“Sit still, child.”
“Ah! Sorry,” Aileen said. Her face was one great smile, beaming up at Ameryn in her reflection in the dressing table mirror. Ameryn was doing her utmost to pin the girl’s hair into place, but Aileen would not hold on position longer than a few seconds.
“He’s had a remarkable effect on you, this stranger,” Ameryn remarked through her teeth, which were clenched around the pins poking from her mouth.
“His name is Nayr, Ameryn,” Aileen said in gentle reproof.
“Hmm. I don’t care what his name is…I don’t see why you’re making such a fuss over him.”
“No, not really.” Ameryn replied, trying to keep her voice from slipping into a growl. “He’s attractive, to be sure –”
“And a…clever conversationalist –”
“But I just don’t see why…I mean…why are you so…?”
Aileen put her small white hand on Ameryn’s, which had come to rest on the princess’s shoulder.
“I love him, Ammy,” she said softly. “Try to understand.”
Ameryn thought she heard the sound of breaking glass. It was only her imagination, but she felt as though something inside her had broken with a shatter loud enough to be heard.
She took up the brush and occupied her trembling hands with tending Aileen’s hair.
Ameryn looked into the reflection of the princess’s blue eyes in the mirror. They were worried. Worried for her, the unbreakable Guardian.
“You love him?”
“Yes.” She smiled.
“Is that why you glow all the time?”
Aileen laughed and clapped her hands. “Yes, Ammy, yes!”
Ameryn swallowed. “Then I am happy for you.”
Aileen resumed her happy fidgeting. “One day you’ll find him, Ammy?”
Ameryn stopped brushing. “Who, child?”
“Oh, you know, him,” she said. “That boy you talk about sometimes…the one you knew when you were little.”
Ameryn felt as though the room had suddenly gotten stuffy. She shook her head. “He’s long gone, my dear. Long gone. Slavers got him, remember?”
The princess was unquenchable. “Someone, then. You’ll find him. Or he’ll find you. Then you’ll understand.”
Ameryn laughed, but it was a hollow laugh. “Really, Aileen? With a face like this?” she looked up at her own reflection. The difference between hers and the princess’s was like the difference between a rotted stump and a rose.
“My face was never meant to glow like yours is now.” She absently stroked Aileen’s thick auburn hair. “I am no princess. Never was, never will be.”
She shook herself, and put a final pin in Aileen’s hair.
“There. Now you’re ready.”