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“Charming” A short story by Margaret Laupp

It was a bright and cheery morning in the kingdom. Cheery enough that those who were giving to singing as they worked began to do so. One such person in particular was a round-faced brunette with a wide smile and sparkling brown eyes. She slipped through the door to a grand bedroom chamber, one of the grandest in the castle, and eyes the fireplace.

“I cannot wait for the spring,” she sang under her breath. “For in the spring there’s no fireplace to clean.” She could never remember words to songs, but it rarely bothered her. She simply made new lyrics for them, usually based on what she was doing.

“And in the spring, a wondrous thing,” she continued. “No more wool for washing.” She did not even see the figure in the giant canopy bed beginning to stir. Instead she took the scrub brush in hand and began to vigorously wipe away the soot that had escaped from its stone prison.

“I do not mind the soot, you see,” she sang. “But I cannot stand being on my knee.” By this point the figure in the bed was sitting up and looking at her with a mixture of confusion and amusement.

“Do you always do that?” He asked with a grin. The girl straightened suddenly and turned to face the startlingly handsome young man in the bed.

“Oh, Your Highness,” she muttered. “I didn’t know you’d be awake.”

“And I didn’t know chamber maids waited so long to clean the fireplace,” he replied. She blushed slightly, but looked him in the eyes as she replied.

“They don’t, but I didn’t arrive at the castle till late last night,” she replied. She picked up her scrub brush and resumed her work. “The housekeeper is merciful…well at least as merciful as anyone can be in her position…and let me sleep in. Although if I knew what a chore your fireplace was, I would have woken up before dawn.”

“I didn’t know that maids were allowed to be so chatty,” the man scoffed.

“And I didn’t that princes were allowed to sleep in so late,” she replied. “I may have woken late, but I have still been awake for hours longer than you.” She smiled at the soot triumphantly. The prince threw back the covers and jumped out of bed. He was a sight, with his golden hair all mussed and his long nightshirt hanging of his body.

“I’ll be talking to my parents about the servants we’re hiring.” He said sharply.  The maid turned to look at him with a frown. “What’s your name? And don’t lie.”

“Theodora,” she replied dutifully. “But friends call my Dorie. The prince’s eyes narrowed.

“I said don’t lie,” he spat out the words.

“I’m not,” she insisted.

“Oh really?” He stalked towards her. It was quite the scene, the nightshirt clad royal looking down at the soot-covered maid. “You just happen to have the same name as my mother?”

“My village loved her,” Dorie replied. She looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes. “When your father was away at war and the village was stuck with famine, your mother insisted on sending the supplies to keep people alive. When she died, they decided that the very next girl born would bear her name.”

“And you were the lucky one, then?” Despite his royal hissy fit, the prince was intrigued.

“I’d hardly call it lucky,” Theodora replied with a laugh. She turned back to the job at hand. “The way they treated me growing up, you’d think I was the reincarnation of her or something. They scrimped and saved for all sorts of tutors and lessons. When I got this job, you’da thought I was going off to my own coronation.” She laughed again.

“You were striving to become a chamber maid?” The prince quirked a brow.

“I used to live in a thatch hut,” Dorie replied as she wiped her brow. She only succeeded in getting more soot on her person. “Now I live in a castle, with real money that doesn’t depend on the harvest. Where I come from, that’s living large.”

“What a way to shoot for the stars,” the prince laughed. Dorie sat on her heels and turned to glare at him.

“It’s easy to say that when you’re in a tower so much closer to them,” she replied angrily. After a moment she sighed. “Beggin’ your pardon. Guess I shouldn’t be taking shots at royalty my first day on.”

“No, you shouldn’t,” the prince replied quietly. He sat back on the bed and waited as she finished cleaning the fireplace and began lighting a new fire.

“These…lessons…” he asked suddenly. “Did they include dancing?” Dorie stood up, wiping her hands on her apron.

“A bit, yeah,” she replied. “Not that it’s much use to me.”

“Do you consider yourself a good teacher?” He asked. She frowned.

“Well, yeah,” she replied. “When you’re the only one in the village getting the lessons, you get people asking for lessons of their own. Why, do you know someone that needs teaching?”

“Uh, well…” he cleared his throat. “There’s a ball coming up in my honor. And…well, I should really be able to dance at it.” Her eyes widened.

“You don’t know how to dance?” She asked. “But you’re a prince! Shouldn’t you have had your own lessons?”

