Chapter 10 - The Spring Garden
The week flew by without Aris even noticing it. She had been too preoccupied with fabrics, jewels, and shoes.
After much deliberation and several trips to the capital’s finest dressmakers, Aris had finally decided on a lovely white dress with a ribbon adorning it. The swooping neckline exposed her collarbones and showed just enough skin to be appropriate, while still adhering to the latest trends.
‘16 might be too young for this dress.’ She mused.
The dress was better suited for a young woman than a teenager, but Lucine had boldly insisted on it.
“I’m hungry,” Aris whined.
“You can’t eat yet,” Lucine said sternly.
“Can’t I have some water, at least?”
“No, my lady!”
Lucine was unrelenting, entirely committed to making sure her lady would be the most beautiful girl in attendance. She even took it upon herself to regulate her eating habits. Aris was restricted to one meal a day to maintain her slender figure, and Lucile would not budge on this rule. Aris had to forfeit her breakfast and lunch to have high tea and dinner.
‘Why do I have to do all of this?’ Aris wanted to cry. She couldn’t believe she had to give up her meals to look good for some crown prince. How horrible this situation was!
It was all the crown prince’s fault. If he hadn’t decided to host his stupid tea party out of the blue, none of this would be happening. And why on earth did he choose to host the party in the evening? It would have been so much better to start the party in the morning and have it done before lunch.
The late start time was because the crown prince had an appointment in the afternoon. This was the best he could do to accommodate everyone’s schedules.
“You’re not the only person that’s hungry, miss.”
“I’m sure all of the other ladies are as hungry as you right now,” Lucine said, offering what support she could. “I haven’t even eaten in front of you once!”
“But that doesn’t mean you’re not eating.”
“I can eat because I’m not a lady,” Lucine explained as she helped Aris into her dress.
Her brown hair was pinned up, exposing Aris’s slender neck and shoulders. The jewels in the bodice twinkled like stars, and the skirt flowed beautifully. Aris always insisted that she wasn’t that pretty, but to Lucine, her lady was the most beautiful woman in the world.
“All we need now is to do your makeup,” Lucine said.
“Right,” Aris nodded weakly. Having skipped breakfast, she hardly had the energy to stand, let alone speak. She wondered if she would die of hunger on the way to the palace and stared at Lucine balefully.
For a brief moment, Lucine’s resolve faltered, but she remembered her ultimate goal. She had to be stern for the sake of her lady. “Let’s start your makeup now,” she said firmly. Aris pouted, realizing her sorrowful expression had made no difference.
A makeup artist entered the room. “I’m just going to make you a little paler,” the woman explained, patting a fragrant powder onto her skin.
Aris glanced at the mirror and saw that she really did look whiter. After applying the powder, the artist tinted her lips with a light coral color. Then, an assortment of pale oranges and warm browns was brushed on her skin. The whole process took far longer than Aris had expected.
“All done,” the woman said finally.
When Aris took a good look at herself in the mirror, she was shocked. Gone was the girl of a few moments ago. Now she looked youthful and sophisticated.
“Since you’re still young, I tried not to make you look too sultry.” The woman added.
“Oh my,” Aris murmured, reaching out to touch her reflection. She wondered how beautiful she would look to everyone else.
At that moment, Ian knocked on the door. “Aris, are you finished?”
“Yes, Father.” Aris was unfamiliar with the palace grounds so Ian would be escorting her to the Spring Garden.
She sprang up from her seat and put on her coat. The nighttime air was still cold, and she didn’t want to risk catching a chill on the way to the palace. When the door opened Ian, who stood in the doorway, stared at his daughter in surprise.
“My daughter, you look so beautiful.”