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Chapter 12 : The Slipper
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She could feel his eyes on her, and willed herself not to turn around and get caught up in the peculiar yellow-green that she knew she would find 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, as 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 had to sit 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 that he was 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 waltz, and Dezzy could hear her skirts swishing around her feet as they glided across the floor. 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, his eyes locking on hers.
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 her 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 just been. She climbed the spiral staircase, her feet sore and her eyelids working to stay open, and helped push her bed back to its proper place.†
Pulling off her dancing slippers and tugging the pins out of her hair, Dezzy's eyelids began to droop as she changed and climbed into bed. As her sisters dropped off to sleep one by one, Dezzy smiled, tired but content, and closed her eyes before 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 the slightest relief at the thought that Aunt Rowena would not be joining them, as she had requested to take breakfast in her room that morning. 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 shortly, dismissing the maid.†She hurried from the room and as soon as the door was 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.
"M-mine, sir," she whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear.
"Well, Desiya, perhaps you could tell me why it is so worn?" he asked, though they all had no doubt that he knew the answer.
"It's because I was dancing, sir," she said, her voice just as quite as she tried to force it out around the lump in her throat. She stared at the middle of the table, unable to meet her father's 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, thinking that maybe he would see in her eyes that she didn't want to upset him, and that maybe he'd take pity on her, and flinched when she met her father's hard gaze.
"Please, Father, I didn't mean any harm. It reminds me of Mother, and-"
"Enough," he said sharply, making her voice die in her throat.
"Please, sir, I-" she started, desperate to make him understand.
"I said that's 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," Clara said, rubbing her hand in small circles on Dezzy's back as she tried to comfort her.
"But you're wrong!" Dezzy cried, her voice breaking, tears finally escaping her eyes. "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, knowing that this was serious, even if they didn't really understand why Dezzy was so upset, 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-" Clara started to plead, only to be cut off by Dezzy.
"He won't talk to me! I've tried everything, and he won't talk to me!" she sobbed, trying as hard as she could to keep herself from going into hysterics.
In a rare moment of softness, 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. She wasn't as good at comforting her sisters as Clara was, but in that moment she was being so gentle that it only made Dezzy cry more.
"Shhh," she cooed, rubbing her sister's back and kissing the top of her head. "It's all right. Don't listen to him. You have us, Dez. We love you."
Dezzy's tears slowed, and she wiped her eyes, which 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 followed 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. Before she pushed it from her mind, Dezzy felt a final, sharp throb of sadness bubble up inside her, but she forced it down, walking into the library with her sisters.
Author's Note: Hi everyone! I hope you enjoyed this chapter even though it was a bit of an emotional one towards the end! I'd really appreciate it if you'd please leave a review to let me know your thoughts.
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