Serena's birthday was going to be unlike any other she had before. It was to be prodigious! The castle was noisy and the people inside were as busy as bees. Serena could almost hear the foundations of the castle groaning under the rushing feet that passed by her door. She had been aroused by the sound of one of the maids screeching down the hall. It was dawn, then, and the sun had barely risen. It was supposed to be like every one of her other birthdays where she could be carefree. But it was not to be. Unlike, her other birthdays she had been rudely awakened and could not drift back to sleep. She was only turning a year older than twelve. Did it matter if she didn't get a dozen cakes?
Serena sat on her bed, legs crossed staring out her window stifling a yawn. Luna circled around the space beside Serena, tangling herself in the sheets. And with a satisfied meow plopped down beside Serena.
"Will I have suitors from now on?" Serena asked, curious.
Luna eyed her warily. "Why, yes, of course. You've seen how it is with your sister."
Serena scowled, " I'm not too fond of the idea. I am much more used to men courting Selene."
Serena continued, her voice much lighter, "I hope Selene is picky. If she marries a bore like one of those ministers in the council I'll... I don't know... Maybe cut any ties in being related to her."
"Serena don't talk like that. It is your sister's decision."
"Yeah, I suppose... Still she'll have me around to help her chose."
Luna lowered her head in irritation. "Serena, you just don't get it."
The cat's remark was quickly diminished at the sound of a loud crash just right outside Serena's door. With the exception of soft cursing from a few servants, the castle went still for moment, as a silence lingered. Seconds later, the people were busy again.
"It's been like this all morning," Serena groaned. "Can't any one get some sleep around here."
The sun had risen over the horizon by now. Soon farmers were going to be tending fields, children would be out playing, merchants selling their goods, and the rest. Everyday was the same for Serena. She would go down for breakfast, have her princess lessons, and have at least one hour of her time before dinner. In that one hour, she usually spent it on riding her white pony in the large castle grounds, yearning and dreaming to be among the people. Occasionally she would glance at the stiff guards who watched her ride making sure she did not fall off or runaway. It was impossible to lose them while they were on the backs of the great bays. However she was never intimidated by their presence as her mother had wish.
Queen Serenity never liked the idea that her youngest daughter found so much pleasure in riding rather than sewing, reading, or other lady-like things and therefore always had guards watch her whenever she went out. To make up for displeasing her mother Serena learned to play the harp. Serena took much pride in her playing. It was actually something she enjoyed doing. She loved the sound the harp made and she knew her mother did, too.
Serenity had lost her husband long ago just before Serena was born. She was afraid she had not been the loving mother that Serena needed. Serenity's grief of her late husband's death consumed her in the first beginning years of Serena's life, leaving Serenity little time to spend caring and raising young Serena as she did Selene. Sometimes Serenity blamed herself for the way Serena acted, but she grew to love her daughter the way she was; just like her husband.
"I'm famished," Serena cried. "Want to share cake with me?"
Serena stood in the kitchen with her cat in her arms. Desperate to make someone hear her. "Excuse me," the princess said to a passing servant for the fifth time. This man walked right past her as if she were just an apparition. This is outrageous, I am a princess, and I demand attention! Finally, Serena sighed in defeat.
"What's the point of it being your birthday when no one has the time to listen to you?"
Luna meowed her agreement.
Serena silently thanked the cat for sticking by her. After taking one last look at the kitchen, Serena stepped out.
Serena was walking silently in a glum mood.
"I wish this day would just be over."
"Serena," Selene called. "Mother wants to speak with you."
Serena smiled at her sister relieved that she at least was real to her.
"I seriously do not know. If I had any idea I would tell you, but I don't." Serena looked at her sister who looked listless. Could she have been up all night preparing for this occasion?
Silently Selene led Serena to Queen Serenity's accommodations. They entered over the
threshold of Queen Serenity's guestroom with slight caution. Serena was ready for a chiding again if that was what Serenity wanted to do. At the sight of her daughters the queen dismissed her servants with a wave of her hand. Servant after servant left in single file. Luna who had followed the girls leapt gracefully onto a chair beside Serenity.
Serenity smiled slowly at the cat before turning her full attention to her youngest child.
"Serena, Dear, sit down." Serenity waved her over to the cushions that lay neatly in front of the queen. "Would you like anything, Dear?"
"Cake would be nice, some for Luna too!" Serena said, her voice high with excitement.
Serenity laughed. She picked up the bell on the arm of her chair and rang it once. Serena watched as she dangled the bell just at her fingertips. The bell twinkled for a moment and faded calling forth a servant. Serenity ordered four pieces of cake. And like a bolt of lightning the servant was gone again carrying out the command.
Then, settling in again, Serenity spoke calmly. "You are turning thirteen today."
"So it seems," Serena mumbled.
Serenity laughed at that remark, surprising Serena. Serena was expecting a scolding from her mother for such a rude remark, but Serenity bewildered her by sending a light laugh into the atmosphere. Eyebrows rose to their full extent, Serena stared at her mother.
"Yes our people are showing much enthusiasm over your coming of age. You should be gratified."
