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Masquerade

~Part One~

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It was the biggest night of the entire year – the Duke and Duchess’ Annual Springtime Ball. I had not wished to go because I never did too well at large parties, balls, or anything such as that, but I knew I had to. If I hadn’t accepted the generous invitation – which was shocking I’d even received one – My family and I would have been completely disgraced. So at the ball, I did my best to engage with some of the other rich girls, but that didn’t go so well. I ended up listening more than talking.

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As I was listening to the young ladies chat away, I had a strange feeling inside. Something wasn’t right.

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I looked behind me and saw a young man watching the men and women dance away to the music.

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Wait a second. I knew that face.

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My heart was racing and I found it hard for me to breathe. “Calm. Stay calm.” I told myself.

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“Please excuse me, ladies.” I said politely with a quick curtsy.


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As I hurried toward the exit, someone tapped my shoulder.

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“May I have this dance?” That horrid man inquired with a bow.

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Knowing how improper it would be for me to refuse, I reluctantly said, “You may.”

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We danced in silence for a moment. I didn’t dare speak or even look at him in the eye. I completely and utterly despised him.

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“You know why I’m here, Liesel.” He whispered with a threatening tone.

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“On the contrary, Frederic, I have no idea why you’re here.” I stated, still not even making eye contact.

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“I need you to do something for me.” He began, his eyes squinted and cruel. He continued on to say, “And you will do it, because I’ve got a bit of leverage, which is something you’ll never have on me.”

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“And what is that?” I questioned with disgust. “I knew your father. I know what he was and what he did. And I also know how you and your family have tried to hide it all your lives, but the truth has a way of coming out one way or another. Get me what I need, and I’ll keep your little secret.” Frederic offered. I was trying so hard to get the tears in my eyes to disappear. I knew that if I didn’t do what he wanted, he would expose the truth to everyone and our family would be shamed for eternity.

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Anger and fear boiled up inside of me and I pushed myself away from him and fled from the palace, leaving Frederic standing alone with a scowl on his face.

~Part Two~

 

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I walked into the parlor at our house and noticed my mother sitting at the desk. “Oh! Mother, I didn’t think you would still be awake.” I said with surprise. “What are you doing home so early?” She inquired, ignoring what I had just said.

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“I was just feeling a little tired.” I fibbed and took a seat.

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“Liesel, what is it? What’s troubling you?” My mother questioned as she studied me. Somehow mothers always know when something is bothering their children.

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“Nothing.” I replied quite simply, then went on to say, “How are you feeling, Mother? Is your headache gone?” I inquired, trying to change the subject.

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“Yes, I am feeling much better. Now, would you please tell me what’s wrong?” She asked in her gentle motherly tone.

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“Nothing – it’s just – nothing, I’m fine.” I quickly assured her as I reached for the teapot.

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“I know you don’t do well in large crowds. Were you feeling uncomfortable?” Mother tried again, but I just couldn’t tell her.

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“Would you like a cup of tea?” I offered, ignoring her question. Mother sighed and said, “Yes, thank you.”

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As I was carrying the cup and saucer, I felt so nervous that I was trembling and dropped them on the floor.

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“I’m so sorry! I’ll clean it up.” I apologized and reached down to pick up the cup and saucer.

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As I set a new cup and saucer on her desk, Mother said, “Liesel, I know for a fact now that something is wrong. You never just drop things and I saw how you were trembling. What is it?”

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I closed my eyes and looked away with a sigh. “You’re right, Mother. Something is on my mind.” I confessed.

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“It’s Father. Some of the other women were talking about the great things their fathers are doing and what a success they are, that it got me to thinking about him.” I lied again. Mother couldn’t know about my meeting with Frederic.

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“You didn’t say anything, did you?” Mother asked in a panic.

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“No, no, of course not!” I assured her and continued, “But I was wondering… What would happen if someone did find out?” I inquired with caution, not wanting to alarm my mother more than I already had.

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“That’s not something to wonder, Liesel, because no one will find out.” Mother answered.

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“I know, it’s just that I’m curious. What would happen if others knew?” I asked again.

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Mother stood and headed for the door. “If others knew, we would be shamed and we would become the laughingstock of the kingdom. We could lose our house, our riches, and all that we had. We’d go back to poverty.” She finally explained with a trembling voice.

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“No one must find out what your father really was and we must do anything to keep others from knowing the truth.” She said sternly.

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“Anything?” I repeated.

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Anything.” She said and went upstairs. I knew I had upset her and that I had brought up a painful topic, but I just had to know for sure.

