Miranda chuckled, watching her daughter gallop around the dining room on the broom, mimicking the flying derpy races. It was Sofia's favorite activity that she often played with her friends when they are over. Sadly, Ruby and Jade were out of town on vacation with their families for the summer. Not to mention it was raining and hardly anyone had shown up to their store.

A solid three knocks on their front door made Sofia stop in her tracks, a look of surprise on her face, "I didn't think anyone was going to be coming today."

"Me either," Miranda said and walked to the door. Upon answering it she gasped in surprise upon seeing several guards standing out in the rain with several dark umbrellas opened and hanging above the king's head. King Roland, the man Miranda had spoken to only yesterday was standing outside her doorway with the bag of money in his hands. "King Roland," she gasped and bowed immediately. Behind her Sofia gasped as well, her broom dropped from her hands as she tried to show courtesy as well, despite being outside of the king's line of sight.

"You forgot something," he said, offering her the bag, "Your payment, Miss Miranda."

Miranda bit her lip and bowed in apology, "I apologize, your majesty, you didn't have to travel all the way here for this."

"I wanted to make sure you were paid properly," he explained. Behind Miranda, Sofia cautiously moved to stand next to her mother. King Roland smiled at the young girl, "Hello, young lady, how are you?"

"Your majesty," Sofia bowed again, tugging her the skirt of her pale lavender gown, stained with overuse. King Roland smiled, "What is your name?"

"Sofia, your majesty," Miranda's daughter said standing straight, her hands politely folded in front of her.

King Roland nodded, "A lovely name," he turned his attention back to Miranda and offered her the bag once more. "I hope Princess Amber's actions do not deter you from wanting to returning to the castle sometime in the future."

Miranda blinked, surprised, "Oh, well I suppose not. If my services are needed, then of course." Then awkwardly she takes the bag of money. A little reluctantly as the memory of King Roland's words repeat themselves in the back of her mind. 'Only in rare moments.' He was a king, but he was a man first. Sadden looked down at Sofia and stroked her daughter's head. Her daughter looked so much like Birk. From the many portraits she saw in the castle, she could tell that the twins, especially Princess Amber, took a lot of traits from their mother.

"Thank you," Miranda said, "I would love to return to the castle if you are in need of my services, or..." taking a deep breath, she prepared herself for the backlash she might receive. "If you would like to talk to someone about your loss." Gosh, she was digging her own grave. She can imagine King Roland becoming enraged by her nosy behavior and sending her to the castle dungeon.

King Roland looked at her in surprise, and Miranda grew tense under her expression. She nearly backtracked and apologized.

Nearly.

Because King Roland looked in appreciation. He looked touched by her words and nodded his head, "That would be greatly appreciated, miss Miranda." With that, he turned and walked back to his coach, protected from the rain by several umbrellas.

And she could probably talk to him about Birk. Miranda thought, but for now, she was happy to help the king properly mourn the loss of his love.

"Mom?" Sofia asked, breaking Miranda's train of thought. "When did you visit the castle?"

"Oh, yesterday," she said, smiling down at her daughter. "You were at school at the time, Sofia." She laughed seeing her daughter pout. Sofia had always wanted to visit the castle and seeing that she had missed her chance, she was understandably disappointed.

"Can I go with you next time?" Sofia asked, giving her mother her best puppy-face. Such a look would always make Birk melt on the spot. Miranda smiled and kissed her daughter's forehead, "I can't make promises at the moment, Sofia, but I do promise I will ask if I can bring you to the castle."

Sofia beamed because promises are always kept, "A broken promise can never be glued back together!" She exclaimed excitedly and then raced back in to continue her game. Miranda took the money and put it away in their deposit box, which was hidden in the back of the store. Crime wasn't prominent in their village, but Miranda didn't want to take any chances.


A few days passed before Miranda was summoned to the castle once again. What the reason was she hadn't been told, but the shoemaker was sure it had to do with her offer. Sofia was at school again, and Miranda made sure to inform Jade's mother to have Sofia stay with them until her return.

