Chapter 1: Chapter 1
“Come on (y/n), hurry up! I need you to clean my room next!” You scoffed at the words of your step sister.
When you mother had died due to a horrible sickness, you and your father had been filled with a great sadness. Only 2 years ago he had come home to you, smiling proudly and pleading you to take a seat.
“What happened?”, you had asked excited, seeing your father smile for the first time after your mother had passed away.
“I met a woman”, he had stated and your heart had tightened in an instant. “She is beautiful and funny and she has two lovely daughters”, he had continued.
“I am really happy for you father”, you had hugged him. You didn’t feel good about the situation, but your father was happy. How could you not grant it to him?
“I will marry her on sunday” Hearing those words, you had let go of him. Was he serious? A glance at his face had told you that he was and you had sighed. “Isn’t that a little early? How long do you know each other now? For a few days?”
A frown had found its way on your fathers face. “We actually met 2 months ago”, he had replied biting his lip. You had only stared at him. He had been seeing a woman for months and only bothered to tell you because of the upcoming wedding?
You couldn’t deny you had been hurt, but at that moment you had managed to cover it up. “Congrats”, you had mumbled and put on a fake smile. Your father had grinned proudly, not realizing your sudden change of mood. “Thank you, darling! You will meet them tomorrow. I am sure you will love your stepsisters!”, he had bursted out thrilled. “You will share a room and-” You hadn’t listened anymore. The thought of getting stepsisters freightened you, but made you ecstatic at the same time.
The next day you had met your new family and you had to admit they seemed sweet. You had figured you would get along well and after all your mother wouldn’t have wanted your father to stay alone forever.
The wedding day had been over soon and on the next day they had moved in with you. But only a week after the wedding they had started to show their real faces. You had to give up your room and had to move in the attic. The politeness you showed for them by doing the dishes and washing their clothes soon got replaced by more and more tasks that were thrown at you.
After a month you couldn’t recognize yourself. Your light blue dress was stained with dirt and ashes and your face was black from the cinder. You spend your days serving your stepmother and her daughters, working hard to make them satisfied. If you refused they would punish you.
Once your stepmother had locked you in the basement with the rats, not giving you food or water for 2 whole days.
The other time your stepsisters had ripped all your clothes. Since then you only wore the same dirty dress over and over again.
You had tried to speak to your father, but he denied the truth. He had closed his eyes before the reality a long time ago, thinking he lived the perfect life he had imagined with his wife a long time ago. Even if that meant to mistake his own daughter for a maid.
“I am nearly done”, you yelled back and finished scrubbing the floor. “Oh you are?”, your other stepsister murmured. You gave her a questioning look. “Yes, I just fin-”, you stopped speaking when she took a bucket filled with sludge, pouring it at the spick and span floor.
You watched in pure horror. “I think you need to do that again”, she giggled and turned around. “What is wrong with you?”,you yelled after her, but her only respone was another laugh.
When the sun set you had polished her room again. “I am waiting”, your stepsister reminded you impatiently and you started to clean her room as well.
When you had finished the moon was already sparkling down at you. But instead of going to bed, like the others did, you snuck out.
You made your way to the grave of your mother, only stumbling once in the dark. Sitting down in the cold grass you began to cry. The tears burned down your cheeks and you silently sobbed at the pain. A year ago you had played outside in the sun, had helped on the market and read book after book. How good you have had it back then. Now you were a slave, working your butt off and getting insulted by your stepmother on daily basis.
Every word she said, every order she barked at you, slowly made you believe that she was right. This was your fault. You didn’t know what you did wrong, but when even your own father let them treat you this way there had to be a reason for that you deserved it.
You returned to the house, climbing up the stairs to the attic. You laid down, looking out of the skylight. The stars shining down at you calmed you and you found into a much needed sleep.
You woke up to your stepsisters screeching. Confused you glanced outside. It was still early in the morning and it was unusually for your sisters to be awake already. Normally you were the first one up, making breakfast and working in the fields, but today something was different.
You climbed down the stairs and were greeted with giggling and screaming. “It’s already tomorrow evening!”, Anastasia squeaked.
“What is tomorrow evening?”, you asked, entering the living room. Drizella wrinkled her nose dismissively.
“Nothing you should care about”, she barked and smirked malicious at your appearance.
“Oh really?”, you doubted with a rosen brow. “So you don’t need food, a dress or anything else that you are too weak to do yourself?” Your voice was filled with confidence and you were proud to sound strong for one time.
“Ew, she’s right”, Anastasia groaned, ignoring your last words. “Well, the prince will host a big ball-” “3 balls”, Drizella interjected. Anastasia gave her a reproachfully look but continued. “3 balls where he will pick his future wife.”
Your heart started to beat faster. Maybe a festival was everything you needed now. For 3 evenings you would be able to get out of this house and dance in a beautiful dress. You wouldn’t have to serve your stepmother and sisters nor had to wear your rags.
You doubted that the prince would be interested in you, but you didn’t care about that. You didn’t need to be a princess and the prince was probably a prig. The only thing important was to get out of here, even if it would only be for 3 evenings.
“Wow, that is great!”, you beamed in excitement. “We know!”, Anastasia screamed and both girls jumped up and down. “We need new dresses and shoes and jewellery! Oh and you have to do our hair! We must look as beautiful as possible so no woman can compete with us!”, she ordered.
“She has to do our fingernails as well!”, Drizella added and both started to giggle at your dumbfounded expression.
“What about me?”, you asked disappointed at what you supposed was to follow. “Who said that you were invited?”, Anastasia exclaimed with a grin.
“Err the prince. The card says that every citizen is invited to join them”, Drizella mumbled confused. “You are so stupid!”, Anastasia yelled at her sister, who looked puzzled.
While the two started to argue you left, searching for your father. Perhaps he would allow you to go to the ball.
But once you found him your hope was destroyed. Your stepmother was by his side, murmuring something in his ear. Your father smiled at whatever she had said, but you couldn’t overlook that he seemed tired. He had dark bags under his eyes and you noticed that his dark hair had started to turn grey.
Your stepmother became aware of your presence and sighed. “Don’t you have work to do?”, she scoffed, but you shook your head. “I wanted to speak to my father for a moment. Alone.”
The woman gave your father a stern look and he nodded at her. “Whatever you have to say, you should say it to the both of us”, he stated and you lowered your gaze. How could he let her manipulate him like this?
You lowered your gaze. It would be easier to speak when you didn’t have to see their faces.
“I want to go to the ball”, you confessed, not daring to look up. “I will finish all the work and I can make a dres myself.” You met their faces and saw that your stepmother did not look pleased.
“I don’t think the prince want a maid to attend his ball”, she pointed out. “And that is what you are. A maid, our servant!” You shook your head in determination.
“That is not true”, you defended yourself, shooting your father a gaze. He didn’t seem interested at all. His gaze was cold and he seemed to be absent.
“Father.” You chrouched down in front of him. “Father, it’s me, your daughter.” You took his hand in yours and he blinked a few times. Confused he looked down at you, then turned his head to his wife in question.
“That is our maid”, she asserted and your father nodded in understanding. “No”, you cried out. “That is not true! Father, look at me! It’s me, (y/n)” Your father looked even more dazed, glancing towards your stepmother for help.
She smiled at him and squeezed his arm. “Don’t listen to her. She only wants your money”, she reassured him. You gasped. How could she say this when she was clearly the one stealing his money?
“Can’t you see that she is manipulating you?”, you croaked helplessly.
“Leave me alone!” Your father had never talked to you like this. His voice was emotionless and he gave you a hard stare. “What? But-” “I said leave me alone!”, he screamed and you flinched. You darted a glance at your stepmother, who was smiling victoriously.
You got up and ran out of the room, sobbing into the back of your hand. You heared your stepsisters laughter but didn’t look back. You only came to a hold once you reached the forest. Crying you sat down next to a large beech.
You own father didn’t recognize you anymore. He had been everything you had and now you had lost him too.
You only returned home when it turned dark outside. Knowing you would be punished for your absence, you walked back as slowly as possible.
Your stepmother was waiting for you at the window and when you saw her expression, you knew that something more than bad would follow.
You had been punished to stay in the basement and sort out a bowl of lentils from ashes. This was an odd task, but soon you found out how hard work it was to seperate the two.
It was already dark outside and you only had a candle that provided nowhere near as enough light. But your stepmother had insisted that you had to do the task until the next morning. If you weren’t ready she had threatend to cut off all your hair.
Hour after hour was spend picking out the lentils. Sweat was running down your forehead and the candle had nearly burned down completely. The silence felt heavy and reminded you that you were all on your own. There was no chance that you could flee from this.
Of course you had thought about running away more than often, but thinking it through, you knew that there was no use. You had no money and no friends that would take you in. You couldn’t leave your father even though he didn’t recognize you anymore and you had learned that people were cruel.
What if you ran away only to come into a situation worse? A young woman seeking for help could turn even the most honorable man into a criminal.
The next morning you had barely gained any rest. You had managed to seperate all lentils from the ashes, but you knew that would satisfy your stepmother only temporary.
At least she had let you leave the dark basement so you could cook breakfast.
When you served it, your stepsisters broke out in laughter. “Look at her face!”, Grizella mocked. “Did you fall into the ashes once again?” Anastasia giggled. “Look at her hair- if you can still call it hair”
You ignored their mean comments and excused yourself to clean the kitchen. Scrubbing the stove you suddenly got an idea. Your stepsisters would visit the town today to buy the most expensive dresses they could find. You could pretend to buy fruits and vegetables on the market, but get some fabric instead.
Maybe you could do your own dress and sneak out to visit the ball.
More and more convinced of your idea you returned to the living room. “I heared you go to the town today”, you spoke up. Everyones attention turned to you.
“I need some new vegetables and fruits for the dinner. I would like to accomplish you to the market”, you announced. Your stepmother rose her brow but nodded.
“The carriage will be here in 20 minutes. If you haven’t finished doing the dishes until then, you can walk”, she declared and you nodded.
You felt like you had never rubbed so fast. You could walk back, that was no problem, but if you walked the other way as well, it would cost too much time. The ball was already this evening and you needed to cook dinner, make a dress and help the girls as well.
Fortunaley you made it in time.
The ride to the town was mostly quiet. Sometimes Anastasia and Grizella chatted, but you didn’t listen.
When you finally arived you got a little money for the food. “You don’t have to wait for me. I will walk back”, you told them and left.
To cover up your plan you first went to buy some food. You didn’t want the others to get a reason to become suspicious.
Then you went to the tailoring. The woman behind the counter was sewing a dress, probably for another girl that would go to the ball today. You stayed silent and looked around. You needed to find fabric that wasn’t too expensive.
In this moment you were grateful that your stepmother never bought any food, because if she had, she would have known that she gave you too much money.
“Can I help you?”, a girl in your age had appeared next to you. You jumped and nearly dropped your basket. “I am sorry, I didn’t want to scare you”, she apologized with an accent.
She was wearing a red dress and long chocolate brown hair was flowing down her shoulders.
“Oh, it wasn’t your fault”, you explained with a smile.
“My name is Wanda”, the girl introduced herself and held out her hand. “I’m (y/n).” You shook it firmly.
“Do you look for a dress?”, the girl asked with a huge grin. “Uh no, I don’t have the money for that”, you replied, a little ashamed.
“I only look for fabric. Maybe I can make my own”, you added.
“So you will go to the ball today?”, Wanda questioned in excitement. “I will go and I know no one, so it would be nice to get to know somebody already!”
“To be honest, it’s complicated”, you answered. Wanda frowned, then she smiled again. “I have lots of time until my dress is ready.”
So you told her that your stepmother didn’t let you go and that you didn’t have the money nor the skills or time to make a dress yourself. “So I don’t think I will make it”, you finished.
“No no no, you have to go!”, Wanda protested. You gave her a sad smile, but shook your head. “Look at me Wanda! I can’t attend the ball looking like this”
The girl stayed silent, until her face lit up again. “I could buy you a dress”, she suggested but you shook your head.
“No, you can’t do that for me!”, you stated but Wanda seemed to be convinced of her idea. “Of course! You want to go to the ball and I don’t want to go alone.” Her eyes sparkled and you knew you didn’t have the heart to turn her down.
“I will pay you back”, you insisted and she nodded. “But what if you buy me the dress, but my stepmother recognices me at the ball? She would kick me out before I would be able to blink”, you wondered.
Wanda stilled. “I have a plan, trust me. Just tell me you will come and I will take care of your family”, she reassured.
You thought about it for a moment, but decided to let it go and put faith in her. If she would buy you a dress, you shouldn’t question her.
You picked a beautiful blue dress that was astonishing and not too expensive. You would have chosen a simpler one, but Wanda demanded you to pick a better one. She told you that her parents had died early and had left her and her twin brother Pietro a lot of money.
Then you said goodbye to Wanda and hurried home as fast as you could. The dress had been placed in a bag, but it was heavy over your shoulder and every step was a torture.
You slipped through the backdoor, eased that the others hadn’t returned yet.
A sigh of relief left you when you had hidden the dress under the loose floorboards at the attic. Your stepmother and your stepsisters didn’t dare to come up here, so there was no way that they could discover your secret.
You smiled to yourself. You would go to the ball!
You prepared dinner and waited impatiently for the others to arrive. You wished to get ready for the ball already, but it would be too obvious if you would have a clean face and combed hair when they came back.
“(y/n)!”, the shrill scream from your stepmother made you tense. You followed the direction it came from and were surprised to see that she was trying to get into her dress. “Help me with the corset!”, she ordered you in a whiny voice and you had to supress a grin.
It was more than satisfying to follow her instructions. “Tighter, tighter!”, she barked and you pulled as hard as you could. Maybe she enjoyed your food a little too well.
Then you helped Anastasia and Drizella into their dresses and curled their hair. You would have said that they looked pretty, if they hadn’t applied tons of make-up and jewelery.
“Give me the mirror!”, Drizella screeched at her sister and tried to grab it. “It’s mine!”, Anastasia yelled back and you rolled your eyes. It took your whole concentration not to yell back at them.
Since they were too occupied to fight each other, you decided to look after your father. He was wearing a simple suit, which reminded you of the one he had worn to your mothers funeral. Maybe it was even the same, you thought.
“You look good, father”, you tried to get his attention, but he didn’t look at you. “I hope you have a lot of fun at the ball today.” With that you left, disappointed how the situation had turned out.
Eventually the family was ready to leave. “Enjoy your time at the ball”, you mumbled quietly, but loud enough so they could hear you. “I have lots of work to do.”
“That’s a good girl”, your stepmother grinned at you and climbed into the carriage. She probably thought that she had broken you, but you wouldn’t give up that easily.
