Eugene Fitzherbert would never forget the day he saw color.
He was barely eight years old when the news of the princess's birth swept through the kingdom. It was all anyone could talk about and understandably so.
The queen becoming ill had been the topic of conversation for nearly a month as people braced themselves for the worst. Both men and woman argued about whether the King would remarry and- if he did- then who would he marry or- if he did not remarry- who would take the throne when he died?
Some of the more twisted citizens of Corona began to make bets on when the queen would pass and then who would take the throne. Eugene was instructed to stay as far away from "those sleezebags" as possible.
Nonetheless, when the announcement came that the Princess had been born and that the queen was healthy, the kingdom rejoiced. Eugene could remember the ladies at the orphanage knitting socks to send to the palace and those same ladies making all of the orphans write congratulation cards to the king and queen. Eugene thought that that was stupid because they were rich and that they would not really care about some poorly written card from some orphan, but he did it anyways.
As he and the orphans sat there writing cards, the ladies had put what he was told were sticks of color to draw a picture with. He had had to stop himself from laughing. Sometimes the women there could be so dense. None of the orphans could see color, none of them had met their soulmates.
I probably don't even have a soulmate, Eugene thought bitterly to himself. Colors may not even be real.
He had spent the last few years of his life trying to convince himself that colors were not real, that it was a story overly romantic adults had made up to tell kids before they went to bed. But Eugene was not stupid, he knew it was just a story.
And sense it was just a story, he would never be disappointed that he never saw color.
Of course, when the other kids pretended to see colors Eugene could not help but feel a little jealous. He wanted to be optimistic enough to play pretend with them, but he could never convince himself to do so.
Colors. Were. Not. Real.
And to him they were not…until the day the king and queen sent a lantern into the sky.
It was a day of celebration that the kingdom happily took part in. Not only were they getting a day of fun and festivity, but they were all going to get to see the new princess. Eugene had been told to put on his church clothes that day because the king and queen had invited the orphanage to a private lunch at the palace as a thank you for the sweet cards they had all made.
The palace was a grand place with high ceilings and polished floors and paintings that were so tall that Eugene had to stand all the way against the other wall to see the full painting. He had a hard time believing that the monarchy actually lived like this. It was too lavish for Eugene to even fathom. The dining hall was bigger than the entire orphanage! That was not really saying much though. The orphanage was a small two story house with three bedrooms. Divide those bedrooms up between twenty kids and four care takers and you do not have a lot of room.
Needless to say, Eugene had found the large castle extremely disorienting, so he was not surprised when he ended up in a room that no one he knew was in. In the room was a painter sketching out who Eugene assumed was the royal family. He was not sure though, he had never seen them in person.
"What do you think?" The painted asked, his eyes not moving from the painting.
Eugene looked around to see who the man had been talking to but he found no one was there.
"I'm talking to you, young man."
"Oh," Eugene mumbled in surprise. "I…I think it's nice."
"Hmmm," the man responded. "It will probably look better once I begin to add color. I am just having issues creating a green that is close enough to the queen and the princess's eye color." He reached onto a side table and grabbed a pallet full of seemingly gray blobs that Eugene was going to assume was different shades of green.
"I like this one," the painted pointed. "But I do not think it is accurate. This one over here is a little closer, but I feel like it resembles more grass than anything. What do you think?"
Eugene stood there, numb. Not only had he never seen the royals in real life but he could not see in color. Also, colors were not real. Did this painter really think he could fool Eugene?
Seeing Eugene's confusion, the painter put down the pallet and nodded. "You're still colorblind," he stated.
"Colors aren't real," Eugene returned, mildly irritated.
"I used to think the same thing," another voice said.
The two of them turned around to see the king standing in the doorway. The painter immediately stood and bowed and Eugene followed suit.
"No need," the king chuckled as he walked towards Eugene. "I didn't see in color until I met my wife when I was twenty. Two decades without color!" He kneeled down to look Eugene in the eye. "I can only pray that you get to see color at a younger age."
"I'm sure he will," a feminine voice interrupted. "He's a cutie, he will not have a hard time finding a soulmate."
The king smiled a brilliant smile and turned to his wife who was holding the princess in her arms. "There are my girls," the king welcomed. He kissed his wife before taking his daughter from her mother, holding her to his shoulder.
That is when the world shook for Eugene. One look at the princess's face and the world exploded with color. Everywhere he looked there were shades of…well he did not know what to call any of it. All he knew is that in the room was more than the three colors he had seen all his life. It was disorienting, his head was spinning, his knees almost gave out from beneath him, he could not catch his breath. The only thing keeping him from losing his mind was the princess's eyes.
Green. Her eyes were green.
Colors are real.
As Eugene struggled with his bearings, the king and queen were talking to the painter, complimenting his work while the tiny princess continued to stare at Eugene and Eugene could not take his eyes off of her. She…she made him see color. But that could not be true.
A baby could not be his soulmate.
Even worse, a princess could not be his soulmate.
He was an orphan. Orphans do not marry princesses.
The princess was laughing, joyous, pure laughter and a feeling of warmth spread that Eugene had never felt before spread through his chest.
"Rapunzel is especially giddy today," the queen laughed.
"She must like the drawing," the painted chuckled to himself.
"Maybe she'll be an artist," the king added jokingly. "We should really get going though. Lots to do before tonight." He looked at Eugene. "You're with the orphanage, correct?"
Eugene- still dazed- could only nod.
"I'll have a guard take you where you need to go," the king assured as he motioned to a guard at the door. "I hope you enjoy the castle." And with that the family left.
Eugene could only stare as they walked away.
"Well, I better get back to work," the painter said. "I have to figure this green out."
Eugene turned to look at the pallet again and his jaw nearly dropped at seeing the different colors…but they were all the same color? Colors did not make sense.
"Add…um…that one"- he pointed to a darker green- "to this one," he instructed as he pointed a light shade. "That should be the exact color."
The painter did as instructed and Eugene had been right. Perfect. Just like the princess's eyes.
"I can't believe I didn't think of this soo- how did you know that?!"
Eugene shook his head. "I have to go."
Before the artist could even protest Eugene was out of the room and following the guard back to the dining hall where everyone else was.
He kept his eyes on the floor, which was all the same color. He could not bring himself to look at the rest of the hall. It was all too much to take in. The colors were too much for him.
But- he realized- he already had a favorite color.