Innocent

Cecelia, a farmer's daughter, is given the chance of a life time to possibly win Prince Julian's hand in marriage. Her whole life changes, but is it for the better- or for the worse? Sophrona, the rich daughter of a lord, wants to marry the prince too and she is ready to make sure nothing will get in her way.

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2. The First Glance

I glanced up at the hot sun, which had begun disappearing behind the orange horizon. I sighed and looked down at the flowers ; I realised I still had half of them left to collect. I bent down and continued working pulling up weeds and collecting the flowers that I had spent months watering for nearly every day.  I was hoping that I could sell most of them, hopefully for a decent price. I was planning on taking them to the morning market later in the week.  Already, the basket I was carrying was slowing filling up with a range of different colours. I’d filled four or five.

This was my life; I always did the odd jobs around the farm.  I often picked the flowers, my younger sisters and brothers were too heavy-handed and always ended up snapping the stems or they were too young to learn the difference between the flowers and the weeds. My parents and brothers would work hard harvesting the crops while I tended the animals and did the chores around our little house. My sisters were too young, at seven years old Gretel was barely old enough to work, she couldn’t do much and at two, Clara couldn’t do anything.

I lived in a small town, called Alagan. We were one of the less-well off families; we had more than some, but only a bit more than the basics. Living on a farm meant we were constantly working; we had to get up early in the morning and go to bed late at night, once the animals were safe in their huts. It was hard work, especially during the harvest, when we had to gather all the crops in a couple of days, so they would not die. I’d grown up in our small house

I don’t enjoy all the hard work, but it is something I have to do. If I could, I would want to do something else. I’d love to become a writer, but we are not rich enough to afford tutors for us all. I was lucky enough to have been taught how to write and read, up until the age of 11 and then, I don’t know what happened. I think we couldn’t afford it anymore, Gretel had just been born and Thomas was 6, old enough to be taught but not alongside me as I am too advanced. My parents can read and write, but nowhere near as fluent as I am.

 

“Cecelia! Ce-ce!’’ my best friend, Rose, called me as she ran across our reasonably sized field.

“Rose!”  I smiled and gently placed the weaved basket on the floor. Rose came up to me and gave me a quick hug, and then she started jumping around in excitement.  At 18 we both could be married with children, but Rose was still a child at heart.

 “Please be careful!  Mother will go mad if you damage the flowers again!” I sighed. Once before she had come to see me with Gretel in tow, she wanted to show Gretel how to cartwheel or something, but not until several patches of flowers were lost.

“That was a few years ago now! Stop worrying!” she half moaned “Would you like to hear my big news?”

I nodded. Usually when Rose had ‘big news’ somebody was getting married, I wonder who has been proposed to.

‘Prince Edwin and Prince Julian are coming to Alagen to meet the Lord’s daughter, can you believe it!” she beamed

I shrugged, it was expected to happen at some point. Though coming to Alagen was surprising, especially to meet Sophrona. Sophrona is Lord Andrew’s only and very spoilt, daughter. She thinks that she can have anything she wants, which I suppose is fair enough to her as she always gets her way.

“Prince Julian  is looking for a girl to be his wife, and he is going to every town and village in the whole country visiting every Lord and Baron.”

“Probably because their daughters are more ‘worthy’” I said

“They’re still coming!” She smiled; she was very happy about the Princes’ visit to our small, but lively little village.

‘That’s, that is great.’ I smiled weakly; I struggled to think of something nice to say as I was never into the whole Prince and Princess thing as much as most girls, like Rose, were.  I would never have anything to do with them, so why should I be overly interested in them?

‘Can you come with me?’ Rose pressed her hands together and pleaded.

‘Where?’  I asked trying not to laugh as her big green eyes expanding in obvious excitement.

‘’To Lord Andrew’s silly! The Princes are arriving at the end of sunset, so you have two hours to get ready. Make sure to wear your best dress so we can fall happily in love with them, ahh.’’ she squealed.

‘Sure okay,’ I nodded even though I had no idea how I was going to explain it to my mother and where I was even supposed to find a pretty dress.

