Eugene

Before the events of Tangled there was a young boy growing up in an orphanage. He had the biggest dreams and the kindest heart. This is the story of Eugene Fitzherbert.

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7. SIX

     The satchel weighed heavy on my shoulder as I traveled to the village. There was something lifting about going out on your own. My heart was beating rapidly in my chest and my stomach felt light. I wasn’t sure if this was a good feeling or a bad one, but I liked it.

     The village was full of life, as usual. Normally when I came to the village I already had the day’s work lined up. The money I earned bought me lunch, and I spent the last tendrils of dusk watching the stall owners pack up for the day. It made for a calm and relaxing occasion. Today I had no money and no food.

     Among the crowd I found myself being pushed towards a baker’s table. At the sight of all the bread rolls, my stomach grumbled. It was at this moment that I realized I had not eaten breakfast.

     Suddenly I was thrown to the ground as a sturdy man barreled into me. Standing up and brushing off the dust, I became aware of the fact that I had landed behind the baker’s table. It smelt so good, all of the breads and pastries. The baker, a jolly fellow with a round tummy and handlebar moustache, had his back to me as he served the next customer in line. I was in reaching distance of a delicious chocolate roll…

     The thought was pushed from my mind. I was an honest boy, and I prided myself on it. My stomach ached as it grumbled again. That was it. If my stomach wanted food, I was going to have to earn it.

     Standing on tiptoes to see over the crowd, I gazed around for somewhere that looked like it needed help. The thought of going to Volkard’s tavern to clean tables crossed my mind - I’m sure he’d give me a job there. It seemed like a great idea; although, as much as the idea interested me, for some reason I didn’t want to go. He was like my dad and I knew he’d take care of me, so my mind couldn’t comprehend why I was being deterred.

     I considered Miss Ingrid. She always needed a delivery or sales boy, and she knew I was reliable. However, for some reason, that idea also dissuaded me.

     My mind reeled. Looking around my eyes fell on the man selling fruit and the woman next door selling fabric. The jeweler had opened his shop and was setting beautiful pieces so that they shimmered on display. I knew them all. They were good people, and over the years they had relied on me to carry out the odd job for each of them, of which I never failed.

     “Bread rolls! Getcha fresh bread rolls!” the baker boomed over the crowd, but I wasn’t listening to his mantra. A single word was circling my mind. Fresh.

     That was it! I needed a fresh start, one away from everyone I knew. I’d make my way to the east side of the kingdom. No one here would find me over there. I’d cross the bridge and hide out for a bit, and come back a new person. A change of name, a change of scenery, that’s what I needed. A fresh start.

     I set off for the other side of the village. Well, I guess side wasn’t the right word. Our village was a ring that circled the castle; however, over time we had sectioned ourselves into smaller hamlets to make daily commutes easier.

     The castle in the centre was one of magnificence. Standing tall, you could see it from almost any point in Corona. The inhabitants were also worthy of admiration. The king in all his glory was the most gracious man you could ever have the pleasure of meeting, and the queen radiated beauty and grace with every step she took. I remember the night the princess disappeared. That was when they lost that shining light in their eyes.

     The night had been overcast and I had been heading back to the orphanage with Miss Lotte and the rest of the boys. The final night of celebration for the birth of our baby princess had come to an end and the crowd had been dispersing. Our king and queen had long excused themselves from the celebration to put the princess off to sleep, and we were informed that our rulers would not be back out to join us. All of the festivities as well as taking care of the baby had taken their toll them, but they had assured us that we were not to miss out on any fun on their account.

     As we walked along the familiar trail back home, the ground had started to tremble. The kingdom patrol galloped into the village bearing the awful news of the baby princess’ disappearance. We all rallied together to help find her, but after several days of seeking, the king and queen made the excruciating decision to call off the search. Now, in her honour, each year on her birthday the kingdom releases flying lanterns into the sky, in the hope that one day their lost princess would return.

     Those nights were always bittersweet. The image of the king as he delivered his speech, his voice thick with tears as he struggled to make the message reach those of us at the very back of the court, was forever engrained into the back of my mind. We all had our reasons for wanting the baby princess to return. Mine was so that the king and queen could once again be as happy as they used to be.

     The grumble of my stomach brought me out of my reminiscence. The journey to the other side of the kingdom took longer than expected, but I assumed that was because I hadn’t eaten in so long and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on whatever I could feed myself.

     When I set foot in the heart of the eastern village my desire for food ebbed temporarily. I didn’t think it was possible, but this side of the kingdom was livelier than back at home. There people were cheerful and smiled when you made eye contact. Here they actually said hello. It was astounding! The crowds had a certain bounce in their step and a huge part of that was because there was a three piece band off to the side playing some jovial music.

     My attention was brought to a baker who was tapping me on the shoulder. Turning around I came face to face to a man with sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a belly that was not unlike the baker back home. He held out a warm loaf of bread dusted with white flour.

     “I don’t think I’ve seen you around before,” my stomach grumbled in response and he laughed, “First one’s on the house. Go on, take it.”

     My eyes watered in appreciation as my hands clasped greedily around the roll. Taking a bite, the warm fluffiness of the bread melted in my mouth and my eyelids fluttered closed, savouring the flavour.

     After thanking the baker a million and one times he finally told me to run along. My next mission was to find a job. I went round to every stall and shop asking for work, and although everyone was polite not one of them had a job for me. Dusk fell over the village soon enough and I once again found my stomach rumbling. On top of that, it was getting cold and I had nowhere to sleep.

     I found myself curling up in the corner of an alley. As cold as it was, it was surprisingly comfortable. I fell asleep, but unfortunately woke up shivering in the morning. The baker was out setting up his stall, and my stomach groaned at the smell of all the baking. My eyes watered just thinking about how kind he was yesterday when he handed me the bread. My stomach made further noises in protest and I battled with the thoughts that bombarded my brain. I couldn’t find work but I needed to eat. Tears streamed down my face as I had to make the gut-wrenching decision.

     Keeping against the wall I exited the alley and crept up to the baker’s stall. The baker himself was by the well ringing out some cloth to keep the food fresh. I grabbed a paper bag and loaded it with as many bread rolls as I could fit, and ran.

     Keeping light on my feet, I was gone before the baker noticed anything was missing. My feet ran downhill until I found the bridge that joined our kingdom to the outside world. Crossing it, I entered the forest in search for a place to stay. Before long I found a cave, uninhabited, concealed and warm.

     It wouldn’t be too long before I had to return to the kingdom. My gut twisted and I grew nauseous as I realised that I needed to keep stealing in order to survive. Was leaving really the best option?

     I peered out of the cave and between the foliage. The kingdom, glowing in the rising sun, seemed far off and insignificant. It helped me to relax and I could feel all my feelings of confinement dissipate. This feeling of elation outweighed the guilt of theft, and I assured myself it was all necessary in order to feel better. Wiping the tears from my eyes I pulled out a chocolate filled roll from the paper bag. A small smile formed on my lips as I took a mouth-watering bite.

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