You closed the door behind them and ran upstairs to get ready. Brushing your hair was the hardest part, but after what felt like an eternity, you finally felt it falling soft over your shoulder.
Next was your body. It had been ages since they had allowed you to take a bath and the water felt like heaven on your skin. But you didn’t get to enjoy this feeling long and quickly dried yourself off.
A knock on the door made your nerves stretch. Who would come by during this hour? Debatting over if you should open or not you reached the door. Slowly you opened it a bit to peek out.
On the other side was the girl from the tailoring, Wanda. “Is your family already gone?”, she whispered and you nodded. She was wearing a beautiful red dress, with sequins decorating the top.
“Oh my god, you look wondeful!”, you breathed and she blushed. “Thank you. My brother said the same, but well he is my brother and he is an idiot!” You laughed and dragged her inside.
“Not so fast, I have to walk on those shoes!”, Wanda protested and you giggled in excitement. “I can’t believe that I am actually going to the princes ball!”, you exclaimed. “Me neither”, she laughed and you guided her into the living room.
Your dress was laying on the sofa and Wanda helped you put it on. She applied a little bit of make-up and curled your hair. Then she gave you a pair of shoes that had belonged to her mother but were too small for Wanda to wear them herself. They fit perfectly to your foot.
“Ready”, she announced and held out a mirror.
The woman you saw in the mirror was defenitely not you. She looked ages older and like a princess and not a maid nor the appearance you had grown to accept. “Wow, thank you so much”, you whispered and hugged Wanda.
“Come on the carriage is waiting!”, she squeaked and you giggled.
When you arrived at the castle you were beyond nervous. It was your first ball and the first time you would be able to have fun, since a long time.
Wanda was as excited as you. The whole time she giggled without any further reason and in the end she infected you.
“You have to show me your family first”, Wanda announced and you nodded. You still felt insecure about the situation. What could Wanda possibly do to convince your family to let you stay? And what if they saw you first and would make a scene?
You entered the castle. It was huge and as wonderful inside as it looked on the outside. Stunned you took everything in: The big hall, the ornaments on the walls, the crowd of people laughing and dancing.
“This - is - amazing!”, you confessed.
“Come on, I don’t want to spend the evening just staring!” Wanda pushed you forward and you nearly stumbled. You had never walked in high heels and were glad that you could take them off once you arrived home. Even if they looked gorgeous, it was hard to avoid tripping and later you had to dance in them.
You pushed the thought aside and walked down the stairs. You were glad that the ball had already started so nobody watched you come down. You weren’t comfortable getting too much attention, since you weren’t used to any at all.
Pushing through the crowd you finally got sight of your family. Your stepmother was flirting with a high-ranking man, who looked unimpressed and your stepsisters were busy watching the prince.
“That’s them”, you pointed towardst your family and Wanda nodded. “I can do this”, she mumbled, but it sounded more as if she wanted to convincer herself and not you.
She strolled away and you watched her frantic.
Wanda started a conversation with your stepsisters to get their attention. You couldn’t hear what she said, but your heart pounded painfully in your chest. It felt like it would burst.
You saw that the girl moved her hands and for a moment you thought that your stepsisters’ eyes glued red, but when you blinked it was gone.
Next was your stepmother. Again you noticed a red light flickering in her eyes, but it disappeared as fast as it had come.
Wanda approached your father, but you were too distracted watching Anastasia. She had turned around and her gaze was lingering at you, mustering you up and down.
You held your breath in shock, but then she gave you a small smile and turned away.
“Done”, Wanda was back at your side, but you were still to caught up in what had just happened, to respond.
“Are you okay?”, she asked with a frown. ”I- she didn’t recognize me”, you stuttered. “I thought that was the plan?”, Wanda questioned nervously.
“Yeah I- I just…how?” You couldn’t form a proper sentence.
“I am a witch”, Wanda whispered into your ear. “My brother and me- we have powers.” You looked at her and nodded for her to continue, although you didnt understand anything. How was that possible?
“But you can’t tell anyone!” She grabbed your arm. “You have to promise me that you don’t tell anyone!”
You processed her words for a few moments until you removed her grip from your arm. But you didn’t let go, rather squeezed her hand in reassurance. “Of course, I won’t tell anyone. I promise!” You stopped yourself from adding that she was the only good person in her life, so you didn’t even had anyone to tell.
Wandas face lit up in relief. “Thank you. But now go and have fun!”, she laughed and you smiled.
You turned around to walk off when Wanda held you back. “You have to leave when the clock hits 12 or else they will catch you. My magic only endures this long!” You nodded and left.
Finally you were free to do what you wanted to do, without your family stopping you.
You made your way over to the dance floor and stopped when you reached it. It looked like so much fun to dance, but nobody had asked you yet and you couldn’t dance on your own. So you spend the time admiring the dancers from your spot.
Only a few minutes later, a young man had appeared on your side. He held out his arm without any word and you took it without any hesitation.
You felt as if you were flying The music and the group of other dancers made you feel comfortable while your dance partner twirled you around.
He had light brown shoulder long hair, which was tugged behind his ears and irritating blue eyes, which made his appearance even more unique. You realized that you didn’t know his name and it was impossible to ask now, since you were breathless and occupied not to trip.
The song ended and the partners were traded. A dark haired man stood before you, his hair messy and his green eyes puffy. You could smell the alcohol from his breath and immediately got uncomfortable.
The dance started and he grabbed your hip, only he squeezed it a little too tight. “Nice party huh?”, he asked and the wave of alcohol hit your face. You turned your face away in disgust and only nodded as a response.
“You are a really pretty thing actually”, he observed and studied you closer. You tried to put distance between his body and yours, but it didn’t work. His grip was too firm.
You gazed up to see that he was still examining your body, staring at places you weren’t comfortable with. Your breath quickened and you pushed against his chest, but he only laughed at your attempt to turn him down. “Pretty feisty as well, huh?”
Before you could react to it, the hands were removed from your hips and you found yourself in the arms of another man. You heared the dark haired man protest, but a sharp look from your new dance partner made him still and he left.
“I am sorry about that”, the man apologized with a sad smile and put some space between your bodies. He had baby blue eyes and blonde hair, which shimmered golden in the dimmed light. He wore a white suit, which was decorated with buttons and insignias.
It took you a moment to recognize him, but then you gasped in surprise. You had only seen the prince once, when he had still been a child himself. Your mother had taken you to the market that day and you had seen the king and his son. He had taught the young prince about different kind of prices, who hadn’t looked interested at all.
“Oh, I am sorry, my prince”, you responded and bowed your head for a second. “There is no need to be formal”, he told you with a smile and you blushed. You were beyond grateful that he had saved you from the other man, but didn’t know how to express your appreciation.
After that it was silent. You danced for the rest of the song and the song after that and the one after that one. None of you made a move to change partners and so you danced with the prince for a long time. Although none of you said a word you told each other so many things, as if you communicated through your moves.
Your bodies were in perfect synth and you even forgot about your shoes and the heavy dress. You felt light and if the prince hadn’t held you in his arms you felt like you would have flown off.
When the song ended the prince pulled you a little closer. “You are an amazing dance partner”, he confessed and you felt your cheeks getting red. “Thank you. You aren’t that bad either”, you noted and he laughed.
“That is because I had to take dancing lessons my whole life”, he admitted and you blushed again. “Oh.” He smiled at you.
“Excuse me”, a high pitched voice pulled you out of your gaze. You felt like you had woken up from a dream, a beautiful dream and had to go back to the dull reality.
“There are other people who want to dance with the prince as well”, the woman with raven hair and narrowed eyes acknowleged in an accusing voice. She was wearing a red dress, that showed more skin than it covered.
“Oh my god, I am sorry”, you blushed and stepped back. Maybe you had overstepped your boundary without realizing it.
The prince seemed to be uncomfortable himself. He gazed to the ground, not knowing what to say.
You rushed off without a word and made your way out of the crowd. You needed to get some air.
You spotted a backdoor and sneaked outside.
The night was cold, but provided fresh air, which filled your lungs promptly. You walked away from the castle, embarassed at what had just happened. How did you mess up everything good that happened to you?
You realized that you were in the gardens. You didn’t know if you were allowed to be here, but a stubborn part of you thought that it wouldn’t matter if they arrested you. Maybe going to prison was even better when going back to your stepmother and stepsisters.
You found a bench and sat down. From the castle you heared the clock hitting 11 beats. You had an hour left until you had to return home, still you felt like the evening had just started.
All of this- the dress, the shoes, the make-up- the betrayal of your family- for what exactly? A moment of dancing? Was it even worth it?
You sat there in silence and tried to get a clear head. You didn’t know how much time had passed by, but suddenly you heared a branch cracking.
“Can I sit here?”, a voice pulled you out of your thoughts. The prince was standing in front of you, fiddling with his sleeves. You nodded and made space for him.
“I am sorry for what happened”, he apologized after he had sat down. “Oh, there is no reason to apologize”, you assured him, realizing it was the second time he had apologized to you this evening.
“I think there is”, he confessed, peeking at your face. “I put you in an uncomfortable situation and I am sorry for that.”
You still saw no reason for him to feel guilty, but let it go with a smile. “How did you find me here?”, you wondered and turned to get a better look on his face.
“I saw you slip out of the hall”, he explained with a chuckle. “Aren’t you cold?”, he questioned and you shook your head.
“Maybe a little”, you admitted shyly.
The next thing happened so quickly that you had no time to protest. The prince took off his jacket and wrapped it around your shoulders. “Thank you.”You felt your cheeks getting red and tried to cover it up with a little cough.
“No need to thank me”, he grinned. “I am Steve by the way.” He held out his hand, but you hesitated to shake it. “I am not sure if it is appropriate if I called you that”, you pointed out.
“Nobody would know. Besides- I don’t care”, he responded with a grin and you nodded. “I am (y/n)”
You spend the rest of the night with Steve in the gardens. You wondered if nobody would question his absence, but he told you that the most people were probably to drunk to realize he was missing.
He told you a lot about his life and himself and you felt like it made him feel better. There seemed to be a weight on his shoulders that he carried around his whole life and talking to somebody else made it better.
You wished that you could do the same, tell him everything about your life, but that wasn’t possible. You couldn’t betray your family like that nor could you trust the prince enough to reveal this secret.
You liked him, you really did; he seemed to be selfless and kind and caring, but once you would admit your secret you wouldn’t be able to take it back. There was a reason they treated you like this, and you figured once the prince would know, he wouldn’t look at you the same again.
How could he, when he would learn that you were a maid with no friends and no loved ones. If nobody loves you, something is really wrong if you. Maybe you don’t deserve love. Maybe you are worthless.
Your stepmother had taught you that a long time ago and you couldn’t bare the prince looking at you in pity or disgust.
So every time Steve asked you something about yourself, you blocked. Instead you told him something else, mostly stories from your childhood when your mother had still been alive. When everything had been perfect.
“She seemes like a great woman”, he gently smiled at you. “I hope I will be able to meet her some day.” Your heart squeezed in pain at his words and you blinked away the tears. “I am sure she would love you”, you responded with a fake smile, but Steve had furrowed his brows.
But before he could say anything the clock began to hit 12. Panicking you looked around. “Is everything alright?”, Steve asked worried. You nodded, but shook your head at the same time. “I have to go”, you stuttered and got up from the bench.
“Thank you for the jacket.” You pressed it to his chest and turned around. “And thank your for the nice evening”, you yelled over your shoulder while running away as fast as possible.
“Wait, (y/n)”, you heared his baffled voice in the distance, but you couldn’t turn around. Fortunaley he wasn’t following you, so you only concentrated on making it home as quickly as possible.
You saw the first carriages taking people home and sped even more.
If your family would be home before you were, they would kill you.
Fortunaley you were the first one to arrive home. You ran upstairs and took off your dress and the shoes. Then you hid them under the loose plank again and changed into your old and dusty dress.
You washed your face to remove the make up and then covered it with ashes. They needed to believe that you had spend the evening working and you would do anything lo leave them in that conclusion.
A look in the mirror reminded you that your hair was still curled and neat so you went through it with your fingers until it was a hopeless mess. Then you grabbed your bandana and tied it around your head.
Gone was the noble woman, replaced by the girl, covered in dirt and rags.
You heared the sound of horse’s hooves and went back upstairs. You laid down on the sheets that were your bed and listened to the excited voices filling the house.
You couldn’t think about sleep. Your mind was wide awake from the thrilling evening. You had danced with the prince and had talked to him for more than a brief moment. You left out the detail that you had run from him and would never be able to look him in the eyes again.
You wished that you had gotten a chance to talk to Wanda again, because the last time you had seen her was when she had danced with a man you didn’t know. He looked a little older than her, but they seemed to have a lot of fun together.
You flinched when you heared footsteps on the stairs. Your stepsisters nor your stepmother had ever dared to come up here, but your father wouldn’t talk to you anymore unless you were the one to walk up to him and start a conversation.
The sound of the footsteps told you that the person wore heels and since you still heared your stepsisters screeching and laughing downstairs, it had to be your stepmother. What was she doing up here? Had she discovered your secret?
“I know you’re still awake!” Her voice made your body tense and you didn’t know whether to pretend to sleep or turn around. You decided to face her, so you sat up and turned until you saw her frame.
“How was the ball?”, you asked polietly and she grinned. “It was amazing! Even better knowing that you were here working.”
Her wicked smile urged you to punch her in the face, wipe that smirk off her ugly face, but you controlled yourself. Instead you responded with a weak smile of your own.
“Oh you should have seen the prince”, your stepmother continued. “He looked gorgeous. And all the dresses-” You had balled your hands to fists, but let go when your stepmothers gaze went down to your fingers.
“Sounds good.” You forced your smile to stay on your face, but your voice betrayed you.
“I see you’re angry”, your stepmother laughed. “What a pity that you couldn’t come. Maybe you can attend the next ball.”
Your jaw clapped open in disbelief. Did she really just say that there was a chance that she would let you go to the ball?
“Although if I think about it, nobody wants you there. They have enough maids themselves and that’s what you are; a maid!” You gazed to the ground when you felt the dissapointment spread.
“Why do you always have to be so rude?”, you spoke up and promptly your stepmothers smile faded.
She seemed to be caught off guard for a second, but then her smile came back. “Honey, because that’s what you deserve!” And with that she left you to your own again.
The feeling of excitement was gone. You sat in the dark and stared at the wall, both in distress and anger.
Nobody could deserve a treatment like this; not even you.
“From now on I fight back”, you decided and with that you laid down again, determination and anger not letting you sleep for a long time.
In this chapter you can find another well known mcu character ;)
The next day you were up quickly. You prepared breakfast, but not only for your family, but yourself. You brushed your hair and cleaned your face. Then you sat down at the table and started to eat.
