The Slipper Fit


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1. Prologue

It had been 6 years since I'd set foot in the High City, and it looked just as I'd remembered it. The sun shone on the ivory colored buildings so that they were almost too brilliant to look upon. Their silver roofs mirrored the clear, blue sky and the beauty of the ocean that surrounded the city on every side. A great bridge connected the rocky island where the city had been built to the mainland. As I crossed I examined the figures of golden eagles, intricately carved into the stone work and remembered how they'd looked the same when I'd left- though now their curved beaks and outstretched wings welcomed me back.

Towering over all of the splendor, was the palace. It was white like the rest of the city, but its towers golden and patterned with mother of pearl vines that ran around their length. Yet as magnificent as the High City was, I hadn't returned to see the grand architecture.

I'd lived in one of the silver-roofed buildings for the majority of my childhood. My father was a close adviser to the king on the important matters of finance and land-distribution, and I spent most of my years dwelling in the luxury afforded to those of a high station. As his only child, I had everything I wished for, and more friends than I could count- a young lady of a certain status was never in search of good company, or suitors when she grew old enough.

But when I was 14 years old, and my father passed away suddenly, my mother and I were no longer allowed to live in the manor we called home. The royal family was blameless in this fact of course, for the royal apartments would become the residence of the current minister and not to us. Still, packing up my belongings and moving to a smaller home in the country was difficult for me, since I was without the extravagance I had grown used to or the friends I had left behind.

There was one, in particular, whom I was loathe to part with. Sebastian, the young prince of Aurelus, was even more spectacular than his palace was. While he wasn't exactly the heir to a throne, he was a golden prince who was perfect in every way -and only 1 year my senior. As a young lady I had been completely and utterly smitten with him after I'd dropped my new silken handkerchief in the ocean. He had gone into the water- expensive clothes and all, to fish it out for me. After that, all he'd had to do was flash his golden eyes in my direction and I would practically swoon. .

Now that I was older, I doubted he'd have the same paralyzing effect on me as he once did. In fact, I was rather counting on it being the other way around. Though I'd always been told that I was quite lovely, I had matured nicely over the past several years, and while I'd never be a natural beauty like some girls, I was by no means lacking in attractiveness.

I had hair that was a such a startling shade of red that it almost looked unnatural. Once, I'd thought it difficult to manage, since it clashed with every dress I owned. Now I knew how to use the simplicity of neutral toned gowns to my advantage, my hair had quickly become one of my greatest assets- one that I hoped to use to capture the attention of the Prince.

Prince Sebastian was my first love, and I was determined he'd be my only love, too. It was for him that I had returned to the High City from the countryside, since my mother had decided that it was about time that I marry and he was the only suitor I was willing to accept. She was forced to let me go, for I had inherited the same stubborn streak as my father, and there was no refusing me once my mind had been made up.

As my carriage wheeled into the rather large courtyard next to where I'd be staying, I barely had the time to gain my bearings before I heard the voice of a very old friend.

"Honoria!" She cried, the sound of her delicate slippers echoing on the white stone that made up the courtyard.

"Phoebe! It has been far too long," I lamented in return. Phoebe had been my closest friend as a child, and while we had often communicated through letters I hadn't seen her since the day I'd left the palace. Phoebe's father was the minister of diplomatic affairs, and a dear friend of my own. It was with her and her family that I would be staying, and they had only been too happy to allow me to spend the summer with them.

Phoebe was always a lovely young girl, but a she had grown into an even lovelier woman. Her flaxen-colored hair was exquisitely pinned into a beautiful style, and I could tell at once that she was incredibly fashionable. Her yellow gown complimented her rosy complexion perfectly, and I felt the inadequacy of my current attire almost immediately. My brown, travelling dress was made of modest materials, for after my father passed away my mother and I lost the income that we were used to possessing. That isn't to say we were paupers, but any lifestyle would have been more meager than the one I had grown up with.

I wondered then, what it would have been like if my father had never died. Would I have grown up in elaborate wealth like Phoebe, or would I have instead fallen out of the popularity my father's position had afforded me? Nevertheless, it was a futile question since I couldn't change the past, only work towards gaining the future I desired.

"My dear you look positively exhausted. Was your journey very difficult?" Phoebe inquired as she took my hand in hers after gesturing for a manservant to fetch my belongings and bring them in the house.

"It was long and incredibly tedious. I can't tell you how pleased I am to have finally arrived. The countryside has many charms, but increasing my marriage prospects was not one of them," I laughed.