‘Thank you,’ Rose ran off into the distance. I picked up my basket and continued collecting the flowers.

***

‘’Cecelia do me a favour and put your siblings to bed’’ my wearing mother instructed me.

‘’Sure’’ I wiped my dirty forehead with my dirty hand and placed the basket full of various flowers down on the table. I enter my nearly-bare room that I share with my younger two sisters Clara and Gretel.

My sisters are sitting on the floor, playing with their old cloth dolls which once belonged to me. There were two beds, one for me and another that Clara and Gretel share.

‘Bed, before mother comes in with your tea’ the two blonde haired girls quickly changed into their nightgowns and I gave them a kiss goodnight on their foreheads and I swiftly leave the small bedroom. I quickly cross the corridor into my brothers’ room. Thomas was already sitting upright under the covers so I did not have to have a fight to get them into bed, which was unusual. My older brother, David, on the other-hand was out, most likely meeting all the hopeful girls up at Alagan Manor, ready to comfort them at their dismay.  I walked back into the dim kitchen to see the sun was pretty much gone; I knew I was going to be late.

‘Mother, can I possibly go out with Rose?’ I asked fiddling with the small bow at the back of my brown and green dress.

‘What about tea?’ she asked.

‘Can I miss it?’ I hoped she would say yes, as I hated breaking my own promises especially ones I make to Rose.

‘Okay but don’t be complaining that you are hungry later Cecelia, you hear me’ my mother waved a wooden spoon in my face.

‘Yes, I promise. Thank you!’ I smiled and pulled of my apron around my waist.  My mum gave me a quick hug before I hurried out of the door

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to change, so what I was wearing had to do. It didn’t bother me, I dress like this all the time, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to anybody else.

I ran as fast as I could, down the stone street and to Lord Andrew’s house. I knew Rose had always wanted to meet the princes since we had been very young; she’d dreamt of being swept of her feet by one of them and taken into the sunset. I didn’t care too much, but I thought I might as well see what all the fuss is all about.

 I was panting by the time I reached a small crowd, mostly consisting of girls. I found Rose, who was wearing a pretty light blue dress with flowers embroided around the collar and a brown belt on her waist, looked beautiful, her bright green eyes sparkled and her light brown hair hung loose. There were a few other girls around but not as many as I had expected, but they were all dressed in nice pastel coloured dresses. I didn’t usually care about what I wore, but I became a bit self-conscious when I realized my hands were still covered in dirt from the field.

‘Rose!’ I exclaimed ‘Sorry I’m late. Wow, you look great. ’

‘It’s ok, you’re not that late, they haven’t arrived yet, but I guess you can see that. What are you wearing though?’ She gestured to my dress with the brown lace up long sleeved top and the long green skirt. It wasn’t anything special, it could have been prettier, it was a very basic dress.

‘I didn’t have enough time to change’ I said, not that I really had anything else.

Rose nodded. I didn’t think it would have been too much of a problem, but maybe it was? Oh well.

I looked around the town centre. The mixture of wooden and stone shops lined the edge of the street. I could see people looking out of the top floor windows. Many people who owned these shops lived above the shop floor. Alagen may be a poor town, but the town centre is usually a pleasant place to be.  The street s are wide, perfect for a big crowd like the crowd I am seeing now.

 You would expect an assortment of colours from such a big crowd, but most people are dressed in green or brown. I do not stand out at all. And I don’t mean to.

A loud horn goes off somewhere behind me, I cover my ears with my hands to try to reduce the dreadful sound. Rose, next to me, winces at the noise and turns towards me.

‘Don’t cover your ears like that!’ she said, I groaned.

Rose nudged me with her elbow ‘He is here! It is him!’ she whispered. I suddenly felt all excited, even though I knew the princes would only glance at me; it was still a big thing to see them.

‘Prince Julian, Prince Edwin and their friend newly knighted Knight Sir Felix have arrived!’  the loud trumpeter shouted.

The princes emerged from the carriage, Prince Julian first then Prince Edwin. Both of them had blonde hair and blue eyes, though Prince Julian’s hair was slightly longer than Prince Edwin’s short cut.

