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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6. Not Ready

I grind my teeth together, and glare at him, swallowing back a heated response.

He smirks.

“That’s what I thought. Now come on, let’s get you in your morning gown and feed you breakfast. Like I mentioned a few seconds ago, today will be a very busy day.” The prince ends.

Precisely two hours later, I was washed, dressed and fed, waiting with Louis in the entrance hall for Prince Niall of Iregar and Prince Harry of Stoneshire.

“Remember Princess, the key word is behave.” Louis whispers in my ear as someone announces their arrival. “And try to smile, please.” He adds, seeing my sour face.

Rolling my eyes, I reluctantly put a smile on my face as two groups of men arrive. One of the groups was a mass of green and silver, while the other was coloured red and black.  I assumed the people walking at the front we’re the Princes, but I couldn’t be sure. The prince of the green mass seemed a little ticked off, gazing between Louis and I while the other had a smile on his face.

As far as I could see, there was only one girl within the crowd, and her arm was locked around the prince of the red and black cluster.

“Loueh!” The curly-haired man smiles while approaching us, the girl still latched around his arm. He seemed only a few years younger than Louis.

“Harold!” Louis moves to greet him, tugging me along.

“How are you doing mate?” The green-eyed man, Harold, continues.

Seriously uninterested, I start placing things together in my mind. So if this is Prince Harry, the other one is Prince Niall...

“Pretty good, pretty good. I see my parents were right when they said you’d get married first?” Louis chuckles, motioning the blonde girl with his head.

“I guess they were.” Harry shakes his head in disbelief before presenting the blonde beauty beside him. “This is Élodie Styles.”

 “It’s my pleasure to meet you,” the teal-eyed princess bows, her voice a soft whisper. Not once does she lift her head to look at us in the eyes.

I’m perplexed, oppositely to both men beside me.

I wonder if she’s here willingly or unwillingly like me...

“The pleasure is all mine,” Louis grins, taking her hand and kissing the top of it. “Élodie? That doesn’t sound like a very common name for someone born in Stoneshire.”

“She’s from the French part of the quarter.” Harry supplies before the girl can even care to elaborate on her origins herself. “And who, may I ask, is this beautiful bride-to-be?”

I start to answer but Louis beats me to it.

“This is Annabelle.” Louis presents, gesturing me.

My mind goes blank for a second. Should I do like Élodie? Or should I introduce myself normally? Am I supposed to even do something?

“Annabelle?” Louis elbows me lightly, pulling me out of my mental debate.

“Oh I’m sorry hi,” I get out awkwardly, waving my hand a little in a usual fashion. I can practically feel Louis face-slapping himself mentally but I shrug it off. It’s his fault. He should’ve told me how to present myself beforehand.

The atmosphere being slightly uncomfortable, I look around only to notice the green and silver crowd is nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s the other prince? Prince Niall?” I enquire. As soon as I feel Louis stiffening beside me, I know I shouldn’t have asked the question.

“Annabelle would you please quit being nosy?” He huffs.

Harry, on the other hand, laughs.

“Mate, live a little! Your father’s not around...”

“You can never be too sure,” The blue-eyed boy denies under his breath, looking around. He squeezes my arm.

“He’s paranoid.” Harry chuckles to me. “Nialler’s probably just a little jealous... He hasn’t found his girl yet.” He explains. “Don’t worry about his annoyed aura though. It’ll wear off. He’s loads of fun at parties.” The Prince of Stoneshire reassures.

Should I be happy about that or not? I don’t even know the boy.

“Zayn?” Louis calls out suddenly, shooting me a sideways glance.

I jump as the dark boy pops out of a corridor, and hastily comes to join us.

“Sir?”

“Zayn!” Harry lets go of Élodie’s arm and envelops him into a manly hug. “It’s been awhile!”

I watch their exchange with interest.

“It has indeed Prince Harry. Your last stay at the castle does go up to eight years ago.” Zayn nods, a smile on his lips. “You’ve grown up well Sir.” He adds.

“And you’re even more stuck up than before... What’s wrong with the two of you?” The red and black prince frowns, looking back and forth between Louis and Zayn. “Last time we saw each other, there weren’t any manners needed. We were friends and we still are.”

“Last time you were ten and I was twelve. I guess we grew up.” Louis answers simply. So Louis used to be fun?

“Louis you can grow up without having to resemble to your father―”

“Harry I do not wish to receive counsel from you. Please.” The older boy cuts swiftly. He pauses, his eyes meeting mine.  “Zayn can you bring Annabelle to Perrie? She has a fitting to attend to in a couple minutes. I want you to stay with her and make sure things go smoothly. I’ll take Harry and Élodie to their respective quarters and check on Niall.”

Zayn nods and takes my arm, but I shrug out of his grasp, clutching Louis’s instead.

“No please Louis.”

He looks down at me, surprised. “What?”

“I did about twenty in the last week, all for the wedding and the after parties and all kinds of ceremonies.” I protest. “I think I’ve tried on more than enough things for the rest of my life.”

“Annabelle this isn’t debatable. Zayn, take her away please.”

I scowl as Louis turns his back to me, leading Harry and Élodie away. Just as they’re about to disappear in the hallway, I see Élodie turn around to look at me. I think she almost smiled. Well that’s a little odd.

“Come on Anna,” The dark-haired boy sighs, tugging me with him in the other direction.

 

*****

 

“The Prince asked that you be wearing one of these sets under your wedding dress.”

“No way. He’s bloody mad if he thinks I’m wearing one of those.” I state, eyeing with strong distaste the lingerie Perrie was handing me.

“It’s really funny how you always seem to think you have a say in things.” Zayn chuckles, leaning on the changing room’s doorframe.

“Go away.” I retort.

