You know in fairy tales, how the Princess gets married to the Prince and then the narrator says, “and they lived happily ever after?” That only happens in books. In real life, after the Princess gets married, things just don’t all fall together nicely with a final sentence. In real life, her world continues. So does that of her family, and friends.
Like with Cinderella. Did you ever stop to think about what it must have been like for her to go from being this ordinary girl to being a Princess? Or what it was like for her step sisters to adjust to that change?
No one ever thinks about it.
The Prince is the ultimate, idealized figure. He’s the dream guy that every girl is supposed to want. What they don’t tell you is that when Cinderella marries the Prince, her life takes over everything.
Suddenly, you are no longer your own person. You are the sister of the Princess. Everyone expects you to behave like a royal, when you’re not a royal. Boys pretend to like you so that they can sell pictures and video of you drunk to The Daily Mail. Girls stop being friends with you because they’re jealous. And then, you’re isolated, and alone, crying yourself to sleep.
As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s a terrorist attack. A member of The Guillotine, the group of revolutionaries from an island named Coleum, blow up part of the London Bridge. While you and your parents are in the car, and you are the sole survivor.
I guess I should explain, and start from the beginning, because right now I’m rambling.
When I was sixteen, my sister, Delilah Porter got accepted into the Royal Tudor University. Delilah was blond, pretty, and whip smart. She got paired up with Prince Derek for a school project, and the two went from bickering with each other in class to making out after class.
Eventually, Delilah brought Derek home for Christmas. He took her to Hatfield House to meet the Queen. And, before we knew it, my family was part of the wedding of the century. My sister had married the Prince of England, and was going to be the future Queen.
Right before her wedding, Delilah looked at me and said, “You know this is going to change everything for you, too.”
I laughed, not believing her. I was just her sister. I wasn’t anyone special.
Then, the accident happened.
My parents didn’t have any extended family to take care of me, and there was no choice for Delilah but to take me in. The funeral was held at Westminster Abbey, as though my parents had been Kings and Queens themselves. When they weren’t. They were just Martha and David Porter. Two teachers from Brixton.
The day of the funeral, I was moved into Tudor palace. I had stayed with my best friend, Liza Moore, after the accident while arrangements were being made. But I’d been taken into the royal family.
I was dubbed Lady Cecelia Porter, to make family gatherings less awkward. But I wasn’t a lady. I was just Cecelia.
The day my parents funeral was held, I was taken to a room big enough to fit our old apartment in. What little I had had been moved in already, and I crawled into the giant, four poster bed and sobbed.
My sister tried to get me to eat something. I ignored the food.
Derek tried to get me to take a tour of the castle.
Nothing would make me get out. I was in a place I didn’t want to be, I’d lost my family, and now I’d lost my life. There was no way I could just be Cecelia Porter anymore.
Even though I was still alive, when my parents died, I’d died too. Cecelia Porter was gone, and in her place was Lady Cecelia Porter. Someone I didn’t want to be and someone I didn’t know how to be.
I felt dead inside, and I wished that I had died in the accident with them.
I didn’t know how long I was locked in my room. Hours or days. Maybe a week even. I’d lost all track of time and I knew that my sister had constantly checked up on me, but I also knew that I didn’t care.
Then, a funny thing happened. The Prince slipped into my room.
Not Derek. No, Derek is completely and totally in love with my sister and wouldn’t bother showing interest in me.
No, it was Henry.
Derek’s younger brother. The playboy Prince. The troublemaker. The spare.
“You know, I was under the impression that a girl moving in here would make things interesting. You are a terrible disappointment.” I heard footsteps, and felt my bed move as he lay down next to me.
I looked up from where I’d been laying sideways, using my arms as a pillow. “Go away.”
“Charming,” he said, “lovely manners you Porter girls have. Do you know the first time I met your sister, she punched me in the face? I had a black eye for a week. That was how I knew she’d survive Royal life just fine.”
He was stretched out across my bed, his long body, and his arms crossed behind his head. Prince Henry of House Tudor was my age, 16, with red hair, freckles, and a roguish streak. I barely knew him, although we had danced together at Derek’s birthday last year. The press had taken pictures, insinuating we’d be the next couple to walk down the aisle.
I hadn’t thought much of it at the time. I’d had a boyfriend, good friends. I didn’t care that my sister was marrying the Prince of England. I just cared that she’d found someone that made her happy.
I figured I’d see Henry maybe five times a year, and that was that. But then the accident happened, my parents died, and now suddenly I was Lady Cecelia Porter. I’d be living in the same house as him, going to the same school as him.
Not that it mattered. Henry had been dating Lady Vivian Blackwood since they were fourteen, and it didn’t seem like that would end anytime soon. What’s more, I had no desire to be royal. The minute I turned eighteen, I would get as fast and as far from them as I possibly could.
“Go away, Henry,” I said.
“Come on, Porter,” he said, “you can’t stay in here. It’s been days. You’re beginning to smell. What’s more, it’s the start of summer holidays. You should be out there being young. Reckless. Creating magic. Maybe a little sin. Embracing the madness!”