“Well, I did…but I hated them,” he replied honestly. “And I could always convince my teacher to end it early or to just sit and talk or something.” He chuckled. “It helped that they were all female.” Dorie stared at him in shock for a long moment before bursting out into laughter.

“Oh good lord, they were right!” She squealed. “You really are Prince Charming!” The prince’s jaw tightened at her words. Her laughter stopped when she caught sight of his face.

“What is it?” She asked. “It’s not like ‘charming’ is a vice.”

“No, it’s not,” he replied angrily. “But it’s not much of a virtue.”

“I don’t understand,” Dorie replied in a small voice.

“They’re not calling me ‘Prince Kindness’,” the prince replied as he stood up. “Or ‘Prince Wisdom’ or ‘Prince Loyalty’. No, I’m just ‘charming’.” He rolled his eyes. “They might as well call me ‘Prince Flirt’.”

“I suppose I hadn’t thought of that before,” Dorie mused. They stood there in an awkward silence before the maid finally spoke again.

“Alright,” she said. “I’ll give you your dancing lessons. But they’ll have to be at night, when I’m done with my chores. I can’t lose my job already.”

“Of course,” he nodded. “I wouldn’t want anyone seeing us anyway.” Dorie bent to pick up her things and turned to leave. But before she walked out of the door, she stopped.

“If you don’t want to be called charming, what should I call you?”

“Edward,” he replied. “Prince Edward.” With a nod and a smile, the girl returned to her singing and as she sashayed down the hall with bright streaks of black soot covered her entire person.

 

The next night, after the sun had sunk beneath the horizon, Dorie was once again in the prince’s room. He was a bit more formally dressed, out of the nightshirt. Dorie, however, was in her same maid’s apron.

“Good evening, Your Grace,” she said with a smile. He nodded in return.

“Shall we begin?” He asked. He stood up stiffly, bowed, and held out his hand. Dorie frowned at him, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Why do you look ill?” She asked.

“I….I’m not ill,” he stammered.

“No, but you look it,” she replied. With a chuckle. “You’re a prince. It’s not like you have to work to impress anyone. Relax.” He glared at her, but he tried again. His second attempt at a bow went much smoother. Dorie took his hand and stepped closer. After only a few steps she was stopping again.

“Your Grace you’re supposed to lead me,” she reminded him. He sighed and turned them slightly as they moved.

“What is so important about this ball, anyway?” Dorie asked. She winced as his foot came down on hers. “It’s not your birthday, is it?”

“No,” Edward replied with a sigh. “It’s for me to find a bride.” The maid raised a brow.

“You get to find your own girl, then?” she asked. “I thought royalty had all their marriages arranged.”

“My father loved my mother,” the prince replied quietly. “He says he wants the same for me. But picking a woman out of a room sounds a bit barbaric.” Dorie laughed.

“I don’t think they’ll see it that way,” she replied. “Just make sure she has a sense of humor.” She winced again. “And doesn’t mind a dancing partner that steps on her feet regularly.” The prince grit his teeth and turned her again.

“How much time do we have until the ball?” she asked.

“A few days,” he replied. “And it will last for three.” He glowered at the empty air behind her.

“Three days of dancing?” Dorie’s eyes widened. “I hope you don’t mind missing sleep.”

“I’ll stay up till sunrise if it means I won’t fall on my face in front of half the kingdom,” the prince replied. Dorie nodded in approval.

“Good. Now try turning me again.”

 

“I don’t care to go to a ball,” Dorie sang as she twirled around the prince’s chambers. “That doesn’t sound enjoyable at all.” She had the duster in her hand as she went. The feathers only occasionally grazed objects as she moved.

“A fancy dress is much too much, I’d rather mop and clean and such,” she continued as she finally set to actually dusting things. “The handsome men, them may be charming. But I find a dance rather alarming.”

“You’re doing nothing to help my confidence,” the prince said from the doorway. However, he was far from scolding. He was smirking. Dorie turned and dipped into a slight curtsy.

“You’re up rather early, Your Highness,” she replied.

“Yes, and I’m paying for it,” the prince replied with a sigh. He rubbed his forehead as he walked into the room. “All these late night rehearsals are robbing me of sleep.”

“Would you like me to leave?” Dorie asked, gesturing to the door with her duster.

