Chapter 12 : The Slipper
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Dezzy soaked in the now familiar sights of the forest, bridge, and pavilion. She smiled, as a warm feeling settled inside her, and she could feel her heart beating against her chest. She followed her sisters, and could see the first few getting over the bridge and being greeted by Salazar. Dezzy smiled as she reached him, and curtsied while he bowed, kissing her hand. A blush tinged her cheeks as he held her hand longer than she expected him to, and she pulled it from his grasp, forcing herself to move further into the pavilion to her sisters.
She could feel his eyes on her, and willed herself not to turn around and be caught up in the peculiar yellow-green that she knew was there. Instead, she took Lenora by the hand, and spun her around, making her giggle. The girls dresses swirled around them in pools of color, and Dezzy could see their dancing slippers peeking out from underneath their skirts with each step. She grinned, her hazel eyes lighting up, and Bea took her hand and led her into a reel, their sisters lining up on either side of them.
Dezzy skipped down the line, smiling as she caught the eyes of one sister after another. Julianna was next, and she blushed, shyly making her way down the line in a series of little turns and skips. Lenora and Kitty took each other's hands, and ran down the line together, their tiny feet pattering softly in their silk slippers. The warm light glowed around them, and Dezzy could see her sisters' shadows thrown across the golden floor and columns that surrounded them. She smiled more than she had since Aunt Rowena's arrival and her father's return home. The weight of the solemn dinner they had sat through was lifted from her chest, and she felt as if she could fly.
She closed her eyes and spun in circle after circle, loving the rush that it gave her. As she opened her eyes, she swayed a little but was suddenly held firmly by a pair of strong hands.
"Thank you, Salazar," she said, stepping away from him once she had regained her balance.
"Of course, Princess," he said with a small bow.
"It feels like ages since we've been here," Dezzy said, walking along the edge of the pavilion.
"Indeed it does. I was waiting for you to come back. I thought you'd abandoned me," he said. There was a strange quality to his voice that Dezzy couldn't quite place, and she looked up in concern, but was relieved to see him smiling.
"I like coming here," Dezzy said. "I feel like it's the only place I can really be free to enjoy myself and be happy."
"Then I hope you'll return soon," Salazar said, offering her his arm.
She took it, and he led her out onto the floor, her sisters clearing a space for them. Her led her in a slow, graceful Viennese Waltz, and Dezzy could hear her skirts swishing around her feet. They moved together as one, one of Salazar's hands in hers, and the other placed on her back, guiding her through the movements. Dezzy didn't have to think, she just moved with him, staring into his enticing eyes. Soon, too soon, †he was stepping away and bowing. Dezzy dropped into a low curtsy and she could hear her sisters clapping behind her.
"That was lovely. Thank you," she said, standing again.
"You're the one who deserves thanks," he said, holding her eyes with his.
Dezzy felt her cheeks heat up and she broke eye contact, looking to the ground.
"Girls," Addie called. "I think we should go. It's late."
Dezzy suddenly realized how tired she really was, and turned to follow her sisters. She felt a hand on her arm and stopped. Salazar stood there, looking at her, and he offered one last low bow. Dezzy kept looking at him while she curtsied a second time, before turning and crossing the bridge, her arm pulsing where his hand hand been. She climbed the spiral staircase, her feet tired, and helped push her bed back to its proper place.†
Slipping out of her dancing slippers and pulling the pins out of her hair, Dezzy eyelids began to droop as she changed and climbed into bed. As her sisters dropped to sleep one by one, Dezzy smiled tiredly, closing her eyes and falling asleep to visions of lords and ladies swirling in a mass of colored ball gowns and top hats. It felt like only a moment had passed when she was being shaken awake.
"Dezzy, get up. We have to be on time for breakfast with Father," Addie said.
Dezzy rubbed her eyes, and got out of bed, washing and dressing in a tired haze. As they sat down for breakfast with their father, she could see her sisters yawning and resting their heads on their arms. She felt slight relief at the thought that Aunt Rowena would not be joining them, as she had requested to take breakfast in her room. As the door opened and their father entered, the girls stood quickly, waiting until their father was settled to sit back down.
They had eaten the majority of their meal in silence, when the door opened and to the girls' surprise, a chamber maid entered. She curtsied nervously and cleared her throat.
"Excuse me, your majesty, but I found this in the princesses' bedchamber," she said, holding something out for the king to see.
Dezzy gasped, and her stomach dropped as she saw that it was one of her slippers, worn completely through from their night of dancing. Her face paled and she looked to her father, nervous for his reaction.
"Thank you. You may go," he said, dismissing the maid.†She hurried from the room and as soon as the door shut, the girls' father turned to them. "And to whom does this belong?"
It would have been better if he had shouted, but the quiet seriousness of his voice made Dezzy feel nothing but a horrible, gut-wrenching guilt. She stood up, her head bent in embarrassment.
"Well, Desiya, perhaps you could tell me why it is so worn?"
"It's because I was dancing, sir," she said, unable to meet his eyes.
"And why, pray tell, were you dancing, if I have made it clear that dancing is forbidden in my kingdom?"
Dezzy forced herself to look up, and flinched when she met her father's hard gaze.
"Please, Father, I didn't mean any harm. It reminds me of Mother, and-"
"Please, sir, I-"
"I said enough, Desiya," he snapped.
Dezzy's eyes filled with hot tears, and she sat back down, shame pulsing through her. Her sisters said nothing, and out of the corner of her eye, she could see Bea scowling. She blinked rapidly, refusing to let her tears fall, and pushed the rest of her meal around her plate, feeling sick to her stomach. The rest of the meal passed in agonizing silence, and when the king finally stood, the girls curtsied, eyes trained on their feet, and he left to go attend to his Royal Duties. Dezzy bit her lip as she followed her sisters back to their bedroom.
"Dezzy, are you alright?" Clara asked, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"He doesn't love me. He can't. Otherwise he wouldn't act like he does," Dezzy said quietly.
"Oh, Dezzy, he does love you. I know you can't see it but he loves all of us."
"But you're wrong!" Dezzy cried, her voice breaking. "You saw the way he looked at me! He can't bear the fact that I remind him of Mother so he pushes me away!"
The rest of the room had gone silent as tears slipped down Dezzy's cheeks. The younger girls were quiet, even if they didn't really understand what was happening, and the ones who did know what was going on didn't dare interrupt their sisters.
"Dezzy, please, just try and talk to him, he-"
"He won't talk to me! I've tried everything, and he won't talk to me," she sobbed.
Bea walked over and sat Dezzy down on her bed, putting an arm around her shoulders, †letting her little sister get salty tears on her dress.
"Shhh," she cooed, rubbing her sister's back. "It's alright. Don't listen to him. You have us, Dez. We love you."
Dezzy tears slowed, and she wiped her eyes, that were now red and puffy, and walked to the mirror that hung on the wall by her bed, where she examined her pale reflection.
"Could we wait a bit to go down?" she asked quietly. "I don't want Mistress Helga to know I've been crying."
"Of course," Addie said quietly.
After a few moments, Dezzy stood, and the rest of her sisters follow suit. She took a deep breath and, with her head held high, walked out of their bedroom and down to the library for lessons. She wouldn't think about that morning if she could help it, and before she pushed it from her mind, Dezzy felt a final, sharp throb of sadness bubble up inside her, and she forced it down, walking into the library with her sisters.
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