Five Years Ago
The floor creaked and echoed through the elegant hallways. It was dark, the only light transpiring was from the melting candle in the hands of the small child. She could hear the guttural and sickly coughing noises from the other room, and the sound of two men talking.
"No, I don't think she'll make it to the break of dawn. Be sure to leave the window open to let her soul roam free. I'm sorry, your highness." As Anna peaked gently around the corner, she saw her father and a tall slender man standing solemnly outside of her mother's doorway. The tall man was dressed very well and had a large bag in his hand. He gently bowed his head to the king and walked past him. His eyes locked with Anna's for a moment, looking sad and defeated, nodding his head to her as well as he left. The king looked back to his daughter and took in a deep and broken breath. He knelt down in front of her, his eyes welled up with tears and his lips pinched and quaking.
"You should go see your mother. Remind her of how much she means to you. Tell her everything you want her to know." There was an overlay of calm in his voice. He was trying to hide the pain in his tone, and the break in his heart. It was obvious in his wet sapphire eyes. The older man leaned forward and kissed Anna's cheek, his beard scratching against her pale skin. She stood there looking into his gentle loving eyes as he wiped his own tears from his face. Standing up, he patted her towards the room. Anna was a bit nervous, the candle in her hand began to shiver with worry. She knew her mother was sick for a long time, but her father always told her she would get better. The want of the heart is so strong compared to the capability of the reality. They all wanted the queen to become well, but her body had become more frail and worn by sickness. Before entering the room, Anna took one last glance at her father, he flashed a fain smile and bobbed his head to encourage her to enter the room. She slowly grabbed the handle and made her way in.
When she entered she could see the white sheets, and her mother under them, practically the same color. Anna brought the flickering candle closer. The broken woman lifted her cheeks with a weak smile. "Hello my darling. Come sit with me a moment." The queen patted her bedside. The small girl placed her candle next to the bed and crawled up next to the pale woman. The queen reached up her feeble hand and brushed Anna's long brown locks from her eyes. Anna leaned her cheek into her mother's hand."My sweet Anastasia, I love you so much." Tears streamed down her mother's cheek. A deep cough echoed through her lungs.
Anna flinched and frowned hugging her mother tightly, "M-mother, please don't leave us. We have so many things to do, like explore different places sailing the seas- and have parties, and swim in the ocean more, and-"
"My dear, please do that still. I'll be watching you and smiling from up in the stars. I want to see you having fun and doing all the things I promised we would do together. Every time you look to the ocean, think of me and all of our fun. Think of when we went on our adventures without your father knowing. I want to watch you from above and know you can still enjoy the ocean. I'll still be there. Just in your heart." Her mother's thinned fingers poked Anna's chest. She smiled wide. Anna frowned as tears streamed down her cheeks. She looked over her mother and how different she looked from before all this happened. Her body became nothing but flesh and bones. Her skin became white and thinned. Her eyes didn't have the same light as they did before. Anna wanted the mother she once knew back, but it would never be that way. How was she to move forward and continue living without the encouragement of her mother by her side? How was she to continue to keep a smile on her face and not feel the pain of wanting her mother there? Would it ever be easy?
"You have to take care of your father for me. He can be quite the handful, my dear." Her mother took in a deep but raspy breath. She stared at her daughter for a moment, contemplating how she could possibly lighten the mood, and make her daughter smile one more time. "You know, I heard there was a boy in the stable area. The rumor is, he has a keen eye for you." She tried to giggle a bit, while Anna looked up and cringed.
"Ew, I don't like boys mother." She shook her head pulling it back, cringing a bit, but with a playful smile.
"Well, you're going to fall in love someday Anastasia. He's going to love you- every part of you. He's going to cherish every moment together as if it were the last, and you're going to do the same for him." The queen's eyes began to shut slowly. "I love you my darling- so much." She caressed Anna's cheek again, the small smile on her face slowly fading away.
