Chapter 7: Annabeth and the Royal Beginnings
I was awoken by a knock on my door. I looked over, and Lexy was already moving to answer it. She looked still half asleep, so I assumed she had been awakened by the knock at the door as well.
She opened the door slowly.
“Yes?” She mumbled.
“Get up you guys, you need to get ready. We need to get to the castle.”
I sighed and pulled the pillow over my head. It felt like a hundred years had passed since Lexy had pounced on me the morning everything had changed.
“Come on,” Lexy grumbled. “We have to look presentable.”
“We have no clothes,” I reminded her.
“No,” She corrected. “I have no clean clothes. You have a closet full.”
I pulled the pillow off my head and looked at her as she opened the closet.
A “Whoa,” escaped my lips before I could stop it.
She then pulled out a short grey dress[CC1] from the closet. It was charcoal color, with lace at the bottom and chiffon bottom.
“This should be good enough to get you into the castle. After that you will need to change again probably.”
“Okay…” I responded uneasily.
“Annie, this is important,” She was looking at me seriously. “You are about to meet your family for the first time. We do not have room for mistakes. We are in far too deep. Way over our heads. You need to play nice. We need their support.”
She looked so vulnerable in that moment it took me by surprise. The tough girl I saw last night was struggling not to fall back to the girl who was scared of everything. She was thinking ahead which was not something I was used to. She had always been a spur of the moment person. But then again, I was used to her always being prepared for those moments, so I should have expected nothing less.
“I promise I will do my best not to blow this.” I told her.
She nodded and handed me the dress; her game face was back on.
“Annie,” She said after a moment.
“Yes?” I responded.
“I’m not so sure I get to play nice in all of this.” She confided.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
Her back was to me so I could change.
“I just mean, I think we have choices in this, but also roles. And it’s my family we’re up against, but it’s more than that. Your family has been passive against Viviana. I found that out from Alex while you were unconscious. And I don’t think I can be passive in this. I don’t want to be passive in this. I don’t want to be bossed around. I need to find my own path with this… Will you still stand by me if I do?”
What was I supposed to say? No? I won’t support you in this endeavor that seems incredibly dangerous? No, I want you to stand alone even though I have no idea what we’re up against? Those weren’t options. And she was vulnerable.
So, instead, I agreed and tried to get inside her mind a little more.
“Do you have a plan?”
I couldn’t help but be surprised, but then again, she had had 3 days to come up with something.
“Care to elaborate?” I questioned.
“Not yet,” She answered, walking over to comb my hair. “I need a little more information before it can be a solid plan.”
I nodded. “That makes sense.”
She smiled. It was the first time I had seen her smile since I had woken up. I was glad she wasn’t falling into some mad depression because of all the pressure. I was glad she could still smile. But the pain that was coursing through me made it hard to smile back.
“Come on,” She said after she had calmed my curls down a little. “Alex said we needed to have a meeting before we leave.”
I was confused by how much she knew, but I suppose I should have never been surprised by it. That was the kind of person she was. Always in the know, whether she was supposed to or not.
I pushed away the pain and followed her out the door.
“Princess,” Jake grumbled as we passed him in the hall.
“I’m a person too!” Lexy all but shouted at him, and I couldn’t help but let a chuckle escape from my lips.
“What?” She looked at me with obvious confusion.
“What do you mean what?” I hid my smile.
“Just because you are the Princess, does not mean I’m going to let people walk all over me.” She retorted.
Her comment from earlier seemed to make a lot more sense now. And I realized she was worried about other people not taking her seriously. And being her best friend, I would stand for nothing less than her thriving in our new roles.
“That won’t happen,” I told her sincerely.
She gave me a small smile but changed the subject.
“I’m going to run and get my sister’s really quick. They have orders not to leave their room without a grown up. For their own protection.”
I nodded but again I felt her pain. She was the grown up now, and she was the one who had to backtrack to their room. No one else was going to do it for her. I headed down the stairs to the kitchen. To my surprise, there were way more people here than there had been last night.
There was a mumble of the word “Princess” and a couple nods and bows in my direction but overall, no one paid any attention to me, which I was glad for. I just grabbed a plate and joined the line for food.
“Feeling lost, Princess?” A voice whispered in my ear.
To my surprise, it was no one I had met yet.
“I’m Matt,” He told me, reading my confusion like a book. “I live here. And am in charge of feeding everyone.”
I gave him a smile. He had unruly light brown hair and the brightest grey-blue eyes I had ever seen.
“Annabeth,” I corrected. “You can drop the Princess stuff and call me Anna.”
He cocked his head in surprise.
“You know, that’s pretty cool Anna. But I have to be careful who I call you that around. You understand, right?”
I honestly didn’t have a clue what he meant, but I nodded anyway. This new status thing was overwhelming. I wasn’t used to it. I was used to being a nobody. Now, I could feel the stares of everyone around.
“I have no idea what I’m doing here,” I confided to him.
He again gave me a look of confusion as I grabbed a pancake and started putting fruit on it. They had a lot of fruit.
