Knock! Knock!! Knock!!! “Wake up!” I can hear Princess Cornelia outside my room throwing one of her typical tantrums as I fall out of bed and rush to the door.
“Good morning Princess. I’m sorry for my tardiness,” I lie as I pull my long hair into a messy bun.
“Why didn’t you bring my breakfast this morning?” She asks as if she doesn’t already know that I overslept.
“I’m sorry your highness, I forgot to set my alarm clock, but that is no excuse.” Actually, I think it’s a pretty good excuse or I wouldn’t have bothered to mention it.
“I want you in the stables in five minutes preparing my horse for the afternoon Polo game,” she says and stalks off down the long hallway. I close the door and quickly dress, I’m not going to let the princess ruin my good mood. I’m still happy from last night, and I want that to last as long as possible.
I’m braiding Midnight Daisy’s tail when Prince Cameron comes into the barn and sits down on a bale of hay. I don’t want to look, but I have the strange feeling he’s staring at me, or maybe he just has a thing for horses. I finish Daisy’s tail and turn to him.
“Hello Prince Cameron. What brings you to the barn today; is there anything I can do for you?” I say with a friendly smile.
“Pheobe, I’ve told you a billion times, please don’t call me Prince. Just Cameron, or better yet, Cam.” Of course I knew all of this; I was just messing with him.
“Ok, Cam.” He smiles and I take a mental note that I really like it when he smiles. “You still haven’t told me why you ventured out of the castle. Did you run out of books to read?” I tease.
“Very funny,” he throws some loose straw at me, “I thought you might get bored later when Cornelia’s playing with her little ponies and too busy to boss you around. I was wondering if you wanted to practice a bit more with those daggers. And um,” he’s looking at the ground, “if you want you could borrow a sword and practice with that. I mean, if you want to kill some zombies a sword is a much better weapon than a steak knife.” He finishes and stares at the ground waiting for my answer, as if he’s afraid of being rejected, which is just silly.
“That sounds great Cam! The princess should be down in about twenty minutes, so I’ll meet you behind the castle as soon as I escape from her,” I give him a big smile and turn quickly to finish grooming Daisy.
“Great, see you then.” I hear him pause for a few seconds before leaving the barn. And I think to myself that he’s acting a bit weird today; but after all, he is kind of a weird guy. I’m glad to have a friend in the castle though; he’s always treated me with respect even when the rest of the royal family doesn’t even care to call me by name.
I finish up with Daisy, looking into her dark eyes as I comb her. Sometimes I wish I knew what she was thinking. Does she like her life here in the royal stables, or does she want to be out having great horse adventures. I’m going with the latter, but I guess I’ll never know.
“Servant,” Cornelia says in a cold tone as she enters the barn. She must still be mad at me for sleeping in, but I’m really not in the mood for her cruelness today.
“Pardon, Princess Cornelia, but I do have a name. It’s Phoebe in case you forgot,” I try to sound polite, but I know she detects the edge in my voice.
“Right,” she rolls her eyes, “Phoebe.” I look at her because I’m surprised that actually worked, not even one argument about being rude or forgetting who’s paying me. “Daisy looks good, nice job.” Is it me or she being kind of nice? “Now, I have two baskets of laundry upstairs. The blue one can be put in the washer, the laundry in the pink one needs to be hand washed. I expect it to be done by the time the game is over. Then my room needs a good dusting.” Nope, I was mistaken, it’s the same old Cornelia as before.
“Yes your highness, I’ll get right to that.” I stand and leave her in the barn with a satisfied smile. I hate that she’s won, but I’m so used to it now that I shrug it off as I walk out of her site. Then I run to the back of the castle where I see Cameron waiting for me with a small assortment of weapons.
“Hey Cam,” I say as I catch my breath, “Sorry, but it’s going to have to be a quick lesson today. Your sister has a lot of laundry that needs doing.”
“Tough break,” for some reason he sounds more disappointed than me, but then a smile breaks across his face, “hey, I’ve got an idea. How about I help you with the laundry, then it can get done twice as fast.”
“Cameron,” I look at him for a few seconds, shocked by his proposal, “you’re a prince. You can’t be helping a servant like me with my duties.”
“Sure I can, there’s no rule saying I can’t help you out. It’s probably best if my sis doesn’t find out, or my parents, but it’s not a big deal. It’s just laundry.” He says.
“But Cam, I can’t ask you to help me. If your parents find out they might fire me,” I say, instantly wondering if that would even be a bad thing.
“Don’t worry Phoebe, it’s not your idea. If they find out I’ll take the blame. I’m not going to let you get fired,” he gives me a smile and I know he really would defend me. “Besides, no one else would put up with Cornelia, my parents would never be able to find a replacement,” he jokes and then adds “now, pick up that sword. We’d better get started, we’ve got laundry to do,” I love the smile across his face so I give up and pick up the sword. I’m not a sword expert, but I can tell it’s nicer than the one I stole.
We laugh our way through the lesson and then run into the castle and up to Cornelia’s room. The laundry is done surprisingly quickly and before I know it we’re pinning the hand-washed clothes on a line to dry. For being kind of a dork, Cameron is actually very funny. We joke about how ridiculously huge the castle is, and about old man Jordan who sits on his porch and yells at his chickens, and about a bunch of random things that shouldn’t really be funny at all. While were laughing it’s so easy to forget there’s a whole world out there, a world that is dying and suffering and coming closer to ending every day.
When we hear Cornelia coming up the stairs Cameron gives me one last smile and quickly ducks around the corner and heads off down a different set of stairs, off to do whatever it is that princes do in their free time. And I’m left to dust Cornelia’s room and do whatever else she wants.