“Not just yet,” Edward replied. He sat on the edge of the bed, running a hand through his hair. “I wanted to know if you’ll be working during the ball.” Dorie blinked at him in surprise.

“I’m not that kind of servant,” she replied. “There will be valets and footmen for the ball. And servers. I just clean.”

“Pity,” the prince replied with a frown. “I rather liked the idea of having at least one female there who wasn’t mooning over my crown.”

“Well crowns are rather easy to moon over,” Dorie replied. In a move of boldness that can only be called characteristic, the chamber maid sat beside the young royal on the bed. “But, isn’t every eligible woman in the kingdom coming? Surely there has to be one of them that doesn’t care that you’re the prince.”

“In fact,” Dorie continued with a smile. “I’ll bet there’s going to be a girl there whose mother dragged her through the doors for your hand. She’ll be furious at the insistence and you can commiserate on the abuses of authority figures.” The prince chuckled.

“She might even be pretty,” Dorie continued with renewed vigor. “Not terribly pretty, of course. She’ll have to be old enough to understand how tiresome it is, yet still eligible for marriage. So she must be a plainer girl. Or a widow. Although then there’s the dreadfulness of hearing all about a lost love and fearing you shall never live up to her past husband.” The maid pursed her lips in thought.

“Unless,” she added, raising her duster in realization. “Her first husband was awful and the comparison makes you look a god among men.”

“Enough, enough, I beg you!” The prince replied with a laugh. “If I vow to look for the plain-faced widows, will you leave me in peace?”

“Plainer,” Dorie corrected him. “She can’t be a complete troll. She’s going to be queen one day and an ugly queen is just in poor taste.” She jumped up off the bed and reached for the bucket she’d left sitting by the fireplace.

“Will you be by tomorrow morning?” the prince asked. “I may need some corrections on my dancing.”

“May?” Dorie replied with a quirked brow. “Well aren’t we feeling over-confident?” She grinned at him. “If His Highness orders me, I must not refuse.” With another curtsy, she saluted with her feather duster and sauntered out of the room.

 

The prince shuffled into the room, flopping back on his bed with a heavy sigh. He was still dressed in his finest, complete with a pair of shoes that had begun the night shiny and bright, which were now scuffed. There was a hesitant knock on the door.

“Your Highness?” Dorie’s quiet voice barely made it through the wood of the door, but the prince heard it.

“Come in,” he called out wearily. The maid did so, frowning when she saw the state he was in.

“I heard what happened,” she said softly. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” the prince replied sarcastically. “It was a lovely bit of exercise, chasing the girl that decided she wanted nothing more to do with me.”

“But I heard you two were dancing all night,” Dorie replied as she walked in. “What happened? Did she say something?” The prince begrudgingly sat up to look at the young woman.

“Not really,” he admitted. “It was all flirting and vague quips or comments about the ball.” He reached down to undo his shoes, tossing them aside angrily. “And then it was all ‘I must be off’ and away she went. Without so much as a reason why.”

“And there I went,” he continued, throwing his arms up. “Chasing after a girl as she ran out. I don’t know how she could go so fast in those shoes of hers.”

“Were they really glass?” Dorie asked, quirking a brow.

“Yes, they were,” the prince replied with a scoff.

“Who looks at a window and thinks ‘Oh yes, there’s the perfect footwear’?” Dorie asked. The prince smirked, but there was no humor in it.

“Apparently the same girl that decides she must leave at midnight with no warning,” the prince sighed.

“Well what if she was needed at home?” Dorie asked.

“She couldn’t say that ahead of time?” the prince asked. “Would a ‘Oh, by the way, it’s terribly important that I leave by midnight’ have hurt?” He flopped back on the bed. “It was humiliating. I looked like a lascivious rogue, chasing after a girl with evil intent.”

“No one who knows you thought that,” Dorie assured him. “But they do feel terrible for you. I heard she was beautiful.”

“She was,” the prince sighed again. “The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. With the tiniest feet. But she wants nothing more to do with me.”

“So what if she does?” Dorie put her hands on her hips. “You’re a prince. Dozens of women want you. Why focus on the one that doesn’t?” She walked forward to look down at him where he lay.

“There are still two nights left of the ball,” she reminded him. “Don’t worry so much about her. Simply look for another girl tomorrow. There’s bound to be someone else.” The prince smiled up at her.

“I suppose I should,” he replied quietly. “Thank you, Dorie.” The maid beamed back at him.

“Of course, Your Highness.”

