Everything in the past month happened so quickly, that I nearly forgotten it was coronation day when I woke up. I was still up ages before Annalise, though I’ll never beat Athena, who wakes up before the sun every day.
She says it’s from growing up with the General, I think she’s just showing off.
“Oh, good,” she said as I entered the sitting room, she was dressed in her guard uniform and had her gown for the ball hung up. I love that gown. It’s green, for Dovetail, but it’s embroidered with Pantona’s crest, it’s officially acknowledging her and Aaron’s engagement. “You’re awake, you can help.”
“Sure,” I said, “with what? We laid Annalise’s clothes out last night, and she’s still asleep so she couldn’t possibly need anything.”
“I need your help,” she sighed. “Aaron mentioned you were,” she sighed, “he said you’d been working on something.” I sighed.
“Fine,” I muttered and went back to my room. “I hadn’t planned on anyone using it yet, you should know.” I handed her a vial. She nodded. “It might not work.”
“It’s better than nothing,” she sighed. I looked at her. “I thought that I might be,” she sighed, “today though, well.”
“Oh,” I smiled. “Well, it should help, I suppose.” She smiled.
“Unless you want it for yourself,” she said. I shook my head. “No?”
“No,” I whispered and smoothed my own gown, taking it from where it was hanging. “I don’t think so. William is eager, but a little too eager, I think.” Athena nodded. “We barely know one another, and I don’t know if I love him, and I can’t think of that without loving someone.” I sat down miserably on the bed. Athena smiled and sat down and patted my hands.
“Well, good,” Athena said, “just because I made a horrible mistake the first time I went to bed with a man, doesn’t mean everyone should.”
“With Aaron?” I asked. She rolled her eyes. “Oh, Warren Davis, I didn’t know that you two had.” She shrugged.
“It was a non event,” she said waving her hand. I laughed. “Thank you.” I nodded. “I’ll help you dress.” I do love my gown, it’s pure light blue silk embroidered with small waves, the symbol of Brightcoast. Athena laced me into it and we went to wake Annalise.
When we walked into the bedroom, she was already awake and dressed. Not in either the gown we’d laid out for her, or a uniform, but a simple green dress, I smiled. It suited her.
“It’s wrong isn’t it?” She whispered. “I know I ought to wear the uniform or the gown which I will wear to the ball, but this,” she looked down.
“It’s perfect, Lisette,” Athena laughed going over and hugging her. “It’s important to remember that you’re not just The Girl Queen, you’re Lisette.” She looked at me. I nodded.
“Good,” she said, “go down and tell them we’ll be right there.” Athena and I turned. “Marina, wait.” Athena nodded and went. “Thank you.”
“For what?” I asked softly.
“For everything,” she shrugged, “I’m not sure I’d be here or feel even remotely calm about it.” I smiled and hugged her.
“Thank you,” I said softly. “I’m not alone anymore. And you’ll be amazing.” She nodded and we headed down together.
The coronation itself was quick and lovely. I’d seen the people gathered outside the palace before, but it was never like this, they cheered for their new queen.
“The dress was genius,” Dowager Countess Olivia said to me with a smile as we stood behind her. I grinned. “That was not Lisette.”
“She chose it,” I said simply, “I simply had it washed and laid with her other things.” The Countess nodded.
“You won’t be a Lady in Waiting long, Marina,” she said. I frowned. “She’ll find more for you to do with your talents.” I smiled.
“I hope so,” I said softly. “I was wondering if you’ve seen my father.” She looked at me and shook her head. “I don’t know how to help him through this.”
“You don’t need to,” she said softly. “When Marie died and then your mother, he did the same thing, he came back, and he will now. He and Caleb loved one another deeply.”
“Before he died, he said something to me,” I said, “about forgiving Annalise and Tristan.” She nodded. “He said that they never forgave him, and he mentioned my parents.”
“Not your parents, no,” she closed her eyes, “he meant Anton, and Thomas.” I looked at her. “It was all so long ago. But I was never supposed to marry Caleb, there were other plans.” I looked at her and then at the General.
“He still loves you,” I said. She smiled.
“Perhaps,” she whispered. “Today isn’t for the past, however.” She nodded towards William. “With your father indisposed, may I offer you some parental advice about yours?” I swallowed. “He’s a good man, but not for you.” I nodded. “Not for any reason you might be thinking. I’ve never known William to make impractical decisions, and I’ve never known him to walk away from a chance to rise.” I nodded. “I don’t want to see you hurt, Marina.”
“He’s not near enough me to hurt me,” I whispered. She nodded. I knew this, this was why I’d kept him at arms length. It still hurts though.
We’re in Annalise’s sitting room now. Everyone is changing for the ball and I know I should be going to see William, but I don’t know how to tell him that I don’t want to see him anymore.
“Am I interrupting?” I looked up and saw Tristan. He was wearing a full dress uniform for the ball. Instead of the green tunic of the usual day uniform it was an embroidered green silk jacket, and straight black pants. Tristan was also wearing a blue sash because of his rank as Captain.
“No,” I said and stood up. “You’re here to escort the queen?” He nodded. “You look very handsome.”
“You look beautiful,” he said. “I hope that I can dance at least once with you. If William Santino can spare you.”
“You’re his commanding officer, I think that it’s up to you,” I pointed out. He laughed. Annalise walked out in her new gown. It was the same shade of green as the guard uniforms, embroidered with tiny blue swords.
“Hello,” she said softly.
“Your Majesty,” I curtesied, “if you’ll excuse me Captain Dugarry.” I stepped out of the room and headed towards the ballroom.
“There you are!” William walked up to me. I smiled softly at him. “I thought we were meeting before the ball.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “The queen needed me.” He nodded. “I should get to the party.” He pulled me close. “William.”
“In a moment,” he said. “Did I upset you?”
“No,” I said softly, “it’s simply been a busy week.” He nodded. “I should go.”
“I wanted to speak to you,” he said softly, “I spoke to Lady Athena, and I’m going back to Pantona.” I swallowed.
“Truly,” I whispered. He nodded.
“Countess Olivia has decided to go, and that was why I joined the guard to begin with and The Captains have seen fit to send me,” he smiled and kissed me. “I will miss you.”
“I’ll write,” I said softly. He smiled. “And I’m sure we won’t be away from Pantona forever. If the Countess is there I know Annalise will want to visit.”
“True,” he said. “I was hoping to say goodbye properly.” I pulled away. “I didn’t mean.”
“You did,” I said softly, “I have to go.” I entered the ballroom and found Athena who was standing against a table, drinking a glass of sparkling wine. She was also in a dress uniform, though hers was styled as a gown. “William is going to Pantona?”
“Is he?” Athena said with a smirk. “You’re heartbroken of course.” I smiled. “I spoke to the countess as well, and you deserve better than a striver who can’t seem to keep his hands to himself.” Aaron walked up to us. “Count.”
“Captain,” he said and kissed her.
“I helped Marina,” she said.
“I heard,” he said. “You’ll excuse us.” I nodded as he swept her into the dancing. Perhaps I haven’t fallen in love, but I do have friends now. I’ll never be alone again.