiting for you downstairs."
Bella flew out of the room, grabbing her dress as an after thought. The brunette burst into the kitchen and found Rosalie and Tanya waiting for her. "Well glad to see that you can follow directions," the blonde said, rising from her seat. As she passed Bella to head back upstairs, she whispered, "I expect to hear all about your date tomorrow."
Bella nodded absentmindedly, not taking her eyes off Tanya. The princess was dressed in black pants, and a dark blue dress shirt, which matched the dark dress that the brunette was wearing. The strawberry blonde smiled and handed Bella the red-tipped white rose she was holding. "Care for a midnight snack under the moonlight?" Tanya asked.
"A midnight snack?" Bella playfully inquired, taking the rose.
"Well, it is really a picnic, but smaller, less food."
The brunette laughed, "I would love to."
Tanya led Bella outside where her dappled grey mare stood waiting for them. "Bella, this is Trixie," Tanya introduced as Bella scratched the mare under the chin.
"She's gorgeous," Bella cooed. The horse bobbed her head, enjoying the attention of the brunette.
The strawberry blonde smiled at the two. "Well, we're going by horse. Do you want me to climb on and give you a hand up?"
"Actually if you could just give me a leg up, that would be great," Bella said, turning to Tanya. The princess boosted Bella up in the saddle before vaulting herself up behind the brunette. A small bag was strapped to the saddle in front of Bella, presumably the materials for their picnic. "So where are we going?" Bella asked as Tanya guided them through the forest instead of out on the road.
"It's a place I found years ago," Tanya said, "I haven't shown it to anyone else, but I decided to share it with you." They continued to ride for another half an hour; Bella's sense of direction told her that they were heading towards town and the castle, but also deeper into the woods. Soon they emerged through an opening in the trees and Bella gasped. A beautiful lake was situated in the field, its water sparkling under the light of the moon. Seemingly thousands of fireflies glowed on the water and in the grass, swirling through the sky.
"Wow," Bella breathed as Tanya slid off Trixie from behind her. The brunette swung her leg over and hopped off the dappled gray mare, staring in awe and the scenery around her. "This place is magical."
"I know," Tanya smiled, pulling the bag off of Trixie's back, "I am still amazed by this place even though I've been coming here for years."
"Thank you for sharing this with me Tanya."
"Anything for you," the princess smiled, "Now, I didn't pack much, just some fruit and a tea."
"It sounds perfect."
Bella helped Tanya spread a blanket out on the ground and the two of them sat down, eating strawberries and bits of melon, and sipping tea. The fireflies swirling around them completely entranced Bella; the light glow dancing on Tanya's features attracted Bella's eyes to her face more often than not.
"So do you approve of the date?" Tanya asked, her hand cupping Bella's face.
"Oh I most definitely approve," Bella said before attaching her lips to Tanya's. Much like the first kiss they shared, conversation and words flowed from one mouth to another, carried by the clashing of tongues and teeth. Tanya fell backwards on the blanket, pulling Bella with her. Their lips separated, and they opened their eyes to study each other. Bella's hair fell like a curtain around them as they lay there panting for breath.
"You are truly lovely," Tanya said, studying Bella's face, "But it is your eyes that draw me in the most. They shine with intelligence and wit, and strength."
"I've always had to be strong," Bella murmured, "I didn't really have parents. Don't get me wrong, I loved my mother and father, still do, but I was always very independent as a child. I had to be strong enough to take care of myself and be strong for others. But as I got older, I decided to be strong for me, so that I wouldn't have to rely on anyone else, to burden anyone else," Bella whispered, tears forming in her eyes.
"You don't have to be afraid to rely on others anymore," Tanya replied, brushing her fingers underneath Bella's eyes, "You have Rosalia, Leah, Heidi… and me."
The brunette smiled and leaned down her brush her lips against Tanya's once more. "I know."
3 Months Later
"So Bella, I was wondering," Tanya started nervously as she poked at her food.
