Teren awoke with sunlight shining on his eyelids. He sat up and yawned, then heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” he called sleepily. Cybille entered the room, then turned around and walked back out.
“You are not dressed.”
Teren rolled his eyes.
“It’s fine. I have a t-shirt and boxers on, you can come in.”
Cybille reappeared with one hand over her eyes.
“Your new suit is done, and I brought it up.”
“New suit? What new suit?”
“The one I measured you for last week. Remember? Your father wanted you to have it for when the guests arrive.”
She held out a brown paper bag with her free hand. Teren got up and yawned again, and took the bag from Cybille. He grinned and poked her hand.
“You’re not gonna open your eyes? Why not?”
“Because you are a young man in his undergarments, and I am a seamstress. Get dressed and I’ll come back.”
Cybille backed out the door, closing it behind her. She reopened it a crack after a brief second.
“Oh, also, those guests I was speaking of? They are arriving in about twenty minutes, and Master Soren wants you ready to meet them. Have a good morning, sir.”
Teren practically flew across the room and jumped into his clothes. Hugo came in to find him hopping around the room, trying to eat a biscuit and tie his shoe at the same time. He laughed, naturally. After Hugo finished helping Teren dress himself (Teren, you’re nineteen, dude! Seriously! Dress yourself!), they headed downstairs to meet the guests. Jolie was wearing a pretty blue dress, and the Duke himself was looking both stately and handsome in his second best suit. Teren was nervous, to be honest, and he felt his stomach churning. The car pulled up, and Teren gulped. The car door opened, and out stepped a young man. He had red hair and brown eyes, and was wearing a black suit. After him stepped out another young man, this one with blonde hair. He was wearing sunglasses and a black suit also. He turned and held out his hand for a third person. Teren’s heart rose in his throat as this third person stepped out. It was the girl. She was a pretty black-haired girl with deep brown eyes and soft pink lips. She was wearing a short dress of light pink, and matching ballet flats over white tights. Teren looked at her for a moment, but the feeling of twisting stomach and floating heart had gone. He was still nervous, since his father wanted him to impress her, but he didn’t feel that anxious first-crush type feeling that typically went with seeing a pretty girl. The three people walked up to Soren, Hugo, Teren and Jolie. The red-haired boy bowed slightly to Duke Lennon, and the Duke bowed back, greeting him.
“Prince Stuart, it is an honor to meet you.”
They shook hands.
“As it is to meet you, Sir Lennon. My father has said great things about you. This is my sister, Jennifer, and her bodyguard, Nicholas.”
The Duke bowed to Jennifer, who curtsied in return, and Soren motioned for Teren to step forward.
“A pleasure to meet you also, Princess. I would like you to meet my son, Teren.”
Teren bowed to her, and she curtsied back.
“And honor to meet you, your Highness.”
“And you, young sir.”
Stuart glanced over at Jolie. She smiled shyly, and her face turned pink.
“Why don’t we all come inside and get acquainted, then,” Soren said, motioning to the door.
Jennifer sat in her room after the talking was finished. Her bags sat by the door, and she looked at them, sighing. Teren was nice, and she felt like he would be a good friend if they’d known each other longer, but she just couldn’t see herself liking him. She put her head in her hands and sighed. How could she tell her brother and father this? She didn’t want to disappoint either of them. And what would Nicholas think? She sighed as she thought of these things. Then, suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
“Who is it?” she called.
“Cybille, the seamstress.”
Jennifer got up and opened the door. A young lady with curly brown hair and green eyes stood before her with a kind smile on her face.
“I was wondering if you had any clothes to be washed. If so, I can take them down now.”
“Oh. Yes, I have a few. Here, I’ll get them. You can come in.”
Cybille nodded smilingly and stepped inside. Jennifer opened one of her bags and looked inside.
“Did you have a nice trip here?” Cybille asked. Jennifer looked up, confused. The girl wasn’t asking because she had to, but because she actually wanted to know.
“Um, it was okay. A little long, I guess.”
“Naturally, from Theros to here is a good distance. The Dreven countryside is beautiful this time of year, though.”
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
Jennifer pulled out a few outfits and handed them to Cybille.
“I think that’s it. Thank you.”
“Not a problem. Oh, would you like something to eat or drink? I think Cook is making some rice treats downstairs. Would you like some?”
“Oh! Yes please. And coffee would be nice, too.”
“I’ll have a servant bring it right up! I hope you have a nice stay here!”
As the door closed, Jennifer sat back down on the bed.
“What a nice girl. Staying here might not be so bad after all.”
Cybille carried the clothes to the laundry room after sticking her head in the kitchen and giving Jennifer’s order to the cook. She started up a wash with Jennifer’s clothes, along with some other clothes that needed washing. Jason walked in with an armful of clothes also.
“How’d it go?” Cybille asked. Jason dropped his armful into an empty basket.
“The prince is nice enough, but that bodyguard guy is kinda stiff. How about the princess?”
“She’s nice. Kinda shy. She’s probably nervous about meeting Teren. There’s a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, and a lot of pressure from her family. Teren too. And I imagine they’re tired from their trip, too.”
“Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad I’m not nobility or royalty.”
“Yeah, me too. Say, what color are the prince’s eyes?”
“Uh… Brown, I think. Why?”
Cybille shook her head.
“No reason, just… no, it’s nothing.”
At supper that night, Teren and Hugo chatted as usual, Duke Lennon talked with Prince Stuart, and Jolie connected with Princess Jennifer. Nicholas ate silently, still wearing his sunglasses. Cybille and Jason watched, unseen, from the kitchen doorway.
