(still working on a title) The Middle
In which friendships are made and the characters get an unpleasant surprise.
She spun in circles and watched her dress twirl. She felt her hair fly straight out from her head and laughed. "What in the world are you doing?" asked a small voice from the windowsill. "Spinning, of course!" was the jubilant reply. "Why are you spinning?" Henrietta stopped abruptly and her hair hit her in the face. She flipped it aside and said, "It's fun." "Why is it fun?" demanded her friend. "Why, oh why are fairies so inquisitive? It just is. And no more questions, Miss Rain, or I shall put you in a jar." The fairy pouted. She was very small- not yet full grown- and like all her race, she was exceedingly curious. Her skin was lightly tinted with pink, and if she were sick or sad it would become very pale and grayish. Her eyes were violet colored and looked large in her small face, which was encircled by dark wavy hair. Her tiny dress was blue that day, with little silver vines running up and down it. Her name was Raindrop (Rain for short) and she sat on the windowsill looking irritably at her human friend. "Why not?" "I give up!" said Henrietta. She huffed, then smiled at the fairy, picked her up in her hand (Rain's wings were still growing, so she couldn't fly) and was about to show her how fun spinning was when there was a knock on the door. "Brianna, will you get that please?" No answer. Henrietta went to the door herself, and opened it to find a familiar face. "Why, hello!"
He had used the front door that time, and had told the guard to tell his officer to tell his officer to tell someone important to tell his stepfather that he was out for a walk through the city. He went by her house (need one elaborate on who "she" is?) and decided, after a great deal of debating with himself, to drop in. He knocked, she opened the door. "Why, hello!" "I was in the neighborhood and dropped by to say that exact same thing," he smiled. She smiled back. "How kind of you. You know, we were never properly introduced. I'm Henrietta," she said, holding out her hand. He shook it a bit awkwardly. "Max." "Won't you come in?" "Well...just for a minute." "Wonderful!" She led him to the sitting room. "Uh.... nice house," he said, for lack of better comment. He thought he heard a giggle, but it didn't come from Henrietta. He looked around. There was a young female fairy sitting daintily on the small tea-table. "Is that the best compliment you could think of?" she asked, rather mockingly. He paused a moment, laughed slightly and bowed to her. "I was simply lost for words at the sight of your beauty, madam," he said grandly. "You didn't see me until just now," she pointed out. "Your overwhelming presence, then." Rain giggled again. "I like you," she said. "Even though you are a little slow. Who are you? Where do you live? Are you Henrietta's beau?" Henrietta laughed and asked if he would like tea. "Does it come with cookies?" "All kinds."
Max became very good friends with both of them after that. He called often. When asked where he lived, he simply said "The palace." The girls thought he was just a page or some such person, never bothering to ask. Henrietta's parents liked him immensely, and even Brianna conceded that he "had a charming sense of humor, much more pleasing than Henrietta's". He, Rain and Henrietta spent most of their time either teasing each other ruthlessly or discussing everything from politics to fashion to why spinning is fun. Rain often drove the others crazy with her never-ending flow of questions. However, in a few months her wings grew completely, and she spent so much time flitting around and trying new tricks in the air that she only asked about one question per minute. One day, about three months after their first meeting, Henrietta and Max chanced to meet each other on the street while it was raining. "History repeats itself!" said Henrietta. The only difference was that this time, she was the one with the umbrella. They laughed. She held out her umbrella and said, "It's big enough for both of us." He entered under it gratefully. "Where be ye headed, fair lady?" asked Max. "To the milliner's," said she. "The what?" "It's where you buy hats and ribbons and such." "Ah, I see. And what is your errand there, miss?" "To buy hats and ribbons and such, of course." "I knew that." He walked her to the milliner's and stood around while she tried on headgear. She looked at a long pink ribbon and squealed. "Ooh! Isn't it lovely?!" He blinked. "What's so special about it?" She smirked at him. "I guess you wouldn't know." "I guess not." As she wandered around the shop, she glanced at him now and then. He looked bored. But more than that. He had that melancholy look that was always on his face when he wasn't occupied. I'll ask him about it, she thought. He noticed her looking at him and flushed. "Er, are you done here?" "Yes," she said. Actually she wasn't, but she felt bad for making him stay there. "Let me just buy these and we'll be on our way."
He had gotten to know her much better in the months that they had been friends. He knew know that what he had felt on first seeing her had been mere boyish infatuation, triggered by a pretty face. Sure she was beautiful, but now that he really knew her, her personality was much more important. For some reason though, his heart still gave an extra *thump* every time he saw her. Probably a lingering effect of his "love at first sight," he told himself.
