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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4. Royal Stuff

“Just on time,” Zayn sighs, walking me through yet another set of grand doors, leading to a very massive bedroom.

I stand there in awe and disbelief. He could save a quarter of the homeless with a bedroom this big... Why can’t royal family members even think about sharing their wealth?

“Wait here okay? Louis should join you any second,” Zayn continues, walking back over to the doors. He pauses. “Try to make yourself at home yeah? It’s not going to be that bad.” He ends with a sad smile before shutting the door softly. Home. The word is like a trigger in my mind.

I drop to the floor as soon as the doors shut behind me, hugging my knees. I start crying once more, thinking of the torn faces of the twins and my mother when I’d left. They’d haunt me. Forever. Because I’ll be living in this filthy rich place, possessing various jewelry and tons of food, while they’ll be begging in the streets, striving for survival. They might not even make it through the year. Winter’s always been the most unforgiving season, even when I was there. I sob even harder. Oh my God please help me save them.

“Now now, why is a pretty princess like you, sitting on the floor?” His voice sing-songs.

I look up to see Louis entering from a door across the room. He frowns as his joyful eyes meet my blotchy, tear-stained face. He walks over and crouches down beside me.

“And why are you all teary eyed?” He enquires, lifting my chin up with his index finger. “A Princess doesn’t cry.”

“You took me away.”

 “You can’t say I didn’t warn you...”

“Louis my family... Do you realise that by taking me away like that, you’re going to let three people die?!” I whisper-shout through my tears. “Two of them being three-year-olds!” I add, sniffling.

He seems taken aback for mere seconds, before regaining his cool composure.

“Annabelle you can’t blame this on me. You are part of the reason this happened so quickly too.”

“But even if I had acted respectful.... Even if I would’ve had more time with them... You would’ve taken me!” I shout, more salty tears blurring my vision.

“No need to shout Princess I’m right beside you.” The blue-eyed boy says, annoyed. “You cannot predict what would’ve happened if. What ifs aren’t proper questions...Now get off the floor.” He straightens himself, and hands me his hand to take.

I don’t move.

“Annabelle stand up please.” The prince sighs.

I refuse to answer, still clutching my legs tightly. A shaky breath escapes my lips as I try to make the tears stop flowing.

“Belle,” his tone takes a warning edge but I don’t care, too shocked by the nickname he just gave me. How dare he?

“Don’t ever call me that you understand?” I seethe lowly, looking up at him. “I forbid you.” I continue, standing up angrily as I try to sound as menacing as possible. “Only family is allowed to call me Belle and you are far from what I’d call family!” I go on, shoving him.

“Don’t use that tone with me little lady.” Louis retaliates, grabbing my wrists tightly between his fingers.

My heated glare doesn’t falter.

“And as far as I know, we’ll be family soon enough, and we’ll even be creating our own. Isn’t that wonderful?” He mocks, his grip tightening on my wrists. He yanks me closer to him he so he can whisper in my ear. “You better start acting properly Princess, or I might lock you up into a room until our wedding day.”

“It might be better like that then. I don’t belong in these rich walls.” I say quietly, my aggressive demeanour shattering as brusquely as it came. “You can send me back home if you hate me that much. You claim you love me yet I feel absolutely no love emanating from you, Prince.”

“Sweetheart this is your home now. And what are you babbling about? I don’t hate you silly.” He frowns.

“Then why do you keep threatening me? Why do you want to make me miserable?! Why did you take me away from my family?!” I persist, voice breaking slightly at the end.

Louis grumbles a couple words to himself before answering.

“Because you drive me crazy. Look Annabelle...” Louis sighs, pulling his head backwards a bit. “It’s complicated okay? You’ll understand soon enough, but I don’t want you to take everything I do personally alright? As a prince, there are some things I just have to say, and others I have to do. And as for your family... I might be able to pull some strings and get them something to eat and a better dwelling...” He offers.

“Really?” Hope bursts inside me like a wildfire.

“Yes really. But know that I rarely do things for free, and this time isn’t one of those rare occasions.”

My face drops.

“There are a couple things you keep doing that won’t be tolerated. If you can start behaving more maturely, more like a figure of royalty I’ll consider doing things for your family.”

“You’ll consider?! How does that guarantee anything!?” I retort.

“It doesn’t... But it’s your only hope to save your dear, sweet family.” Louis answers with fake sympathy.

“Well then I’m hopeless because I’ll never fit in the royal life. I’ll never be able to live up to your expectations!”

“Nonsense. We have a couple things to do that’s certain, a couple to arrange also, but I’ll make you belong. Just trust me.”

How can I do that? I met you two days ago.

 “First off... Your clothes, your face, your hair...” He cocks his head to the side thoughtfully. “You need a bath.” The brown-haired boy concludes. “I’ll get Perrie to pour you one and bring you a dress for after... no more wearing shreds of fabric alright?”

Is he trying to completely remake me? Create a new person? Why? I like making my clothes. They’re a part of me.

I stay mute, lost in my thoughts.

“Annabelle?”