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“Well, I have my answer then. She said we have to do anything, so that’s exactly what I’ll do. Even if it means doing something for Frederic.”

~Part Three~

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As I was taking a stroll a couple of days after the ball, I noticed Frederic standing not too far away. “I must do anything.” I told myself and mustered up some courage to go speak with him.

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“Ahem.” I said to get his attention.

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When he faced me, his face lit up. “Ah, Liesel. I’ve been wondering when I would run into you again. What brings you here?” He inquired, trying to sound as kind and polite as he possibly could.

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“I’m here to discuss that deal you mentioned at the ball. What do you need me to do?” I asked reluctantly.

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Before answering, he looked around as though to make certain that no one else would hear what he was about say.

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“It’s not safe to speak here.” He said and looked at a man who was walking by. “I need to know the details, Frederic, although I will do anything to keep my father’s true nature a secret.” I stated firmly.

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“I’m glad to hear it.” He said with a grin and reached in his pocket.

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“Take this. I need you to meet me at the written destination tonight at midnight.” He issued as he extended his hand out for me to take the paper. I looked down on it and sighed. “How do I know I’m not walking into some sort of trap?” I inquired. “You don’t. But you’ll just have to trust me.” He said sternly.

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I hesitantly reached out and took the folded up piece of paper.

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“So, it’s a deal? I do what you need me to do and you promise you’ll keep my secret?” I confirmed, still worried that he wouldn’t follow through.

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“You have my word. And don’t forget; midnight tonight. I’ll be waiting.” He reminded me and walked away.

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I watched him for a moment. Did I really just do the right thing? How did I know I could trust him?

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I unfolded the paper and read the note which said, “Wilcott Palace, Ethenia.”

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I let out a big sigh. Somehow I knew that I was going to regret this deal for the rest of my life.

~Part Four~

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As I was walking up to my home I saw my mother standing straight and tall waiting for me. “Liesel, where were you?” She inquired with a sound of worry.

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“I got a little distracted on the way home.” I explained. There was a bit of truth to that. I got distracted when I saw Frederic on my way home and went to speak with him. So at least I wasn’t lying completely…. Well, okay, maybe I was….

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“You said you’d be back by teatime. I had to entertain our guest on my own because you weren’t here.” Mother stated with annoyance. I knew by the look in her eyes that the guest was Mrs. Oppenheimer – someone my mother and just about everyone in town found it hard to get along with.

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“I’m sorry, Mother. I didn’t realize I was gone so long.” I apologized.

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“Well next time try to remember to keep your promises. I was about to send for the carriage and go in search of you.” Mother said in distress.

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“I will, Mother.” I promised.

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“Good. Now let’s go inside out of the sun before we freckle.” Mother suggested and we headed into the house.

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That night, I met Frederic in front of Wilcott Palace in Ethenia. “Well, I’m here. What do you need me to do?” I inquired impatiently. I just wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible.

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“There’s a stone inside the palace known as The Rainbow Stone. I need you to steal it.” Frederic explained.

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“Here, you’ll need this.” He said as he handed me a small black pouch.

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“Why won’t you do it yourself? Is it dangerous?” I questioned.

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“Why would I risk my life like that?” He answered my question with a question.

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My eyes widened in fear when he said that. I sighed and said, “Well, looks like I have a stone to steal.”

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I sneaked into the palace through an open window and looked around the dark room. Then I spotted a pedestal with a small stone placed atop a pillow. “That must be The Rainbow Stone.” I thought.

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I opened the drawstring pouch and placed the stone inside.

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As I pulled the strings tight, I gasped as I heard a man’s voice shout, “Hold it right there!”

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I quickly spun around with my hands in the air and saw a palace guard facing me with a gun in hand.

~Part Five~

The palace guards had caught me red-handed with the Rainbow Stone and dragged me down to their deepest dungeon. I was to stay there until further notice. I worried terribly about my mother who would wake up the next morning to find me missing and discovering that I had been sent to the dungeon in Ethenia.

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I felt like I was awake all night, but knew it wasn’t so when I woke up to a gentle voice saying, “Liesel. Liesel!”

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I opened my eyes and saw my mother standing on the other side of my cell wrapped in her golden shawl and carrying an old folded up blanket. “Are you alright, darling?” My mother inquired, her voice quavery.

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“No, I’m not, but I am better now that you’re here. Mother, I’m so sorry about all – ” I began, but Mother interrupted me,

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“It’s alright. Here, I brought you a blanket to keep yourself warm.” She said as she handed me the blanket through the cell bars.

