Princess Tamara Tronin sat in the common room of the Wild Rose Tavern staring into space. A single candle flickered on the table shedding the only light in the room. It was hideously early and she was the only one up. Even the Sun was still asleep.
She had spent another sleepless night in her bed plagued by dreams of Erik and Vectoria. In the dream Galen was there and he was laughing at her for letting Erik get away. She had awoken tangled in the blankets, feeling like the walls of the tiny room were closing in on her and cursing herself for allowing things to get so out of control.
She started at her reflection in the polished wood of the table and smiled ruefully. It had been bad enough that she would have been competing with the almost perfect Princess Ariel for Erik's attention, but now there was the exotic and beautiful Vectoria. She didn't stand a chance. In her mind Ariel was blonde, lithe and incomparably gorgeous and Vectoria was voluptuous with stunning red tresses and cunning, intelligent eyes. Tamara thought she was by comparison a bit on the thin side with mousy brown hair and entirely too many freckles.
"Just give up and save yourself some trouble." She muttered miserably to her reflection.
At least she had begun to get on with her life to some extent which was something she hadn't been certain she could do after Galen's unfortunate outburst. She had managed to convince Kiri and Anna to teach her what they knew about cooking and such. They had protested at first saying that the kitchen was no place for a princess. Tamara had calmly pointed out that it was even less a place for a Queen. Anna had been unable to respond and had reluctantly agreed to take her on seeing as Kiri would be busy with her training, but she was quick to point out that she'd have to learn the actual cooking from one of the other Winslow sisters.
Tamara was thankful for the sisters help and friendship. She knew that Anna especially felt bad for her. She had been there that night in the tavern when Galen had turned her world upside down and helped the stricken girl to try to pick up the pieces. It had taken a while for Tamara to realize that what the Queen of Monigold offered her wasn't pity. Anna just hated seeing people in pain and wanted everyone to be as happy as she and her husband, Antoine, were.
The princess shook her head to clear away thoughts of that unpleasant night. It would do no good to go over it again. She got up and went to the window. The Sun was just peeking through the early morning mist, burning off the fog. It was going to be a glorious day. She only hoped that Galen would stay away. He hadn't been near her in a few days now. She knew that she was being childish by avoiding both Galen and Erik, and that avoidance had probably cost her any chance of a relationship with prince Greystone, but she couldn't bring herself to face either of them just yet.
She had to give Galen credit though. He was nothing if not persistent. He had tried several times to apologize for the pain he had caused her, but she just turned a deaf ear. Always Anna gently sent him away saying that it just wasn't the right time. Tamara wasn't ready to hear what he had to say.
"You're up awfully early." Anna De Lio's sleepy voice floated down to her and Tamara turned to see the woman she had come to think of as a good friend gliding down the stairs tying an apron around her waist.
"Couldn't sleep" Tamara replied with what she hoped was a careless shrug of her shoulders. Anna just clucked her tongue, but said nothing as she headed toward the kitchen with the princess in tow.
They went about the routines of the morning in silence, Anna sat at a desk in the corner pouring over ledgers and Tamara tried to prepare for breakfast so that when Margaret came down all she would have to do was cook. Anna kept glancing sidelong at Tamara as they performed their various tasks. Finally the younger girl could take it no longer. She put down the knife she had been chopping with and faced her friend.
"What?" She demanded in exasperation. Anna turned her full attention to her, an innocent 'who me?' expression on her face which made Tamara purse her lips.
"You've been watching me when you think I'm not looking. Don't play innocent with me. If you've got something on your mind then say it." She waited, hands on her hips, for a reply. Anna sighed heavily and put down her quill. She considered her words carefully before she answered.
"Actually, it seems to me that you have something on your mind. Something that kept you from sleep again last night. You've been in a sour mood ever since Erik started paying attention to Vectoria. I'm just wondering when you're going to resolve it." She kept to herself the fact that Vectoria had turned out to be Dirk with a curse on him. She didn't think she should be the one to reveal that little tidbit. Let Erik explain it to her.
It was Tamara's turn to sigh. She was still getting used to someone caring about her well being. It hadn't been an issue where she came from. She did know that it was becoming increasingly difficult to hide her inner turmoil though. She still tried valiantly none the less.
"There's nothing to resolve. I'm over him Anna." She held up her hand as the other woman started to protest. "No, really I am. Even if my heart doesn't quite believe it yet my minds made up. It'll just take a little time to get the two together is all." With that she turned back to her chopping.
Anna fought to hide a smile. Getting the two together was the challenge sure enough, but it wasn't Tamara's heart and head that she had in mind.
She was over him Tamara told herself. She kept on telling herself that over and over again during the course of the morning. She mulled it over as preparations for lunch were underway. She wiped down the last table, running the damp cloth over the polished surface and felt that she had finally figured it out. It was really easy when she stopped to think about it. All she had to do was make herself stop loving him. After all he had apparently moved on. How hard could it be to force him out of her heart?
She got her answer as the door to the Tavern opened and Erik and Marco walked in. Her heart skipped several beats in reaction and she had to remind herself to breathe. Before they could spot her she fled through the kitchen door to hide the embarrassing flush in her cheeks and ran smack into Anna, who was peeking out with some interest.
Tamara's mind went blank. Anna watched her expectantly.
"I...I'm going to collect some herbs." She told her hurriedly as she scooped up a basket and headed toward the back door.
"Didn't you just do that yesterday?" Anna inquired. "You're devotion to your studies is very commendable, but I wouldn't want you to over do it."
"Well, you can never have enough fresh herbs." Tamara replied as she regained her composure. "And I really do need the practice telling them apart."
"True enough." Anna replied, her expression not hiding the fact that she knew what was really gong on. She let Tamara get to the door before she spoke again.
"Wasn't that Erik that just came in? I would think you'd want to speak with him, straighten things out." She wiped ink from her hands onto her apron and gazed at the young princess sympathetically. When Tamara turned back to meet Anna's eyes hers brimmed with sadness and resignation. Her voice was soft.
"Yes, it was...and no, I don't...I can't. Not yet....maybe not ever." Tamara turned and slipped out the door, not waiting for Anna's reply, then bolted across the yard into the comfort of a stand of trees leaving Anna to stand in the kitchen in total frustration.
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