“Yes and have you seen her dress. Disgusti-”, Drizella stopped dead in her tracks when she saw you. “What are you doing here?”, she barked while Anastasia left, probably to search for her mother.
“I am eating. Here, take something too or it will get cold”, you announced and continued to take your meal.
“I see that”, Drizella hissed, her face getting red from the anger. “What makes you think you can sit there?”
You put your fork down and gave her a confident smile. “Because I am the one making breakfast every morning and because I am your sister, if you like it or not.”
Drizella gasped in shock. You had never spoken up to her like this and you felt her certainity sink.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Your stepmother marched into the room, Anastasia following close by.
“I am eating my breakfast”, you repeated and bet your eyelashes in innocence. You could see your stepmother foaming with rage and you felt both proud and afraid.
“But no worries. I finished so you can have the whole table just for you”, you continued and hopped of your chair.
“I don’t know if I will make it to dinner, because I am meeting a friend, but you can start without me”, you stated and went for the door.
“What makes you think this doesn’t have consequences?”, your stepmother yelled and seeing her angry face gave you a satisfied grin.
“Because you need me.”
With that you were out of the door, making your way over to the market.
You were in a great mood. Only the imagination of what was going on now at home made you laugh. Surely your stepmother was freaking out and yelling around and maybe your stepsisters were even crying.
You didn’t have sympathy for them; not this time.
But while one part of you cheered that you had stood up for yourself, you knew that you had to return home eventually. Your actions would give you a great punishment, but you didn’t care.
They had come through with this for too long. They had broken you and you had accepted your treatment, but that would change from now on. If they would realize that their plan didn’t work anymore, they would have to find something else.
They couldn’t throw you out, because they needed you. If you were being honest, you knew that they weren’t even able to make the dishes, prepare dinner and work in the fields. They needed you and this fact gave you something that could even break the worst demon.
You had lied, when you said that you were meeting a friend. You didn’t even know where Wanda lived and she was probably busy. Still you looked around, hoping to recognize her face somewhere in the crowd of people.
It was a sunny day and the market was filled with voices and music. You followed the sound of a guitar and found a young boy sitting near a tree. He was around 15 years old and although you didn’t have much money yourself, you knelt down and gave him a penny.
He looked up from his fingers and gave you a bright smile, which you returned. “This sounds amazing-”, you paused when you didn’t know his name.
“Peter. I’m Peter Parker”, he introduced himself and you nodded. “Peter. This sounds amazing!” His face lit up in an instant.
“Thank you. I wish more people would see it like that. They mostly only talk to me to tell me to go somewhere else.”
He gave you a sad smile and continued to play. “That’s a shame”, you spoke and turned to see if somebody was showing any interest in the music.
Unfortunaley he was right. None of the other people paid any attention to the young boy. “You should come to the next ball. It would be nice to see you there and maybe you could show the prince your talent. I bet he would love it!”, you suggested, remembering that Steve had told you about his love for music.
“Maybe I will do that!”, the boy responded with a smile and after that you left to look at the other stalls.
But when you arrived at the other side of the market, you saw a group of guards. They were surrounding somebody you couldn’t make out yet, but when you got a little closer you saw blonde hair.
You tried to peek through the crowd to see more, but you were too short. “Do you know what’s going on?”, you asked the woman next to you and she nodded. “The prince is visiting the market to learn more about his folk. He does that once a week.”
Surprised you glanced into the princes’ direction. You hadn’t known that he was leaving the castle this often. The king had barely intercated with his people and somehow you had assumed that would apply for the prince too.
But after you had met and talked to him on the first ball, you should know better. Steve was kind and lighthearted, nothing like the king. Yet, he still suprised you more and more.
The crowd moved when Steve went for the next stall and for a second you could see him clearly in front of you. Blonde hair, baby blue eyes, a gorgeous smile and the uniform with the insignias.
His head turned and you seemed to be frozen in shock. His eyes met yours for not even a second, when you snapped out of your gaze and quickly turned around to leave.
He hadn’t recognized you, right? No, it was impossible! He had only seen you for one evening and it had been dark in the gardens. Also you wore no make up and were clothed in the dirty dress, the bandada looped around your head.
Still you couldn’t risk more and fled from the crowd. It was still early so you didn’t want to go home, but at the same time you didn’t want to return to the market either.
Conflicted you bit your bottom lip when suddenly somebody yelled your name. You turned around and saw Wanda, a man with blonde hair by her side. “Oh my god, it’s so nice to see you”, you confessed and hugged her. She laughed and hugged you back.
When you let go you saw the blonde mans gaze lingering on you. “This is my brother, Pietro”, Wanda introduced him and you remembered that she had mentioned having a twin brother before. Immediately you wondered if he had powers like Wanda as well.
“What are you doing here?”, you asked them in confusion. Although you had hoped to see Wanda here, you hadn’t really expect to meet her. The chance was just too small.
“I was hoping that the prince would say something about the next ball”, Wanda explained and the thought of it made you excited. “Has he?” Wanda shook her head.
“We were just heading home, but you can come along if you want to.” You thought about it for a second. You would love to go with them, but at the same time you didn’t want to be a burden.
Wanda must have read your thoughts because she nudged your shoulder. “Come on, say yes! I would love to spend time with my friend!” Your face lit up when she called you a friend and you agreed.
You took the next carriage that came along and while climbing inside, you wondered if you did the right thing. Even if you could sneak out again, there was no chance you could get a dress. Wanda would probably suggest to buy you one again, but you couldn’t let her pay for you.
So while you made your way to Wandas home, you faked a smile while your mind wandered off to the ball
Astonished you gazed at Wanda and Pietros house. To say it was big was an understatement. It was twice as big as yours with a marvelous garden.
“Wow this is-”, you trailed off, not knowing which word to use. “Trust me, I know”, Wana laughed and pushed you forward. “Come on I want to show you my room!”
She linked her arm with yours and dragged you inside. Pietro was following behind. He was so quiet you nearly forgot he was there at all.
You followed Wanda up the stairs and took a turn to the left.
You stood in a room, as big as your living room. It was filled with paintings and dresses. In the middle was a canopy bed and on the opposite side a wall full of windows.
“I love it!”, you screeched and Wanda grinned proudly. “It gets a little lonely sometimes, because it’s only my brother and me who live here”, she confessed then and you stilled, mustering her up and down.
You knew what it meant to loose a mother, but they had lost both of their parents. Although your father was nearly gone, you couldn’t imagine him dying. You still belived that one day, he would wake up and would be the same again.
“I can imagine that”, you responded to Wanda and she gave you a shrug.
“I haven’t seen your room though. What is it like?”, she asked you, her eyes full of curiousity and hope. “To be honest I live in the attic.” You didn’t like admitting that, but you knew that it was no use to lie to Wanda.
Although she had told you that she didn’t use her powers unless she had to, you were still aware that you weren’t good at hiding your feelings.
“I used to have my own room, but my stepsisters took it”, you explained, watching Wanda carefully, who was wearing a frown.
“That is why-”, she paused, chewing her lip in uncertanity. “I thought you were just really modest wearing this”, she pointed towards your dress and the bandada and suddenly you felt really ashamed at ypur appearance.
You gazed down, not knowing what to say. “It’s nothing, really.” You tried to brush it off, but it didn’t work. Wandas frown got deeper, if that was even possible.
You could see that she was trying to say something, but when her mouth opened, you interjected: “I don’t need your pity”, you bursted out.
“I get that I don’t wear a pretty dress, have jewelery or a clean face. I get that I don’t have friends nor money or ever met a man my age. I know that, but I also know that I can be grateful that I have a roof over my head and get enough money to buy my own bread. I have my father, who might not recognize me, but is that a reason to give him up? I spend an evening dancing with the prince and I met a woman, kind enough, to buy me a dress and spend time with me!”
Wanda mustered you up and down, her face filled with concern and shock. “And I am sorry that I am snapping at you”, you added a little more quiet, gazing down again.
But suddenly you felt arms surrounding you. Wanda was hugging you and confused you looked up. But you started to relax under her touch and a few seconds later you hugged her back.
It was nothing like the hug on the market. That one had been short and spontaneous due to the surprise to see her. But this one was long and full of calmness and you felt like you belonged for the first time.
Your whole life you had been pushed around, but this girl had chosen to like you and it gave you enough strength to keep fighting.
When Wanda let go she guided you to her bed and sat down. You knew that your face mirrored the confusion you felt towards why she wasn’t angry at you and it didn’t took Wandas power to see this.
“I am not angry”, she stated what you already knew. “Why?” Wanda chuckled before continuing.
“Because I don’t see you as someone to just pity. I see you as a woman, who not gives up, after everything she’s been through. You are a fighter and for that I admire you.”
You held your breath. Was this really what she saw in you? Was this what you were?
“I am not sure, I am the person you describe”, you confessed, but Wanda shook her head in determination.
“Don’t ever think of yourself as something less!”
You smiled at her words, hoping to be able to remember them later.
“Also..you danced with the prince?? And you didn’t say it earlier?!”, she pretended to be sulky, but her grin betrayed her.
“You have to tell me everything!” You laughed and started to tell her, leaving out the detail of the man, he saved you from and what Steve had told you in on trust.
It seemed as if Wanda was freaking out about it more than you did, but in return she told you about her dance partner, a man named Clint Barton.
Without having been in love ever, you saw how her eyes lit up when she talked about him and it reminded you of when your father had looked at your mother. Full of love.
The evening ended too fast and suddenly you were in the carriage again, which was taking you home. Wanda had suggested that you should move in with them and while you had declined her offer, you still kept thinking what it would be like.
Waking up in a real bed, visiting the market whenever you liked and spending as much time with Wanda as you wanted. The girl had even tried to set you up with her brother, but although he was polite towards you, he wasn’t the man you were looking for.
But for what man were you looking? Whenever you tried to answer that question it came back to a man kind as Steve and handsome as the prince. You had only met him once, so why did the image of him kept invading your mind?
You decided to blame it on the fact, that you had never talked to a man your age except him.
While dreaming of him made the ride more comfortable, a voice in your head destroyed the mood.
You will never have a chance with him, it hissed. He probably doesn’t even remember you. You are just another girl he met. He meets women every day, nothing special.
You tried to silence it, allowing yourself once to dream of something out of your reach, but the doubts stayed. And with them the heavy silence that filled the carriage when Wanda wasn’t by your side. She had promised you, to find a way to meet you again before the ball and together you would figure out a solution on how you could get a dress, without her buying it.
Your last solution would be to wear the same dress that was still hidden under the loose plank, but the crown had made a rule, to wear something else every ball.
You didn’t understand it at all: why waste such a pretty dress for only one evening? But they took that rule really strict and you wouldn’t risk breaking it and making a scene.
The carriage came to a stop and you realized that you had arrived home. You climbed outside and were greeted with the cold night air, sending shivers down your neck. You thanked the carter and petted the horses, they were beautiful, and made your way over to the house.
You didn’t even try to sneak in, but weren’t exactly loud either. “Where have you been?”, the sharp voice of your stepmother made you froze. Slowly you turned until you saw her face. It was twisted in fury.
“I met a friend on the market.” Your voice was much calmer than you were, but you held her gaze. “And what makes you think you can just leave? You have responsibilities!”
You tried to hold back a smile, but couldn’t. “And what makes you think that you can treat me like this? That I am different from your daughters?”, you challenged and you could see that your stepmother shifted uncomfortable.
“I don’t know where the stupidity to disagree with me comes from, but you should gain control of it or it won’t end good for you!”
Normally the threat would have scared you enought to still and continue to work, but this time it only seemed empty to you.
“Is that so? You can’t hurt me, because you need me. Whatever you do, you need to make sure that I can still cook and clean. There isn’t much left for you to choose from”, you explained, the victorious smile still plastered on your face.
Your stepmother furrowed her brows and took a step forward. She rose her finger, pointing at you when she barked out: “We don’t need you. Nobody needs you, not even the pathetic friend you think you made.”
She took another step towards you and you tensed. “Well, I think you do, but you are too weak to admit it. So what’s more pathetic: standing up to your evil stepmother or forcing a child to work?”
The slap you earned, made you stumble back in shock. You had gotten many punishments over the years, but never ever had she laid a hand on you.
Your hand reached the burning skin and tears started to fill your vision. “You deserved this!”, your stepmother spat and dragged you to the basement.
You were too startled to react to it.
“Sweet dreams!”, she shispered. Then you were alone in the small room, the darkness adding to your heavy breath.
The noise of the keys in the lock made you wake up and you gazed around in the dark, but couldn’t see anything. Sitting down, a single thought filled your head.
It could have been worse.
The next day you woke up as early as always. You had slept surprisingly well, considering the cold floor and the rustling that you knew came from mouses and rats.
The door was still locked, so you kneeled down in front of it, waiting for your stepmother to free you. It gave you time to think about all the things that had happened, including visiting Wanda and the fight with your stepmother.
Although you were still shocked that she had hit you, you were glad that it hadn’t been worse. You could live with the little bruise that surely covered your face.
The punishment didn’t let you give on your plan to stand up to her, but you were afraid that you weren’t brave but stupid. Maybe you should let it go. But at the same time you were so certain that you did the right thing.
The door swung open and you blinked a few times until your eyes adjusted to the light. “Rise and shine!”, your stepmother barked and you slowly got up.
When you passed the mirror in the hallway, you were astonished to see the big bruise on your face. You hadn’t expected it to be this big and obvious.
“Can’t get enough of yourself, huh?”, Drizella came down the stairs, a visible grin on her face. “Since I am not you, no”, you responded, not turning your gaze away from your reflection.
You heared Drizella inhaling air. “What did you say?”, she asked, her voice filled with insecurity. It made you frown. Had it really been this easy to steal her self-confidence towards you?
“Nothing you need to think about.” You gave her a little smile and were actually taken aback when she gave you one as well.
“I have to go buy a dress for the next ball”, she announced then, straightening her posture once again. “ and we will visit a friend of mother. We will eat there, so you don’t need to make breakfast for us.”
You nodded and gave her a thankful smile. You were sure that nobody would have informed you about it, so you would have prepared the food for nothing.
“Drizella darling, the carriage is here!” Drizella rushed past you, stopping for a second when she passed you. “I am sorry for the black eye”, she whispered so quiet that you nearly hadn’t heared it.
But you had heared it. Drizella had been kind to you for the first time. Perhaps she wasn’t even a mean person herself. Stupid, yes but evil?
Maybe she was only acting terrible towards you, because she were taught to do it.
The thought never left your mind and while you worked in the fields, you couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It was already afternoon when you were finished and returned home. It made you wonder what you could do, since your family wasn’t home. Maybe you could travel to the tailoring and ask them to change your dress so it looked different, but wasn’t too expensive?
