“You’re late.” The young man stood in the doorway, arms folded across his chest and a scowl on his face. The irritation in his voice was obvious; he didn’t like to be kept waiting.
Breezing past him nonchalantly, the woman made her way into the room. “Always a bore, aren’t you?” she taunted the prince. “I’ll bet my share of the kingdom you get cranky if you don’t go to bed at the same time every night.”
“Shut up,” he grumbled as he entered after her. “What do you want, sister?”
The princess twirled a strand of her hair around her finger. “Well, who have you jailed tonight?”
With a derisive snort, the prince shook his head. “As if I’d tell you.”
Her eyes met his fearlessly, almost as if she knew something he did not. “Collateral,” she replied. “I tell you my secrets, and you tell me yours.”
Before he could respond, she continued. “That man who claimed to be the butler, do you recall? I caught him snooping around the palace and pulled him in for a little chat.” Now that she had captured his attention, she smirked. “It seems he’s not a butler, after all. He’s… more of the investigative type.”
Scratching his chin, the prince mulled over the information for a moment before finally admitting, “I jailed the knight.”
“Ah,” laughed the woman, “now we’re talking. Keep it up, and we’ll have the Unseen out in no time!”
The princess looked her brother up and down - his crisp, starched clothes, his neatly combed hair, his clean-shaven face - and the corner of her lip curled in disgust. She had grown tired of maintaining such a flawless, innocent composure; the court expected far too much of her. The chiding voices of the nobles echoed in her head as she indulged herself in guilty pleasures, but she no longer cared for their words or their wisdom. At last she had found some companions who appreciated her for who she truly was, people who reassured her that the court’s disapproval was but a minor trouble. These friends were her new family.
She stepped toward the door but turned to face the prince once more. “By the way, brother… what do you think of this new lipstick I got? Rather nice, isn’t it?” Flashing a beguiling smile, she flounced away without awaiting his opinion.
In fact, now that she’d mentioned it, the prince noticed quite a lot of changes to her appearance. She seemed different - more mature, more poised, more decorated…
…almost as if she were no longer the same person.