"Yes," Serena agreed.
"You will also be highly praised once you become queen."
Serena suddenly looked wide-eyed at her mother. "But I thought Selene is the heir to your throne. She is older."
"Yes, Selene will remain the rightful heir of course. She was named heir the day she was born. You, my dear will still be queen even though not one for this country. And what a fine one you will make." Serenity's face was shinning with pride as she spoke.
"What ever do you mean by that, Mother?" Her voice came out a tremble even though she tried not to sound scared.
"I mean you are to marry a prince who will some day be king. Your betrothed with arrive in a few days. You will meet him, then, showing him your more feminine side, I might add."
"What?" Serena squeaked in surprised.
Selene briskly moved into the conversation, "Mother, how long has it been since this arrangement? I was not informed at all about this."
With a wave of her hand as if to brush a way the question, Serenity answered. "Oh I don't know. I suppose a full year now."
Serena jumped in outrage. "What? You mean to tell me this pairing has been set for a year and you never had the time to let me know?!"
"Serena calm down-"
"No, Selene! This has nothing to do with you! Stay out!" Serena lashed at her sister.
Turning a furious gaze at her mother Serena continued, "this isn't fair, Mother! Why not her?" Serena jabbed her finger in the air pointing it directly at her beloved sister. Selene flinched.
"Serena, you are my second daughter-"
"Is that why?! I'm always just second, so I'm not that important."
Selene was in tears by now. "It's not true! You know it's not true, Serena. How can you ever say something like that. There aren't any favorites in this family!"
Serena stared at her sister too stunned to speak. She didn't mean to take her anger out on her sister. She was truly raging because of her mother who just sat there as if she were mute. Serenity's mouth was slightly opened as the meaning of Serena's words seeped into her mind. Only when her youngest daughter spoke again did she wake from her reverie. "So?"
"No, to remain royalty you marry royalty. That is one of your duties, Daughter."
So her mother was willing to give away her happiness just to keep her in another castle. Serena could not believe what she was hearing. She would have to sell herself out to some stranger whom she never met. She had no idea whether he was a brute or an angel. But that was not the point. A princess had no say in this. It was her mother's decision, her opinion did not matter, but what about this prince?
Serena spoke evenly trying to hide all emotions as she spoke. "What of the prince? What does he think of this?"
"He did not mind," the queen answered shortly.
Serena bowed her head. She had held back the tears for so long she could not believe the barrier that held them back was breaking. As tears found their way out, Serena finally looked at her mother, sorrow glazed in those once light, exuberant eyes.
"I have no say in this..." she said darkly. Serenity sat, unmoving, staring up at her daughter through loving eyes.
Serena could not stand her mother's serene mood anymore. She had to get out. Running blindly out of the room with tears streaming down her face Serena did not look back. Her sobs were heard, obstructing any commotion from before. Serena did not hear even Selene's desperate calls for her sister to come back.
Serena lay in her bed as still and as heavy as stone when Luna slipped in unnoticed. She tried kindly licking the dried tearstains on Serena's cherub face. For a moment Serena had left her stupor state as she finally acknowledged the cat's presence. Immediately she became absentminded again when her hand incessantly stroke the black cat's back.
At the sound of her name she came back again. Sighing, she turned over on her side her face staring away from the cat. "Today is my birthday. Why does it have to be this way?"
Luna's stare that had found its place on the back of Serena's head drifted away. She was just as discontented as the birthday girl.
"I hope you at the very least join the festivities later on this evening. It is held, of course, in your honor, princess."
Yes, attending functions held for her or other members of the noble or royal class was the first on the list of 'Princess Duties (a.k.a. Can't-get-a-life) List.' She was expected to follow these rules for the rest of her life? Yes. It was the only thing for a princess to look forward in doing.
After many minutes Luna knew that Serena was not going to talk. Now, Serena could hear the cat leaving.
"Luna if I was never born would not my family be happier?"
There was a long silence where the cat contemplated what she was asking. And suddenly the cat gave the princess' back a toothy grin.
"They would miss the joys of life because that is what you are. That of course would include missing all those times of scolding you... Why do you ask a question, in which you know the answer to?"
Luna did not expect the girl to answer as she moved to leave again, but Serena halted her yet again. "Luna"
"What is it now?"
"Even though you are just a cat... I still love you."
"I love you as I love Mother and Selene. Do not forget that." Serena drifted to a whisper.
"I will not forget, Princess."
Just then Serena made up her mind. As long as one being knew and could tell her family of her love for them than she could spare the guilt of leaving. She had admitted that she loved everyone she ever cared even if they did not care about her. Only one decision remained firm and strong in her mind that she would no longer be Princess Serena, but just plain Serena. It was only her title that was going to be given up when she left, nothing more.
Things are going real slow. School has found it's place in my schedule, but writing and website building is otherwise. Well, I'm going to be working on the third chapter soon. When I'm done with that, then the forth, and after that the fifth, and next, the sixth and so on and so forth. This story is far from over. And because of that there is a lot to write (obviously). So good-bye for now.