"Yes?" The brunette asked, setting aside her own meal. They were in one of the backrooms in Heidi's tavern, one of their regular meeting places.
"Well, we've been dating each other for a while, and I wanted to know if you would meet my parents," the princess finished in a rush.
Bella froze at Tanya's words, "Me? Meet your parents?"
"Yeah, they've wanted to meet you for a while now but agreed to wait until we had been dating for a while."
"Me? Meet the King and Queen?" Bella's brain was stuck. She couldn't really comprehend Tanya's request. "When?"
"In a few days?" Tanya offered hesitantly, knowing that Bella's brain was still gone.
"What?!" The brunette screeched, "I can't meet the King and Queen in a few days, I have nothing to wear, I don't-"
"Bella, calm down," Tanya urged, waving her hands, "You aren't meeting the King and Queen, you are meeting my parents. You don't need to have a fancy dress to meet them, just come as you are. I love you the way you are, and they will too."
"Okay," Bella said after a moment, exhaling in a whoosh of air.
"Okay? Great!" Tanya exclaimed. The two finished their meal and Tanya slipped her cloak back on before walking with Bella back to Leah's bakery. "I'll meet you here in two days," the princess said before disappearing in the crowd back towards the palace.
Bella watched her go before she herself started home. "What did I just agree to?"
"So you're going out to meet up with Tanya again?" Rosalie asked as Bella finished putting on her travel cloak.
"Yeah, she asked me to meet her parents," Bella said, picking up her satchel.
"Wow, meeting the parents, that's a big step," the blonde commented, "Especially when those parents happen to be the reigning monarchs."
Bella snorted, "Don't I know it."
"What excuse are you going to give Mother this time for going out? Or do you want me to make one?"
The brunette sighed, "Honestly, I'm tired of giving excuses. She has no control over me, and I can leave when I want. Sue is here to take care of the meals and other household things, so just tell Sulpicia that I've gone out and won't be back until later."
"When did you become such a badass?"
Bella smiled before she slipped out of the door and towards town. When she reached the bakery a while later, Bella found Emmett waiting for her instead of Tanya.
"Belly-Boo!" The large man proclaimed, embracing the younger woman and lifting her slightly off the ground.
"Emmett! Put me down!" The brunette giggled, hugging the taller man's shoulders. When Rosalie introduced Bella to her fiancé a few weeks after Tanya and Bella started dating, the two instantly hit it off. Emmett loved teasing the smaller woman, and picking her up, showing off his strong muscles. "Where's Tanya?" Bella asked once Emmett had put her down.
"She wanted to come Belly, but she had some stuff to deal with before your visit," Emmett said, "She asked me to come down and get you. Ready to go?"
Bella took a shaky breath. "As ready as I'll ever be," she replied.
"Well then Milady, our horse awaits," the guard replied, making a sweeping bow to the back of Leah's shop. As they exited out the back, Leah and Sam winked at Bella and gave her silent encouragements. Emmett climbed on the back of his gelding Bear, and pulled Bella up on behind him. The two travel the distance to the castle with Emmett jabbering on and on about different topics, mainly Rosalie and knight training. Bella did her best to ignore the bits about her stepsister, particularly when they got a bit too detailed, but listened during his talks about how his training was progressing, asking questions when appropriate.
Emmett escorted Bella all the way to the castle gate and helped her dismounted from his large horse. "The castle guards watching the gate saw you arrive with me so they'll open the gate for you. Once you're inside, they guards shouldn't bother you. Tanya told me to tell you feel free to look around, she'll find you when she's done with her princess duties."
"Princess duties?" Bella asked, amusement in her voice.
The large man just shrugged as he mounted bear. "Yeah, princess duties," Emmett said, urging his horse away back towards the stables. The castle gates opened behind Bella, and she turned and hesitantly walked into the castle entry hall.
