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Courage

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Dexter Charming was not a coward.

True, he was not known for dashing into battle like his older brother Daring or for being as talented with a sword or an axe as his younger sister Darling. But nevertheless, Dexter prided himself in standing his ground and keeping his head when the going got rough. In his time at Ever After High, he had faced the invasion of the Evil Queen, a winter catastrophe, Valentine’s Day and Professor Rumpelstilzkin’s lessons. He had seen his fair share of crises, and yet, none of them had prepared him for what he was about to do.

With only slightly shaking hands, he pressed the button on his mirror phone. It took a few second to set up the connection – seconds that felt like decades – and then Dexter was greeted by the sight of his parents, King and Queen Charming.

“Mom, Dad,” he said, forcing a smile and waving his free hand slightly and perhaps a bit awkwardly. “Hi.”

The first thing he noticed was that neither his mom nor his dad looked as perfectly perfect as they usually did. His father’s cheeks were red, whereas his mother looked decidedly pale. He was just about to ask them if everything was alright when his mother interrupted him by saying, “Did you know, Dexter?”

That was a question he had not seen coming. Puzzled, he frowned at the screen, “Did I know what?”

King Charming took a deep breath while his wife snapped her fan shut in silent irritation, “That your brother is planning to take the daughter of the Bad Wolf to our Silver Jubilee Ball next month.”

“Oh,” said Dexter, feeling a bit like the ground had been pulled from under his feet. So apparently Daring had beaten him to telling their parents about their respective dates for the ball. “Uhm…”

“He cannot be serious,” his mother continued, the frown between her eyebrows becoming ever more pronounced. “He is a Charming. The oldest Charming prince! He can’t be seen fooling around with that wolf girl. There’s not even a prince in her story!”

“Calm down, my dear,” King Charming said, placing a comforting hand on his wife’s arm. “He’s young, and he’s still in school. Surely this is merely a small infatuation, nothing more, and it’ll pass. Right, Dexter?”

“Uhm…” Dexter said, thinking of how he had spotted Cerise and Daring shyly holding hands in the main hall, or how his brother’s eyes lit up every time Cerise walked into the room. “Honestly, I’m not so sure about that, Dad…”

His father frowned, which made Dexter continue hastily, “But, speaking of the ball…” Dexter considered his parent’s agitated faces for a moment. Could he really break the news to them now, when they were already this irritated? But, he thought, there was never going to be a good moment for this. And he wasn’t sure whether he could ever again muster up enough courage to tell them. “I was also planning on taking someone with me.”

“Oh?” his mother replied, her manner relaxing ever so slightly. “How nice dear. Is it that lovely girl from your fairytale history class? Or the daughter of the love god? She seemed very-“

“No, neither of them,” he said. His stomach felt like it was on fire within, but he had come this far and he was determined to go through with it. “I want to take Raven.”

Both of his parents’ faces froze. It could have been almost comical to see their matching expressions, had it not been for the toneless question of his mother, “Raven?”

“Raven Queen,” he said, pressing his hand against his stomach, which was in full revolt now. “You know. Daughter of the Evil Queen?”

At this, his mother gave a short cry, threw her fan over her head and fainted in the most dramatical manner Dexter had ever seen anyone faint in. His father’s face had turned a rather unbecoming shade of purple and he opened his mouth, doubtlessly to deliver a reprimanding speech, but all that could be heard was a weird kind of gurgling. And suddenly, it was more than Dexter could face.

“Well, I just thought I’d let you know, what with the seating arrangements and all that,” he said hastily. “But I gotta go now, hero class starts in a few minutes. I’ll call you soon. Bye Mom, bye Dad.”

With that, he pressed the disconnect-button and threw his mirror phone on his bed. For a short moment, he just said there, breathing heavily as if he’d run a whole marathon; then he groaned and buried his face in his hands.

“That could have been worse,” said a musical voice behind him. Dexter didn’t have to turn around to know who had crept into his room. Ever since she shared her secret with him Darling had developed the habit of climbing the vines outside his balcony if she wanted to talk to him in private. She called it “exercise”. Dexter called it “invasion of privacy”.

“How much did you hear?” he asked without lifting his head.

“Most of it,” she replied, sat down next to him and placed a comfortingly warm hand on his shoulder. “From what I’ve heard, it went better that Daring’s conversation with them.”

“They’re never going to accept this,” Dexter mumbled. “Me, dating the daughter of the Evil Queen.”

“They will,” Darling said, ever the optimist. “Give them a little time. They need to get used to the idea that their children aren’t exactly following the fairy tale that was written out for them.”

“Speaking of which,” Dexter said, lifting his head and readjusting his glasses. “When are you planning to tell them about you and Apple?”

“Next year,” Darling said with a smile that was both fond and rebellious. “I’ll let them stomach the sight of Cerise and Raven at the ball first. I’ll need to talk to them next year anyway – I need Dad’s recommendation if I want to go to Hero College.”

Dexter looked at his sister’s bravely sunny face and realised that while both Daring and he did something incredibly courageous today – they would never be as daring as Darling.