But you couldn’t make it to the town and back before they would be home again. If you had a carriage it could work, but you had none and Wanda wasn’t here.
Suddenly an idea popped into your head. Who said that you needed a carriage to make it to the market fast?
The walk to the nearest house took you a good amount of time.
Finally you reached it and knocked politely on the door. It opened only a second after, making you wonder if somebody had waited in front of it. “Ahh it’s you my dear”, the old man smiled, making his way down the stairs.
“I am sure you are here because of him, right?” He pointed towards a grey horse, doozing in the shadow of a tree. You nodded and followed him over to the field.
“It has been ages since he has been ridden”, the man gave you a sad smile. “I wish I could have made it the last years, but my stepmother found out. She didn’t appreciate it”, you explained and the man nodded in understanding.
You had still been a child when you had ran off and found the farm house. The owner was an old man, who couldn’t work on the farm anymore, due to his age. You had sneaked off to help him then and now, including riding the horse.
But one time your stepmother had seen you and since then she had made sure that you didn’t visit the farm again. Althought she should understand that you were only there to help the man do the work he couldn’t anymore, she forbid you to return here once again.
“You are here to work for me, not for an old geezer!”, she had scolded you and of course you had obeyed to her orders.
It had been so long since you had visited the farm, that you had already forget about it. Until now.
“Hey my boy.” You patted the horses side and it nudged your shoulder. “Let’s take a ride, shall we?”
It was an amazing feeling to feel the wind in your hair and see the beauty of the nature surrounding you. You probably should have feared to fall, since the horse was faster than ever, happy that he could run again, but you didn’t. Not for a second you thought about the dangers or consequences of your actions.
Everything that counted was the moment.
The dress was crouched in front of you and you gripped it even tighter afraid that it could slip off. But fortunaley it didn’t and soon you caught sight of the town in front of you.
You slowed down and tied the horse to a tree, signaling him to graze during your absence. It wasn’t as if he could understand you, but seemed to remember the times he had waited for you while you bought fruits on the market. You had always brought him one of the carrots.
Involuntary you had to smile at that memory.
The first times you had left him here alone, an uneasy feeling had settled in your stomach, but by know you knew that he wouldn’t move and nobody would pass by. The spot was perfect.
While you made your way over the market, glances were thrown your way. At first you wondered what it was about, but then you remembered the bruise on the right side of your face. Quickly you let your hair down, hoping that it would cover it up.
After you had sold some of the vegetables from your garden and the corn, you had harvested in the fields today, you decided you had enough money and walked over to the tailoring.
The building was nearly empty. It surprised you, since the ball was already tomorrow, but the other girls probably buyed hers in the tailoring in the bigger city. Your stepsisters buyed there their dresses as well and you had to admit they looked beyond beautiful.
“What can I do for you?” A young woman with red hair appeared behind the counter. For a second you were mesmerized by her beauty, but snapped out of your stare.
“I just want to get this changed a little”, you explained and handed her your dress. It was a little rumpled from the ride, but still as pretty as you remembered it.
“I am sorry, but I would only destroy it.” Her answer took you off caught and you gave her a confused look. “What do you mean?”
“I am only helping here out for a short time and I don’t really have experience in doing this”, she pointed towards the sewing machine. “They said I only need to sell dresses.” She gave you an apologizing shrug.
“But I could sell you a new dress”, she offered you with a smile on her face. “I hardly have the money for that”, you admitted, sending a longing gaze towards the dresses that were exhibited.
“I think we could come to an arangement”, the redhead smirked and walked around the table. “So which ones do you like?” Your mouth droppened open at her question.
“Are you sure about this?”, you wondered, showing her the only money you had. “You can just give me the dress in return, if that is okay with you? I mean, applying to the rule you can’t wear it anyway.” You nodded, knowing that it was really kind of her to give you a new dress for your already worn one.
Especially because you were covered in dirt, your hair probably tangled from the ride.
“I am sure they won’t recognize that one got replaced”, the woman grinned and started to show you some dresses.
In the end you had decided on ten. The girl, Natasha, insisted that you should try them on, so she guided you into the back part of the building. Together you picked three dresses that fit you the best and after a long time you decided on a rose one.
While you changed back into your light gown, Natasha told you about her life. She hadn’t been to the first ball, but her family had insisted that she had to go to the remaining ones, so she would be there tomorrow too.
She wasn’t much into dresses, rather dressed in trousers,which had gotten her into trouble more than once. In return you told her that your family was poor and didn’t have the money to buy you a proper dress.
It wasn’t the complete truth, but you didn’t feel good talking about your own life. You only knew Natasha for a few hours and it was way too early to share with her where you had gotten the bruise or that you could really get into trouble if your family would know you were here.
“I see you today then”, you gave the woman your dress and waved at her goodbye. It was harder than expected to give up your dress, but you had already gotten more than you wanted.
Riding back was frustrating. It was already late and you needed to make it to the farm and walk home, before your family arrived.
You cheered on the horse again when you realized, that the sun was already setting.
If Steve knew how much you risked being able to see him again…
Wait what? This was about the ball and not the prince, you reminded yourself again.
You hadn’t made it in time. You had just hidden he dress when your stepmother marched in, giving you extra work to do. She had seen you arrive and knew that you hadn’t worked at home. For your luck it had been too dark for her to see that you were carrying the dress.
So you spend the rest of the evening cleaning every angle of the house, scrubbing until your hands were sore.
When you were finished you returned to her, but she only wrinkled her nose in disgust. “You are smelling and you look like you have fallen in the ashes once again.”
You didn’t say anything in the hope that she would allow you to bath. But she had something other in mind. “Wait here!” With that she took off.
You waited patiently for her to come back, but then she did, she returned with a bucket. It made you wonder, since you had already scrubbed the whole floor, but then she poured it over your head.
You gasped in shock when the cold water hit your skin. “Much better”, your stepmother commented. “Oh and clean that up!” She pointed at the wet floor and took off.
It was for her own good, because if she had said one more word, you would have thrown yourself at her, leaving all the anger you felt towards her out.
Not before the ball, you sighed and grabbed a towel.
You were currently busy helping your stepsisters get dressed for the ball. Their exitement infected you, but you needed to hide it. “Now the shoes!”, Anastasia ordered and with a sigh you followed her command.
There was no use to start a fight now. You would only get extra work to do and that was worse than obeying once again.
“The carriage will arrive soon!”, Drizella yelled into the room and Anastasia got up to put the last jewelery on.
Her dress was beautiful, but it showed too much skin for your own liking and screamed more for badly needed attention than a bright future princess. The jewelery even added up to that.
You walked downstairs as well. When you passed the mirror you stopped in your tracks. You had hoped that the bruise would have started to fade eventually, but it only got darker.
It would require a lot of makeup to cover it up.
“What will you do while we are gone?”, your stepmother asked, but it was more a test than actual interest. “I will clean the stairs, work in the garden, wash your clothes and scrub the fireplace”, you listed and she gave you a satisfied smile.
“Oh and clean my bedroom! It hasn’t been cleaned in ages.” You supressed a snort and nodded instead. You had cleaned it last week and there was no way it could be messy again.
“We have to go now”, she stated and excited the house, Drizella and Anastasia following her with loud laughter. Your father walked behind them, as silent as usual. Then it went silent and you were alone, again.
Slowly you started to worry. Maybe Wanda had forgotten you. She should pick you up and help you dress for the ball, but there was still no sign of her.
Since your family had left, you had followed your stepmothers instructions. You were already done, leaving out washing their clothes and cleaning her bedroom. They wouldn’t notice anyway.
Then you had taken a bath and washed off all the dirt from the past days.
Finally you heared a knock on the door. You wrenched it open, catching sight of Wanda in an astonishing dress. For a second you opened your mouth and mustered her up and down, but she pushed you inside.
“What happened to your face?”, she bursted out, starring at it wide-eyed. “It’s nothing”, you shrugged it off, but Wanda didn’t let it go. “That is not nothing”, she declared and you peeked past her.
“I got myself in trouble. But it doesn’t matter now. The only thing that matters is the ball and how we cover it up.”
Wanda didn’t seem pleased, but nodded.
“Sorry I’m late”, she rushed to the living room and you followed her. “You have a dress, right?”, she asked, her face twisted in worry and guilt. You nodded and she exhaled deeply.
“Thank god! I already thought we had to share this one.” You chuckled at her comment, but then went serious again. “I am sure you did everything you could to get one, so don’t even worry.” Wanda nodded, relief visible on her face.
The deal had been that she should help you get a dress, but you had made her promise that she shouldn’t pay for it again, so it couldn’t have been easy for her to find one.
“So show me what you got!”, Wanda ordered with a huge grin and you nodded in exitement.
20 minutes had passed by and you were wearing the dress, your hair falling in soft waves down your shoulders. “You look beautiful!”, Wanda squeaked and you laughed. Now the only challenge left was to cover the bruise on your face.
It took another 10 minutes to at least hide it a little bit. When you gazed in the mirror you were disappointed by how visible it still was, but Wanda reminded you of the dimmed light and convinced you nobody would be able to see.
You hoped so.
You walked down the stairs, Wanda by your side. The hall was filled with laughter and it made you even more exited for the evening that would follow.
When you entered the crowd you even recognized some faces. There was the boy you had met on the market. He was wearing a dark suite, talking to an older man that you knew was a rich and powerful man. He gave you a bright smile, which you returned.
Then there was Wandas dance partner from the last ball. As soon as she had put the spell on your family, reminding you once again that it would only endure until midnight, she left to talk to him.
You watched them head to the dance floor and soon they were out of your sight.
“If that isn’t the pretty dress I sold”, somebody caught your attention. You turned around and saw Natasha, the woman from the tailoring, walking up to you. “You are here!” You cracked a smile, happy that you weren’t alone anymore.
“I wish I wasn’t though. Look at all of these noble people trying to impress the prince. It’s disgusting.” She grimaced as if she were in actual pain and you laughed at her silliness.
While you watched the dance floor, chatting with Natasha about this and that, you silently hoped to spot blonde hair.
But you didn’t. It made you wonder where the prince was. After all this ball was organised for him to pick a wife.
After you had spend some time talking to Natasha, you walked around the hall. You weren’t in the mood for dancing yet, so you went to grab a drink.
You had now caught sight of Steve, but he was talking to some people, which seemed really important and you didn’t want to interrupt.
Indeed you didn’t even know what to say. Maybe he wouldn’t even be happy to see you again.
You tried to push the negative thoughts aside and reached the counter. “What can I do for you honey?”, a woman asked you and in her gown she reminded you of yourself. At least she seemed old enough to be maid and appeared to be pleased with her job.
It must be a honor to work at the palace, so you shouldn’t feel sorry for her. Maybe that was what you would in the future too; work in the palace.
But your stepmother would never let you go.
“Just water please”, you ordered and she nodded. Only a second later she handed you a glass of crystal clear water and you emptied it with one gulp.
“I wasn’t sure you would come.” You turned around when you heared his voice, immediately tensing in both excitement and nervousness.
He stopped next to you, his blue eyes sparkling in the dimmed light. You were afraid that he could see the bruise, but he didn’t seem to notice it. Maybe Wanda was right and the light really covered it up.
“Why wouldn’t I?”, you frowned, putting the glas back on the counter. “Well, you ran away from me last time”, Steve reminded you, cracking a smirk at the memory.
“I didn’t want to. I just really needed to get home”, you admitted, hoping that he wasn’t mad at you.
“So it wasn’t because of me?”, he asked, his expression mirroring his concern. “Of course not!”, you exclamied and he sighed in relief.
“I thought I had done something wrong, something that offended you.” Steve scratched his head in bashfullness.
“I have no experience how to behave towards women.” , he revealed and you could see that he was being honest with you. You had never met someone who was this open about their feelings, even if that meant being vulnerable and it deeply impressed you about him.
At the same time you wondered how somebody like the prince could be so akward when it came to women.
“You haven’t done anything wrong”, you explained softly, your eyes not leaving his. You were too mesmerized to look away. “I realized how late it already was and I needed to be home on time or else I would have gotten into a lot of trouble.”
Steve was the first one who broke eye-contact.
He nodded and then held out his hand. “Want to dance?”
“I would love that”
You headed to the dance floor and Steve laid his hand on your hip. Both of you started to move at the same time and you fell into a rhythm to the music.
“Tell me something about you.” Steves voice interrupted your thoughts. “There is nothing to tell about me”, you answered him with a small smile on your lips.
“Of course there is”, he smirked and you melted under his intense gaze. You tried to come up with anything interesting, but your mind was blank.
“Everyone’s got a story. Tell me yours.”
The musicians had started to play a slower song, which made it easier for you to focus on the prince instead of your dancing. “There is no story. I’m just an ordinary girl sneaking off to attend the princes ball”, you shrugged.
“I think there is nothing ordinary about you”, he spoke and you heart fluttered.
Steve had the ability to make you feel like you were special and you loved the feeling. The insecure part of you told you that he was only trying to be nice and talked to every woman like this, but you pushed it aside and concentrated on enjoying the feeling.
“Besides, you sneaked out to attend the ball? That’s story itsself.” You laughed, but considered your next words carefully. “My family isn’t really keen on the idea of me going here”, you explained, hoping he wouldn’t question it further,
“Why?”, Steve wondered and you sighed. “I guess they are afraid of the idea somebody could steal their prince.” It wasn’t the whole truth, but you didn’t lie either.
Steve grimaced at your words. “What?”, you giggled when he still seemed to be confused. “I don’t like if people think of me like that”, he addressed and you stilled.
“I am sorry if I have to hurt your feelings, but I think half of the people are here because of the handsome prince, who looks for a bride”, you confessed with a playful grin, but it faded when you realized what you had said.
Steve didn’t seem to notice since he didn’t react to your words, but looked around instead. “Really?”, he asked and you nodded. Although he was smart, Steve didn’t seem to be aware of the fact, that he was extremely handsome and polite as well. Every girls dream.
He could be so oblivious.
“Why are you here?” His face didn’t give away what he was thinking, but he seemed to be serious.
“I just wanted to dance and have fun”, you admitted and were afraid he would reject you, but instead he laughed. “Thank you”, he beamed and although you didn’t really know what he meant, you smiled along with him and nodded.
The rest of the dancing had been silent. You were too focused on him than to say anything.
You were relieved that you hadn’t stepped onto Steves foot, but after a few songs you didn’t want to push your luck and excused yourself.
Steve actually seemed to be disappointed, but you told him you needed to get fresh air and he understood the hint. “I will come as soon as I can leave”, he had whispered to you and it made you more than excited.