"Woah," the brunette said as she walked into the castle. She remembered part of this from her night at the ball, but she hadn't really been giving time to look around as all of the guests were quickly ushered into the ballroom. Bella turned down a side corridor that was lined with tapestries, which told the history of the kingdom. Fascinated by the pictures and the history presented, the brunette continued to move further and further down the corridor.
"What are you doing here?" An arrogant voice from behind her asked.
Bella whirled around and came face to face with the Grand Duke's son. She recognized him due to his face being uncovered at a masquerade ball and his gravity defying hair that seemed perched on top of his head. "I am just looking around," the brunette replied, trying to be respectful even though the man- no, boy's gaze irritated her.
"I can see that," Edward replied, smirking, "But that doesn't explain why you are here, are you a new servant?"
"No, I was invited here if you just know. I was told to wait until they came to get me."
"Well in that case, allow me to show you to one of the sitting rooms used for all of the castle's female guests," Edward said, offering his arm, "There is needlepoint and cross-stitching available in the room which women find enjoyable, probably much easier for you than looking at these complex tapestries."
"Excuse but what is so complex about them," Bella returned, offended, "and what makes you think that I would enjoy needlepoint, or anything similar?"
"Well you are a woman correct, isn't needlepoint something that women do?" The Duke's son continued on, seemingly perplexed by her attitude, "And as for the complexity of these tapestries, I don't think you know but they display-"
"The history of the kingdom, I know," the brunette interrupted, "I recognized some of the images depicted of battles from books my father used to read me. What I find offensive, sir, and not very gentlemanly is that you assumed that I, as a female, wouldn't know the importance of these stories." Bella was seething mad. This arrogant boy reminded her of many of the Lords and Ladies that Sulpicia was friendly with while her father was away, all arrogant and conceited, and very old fashioned in their way of thinking about men and women.
Edward's face twisted in a rage. "If you think I'm going to allow some commoner to berate me when I was just trying to show some good manners, you can think again," the boy seethed, grabbing Bella's arm. "I am going to personally escort you out of the castle and see that you are never allowed in again."
"I think that will be very difficult," Bella returned, yanking his arm out of his grasp, "Considering I was invited her by the princess herself."
Edward sneered, "That disgrace of a princess, bah, it's not wonder you're wasting time with her. When I become King, you'll be the first I imprison." A wicked smirked crossed his face and dark gleam entered his eyes. He leaned closer to Bella, trapping her between himself and the wall, and whispered in her ear, "Or maybe I'll have you brought to the palace and taught your proper place as my personal whore."
Bella leaned back as far as she could and slapped him across the face, the sounding echoing throughout the hall.
A red handprint quickly formed on Edward's stunned face, which morphed into anger as he reached for Bella again. "I would appreciate it if you would stop manhandling my guests cousin," Tanya's voice came, followed by a sword pressing into Edward's throat.
The Duke's son turned slightly and eyed his cousin, distaste evident on his face. "My apologies Tanya," he forced out, stepping back from Bella. He pulled on his vest and coat and brushed a hand through his hair, straightening himself up as best as he could. "I'm not sure what came over me."
"I'm sure," Tanya returned, not believing a word he said. She removed her sword from its position trained on Edward's movements, and placed the tip on the ground, leaning part of her weight on the pommel. "You may leave now, Edward."
The boy shot a sneer in his cousin's directions, followed by a dark, almost obsessive glare at Bella before he stalked down the corridor in the other direction. Bella turned towards Tanya as soon as he was out of sight. "I am so glad you came when you did," the brunette said, embracing her girlfriend.
"He didn't hurt you did he?" Tanya asked, pulling back to skate her eyes over Bella's face.
"No, I wasn't worried about what he would do to me, I was worried about what I would do to him!" Bella exclaimed, "My father did teach me basic forms of self-defense when weaponry proved to-ah- to dangerous for my person. I would've taught that misogynistic, chauvinistic bastard a thing or two if you hadn't shown up when you did. I don't think that would have endeared you to your parents."