“Edward,” he reminded her.

“Of course, Edward.”

 

The second night of the ball came and went. The prince trudged into his bedchambers, grumbling underneath his breath. This time Dorie was waiting for him, pacing nervously in front of the fire. She looked up when she heard his footsteps.

“You are horrible at taking advice, are you aware of that?” she asked sharply, putting her hands on her hips. “Do you enjoy this torment?” The prince just groaned as he flopped onto his bed, face first.

“I can understand being taken in by a girl once and being turned away,” Dorie continued, storming towards him. “But to do the same thing two nights in a row is unforgivable. Do you enjoy the torture?” The prince rolled over to his back.

“What was I supposed to do?” he asked in exasperation. “She was the talk of the ball last night. No one knew who she was or where she was from. The mystery, the beauty…I was all but pushed toward her when she arrived.”

“Did you at least reprimand her?” Dorie asked, crossing her arms over her chest. “Remind her that civilized people do not run away from their host?” The prince sighed deeply.

“She apologized the first moment she saw me,” he replied. “She seemed deeply sorry for it. And…well…”

“The flesh is weak,” Dorie muttered angrily. The prince sat up suddenly, glaring at her.

“If being with me was so horrible for her, why would she come back?” he asked with narrowed eyes.

“If being with you was so lovely, why would she run away again?” Dorie came back. The prince gritted his teeth.

“I don’t know,” he admitted.

“Do you at least know her name?” Dorie asked. The prince grimaced. The maid sighed, throwing her hands up.

“There’s still one more night,” the prince insisted.

“And if she runs away again?” Dorie asked. The prince fell silent for a moment. After several tense seconds, he spoke.

“I have a plan for that.”

“What sort of plan?” Dorie asked. Her eyes widened. “Oh good lord above. You don’t mean to trap the girl, do you?”

“Not trap,” the prince replied quietly. “Just…hinder her escape. Tar on the stairs, my father’s idea.” He looked up at her with a contrite expression.

“The king supports this?!” The words slipped out of her mouth at an ill-advised volume, but the maid couldn’t help herself.

“He’s smitten with her,” the prince replied. “Everyone is.”

“Are you?” Dorie asked. “Are you actually fond of the girl you’re going to capture?”

“That hardly matters,” the prince retorted. “The king loves her. The court loves her. What kind of ‘Prince Charming’ would I be if I didn’t?” He stood up quickly, leaning in till their faces were a hands-width apart.

“This is how the story is supposed to end, Dorie,” the prince continued in a quiet voice. “The beautiful mysterious girl and the charming prince are destined to marry.”

“I wasn’t aware destiny was such an idiot,” Dorie replied at the same volume. “A pretty girl shows up at a party, refuses to give her name or her background, and flees without warning? She’s not the best choice for royalty.” The prince backed up a step with a deep sigh. The silence fell heavy between them as he sat down on the edge of the bed again.

“That’s the part you seem to have missed, Dorie,” he whispered. “It was never my choice.”

 

The third night of the ball came and went. Once again, Dorie slipped into the prince’s chambers with a frown on her face. There were still the echoes of people calling out orders in the halls.

“Can’t it wait till morning?” She muttered angrily.

“Romance never waits,” the prince said dully. She whirled to see the monarch slouched on his bed. He sat forward with his elbows on his knees. In one hand he loosely held a beautiful glass shoe. The bottom of it was covered in a thin layer of black.

“Oh good lord, you’re still holding on to that?” Dorie asked. “The trap failed, why is this still going on? It’s lunacy!”

“Keep your voice down!” the prince hissed. “If anyone finds out a woman has been coming to my chambers, my father will be furious.” Dorie frowned.

“Oh…I suppose that would look rather undesirable,” she muttered. “But why is everyone so desperate to find this girl? She ran away again.”

“But she left this behind,” the prince replied, holding up the shoe. It was beautifully etched and surprisingly small.

“Is she a child?” Dorie asked with wide eyes. She glanced down at her own feet, clad in sturdy boots. With a grimace, she pushed the subject aside.

“She has dainty feet, the sign of a ‘true lady’ apparently,” the prince said dryly. He dropped the shoe next to him on the bed. “And it’s the clue we need to find her.”