I glanced over at him. “You want me to be a Taylor Swift song?”
“Well, it would be more interesting than being a lump on a log like you are. Besides, you look like you could use a little trouble, Cecelia. As it so happens, I happen to be an expert.”
I sat up, and wiped the tears from my eyes, then tucked my brown hair behind my ears. “What did you have in mind?”
He grinned. “The best remedy for heartache. Debauchery.”
“My parents just died, Henry. I’m not heartbroken. I’m sad.”
“There are different types of heartache, Cecelia. Just because you’re not gone over someone romantically, doesn’t mean you’re not heartbroken. Come on, Porter. Let me corrupt you a little.”
I frowned. “Wouldn’t the Queen say that’s highly improper?”
“The Queen is my Gran, and she just wants the people closest to her to be happy. That includes you now, you know. She’s been really concerned about you. You’ve been in this room for three days.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“Get dressed, meet me outside, and we’ll see.”
“What if I don’t get dressed?”
“Then, it’s your loss.” He grinned at me. “You’ve got twenty minutes, Porter!”
He got up off of my bed, and I was left alone. I hadn’t showered. I hadn’t changed clothes. I was still in black. But the clothes I had I knew wouldn’t be appropriate for wherever Henry was planning on taking me to.
I didn’t want to go out. Not really. But the way Henry had made the suggestion, it made it seem like a challenge. And I hated losing anything. So, I forced myself to get up.
There was a walk in closet in the room I was staying in. Delilah had arranged to have it filled with my old things, as well as some new things. Nothing I wore would seem appropriate in this new life I had to live.
So, I rummaged through the new things. Henry had talked about getting into trouble, and I knew what Henry’s nights usually looked like. Stumbling out of clubs and pubs drunk, despite being underage.
I slipped into a silver sparkly, deep, blue velvet dress, slipped some heels on and then forced myself to put on the tiniest bit of makeup. I managed to slip out of the palace without anyone seeing, and I found Henry leaning up against a black, SUV.
He wore a fitted, black Calvin Kline shirt, slacks, and his shirt was unbuttoned slightly. His red hair was a little mused, as if to make him look even more casual. “And so, she caves,” he said with a smirk, “Come on, Porter. I’ll be your Robbie Turner for the evening.”
“Robbie Turner was the son of a servant,” I reminded him, “you aren’t exactly qualified.”
“Semantics,” he said.
He opened the door for me, and got in. We drove into the city, and pulled up to a club. There was the flashing of lights as paps took our pictures. Henry grabbed my hand, and pulled me through the crowds of people as if it were the two of us against the whole world.
We went to a VIP room in the back, where there were six people around our age. Three boys, and three girls. One I recognized as Henry’s cousin, Prince Marlowe. He looked a lot like Derek, with dark hair, and blue eyes, and the kind of arrogance that came from being one of the richest young men in the world. Next to him was his sister, Princess Daisy. She was small, with blond hair, and freckles. Then there was Lady Vivian Blackwood, Henry’s girlfriend. She had brown hair, wore red lipstick, and always seemed to have sunglasses on no matter the weather and dressed like a wannabe Audrey Hepburn. Next to her was Jude Elliot, the lead singer in a popular boyband called Sweetheart. He had short, curly dark hair, green eyes, and dimples when he smiled. He wore a white, slightly unbuttoned shirt, and was covered in tattoos. He also had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Next to him was a girl, with curly, short brown hair wearing a black dress and looking very posh that I recognized as an actress from an American television show called Love and Money. And then there was a boy with blond hair, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and a hoodie who I recognized as the creator of an app called Friendzone.
“Henry!” Vivian got up from her spot on the leather couch, and kissed her boyfriend. She glanced at me. “I see you managed to wrangle the orphan out of her room.”
“Viv,” Henry chided.
Vivian winced. “Sorry,” she apologized, “I’m a b***h, you’ll learn that. We met at Derek’s birthday! You’re Cecelia, aren’t you? Delilah’s sister?”
“Horrid thing that happened. Delilah’s been absolutely wrecked, so I imagine you are too. But it’s good that you’re coming out! I’ve heard tell that you’ll be starting school with us in September, so you’ll get to know everyone before then.”
I frowned, and glanced at Henry. “I’m going to the same school as you?”
He winced. “Nothing’s been finalized yet, but the verdict is that it will be safer for you.”
Well, it was nice to know that my entire future was being planned out for me.
Henry saw the look on my face, and he looked pointedly at Vivian. The two communicated without words.
Vivian smiled at me. “Well, Henry brought you out for a night of debauchery so let’s get debauched! We’ve got several very strapping young lads here who I think would all like to dance with you, I’m sure. We should introduce you to everyone, I suppose. So over there, brooding, is Marlowe. He’s Henry’s cousin, you know, and his father is Henry’s uncle. And his sister, Daisy, the small little red head. Then, we’ve got Jude Elliot, and Margot Miller. And Quentin Segar.”
