That evening, when I entered the Dining Room for diner with Haley, the girls all eyed us quizzicaly.
I whispered in Haley's ear: "Go sit in my seat, I'll come in a few minutes."
She nodded and walked away slowly – due to her wounded legs – to my seat.
"Ladies." I cleared my throat and breathed once. "I am terribly sorry you had to wait for me all afternoon by the pond. I was really planning on coming back with Haley, but something happened that… prevented us to come back." I paused, looking at them all in turn. "You see, I found Haley in the King's office, being beaten and whipped my him."
They all gasped in shock and looked at Haley. The only visible wound was the one on her neck. She wore a black floor-length dress with long puff sleeves, closing at her wrists. No one could have guessed at her injuries.
I breathed one more time, clearing my thoughts, before going on. "Haley and I have been married for over a week, now. And when I told Father he had laid his hands on the Princess herself, his heart stopped." My voice quivered. Why was I getting emotional? I hated the guy! I should be happy about it. "The King is dead."
I let the news sink in. I was glad Haley made me tell my brothers about this first. They would have hated me if they had learned this now. I was surprised at their reaction, though. None on them cried or anything. They just shrugged the news away. I knew they didn't have a brilliant relationship with him either. But still. I couldn't believe the King was hated by his own family. Even from his wife.
The realisation that I was King now settled on the girls. Denielle first. She stood from her chair and curtsied low. One by one, they all followed, acknowledging me as their new King. Just like mother had done earlier.
I just stood there, not knowing what to do. "Thank you, Ladies." I swallowed. They all sat back on their chairs. Some had defeated looks. Maybe they thought they still had a chance with me. Some were smiling encouragingly and others looked at their hands in their laps. "Father's funeral will take place in two days, and the Selection is over, I'm afraid. You are free to stay here until our" I looked at Haley, "coronation after the funeral, or go home. All the Selected will be invited to come back for that, anyway."
I turned on my heels and headed to my new seat, between my mother and my wife, on father's chair. I was the new King, now.
The 12 remaining girls stayed at the Palace until the coronation. Denielle and Beverly often stayed with Haley. I was glad she had them as friends. The other girls packed their things and patiently waited for the last day.
I was in father's office – um, my office, now – going through the vows Haley and I would have to say, first to each other – we needed to do some sort of a wedding ceremony for the people – and to Illéa, as their new King and Queen. Someone knocked.
Jacob opened the door. "Prince Rodrick, Your Majesty!" He bowed and let him in.
"Rod!" I walked up to him and hugged him. I was surprised when he hugged me back and didn't let go when I did. When he finally did, I saw tears on his cheeks. "What's wrong, Rod?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I'm so confused right know."
"How so?" I invited him to sit.
"I know I should be sad about father's death, but I can't even cry for it!"
"Then why are you crying now?"
"I don't know. I guess I'm just happy you're King now." He dried his tears. "I don't know what's happening to me! Damn."
I smiled. "You know, even if you're a Prince, you're allowed to cry and to be confused. I'm a King, now, and I do that, too."
"No way. I don't believe you!"
"I do. But only behind closed door, of course, and with Haley."
"You're lucky to have her. I don't think one of the other ones would have survived one of father's whippings."
I frowned. "How would you know that? Did he hurt you, too, Rod?"
He shrugged again, leaning in his armchair and covering his face with his hands. "Yeah, a couple times. You?"
"More than you can count."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to take care of this on my own. Jacob walked in on me, once, when I was trying to bandage my back, and since then, if he's there when it happens, I let him do it. Haley knows about it, too, of course. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because nobody could ever do anything about it. Who could stop the King?"
"Yeah, maybe you're right."
I wanted to change to subject. "So, when are you planning to have your own Selection?" I already knew what his answer would be, but I wanted him to say it.
"There won't be one."
"Oh? Why not?" I supressed a smile.
"Were you really that blinded by your own life?"
I smirked at him. "You think so?"
He looked at me. "So… you don't mind?"
I laughed. "Of course not! And if you can avoid having 35 girls fighting for your crown or heart, I'll let you do it." I chuckled. "Besides, you and Elaine are perfect for each other!"
"Really? Ugh, thank God! I was so scared to tell this to father, but I much prefer talking about it with you!"
"Go tell her, you crazy fool!" and I laughed.
He ran from the office with a smile splitting his face in two. I smiled to myself. If I was someone who was able to give joy and happiness to others, then I would be a good King.
I focused again on the vows.
The next day was the funeral. And I thought it was the worst funeral possible for a King. Nobody cried. Mother didn't say anything. I noticed she often lingered near the Doctor. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw her discreetly – although not enough, since I saw it – lacing her finger through his. No wonder she was happy her husband was gone.
I didn't say anything either, nor did my brothers. Only a couple of Father's advisors spoke. I knew I had to get rid of all of them and start a new board of counsellors and advisors of my own. But I still had to think on who would be on it.
After that, we all went back to the Palace and conveyed in the Throne Room.
Haley had changes from her black funeral dress and was simply breath-taking. She was wearing a long sleeved white dress, and the high waist full skirt was royal blue, revealing her ankles, and long behind with a train. I could gaze at her all day. But we had things to do first.
The Priest who married us came back and made us say our vows again, so the whole of Illéa could hear them. We exchanged rings – finally! – and I kissed my lovely wife for the first time publicly. The present crowd exploded in cheers. We laughed at the sound of it and broke our kiss, leaning or foreheads together for a few seconds.
"I love you, my beautiful wife." I whispered.
"I love you, my handsome husband." She whispered back.
Haley then stepped away. The Priest gave me a golden sceptre and a golden globe – symbol of royalty in Illéa – and I said my Kingly vows to my people. When I was finished, he put my late father's crown on my head and draped the Blue Royal Cloak on my shoulders.
He invited Haley to step in the centre, gave her the sceptre in one hand and the golden globe in the other and she vowed her Queenly vows to the Illéans. The Priest put my mother's crown on her head, and the other Blue Royal Cloak on her shoulders. She winced a bit when it rubbed her sore spot on her neck, but didn't say anything and kept her smile. I was so proud of her.
And that was it. We were King and Queen of Illéa, free of my father and free to rule however we wanted, wanting only the best for our country.
I remember telling Beverly, on that first date, I needed a miracle to be able to rule without father breathing down my neck all the time. I guess miracles come in unexpected ways, and when you certainly aren't looking for them – or at least not in the right places. Haley had been my miracle from the start, and I only realised it when I was salving and bandaging her wounds. She had saved me from father. And from myself.
~~° The End °~~
Yep, that's it, guys... I hope you enjoyed the story! I certainly enjoyed writing it for you =)
Who was your favorite Character? and your least Favorite? (My favorite was Denielle^^)