I stood on the balcony of the tower and looked over in fear. I cocked my head to the left. "They're all here to see me?" I asked through desperate disbelief.
Lady Daliah nodded in approval.
Hundreds of people were gathered all around Town Square. Kisses were blown at me from every direction.
I smiled for the cameras flashing at me, almost blinding me. "When can we go back in?" I mumbled through clenched teeth.
"Soon enough," she whispered.
I felt the gentle touch of her arm wrapping around my neck. "You'll understand someday."
My smile faded into a frown and I blinked hard to fight tears. "I just want to go home."
She bent down and surprised me with a reassuring hug. Her body radiated elegance with every graceful touch. "Smile pretty for them."
I forced a genuine, quick smile and tapped my foot anxiously. All across the White Tower of Brundicias, I could hear people shouting my name.
Lady Daliah pulled a brush through my hair with gentle strokes. "Victoria, you know that what you have is something special, don't you?"
I sighed and leaned back against her. "Yes, but why can't I just leave here once?"
"A gift like this must be guarded."
"Victoria, we have this same conversation everyday. You are only six now. Someday, when you are older, you will understand it all."
"But I just--"
"That is quite enough!"
She tugged too hard on the brush and I screamed in pain.
That was years ago.
A distant knock sounded from the opposite side of my bedroom door. Lady Daliah stomped away from me. She swung the door open and coated her face with a smile.
My eyes swiveled towards the old man standing in the doorway. A white beard covered his chin and a top hat hid his bald head. He was dressed from head to toe in a fine, black suit. "How are you, Daliah?" Mr. Johnson's shaky voice echoed throughout the room.
"Oh, I'm wonderful. I was just helping prepare Victoria for bed."
Mr. Johnson poked around the corner and found me slumped over on my bed. He sat down next to me and stared at me through his sky blue eyes. "Miss Victoria, I need you to come down to Town Square with me immediately."
Lady Daliah jumped in front of him. "Why? What's going on?"
I stood up but was quickly pushed back down. "Daliah, let go of her! We don't have time for this!" he said in a fierce whisper in order to refrain from screaming.
Obediently, I stood back up and followed Mr. Johnson down the hall. I struggled to keep up with him. "Better hurry," he said, not bearing to look back at me. I held the sides of my dress with my fingertips to keep from stumbling over it. My heels clicked against the ground and my breathing became heavy. "Where are we going?" I begged.
Mr. Johnson spun around. He put his finger to his lips and whispered, "Shhh."