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“Thank you.” I said gratefully and wrapped it around my shoulders. “Mother, truly, I am so sorry. I should have told you about my meeting with Frederic, but I was scared. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping our secret, but I ended up getting put in jail. I’m so sorry.” I apologized as a few tears entered my eyes.

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Mother wrapped her hand around mine and said, “I know, dear. And it’s okay. We’re going to work this out.”

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“Times up.” The jail guard said and mother looked back at him sadly.

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“I have to go now, but don’t worry. I’ll be back soon. I promise.” Mother said sincerely. “Goodbye, Mother. And thank you.” I said and watched her go with an aching heart.

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The next morning, I lay on the floor of my cell sobbing. I missed my mother, my home, and I absolutely hated being locked in the dungeon. I was beyond miserable and completely depressed.

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I heard footsteps stop at my cell and looked up, expecting to see my mother, but instead was disgusted at the sight of my visitor. “What are you doing here?” I inquired angrily.

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“I’m here to give you the good news. I’ve spoken with the king and he has agreed to let you go.” Frederic said with a broad smile that made me suspicious.

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“Why are you smiling?” I asked suspiciously.

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“Oh, maybe just because I know that you’ll end up poorer than a lowly servant before long.” He replied with a grin.

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“What? What did you do?” I demanded of him.

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His face grew serious. “You didn’t get me the Rainbow Stone and now you never will. Therefore, our deal has fallen through. I told several people back at your home kingdom the truth about your father and by now the word is spreading like wild fire. Before long, you and your mother will be in so much debt that you’ll be forced to sell your home and all your belongings. You’ll be living on the streets!” Frederic finished with a merry laugh.

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I turned away and said, “No…”

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Frederic began walking away, but he said over his shoulder, “You really should thank me. After all, I just gave you back your freedom!” He may have given me back my freedom, but now my life and reputation was destroyed.

~Part Six~

 


I returned home from prison the day Frederic told me I was free to go. Although I was glad to be free, as I walked home I still felt like I was in a prison. All of my usual friends who would stop to at least say “Hello”, didn’t even give me a second glance. They walked right past me. They were shutting me out because they finally knew who I really was.
As I walked into my home, I saw a strange sight.

My mother wearing some old clothes, her hair up, and an apron around her waist. What was really strange though, was that she was looking sadly at a pile of her best dresses. “Mother?” I said to get her attention.

“Oh, Liesel! I’m so glad to see you. Are you alright?” Mother inquired, quickly looking over me, probably checking for any scratches or bruises.

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“Yes, I’m fine. How and what are you doing?” I asked, glancing over her shoulder at the table.


“I’m as well as can be expected, considering that everyone in the kingdom knows about your father now. I have been going through our things and selling as much as I possibly can.” Mother explained.

“What if we can’t sell enough to pay everyone back?” I wondered.

Mother hesitated before responding and pursed her lips together. With a sigh she said, “Then we will have no choice but to sell the house.”

Mother went back to her work and looked at me with sad eyes. “I’m sorry, Liesel, but I had to sell all your clothes and other belongings.” She apologized.

“You have no reason to be sorry. I’m the one who should be apologizing. It’s all my fault that everyone knows about Father.” I said full of guilt. “Oh, Liesel, don’t blame yourself. Your-” Mother was interrupted by the sound of knocking on the door.


Mother went to answer the door and I looked down at her pretty dresses.


I stroked her purple striped dress and admired the embroidery done on it. I felt so awful that my mother had to give her lovely clothes away and I wondered if we would ever be fortunate enough to have such luxurious gowns again.

“Oh, my. I – I – forgive me, but I am afraid I couldn’t possibly allow my daughter to do that.” I heard my mother saying to whoever was at the door.

“Mother, what is it?” I inquired.

Mother politely excused herself and said in a whisper, “The prince is here. He heard about the debt we are in and said he has been in search of a wife, but can’t find the right one. He says his father has been pressing him about the matter and now the prince says he would marry you in order to please his father and save us from going into poverty.”

~Part Seven~

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2 weeks after the proposal of marriage from the prince at my front door, I found myself walking in the palace, my palace gardens with a wedding ring around my finger. How was I supposed to refuse such a generous offer? All I had to do was marry him and my mother and I would be saved from poverty.

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So I married the prince. And here I am, a princess.

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Any normal girl would feel delighted and honored above all to be a princess, but not me. I didn’t love the prince and, though I knew he was trying, the prince didn’t love me either. All I wanted was to return home with my mother and for everything to go back to the way it was before Frederic began to interfere with our lives. But at least my mother was taken care of. That was the important thing.