‘Thank you Alvin that will be quiet enough’ Prince Julian said. He was so close. I could touch him if I wanted to.

Julian turned around, right into me. Somehow, I ended up on the floor. He didn’t hit me hard enough to knock me over, but I must have lost my balance. I could feel the heat rise up in my cheeks. I’d fallen over in front of one of the most important people!

‘Oh! Sorry my lady I didn’t mean to knock you over, are you all right?’ he held out his hand and I gratefully took it. I must look like an idiot, falling over.  For a Prince, he seemed nice enough; I thought he would be a snob and look down on us all and think he was better than everyone else. Then again, he was the son of the King, who was supposed to be very kind and friendly.

‘Yes, thank you your highness’ I smiled and looked into his friendly light blue eyes that where in the middle of his handsome face, which is slightly covered by a dusty blonde lock of hair. His eyes are beautiful, blue like the sky. I gratefully accept his hand and Prince Julian helps me up.

‘I’m Julian; just call me Julian’ he smiled.

‘I’m Cecelia, you can call me Ce-ce if you like’ I blushed, we were still holding hands. Other than Rose and occasionally my family, nobody had ever called me Ce-ce. Why did I even ask him too? I’d only just met him! I quickly let go of his hand, before it could get anymore awkward between us. The other people around had started to notice us talking.

‘That is a pretty name, perfect for a pretty girl like you’ he said, his eyes were shining like the sun.

‘Thank you your highness, I mean Julian of course’ I could feel my already red cheeks burning up even more, it couldn’t get any worse.

‘Prince Julian, Prince Edwin and your... your friend, welcome’ Sophrona smiled at the prince’s but rolled her eyes at Felix who was busy chatting with Rose. She had never liked people who were not as rich as her and in a small town as a Lord’s daughter; she really hadn’t got any friends. Rose was the nicest person in the whole town, but Sophrona only cared about the money people had.

 ‘’I’m Sophrona, Lord Andrew’s daughter. I see you have already met the dirty village peasant Cecelia’’ she looked at me disgustingly; I was now top of her hate list. I sighed, why did the prince have to talk to me? Nothing was good was going to come of it, I’d never see the prince again he wouldn’t pick me. The only thing that would happen would be Sophrona’s constant horribleness, doubled as the prince showed kindness towards me.

‘’I’m Prince Julian, my brother Prince Edwin and Knight Felix is over there’’ he pointed to Felix who seemed to be happy with Rose and Rose seemed happy with him. They were both smiling and laughing nervously, both obviously liking each other.

‘’May I call you Julian?’’ Sophrona asked batting her eyelashes, clearly trying to flirt. She wanted to be on the same level with him as me.

‘’No,’’ Julian smiled and winked at me and I smiled back. ‘’you may call me Prince Julian or your highness’’

Sophrona started to look angry, she was getting jealous. She glared at me, so hard she was probably trying to burn me right where I stood. No one had ever dared to not follow Sophrona’s instructions before.

‘She called you Julian! You said Cecelia Johnson could call you Julian. She is just a stinky old peasant with nothing better to do than farm on dirty fields and what other peasant jobs she does! She is worthless; there are thousands just like her. Hurgh!’ she snorted. She began to look sad and sorry for herself ‘I’m sorry; I just wanted to be your friend…’

I turned around and started to walk away, no point in staying here I thought, it would just end badly. Sophrona always got her way in the end.

I could just hear Sophrona saying ‘’Come on Julian, I could be, am better than her’’

I quickly glanced back; Sophrona was trying to put her arm round him.

‘’Wait Cecelia!’’ Julian shook Sophrona of himself and shouted and tried to run after me but slowed when his brother said something to him.

‘’Come on Julian, let’s go inside let me show you my house’’ I looked around to see Sophrona take him inside with a sickly sweet smile on her face. I wondered if he wanted to stay with the Lord now.

Sophrona could be horrible, but it is very likely she will be the chosen girl from Alagan as she is Lord Andrew’s daughter, plus she is very pretty.

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