“See? That bodyguard is seriously stiff! He’s even wearing sunglasses inside, at the table!” Jason said quietly. Cybille shook her head.
“I know he seems stiff, but I’m sure there’s more to it. I can’t say for sure, though.”
Jason glanced sideways at Cybille.
“How do you guess these things? You’re always really good at making people out before you know them.”
Cybille glanced at him.
“Uh… I’m a good judge of character?”
She turned back to the room.
“I dunno. It’s something in the eyes…”
“So what’s it like living in a palace?”
Jolie and Jennifer were talking together at the end of the table. Jennifer shrugged.
“Not much different than living here, except that there’s a city right outside our door, and it’s a little bigger. I like the countryside, though. We don’t usually travel all that much.”
“I’m just the opposite. I’d love to visit the city sometime. Uncle Soren takes me to town sometimes, though. If you like the countryside, I can take you out horseback riding during this week.”
“That would be so nice! Thank you!”
Teren glanced over at Jolie and Jennifer, then down at his plate. Hugo nudged him.
“Aren’t you going to say something to her?”
“Like what? I don’t know how to talk to girls!”
“What about Jolie? And Cybille? You talk to them all the time!”
“Yeah, but… Jennifer’s a princess, and… I’ve never talked to a princess before!”
Hugo poked him in the side.
“Well then, pretend she’s not a princess, and she’s just some girl who’s visiting.”
Teren gulped. He decided to just go for it, and worry about how much of an idiot he was later.
“Uh… Princess Jennifer… Um… Can I just call you Jennifer?”
The princess nodded.
“Yes, that’s fine. What did you want?”
“Um, I heard that you and Jolie might be going horseback riding later this week. If I might, I would like to, uh, join you?”
Jennifer nodded graciously.
“Certainly. I’m sure your company would be very welcome.”
Teren scratched his head.
“Is it required for royalty to use such big words?”
“No, it isn’t. I just tend to use big words a lot. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Not really. I just wondered, is all.”
Now Jennifer was curious.
“What do you usually do around here, anyway?”
Jolie chimed in grumpily,
“Terrorizes everyone with his posse, that’s what.”
“I like pulling practical jokes on everyone. I, uh, went a little too far with one yesterday. Jolie’s hair used to be longer.”
“You cut her hair!”
“No! But… I kinda made it necessary to cut it off.”
Jolie reached across the table and flicked Teren on the forehead.
“Yes you did.”
Stuart, who was at a lull in his conversation with the duke, heard these few comments, and turned to the others.
“I think your hair looks pretty like that,” he said kindly. Jolie blushed.
From behind the kitchen door, Cybille smiled knowingly. Jason saw the smile and nudged Cybille’s arm.
“What’s the smile for?”
Cybille tapped the door with a finger.
“Blue and orange. Inevitability taking place right before us.”
Jason made a face.
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”
Cybille shook her head.
“Nothing. Just some old poetry. But you just watch. That right there is a match made in heaven.”
Cybille turned back to the kitchen and walked off.
“What, Jolie and Prince Stuart?” Jason asked. He turned and saw Cybille leaving.
“What do you mean old poetry? Cybille? Where are you going?”
Jolie, Jennifer and Teren did go horseback riding the very next day, and Stuart and Nicholas joined them. Hugo stayed inside for his own reasons (He was scared of the horses), and hung out with Jason and Cybille. Jolie and Teren were surprised to find that Nicholas was a very good rider, and Jennifer also, though Stuart could use some practice. The day was pleasant, and the conversation was light, and all became well acquainted, though Teren and Jennifer still didn’t feel like they really held feelings for one another. They did, however, enjoy each other’s company, and talked long with each other. But the event of any real importance on this ride was the conversation between Stuart and Jolie, or rather, what came of this conversation. Cybille had not been mistaken in her prediction. Stuart and Jolie indeed were a match, and they rode alongside each other, talking easily. Jolie giggled at something Stuart had said, and Teren glanced over.
“They look like they’re getting along pretty well,” he remarked. Jennifer laughed.
“I know my brother better than anyone, and I’d say he’s quite taken with your cousin.”
“Well, if you and I don’t work out, I’d say we won’t have to worry about an alliance match.”
Jennifer looked at Teren in surprise.
“So you know about that, too?”
“Well, yes. Not that I much care for the idea.”
“Are you saying you don’t like me?” Jennifer said mischievously. Teren turned pink.
“No! No, that’s not what I… Oh. Haha, nice one.”
“To be honest, I don’t really care for the idea at all myself. I’m glad you feel the same. This would be awkward otherwise.”
“No kidding! It’d be like one of those ridiculous chick flicks that Jolie watches, where the girl likes one guy, but he doesn’t know she exists, and then this other guy likes her, but she doesn’t like him, and then at the end the guy who didn’t know the girl existed falls in love with her, and everything ends all happy and mushy.”
“And why are you so well versed in the plot line of chick flicks?”
Cybille entered the duke’s study and stood by the door. He looked up and saw her standing there.
“Ah, Cybille. Yes, you wanted to speak with me?”
Cybille came and sat down in the chair across from the duke.
“Yes sir. I was wondering if I could have some time off to go visit my family in Kaur. My dad’s birthday is coming up, and I wanted to be there to celebrate with them.”
“Certainly. It’s fine with me. How long do you think you’ll be gone?”
“No more than a week, sir.”
“Of course you may go. I hope you have a good time.”
Cybille stood up, then remembered something else.
“Oh! Sir, Jason also wanted to come with me. He has friends in Kaur who he hasn’t seen in a long time.”
The duke nodded.
“Yes, that’s fine with me. As long as he is only gone as long as you are.”
“I’ll make sure of it.”
And with that, Cybille exited the room.