Every little girl wants to be a princess when they grow up...right?
Orphaned at the age of four, Elizabeth has always been haunted by a feeling of loss and loneliness and the unwavering desire to belong. Her life is turned upside down when she arrives home one day to find two strangers claiming to be her parents. Elizabeth quickly realizes that the last 14 years of her life have been a lie, and as the truth unravels she finds out that not only are her parents alive...they are the King and Queen of a Kingdom called Ceshela. Suddenly the teenager goes from an orphan to a Princess who is next in line for the throne.
Elizabeth begrudgingly returns to Ceshela with little awareness of the dangers that are stalking her and is quickly swept up in a world she never dreamed of. A world that now includes an overbearing captain of the guard who she cannot stand!
Will the Princess of Ceshela find her place in her new kingdom, or is she doomed to a life of duty with no true happiness?
“Hand me that towel, Elsie! Now!”
I handed my uncle the white towel, which was immediately soaked in red as he pressed it to the large gash on the young boy’s thigh. I grabbed some more to replace the one that was soaked. My uncle threw the bloodied towel into the wicker basket in the room's corner. It went on like that for a while until we could slow the flow of blood. Once he could clean the wound and examine it, Uncle Eric decided it wasn’t life-threatening, despite all the blood loss.
“I need to stitch this up,” he said to the young boy, whose face was ashen.
I moved around the small room to get the materials for my uncle. I set them on the tray to his left and waited for further instructions. He wanted me to hold the towel to the wound. I smiled reassuringly to the boy, who returned it with a small one of his own. Uncle Eric asked me to move the towel, and he got started. I moved to the boy’s head, pulling off my gloves and taking his small hand into mine.
“What’s your name?”
“Robert,” he answered in a small voice.
“And how old are you, Robert?”
“Did you just turn nine or are you almost ten?”
“I turned nine three months ago. Papa told me when I was nine, I could help him in the field. I was almost a man.”
I rubbed his hand. “Nine is pretty big. Do you like helping your father in the field?”
His small, round face lit up a little. “I love it. It’s fun to be helping Papa and spending all my time with him. He talks to me while we work.”
I glanced at my uncle and saw that he was halfway through his task.
“What things do you and your father talk about?”
The little boy started telling me some things he and his father discussed, from his father teaching him about the soil and the most effective ways to plant their various crops, to him complaining about his younger sisters.
“Papa says I’m their older brother and they just want my attention. That’s why they follow me around and talk to me all the time.”
I smiled. “That is all it is, Robert. I have two younger cousins, and they follow me and my older cousins around all the time. I think they just want to be included and sometimes feel excluded because they are younger.”
Robert nodded his understanding. “I try to be patient with them, but it’s hard when they break something of mine or won’t let me have any time to myself.”
“You could make a bargain with them,” I suggested. “For example, tell them if they will give you, say, an hour to yourself, you will play a game with them for an hour or two. Or vice versa. After you have supper, you can play with them. Once you are done, ask them to give you the rest of the night to yourself.”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“It’s worked for me. It will take some time for them to get used to it and accept that’s the way it’s going to be. How old are your sisters?”
“Zettie is six and Rowena is five,” he answered. “I’m going to try what you said.”
I glanced down again at my uncle. He was almost done. Robert had forgotten about what my uncle was doing and was engrossed in our conversation.
“You should, and I hope it works for you. Do you have any other siblings?”
“I have one older brother who left for Baerney when he was seventeen.”
“How old were you?”
“Seven. It was two years ago. I miss him. He hasn’t come home since. At first, he wrote us letters, but we have gotten none in a few months. Mommy is worried, and Papa tries to act like he isn’t, but I can tell he is.”
“All done,” Uncle Eric said, winking at me.
“You are?” Robert asked. “That wasn’t so bad.”