I waved. “Hello….”
Jude looked up at me with his piercing green eyes. “Why, you are a little thing like you aren’t you?”
“Back off, Elliot. She’s the future Queens sister. There’s no way she’s going out with the likes of your drug addicted arse,” said Marlowe.
Jude rolled his eyes, and grinned back at me. “Well, I rather think that it’s up to her to decide. Which of us lads are you going to dance with tonight, darling?” He stretched his arms out on the couch, showing off his chest with his slightly unbuttoned shirt.
I couldn’t help but laugh a little, and Henry shared another look with Vivian as if to say, ‘she’s alive’. The laugh stopped quickly. I felt bad laughing. It was too soon. I shouldn’t have been feeling happiness so soon. “I don’t think I’m much for dancing, at the moment,” I confessed.
“Are you much for drinking?” Daisy asked. “Because dancing, I can live without. But I simply will not accept a milksop who doesn’t drink.”
I smiled weakly. “Drinking, I can handle.”
“Wonderful!” She popped open another bottle of champagne, and she grabbed a glass that she handed to me. Jude made room for me on the black, leather couch. And I took my seat.
From across the room, I could feel Marlowe’s probing stare as he drank his own glass of champagne. That seemed like a terribly bad idea, and so I found myself focusing on Jude who was more than happy to receive the attention.
“So, who is Cecelia Porter? Other than the luckiest girl in the world?” Jude asked.
I frowned. “What makes you think I’m lucky?”
“Oh, I know your parents dying was very, very tragic. I’m not disregarding that. But some people lose their parents, and they get stuck in foster homes, and have nothing else in their life. But you….you landed the jackpot.”
“It’s very true, Porter,” said Henry, “you’re living the dream that everyone wants and no one will ever get.”
“My dream is to be at home, to go to my school, and to have my parents alive,” I said, “I know I should feel grateful but….I didn’t think things would be like this when Delilah got married. I thought maybe we’d have a few nosy people around. I didn’t realize my whole life would be stripped away.”
“Do you know what comes after your life is stripped away?” Jude asked.
“What?” I said.
“Rebirth,” he told me, “which is exactly what you need. You might not be in the mood for dancing, but I am. And you must appease me, my dear, dear Cecelia or I’ll be forever brokenhearted. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?”
I laughed, and this time I didn’t feel guilty about it. “No, I suppose not.”
“Come on then, my love,” he said, taking my hand and leading me out to the dance floor.
I was sixteen. I’d just lost my parents. Yet there I was, with the wealthiest teenagers in the world in a night club. It was a twisted dream. Jude was grinding his hips against me, and I awkwardly swayed with him not really certain what I was doing. But I liked the feeling of getting lost.
That was what we did, getting lost to a Selena Gomez song in the dance club. I wasn’t looking for love, I was looking to get out of my head though. And charming, handsome Jude was the perfect distraction.
Midway through our third song, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned, and found myself face to face with Marlowe. Our faces were a kiss away. That was all I could think as I stared at him.
“My turn,” he pulled me away from Jude, ignoring his objections. He gripped my hips, and we swayed to the music. His blue eyes stared at me, and I felt like he was trying to undress me with them.
I wanted to object, but the words wouldn’t come. The music slowed, and we were left to do nothing but sway together. There was a flash as someone snapped a picture of us.
“Asshole!” Quentin Segar’s voice shouted. “He’s got a camera.”
The boys made a lunge for the stranger with the camera phone that had just snapped picks. Marlowe let go of me long enough to get involved too, throwing a punch at the stranger.
“The girls just had her parents funeral and your taking pictures!” Marlowe hissed. “Leave her the f**k alone.”
The photographer, a scrawny guy with greasy hair said, “Well, the whole world wants to know.”
“Know what?” Henry asked.
“Which one of you she’s going to f**k first,” said the photographer with a grin.
The boys glanced at each other, and then proceeded to beat the crap out of him. “Stop!” I called. “Stop, it’s just a picture. It’s not---”
Vivian placed a hand on my shoulder. “Trust me, sweetheart. You won’t get them to do anything. No one hurts a Tudor.”
“I’m not one,” I insisted.
“You’re as good as,” she told me.
“Break it up! Break it up!” the bouncer had come to interrupt us, and he forced us out of the club.
Daisy laughed deliriously. “I must say, it does feel good to do something reckless. Cecelia, I think you’ve brought a bit of life into the group.”
“It wasn’t lively before?” I asked.
She shrugged. “It depends on what your definition of lively is.”
I didn’t know about that. What I did know was that for the first time in days, I felt slightly human. We stumbled out of the club, into the cool night air, into Henry’s black SUV.
Jude somehow weaseled his way next to me, and fell asleep with his head in my lap. While I was pressed up against Marlowe. I was aware of his heartbeat, and his cologne. It was the worst, cramped ride ever and the best. We arrived at the palace, at the crack of dawn, and snuck into the palace as if the whole night had only been a dream.