Happily Never After

Annabelle Hearst is just another person in the Headow kingdom, ruled by the Tomlinson family. Pressured by his father the king, Prince Louis is searching for a bride, a wife to make him a heir. He stumbles into Annabelle, one of the few who doesn't venerate the royal family. Can he convince her to come to the live the royal life with him willingly, or will he have to force her into it?

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11. Goodbyes

“I trust your horse-back riding was pleasant?” Perrie enquires while combing my hair.

“It was,” I nod, keeping my gaze fixed on her actions as she tries arranging my wet strands into a respectable bun. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” I trail on, smiling faintly. She beams.

“Once you get to know him, the Prince isn’t so bad.”

I mull her response in my head. Has she seen him like I have at the clearing?

“If you don't mind me asking,” I start, “for how long have you know Louis?”

“About five years. When we were in our early teenage years, he'd pretend I was a pretty girl he’d meet and he'd try wooing me. I basically taught him what girls do and do not like,” she grins. “We we're great friends at one point and then...” her smile drops faintly, “and then came the royal responsibilities and I had my maid ones and we simply drifted apart.” Her shoulders sag slightly before she regains composure, finishing up my bun. “But what's past is past and one mustn’t dwell on it,” she ends hastily. “Now lunch is going to be soon: let's fetch you a dress.”

I frown as Perrie leaves for mere seconds before returning with a pale blue dress with rhinestones climbing along the waist.

“This should do,” she states before helping me get into it in hasty but precise movements.

I still wasn't used to the whole getting help while getting dressed, nor the large amount of space or the lack of noise I used to get from my younger siblings. It was almost destabilizing how quickly I had to adapt to everything, from the posture of a princess to everything she wasn't able to do, say and even think. I had no say on my clothing until my agreement this morning with Louis, no say on my bathing hours, no say on where I had to be. No say on if I wanted a child or not: I was to be pregnant sooner than later. Everything was being decided for me, and I loathed it. So far, the only thing I had had complete control on was my breathing. Even then, I felt as if it were too much. A disturbance within the castle. I felt like an odd painting, a wrecked one, within the portraits of highly important kings and queens of the past.

Lunch passed way too quickly for my taste. Soon after it was over, the king hastily ordered for my family to leave within the next fifteen minutes or they’d be forced out. I gathered it wouldn’t be pleasant.

“Mother I won't be able to do this,” I cry softly once the fatal goodbye has arrived. “I'm not strong enough. I need you,” I persist, hugging her tighter. The twins are also in the family hug, their grubby little arms latched on my legs.

“I'll be there to support you every single minute Annabelle...” she responds, hugging me back. “I'll always be there for you. Always. Even when you feel all alone alright? I’m right here,” she says, touching my chest where my heart is currently pounding madly in dread. 

I nod, crying in her shoulder and letting her hold me tightly in her arms while we still can. Minutes later she’s pulling away and I’m bending down to hug my siblings tightly. Their eyes are puffy and red, fat tears rolling down their cheeks.

“Why you not coming home?” Finn cries, rubbing his eye with his small fists.

“Why you leaving again?!” Leah agrees, wrapping her arms around my neck as I engulf them in a tight hug.

“Pwince Louis is mean!”

As Finn says that, he looks up angrily at the Prince standing barely a few feet away from me. My husband approaches, squatting down so he’s at our height. The words that come out of his mouth surprise me.

“I am aren’t I?” He says gently. Leah digs her face into my neck while her brother turns around, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I do not want to talk wif you,” he states, pouting.

“I’m sorry Finn for taking your sister. But you’ll see her again I promise,” Louis continues softly, reaching over to turn my brother towards us. I watch the twin take a deep, exasperated sigh.

“Pwomise?” he says finally, turning towards us slowly. More tears fill his eyes. “Pwomise I see Belle again?”

“I promise,” Louis nods, still talking quietly.

“Pinky pwomise?” he persists, holding out his tiny finger. Louis looks at me, not understanding. I guess royalty didn’t do pinky promises.

“You slip your pinky into his, and shake,” I mumble, still hugging a sobbing Leah.

“Oh. Pinky promise,” Louis agrees, hooking his pinky with Finn’s.

“Hey princess,” I whisper into Leah’s ear, rubbing her back. “I’m going to be alright okay? We’ll see each other again...”

“But what about when I have bad dweams?” She cries. I cringe. For the last couple of months, my baby sister had indeed been having nightmares. When it happens, Leah would usually come in my room and cuddle with me until she’d fall asleep once more.

“Here,” I say without thinking, reaching for the blue and silver bracelet on my wrist. I slide it onto hers. “Hold on to it while you sleep and you won’t have any nightmares alright?” I try, wiping he warm tears with my thumb. The sound of metal and chains comes to my ears. I turn my head to see a small handful of guards step outside the castle.

Louis stands beside me, making me stand up as he does so.

“This is as long as it can get,” he tells me softly, rubbing my arm. “These guards will escort them back safely to your home okay?” I shake my head, moving to hug my mother once more.

“I love you,” I whimper, another wave of tears hitting me.

“I know sweetheart. I love you too,” she says, hugging back. “Can you promise me something?” She continues.

“Anything,” I acquiesce rapidly.

“Remember who you are Annabelle. Never lose sight of who you are,” she says, her hands cupping my cheeks before she is escorted away, holding a hand of each twin. My vision is blurry and I resist the strong urge to simply run after them. Run after them and take them away to a faraway land where we’d be alone and safe. I feel anger crackling inside me. The Prince. It’s all of his doing. If I hadn’t met him, everything would be like it used to be!

