Lines of Succession, Part 2

Having recently completed a series of posts (first one here) on the Chronicles of Narnia, a fairy tale series for children, I thought I’d return to my personal writing archives for a fairy tale of my own. (It’s easy to figure out fairy tales are a genre I love.) The story is broken up into five parts. (To read from the beginning, start here.) Here’s the second part below.

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 After the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon trip, the King requested their presence and they dined nightly in the royal quarters. With just the four of them, the setting was more intimate than on official state occasions. They took their meals at a small square wood-carved table. The King sat across from his son with the queen at his right and Princess Advent on his left. One evening as he handed a platter of fresh vegetables to the younger woman, the King inquired, “Am I correct in recalling you prefer the green tomatoes over the red?”

Advent nodded. “I’m partial to most things green, Highness.” She took the dish, shrugging her shoulders in feigned self-deprecation. It was common knowledge the palace decorators had painted her bedroom a lively shade of mint green.At first, the palace staff had been aghast! What, after all, was wrong with the traditional beige paint that covered all the other palace walls? But the King’s reaction had been quite unexpected. “Green? Why not?” He thundered, “It’s time this palace had some color. Let’s have some blue and yellow, too!”

Always the palace’s voice of moderation, the Queen offered her opinion. “You’ve always liked beige, Dear. Perhaps we should just take it one room at a time. See how we like a little color first. Don’t you think?”

The King looked hard at his wife. She had never adjusted well to change. While his first impulse was to seize the moment, he accepted her advice. “Yes, you’re right. We’ll go slowly,” he promised, patting her hand. “We’ll start with the breakfast room. See how we like that.” A small, intimate dining room, the breakfast room’s best feature was its wide east window through which morning sunshine flooded the room.

“Yellow,” she suggested. “Pale, subdued, that would be nice.”

The King understood. She was looking for a shade of yellow that most closely resembled beige. If she had her way, it would mean a drop or two of yellow paint mixed with the beige. But a hint of buttermilk is what the King had in mind. If his painters could get the right mix, sunlight would do the rest and make the room dance.

That’s what the Princess did. Her very presence added color and dimension to the ordinary stuffiness of the palace. Often, when she entered a room, she was singing, and by the time she left that room, everyone else had joined in. The palace staff — once as starched and staid as their King — had slowly come to love the Princess and her ways. Even the King’s butler, a snooty proper Englishman named Simmons, was coming around. Speaking to Princess Advent’s handmaid one day, Simmons admitted, “A little singing, now and then, is good for the soul. Now and then, mind you.”

Still, all was not well in the kingdom. Though the Princess continued to charm those around her, her husband the Prince grew by the week more sullen and irritated with his bride. One night, he disallowed her to accompany him to the sovereign’s table.

The King immediately voiced his dismay, revealing his disappointment at her absence. “Where’s your bride, my Boy?”

Petulantly, the Crown Prince replied, “I would not allow her to come, Father. She has become such a constant source of exasperation for me. I have confined her to quarters.” The Prince, who had become as round as his father, said no more but rapidly devoured the food set before him as well as several rich dessert pastries. When he noticed the untouched food on his wife’s plate, he started in on it, too.

Inwardly damning his son’s quicker reflexes — for the King had also glimpsed the Princess’s uneaten food — he groaned his displeasure. “How can this be? Princess Advent’s love for you is deep. Everyone can see that she’s devoted to you.”

The Prince scoffed. “She nags me, she scorns me, she even flaunts her relationship with you at me.”

The King stared at his son in disbelief. He had never noticed Advent’s behavior to be anything but agreeable. “Is she unhappy here?”

“She says I’ve gotten … fat … and lazy,” the Prince whined, spooning more mashed potatoes onto his plate.

At this point, the Queen dropped her fork so it clanked loudly on the china plate. “How dare she?”

Clearing his throat, the King cast a meaningful glance at his wife. She said no more. What use was it to deny — or sugarcoat — the truth? The King searched his mental repertoire of diplomatic remarks for just the right observation. He settled on, “Perhaps we could all do with a little less feasting and a little more physical activity.” He patted his own round belly for emphasis.

The Prince offered no response. His chest shook as he covered his mouth and squelched a burp.

The King took another run at it, this time with inspired insight. “I believe what you have is a problem of boredom, Son. The symptoms you describe occur with regularity in women her age. There’s only one solution — a baby.”

“A baby!” the Crown Prince exclaimed. He was so completely startled by the suggestion he awkwardly bobbled a platter of fried chicken before easing it onto the table. A meaty chicken leg dropped to the linen tablecloth.

Without missing a beat, the King snatched the chicken leg away, and began gnawing on it. He continued, “Absolutely! Need I remind you of the importance of a line of succession?”

Begrudgingly, the Crown Prince took the King’s advice, and he found himself enjoying the added dimension of fatherhood in the several years that followed. Not that he was especially good at the role. He didn’t come close to competency. His expanding size precluded a frolicsome romp on the palace’s carpeted nursery floor. He’d have had to call for aid to get back on his feet. And too often, the chattering little voices agitated him so thoroughly, he would invariably bellow, “Shut up!” until the palace walls reverberated and his offspring had run away crying, holding their tender ears, and hoping to find a retreat far enough away that the blasts could be adequately muffled.

But for the time being, at least, the Crown Prince found himself less provoked by the bride of his hapless youth, and once again, he permitted her to sit beside him at the King’s bountiful table, although truth be told, sitting “beside” the Crown Prince was, in fact, to be seated at a considerable distance from him.

… Part 3 tomorrow.

Renée