She was dressed as a princess should be, and walked to the window once more to glance up at the sky. What reassurance can be found there, she thought to herself; there’s nothing but grey clouds and drops of rain. A knock was on the door, and she called for them to enter. Her maids-in-waiting, five of them, were at the door. They had heard of the Princess’ desire to dine with everyone tonight, and came to see if she was okay. The looks of shock across there faces as Antonya greeted each in turn were priceless. I shall remember this, she thought to herself; gone are those faces of pity, replaced with self-pity that I have returned. None of them are truly glad I’m back. Oh well.
The maids-in-waiting escorted her to the dining hall, where a marvellous feast was being held. So much she had missed out on, for today the Tsar and his family were dining with her Uncle Marco. She greeted everyone with a radiant smile, and made a vocal, sincere apology to all. She was seated in a place of honour next to her uncle, and the son of the Tsar who was still yet to enter the banquet. Next to her uncle sat the Tsar and his wife. How beautiful she was! They each greeted her and kissed her, and then they were seated. As everyone began to eat, the Tsar’s son took his seat, but she didn’t notice him. She leant into her uncle and apologised to him for her disgraceful presence. “Marco, I don’t know where to start! I’m so sorry that I haven’t come out of that room for a whole week, and instead of being here to greet your guests with you like a good niece should, I’ve disgraced you with my selfishness, and hence here I am today…’ But he dismissed it, interrupting her moment of recollection, “My dear niece, I know what it is like to grieve, and I tell you that it is nothing unearthly that you have been doing! Do not apologise! It is only natural that you would be upset, and I am just ever grateful that you chose to keep your bad moods confined, and that you chose not to take you life in defeat, but stand up and fight in your realisation of the fact that you are better, you can do better! I love you Antonya! Now enjoy this beautiful food, have some wine and please, have a wonderful night my star!”
She turned to her plate, and began to put food on it. Whilst in the middle of eating, the Tsar’s son began to cough. She hadn’t noticed him yet, but when it became apparent that he was choking, she immediately gave him wine. “Drink! Drink! Quickly, and don’t just drink a little bit! Would you rather wake with a swollen head tomorrow and live a thousand years; or die today for the sake of keeping sanity? Drink!” The Tsar’s wife rushed from her seat to be by her son, and the Tsar looked on, bemused. “My, my! Your Highness what a sense of humour you have!” Marco and the Tsar were laughing, same as with almost everyone in the banquet hall that had heard her. Realising that her son was fine, his mother composed herself and took up her seat next to her husband. Seeing the empty glass next to him, Antonya refilled the son’s glass, and in turn filled up her own. Finally finding his voice, he decided to speak. “Thanks so much, talk about a life-saver!” He laughed nervously, and began to eat. She looked at him, puzzled as to why he looked familiar. That messy, yet in it’s own way neat, dark brown hair. Where had she seen it before?
The Tsar’s son took a sip from his glass, and noticed the princess staring at him. “Are you…..” he broke off. Could it be? He was so sure it was her, the beautiful girl from the window, with those mysterious hazel eyes…it was her! The princess looked at him as he began to speak, but heard nothing as her whole attention turned to those eyes. It was him. It was the young man from the courtyard. Those deep, dreamy, almost hypnotising green eyes. “I…you…you’re….” she was lost for words.
“You’re the girl that was sitting in the window this morning, and you stared at me for ages. How come I’ve never seen you around here before?” He rushed, trying to cover up for the awkward moment. “I’m Princess Antonya of Serbia, staying with my uncle Marco for three months. I’ve been here for two weeks, though I’ve been in my room for almost the whole time. What’s you’re story?”
“I’m Alexandre. My father is the Tsar of Russia. I’ve pretty much grown up here in this castle. My parents just love it here. The southern courtyard, the one that your window faces, is my favourite courtyard. It’s so quite there, and that’s where I found you, I guess.”
“Wow. Well I sure am glad I met you. I owe you so much, for you helped me understand just how much dishonour I was causing to my uncle and Serbia. Staying in my room for two whole weeks when I am a guest here, and not even having the courage to stay for the entire welcoming feast that was held in my honour.”
