“DADDY, DADDY! LOOK WHAT Mommy and me did!” I chanted, tugging at his robes. He turned to me, his red cape flowing behind him. His intense gray eyes—which I inherited from him—looked very old and weary, like he hadn’t slept in days. His shoulders sagged but stayed tense as though his wool cloak was too much for his body to bear. The crown he once wore so well now seemed too big for his head.
Still, he smiled at me. Although his smile looked strained, it radiated warmth. He knelt down to my level and took the painting from my hands. He examined it before handing it back to me. “That’s a beautiful painting, Sweetie. Almost as beautiful as you.” I giggled at his comment.
“Mommy helped too!” I said, not wanting to take all the credit. Before he could protest, I grabbed his hands and brought him to his wife—my mother.
I led my father down a long golden hallway decorated with all kinds of paintings and plants. Bright red curtains spattered each window like blood. Each door looked the same, with a mahogany center and ivory embroidery. If I hadn’t grown up there, I think I would have gotten lost on every turn.
On instinct, I opened the last door on the right and entered with my father. The room opened into a place even more elegant than the hallway. Dark purple covered the walls and floors. Dark wood furniture like chairs and tables sat on the far side of the room. A canopy bed that matched the walls with gold-lined pillows was placed almost directly in front of the furniture on the other side.
A frail woman lay in the bed. Her features were beautiful, and her raven black hair framed her face perfectly, even when she was ill.
“Mother!” I exclaimed, rushing to her side. Her hair fell delicately over her shoulders. Her skin had turned even paler, almost like porcelain, but like my father, her smile still warmed my whole body.
“I’m still here,” my mother said weakly, stroking my cheek. I held her hand against my cheek. Her fingers had turned ice cold. But I didn’t care. All I wanted was to feel her touch.
My father stroked her forehead. She looked at him affectionately before releasing a cough that made my chest hurt. I gripped her hand more tightly. “Can you give us a moment, Randolph?” My mom asked my father. He nodded and kissed her forehead, then mine, before leaving the room. He closed the door behind him.
My mother spoke first. “You must be strong. If I’m no longer for this world, you must promise to me that you’ll be brave.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
I felt like I was on the verge of tears. “You are going to make it through this,” I told her. My voice quavered. It sounded more like I was trying to convince myself, not her. I didn’t even sound convincing.
Her blue eyes shone like diamonds. “We both know my end is near. It is my time. Just like everything else in nature, even humans will have to leave the Earth one day. That is what makes life so precious and remarkable.” She gripped my hand more tightly. “Promise me that no matter what, you will not take life for granted.”
I nodded my head fiercely, tears running down my cheeks. I hugged her for the last time. “Remember everything I taught you. I’m so proud of you, and I always will be. You’ll grow up to be a magnificent young woman,” she whispered into my hair. “I love you.”
“Please don’t go,” I pleaded with no use.
My mother smiled with all the strength she could muster. “I will see you again one day. This isn’t the end, my dear Adabella. It’s only the beginning of your story.” I looked into her eyes.
“Do you remember your gift?” my mothered whispered. I shook my head yes. How could I forget?
I was born with the gift of magic. Before I could even speak, I was moving objects with only my mind—magic requires incantations, spells, ingredients. I didn’t need any of that, which was previously unheard of.
“You mustn’t tell anyone about your gift. In some other kingdoms, people are not as accepting. They will not think of you as an equal. You’ll be an outcast and a shadow.” Her eyes reflected like glass. They shifted to the side uneasily. “There are things I haven’t told you, Adabella, things that I swore to never speak of again—for your well-being.”
I bit my lip. Millions of questions raced through my mind. “What do you mean?”
My mother smiled sadly. “All in due time, my love. But I fear I won’t be the one to explain everything to you, for everything to make sense.”
I feared if I said anything, my nerves would take over and I would start sobbing uncontrollably. So I stayed silent and nodded.
She stroked my hair. “Even in our own kingdom, magic has been frowned upon. It has never been taken lightly, except in dark times. And since you have one of the most powerful gifts I’ve ever seen—probably almost anyone’s seen—promise me you’ll keep that secret sacred in your heart.”
“I—I will,” I promised my mother. She smiled—the last smile I would ever see from her—and closed her eyes.
“Goodnight, my daughter,” my mother said with her last dying breath. I fought back a sob. My father rushed into the room and knelt by my mother’s bed, his forehead touching hers. He muttered something, most likely his goodbyes, and stroked her cheek. The physician came in the room, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I collapsed to the ground, sobbing and crying. My father helped me up, tears tracing down his face. I clutched his cloak—anything to try to fill the hole where my mother’s warmth had left my body.
“Queen Acacia of Mirealith is dead!” the Herald announced to the audience. I stood beside my father’s throne, my head hung in sorrow. I looked down at the marble floor.
The Herald placed my mother’s crown in her old velvet throne. A single tear escaped my eye. I quickly wiped it away from my cheek, and tried to raise my head high—for my father’s sake. This must be even harder on him, since my parents have loved each other since years before I was born. His sadness seemed to radiate like heat throughout the throne room.
“King Randolph shall take her place as ruler of Mirealith, with sole heir, Princess Adabella.” My cheeks felt hot when the Herald said my name. I looked out on the crowd of people in front of my father, sitting in the pews. All of them seemed to be giving me the same look—pity.
“She’s so young,” I heard a women say from the crowd.
“Oh, the poor thing,” muttered a woman from the front.
“How will she survive without her mother?” Another man murmured in agreement.
My fists clenched and I gritted my teeth. Another tear escaped my eye. This time, I didn’t wipe it off my cheek.
I didn’t want pity. Pity wasn’t going to bring my mother back.
But I didn’t know how I would survive without my mother either.