When you and Steve had been in the gardens the last time, he had been so much more relaxed. He wouldn’t stand straight like he used to do in the palace, but let himself go a little. Without the presence of the people and the royal family, the pressure on him seemed to decrease.
While you breathed in the fresh night air, you couldn’t quit thinking about it. Perhaps Steves life wasn’t easy either. Everyone assumed that the royal family had a a great life; a castle, lots of dresses, money and power seemed tempting at first, but you could only imagine the strain it was as well.
Steve was the perfect example for that. In the palace he was the well behaved, good looking, perfect prince. But once he got out of the constraints of it, he seemed like a different person. He was still polite and handsome, but you had learned he was funny as well and he didn’t like money or jewelery but books.
While the castle was filled with wealths, he desired the only things he had either time nor permission for: books.
All of this you had learned from him in one evening and it made you wonder, if he wasn’t angry that he didn’t know anything about you. He had shared his most private feelings with you, but you had buried your emotions.
You wanted to tell him everything about your life, share with him every little detail and every emotion you had felt when your mother had died or your father had started to treat you as a maid as well, but it wasn’t possible.
He was a prince and maybe you knew deep inside that you weren’t a maid, but nobody else did. You were a cook, a gardener and a scrubwoman, not a future princess.
Also you couldn’t bear the thought of him, pushing you away when he found out about it.
You had to keep it a secret.
“I’m sorry I’m late”, Steve announced when he walked up to you. “There was this gwoman, who wouldn’t leave me alone. I kept saying that I had to go, but she kept talking and following me. It was horrible.”
You laughed when he told you this and wondered if it had been one of your stepsisters. Probably not, since there were many others girls in there, but the behaviour Steve had described fit to them.
“I am glad you came at all”, you smiled. He frowned at your response. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Maybe because you should be inside, dancing and picking your future bride?”, you suggested with a raised brow while Steve sat down on the brench next to you.
“I don’t really like the attention everyone gives me”, he shrugged. “But let’s not talk about me for this time.”
“Then what do you want to talk about?”, you asked him curious. “You”, he answered and you blushed.
“Why me?”, you asked, trying to hide the excitement that rushed through you.
“Because you are different from all the people I have met”, he confessed and you blushed even deeper.
You were glad that the darkness not only hid your bruise but your redness as well.
“What do you want to know then?”
Steve thought about it for a second, then gave you a bright smile. “Tell me about your day. What do you do? Who do you spend your time with? And what are your favorite things to do?”
Without knowing it, he had asked the worst question possible. You bit your lip and searched for an answer in panic. Maybe you could answer him without having to go much into detail.
“I love to read”, you started, your mind wandering off to the times before your whole life had been flipped upside down. “And I also love to ride.. feel the wind in my hair and just feel free.”
You looked to the sky while speaking. You had realized that you did it any time you spoke or thought about your mother. As if you imagined to see her looking down at you from above the clouds.
“I love to lay in the grass and feel the sun on my face. And I love to watch the night sky. It makes me feel so small, like I am a part of something bigger.”
You smiled at the memory of countless summers, where you ran through the fields, your mother close behind you.
The realization that you were still in the gardens with Steve hit you and you cleared your throat in embarassment. He would probably make fun of you now, but you needed to see his reaction.
So you turned your face to his. At first it was hard to make out, due to the darkness surrounding both of you, but then you saw that his face was blank. He was only looking at you while his face gave away nothing of what he felt.
Steve blinked a few times and then coughed as well. It nearly made you chuckle. Was he embarassed too or was it just a coincidence?
“That sounds really good”, he smiled. “What about the other things?”
Oh no, he hadn’t forgotten.
“There is not much to say”, you explained shrugging. “I usually spend time alone. I met a girl a few days ago and we started to spend time together. That’s all.”
But Steve didn’t look satisfied. “I am always in the palace and I would love to learn how other peoples lifes look like. Please, you have to tell me more.”
You laughed at his desperation, but on the inside you freaked out. You didn’t want to lie to him, but you couldn’t tell him the thruth either.
With a sigh you started to tell him what he wanted to know:
“So I wake up early to prepare the breakfast. Then it depends what I am doing. Sometimes I clean the house and other times I visit the market. In the evening I make dinner and stay up late, so I can watch the stars. Just a really simple life, I guess.”
“You are cleaning and making the food?”, Steve wondered and you nodded helplessly. “We have maids for that.”
Your heartbeat increased, but you tried to appear calm. “Well not everyone has the money for that”, you commented, sounding a little rougher than you had meant to.
“I am sorry”, Steve immediately apologized. “I didn’t want to offend you. I told you I am bad at this.” He gazed to the ground and you felt terrible. “I don’t think you are bad at this”, you confessed and Steve looked up in surprise.
“Really?”, he asked with a hopeful grin and you nodded.
For a moment it was silent, but then Steves face lit up again. “I have to show you something”, he announced and got up.
You followed him through the gardens until you came to a big fountain, candles lighting it up. “Oh my god this is wonderful”, you gasped and Steve grinned proudly. “Not everything is bad here”, he smiled and grabbed your hand to guide you closer to it.
You were too mesmerized by the beauty of the scene to react to the touch.
Steve brought you to the edge of the fountain and only then you realized how close you were. You gazed up at him and saw that his face was illuminated by the lights.
It casted an interesting pattern of shadows onto his face and you had the urge to touch them, but were too afraid to destroy the beautiful moment.
But suddenly you saw that his face was full of horror. Intuitively you backed away a little, an uneasy feeling settling in your stomach. What made him look so startled and hurt? Had you done something wrong?
But the moment he spoke the words that revealed what had caused his reaction, you were even more shocked. “Your face”, he whispered and only then the realization hit you. If his face was lightened up due to the lights, yours must be too.
Steve raised his hand to touch the skin where the bruise was, but you flinched away before he could do it. Panic filled your body. What should you do? You couldn’t explain this to him, could you?
“Where did you get that from?”, Steve whispered, the hurt laying deep in his voice. It made you wonder why he sounded so affected.
“I- I”, you stuttered, but you couldn’t form a proper sentence.
In the distance you heared the clock start to count and you turned to it in desperation.
1, 2, 3
“Please”, Steve breathed and you turned to him again. His expression mirrored his confusion and all you wanted to do was to hug him and promise, that everything would be just fine.
Again you turned to the castle, but his voice interrupted you. “Don’t leave”, he begged and you gazed up at him with tears in your eyes. Conflicted you considered your options, but there was no other way out of this.
7, 8, 9
“I’m sorry”, you murmured. You could see Steves face fill with hurt again and it caused you physical pain to be the cause of it.
10, 11, 12.
When the clock hit twelve, you turned and started to run.
You ran out of the gardens and towards the castle, branches ripping your dress in the process. You would have slowed down, but you were too afraid that Steve would follow you or that your stepmother arrived home before you.
Your foot got tangled up in a root and before you could think straight, you hit the ground. Groaning you looked up to see Steve running towards you.
No, no, no, this was wrong. You couldn’t let him catch you. He would demand answers; answers that you couldn’t give him nor had the time to explain.
You got up again, but you lost your right shoe in doing so. Another look over your shoulder told you that Steve was already close, so you started to sprint again, leaving your shoe where it was.
You ran as fast as you could in only one shoe, but when you reached the path that lead to yard in front of the castle, you dared to look back again.
Steve was standing next to the tree where you had tripped, the shoe in his hand while he watched you run away from him.
Eventually you made it to the castle where you saw lots of carriages waiting for passengers. “I have been waiting for you”, you heared a voice and turned to find Wanda.
She pushed you into a small carriage and it started to move immediately. “Where have you been?”, she wondered, gazing down at your ripped dress and the one bare foot.
You nearly started to cry when you thought about how the evening had ended.
“In the gardens”, you mumbled and starred down your ankles, which were now on full sight due to the destroyed dress.
“What happened?”, Wanda bursted out and she made it even more difficult for you, not to break down in tears.
“Steve- er the prince saw the bruise. I ran from him”, you admitted and adverted your gaze. Wanda sighed, then put her arm around your shoulder to show her comfort.
The rest of the ride was quiet.
You wanted to ask about her evening and the man she had danced with, but the words didn’t form in your mouth and you didn’t feel like you wanted to talk moreover.
It was selfish since Wanda was the one who had made it possible for you to attend the ball after all, but you were too tired and shook to do anything against it.
You had made it in time again. The moment you had changed into your gown and laid down to get sleep, you heared the front door open and chattering voices fill the house.
A few minutes later steps on the stairs made you tense up and with a creak the door to the attic was opened. You chose to pretend to sleep.
For a second your stepmother leaned over you, her breath hitting your neck in waves, but soon she left without a word.
You shifted in relief, watching the stars while trying not to think about Steve. But everytime you closed your eyes, you saw him in front of you: His face full of hurt and disappointment when you run from him, again.
You sobbed a few times, but decided that self-pity wouldn’t help you either. You needed to figure out a plan for the last ball, which was in 2 days.
You had to face the prince and this time you wouldn’t run away from him, even if it would cost you your freedom.
Somehow the exhaustion took over your body and you found into a deeply needed sleep.
The next day your stepsisters spend with complaining about the ball. “I couldn’t even talk to the prince”, Anastasia grumbled, taking a bite from her breakfast.
“Me neither. He was out all night and when he returned he looked distressed”, Drizella noted and groaned loudly. You shifted into your seat, feeling uncomfortable and guilty.
“Why does he even host a ball when he doesn’t look for a bride?!”, Anastasia added in an angry voice.
You didn’t say a word, but continued to eat your breakfast quietly. After a little argument at the beginning, Anastasia and Drizella had let you sit with them, not paying any attention to you since then.
“We missed you at the ball”, you suddenly heared Anastasias voice, the sarcasm literally dripping from it.
She gave you a fake smile, batting her lashes in innocence. But before you could react to it, you were interrupted from the one person you had wished not to see.
“A new day to buy dresses”, your stepmother squeeched when she entered the room and internally you groaned.
“Don’t you have work to do?”, she barked when she saw you and you got up to face her. “What else would I do?”, you responded with a bittersweet smile and walked upstairs.
Your task was to clean the windows in Anastasia and Drizellas room, your room.
Whenever you set foot in it, an ineffable feeling floodded you. Somehow the room still felt like home to you, but at the same time it reminded you of what you had lost since your mother had died.
Oh how you missed her. If she would be here right now, she would know what to do.
While you were upstairs, you heared your family leave the house. These days they were gone more than ever, due to the balls and you loved it.
When the door snapped shut it was your sign to get up as well. Your plan was to sneak out again, taking the horse to ride to the town.
Beyond that point, you had no clue how to get a dress.
You grabbed the few coints you had collected over the years and opened the door to leave, when you heared a voice behind you. “You are leaving?”
You froze when you heared your fathers voice. Since he was following your stepmother anywhere, you had assumed that he had travelled to the town with them like the other days.
Slowly you turned around, careful not to make any move that could trigger something in him. He was leaning in the doorway, his back arched and a frown covering his face. It was in this moment that you realized how old he had become.
His lips were in a thin line while his cheeks looked gaunted. This wasn’t the man that had raised you.
You responded to his question with a slight nod, hoping that he wouldn’t question it further. “Then go”, he whispered and a mischievous smile filled his face for a split second.
You blinked a few times in surprise, then smiled and opened the door again to fled from the place.
After you had left the house, you ran towards the woods. They would give you cover so nobody would be able to see you. Although your stepmother was gone, you didn’t want to take more risks.
When you reached them, you slowed down a little bit.
The walk to the farm was long, but seeing Steve again was worth it. Only you wished that you had more time together. You wondered what he would do after the three balls were over, since you couldn’t imagine that he had picked a wife yet.
Would he host more balls? Probably not, since he didn’t enjoy the attention he was receiving. But what else would he do?
“Ah it’s you again”, the old man smiled when he opened the door for you. “I am sure you want to ride him to the town right?”, he guessed and you nodded with a polite smile.
“I don’t want to say no, but could you help me with the garden before you go?” Of course you couldn’t reject his appeal, so you followed him to the other side of the house and started to help him pick the vegetables.
Every minute that passed made you more anxious, since you already had only a small amount of time to ride to the town, buy a dress, return home and hide it.
“I am sorry that you have to help me”, the mans voice suddenly brought you back to reality. “I would do it alone, but I feel ill these days. I don’t have the money to buy food on the market, so these vegetables are all I have”, he explained and you felt even more bad.
How could you even be mad at him for needing your help? For a second you played with the though of buying him food instead of yourself a dress, but it wouldn’t help him either in the long run and the ball was your only option to make it up to he prince.
You had to figure out something different.
“It’s no problem, really”, you shrugged and gave him a sad smile. “I would come more often, but my stepmother makes sure, that I don’t have a break from the work.”
The man squeezed your arm in ressurance and both of you continued to pick the tomatoes in silence. For the first time you realized that you weren’t on your own anymore.
You had Wanda, a real friend and since you could remember there was the old man, which you didn’t even know the name of. Then there was Steve, who you really liked and Natasha, although you weren’t sure, if you would see her again.
Right when you wanted to ask the man for his name, you were interrupted by the sound of thunder in the distance. “You should go or else you will get wet”, the man recommended and you gave him a grateful smile, before sprinting towards the meadow.
“Hi there”, you smiled when you petted the horses shoulder and slowly pulled yourself up on his back. “Let’s go for a ride, shall we?”
When you eventually reached the town, a few drops had touched your skin. Looking up you saw nothing but dark clouds covering the afternoon sky.
“I will be right back”, you told the horse and left him to graze. Then you ran towards the buildings, your eyes searching for the small tailoring. But a huge crowd blocked your view.
Confused you pushed through the people until you could see the reason of the concourse: the sign of the royal family. Oh no.
Immediately you turned on your heel. You weren’t keen on getting discovered while looking like this.
“Excuse me”, you mumbled over and over again while you tried to flee from the crowd.
When you made it out, you found yourself in the middle of the market. The tailoring had to be right down the street.
A loud crack of thunder cut through the air and you looked up to be greeted by water. From one second to the other, it had started to pour down. The rain soaked your clothes in an instant, leaving you wet and shivering.
The crowd had started to break apart, everyone seeking for shelter or returning to their homes in a hurry.
You tried to make your way to the tailoring, but a body collided with you, the force knocking you to the ground. Groaning you tried to get up, but it wasn’t easy with the fleeing people around you. When you were nearly up again, you were sent back over, your back hitting the ground again.
You could hear the woman yelling an excuse, but she didn’t help you get back up. So you decided to wait for the group of running people to pass you, before you would try again.
The plan worked. Once everyone was gone, you got up easily. At this point you were wet to the bone, your hair sticking to your face.
You gazed up to make out where you had to go, but froze dead in your tracks when you saw someone about 30 metres away from you.
