I was following her. Again. I think it’s my fifteenth time this month, but I can’t bring myself to stop. Even after I had promised myself not to. Even after I had promised my father I wouldn’t go roaming in the streets without Zayn. God. Both of them are going to kill me when I get home.
I just had to pursue her; make sure she was real. The first time I saw her, I had to blink a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t having visions about an angel with broken wings, wandering in the streets of Headow in tattered clothes. She seemed so unreal. So perfectly imperfect.
A quick look was all I had gotten at that time, but it was more than enough to have my mind churn blissfully for days at the idea of meeting her. Of taking her home and making her mine to protect and mend. I longed to have this girl by my side, for she would certainly brighten the dull walls of the castle with her radiant presence. I had to have her. Soon.
Keeping my head bent to avoid being recognized, my footsteps follow in hers from a safe distance. I watch her walk with fascination, her every move captivating me. I frown though as she heads into an alley. What? Why would she go there alone? I quicken my pace, slightly worried. As I turn into the dark passageway, I only catch a glimpse of her blonde hair turning right at the far end.
Tugging my coat and placing my hands into my pockets, I hurry behind her, stopping at the intersection where I last saw her disappear. I hear her inhaling deeply and I scowl when I see her a couple feet away: the walkway she clearly is about to enter, leading to the safer streets of Headow, is full of beggars. I watch with incredulity as she exhales and starts making her way through. She’s too brave for her own good. Shaking my head, I follow her, keeping a reasonable distance between us. My hands turn into fists when I hear a couple beggars talk provocatively to her. Be calm Louis.
“Come over here honey.”
“Looking for trouble pretty thing?”
“I can make this night memorable sugar.”
The girl starts making a run for the end of the alley as one of them tries to reach for her chest. I lose it. Making sure she’s definitely out of sight and of hearing range, I grab the bastard by the collar, before lifting him up to the wall.
“How dare you?! How dare you try to touch a woman without her consent, with such filthy intentions?!” I seethe menacingly. My hand constricts around his throat. “It’s the lowest thing you could’ve ever done! No wonder you live in the street you worthless rat!” I roar.
“Oh yeah? And who are you to tell me that kind of stuff?” He barks, his breath smelling as bad as the bottom of a sewer. “I’ll do whatever I please; I have nothing more to lose any way!”
I tug the hood of my coat off my head to reveal my identity. A gasp echoes down the dark corridor.
“It’s Prince Louis...” multiple voices whisper, shocked. I block them out, focusing on the villain in front of me.
“How about your hands hmm? I’ll cut your damn hands off, that’s what I’ll do!” I reply, fury lacing my every word. “That girl is mine. I forbid you to touch anything that belongs to me!” I bellow. The man starts shaking.
“Your Majesty I’m sorry if only I had known she―”
“You mean to say you would’ve done it anyway if it had been another girl?! You filthy scoundrel!” I punch him hard in the stomach, before letting him drop to the floor, wheezing. “Every girl in Headow belongs to me, just like every pebble, building and even the trees. That air I’m reluctantly letting you breathe, is also mine. You better wish we never cross paths again, or I’m making sure you’ll lose the benefit of your hands,” I state angrily. Exhaling, I turn around without giving him a second glance.
I look around for the blonde beauty, but she has vanished yet again. Shaking my head and placing my hood back over my head, I start making my way back up to the castle.
“Louis William Tomlinson!” Father roars as soon as I arrive at the castle. “All these women were at the castle for you today, but you weren’t there!
“I’m terribly sorry Father.... All these meetings with possible fiancées are suffocating me... I just needed to step outside and breathe some fresh air,” I answer, bowing my head in defeat.
“I take the time to post God damn Declarations to let everybody know you’re searching for a bride, and you have to step out for air?! I’m trying to give you an image of power but son you are weak and worthless! Don’t you see I’m trying to ease your life here?!”
“I’m sorry Father―”
“You better be!” He bellows. “I’ve had enough of all your excuses! You need to be married before your turn twenty! If you don’t find a girl by the end of overmorrow, you know what’s coming for you!” He ends furiously, before leaving the room. I flinch as he slams the door. I hear Zayn enter after seconds after.
“Please Zayn I’m not in the mood for your life lessons right now,” I huff, shaking my head in disbelief. I stand up from my kneeling position. Two days. That’s all I have to bring her here or Father will Discipline me again. I shudder at the thought.
“I told you you had to stop following that girl,” The darker boy sighs, coming to stand next to me.
“I was only waiting to see if she’d come to the castle by herself,” I reply, shoulders sagging.
“I think she’s the one Zayn,” I admit, walking to my quarters. The guard is close on my heels.
“I can go and fetch her if you want.”
“I don’t exactly want to force her to come either,” I grimace. “Maybe she’ll come to the castle tomorrow?”
Zayn exhales loudly.
“I don’t know but you heard the King, Louis... If you don’t stick on a girl by the end of overmorrow, you’re getting Disciplined and that rarely ends well. Maybe you shouldn’t risk it and find another girl when they open the gates in the morning?”
“I can only hope she’ll show up tomorrow,” I reply.
She didn’t show up. Heart-pounding, I decide to head downtown to try to find her. Zayn comes with me, mainly because it’s getting dark out and he says he’d feel bad if I got harmed but I know he wants to see the girl for himself.
I’m starting to lose hope though as we head towards the lower parts of town, the sky almost completely dark.
“Sir I don’t think she’ll show,” Zayn points out.
I’m about to agree until I notice my Princess in tattered clothes, holding to her bag as she walked down to the farther parts of town.
“I bet she lives in one of the house near the farms,” Zayn whispers as we slide to hide behind a wall. I nod, keeping my eyes on her. I watch in awe as she stops in front of a post, apparently looking at the Declaration. Maybe she’ll come by tomorrow? I think hopefully. My hope is immediately shattered though as I see her tear it off and roll it into a ball.
“Louis I don’t think this girl is for you,” Zayn denies, speaking softly. “The King won’t approve her.”
I can’t tear my eyes off the blonde, astonished. She had stood up to my Father. People knew it was against the law to damage any kind of Declaration, let alone rip it. Yet she had done it. Without much hesitation. Just like she had walked through the alley with all these filthy scumbags.
“On the contrary Zayn, I think she’s exactly what I need,” I reject.
“She’s too much trouble,” the guard disagrees.
“I’ll manage to take care of that.”
“Louis your father will probably hurt you because of things she’ll have done. Please, think this through...”
“She’s a little ball of fire and that makes me love her even more. Plus, she probably won’t worship me like all the others, which will be very refreshing.”
“With all due respect, I still think it’s a bad idea. She’s clearly a law-breaker.”
I shrug my shoulders and we start heading back to the castle.
“I’ll try to convince her to be my princess. Tomorrow. If I don’t manage to charm her, I’ll just have to be a little forceful,” I wince at the thought of roughening my precious princess. “But I don’t want her to know I’ve been following her. So both of us will have to pretend like it’s the first time we actually see her, got it?”
“Got it,” he nods reluctantly.