The first time Adriana Cayenne fell in love, she was five years old. It was not how the Matchmakers would have preferred it, but five year olds do not care about what adults think.
She stood on the royal platform, quiet and grave, just like how she was taught. The cheering crowd loomed beofre her like a dark, forbidding wave that threatened to crush her. Adriana trembled in its wake. The screams piercved her ears. All she could think of were three words:
Make it stop...make it stop...make it stop...
"Head up, chin straight," hissed her mother. She felt the cold fingers tighten over her wrist. "You are a princess; they serve you. Show them how grand you are."
"Yes, M-My Lady Mother," she whispered. She wanted to say 'Mama'. After all, did not all little girls call their mother as 'Mama'? Rhia Cayenne, Queen of Saligna, insisted on big words and big titles. So, her daughter mastered 'My Lady Mother'.
Adriana's feet ached in the heeled shoes. The pink gossamer dress clung to her limbs like a film of snake oil. Her jeweled tiara pressed tight around her temples. Rhia's lips flattened in disgust at her weakness; the girl cringed at the steel vise around her wrist. Her eyes flickered over the sea of humanity...
...and met a matching pair of blue-gray eyes across the way.
He was a few years older, eight or nine at most. The boy met her gaze and smiled. Of course, she did not see his mouth move. The pure joy poured into her and filled her spirit. Something lurked in the background, just beyond reach. She tried to catch it, press it against her heart..
"Come, Adriana, the review is over." Rhia tugged at her arm, and her feet stumbled, jerking her back to reality. The beautiful connection snapped and left tears in her eyes.
You are a princess; they serve you.
She followed her mother with her head held high, and the tears did not fall down her cheeks.