The prince was standing at the end of the market, his hair as wet as yours. While the royal family moved around, yelling for a carriage to bring them back to the castle, he stood still, starring at you.
You only starred back while you tried to imagine what you looked like. Wet, all alone in the middle of the market, poor.
The though that he saw your real you scared you, but you also felt a burden fall from your shoulders. Now you couldn’t hide behind a pretty dress anymore.
You gazed at each other for what felt like an eternity, but must be only a few seconds.
The rain made you blink a few times, but you could still make out Steves face. To your disappointent you couldn’t read his expression this time.
You took a step towards him, not really sure how to behave, but then you remembered his hurt expression and stopped in your tracks again.
Maybe he didn’t even want to speak to you.
He must have always thought that you came from an upper class, like all the other women at the ball, but you were nothing like them.
The past days you had tried to be somebody you clearly weren’t and in the end it had brought you nothing but trouble.
Here you were, only clothed into your maids gown and the bandana. Your hair was falling wild around your face and the bruise he had discovered only yesterday was now on full display.
You felt ashamed, more than that, but you knew you couldn’t run from him anymore. You took another step towards him, but there was no change in his expression. His face was completely blank, making you wonder what he though and felt towards you right now.
Pity? Disgust? Disappointment?
Out of sudden somebody grabbed your arm, yanking you to the side. You were too shocked to react, only stumbled a few metres before you could stop and get a look on the person.
It was your stepmother.
Oh hell to the no.
She didn’t say a word, which freightened you even more, but instead yanked you to a carriage nearby. Panicking you looked back at Steve. Now you had no chance to talk to him.
He was still starring at you, so you tried to hide your fear but send him an apologizing smile instead.
Something had changed in his expression, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. He seemed as if he had just solved a big mystery and this scared you more than your stepmother, who yanked you away from the market.
You were roughly pushed into the carriage and saw that Anastasia and Drizella were waiting inside, mustering your appearance in pure shock.
Your stepmother climbed inside too and shut the door. Then the carriage started to move.
Your stepmother yelled at you the whole ride, but you didn’t listen to her endless insults. The only thing you picked up was that you would never leave the house again. She would make sure of that.
During the ride you couldn’t stop thinking about Steve. He had seen you. He knew now that you were just a poor girl, which you hid under laysers of elegant fabric and makeup.
But the worst thing was that you had gotten no chance to explain yourself. You would understand, if Steve would never want to talk to you again, but at least you wanted to have the opportunity to tell him the truth.
Turns out you would never have any opportunity again.
After you had arrived home, your stepmother had thrown you into the basement again. You had told her that you had only wanted to go the last ball, because they had made you curious by telling you about the other balls and she seemed to believe it.
It made you a little relieved, because if she had found out that you had already attended the first two balls, you couldn’t imagine what would happen.
Currently you were sitting in a corner of the basement, your back leaned against the wall. The room was filled with darkness so you couldn’t even see your own hand in front of your eyes.
There was no chance for you to attend the last ball and also you weren’t sure, if you could look Steve in the eyes ever again, so you decided to prepare yourself for your little adventure to come to an end.
It had been a good time, meeting new people like Natasha and Wanda and spending two evenings, getting to know the prince, but you had to realize that it was over now.
A knock on Wandas door made her frown. Who would visit them during such a late hour?
“I will go.”
She tried to stop Pietro, maybe it meant bad news, but he was already opening the door.
On the other side was a young woman with red hair, her clothes stained wet from the rain.
“Do I know you?”, Wanda wondered surprised, trying to recall if she knew the woman from somehwere.
“I don’t think so”, the woman responded, a small smile covering her lips. “My name is Natasha and I am a friend of (y/n). I think she is in trouble.”
Wandas heart squeezed at hearing these words and she immediately moved to the side so the redhead could come in.
She guided Natasha to the living room, Pietro following silent behind.
All of them sat down, an anxious silence filling the room for a split of a second. “So what do you mean (y/n)’s in trouble? And how do you know that she’s a friend of me too?”, Wanda started.
Obivously she could have just read Natashas mind, but she had promised herself not to do it, unless she had to. It felt as if she would take the peoples privacy and she didn’t like that feeling.
“I saw you together a few times and you seemed close”, Natasha explained, her eyes scanning the room in curiousity.
“Today I saw (y/n) on the market. I don’t really know what happened, but I saw her getting yanked away by a woman. They were already gone when I reached their position, but something seemed off.”
Wanda gulped and darted her eyes to the ground. She was sure that the girl had only tried to buy a dress for the last ball, but her stepmother had discovered her sneaking out.
Hopefully she didn’t know the full truth or Wanda didn’t want to imagine the punishment the girl would get.
“I never questioned it, but she had a bruise on her face. Am I just overreacting or is she really in trouble?”
Natasha leant forward, as if she wouldn’t dare to speak about this any louder.
Wanda exchanged a look with her brother, then returned her gaze back to the woman. “I think she really needs our help”, Wanda sighed, trying not to think of what her friend was probably going through right now.
She needed to keep a clear head.
The three had spend the rest of the day working on a plan to help their friend, including helping her to sneak out for the last ball. Wanda knew how much that meant to the girl and she deserved a chance to say goodbye to the prince.
It had gotten late, so they decided that Natasha should stay for the night.
While she had disappeared in the guests room, Pietro and Wanda had stayed back in the livingroom. There were still a few things to talk about.
“She doesn’t know about our secret, does she?”, Pietro whispered. Wanda shook her head immediately, leaning closer to her brother in case Nat could hear them speaking.
“It’s too dangerous to let Natasha and that friend of hers know.”
Wanda silently agreed with Pietro, but the plan would be much easier if they could use their abilities.
“First of all, her friends name is Barton”, she started and he rolled his eyes with a smirk. “And second I think we should use them, if something goes wrong. Just as a back up plan”, she suggested and her brother sighed, weighing the risks.
“Fine, but only in an emergency. I don’t want to see you ending up on the stake.”
Wanda nodded, not liking this thought either.
We will get you out of there, she thought and went to bed, her thoughts only circling around her friends well being.
You were still held captive in the basement, provided with lots of difficult and senseless tasks to keep your hands moving and your back aching.
Today was the day the last ball would take place. You couldn’t decide if you should feel relieved that everything was over and your life would go back to “normal” or if you should feel even more frustrated.
You chose to ignore the uneasy feeling in your stomach and focused on your work instead. Although things had ended horribly, you were still grateful for the time you had spend dancing and chatting with the prince.
Not every girl got a chance to do this. Your mother would be proud of you.
Altogether your plan to rebel against your stepmother and her cruel behaviour hadn’t worked out, but you had managed to sneak out off the house more than once and had made a great friend.
You hoped that she wouldn’t think that you ditched her. You would never do that, but disappearing without any explanation had to appear odd.
Suddenly the door opened and your stepmother rushed into the room. She had visited you frequently after she had given you work to do, to check if you were doing everything how she wanted it to be.
But this time something was different about her behaviour. She seemed to be stressed, because a deep frown was covering her face and her breath was hitching in her throat.
Curious you moved towards her to get a clearer view on her face.
“I nearly finished”, you mumbled carefully, but your stepmother only shook her head. “That doesn’t matter now”, she stated and dragged you outside of the room by your arm.
You could hear a group of muffled voices outside of the house and for a second you thought about screaming, but then you decided against it.
You didn’t even know, who was in front of this door and you couldn’t dare to cause any more trouble.
“What is going on?”, you whispered in confusion, but your stepmother didn’t answer you.
She shoved you through the back door and towards the dovecote you had already forgot existed.
Your stepmother opened the little door and pushed you inside, but you held onto the doorframe.
You needed to know what was going on.
While your stepmother was trying to push you inside with more force, you caught a glimpse of the royal flag.
For the split of a second you wondered what they were doing here, but then you suddenly felt a wave of hope rushing through you.
They were here for you. Steve was here for you.
“Hey”, you screamed at the top of your lungs, but it was already too late.
Your stepmother had used the moment of distraction to push you inside, gagging you with a wet cloth.
You tried to fight her, but she had yanked your arm in a painful grip, which made it impossible for you to resist her.
Then she tied your hands as well as your feet with a rope.
The material was so firm that you could already feel bruises forming on your skin.
Your stepmother took a step back to admire her work, then held her finger in front of her mouth.
“Ssschh”, she whispered and the sound send shivers down your neck.
The door closed and the last rays of light vanished, leaving you alone in the darkness.
You spend the first minutes trying to figure out a plan to free yourself, but after every attempt failed, you started to hit the walls of the cote with your feet.
Maybe you could break down the walls, if you put enough strength into your kicks.
The dovecote was old and sordid, but the only sound, which was heared was your heavy painting and your feet hitting the wood in irregular moves.
No splintering nor cracking.
After a while you stopped and focused on figuring out a better plan, but the chains were too tight to free yourself and the door was locked from the other side.
You tried to scream a few times, which only resulted in coughing and choking.
You could hear a pair of voices in the distance, but they were too far to take notice of you.
After a while it went silent and you heared the sound of clopping disappear in the distance.
They had left. They hadn’t found you.
You expected your stepmother to appear to bring you back to the house, but nothing happened.
Maybe she wanted to punish you even longer or something had happened, which required her attention somewhere else.
“Here it is”, Wanda announced when her, Pietro, Natasha and the friend of Natasha named Clint Barton reached the mansion.
For a moment they all stood in silence concentrating on their thoughts, but then Natasha spoke up. “Alright, so everyone stick to the plan. Any questions left?”
Everyone shook their head and Natasha smiled satisfied.
“Good. Then let’s go.”
You had lost every track of how much time had passed, when you suddenly heared noises near the house again, causing you too look up.
Maybe it was your family, who was making their way to the ball, but somehow it felt different.
Something was going on, but you couldn’t lay your finger on it.
The voices were coming closer, so you started to hit the wood with your feet again, putting all your last strength into the kicks.
Natasha straightened her back and took a deep breath. “It will work”, Clint reassured her and in this moment she was more than glad that he was here with her.
Although they had discussed different scenarios of how the plan could fail and what they would do if it happened, she was still worried that something could go wrong.
She hadn’t met (y/n)’s family before, but having seen the black eye the girl had earned from them, had been enough to set off her alarms.
“I know”, she responded confidently, but it sounded a lot calmer than she was feeling.
She might appeared fiery and tough on the outside, but it was a whole other level to trick someone in leaving the house when it was so important that nothing would go wrong.
Natasha knocked on the door and after a few nervewrecking seconds, the door swung open, revealing a woman in her fourties in a low-cut blue dress.
“Hello”, Natasha greeted politely, but the woman didn’t seem pleased of their company.
“We’re here to bring you to the ball”, Natasha explained and pointed towards the luxuriant carriage near the house.
“It is still early”, the woman frowned confused.
“We know. That’s why we are here. The prince send us, because he has laid an eye on one of your daughters and he wants to have time with her before the ball starts.”
A surprised smile formed on the womans features, but she tried to not let it show.
“Of course he has! They are gorgous young women.”
But her smile was soon replaced and her brows knitted together in doubt.
“The prince was here today, claiming that he only wanted the woman as his bride, who could fit her foot into the shoe he had with him.”
Natasha gulped and exchanged a quick glimpse with Clint.
They hadn’t know about that.
“We know”, Clint then spoke up calmly. “It turned out that it belongs to someone, who isn’t worth the title. A horrible mistake. One of your daughters is now the rightful candidate for the title.”
Clint stayed composed while presenting the lie, but on the inside it made him grit his teeth to say that the prince wouldn’t take a woman as his bride, who had a low social rank or not much money.
Although he didn’t know the prince good, he had only talked to him once at one of the balls, he had learned that he was a kind soul and didn’t care about formalities like social ranks.
But Clint was also sure that the woman in front of him, who was wearing so much jewelery that she reminded him of a christmas tree, would like his lie and it would make him appear more trustable.
She gave them a satisfied smile and turned around to call her daughters, not bothering to explain to them what was going on.
Patiently Natasha and him were waiting for the girls to get ready, when the stepmother leaned in close, surprising both of them.
“Can you tell me which one it is?”, she whispered while watching her daughters fight over the right pair of shoes to wear.
“I am sorry, but the prince didn’t reveal this yet”, Natasha declared and the woman nodded.
“Come on, come on”, she urged her daughters and soon the family, joined by (y/n)’s father hurried to the carriage.
“Can I see some kind of proof that you’re from the palace?”, the woman asked, but it didn’t sound like a question rather than a demand.
Clint fished in his pockets to reveal a golden emblem, which he had lend from one of his friends, who was working in a high position at the court.
The woman eyed it for a second, then decided that the glamorous carriage and the golden symbol were enough to convince her and climbed into the carriage.
Clint and Natasha went for the coachman’s seat, exchanging small smiles.
“Have you ever done this before?”, Natasha asked the older man, who was carefully taking the reins.
He shook his head.
When the carriage had left, Pietro and Wanda began to surround the house.
Pietro quickly searched the spots near the door for keys and eventually he was successul.
“Hello? Anyone at home?”, Wanda called into the empty house. Although they had seen the family leave, they wanted to make sure not to meet some surprising guests.
There was no answer so they started to examine every room, calling every now and then for their friend.
After 20 minutes they met again, both dejected and worried. “I thought we would find her in the basement", Wanda admitted, gazing at the empty room.
“We’ll find her”, Pietro reassured her, but even he wasn’t sure, if they would.
They continued to check the house again when suddenly Wanda let out a triumphantly scream.
Pietro immediately rushed to her position, forgetting that they had aggreed to not use their powers during their mission.
“I think I know where we’ll find her”, Wanda announced, giving her brother a mysterious smile.
The ride to the castle was silent. At first Clint had been a little uncertain at leading the horses, but after they had reached the road he relaxed into the seat.
“I think I’ve got this”, he told Natasha, who sighed in relief at his words.
“Now we just have to figure out how to get into the palace without anyone noticing.”
“I thought you had a plan”, Natasha wondered, sliding away from Clint so she could get a better look on his face.
“I did, but things changed. I didn’t want to cancel the whole plan, so I didn’t say anything.”
He didn’t look at her, but focused on the path instead.
Natasha couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“You mean we have to bring them into the castle without anyone noticing us nor being suspicious towards (y/n)’s family? Not mentioning the high amount of guards and royal safety measures.”
He nodded and her eyes widened.
“This plan will get us into jail”, Natasha mumbled while watching the towers of the palace appear in the distance.
Clint gave her a small smile. “At least we have more time together then.”
“What did you find?”
Pietro followed his sisters eyes, who glared at a small staircase nearly hidden behind a large shelf.
“The attic is the perfect place to hide someone”, Wanda pointed out and started to climb the stairs.
Her brother followed her with a little distance, giving her a little space to greet her friend.