On the way back to Henrietta's house from the hat place, Max wondered why she had been looking at him so pityingly back in the hat shop. He also wondered why she was being so quiet. What was going on in that mind of hers? He'd better say something. The silence was getting awkward. "How's your baby brother?" he asked. Mother's baby had been born a few weeks ago. "Oh, he's fine," she said absently. "Um....Max?" "Yes?" Maybe now she'd tell him what had been going on. "Is something wrong?" "Why do you ask?" "Well... it's just that you look so sad sometimes. I wanted to know if you were alright." He hesitated. If he told her about his father, she'd figure out who he was. For some reason, he didn't want her to know just yet. "It's nothing you need to worry about," he said finally. "Then there is something wrong. I'll decide what I want to worry about. Just tell me." He tried to smile reassuringly at her. "Maybe some other time." She looked at him, concern still lining her pretty features. "You sure?" "Yes."
Their friendship continued, but Max never told Henrietta more about the "something wrong". She still wondered about it, but she didn't pry. He'd tell her in his own time. After their conversation on the street, she noticed that he consciously tried to be more cheerful more often. She would have told him he didn't have to, but she didn't want to bring up the subject again. Meanwhile, there were preparations being made for Brianna's wedding. Max, of course, was coming. She'd invited him to bring his family also, but he hadn't said anything to that. Her curiosity about him increased, and suspicions started to form in her mind. Rain thought something was up, and said so. Henrietta ignored her. She was puzzling over Max's melancholy-then-cheerful countenance and she was also trying to decide what dress she should wear to her sister's wedding. "The green velvet or the blue silk?" she mused. "Either one. What is silk made of?" "I don't know and I don't particularly care." "Why is green called green, and blue called blue? Why can't blue be called green, and green be called blue?" "Stop!" Henrietta implored. "You're giving me a headache!" "Do you think Max is handsome?" Henrietta glared at her fairy friend. "Go find someone else to bother." Rain pouted. "Max is never that rude to me." "AAGH! Please Rain, just a little peace? Please?" "Alright, alright! I'll be quiet." Henrietta sighed wearily. "Thank you," she said. "Why is pink called pink?
"Max," said his mother one day. "Yes?" "Go to the study. Your father wants-" "To speak to me. Alright," he sighed. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and walked down the hallways to the study. On entering he said, "You wanted to speak to me?" "Yes, come sit." Max obeyed. "Am I in trouble?" The king shifted in his chair. Max realized that he never thought of him as "Father" but always as "the king" or "Mother's husband". That's depressing, he thought cynically. His stepfather spoke. "You and I have been edging around each other ever since I married your mother. Why do you think that is?" Well, the man sure knew how to get straight to the point. Max was rather startled. "Well....you...I....what I'm getting at is...well....oh, must you spring things at a fellow like that?" he demanded. "I thought we should talk about it. I didn't see any reason to lead up to it gently," the king said bluntly. Luckily, his answer gave Max a moment to pull his wits together. "What about you? Let's hear your reasons for 'edging' first," he said flatly. The king remained undisturbed. He put his fingertips together and replied, "I realize that you miss your father. I know you feel that I'm here to take up a place that you don't want to be filled. I've been giving you space, giving you time to sort things out on your own. You should have had time enough by now. Do you think that, instead of my trying to be your father, you can let me be your friend?" Max was startled once more. Then again, you don't have to be terribly perceptive to know someone's feelings about their dead father. Max was grateful that the king was being considerate about this, not trying to be a father. He decided he might as well go along with it. He wasn't sure he could take any more awkwardness. "Friends," he said. Suddenly the door opened and a messenger rushed in. He looked out of breath. He handed the king an envelope. The king opened it and read. When he finished, he handed it to Max with a solemn face.
The doorbell rang. "That should be Max. He said he'd come today," said Rain. Henrietta left off taking measurements for Brianna's wedding dress to let him in. "Hello! Long time no see," she said when she opened the door. Then she realized that (oops!) that was not her friend standing there on the threshold. It was Brianna's fiancée. He looked flustered. "Henrietta, where is your sister?" he demanded immediately. Henrietta was taken aback by his urgent behavior. "Is something wrong?" "Where is she?" "Sh-she's upstairs," said Henrietta, eyes wide. He pushed past her and started up the steps. "Sir, you can't go up there! She's busy! We're making her wedding dress!" He huffed. "Send her to me as soon as possible. I'll be in the parlor." Henrietta went upstairs and told her sister to go down to her husband-to-be, and quick. Brianna hastened to the parlor. Henrietta followed. "My love," said he, "Start packing. You are leaving this city immediately." At that moment Max came running in through the front door (Henrietta had left it open). "Henrietta!" "Max!" "You and your family must leave." What on earth was he talking about? "When? Why?" "As soon as possible." He looked so worried. "But Max, why?" He sighed and looked at her very seriously.
"There is going to be an attack on the city."