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“Liesel, may I speak to you for a moment?” The prince, or I should really say, my husband, called from behind me.

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I turned to face him and said, “Certainly. What is it?”

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He motioned for me to come to him, so I did. “Are you alright, Liesel?” He inquired. I stared at him a moment. I could tell him that I was miserable and felt very alone, but I didn’t. Instead I simply said, “Yes.” Jeremiah raised his eyebrow with concern. “Somehow I feel like that isn’t true.” He said skeptically.

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“Please forgive me, but I would really rather be alone.” I said as politely as I could.

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“Very well. I will see you at dinner.” He sighed and went back inside.

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I closed my eyes, trying so hard not to cry. I couldn’t let anyone see me crying, so I ran far away from any windows or servants.

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And I let the tears pour out. I felt so unwanted, but mostly, I felt unloved.

~Part Eight~


As I walked through the streets that warm summer day, I found myself lost in deep thought. Why did I ever leave? Yes, I was terrified, but couldn’t I at least of have confessed? Couldn’t I have confided in her?


“Please don’t go, Edmund.” Her pleas rang clear as a bell in my mind. “I don’t want to, but I have to.” I had said. “But why? Can’t you just tell me?” She asked of me as tears filled her striking green eyes. “I can’t. I’m sorry.” Was my vague and ridiculous reply.


“Remember me.” She requested just before she turned to leave. I’ve always remembered you. But did she still remember me? Did she even spare the slightest thought for me, even after all these years of being apart?


I shook my head. There’s no way. But it was time for me to go back, time for me to face her and find out for sure.


“Good day, Edmund!” Nicole, a good friend of mine, greeted as she joined my pace.

“Hello, Nicole.” I greeted, forcing a smile. She was my friend, but I wanted to be alone for the moment.

“Is something wrong?” She inquired.


After what I had learned after leaving home all this years ago, I knew it was best for me to come clear. “I’m leaving, Nicole. It’s time for me to go home.” I admitted.


“And to see her again, right?” She asked with a knowing smile.


“It was wrong of me to leave her that way. It’s high time I face her and make up for my mistakes. I thought I could beat this on my own, but I realize I need her now more than ever.” I explained, my heart heavy.


“Well, I certainly wish you well, Edmund. Be safe.” Nicole bid with a friendly grin.


“Thank you. For everything.” Nicole had helped me through a lot these past years and I was eternally grateful to her.


It’s time to come clean.

~Part Nine~

 


The past few weeks I spent my time wandering around the palace grounds. My world has changed so drastically and I longed more than anyone could imagine, to be free from this prison.


I stroked the nose of my favorite horse and smiled at her. She was my only comfort during these days. The prince and I still weren’t in love and I couldn’t see myself ever falling in love with him. He was nice, but hardly the type of man I wanted.

I was startled out of my thoughts by the sound of voices coming from around the back of the stable.


I leaned against the door and listened closely.

“It’s about time. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I got her out of prison.” I gasped and quickly placed my hand over my mouth. That sounds like Frederic!

“You did a good job. If I ever need anything else, I’ll let you know.”

That voice was unmistakably the prince.


This doesn’t make sense… Why would the prince be working with Frederic? And what on earth did he give him? 

 

That night during dessert, I cleared my throat softly to get the prince’s attention. “Jeremiah, I have something to ask you…” I said hesitantly.


“What is it?” He inquired as he looked up from his food.


“When I was in the stables today, I thought I heard you talking to someone. The man sounded a lot like Frederic.” I said, though I was scared to even mention his name.


“Ah, I see. It’s nothing to worry about, Liesel. Everything is taken care of.” He said with a grin that made me suspicious. What’s taken care of?

 

I looked down at my food and didn’t say another word.


“Well, I’m off to bed now. Goodnight, Liesel.” He said and rose from his seat.


As I watched him walk away, a million questions span around in my head, but I couldn’t get one question out of my mind – did the prince somehow have a hand in Frederic’s threats to me?

~Part Ten~

 

“This is it.” I thought as I approached the farm. It looked so much more run down than I recalled. They must have gotten along terribly after everything happened…

“Hello! Anyone home?” I called out.


“Can I help you, Sir?” A young pregnant woman called from the stream near the house.


I dismounted my horse and walked over to the young woman who was now in front of the house with a pail of water in hand. “How do you do, Ma’am. I was hoping to find Liesel Bennet here.” I greeted.


“I’m afraid I don’t know any Liesel Bennets… Or even a Liesel for that matter.” The woman said.