He could see her disappear in the room when she had reached the end of the stairs and listened for cries and laughing, but nothing came.
Now he had reached the room as well and climbed inside.
Wanda was standing in the middle of the attic, her eyes filled with tears while she eyed the small plank bed and a gas lamp.
“She was here”, the girl whispered in confusion.
“We’re too late.”
“I can’t believe we will do this”, Natasha sighed. “Don’t get me wrong, I am up for fun, but not that kind, which will end with me in prison or get (y/n) in even more trouble.”
Clint nodded and squeezed her hand in reassurance. Then he hopped of his seat and walked over to the big gate of the palace.
“Hello”, he greeted the guards politely. “We need to pass.”
The guards stayed in position, neither of them moving nor reacting to his words.
“We have no order, which allows us to open the gate earlier than the ball starts.”
“There must be a mistake. We were ordered to pick up our special guests over there. They have made a long way over here and are tired from the long journey”, Clint explained ice-cold, adding more force with each word.
The guards exchanged a look, but didn’t move. “We can’t let you pass, if we have no order to do it.”
Suddenly the gate opened behind the guards. Alarmed they searched for anyone, who could have prompted it.
“Let them pass!”, a deep voice rung through the air.
Relief spread Clints features, but he didn’t let it show. “Told you”, he remarked when he passed the now ashamed guards.
The gate closed behind him and the carriage and he observed the scene.
A few servants and attendants were walking around, preparing everything for the last celebration.
A body joined his side, nearly making him flinch.
“Finally”, he grinned when the redhead was by his side again.
“Oh shut up! You can be grateful that I know how to fight”, she winked at him. “I bet these guards aren’t”, he whispered and nodded towards the watchtower.
“How did you make him order to open the gate?”
Natasha gave him a smirk, then observed if anyone was watching them. She came to the conclusion that no one paid further attention to them, so she opened her hand, revealing a small knife. “I just knocked them out. They will be fine.”
“You really know how to fight”, Clint concluded and they both laughed.
“We arrived. You can get out of the carriage now”, he then informed their guests and led them to the castle.
Wanda kneeled down besides the bed, tracing over the rough material with her fingers.
Tears threatened to spill her eyes when her hand fell to the ground, creating an odd noise when it touched the wood.
Pietro had kneeled down next to her now, both of them searching for loose planks.
Wanda knocked onto the wood a few times, before taking it out of the ground with her brothers help.
It revealed a large hole in the ground, which was filled with a box, a small pile of paper and the ripped rose dress.
“This wasn’t her prison”, Wanda stated, her eyes not leaving what she had just discovered. “This is where she lived.”
A smile formed on her features. “So maybe she is still here, we just have to search somewhere else.”
Pietro squeezed his sisters shoulder in support and she looked up to him with hope written on her face.
“We should put this back”, she decided and reached for the wooden plank, but Pietro stopped her. “What if this gives us hints on where to find her”, he questioned and Wanda bit her bottom lip in conflict.
“This might be personal, Pietro”, she addressed and he sighed. “I don’t feel comfortable doing this either, but don’t you want to find her? This might be the solution we need.”
“She’s gonna hate me for this”, Wanda mumbled, putting the plank away and grabbing the box.
“She won’t hate you, if we can save her”, Pietro stated and grabbed the pile of paper.
It took them a while to go through everything. Wanda had found some smaller objects in the box, which seemed to be memories of her friends childhood. There was also a diary, but she insisted on not reading it, before they had checked the whole property at least twice.
Pietro had found a few letters, which where addressed to her father but never send, as well as a good amount of drawings.
Most of them showed a woman, who they guessed was (y/n)’s mother and landscapes of the surrounding nature.
But three drawings got their attention.
One showed the prince, the other one Wanda and the last one what seemed to be a shed. “Maybe she is in there”, Pietro reasoned and Wanda agreed.
“When did she have time to draw these?”, Wanda wondered while starring at her face on the paper.
“Wanda”, Pietro tapped his sisters shoulders and she turned her attention to him instead of the pictures. “What?”
“There’s a date on the other side.”
He gave her the drawing of the shed and let her see for herself. “We could check if there is matching date in the diary. It might give us information on where this place is.”
“I already told you that I won’t read her diary”, Wanda sighed in frustration and handed him back the paper. “Let’s just go and search for this place outside.”
Pietro grimaced, but nodded and helped Wanda to move everything back into place.
“I just hope she’s in there. I have run out of ideas where she might be.”
The twins made their way out of the house and started their search outside.
Wanda just walked over to the back of the garden when she heared a noise.
It came from a ragged part of the garden and the girl immediately sped up, a million thoughts running through her head.
You started to kick against the wood again when you heared footsteps coming closer.
They got louder and louder, until they came to a hold right before the door. You didn’t know who to expect, so you crawled to the back of the room.
With a loud squeak the door slowly opened. Dazzled by the daylight you closed your eyes and blinked a few times.
“Oh my god”, you heared a familiar voice whisper and you opened your eyes, spotting your best friend in front of you.
The light was surrounding her and in this moment, she looked like an angel, here to save you.
You cried out in relief, but Wanda semmed to believe that it was from pain, so she immediately began opening the chains.
First she freeded your legs, then your hands and finally removed the wet cloth from your mouth.
It felt like heaven to be able to breath the fresh air again, feeling it fill up your lungs.
The pressure of the chains had left red marks on your ankles and wrists, but in this moment all you cared about was that you were free and Wandas was here for you.
She still starred at you with wide eyes, but you pulled her into a bone-crashing hug.
Carefully she wrapped her arms around your shoulders and it took all your effort not to break into tears.
“I am so happy that you’re here”, you mumbled and you could hear her chuckling.
You let go of her and she helped you get out of the dovecote.
“And I am so glad we found you”, Wanda stated and gazed your body up and down searching for any severe injuries..
In this moment Pietro appeared from the other side of the garden. He gave you a relieved smile and you reciprocated it.
“And what about my stepmother?”, you questioned, but Wanda already guided you back to the house, her arm on your shoulder so she could push you forward.
“That’s a long story! First we have to get you in shape so you can go to the ball.”
Your heart fluttered in excitement and you couldn’t hide your big smile.
You would see Steve again.
Natasha and Clint were guiding the family to the guest rooms. They had asked a maid, if she could show them a free room for the them and she immediately led them through the castle to the bedrooms.
“I have never seen you here before”, she suddenly asked Clint and Natasha, while the guests were chatting behind them.
“Yeah, we’re new here”, Clint tried to come up with an excuse, but the maid frowned even deeper.
“In what position do you work?”
Natasha felt her heart beating rapidly in her chest, but she couldn’t think of a good answer.
“He’s a-” But she couldn’t complete her answer when a loud alarm was heared and a group of guards stormed through the big hall next to them.
Clint and Natasha instantly sped up their pace, which didn’t go unnoticed by the maid.
“Here! They are here!”, she yelled into the guards direction and they promptly turned towards them.
“Damnit, come on!”, Clint urged and grabbed Natasha by the hand, leaving the confused family behind.
But they didn’t make it far when another group of guards showed up, blocking their way.
They surrounded them, pointing their swords at the young couple.
“Hereby we arrest you for the crime of attacking the palace guards and infiiltrating the palace”, one of the guards spoke up.
Clint squeezed Natashas hand even tighter and (y/n)’s stepmother started to scream hysterically.
A sudden voice made them look up. The prince himself made his way over to the scene, eyeing the group suspiciously.
“I think I know you”, he mumbled in confusion, alternating between mustering the redhead and the older woman behind her.
Then he gave the guards a sign to lower their weapons and stepped closer to the group.
“I need to talk to these two for a seond. Bring the others to one of the guest rooms”, he ordered and Natasha and Clint exchanged a surprised glance.
“Are you sure about this, sir?”, one of the guards in a seemingly high position asked and the prince nodded confidently.
“You look stunning”, Wanda announced when you walked out of the dressing room. It had been torture to put on the dress, because your body was still hurting from the lack of sleep and the bent posture you had to sit in during your capture in the dovecote.
The golden dress looked indeed marvelous and fit your body perfectly. Wanda had even brought a pair of new shoes, since she knew that you had lost one of yours at the last ball.
They were simple and weren’t too high, so you could easily walk in them.
Your skin still smelled from the bath you had taken, which had washed off all the dirt, but had also showed you how the chains had left dark bruises on your body.
Luckily the bruise on your face had faded, so you could easily cover it up with a little make up.
The ones on your ankles were covered up by the dress, but it had taken a lot of effort to hide the red marks on your wrists.
You gave Wanda a smile and turned to the mirror to see, if she was right or if she was just exaggerating.
But she wasn’t.
After the days you had been covered in dirt and sweat, you had never dreamed of looking this astonishing.
Your hair was falling down your shoulders in soft curls, which framed your face perfectly.
“Let’s go”, Wanda announced, who had changed herself.
She was wearing an elegant red dress now, while her brother was wearing a rather simple suit.
He hadn’t planned on going to the ball at first, but Wanda had convinced him that she didn’t want to let you go alone and that they could need any help they could get.
She was currently adjusting his jacket, while making fun of thim. Both of them laughed and you couldn’t help but wonder how amazing it would be to have sibilings, who you shared a great bond with.
Not like you and your stepsisters did.
The prince waited for everyone except two guards to leave the room. He hadn’t wanted them there, because he didn’t thought the pair in front of him was a threat, but the king had insisted on it.
“Sit down, please.” Steve pointed towards a few chairs next to a small table.
The two followed his command and he sat down himself as well.
“I don’t think you are here to attack the palace nor help the girls get a better chance in this”, he stated, calmly observing his guests.
“Then what do you think?”, Clint questioned, his hand reaching for Natashas under the table.
“I think you know (y/n).”
Uncertainty was suddenly visible in his voice and he cleared his throat.
“You do, right?”, he repeated and Natasha nodded. “Yes, we do know her. How do you know?”
“I saw you two talking at the ball. And I recognized her mother from the market”, he explained.
“Stepmother”, Natasha corrected him and he nodded in understanding.
“This makes sense”, he mumbled more to himself than the others, but quickly gained his posture again.
“What happened to her? Is she alright?”
Although Steve tried to sound casually his voice gave away his concern.
“Honestly, we don’t know”, Natasha replied and tried to cover up her own worry.
“We made a plan to get her out of the house. Our part was to distract her family, which required taking them here. We had to convince them that you wanted to meet them before the ball started or else they wouldn’t have believed us.”
Steve nodded along, but seemed deep in thought. “And the other part of your group will take her away from there?”, he questioned and they nodded.
“They are supposed to take her to the last ball so she can meet you again and explain everything”, Natasha told him and a smile filled his face.
“Sir? The family want to talk to you, They say it’s important”, an attendant suddenly appeared.
Steve sighed, his smile dropping. “Can’t it wait?”, he tried to brush it off, but the man shook his head. “It’s urgent”, he reported and Steve nodded.
“You’re free to go”, he told Natasha and Clint before leaving the room to go back to his duty.
“He is so in love with her”, Natasha laughed once the door had closed.
When you arrived at the palace, time seemed to slow down.
Your heart was beating rapidly in your chest and you were both excited and scared to talk to Steve again.
Even if it was the last time you would see him, at least you got to explain everything.
That was more you could have possibly asked for.
Wanda guided you to the entrance before you could convince her that you were good on your own from now.
“Go, have some fun!”“, you smiled. “You deserve it!”
She pulled you into a hug before leaving with a big grin on her face.
She had gone through so much, and all of that because of you. No, for you.
She was an amazing friend, beyond that, and you reminded yourself to thank all of them for their help later.
A thank-you seemed so little compared to what they had risked to save you, but there was nothing you could give them except your gratefulness.
You entered the main hall, your eyes scanning the crowd nearly immediately for the prince.
He wasn’t hard to overlook, currently in a conversation with a few ladied, who just giggled at something he had said.
You felt a clenching pain in your chest, but you couldn’t blame Steve. After this evening he had to pick a woman as his princess.
How could you be so selfish and waste any more of his time to find a wife? Just so you could feel better for yourself?
When had you turned so selfish?
So instead of walking straight towards him you wanted to turn back around, deciding to wait until the end to talk to him.
But it was too late. Steve had already noticed you.
Your eyes met and suddenly all of the people around you disappeared. It was only you and Steve.
Even the music had stopped playing.
Suddenly, you we’re alone in the crowd.
Steve began to push through the people until he was directly in front of you. His gaze was soft and full of relief at the same time.
“Hey”, he whispered and the sound of his voice comforted you.
Oh how you had missed it, missed him.
His pure presence lulled you in, drawing you closer until you were only inches away from each other.
But there were so many questions, so many unspoken things between the two of you, seperating you like an invisible barrier.
Steve was the first one to break the intense silence.
“We should go outside”, he suggested after clearing his throat and you nodded, following him until you reached the doors to the gardens and sneaked outside.
You walked away from the palace until you reached a bench.
But none of you sat down, both waiting for the other one to make a move first.
“Are you-” “I should-”, both of you spoke up at the same time breaking into a chucke. “You go first”, Steve said and you smiled.
“I should apologize”, you sighed. “I caused you so many problems. Not only did I hide from you who I really am, but left you so many times without an explanation. You don’t deserve that.”
It felt good to let that out, wanting to speak it out loud for so long.
Steve stayed silent, studying your face before smiling gently. “You don’t need to apologize, love”, he explained, but you shook your head in desperation.
“I do! You are the prince after all and I treated you like- like-”, you rung for the right words, but paused when you couldn’t find any.
“Oh please”, he sighed, but not in an upset way. “I’m just Steve, a man who happened to be born into the royal family. I’m no better than any of you!”
He started pacing up and down, but quickly calmed down and stopped in front of you.
You nodded, deciding that it was the best to let go the formalities for the evening.
He wanted you to treat him like anyone else, so you would do it, even if it probably wasn’t appropriate for you at all.
“I have so much to tell you”, you confessed, running your fingers through your hair before remembering that you would destroy your curls that way.
“And I have so many questions”, Steve grinned. “So why don’t we just start at the beginning?”
You nodded and both of you sat down on the bench. “You sneaked off to attend the ball?”, Steve began and you nodded.
“Because your family wouldn’t let you attend?” You nodded again. “Your family are?” “My father, my stepmother and my two stepsisters.”
Steve nodded, suddenly taking your hand in yours. “I’m sorry about your mother”, he whispered, squeezing it lightly. “I wish I would have gotten a chance to meet her.”
“Me too”, you confessed, but blinked away the tears that were threatening to fall from your eyes.
You were sure your mother and Steve would have gotten along perfectly and the pure imagination made you smile. It was just so wonderful.
But impossible, you reminded yourself again.