“Are you going to completely change me? Make me a different person?” I ask, speaking my feelings.

“I’m not changing you... I’m refining you. Know the difference. Now wait here for a couple minutes. I’ll make sure that Perrie will come and fetch you when your bath is ready.” He ends, bending down to kiss my forehead. “I’ll be waiting for you in the dining room for lunch.” The prince adds, before exiting the room.

I stay immobile for a couple minutes, gathering up what he’d just told me. So maybe he’d save my family. He doesn’t seem too keen on it though. Maybe I should just make a run for it right now and save them myself.

The thought is weirdly comforting and I find myself turning around, and opening the two grand doors. There’s nobody in the long hallway, apart from the various paintings of previous kings and queens hanging on the walls.I look around furtively, preparing myself to bolt out the doors any second and run back the way I came from. You can do this Anna...1...2...3―

“Miss Annabelle your bath is ready.”

I stop dry and groan, turning around to face the person who talked.

“Miss Annabelle, are you feeling okay?” The girl whom I presume is Perrie asks me.

“Absolutely ecstatic.” I sigh, passing my hand through my hair in exasperation. I could’ve done it. I could’ve got back home. If only I would’ve thought of it a second earlier.

“You just made a pained sound though... Would you like something to ease your pain?” She probes.

“No I’m fine thank you.” I snap. I feel guilty as she starts trembling in fear. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to yell at you, I just thought of something horrible... Never mind it though. Are you Perrie?” I enquire, trying to smoothen the conversation.

“Yes that’s me miss... I’m sorry for not minding my business. I just wanted to let you know your bath is ready.” The blonde babbles nervously.

“That’s good... Umm where is the bathroom?”

 “If you could just follow me...”

Reluctantly, I nod, tagging along behind her with my head down.

 

*****

 

The dress Perrie got me felt way too heavy around my waist. It’s a wonder really how I could even walk with it, the heavy fabric practically tugging me to the ground with every step I undertook. It was also very tight.

“Perrie I can’t wear this,” I whine, pulling the dark blue fabric downwards, trying to pry it away from my body. “I’ll die of suffocation in this.” I continue, looking with distaste at my reflection wearing the puffy dress, this last one which could’ve bought me more than a month of food.  

“It won’t be for long. You’ll change dress after your lunch Miss Annabelle.”

I’m stunned.

“How many dress changes am I going to have per day exactly?” I ask carefully, scared of her answer.

“About five to six times, depending on your agenda.”

“Because I have an agenda?!” I exclaim.

The blonde girl very visibly flinches beside me.

“I’m-m-m so-rry Miss. I-I-I just assumed Sir Louis w-w-would’ve told you.” Perrie stutters.

“Hey I’m not angry,” I try to calm her. “I’m just surprised that’s it... He just threw me inside all this royal stuff without much of a warning.” I huff, tugging on the dress once more. “And Perrie how many times in the last hour have I told you not to call me Miss Annabelle? You can simply call me Anna.”

“I’m sorry, Anna.”

I smile reassuringly, before facing the mirror once more. I exhale loudly, the shoes in my feet killing me. “I’m taking them off.” I decide, bending down with difficulty to undo them.

“You shouldn’t try to do this alone, especially not with a dress this big. I’ll do it for you.” The blonde proposes, kneeling to help me.

“Thanks.”

I sigh in content as soon as they’re off, the cold surface of the ceramic tiles under my bare feet reminding me of the chilliness of the floor at home.

Zayn walks in a second later.

“It’s time for lunch.” He informs, walking over to where Perrie and I were. “Perrie, the Prince asks you prepare Lady Annabelle’s next dress and make sure her room is ready. He also wants you to tell Amy and Eleanor to start preparing Prince Niall’s and Prince Harry’s rooms, as they shall be coming in less than a week.”

Perrie nods and leaves, while Zayn hands me his arm.

“Am I supposed to take it or...?”

“Yes Miss Annabelle that’s the point.”

“Please... Don’t call me that. It’s annoying.” I frown, hooking my arm with his uncertainly.

“I’m sorry but I have no choice in the matter.” Zayn shrugs, leading me outside the dressing room. The sound of my feet on the tiles resonates through the hallway, making me self-conscious.

“You aren’t wearing shoes... Are you?” Zayn asks, shutting his eyes in disbelief.

“They we’re killing my feet a―”

Less than a second later, the floor is rushing towards my face, the cause being my feet tripping over the dress’s heavy material.

Zayn catches me easily, and pulls me back up with a scowl on his face.

“Your shoes were there to make the space between the bottom of your lovely dress and the floor a little higher, reducing the chances of you tripping and breaking your neck like you almost did.” The dark boy looks at me up and down. “You okay? Not too shaken up?”

“I’m fine given the circumstances.” I answer, watching nervously as Zayn led me to a set of grand doors. I could hear Louis on the other side, as well as another man, arguing.

“You’ll have to learn that everything has a purpose here.” He explains, sighing loudly. “Make sure nobody notices your lack of footwear okay? And everything will be just fine.”

I gulp as he pushes me through the doors.

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