“She used to live here with her mother and father. Do you maybe know her mother? Mrs. Amelia Bennet?” I asked, desperate for answers.


The young lady swept her hair out of her face as though in deep thought. “No, I’m sorry. My late husband and I bought this place from an elderly woman, Ms. Donalds about two years ago. Never knew anyone else owned it.”


“Ms. Donalds… Do you know where she’s staying now? Perhaps she knows where I can find the Bennets.”


“Um… I’m sorry to tell you this, but, Ms. Donalds passed away. Not long after my husband… There was a terrible epidemic…” She said solemnly.


“Oh, I’m so sorry.” I turned my head away to hide my disappointment.


“Would you like to come inside? I have some lemonade ready for my son, but there’s plenty if you’d like some.” She offered kindly.

“That’s kind of you, but I should be going. Thank you for your help.”

  Before I could say another word, a small boy around 7 years old came running up. 

“Mama! Mama! I caught myself a fish!” He yelled proudly.


“That’s wonderful, Charlie! We’ll have us a real feast tonight.” His mother praised. It was then I realized just how poor they were. Just a widowed mother with a child on the way, it must be hard to make end’s meet. If one fish caught with nothing more than a little net was a feast, I’d hate to know what their every day meal was like.


“Charlie, I want you to say hello to…?”


“Edmund Richardson. It’s nice to meet you, Charlie.” I flashed him a friendly smile.


“Go on inside now and get washed up, okay?” His mother instructed.

“Okay, Mama.”


“I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help to you. Good luck on your search.” The kindly woman said with a smile.


Before I headed off, I glanced at my fishing rod and I knew I had one last thing to do.


“Hey, Charlie! Come here a second.” I called him over just before they disappeared into the house.


“I want you to have this.” I said, holding out my fishing rod.


He looked at me, as though unsure if he should accept it or not.


“It’s okay, honey. Go on.” His mother gave her approval…


And he came over and grabbed the rod, a smile so wide on his cute little face.


“Look, Mama! My very own pole!” He exclaimed.


“It’s lovely, son. What do you say to Mr. Richardson?”

He beamed up at me and said thank you and I nodded.


“Can I go catch another fish for supper, Mama?” Little Charlie asked. “Alright, but be home before supper.”


“That was very kind of you, Mr. Richardson. I think it’s just about the greatest gift he’s ever received.” His mother thanked me with grateful tears in her eyes.  “Before you go, I just remembered, there is a new princess in Uceda by the name of Liesel. She was close to poverty when the prince asked for her hand. Maybe she’s the one you’re looking for?”


“Thank you. I’ll be sure to look into it.” I said with a bow of my head.


“Goodbye! And thank you!”

As I rode away from the old farm, I couldn’t help but worry. If that was Liesel who married the prince, there was no way she was happy with him.  I certainly hope she’s not married….

~Part Eleven~

POV of Liesel:


A week had passed since I heard Jeremiah speaking to Frederic. I had wanted to continue trying to grow a better relationship with him, but I was too worried – too afraid to work on it.


Why didn’t he tell me what they were talking about?


“Do you think he’s up to something, Nutmeg?” I asked my only friend – my horse.


I let her loose to roam around the empty field while I sat down and pondered my problems.


It just doesn’t make sense…

POV of Edmund:

 

After a long, hot journey, I came upon Uceda where the supposed new Princess Liesel lived. I couldn’t help praying that it wasn’t my Liesel.


Then I saw her. A beautiful young lady sitting in the open field. She resembled Liesel, but was it really her?


Oh, Liesel, is that you? The beat of my heart quickened as I looked at her. What was I supposed to say? After leaving her all those years ago… How would she react?


I watched as she took out a few hair pins and let her hair fall. There was no doubt now. No other girl had long, golden curls like Liesel.


I couldn’t bring myself to move forward. All this time of being apart, all this time of searching for her – was she ready to see me? And was I finally ready to tell her why I left?

POV of Liesel:


I stood up, ready to return to the palace, when I turned and saw him. Edmund?

 

I hadn’t seen him in years, not since he left me. What was he doing back? I couldn’t quite understand my feelings. I wasn’t sure if I was excited to see him, or disturbed by his presence. I watched as he rode toward me, neither of us saying a word, but I knew we were about to have a long talk…

~Part Twelve~


Edmund walked up to me, a nervous expression on his face. “Hello, Liesel.” He greeted once we were about 2 feet apart.


I wished he hadn’t greeted me as though nothing was wrong. It made it harder for me to say something, so I got straight to the point – “What are you doing here?”