“No. Louis told me to make sure you’d listen to his demands and that’s what I’m doing.”

I glare at him.

“You do know I am superior to you, right.” I snap, annoyed.

He lifts his brow, advancing towards me.

“Oh so you also decide when you’re a princess and when you’re not?” He makes a chiding sound, looking at me directly in the eyes. “Sweetheart things don’t work that way. Either you accept your title, which won’t be given to you until tomorrow at dusk, or you don’t. But right now, you are a simple peasant. All of the people here are superior to you. You listen to them without any witty comebacks, understood?”

Zayn is towering over me by the time he’s finished.

I gulp softly as I look up at him, before taking a step backwards to breathe.

“Annabelle am I clear?” he repeats. I stare at him silently for a couple seconds, arguing with myself on whether or not I should piss him off.

“Yes Zayn,” I finally let out.

“Good.” He nods. “Now do what Louis told you to do, and try the lingerie. I’ll be by the door. Perrie, you come and get me if she doesn’t.” The amber-eyed boy ends, shutting the door of the changing room behind him.

Reluctantly, I take a look at the different underwear, stopping at the black pieces.

“Won’t they be visible under a white dress?” I enquire, pointing the jet black bra and panties, hoping to get rid of some of the more provocative choices.

“They won’t show. Your corset will be thick enough.” Perrie supplies.

“Great.” I huff. I gaze at the items once more. “What about the bra straps? They’ll all show under my dress: it only has one band going over my shoulder.”

“Just this morning, some transparent and skin-coloured straps were provided for exactly this purpose.”

I groan.

“There’s no way out of this, is there?”

“I’m afraid not Miss.”

 

 

*****

 

I suck in a breath as Perrie ties the corset tightly around my chest.

Today was the day. I barely slept last night and mainly kept in my room, mostly because I was way too stressed to go out and risk meeting Louis. I had a feeling I would accidentally yell at him and ruin my chances of seeing my family on this appalling day.

Not long after lunch, Louis had instructed a couple maids to help me prepare for the ceremony. A couple hours later, my hair and make-up was done, the only thing left to do being the putting of the dress.

“Am I meant to breathe in this? Because if not, well it’s doing its job.” I gasp once she’s done lacing my back.

“It’s only supposed to help you have a straight posture.” She answers, before walking across the room and opening the bag containing my wedding dress.

“And increase my cleavage.” I add, looking down. I shudder.

“It’s not...” She pauses, looking at me. “That bad.”

Shaking her head, she hands me the dress. With her help, I slip into the soft material. It feels heavier than last time.

“Why doesn’t it seem like it’s the same dress?” I frown, lifting it a bit as I try rotating my hips left and right.

“Your corset is tighter than the actual dress.”

“Oh right. Last time I was allowed to have oxygen.” I nod, gazing at myself in the mirror. I feel guilty admiring the final outlook. There was a Princess in the mirror, and it wasn’t me.

Her golden hair was tied into a half updo; the lower part curled into beautiful circlets and the upper part holding up with complicated strands hair overlapping each other, pinned and held together by a brooch. I bet just the brooch could feed more than one family for more than a month.

My heart clenching in pain, I stop staring at my reflection, tossing one of my strands of hair aside.

“What’s left to put on?”

“Here. There’s the garter, jewelry, tiara and veil and last but not least shoes and then you’re ready. ”

“I’ll never be ready.” I shake my head, taking the earrings and necklace from her hands and putting them on while she slid the garter up my leg.

“Prince Louis isn’t that bad... He actually has a couple wedding gifts for you today.” Perrie admits, placing the delicate tiara on the top of my head before arranging the veil.

“The best wedding gift he could ever give me is my freedom. Freedom from him.”

Perrie stays silent, pulling out a pair of high heels embroidered with diamonds out of a box. I grimace slipping them on.

“I have a feeling I’ll trip, and twist my ankle.”

“You still have a couple minutes... you could practice walking around,” she proposes.

Approving the idea, I try moving here and there in the room, the heavy material pulling my waist downwards at every single step taken. I step on the fabric repeatedly and end up pulling the dress’s train towards me multiple times.

“Why does it have to be so long? It wasn’t last time.”

“Must I remind you that the seamstress lengthened it?” True.

At that moment, Zayn enters my room.

“Are you ready Annabelle? Everybody has arrived, the wedding is about to start.”

A pit forms into my stomach.

“No. No Zayn I’m not ready to bind myself to one of the only legal forms of slavery left.”

“Yes she is,” Perrie contradicts.

“Good.” The dark-haired boy ignores my comment completely. “So you have two main things to focus on tonight.” Zayn presses. “First, you don’t make a scene. The marriage is going to happen whether you like it or not which means you are the only one responsible for the positive or negative nature of the consequences. Also, try to seem happy please? Someone this beautiful should look happy.”

“What if I’m not happy?” I say, taking no notice of his compliment.

Something like guilt flashes momentarily in his eyes, but disappears just as quickly.

“I said seem. You decide if you want to be.” He shrugs, before hooking his arm into mine. “Come on, it’s time to go. They’re waiting for us.”

My heart beats quicker and quicker as we walk down the corridor and towards the Great Hall, where the wedding would take place. We stop at the door.

“Zayn I can’t do this.”

Zayn’s eyes meet my nervous ones. He squeezes my arm reassuringly. “Take a deep breath Annabelle. It’s not like you’re about to be executed.”

Well it sure feels like it.

“Wait until the doors open okay? I need to join Louis up front. See you soon,” Zayn whispers, leaving me all alone.

I should make a run for it. Right now. Run home. Grab my family and flee Headow forever. Never look back.

I feel nauseous; my vision blurry as the distinct sound of people rising is heard.

I jump as the doors are pulled open. My breathing is rapid. You should run Annabelle. 

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