“That truly is a story, but you are not in debt to me. The least you could do is accept my friendship…so that next time you see me in the courtyard or I see you in your room, you will have the heart to converse with me and much the same with you!”
“Alright then. Sounds fair enough to me.”
Conversation ceased form there, as entertainers came to the court. As they ate and drank, dancers danced and musicians serenaded them. The banquet came to a close, and many people sat there talking and drinking more wine as the tables were emptied, and people began to dance. Alexandre stood, and addressed the princess. “Your Highness, may I have the honour of a dance with you?” She laughed at his formality, but noticed he was sincere. “It would be an honour truly too great for me, yet I accept.” He offered her his hand, and she took it gladly. Together they danced and danced the night away. Marco was truly pleased at this sight, and the Tsar was delighted to his son finally courting a young girl of class.
“You know, Marco my friend, it has been such a struggle to get Alexandre to find a girl that he likes, let alone he find one for himself. Who knows where this alliance may take us?” Marco laughed at the Tsar’s remarks. “Oh truly, my great friend, what an alliance it would be! But I wouldn’t place high bets on an early horse just yet. My dear niece is quite unpredictable at times, though I wouldn’t put it past her. She is such a beautiful young woman now, isn’t she? I think the last time you may have seen her here in my presence would have been six years ago, maybe.”
“We saw her two years ago didn’t we Ann, my love? When we went to visit King Vladan on his celebration of 25 years as King of Serbia?”
“Yes, sweet, I think so. But wasn’t she courting with that young man Velibor? What has become of him?” Putting his words carefully (the tsar’s wife was renowned for her talk), Marco explained of how Vladan did not approve of Velibor, who was a soldier. He in turn ended up getting taken to the battlefield three days after Antonya had travelled to Moscow, and died within her first week of being here. “Oh my, that must be why we are only now being acquainted with her. The poor darling, she must be so heart broken. At least she is smiling now. Though from what I remember Velibor was a very ‘up-front’ man, in a polite way of putting it Marco.”
“I don’t know, Ann, for I never actually met him in person. But my brother is not known for doing things without reason – there is always a good reason and lots of thought behind everything he does.”
“I do agree Marco. By the way, how is that war going that Serbia are currently fighting? Last I heard you held the upper hand quite well.”
“My good friend I would not be the best to ask me about those affairs much, but from what I hear, defences fell for a bit a few weeks ago, but Serbia regained control. The last time Vladan mentioned it, the war is expected to finish by the end of the year, should they continue to be victorious.”
Antonya and Alexandre had since moved outside after their dancing, to cool down and walk a little. They ended up in the rose courtyard, on the east side of the castle. Alexandre motioned for Antonya to sit on the bench, and he sat next to her.
“Well, your Highness you are truly a spectacular dancer. I might engage in the endeavour to have your hand in the dances every night if you’ll allow me to!”
“Oh Alexandre I haven’t had such fun since, o since, I don’t even know!” She smiled at him, and he looked into her eyes. He stood for a moment, and walked behind her.
“Will you walk with me you Highness?” he wished that tonight would go forever, and they could run away together, but what if they got away and she turned out like every other girl his father had tried to give him? She stood, and sliding her arm around his, he led her through the courtyard.
“Alexandre, please, stop calling me your Highness. I have a name.” He turned and faced her. “But what am I supposed to call you? Princess?” she rolled her eyes. “ALEXANDRE! We’re friends are we not? Then what are titles between friends? Who cares if I’m the princess and you’re the Tsar’s son. I’m Antonya okay?” He laughed, and grabbed her hand. Shocked, he drew her close and put his coat over her shoulders. “Antonya,” he whispered in her ear “is that better? And why didn’t you tell me you were cold? Let’s head back so you can warm up, I feel so bad! What if you get sick?” He wrapped his arms around her tightly and softly scolded her. “When I have friends I like them to be warm and not sick, okay?” she laughed, and her smile lit up her whole face. As they came closer to the castle he released her from his hug, but would not allow her to return the coat.
“Beautiful Antonya, how do you think I would feel if you got sick all because I decided to take my coat back from you? Wear it, your Highness, and I shall return for it tomorrow.”