Tanya let out a boisterous laugh as she offered her arm to Bella, which the younger girl wasted no time in taking. "Actually I think my mother would have gifted you with an award for services for the kingdom, along with probably elevating you from the title Lady to perhaps a Marquise or a Duchess if she could managed it."
"Really?" Bella laughed.
"Oh yes, she can't stand Edward, or his attitude, or his father really, but she puts up with them because they are my father's family," Tanya said, "Truthfully I don't like them that much either."
Bella was about to say something else, but Tanya stopped in front of a door and opened it. The strawberry blonde motioned her companion inside the room, and Bella hesitantly entered. The room was a very informal sitting room with only two other occupants, whom Bella recognized as the King and Queen. The King was seated in an overstuffed armchair, which Bella could tell was well worn, while the Queen was lounging on a loveseat reading a book.
"You must be Bella," the Queen said when she noticed the brunette and her daughter. She stood up and moved towards them, followed closely by the King. The older woman reached out and quickly grabbed Bella, dragging her into an embrace. "We've heard so much about you, I'm Tanya's mother Didyme, and this is my husband Marcus." Marcus hugged Bella as well as soon as she was released from his wife's grasp. Didyme snatched Bella back away from Marcus and led her over to the couch and pulled her down to sit next to her. Tanya followed her mother and girlfriend and sat next to her, trying to be supportive. Marcus returned to his armchair, but leaned forward as to be part of the conversation.
"So Bella, tell us all about yourself," Didyme exclaimed once the brunette had sat down, "I mean, we've obviously heard a lot about you from Tanya of course, but second hand information isn't nearly as good as hearing it from the source."
"Er, okay, what do you want to know?" Bella replied, her insides still a quivering mess of fear and hesitation.
"Well everything of course!" After that Didyme and Marcus started asking questions, trying to get to know their future daughter in law better, even though Bella didn't know that. Tanya helped supply answers every now and then, but mainly kept her mouth shut and tried to keep Bella calm. Bella started to calm down after the questions quit coming in interrogation form and it turned more into a conversation, with Bella asking Marcus and Didyme her own questions, particularly about embarrassing stories about Tanya growing up.
"She had a little run in with Edward earlier," Tanya said, when the topic of family members came up.
"Yeah, and Tanya probably saved the little toelicker's life when she showed up," Bella added, "Though something he said bothered me. He used the phrase 'When I become King,' almost like it was a done deal or something."
Didyme and Marcus shared a disturbed looked before Marcus let out a resigned sigh. "We have long believed," the King started, "That Lord Aro was in collusion with my brother the Grand Duke to take over the kingdom. Edward's words and behavior have confirmed that he knew something about this too. It is also probably one of the main reasons behind his request for the ball a few months ago."
"Why?" Bella asked.
"Because an heir to the throne must be married before taking the throne," Didyme supplied, "But we would never allow Tanya to marry someone for anything less than love. It would appear that Carlisle and Edward have no such scruples though."
Bella turned towards Tanya, a slightly confused and hurt look on her face. "Why didn't you tell me you needed to get married?"
"I didn't want you to think that I was dating you so that I could take the throne," Tanya admitted, her eyes downcast, "I wanted to fall in love, truly love, like any normal couple without fear of a looming deadline."
"Deadline?" Bella asked, glancing over at Marcus.
"Tanya has five months until her birthday and six months until the coronation. She must be married before the coronation day," the King supplied.
"You could've just told me you know," Bella said, turning her attention back to Tanya, "You could've just said you were dating me out of love and not out of obligation."
"Okay, then you'll believe me when I do this…" Tanya started, a determined look in her eyes.
"Wha-" Bella started before Tanya got down on one knee in front of her. Didyme let out a squeal, which was hushed by his wife as the two monarchs got up and backed away to give the two a semblance of privacy.
"Isabella, my beautiful Bella," the strawberry blonde started, taking shaking hands in her own nervous ones, "I was wondering if you would do me the honor of becoming my wife in four months time?"