“Annabelle―”

“Please,” I hiccup, moving his hand away from my body. “Don’t touch me. I wish to be alone right now,” I manage.

Louis bites his lip, weight shifting from one foot to the other.

“Annabelle―”

Suddenly, Louis’s earlier signs of affection and guilt didn’t matter anymore. It was his entire fault.

“Don’t talk! It’s all your fault!” I cry, shutting him off. As I watch my family being urged out of the castles gates, I feel as if my heart is being wrung out of my chest. Louis’ hand grips my arm tightly, all sympathy gone.

“You think I don’t bloody know that?!” He retorts heatedly. “I know it’s my fault and I’m sorry but―”

“No! You don’t know anything or else you wouldn’t have selfishly taken me away! You’re not sorry at all!” I continue, pain overbearing reason. “I don’t want to live with you and I certainly don’t want to make you an heir! I hate you!” I sob. Louis let’s go of my arm like he’s touched poison.

“You want to be alone? Fine. Zayn will bring you back to your room where you aren’t allowed to leave nor receive any company. I’ll be taking care of you right after my meeting,” he snaps, his tone leaving no place for arguing.

“Louis―”

“This was way out of line, Annabelle,” he snarls, handing me over to Zayn. “Way out of line,” he repeats, straightening his shirt as Zayn pulls me back inside the castle. Minutes later, I’m pushed into my room.

“I have no idea what you were trying to accomplish right there Princess, but whatever it was, you failed,” the dark-haired boy states dryly before shutting the door in my face and locking it.

Letting out a cry, I pull the pin holding my complicated bun together and let my hair flow freely, before removing my jewelry and throwing my shoes somewhere in the room. The control I had exercised on my emotions for the last couple of days had shattered as the realness of it all hit me. I’d see Mum and the twins once per week at most. Only that. How could I assure their survival with so little?!

I whimper, placing my head in my hands as I sit at the side of my bed.

“Annabelle?”

I’m startled to hear an accented voice. I lift my head up to see Harry’s wife, Élodie, walking in from the bathroom.

“How did you get in here?” I question. “I’m not supposed to have anybody in my room.”

“If you wish my departure―”

“No,” I shake my head. “You can stay,” I pat the mattress beside me. “You can sit.”

“I’d rather stand,” she denies. That’s curious.

“I don’t mean to sound rude, but where’s your husband?” I ask.

“He had to attend the same meeting your own husband had to attend. They’re discussing of alliances between Stoneshire and Headow. Economic alliances,” she trails on, looking around in my bedroom. “They’re thinking of modifying the frontiers for the benefit of both kingdoms.”

“How do you know all that?” I frown. Louis hadn’t told me a single thing about his meeting... What did Harry tell her?

“Oh my husband doesn’t openly tell me that kind of stuff,” she shakes her head, reading my surprised expression. “He’s not allowed to. So I find the information myself.”

“How?”

I watch the blonde princess as she walks around the bedroom, stopping in front of the mirror.

“Surely you’ve noticed I’m not very talkative...” she starts, her fingers tracing the intricate designs on the side of the mirror. “Being quiet has its advantages, especially when you’re a princess.”

“I rather voice my thoughts. Because then I fear I’ll be treated as if I’m not there,” I counter.

Élodie smiles. “Indeed I’ve noticed that about you...” she nods. “But on the other hand, you get to hear all sorts of stuff and focus on finding the message behind facial expressions. It’s crazy how much the eyes, the posture and the fists of someone can tell if you really pay attention to them...” she trails on, leaving her sentence hanging.

“What else have you noticed about me?” I say, realizing she’s insinuating something.

“Well that’s my business, isn’t it?” Élodie beams, coking her eyebrow upwards. “I can’t tell you every single detail; they’ll lose their value.” She clasps her hands together, sighing. “I’ll be going now... Wouldn’t want Louis to find me after he’d explicitly asked you be left alone. Friendly tip Annabelle; think before you speak. Speech is silver, but silence is gold. Trust me, I know,” she ends, before walking out of my room.

“What does that even mean?” I grumble, having mixed feelings for Élodie. She was frustrating, yet very intriguing. And she knew something I didn’t. I had to speak with her again.

 

*****

 

“Would you care to explain your earlier behaviour?!” Louis demands, stomping in my room towards the very end of the afternoon. I shut my eyes in exasperation, still lying on my bed. “Annabelle!”

“What do you want me to respond?” I sigh, sitting up slowly to look at him. “I hadn’t properly mourned my departure or my marriage with you or anything really since I’d set foot in the castle. I just exploded.”

“Oh really?! You simply exploded? And how am I supposed to explain that to the few people who heard you?! You insulted me Annabelle!”

“I’m sorry―”

“No you’re not because you keep speaking without thinking of the consequences of your words!” He states angrily. Louis sighs, calming himself. “I’ll go fetch Perrie and ask her to arrange your hair and help you into another dress before dinner. After dinner with my father, you’re coming into my room and we’re trying for a child once more.”

“Louis―”

“If you really are sorry for what you’ve said, you won’t argue with me on this,” he ends dryly before leaving my room.

Barely a few seconds later, Perrie is walking in, a silver dress in her hands. I’m wordless as she helps me change, Louis words replaying in my head: we’ll be trying for a child once more tonight.

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