“Like you had no idea you were a princess till Vivian attacked you?” He tried to clarify.
“That would be correct.” I told him, moving to find a seat at the table.
“That’s pretty cool.” He smiled.
“Why?” I questioned. “I have no idea how to be a princess or if I even want to be.”
“I mean, you know how normal people live,” He responded simply. “You’ve grown up thinking you’re nothing special. And that can get in your way, or it can help you relate to your people and help them grow. Especially once we’re out of war time.” He shrugged. “If you want my opinion, now is not the time to be passive in anything. I think you gotta take whatever you can and run at it, full force.”
“She didn’t ask your opinion, Matt.” Jake barked before I could say anything.
A slight pink hue crept into his cheeks, and he looked down at his food.
“Thank you, Matt.” I responded, shooting a glare at Jake. He could be just so rude sometimes.
“We’re not here to make friends,” Jake stated firmly. His intense eyes met mine.
“I am.” I replied, shifting uneasily. “I’m not going to be locked up in a prison with no friends. That sounds terrible.”
“Isn’t prison supposed to be terrible?” Jake shot back.
“Well you would know,” Lexy interjected as she came in and sat down next to me, her sister’s following suit. “You tell us.”
Jake shot her an intense glare but didn’t say anything.
“If you can’t deal with it, you shouldn’t dish it,” She replied simply, looking completely unbothered.
“Anyways, are you guys excited to go to the castle today?” Matt asked.
Lexy shrugged, and I felt that sinking feeling once again. I felt out of place being so dressed up and there was Lexy and these guys I had only just met dressed in leggings and jeans and looking casual. Everything was changing. I wasn’t meant to be a Princess. I didn’t even know what I was really doing staying here except it felt kind of safe. But at the same time, I couldn’t breathe here. It made me feel anxious. What if my feelings were right and I wasn’t going to be good at this?
“That was less than enthusiastic.” Matt mumbled.
And I turned my head to see Lexy cock her head slightly. She looked so much older since we had left school, but in that moment, she looked like a kid again.
“Why would I be excited to go to a place where I will most likely be ridiculed?” She asked, her bluntness was something I always loved but this time I didn’t understand.
“Lexy, what are you talking about?” I asked, as both the boys seemed to lower their eyes in shame.
“Vivian’s my aunt.” She explained again simply, looking totally unbothered as she took a bite of food. “I’m related to her. Whether I actually know her or not, doesn’t matter. People will see me as bad.”
“That’s pretty negative, Lex.” I commented, trying to keep my cool after realizing she was thinking about all this as much as I was.
“It’s the truth, Annie.” She responded before Matt jumped in to change the subject.
“So, have either of you guys been to a dance before?”
“We’re freshman,” Lexy let out a small laugh, and I couldn’t help but smile myself. “Of course we haven’t.”
“Right,” Matt continued, but this time he smiled. “You’ll get to go to one even better than anyone you would have gone to before.”
I sighed. I hadn’t been looking forward to my first dance. It was Lexy who had wanted to go. That was what had made us go to school early that morning. That was the day everything had changed. That day was just days ago and I couldn’t understand it. Any of it really.
I looked toward Lexy who smiled politely. “I’ll be looking forward to it.” Her voice didn’t match her smile though.
She felt as I did. True or not, a dance is what had gotten us into this mess in the first place.
Matt’s face fell slightly, and I tried to smile.
“So, when do we leave?” I asked.
“As soon as Alex is ready.” Matt informed me. “Jake will be going with you. I’m afraid I’m not allowed.”
Lexy got up without a word, and her and her sisters disappeared through the door.
“What’s the big deal about this Alex guy?” I asked between bites. That waffle was really good.
Matt and Jake exchanged looks, and I pretended not to notice. They were trying to decide how much to tell me and that annoyed me, but I suppose I didn’t really have a right to know everything yet.
“He’s in charge. He’s a decent guy. He does his best to keep the peace.”
“The peace between who?” I wondered aloud.
“The people and the royal family.” Jake huffed. “A bunch of filthy rich selfish only care about themselves no goods.”
“Yikes. Is that why you hate me?” I asked trying to keep my voice even.
“I don’t hate you.” He all but growled. “But you’re one of them, and sooner or later you’ll realize what that means.”
“Or you could just tell me now,” I prodded. I wanted to know why he thought so low of me.
He rolled his eyes, and Lexy walked back in the room. It wasn’t hard to notice her. As far as I could tell there weren’t very many women around. But I also thought from my own perspective that I wouldn’t want to be a guard if I was choosing a profession. Plus, Lexy was dressed in normal, filthy street clothes, and everyone else was in button up shirts or had on white t-shirts and a black sweat jacket that had a small castle on the right-hand side.
And with that realization, I had a slight glimmer of hope. Lexy was still Lexy despite everything. She was my best friend. My rock. My person. Whatever anyone said or anyone did, she was going to stick with me. She looked tired and somehow older. But she was still Lexy. And for that I was grateful.