"Why four months?" Bella's mind caught on the time frame.
"Because I don't want anyone to doubt that I am marrying for love and not a crown," came the answer. "Besides, I would love to spend my birthday away on a honeymoon with you."
Bella giggled as Tanya wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at her and moved her hands so they were cupping Tanya's face. "I would love to marry you," she said before attaching their lips together.
A polite cough reminded them that they weren't alone before the kiss could get any more heated. They slowly broke apart, their faces beat read not from embarrassment at forgetting where they were, but due to the rush of emotions flooding their systems."
"I am so happy!" Didyme yelled, embracing the both of them, while Marcus simply patted his daughter on the back.
"Wait, what are we going to do about my father, I can't get married without his approval. Sulpicia would never give hers," Bella said, realizing that she was still trapped by that infernal woman.
"Don't worry Bella, we have been working on it," Tanya answered, soothing her fiancée.
The brunette looked at the strawberry blonde questioningly before she realized how long she had been away from home. "Oh no, I need to be getting home. I've missed the midday meal, and evening is approaching. Twilight will be upon us by the time I get home."
"Well we can't have you going alone," Marcus commented, "Tanya, you and Emmett will escort Bella home. As your fiancée, Bella's safety is a priority of yours now, and as your guard, your safety is a priority for Emmett."
"Yes Father," Tanya replied, pulling Bella up as she stood, "I'm going to take Bella home, I'll be back later." With that, the two of them exited the room, and then the castle completely. "To the stables we go," Tanya urged, pulling Bella along, "We'll probably find Emmett there still spending time with Bear, and we can saddle up Trixie." They found Emmett practicing jousting maneuvers on a wooden horse while the other horses in the stable seemed to laugh at him when he fell off.
"Come on Emmett, we have to escort my new fiancée home, it is getting late," Tanya exclaimed proudly.
"You asked her, well done man," Emmett boomed, grabbing both of them in a hug, lifting them off the floor. "Wait, if we're escorting you home, that means I might get to see Rosalie," the large man exclaimed, quickly dropping the two women. They fell to the floor in a heap as Emmett rushed to remove his saddle from the wooden horse he was using and placed it on Bear's back. "What are you guys laying around for, let's go," he said impatiently as he noticed the two women were still on the floor.
"One of these days," Bella growled as she stood up, helping Tanya up as well, "He is going to regret picking me up and tossing me about."
"Threatening Edward and Emmett all in the same day," Tanya chuckled, "You just get more and more attractive by the minute." The two shared a quiet laugh as Bella helped Tanya tack up Trixie.
"Oooh, the harpy is going to be furious now," Bella moaned as the land started to darken. "I left mid-morning and not return until after the evening meal? She is not going to let this go."
"Maybe we should escort you inside," Tanya suggested, "I mean, she wouldn't do anything with the crown princess and a castle guard there would she?"
"Who knows with that harpy," the brunette sighed, her head pressed against Tanya's shoulder blades, "Sure why not, I'm tired of hiding things. If she gets on my case, I'll just leave. I can stay with Leah and Sam for a while until my Father returns, whenever that happens."
"It will happen Bella," Tanya assured her as she pulled Trixie to a stop. She and Bella dismounted with Emmett not that far behind them.
"So this is what the front of your house looks like," Emmett commented, "I've only ever seen it from behind or from further back the road."
"You use the garden door when you visit Rosalie?" Bella asked, "How have I never noticed?"
"We're super sneaky," the man replied, winking at Bella.
The brunette sighed and turned back to the path up to the door. "Time to get this over with," she grumbled, marching to the door and opening it.
"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?" A screech came as soon as Bella opened the door.
"Oooh, Cinderella's gonna get it," a high pitched voice shrieked after with a giggle.
"Cinderella!" Sulpicia's voice yelled, not noticing the two people coming in behind the young woman. "First you shirk your daily chores to go gallivanting off to who knows where, then you come home late and don't have the decency to look ashamed."
