Art by Celeste Jamneck
Tradition be Damned
Elena rolled over to her left side, still half asleep she didn’t feel the box she had rolled on to. She froze and moved back over to the right side of the bed and sat up. There was a neatly wrapped lilac package on her bed, it was about the size of the almanac book in the dining room. She used both arms to lift it up but found it to be light and so she smacked herself in the face with the gift. Feeling silly she rubbed her face and laughed at herself then carefully pulled the silver ribbon and the wrapping came undone. A letter fell out of the gift addressed to her in her father’s writing. Smiling at herself she opened the seal, leaned against her pillows and read the letter.
My dearest Elena.
The day I married your mother was the happiest day of my life, and I was sure I would never again feel that happiness, however, I was so very mistaken. The first time I held you in my arms, you looked up at me with the most beautiful eyes and then you smiled at me and I felt a blissful glee that words could not describe. Every day with you has been a gift and so I give you a gift that expresses the love and joy you bring me every day. Happy birthday my darling.
With all my love
Tears threatened to form at the beautiful heartfelt words her father wrote and before she knew it she was dabbing her eyes with the sleeve of her night gown. When she was certain she wouldn’t cry again she took a deep breath and unwrapped the gift. The world stood still, there was no sound and no movement. Nothing else in the world existed besides the painting she held in her hands. It was a portrait of Elena when she was a baby, her father and…”Mother” the word leapt from Elena’s heart into the physical world and hung around her lips like the paint she wore on them last night. Elena brushed her finger across her mother’s face. She recognised the artist. He had done all the royal portraits. He must have done this one mere days after Elena was born because Queen Milana died not ling after her christening.
Elena didn’t know how long she sat staring at the painting, She had seen many paintings of her Mother, Her favorite was of her in her reading chair holding “Many a Night” Elena read that book so many times she had it committed to memory. For her 10th birthday her father had asked her what she would like as a gift and Elena had asked for the painting to be moved to her room. Her father laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair “Darling that isn’t a request for a birthday gift. I would have moved it for you any day you desired. It shall be done immediately.” Now every time Elena entered her room she saw her mother doing the one thing that made them both happy.
She turned when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Her father’s sad smile shook her out of her daze. Instinctively Elena covered herself with her gown knowing full well she was still in her nightdress. He sat down facing her with his hands in his lap “Do you like it, my darling?” Elena realized her mouth was dry, She reached for the glass in her bed stand and took a sip of water before answering “It’s so beautiful, Father… I’ve never seen this painting, Mother must have already been sick here.” She glanced down at the portrait looking for signs of illness or fatigue but found none, her smile was wide and her eyes were full of life. Her hair was as vibrant as Elena’s and the green summer dress she wore complimented her light skin tone. She looked healthier than the prized horses they bread. Elena felt her father take her hand in his, covered it completely with the other, and smiled at her. “You were only a few days old here. Tradition dictates that the first portrait is taken after the christening but your mother was insistent. She was like wildfire, ‘Who made these ridiculous rules? If anyone in North Althezaar wanted a picture of their children the very day they were born they would have one, but The Queen must wait until the day of the christening before she can capture her child’s beauty? I’ll not have it Raynar! I’m sending a note to Sorin tomorrow, tradition be damned!’” Her father mimicked her mother’s voice in a high pitched frenzy perfectly, It made them both laugh until they teared up. “Darling I know that last night was difficult. You handled the evening with the grace and courage befitting a queen, however, you have never been a traditional princess… But you know what? Tradition be damned!” Elena flung her arms around her father and she swore she had never loved him more.
Elena’s father had arranged for her to have breakfast in her chambers but she was to attend the Tea at 11:00 because she would be formally introduced to her suitors. Last night was a quick introduction, Elena knew who they all were. She had studied them all and even knew some of them from the neighboring kingdoms. She was especially fond of Prince Alex from West Althezaar. They had been friends since birth, Kind Lewis, or as she knew him Uncle Lew, and her father were old friends and their fathers were friends, and so it went back. Alex was like family to her, he was intelligent and enjoyed traveling. He was always ‘in search of the new’ as he put it. When Elena found out that Alex was part of the suitor party she thought it was a mistake.
Elena, her father and the advisors were sitting at the breakfast table discussing the proceedings. Remi was seated next to her giving her a stern look because she was clearly not paying any attention. He had been her tutor and close companion since birth. Sir Morrow was reading the names of all the suitors when Alex’s name caught her attention.
“Sorry, Sir Morrow, did you say Alex? As in Prince Alex North?” She asked sitting up straighter.
There was a sudden silence as her father pursed his lips and cleared his throat. “Well, yes. He is the same age as you and you know that Auger is in line for the throne so he makes the perfect candidate. He could rule here with you and his brother would rule over West Altherzaar.” There was a pause, when he saw the look of shock on Elena’s face he quickly cut the silence by saying “Assuming you and him actually do form a relationship darling! Nothing is set in stone, you might like one of the other princes, I know that you and Alex have a good friendship and you know that your mother and I were the best of friends before we became a couple.” With that Elena got up and ran to her library.
Elena had an outfit prepared for every occasion. Today she was in a light green summer dress that reached just below her knees. It moved easily and the fabric was soft, She thought it to be made of soft cotton and lace. There was a flower embroidery around the bodice and faded out as it reached her hips. She had matching green pumps that were surprisingly comfortable, they had a very short heel and had the same flowery pattern around the front of the shoe. Her hair was a simpler high pony and no flower pins were added today. She did feel a lot more like herself. She declined the make-up with an assertive voice. She felt her future husband should accept her for all her natural beauty and flaws. Remi came into the room after she was dressed and shook his head. “All the ladies at court wear make-up at your age, Majesty. It sets a bad president if you don’t.” Elena spun around when he called her ‘Majesty’. He never called her that. When she was a child he called her Little Majesty, but now he called her Elena and only ever called her Little Majesty when he was in a playful mood.
“Majesty?” She asked with her hands on her hips and her eyebrows raised in question.
“I felt it was time I addressed you formally… Majesty”
“Remi.” She said and then laughed, Remi’s laughter followed.
“At least allow me to call you Majesty in front of court.” he requested.
“Oh alright but it sounds strange. “
“Elena everyone calls you -“
“Coming from you!” she interrupted him.
He smiled and then gestured to the door. “Shall we?” Elena picked up the right side of her dress and laid her left arm on Remi’s and they made their way to the garden.
Wordsmith: Larouchelle Leveuvre