“Your stepmother was the woman on the market, right? I assume she saw you sneaking out and brought you back.”
You sighed at that. “Yes, I wanted to buy a dress for the last ball, but she caught me.”
“You risked all of that just so you could go to the ball?”, Steve asked fondly and you blushed, but nodded.
Steves face lit up for a second, but then fell again. “She doesn’t treat you right, does she?”
His voice was steady, but you sensed that he was afraid to say something that could make you run from him again.
“Depends on what you see as right. But yes, I’m working as their maid, doing all of their work”, you revealed. You felt so ashamed in front of him, dirty, even in the breathtaking dress.
Steves face was mixed with different emotions. Pain and anger were two you could make out. Then there was also tenderness.
He reached forward and you froze in fear for a moment, but quickly reminded yourself that this was okay. It was Steve, who would never hurt you in any way.
He carefully cupped your cheek, a little clumsy which made you giggle. He beamed at that.
“Can you promise me something?”, he spoke then, his voice serious and thoughtful.
You thought about it for a second. No, you couldn’t. There were too many responsibilities you had and you didn’t know what you would agree on.
But on the other hand you had caused him so much pain already. You couldn’t push him away again.
So you nodded, oddly calm for the fact that your faces were only inches apart and his hand was still resting on your cheek.
“You won’t run away today. We will figure this out together, but you won’t go back there alone again, you understand me?”
Your heart squeezed at the worry that he carried for you. He cared deeply for you and you wondered how on earth you deserved his concern and affection.
Suddenly you realized that all of this had been worth it. It had caused you pain, but you had made great friends and spend time with Steve, the person you found yourself caring so much for.
Maybe a little too much, considering he would pick a wife soon.
But you tried to surpress that thought. Being here, with Steve, made you feel sane and you didn’t know what you would do, if you couldn’t see him again.
At least not like this.
He was looking out for you and it made your heart melt. “Promise?”, Steve whispered, leaning in even closer. That wasn’t fair- how should you concentrate on forming words when he was this close?
“Promise”, you breathed out and gazed back into his ocean blue eyes. You could get lost in them forever.
“Is this okay?”, Steve whispered and you knew exactly what he was implying. He searched your eyes for permission, a sign of ressurance that he didn’t do anything that you didn’t want.
This was wrong. You would break your own heart if you agreed, but in this moment you didn’t care.
You wanted this.
Your lips curled up into a smile and you nodded, signaling him that this was okay, even more than okay.
It was perfect.
You both slowly leaned in and adrenaline rushed through your body. You were nervous, even shaking a little, but there was nothing you wanted more.
Consequences didn’t matter. All that was important was that you were here, with Steve, and he wanted you.
His lips met yours. They were softer than you had imagined and you slowly eased into each other..
Your body tingled and you felt your breath taken. An unique, nerve racking feeling you had never felt before overwhelmed you, but it was fascinating.
You felt adored.
Your mind slowed and time became unknown. In this moment everything was beautiful. Even the clock hitting twelve in the distance didn’t distract you.
The kiss was short, but not too short. It ended with you both breaking apart with huge grins on your faces and giggling.
Nothing mattered. All you wanted was here, in front of you.
And Steve wanted you too.
“You have no idea for how long I wanted to do that”, Steve confessed and your eyes widened as a huge smile plastered itself on your face.
But then you reminded yourself of his rank again. “Steve”, you whispered, who smiled when you called him by his name instead of a title.
“I can’t do this.”
The man in front of you frowned while you took a step back to put a little space between the two of you. “What do you mean?”, he mumbled, clearly confused by your words.
“I am sorry. I really like you, but I can’t do this.” Your heart squeezed tight in your chest while you watched his confusion change into hope.
The exact opposite of what you had wanted to achieve.
“You like me?”, Steve breathed and his lips curled up into a soft smile. One that made your heart hurt even more. All you wanted to do was kiss him again.
You were longing for his touch- it made all the pain from the past days go away, but if you let this happen, you would hurt yourself even more.
And you weren’t sure how much pain you could still bear.
“That’s not the point!”, you called out, desperation taking over. You didn’t want to have to explain this even more. It made everything so much more difficult. Couldn’t he just understand?
“Then what’s the point? You like me, what else should matter?”, Steve huffed, throwing his hands into the air in frustration.
You flinched away from him, a reaction you hadn’t been able to hold back and now made you feel embarrassed and guilty.
Steve immediately let his hands fall to his side again. “I don’t mean to scare you”, he mumbled and you sighed. “I know.”
“I would never hurt you.” His eyes were watching you with an intensity that made you shift uncomfortably.
“Then what is holding you back?”, he whispered and you gazed to the ground.
“All of this. Steve, you’re going to have to pick a wife at the end of the ball. You can’t expect me to give you all of me and then throw me away at the end like someone’s garbage. I am done letting people treat me that way!”
Your voice was mirroring all the anger that had build up in you, but you knew that letting it out on Steve wasn’t right. You couldn’t blame him for anything, except maybe making you fall for him.
You looked up to meet his stern eyes. “Who do you think I will pick?”, he questioned and you groaned.
“I don’t know. You tell me.”
He answered without hesitation and you flinched in surprise. It had taken three letters to completely catch you off-guard. You had expected everything, but not this.
Your heart was beating so fast you felt like it would explode in your chest and your mind was overwhelming you with questions.
“You don’t mean that”, was all you brought out.
“Yes I do! (Y/n), I want to pick you as my wife!”
You gasped, as if your mind was only registering the impact of his words now.
“You barely know me”, you pointed out and he sighed, but with a small smile on his lips.
You really wondered how he could keep being positive about all of this.
“Look, I might not know you that much, but the evenings that we spend together were easily one of the best in my life. I just feel like we click and that you understand me like no one else does.”
You listened to him in awe, but your mind was still conflicted. You had never considered yourself to be a princess, where you even able to fulfill that honor?
But at the same time you felt a spark of hope. You knew Steve as a level-headed person. He wouldn’t say this, if he hadn’t really thought this through.
“I am more than eager to learn more about you (y/n).” The way your name left his lips made your heart melt and blushed a little.
“What would that mean for me? I am sure being a princess means more than just smiling and waving to the crowds.”
Steve nodded his face serious again, now when you were talking about business.
“As the future king I still have to learn a lot about this country and how I can lead it for everyone to have a good life. You would have to support me and help me make decisions that are for everyone’s best.
I don’t need you to just agree with me and look good for the nation, as my father thinks. No, I need you to disagree with me and show me what I might not see.
We grew up in different worlds and I am hoping that I can learn from you.”
You nodded a little absent while listening to him. Your mind was filled with doubts. Where you able to live up to his high expectations?
“But most importantly, I need you to love me, no matter what.”
Steve watched you with curious eyes. Wondering if his last demand would scare you away.
But you simply nodded. This was the only thing that didn’t frighten you. Loving Steve was something that seemed impossible not to do. Something, you could fulfill without any doubts.
“And you’re sure I’m the right person for this?”, you asked, letting your insecurities come to the surface.
“Absolutely! If one can do it, then it’s you.”
And that was all it took to convince you. Perhaps you were naive to give in just yet, to believe that this could work, but Steve did and you trusted him.
You smiled and Steve took your hands into his. “Is that a yes?”, he asked hopeful and you chuckled, nodding with a big grin.
“Yes! This is a yes!”
He broke into relieved laughter before leaning in again and capturing your lips into a kiss.
This one wasn’t as innocent anymore, but still gentle and warm. You laughed in joy against Steve’s lips, realizing that from now on you wouldn’t have to be separated from him anymore, and you felt this lips turn into a smile.
He broke away from you, but remained close, your hands still locked behind his head.
“I need you to promise me something too”, you whispered and Steve knitted his brows, but nodded.
“I need you to love me too. No matter what.”
Your voice was steady while speaking your request, but on the inside you felt anxious of his answer.
Steve liked you, there was no denying that, but could he love you?
He chuckled and studied your face before leaning in to whisper something into your ear.
“Darling, as if I could help myself!”
Your knees were shaking when you entered the palace again, but Steve who squeezed your hand gave you the confidence you needed. This one time you wouldn’t run away.
“We’ve got this”. Steve whispered and you nodded, both of your faces filled with huge smiles.
You saw the crowd in front of you, a cloud of laughter and words. Some people turned around, shivering at the cold nights air that had gotten in when you had entered.
When they saw the prince they stilled, watching him with curious eyes. More and more people recognized the prince’s figure, waiting for enough silence for him to make an announcement.
Surprisingly it didn’t take long for the room to fall silent, everyone was staring at the two of you with piercing eyes, waiting for the prince to say the words that they did not want to hear.
“What are you doing?”, you heared someone gasp and turned your head to the side. It was the king, who marched over to the two of you in quick steps.
“I want to declare my decision”, Steve spoke confidently, ignoring that all eyes were locked on him.
“We haven’t discussed your choice yet”, the king panted, glancing to you next to his son.
“Well, there is nothing to discuss. This is my life and my decision, so if you excuse me I don’t want to make everyone wait any longer.”
Steve’s voice was steady and demanding, but not unfriendly. You wondered what the king wanted to discuss.
Maybe you were not pretty enough in his eyes. Or not wealthy enough.
You pushed these thoughts to the side and focused back on the man next to you, who was now turning his eyes to the crowd.
“I am sorry for the delay”, he started, a polite smile on his lips. “First of all I want to thank everyone for attending the ball. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you had a good time.”
You glanced to the people, a familiar face catching your eye. It was Wanda, who was trying her best to stand straight and keep a steady face while you could see she was overwhelmed with joy.
A grin stole its way on your face, but you gave it your best to remain a proper expression and quickly glanced away.
“Now I want to proceed by announcing the lovely lady (y/n) as my new queen.”
No one had ever called you a lady before. But it felt good, somehow.
A wave of applause and cheers erupted and you blushed.
“Thank you. All the detais concerning the wedding will be aired soon. Now please return home safely.”
The crowd clapped again before it started to fall apart, people starting to leave into different directions.
Only now you realized that you had no clue what to do, so you glanced to Steve in expectation.
“I will bring you to your chamber, don’t worry”, he reassured you and you nodded thankfully.
Suddenly you heared a familiar voice, calling your name. Turning your head, you saw Wanda making her way over to you.
You pulled her into a hug, and she giggled. “You will marry the prince”, she whispered into your ear, but there was no trace of jealousy. Rather she sounded truly joyful.
“I am so happy for you”, she squeaked and you laughed. “Thank you”, you smiled and broke apart from her, so you could look her in the eyes.
“For everything, really. You did so much for me. Without you I would still live in my cage.”
Wanda smiled gently, before pulling you into another hug. “But don’t you become a smug princess!”, she grinned, and you laughed. “Never!”
“And don’t you think you will get rid of me that easily. I will visit you as often as I can”, she grinned while playfully poking your arm.
“Oh trust me I will probably be bored as hell, so you are welcome every time.”
Wanda smiled at you again, before she turned around to return home.
“You’re going to be bored, huh?”, Steve smirked while stepping back next to you. You watched him with amused eyes.
“Trust me, I won’t let that happen”, he smirked while he began guiding you to your chamber.
“Is that a threat?”, you asked playfully, trying to keep in pace with Steve while admiring the parts of the castle you hadn’t seen yet.
“I would rather say that is a promise”, Steve laughed and slowed down, noticing that you had trouble following him.
His eyes were sparkling with amusement and joy while he looked at you and you couldn’t help but think how happy it made you to see him like that; carefree, just joking around and not thinking of the burden on his shoulders for a moment.
You would do your best to give him more moments like that.
After Steve had showed you your chamber, which was enormous, he had left, saying that you needed to rest.
You knew that he was right, but your mind was still too overwhelmed with everything that had happened.
Tomorrow you and Steve would visit your home to take the little belongings you had. You would meet your stepmother and sisters for the last time and although Steve would accompany you, you still felt a little scared.
But the thought of seeing them for the last time was calming. It would help you to put an end to your old life and begin again.
But then there was also your father. You did not want to leave him, but there was no chance that he would agree to live on the court as well. Your last meeting had given you the hope that maybe he wasn’t as lost as you had thought, but you knew that you couldn’t hold on to that.
As much as you loved your father, you knew that he wasn’t the same person anymore. Your mother’s death had broken him in a way, which was hard to understand, if you hadn’t experienced it yourself.
And although you had lost your mother as well, it was different. He had loved her in a way that you would soon love Steve and just thinking about this death made your heart start to race.
A world without him just felt- pointless.
But the comfort of the blanket and the bed reminded you that he was here. And you were with him. If you needed him, he was only a few doors away, he had told you that himself before saying goodnight.
Both of you knew that it would take a while for you to put everything you had experienced behind you, but until then you knew you wouldn’t be alone.
It was the thought that no matter how bad your dreams would get or what would happen tomorrow, you still had Steve and that was everything you wished for.
Chapter 21: Epilogue
You knew that all eyes were on you while you packed your things. Leaving your home felt strange but refreshing. You would miss the smell of the wood and the dusty bookshelves, but this wasn’t your home anymore. It had been invaded and taken from you long ago and it was time to give it up.
When you walked to the door where Steve was waiting for you, mustering you with a calm, yet attentive gaze, you took a last glance at your family.
Your father was sitting in an armchair, his eyes starring into your direction. But his face was blank, and his gaze fixed on the distance. You knew that he was gone and still it hurt. “Goodbye father”, you whispered, taking his hand into yours and squeezing it gently.
He showed no reaction.
Next you looked at your stepsisters. They were watching you with mixed emotions. Jealousy and despite stood out, but there was also a small trace of pure sadness. Maybe they would be real sisters to you, if they would have raised by a different mother, you thought to yourself.
Lastly your gaze met your stepmothers. She was starring back at you emotionless and that she didn’t say a word only scared you more. But Steve’s presence probably intimidated her too much to raise the word against you.
With a small smile you turned around to Steve, who was waiting patiently for you. “Ready?”, he asked, and you nodded, intertwining your fingers with his while walking out of the house and back to the carriage.
Climbing inside you waited for it to start moving, but nothing happened. “Why aren’t we moving?”, you wondered out loud, giving Steve a confused glance.
You grew even more confused when he reached behind himself and showed you a shoe.
“You kept that?”, you wondered chuckling. “Of course! It belongs to this woman that I am going to marry. But first I must give this back to her”, he grinned, and you blushed.
“Would you do me the honour and try it on?”
You nodded, watching Steve with a smile while he put the shoe onto your foot. It fit perfectly and you grinned at him proudly. “Don’t let her run away ever again”, you whispered, and Steve leaned in close.
Your lips met his and you smiled, wondering how on earth you had found someone like him.
The carriage started to move, away from your home and to the palace, where your new life would begin.