"Um, first I did not shirk my chores, if you didn't notice, I woke up early this morning to get them done, including the ones you tacked on when I brought you your breakfast," the brunette seethed, fully enraged, "Secondly, I am an adult so how I spend my time is none of your damn business."
"How dare you speak to me that way you ungrateful child, I let you stay here out of the goodness of my heart-"
"Let me stay here," Bella said, taken aback, "Um, I don't know if you've noticed, but this house and land is my father's property and I am his heir. If anything, I let you stay in my house. You may be his wife, but I still hold more power here than you do Sulpicia."
"She was with me all day Lady Sulpicia," Tanya interrupted before the harpy-like woman could go off with another rant.
"Who," Sulpicia turned her glare towards Tanya before seemingly recognizing her, "Oh, your highness, Princess Tanya, how honored I am to have you in my home, do come in. Cinder- er, Isabella was with you all day? Get in a spot of trouble did she? Well, I'm so grateful that you brought her home, though does she need to stay longer in the dungeons?"
"She wasn't in the dungeons madame," the princess said carefully, "My parents wanted to meet their future daughter-in-law is all."
"Daughter-in-law? Her?" Sulpicia screeched, outraged, "You want to marry Cinderella?"
"Why would anyone want to marry Cinderella?" Alice too gasped out, "She's just so… ew, boring."
"Princess Tanya, if I had known you preferred the feminine gender, I could've suggested a more appropriate match than plain old Cinderella here," Sulpicia said, ignoring the dark looks she was getting from the three still standing in the entryway, "My oldest daughter Rosalie is exceptionally beautiful, and then my youngest here is Alice, though we're hoping to arrange for an engagement between her and Grand Duke Carlisle's son."
The woman would've carried on had Rosalie not interrupted her. "Mother, I've put up with you for many years. I never spoke up for Ella whenever you treated her like a slave because I was afraid, but I can't take it anymore. Ella and Tanya are perfect for each other, and I don't want to get in the way of that. Besides, I'm engaged already, to a strong and wonderful man." When she finished speaking, her eyes turned towards Emmett. The castle guard rushed forward and picked Rosalie up, swinging her around in excitement as she finally told her family.
"Engaged? To a lowly castle guard?" Sulpicia sputtered, "No, I won't allow it, I won't allow either one of these marriages. Rosalie is going to marry the Princess and Cinderella is going to return to the kitchen where she belongs."
"You don't have any say over either of us," Bella yelled, irritated that this woman did still have power over part of her life, but not that much,
"While your father is gone, I have the parental right," the older woman sneered.
"Well then, it's a good thing I decided to come home then," a deep voice said from the doorway and everyone in the house turned and saw Lord Charles standing there in the door.
"Daddy?" Bella asked, eyes tearing up as she saw her father for the first time in many years.
"I am so happy to see you Bells," the aged man said, embracing his daughter, "I'm so sorry I've been gone for so long." Charles held his daughter for a moment before releasing her. "Sulpicia," he greeted his wife, "It would seem that you got a bit above yourself in my absence."
"Just trying to run the household to the best of my abilities husband," the woman returned, sweat beading up around her face.
"Yes, I've heard about what has happened to my estate while I've been gone, as well as the money I send back to see to Isabella's care and the managing of the estate," he said, "Suffice to say that now that I've return, things are going to be handled a bit differently around here."
Sulpicia hung her head and muttered acquiescence before stalking back to her room. Alice pouted as well before she too returned to her room. "Lord Charles," Tanya greeted, "I see that my Father's knights found you."
"Yes Princess Tanya, and I'm so glad they did," Charles said, looking at the princess, "They've also informed me of how my wife was treating my daughter and I was not pleased. If I had known what kind of woman she was, I never would've married her. I would've given up my trade business and raised Bella myself, but, can't take back decisions made in the past, just make up for them now."
"Lord Charles," Rosalie addressed her stepfather, "I would like to seek your forgiveness for not sticking-up for Ella to my mother."
