He explained that each of us would have a private room and be attended by two maids
Next, Nathan brought us to a large staircase that separated the east and west wings. In the west wing,
he pointed us to the elaborate, gem–embossed doors of the royal family. The King’s door was the largest,
with the Luna beside his 1
Each of the princes‘ doors were the same size and design, though with different colored gemstones.
Nicholas’s gemstones were green. Julian’s red. And Joyce, a pale kind of purple
Pretty,” Elva said.
I stared at Nicholas’s door, wondering if he was inside. Where had he disappeared to?
I hadn’t been the only one looking.
“I will remind you, ladies, that you are strictly forbidden from seeking out the princes on your own,”
Nathan said. “Any inappropriate advances will have you expelled at once.”
As we continued on, he purposefully passed a few corridors. When one of the girls became curious and
asked him what was down one of them, Nathan shook his head.
“Off limits,” he said. “Absolutely do not enter here. Or face the worst consequences.”
The curious girl immediately quieted.
Nathan led us down the staircase to where a line of maids waited patiently. One of them stood in front
of the rest. She was older, with a severe expression.
“This,” Nathan said, gesturing to her, “Is the head of the palace maids, Lena.”
“Hi, Lena,” Elva said.
Lena glanced over, but her eyes skipped straight over Elva to glare at me.
She gave me such a cold look that it startled me. I was certain I had never seen this woman before in
my life. What could I have done to offend her?
“She doesn’t like you, Mommy.” Elva stretched her arms around my neck, giving me a kind little hug.
I held her close, grateful for it. “Maybe she’s just having a bad day,” I reasoned. I hoped. I really didn’t
need more enemies here.
Nathan and Lena then introduced each girl to the pair of maids that would be assisting them. Those
The two maids assigned to me seemed disappointed. They frowned as Nathan introduced them. I was
the last one left in the hall
“You don’t need them yet, do you? Lena asked. The false cheer in her voice did not match the glower
1 need to prepare them on one more task. You understand I’m sure you can find your way
back on your own
Nathan locked at Lena curiously, but didn’t speak against her
dn’t know how to stand up for myself here, in a place I so clearly didn’t belong
Sol agreed “Of course I will see you both later then ”
They both curtsied and excused themselves as Lena ushered them away.
“If you will excuse me.” Nathan said and also disappeared.
stood with Elva in the hallway for a long time, wondering just what I was doing here.
Eventually, I made my way back to the east wing. I’d gotten turned around only once. I had nearly walked down a forbidden corridor but Elva had stopped me
“Not here, Mommy” she had said.
I’d realized where I was then, fortunately, and turned around. Oddly, I thought I had seen Lena disappear down the stairs as I turned, but I must have imagined it.
At the east wing. I couldn’t quite remember which room was mine, but with all of the other girls returned by now, the process of elimination led me to the last open door.
I pushed it open, relieved to see our suitcases at the end of a large bed.
But then a stopped. Someone else was in here. A man.
My heart raced.
Was it Nicholas?