"Honor, you were proposed to only last month!" She protested, and I couldn't help but exaggerate a sigh. Although she was right, Sir Dustain Thorpe was hardly a lady's dream husband.

"He was nearly 20 stone overweight, and I could count the hairs on his misshapen head. More importantly, he was incredibly dull. All he could talk about was his hunting dogs- perhaps it would have been better if he could marry one of them instead."

Phoebe laughed in sympathy.

"Surely you deserve better."

"I thought as much, although my mother has grown discouraged. It was my fourth marriage offer, after all. She doesn't understand that my heart belongs to another."

Phoebe grinned. She was well aware of whom it was I loved, though to say I coveted Prince Sebastian so openly in the middle of a courtyard would have been immensely foolish. Before I left the country to return to court, I had confessed to my mother that it was him that I desired. For some reason, she hadn't been pleased, though I would have thought her thrilled at the idea that her daughter might some day be a princess. Most normal mothers would have been anyhow. Instead, she'd sat me down and taken my hands in hers.

"Honoria, having more possessions will not make you a happier woman," she'd said. Of course I knew that she was right, I was by no means a fool- though perhaps a fool in love. I didn't care that Sebastian was a prince, only that he was perfect, well-mannered and beautiful. Plus, he'd rescued my handkerchief. Perhaps to an outsider, such simple things hardly carried enough weight to be taken seriously as any beginning to a romance, but to me they meant the whole world.

"Marrying the one I love will make me happier mother," I had insisted, and she hadn't spoken to me any further about it. It wasn't as if there was much she could have done anyway, since my bags were packed as soon as Phoebe had sent me a letter to inform me about an upcoming of ball that was sure to be the most important event of my youth.

The countryside had a startling lack of entertainment for ladies such as myself, and I was always very fond of music and dancing. In fact, it was something that I quite excelled at, and despite our depleted financial resources, mother had allowed me to retain a tutor well-versed in song and dance. A ball was the perfect place to show off my skills and capture Sebastian's attention.

The ball was said to be a party to celebrate Crown Prince Theron's upcoming coronation. However, Phoebe had confided in one of her letters that the reality was that it was being held to find him a bride. Honestly, I pitied any woman who would have such unfortunate luck.

Growing up, I'd seen Prince Theron moping around his father's palace. If Sebastian was a golden prince, then his elder brother wasn't even fit to be his shadow. His skin was pale and pock-marked, no doubt to the countless hours he spent in the library instead of practicing his swordplay. He was quite fat for his age, too many hours spent seated, coupled with the delight of royal feasting was hardly helpful to maintain one's shape.

All of us children took endless delight in finding ways to tease the older prince, and one day, our group of friends thought it would be great fun to play a prank on him while he studied.

It was Sebastian's idea. I was to find Prince Theron in the library, and insist his brother had fallen near the stables and injured himself. I remembered the elder brother's chubby face contort with worry as he got to his feet as quickly as his body would allow. As instructed, I led him to where Sebastian was waiting, eager to push Theron into the pig pen. When he fell, he was covered in mud, and looked as much a beast as the swine who rolled about alongside him.

Despite the fact that he had seen 16 summers, Theron had cried, sopping wet tears running through the mud on his face and leaving trails behind them. When he looked at me accusingly with his grey eyes I had felt guilty for my part in the trick. Though in voicing my trepidation to Sebastian afterward,he had assured me that everything was all in good fun, and that he was only trying to help his brother better himself. I hadn't thought guiltily on the matter again, though Sebastian had taken to calling his brother 'Piggy Pock-face' after that. Every time I heard it I was reminded of what I'd done and had to push the shame of my actions to the back of my mind.

Thinking of Theron had soured my present mood just as it had done in the past, and so I turned my attention back to my friend to occupy my mind with more pleasant thoughts.

"You will be pleased to know our mutual friend remains unattached. His name hasn't been linked with another since the disastrous affair with Lady Anne- and that was 2 years ago."

I had heard of Sebastian's affair with Lady Anne through Phoebe's letters. I'd never liked her growing up, and once she'd put a frog in my bedchamber because I'd told her that her nose was a bit too small for her face. It probably still was, so I couldn't understand why Sebastian would have stooped to associating with such a creature. He must have thought better of it in the end though, for he was too wise to be led astray by a woman such as she.

"Then I hope that he has prepared himself for another scandal," I insisted. "For I have no intention of letting him get away again. Tell me, is he still just as handsome?"

"You might find him even more so, with only those country men to look at for so long," Phoebe said, walking towards the entrance of her manor, arm linked with mine.

"I dare say you're right," I agreed, and waltzed into the manor just like I had always belonged there.

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