He turned his head toward his horse and sighed, in a way that told me this conversation was going to be hard for him. “I needed to see you and….explain things.” He said and I held my breath. I wasn’t sure I was ready to hear this.


“Edmund, I’m not sure I want to hear this right now…” I trailed off, but he said-

“Liesel, please. I’ve traveled a long way to see you.” I considered his feelings and how he must be struggling, so I nodded for him to continue. “I know you’ve always wondered why I left you so suddenly. And ever since that day, I’ve regretted never explaining things to you.” He turned his head to the side and stared into the distance, as though he could see the past right before him.


“So why did you leave?” I pressed.


“I left because – because I felt responsible for your father’s death.” He stumbled over the words and I was about to say something, but he gave me a look that told me he had more to say. “Liesel I was there when your father was killed. I should have prevented it, but I was too afraid. Because of me, your father isn’t here anymore.” He took in a shaky breath and looked at his feet in shame.


“You mean – you could have saved my father, but you didn’t? And that’s why you left?” I asked, tears blurring my vision.


“Yes. I couldn’t bear to tell you the truth. I was too ashamed that I did nothing… So that’s why I left. To spare your feelings.” He said.


“Oh, Edmund…. The only feelings you spared were your own. First I lost my father, then the only man I ever loved a week later – I was broken. And now – now I feel that I’m right back in that same place.” Tears trickled down my cheeks as I spoke. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hold them back.


“Liesel, I am so sorry,” Edmund said as he laid his hands on me, “I should never have left you, especially after you lost your father. I should have been there for you, but instead I only made things worse.”


“I’ve never forgotten you, Liesel. You’ve been on my mind and heart for years. I know I’ve hurt you, and I wouldn’t blame you if you never forgave me, but I just want you to know how truly sorry I am. You’ll always have a friend in me.”

 

I looked into his deep brown eyes and I realized how sincere he was. Thinking over how he felt and the secret he had to bear for all those years, I understood that he had struggled almost as much as I had. I managed to give him a slight grin and say, “I forgive you, Edmund.”


“Thank you.” He said and he smiled at me as he never had before – the smile of a forgiven man.

~Part Thirteen~

 


After Liesel and I parted ways, I went searching for Prince Jeremiah; Liesel’s scandalous husband.


I heard in town that the prince enjoyed taking walks near the river, so I waited for him there. To my delight, he showed up.


“Sire, if you have a moment I need to speak with you.” I said as I approached him.


“What is it, sir?” Jeremiah asked.

I wasn’t about to waste my time by being respectful to this man, so I came right out and said, “I know what you did.”


“What did I do?” He inquired. I could tell he was feeling uneasy.


“For starters, you married my girl.” I was going to work my way up to what I really wanted to say.


Jeremiah chuckled and said, “So, you’re jealous? Obviously you weren’t in her life anymore as I truly believe she would have said something about you to me before she accepted my proposal.”


“I’m not the only man who wasn’t in her life anymore. You killed her father.” That last sentence tasted bitter in my mouth. Knowing that my dear Liesel was married to the very man who was responsible for her father’s death absolutely sickened me.

“And what proof do you have of this?” Jeremiah inquired with a laugh as though the very notion was preposterous.


I grinned and said, “I’m the witness.”


At that, Jeremiah froze. He knew he was caught and I could tell he didn’t know what to do. “didn’t kill him.” He defended.


“Oh, I know. That would have been far too dangerous. You put Frederic up to it.” I said, relieved at last to confront the prince about this.


“So what do you plan to do?” Jeremiah asked as he looked at the sparkling river.


“I plan to expose both of you. The kingdom deserves to know what kind of Prince they have ruling over them.”


“What makes you think they’ll believe you?” He asked, unmoving.


“Because the witness is still being searched for. They have a description of me. They’ll believe every word I say.” I informed.


“Well, there’s only one thing wrong with that…” Jeremiah said, his eyes growing darker.


“What’s that?” I inquired.


“That you won’t be around for them to find.” He said with an evil grin and snapped his fingers.


Before I knew what was happening, someone came from behind me and hit me on the head-


-I fell to the ground, unconscious.

~Part Fourteen~

 


After being knocked out and dragged mercilessly to the dungeon,  I found myself half wishing Liesel would come down and half wishing she wouldn’t.


Oh, Liesel…. Ever since our talk in the field, I thought of her more than ever. I longed to be with her, but knew I had to get used to us being apart. She was a married woman, after all, and I had to respect that.


“Enjoying your stay?” A familiar voice said that snapped me out of my thoughts.Jeremiah. I looked and saw him staring at me intently, his hand on the hilt of his sword.