The castle was bustling with so many people rushing in and out of the doors. Miranda spotted Baileywick who appeared surprised by her sudden appearance. "Miss Miranda, I wasn't expecting you." He said, slipping his chained watch back in his coat pocket. The man was always checking the time it seemed. Miranda wondered if he ever had a day to himself.

She bowed politely, "I was summoned by King Roland to speak to him about-"

"Miss Miranda!" King Roland's voice interrupted. The King of Enchancia seemed delighted to see her and sped walk towards them. Baileywick opened his mouth to speak to the king but a loud clatter of dishes made him jump and race off to investigate the noise.

"Am I here at a bad time?" Miranda asked tentatively, a little self-conscious now about her presence, as well as her appearance. She was not at all dressed to meet the king, her gown, much like Sofia's was stained and had off-colored patches sewn throughout the skirts. Miranda made a note to buy herself and Sofia new gowns with the extra money that King Roland gave her.

"Not at all," he said and gestured her to follow him, "This way, please." He led them through the castle. Many servants would slip by them with quick nods or bows to him, and odd looks at Miranda, not sure of what to make of her, but too busy to ponder her visit.

"We're having a ball tomorrow evening," Roland informed her as the halls grew more vacant of the castle staff. "An old friend of mine from Royal Prep is coming to visit. I haven't seen him in ages, I'm hoping he hasn't changed much. I feel I have changed..." Admitting those words left the king flustered, much to Miranda's amusement. She couldn't help but smile, "I don't know you personally, your majesty, but if I were to be so bold, I think you've changed for the better."

He blushed at her praise and chuckled, "Thank you miss Miranda." They came upon two eloquently designed doors made of glass. Each one had gold vines growing up the surface. The glass itself was misted and gave the lure of hiding secrets beyond a thick mist. King Roland pushed on a gold leaf that acted as a handle and both doors opened without complaint.

Miranda gasped at the sight of a luscious garden before her. It was as if the goddess Dionysus herself had come down from Mount Olympus and blessed the garden.

"Do you read Greek literature, Miranda?" King Roland asked curiously. Miranda blushed, realizing she must have said those words aloud. "A little bit," she admitted, gazing lovingly out to the garden. "Sofia had to write a paper about one of the Greek legends. She found a story about Hades and Persephone and couldn't stop reading it. I guess she's a helpless romantic like me."

King Roland chuckled, "Your daughter seems like a wonderful girl. You are more than welcomed to bring her to the castle if you would like. I know it's a little forward, but I hate the idea of you being here without her."

Miranda smiled, "I appreciate that, King Roland. Actually, Sofia's been wanting to see the castle for a long time. I'll be sure to let her know, I'm sure she'll be happy."

King Roland smiled, before giving her the tour of the garden. "My sister and I used to come here all the time when we were little. She always enjoyed climbing the trees we have over there. Once she fell and scraped her knee, and our mother was furious because as a princess she wasn't allowed to do something like that."

"Was she alright?" Miranda asked.

He nodded, "Yes, she was. I try to let Amber and James be themselves and not worry about what is expected of them unless they're being rude to visitors." He sighed to himself, "Sometimes I feel that I'm being too strict with them, but at the same time I'm not sure if I'm being strict enough." He cast a curious look at her as if probing her for answers on how to be a parent.

"With all due respect, your highness, I'm still learning myself. Sofia is wonderful but she has her shortcomings too. All children do. In my personal experience, we're all learning."

He nodded and seemed to relax at her words, "I'm glad that's how you see it. Sometimes I feel I should know these things but it all seems so complicated, especially since they don't have a-" he stopped himself then, caught up with emotions over the loss of his love.

Miranda spotted a white bench nearby and gestured to it. King Roland and her sat down next to one another. Miranda hesitated but she reached out and touched his back, gently rubbing it the same way she would rub Sofia's when she was upset. "It's alright," Miranda said, "It's okay to still be hurting." She couldn't imagine how long he's been like this, wanting desperately to mourn but fearing it wasn't right. As a king, he needed to be strong and dependable. As a man, he needed time to heal.