“What?” Dorie asked with a start. “You’ve had your hands on this woman and you can’t remember her face? I know you’re a bit forgetful, but…”

“Of course I can remember her face,” the prince hissed angrily. “It wasn’t my idea to keep the damned thing. I would have let her go. I wanted to let her go. But the entire court is abuzz. Ladies are swooning on their chaises with all the romanticism.”

“So?” Dorie challenged, crossing her arms over her chest. “You shouldn’t be pursuing her if you’re not interested in this. It’s not fair to you or her.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” the prince narrowed his eyes at her. “You don’t have dozens of people counting on you.”

“I don’t?” Dorie shot back. “I have an entire village waiting for news of me.”

“Yeah, peasants,” the prince spat the word out. “People who think a chamber maid is a virtuous position.” Dorie froze, staring at him with wide eyes.

“Your mother didn’t think so little of us,” she whispered quietly. The prince closed his eyes with a grimace.

“Dorie, I didn’t mean…”

“No, it’s alright,” Dorie waved her hand with feigned dismissiveness. “I suppose I was getting too uppity for my position anyway. How foolish of me to think a royal would care about the thoughts from a stupid chamber maid.” She grabbed handfuls of her skirt and dropped into a dramatically low curtsy. “My dearest apologies, Your Highness.” She turned in a whirl and stormed out of the room.

The prince stared after her. His eyes finally moved to the shoe next to him to the bed. He groaned and let himself fall back against the bed.

“Stupid shoe,” he muttered.

 

Days later, Dorie found herself rushing into the prince’s chambers, carrying a water basin. She tried to move quietly, while balancing the liquid filled vessel in her arms. She glanced at the figure sleeping in the bed. She placed it on the dresser and turned to begin sneaking out, when suddenly the prince sat up.

“I didn’t think you came by anymore,” he said quietly. Dorie froze.

“Of course I have,” she replied. “You’re just a heavy sleeper.”

“No, you haven’t,” the prince replied firmly. “I’ve been waiting for you every morning. That thin blonde doesn’t sing.”

“Anne doesn’t have the voice,” Dorie replied with a smirk, crossing her arms over her chest. Her expression quickly softened. “You’ve been waiting for me?”

“Yes,” the prince replied. He threw back the covers and stood up. He was fully dressed, with his clothes slightly rumpled. “I wanted to apologize for what I said the other day. I let the stress of everything overtake me.”

“I don’t see why you would need to apologize,” Dorie replied stiffly. “I am just a chamber maid.”

“You’re not,” the prince said, shaking his head. “You’re the only voice of reason in this whole damn castle. And I need that dearly right now.” He walked forward and grabbed her hands. Dorie started.

“What is it?” Dorie replied.

“Well you must have heard that we found the girl,” the prince began. “But have you heard the whole story of what we found?” Dorie shook her head. The prince let go of her hands and moved to sit on the bed, gesturing for her to do the same.

“The house was nice enough, a home of the gentry,” the prince continued. “We were accosted by three women. An older, harsh looking hag and her daughters. The younger two were admittedly beautiful, but…ugh.” He wrinkled his nose. “They were atrocious. All clinging to me and giggling.”

“Her family?” Dorie guessed.

“In a way,” the prince replied. “The woman, as I came to understand, was her stepmother. And the girls her step-sisters. Her father had passed away years ago.”

“I suppose they were all too happy to know a member of their family would become royalty,” Dorie said with a scoff. The prince shook his head.

“Hardly,” he replied. “I didn’t even discover she was living there until both women tried on the shoe, as if I would have married one of them if it had fit, but their feet were both too big. It wasn’t until the steward asked if there were any other women in the house that the girl finally appeared.”

“Was she hiding?” Dorie asked with a frown.

“More like being shut away,” the prince replied. “She was dressed in rags. Apparently she worked for her step-mother as a servant.”

“How horrible,” Dorie replied dryly.

“It’s worse than that,” the prince assured her. “There were various other abuses. She was often locked in her room and denied food. But she was shocked to see me there. She said she didn’t want me to see her in such a state, that she feared I wouldn’t care for her if I saw her as she was.”

“And do you?” Dorie asked. “Care for her, I mean.”

“I told her I cared as much as I ever did,” the prince replied. “A rather disingenuous truth, I’ll admit.” He sighed. “Try as I may, there’s still nothing there.”

“So why is she living in the castle?” Dorie asked. “Why are people talking about a wedding?”

“That’s what I need your help with,” the prince replied. He turned to her, his eyes wide and pleading. “What am I supposed to do? If I refuse the wedding now, she’ll go back to dismal conditions. If I don’t marry her, I’m the villain.”