"It is alright Rosalie, and since I'm your stepfather, you can call me Charlie. I can tell that you and Bella have a good relationship, and that you were just afraid of your stepmother," Charles replied, "Seeing the way she behaved, I'm a little afraid of her too. Now by what you all were talking about, I see we have much to discuss. Shall we adjourn to my study?"
"Um, your study is just a bit dusty right now, how about the kitchen, plus, I'm starving, haven't had anything since breakfast," Bella suggested just as her stomach let out a growl. The growl was followed by two more, and Tanya's face reddened while Emmett rubbed his stomach.
"Yeah Charlie man, I could definitely use some food," the large man exclaimed. He let out an –oof- as Rosalie whacked him in the stomach.
"I apologize Charlie, we're still working on his manners," Rosalie replied, glaring at Emmett.
"So we'll have a quick snack while we talk," Charles laughed as he ushered the four young people towards the kitchen. Bella quickly set about throwing together some food for the people present while Rosalie, Tanya and Emmett explained what was going on to the absent Lord.
"So you and Emmett have been seeing each other for some time and want to get married?" Charles asked, addressing Rosalie.
The blonde nodded, "I love him. We were hoping you would come back soon so we could get married in this kingdom, if not we were going to have to go to a different kingdom."
"You two don't have to do that, I will glad give my permission for you two to marry. I can see that Emmett is a good man, a little immature, but it is hard work to go through knight training without a sponsor. I will stand with you on your wedding day, and give you away if you wish, since your own father can't do it," Charles said.
"Thank you Charlie," Rosalie murmured, hugging the older man. Emmett nodded his thanks as well, trying to subtly blink away the tears forming in his eyes.
"Now as for you two," Charles adjusted his attention to his daughter and the princess, "You have been dating for only three months and want to get married? I know that Tanya needs to marry before she takes the throne, but is that reason enough to get married?"
"We're not getting married for that reason," Bella protested, "While it might be the reason that it is happening so fast, we're choosing to get married for love, simple as that."
"Is this true Tanya?" Charles asked.
"Yes Lord Charles, I love Isabella, I have since the first time I saw her. Love and first sight sounds kind of corny, but it's true," Tanya said truthfully, "And everyday since then I've just grown to love her more. We've had arguments, plenty of them, but they haven't really lessened the way I feel, just made me feel more." Tanya took Bella's hands and the two of them just stared at each other, oblivious of anyone else in the room.
Charles sighed, both happy and sad at the love present in both women's eyes. Happy for his daughter finding true love, but sad that he is going to lose her after just getting her back. "Well then, there's really only one thing I can say to that…"
4 Months Later
"How excited are you, to be marrying the princess today?" Leah and Heidi squealed as they helped Bella get ready for her wedding.
"Nervous, ecstatic, happy, all of the above?" Bella replied, "I don't think there are enough or the right words to express how I'm feeling."
"Ladies," Rosalie said, coming into the room, "I think we can leave Ella alone for a while, give her some peace and quiet so that we can go get ready."
"Right, sorry Bella, we'll see you in a bit," Heidi said as she and Leah left the room.
Rosalie quickly embraced her stepsister. "Next time I see you, I'll be heading down the aisle in front of you as your matron of honor."
"Yeah, thanks Rose," Bella told the blonde as she left the room, leaving the brunette to some peace. A lot had changed in the four months since her father had returned. Lord Charles took greater control of his estate, rehiring many of the workers that Sulpicia had let go, as well as making sure that the woman behaved herself. While he couldn't divorce his wife, Charles made sure that she wouldn't be living the life she was accustomed to in his absence. Both she and her daughter Alice had to attend to some of the duties that Sulpicia forced on Bella in order to work off the money they spent on years worth of clothes and other frivolous things.