"I love you too mother. I- mother? Mother?" Anna watched her mother's hand drop to her side as if it were all in slow motion. The room became silent as her mother's chest stopped moving. Tears rolled down Anna's cheek as she clung to her mother. "No, please stay a little longer. Mother, please don't. Don't leave me! I still n-need you!" Her nails dug into the fabric around her mother's body, staining the whites of the sheets with the tears uncontrollably pouring. Soon, hands wrapped around Anna's waist, pulling her from her mother's corps. Her father gentle hands wrapped around his daughter and hugged her tightly lifting her over his shoulder and exiting the room. Anna's shrills echoed as guards quickly came into the room and shut the door behind them. Her father took her to his bedroom and laid her on his bed. He climbed in next to his broken daughter and held her tightly. He comforted her rocking her back and fort, hushing her. He was broken as well, but he had to keep strong for his little girl.
"Anastasia? Princess? Where did that damned child run off to?" A older maid scrambled through the castle searching for the young girl. "Have you seen her?" She asked several people, throwing up her hands when all denied her question. "She better not be getting herself into some trouble again." The maid looked out one of the castle windows to see the girl playing near the wall of the ocean. "Princess Anastasia, get up here this instant. You have a party to attend to!" Anna looked up to see the withered old woman waving her arms angrily out of the window. She sighed and brushed herself off from the sand, grabbing her shoes from the shoreline. The old woman made her way to Anna, grabbing her arm and shaking her head in disapproval. "You are meeting your possible betrothed today, child. You have to look acceptable. Your father would have my head if he saw you playing by the ocean."
Anna groaned and pulled her arm away from the woman. "I don't want to meet and wed some random boy, Genevieve," Anna scowled and turned her head away. She continued walking by the maid's side, heading up to her room. Genevieve pulled a damp cloth from a bowl and scrubbed Anna's face, hands and feet. "What if I find a boy I love someday, but I'm married to some boring shrew?" Genevieve looked up to Anna and raised a small brow. "My mother loved my father, and she chose him. Why do I have to marry someone I don't know?"
"My dear, you are not getting married yet. You are simply meeting possible suitors that your father approves of. Unfortunately, that is that way that royalty works. I'm sorry. I wish i could change it for you." The maid quickly stripped Anna of her dirty clothing and rushed her into well-made clean ones. The young girl huffed with frustration as her cheeks were pinched to make them look more pink. "Your mother would be proud of you." Genevieve tried to lighten the mood. Anna's eyes lit up a tiny bit, the corner of her lip slightly curled upwards thinking of her late mother.
"You really think so?" Anna looked down at her outfit then into the long mirror in front of her.
Gen stood behind her and nodded, her hands on Anna's shoulders, "I know so. She used to be just as adventurous and strong willed as you, my dear. Now, come along. There are people waiting for you downstairs."
As they made there way down the stairwell there was an entire room filled with people. There was music, people dancing, food, and an entertainer in the corner. The place was decorated and filled with energy. Her father sat in a large chair and watched the people bobbing his head and waving his drink the music. Anna quickly made her way towards her father and hugged him tightly. He smelled of a fine aged wine, and sausages. "Hello my princess." He kissed her forehead and hugged her tightly with his open arm. Anna gave a small nod then looked to the people. "Don't worry sweetheart. This isn't even the half of the people I chose to come to this gathering. There will be plenty more to chose from." Anna looked up to her father, her brows furrowed lightly. "I want to make sure that only the right man will get the hand of my daughter, and the knowledge of the great treasure we have. Besides, you won't wed until you are twenty-five years of age. We are simply planning ahead. Please don't be discouraged." Anna shrugged and sat in a chair similar to her father's but much smaller in size, watching the people dance, laugh, and enjoy themselves. These people were there for her, that had to mean something, right? Even so, all Anna could think about was wanting to be outside, near the ocean where her and her mother used to play.