“What do you want?” I inquired with disgust.


“To offer you a choice. Either you confess to the world that you killed Liesel’s father and stay in the dungeon for eternity, or I kill you. The choice is yours.” Jeremiah said, his voice hoarse.


“I choose…. To confess. To confess that I am the witness and that you had her father killed. And even more than that, I’ll tell them all about your secret gambling establishment in the next kingdom, hidden deep under the ground. And all you hold dear will be taken from you – your life.” I growled.


Jeremiah pulled out his sword and pointed it towards me. “You’d better watch what you say, Edmund. You have one last chance. Now what do you choose?!” He bellowed.


I stumbled to get up and stepped closer to him and said, “I choose vengeance.”


Jeremiah placed his sword under my chin and stared at me with gritted teeth. “I know you want to kill me, so why don’t you?” I asked, testing his courage. “I think you’re afraid, you’re afraid to kill someone yourself. That’s why you had Frederic do your dirty work for you, isn’t it?”


“Stop!” Liesel yelled as she rushed in. Surely the sight of her husband pointing a sword at her old beau was an awkward sight.


“Jeremiah, what’s going on? Why is Edmund locked up?” She inquired.


“He blames me for murdering your father! If this gets out, I could be murdered myself! He’s a scoundrel!” Jeremiah growled.


I saw the shock in Liesel’s eyes, though she was trying to hide it. “A moment alone please, Jeremiah.” Liesel requested and he stomped off.


“Edmund, is what Jeremiah said true? You think he killed my father?” She asked.


“Liesel, I know this must be hard for you to comprehend, but you have to believe me. Jeremiah had him killed!” I insisted.

“Oh, Edmund…” She turned her head away and became silent. “Liesel, it’s true.” I said.


She closed her eyes and stood completely still. I could tell she was trying not to cry, I had seen her do this before.


“Why would he have my father killed?” She asked after a moment of silence.

“Because he owed him money that he couldn’t pay. Jeremiah owns a secret gambling establishment that your father used to go to. It’s where he lost everything and why you and your mother had to move away in order to escape the debts.” I explained and I saw a tear trickle down her cheek.


“Edmund.” She said as she reached her hand through the bars. I leaned closer and she placed her fingers on my cheek. “Edmund I want to believe you. But I can’t.” She said, her voice cracking.


I instantly backed away and looked at her in shock. “Why don’t you believe me? Do you really trust Jeremiah, a man you barely know, more than me?”

 

“It just seems kind of funny to me that you suddenly show up shortly after I marry him, ask my forgiveness, and then accuse Jeremiah of murdering my father. It’s like you’re trying to break us apart. Like you’re trying to win me back. But that can’t happen, Edmund. I made a vow and I intend to keep it.”


Tears began to blur my vision. I turned away and whispered, “Leave me.” And she left. 

How could she accuse me of such a thing? Her words stung me. It was a pain unlike any I had felt before. She didn’t trust me anymore. And now I didn’t know where my fate lied….

~Part Fifteen~

 

POV of Jeremiah:

“You wanted to see me.” Frederic said once he saw me approaching.


“Yes. We have a problem.” I said.

“What is it this time?” He inquired.


“Remember that little task I had you do a few years back?” I asked.


“You mean the one where you had me kill your new bride’s father?” He asked.

“Yes, that one.” I confirmed.

“What about it?” He pushed.


“The witness is back. He’s threatening to tell everyone about what we did.”


Frederic looked to the side and let out a satisfied sigh. “Well, that means I can kill him now.”


“No. We can’t kill him. He’s Liesel’s old beau. She would never forgive me if we killed him.” I said.


“The witness…. Is your wife’s old beau? And you don’t want me to kill him? I’d think that would make you want him gone more than ever!” Frederic said through gritted teeth.


“So what do you plan to do then?” He inquired and I could tell he was frustrated.


“I don’t know. For the moment he’s locked in the dungeon and can do us no harm. But it’s only a matter of time before Liesel requests his release. We need to think of something soon.” I stated.


“He needs to die, Jeremiah. As he long as he lives he will be a threat. I won’t go to prison and I will not be hanged.” He growled, not making eye contact.


“No! I will not allow you to kill him. I want a chance to be happy with Liesel and that would ruin it.” I said firmly.


“We’ll meet back here tomorrow to discuss our plans.” I said and Frederic stayed unmoving.


As I walked away, I heard a trigger click back.


I turned around and saw Frederic pointing a gun at me with a scowl on his face. “What are you doing?” I asked, afraid for my life.