King Roland sighed under her touch, over ten years of tension melting away. Yet Miranda could still see he was struggling to remain strong, fighting to keep his composure regardless of the situation. Unlike her, King Roland was raised to be a king, raised to remain strong and unyielding to all forces in order to protect his kingdom, his home, and his family. She understood what it was like to fight to remain rigid and sturdy as a statue, but holding all those emotions in only made the pain worse. "It's okay," Miranda said. King Roland choked, his shoulders growing tense under her touch. "Let it out."

The dam broke, and before her very eyes, the king cried. He fell forward, his hands covering his face as he sobbed. Being so far out in the garden no one could hear them and that was another important element to helping King Roland heal. Through his sobs she continued to touch his back, offering him comfort the only way she could.

For several long minutes, he cried out all the anguish, the heartbreak, and the fear he was failing. It flooded out of him in waves of sobs. Miranda never stopped rubbing his back. Seeing someone cry like this made her heart wrench, she wanted to embrace him but held herself steady. She had no right to hold him as if he were a close friend or family member. Touching him like this might already be pushing boundaries.

Soon his sobs began to calm down, his shoulders started to relax and when he sat up he looked visibly better. Miranda smiled and removed her hand from his back. She noticed he seemed a little disappointed by this but didn't comment, instead, he smiled at her in thanks.

"I'm glad I'm able to help," Miranda said, "I'm sorry it took so long for you to mourn, but I'm sure your wife wouldn't want you to hold everything in like this."

"I know she wouldn't," he admitted with a sigh, "It's my fault that we lost her. I was so desperate for a family and..." he paused a few more tears leaked out. Miranda, not thinking of her actions, took her apron and wiped them away from his cheek, stunning them both. Miranda quickly stopped, scared she overstepped her boundaries and smoothed out her skirts, "I'm sorry if I'm smothering you, I'm so used to do this sort of thing with my daughter, Sofia, that my instincts kicked in."

"You're a natural," King Roland said with admiration, "Please don't apologize, Miranda, I appreciate all that you're doing for me. I only wish I could repay you for your kindness."

She smiled, "You gave me more money than I agreed upon, your highness. There is no need for further payment."

"Well, I should at least thank you for your kindness. Not many ask how I'm feeling when it comes to my loss and my children." He looked to the skies once more, "Sometimes it feels as though the entire world is weighing on my shoulders. At times I wish I wasn't born a prince, but someone else, like a baker."

"Why a baker?" She inquired curiously, slightly amused by the idea that the king would want to be a baker. King Roland chuckled quietly, "Baking pastries seems so much easier and less stressful than running a kingdom. You've seen the hassle everyone is going through for a single visit. Everything has to be in tip-top condition or else we are judged by the rest of high society. If I don't meet the expectations of everyone in the room then I'm immediately seen in a negative light. It's so hard to make choices that benefit everyone, especially when you're constantly judged for it. I worry that I will end up ruining Enchancia and bringing our kingdom to ruin."

"You can't please everyone, King Roland," Miranda said, "You can only do so much. The same way a baker can't make a cake for everyone in the room. Some people just don't like cake."

King Roland chuckled, "That is true. I never thought of that before. I guess that means being a baker isn't as easy as I'm making it out to be."

"As someone who has to bake her bread every week, yes. Being a baker isn't easy, especially when you're baking to meet everyone's expectations."

He nodded turning to face her, "I appreciate this talk, Miranda. And you are more than welcome to bring Sofia to the castle on your next visit." He stood up and offered his hand to her. He pulled her to her feet and straighten out his clothes, "I apologize for having to leave so soon, but I'm afraid that I've been gone too long and our head steward, Baileywick is probably searching the entire castle from top to bottom to find me."

Miranda bowed, "I understand, and I look forward to seeing you again, King Roland."

He smiled at her, "If it's just the two of us, you can call me 'Roland' instead. That is if you don't mind." He took her hand and kissed her knuckles, "Until next time." He said and hurried off back to the castle, leaving a stunned Miranda behind to watch him, an all too familiar warmth flooding her chest.