“And what of her step-mother?” Dorie asked. “She’s a saint now?”

“It’s in her legal right to keep her husband’s holdings,” the prince replied. “It’s the law.”

“And it’s in the girl’s legal right to leave,” Dorie replied. “Invite her to live in the castle. Find a noblewoman in need of a companion or some such idle position. There seems to be no end to the people living here that don’t do much.”

“But how can I tell her that?” the prince asked. “How can I explain any of this to anyone? What about my father?”

“Your father was in love with your mother, wasn’t he?” Dorie replied. “He wanted love for you as well. And if this girl isn’t it, you must tell him. Tell him you went along because you thought it was required. If anything, the memory of your mother should be enough.”

“And everyone else?” the prince asked.

“The girl they’ve been fawning over will still be here,” the maid replied. “The women can befriend her, the men can court her themselves. They may even like it better.”

“And if they don’t?” the prince asked.

“You’re royalty, what can they do?”

“I suppose you’re right,” the prince replied with a chuckle. “I will talk with my father directly.” He stood up, then paused. “But you must come back tonight.”

“And why is that?” Dorie asked as she stood as well.

“If it goes well, I shall need someone to celebrate with,” the prince replied with a grin. “And if it goes abominably… well, I shall need someone for that as well.”

“Then I shall be your someone,” Dorie replied with a smile. “But if I found out you haven’t done as you said you would…”

“I shall be fleeing into the country to escape your wrath,” the prince replied with a laugh. He grabbed her hand and kissed it, before sauntering out of the room with a smile on his face.

 

The next night, a furious Dorie stormed into the room. Her hands were clenched into fists at her sides, her eyes narrowed when she came across the prince sitting on his bed. He was dressed in all his finery.

“I don’t understand,” she began without preamble. “You were supposed to find a solution to this girl’s problem without marrying her.”

“And I did,” the prince replied with a smile.

“Liar!” Dorie accused. “Martha saw you ask your father for your mother’s old wedding ring. Everyone knows you intend to marry.”

“She misunderstood,” the prince replied, standing. “I already arranged for the girl to live in the castle, yes, but I have no intention of marrying her.” Dorie grit her teeth.

“I don’t believe you,” she said quietly. The prince just chuckled.

“I know you don’t, but I swear,” he replied. “I spoke to my father as you suggested. He was surprised that I hadn’t been in love with the woman. And he agreed with the invitation to court. I spoke with Ella as well.”

“Was she upset?” At the maid’s question, the prince’s face fell slightly.

“Unfortunately so,” he said slowly. “But she was happy to be away from her horrid family. That softened the blow a bit.”

“So why ask for your mother’s ring?” Dorie asked.

“Well my father and I began speaking on what a good queen would be like,” the prince began slowly walking towards her. “She should be someone who is level-headed. A woman unafraid to say what needs to be said and thinks often of others. A woman who will not abuse her station.” Now directly in front of her, the prince stopped.

“She should be someone the king is delighted to see, his listening ear, his anchor in troubled waters.” He continued speaking as he reached into his pocket. “And if she bore the same name as a previous queen…well then that would be serendipitous, wouldn’t it?”

“What are you…” Before Dorie could finish her question, the prince was already kneeling in front of her, a shining gold ring in his hand. The maid’s jaw dropped, but no words came out.

“You have been my one ally in all of this,” the prince whispered. “The one person I could count on as I could no one else.” He reached to grab on of her hands, now hanging limply by her sides.

“Theodora Miller…will you marry me?”

Dorie said nothing for a long moment, but stood there blinking in surprise. Finally, she spoke.

“You realize the court will think you mad for marrying a maid,” she said without much conviction.

“My father already does,” the prince replied. “But he had his Theodora. And now I need mine.”

“Well…if you’re alright looking like a lunatic,” Dorie replied.

“Is that a yes?” the prince asked with hopeful grin.

“Yes,” Dorie beamed back at him. With all the ease someone with the name “Charming” could be said to possess, the prince made quick work of putting the ring on her finger. He stood up and pulled the woman, still dressed in a dirt-covered apron, into his arms.

“Well, ‘Prince Charming’,” Dorie teased as she looked up at him. “You have your princess, what shall you do now?”

“Kiss her, of course,” the monarch-to-be replied.

And with a smile, he did just that.

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