Rosalie and Emmett married a month after Lord Charles's return, with Tanya and Bella standing up with them and King Marcus overseeing the wedding himself. They went on a honeymoon but made sure to return in time to help with Tanya and Bella's own wedding. Since Bella was marrying into royalty, Lord Charles adopted Emmett and Rosalie into his family, naming Emmett as his heir and the next Lord Swan so that their future children could become knights without the difficulties that Emmett faced in his life. As an orphan, Emmett appreciated having a Father to teach him family tradition and customs that helped him with his training.
It was proven that Carlisle and Edward were colluding with Lord Aro to take over the kingdom, each man having their own ambition. Both Aro and Edward wanted to be crowned King, neither believing that a woman could lead the kingdom. Carlisle went along with the wishes of his son, not having the desire to say no to his only son. Apparently, the birth was difficult for his wife and Edward nearly died at birth. When he didn't, and it was discovered that she could not have any more children, Carlisle and his wife lavished their attention on Edward, caving into his wishes. Marcus did not have the heart to execute his own family for treason, so the entire family were banished from the kingdom. The neighboring lands were allied with Voltura, so they would not be able to cause harm in those lands, not without severe repercussions.
Bella moved into the castle after Rosalie's wedding, not wanting to remain in the house with Sulpicia and Alice with Rosalie gone. Didyme and Marcus put her in one of the guest rooms on the opposite side of the castle from Tanya in order to discourage nightly visits from occurring before marriage.
"I am so happy for you!" A voice squealed, scaring Bella out of her thoughts.
"Kate," Bella gasped, "You really must stop sneaking up on me."
"Why would I do that? You make the funniest noises when you're startled," the blonde fairy said, prancing around the room. "Your dress is lovely darling, but it needs work."
When Kate took out her wand, Bella waved her away, "You really don't have to do that."
"I know, it's what makes me so nice, and an awesome fairy godmother," Kate replied, flicking her wand at the dress. A soft glitter erupted from the end of her wand and coated the dress, making it sparkle and shine in the light. Bell felt her shoes change and glanced down to see the crystal heels that Kate had given her for the ball over a year before hand.
"You're really good at making shoes," Bella said, smiling at Kate.
The fairy shrugged, "I have good days and bad days with magic, I'm still learning. Hopefully I'll be better at this by the time you have your own kids."
"Um, Kate? I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm marrying a woman, soo…"
"Psh, that doesn't mean anything, I have magic, I can always arrange a few things."
"Wah," Bella started, but was interrupted by a knock at the door.
"Bells, you ready?" Her father asked behind the door.
"Yeah Dad, just a minute," the brunette called.
"Remember Kate is a great name for a child," Kate whispered in Bella's ear before vanishing, leaving Bella alone in her dressing room.
Charles opened the door and smiled when he saw his daughter. "You look even more beautiful than I imagined," he said, kissing her hand before he started to lead her down the hall to the ballroom where the wedding was taking place. "Are you nervous?"
"A little," Bella admitted.
"Well don't be, what you and Tanya have is special. It took me a while to see it, but it's true love. Not the kind that you just happen upon, but the kind that grows every day, through every meeting," her father whispered.
Bella could just see the ballroom and saw Rosalie start down the aisle and Bella knew it was almost time to walk down the aisle. When they reached the room, the brunette saw all of the guests turn to watch her, but she only had eyes for the strawberry blonde waiting for her at the end, wearing her royal court attire. Brown eyes locked with crystal blue ones and everything else faded away. She doesn't remember her walk up the aisle, or her father handing her arm over to Tanya.
"Well are you ready?" Tanya whispered to her as she lead Bella the rest of the way up the aisle to where King Marcus was waiting to officiate the ceremony.
"Ready for what?"
"Happily ever after," Tanya replied as she and Bella stopped in front of her father.
"More than ready," Bella answered, squeezing Tanya's hand as Marcus began the ceremony.
A/N:Okay, so this is the end. It was a good exercise, and was fun writing, but I'm not going to write any more for this particular universe. This is where fairytales usually end, so this is where this one will end, with Happily Ever After.