“I told you, I will not die for what you had me do. You won’t let me kill the witness, so I’ll kill you instead.” He said with disdain. I stood petrified and all too fast –


– he pulled the trigger.

~Part Sixteen~


News of Jeremiah’s death came as quite a shock to me. When I asked Edmund about it, he said he suspected it was Frederic who murdered him. Believing that Edmund didn’t have a hand in it and that in fact, he had been honest with me before, I let him out. And now here we were, looking at Jeremiah’s tombstone.


“Are you alright, Liesel?” Edmund asked with concern.


“Yes, I’m fine. We didn’t love one another in the least. Though I am sorry that this all happened.” I replied.


“Do you think Frederic will come after you now?” I asked him.

“He may, but I think I can get him first.” He said.

 
“You won’t kill him, will you?” I questioned. 

“No, not at all. I’m not like them.”


I let out a sigh of relief and looked to the distance. “I feel at peace now. I feel – free. Like I can live as I please. I can be happy now.” I said in a faint whisper.


“I can understand that. I feel much the same way.” Edmund agreed.


Edmund stepped closer to me and gently lifted my hand into his and said, “This can be a fresh start for us.”


“Now that you’re unmarried, the kingdom needs to be secure. The people will expect you to marry again before long.” He said, a gleam in his eye. I felt my heartbeat quicken as he spoke.


“Yes, I suppose so.” I said, trying to hide my smile.


“I’d be honored if you would ever consider choosing me, Liesel.” He said, holding both of my hands now.


I just smiled and hugged him, feeling safe and secure in his arms. “I more than consider you, Edmund. I choose you.

~Part Seventeen~

Soon after Jeremiah’s death, Edmund found Frederic and placed him deep in the dungeon where he would spend the remainder of his days. Having Frederic so nearby did make me a little uneasy, but I could hardly worry about such things for I was busy making preparations for the biggest day of my life – marrying the man I truly love.

The music began to play, cuing my entrance. Right when I saw Edmund, I felt tears pricking at the corners of my eyes. Not tears of sadness, but of joy. He looked so incredibly handsome in his suit and smiling broadly at me as he, too, was seeing me for the first time.



Looking into his eyes, I just knew that we were thinking the same thing…

We had come so far and now here we were – about to pledge our hearts to each other for eternity. 

My mother watched with a tender heart and tears trickled down her cheeks. I knew this must be an especially meaningful time for her – to at last see her daughter marrying the man she loves.

When I reached Edmund, we both paused, taking in the special moment, each smiling so big our cheeks hurt.

Then he took my hand…

And we faced the pastor, ready to say our vows and be joined as one.

“With this ring I thee wed.”


I didn’t once take my eyes off of Edmund – not even to look at the ring. I would have been perfectly satisfied without a ring because I was receiving the most precious gem of all – the heart of the one I love.

“I present to you, your Prince and Princess.”

Edmund and I danced to a song that we both had loved when we were younger and for those few minutes, I felt as though I had traveled back in time, dancing with my beau to an enchanting song as he promised me that one day, he would marry me…

And we would be happier than we could ever comprehend…

Even if we had to live in a stable.

The ceremony went by so quickly and before I knew it, it was time to cut the cake.

“And we walked away together as husband and wife. From that moment on, we would never be separated.”


“And that’s the end of our story…”


“Not quite, Mama, because then you had me!” My daughter said with a gleeful expression.


“That’s right, sweetie. And soon you’ll have a baby brother,” I said with a smile.


“Oh, I can’t wait for him to come out!” Elsie cried as she held onto my belly.


“Or her; it could be a girl, you know,” Edmund said with twinkling eyes. “I’ve been wondering where you were all afternoon. It’s getting late.”


“I was just telling her our story,” I said and motioned for her to run along.


Edmund came up to me and smiled. “We have created a perfect life together, haven’t we?” He asked.

“Yes, we have,” I agreed.


“And soon it will get even better,” Edmund said, placing his hands on my belly. I looked into his eyes as he felt our unborn child moving inside me and my heart was warmed by the pure joy and love behind his eyes.

“I love you, Edmund,” I said. He looked into my eyes tenderly and replied, “I love you, Liesel.”


As we headed back inside, I watched our beautiful little girl skipping through the garden, I felt my baby moving within me, and I felt the love my husband had for me in the gentle touch of his hand. Though my life started out with a rocky beginning, things turned out alright. And I knew without a doubt that we would all live happily ever after – till the end of our days…

THE END

~Jaclynn~

Thanks to my mom for helping me when I was stumped and giving me great ideas for the story. <3

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