Uncle Eric patted his lower leg. He’d put a gauze bandage over the stitches. I went to the cabinet to see if we had pants and a shirt in Robert’s size so he could get out of the bloodstained clothes. I found a pair of pants that were maybe a size too big and a shirt that was the perfect size. Uncle Eric helped him change while I busied myself with cleaning up the examination room so it would be ready for the next emergency.
“Bye, Elsie,” the little boy said.
“Bye, Robert. Be sure to get some candy for you and your sisters on your way out.”
He waved to me and walked out of the examination room, with Uncle Eric following him. I gathered the medical instruments my uncle had used and took them to the sink in the other room to sterilize them. I worked quickly and efficiently, because you never knew when someone else would come into the clinic.
Uncle Eric was a doctor who serviced a few of the smaller towns in Dellhaven. Daemarrel, where I grew up and where we lived, was one of the largest towns near the coast. There were five smaller towns that came to Daemarrel for market days. A lot of the towns did not have a practicing doctor. The ones that were there moved to the capital, where they could make a better living. My uncle sometimes took whatever form of payment a person could provide, even if it was just a loaf of bread or a dress or some kind of livestock. He always said that people shouldn’t be punished for being poor. Everyone deserved medical attention.
Most people in my town and the surrounding cities made their livings as fishermen, farmers like Robert’s family, builders, or in service to some of the wealthy citizens. Those that did not mind being far away from their families, or were bachelors, went to the capital, Baerney, to work for the king or the families there or on boats that delivered goods to other countries. I guessed that was what Robert’s older brother did. Either he’d found a job on a ship or at the castle. There were more wealthy families in Baerney and the towns surrounding the capital. There were more opportunities there, but it was difficult or expensive to live in those areas because taxes, goods, and services were a lot more expensive on that side of the country. People living in Daemarrel weren’t wealthy or even well off most of the time, and the service my uncle offered was helping people who otherwise would have to let wounds that came from working with your hands fester, and they might lose a limb or die.
Finishing my tasks, I carried the instruments back into the examination room. I stripped the medical table of its sheets, dumping them in the same basket as the cloths. I made the table back up with fresh sheets and sterilized the room by wiping it down.
“You were excellent in there, Elsie,” Uncle Eric said as we walked to his office.
I leaned against the doorframe and crossed my arms over my stomach.
“Thank you. Did his father say how it happened?”
“He was careless with an axe. It’s a good thing it did not go deeper. They will return in a couple of weeks, and I instructed them on how to keep it clean and cared for.”
“I will be up front if you need me. We have a few patients coming in to see you for some minor injuries and illnesses in an hour or two.”
He waved me off and went back to whatever he’d been doing. I walked back to the receiving room of the clinic where I’d been when Robert’s father came in carrying him. I took my seat behind the desk, which faced the door, and started going through some papers on my desk. I also checked the appointment books to see how many patients would be coming in this afternoon. Two hours later, a young mother walked in with her two children. One was a baby and the other a toddler who had her thumb in her mouth and looked miserable. I guided them back to the examination room.
The moment I stepped into the cafe I knew I’d see her. It was like my body was tuned into her presence. There was a different feeling when I was in the same space with her. My eyes sought her out, and I found her sitting at The next day, I walked into the house through the back door into the kitchen. My aunt, Josie, was at the stove pulling a whistling teapot off it. She glanced behind her when I closed the door.
“I dropped Winnie and Adam at Donald and Lela’s house,” I informed her.
“You’re not working at the clinic today, are you?”
I shook my head no. My older cousins, Victoria and Henry, were working today. Henry was a doctor as well. He’d studied in Baerney and returned home last year to work with his father. Victoria worked as a nursing assistant, just as my aunt Josie and I did. Adam and Winifred still had their studies, and when we were all at the clinic, the governess stayed with them. The clinic was a family business, and it took all of us to help keep it running. My family wasn’t wealthy, but we lived in a decent house that used to be my Uncle Eric’s parents’ home before they passed away. We lived about two miles from the city center and close to the coast, and I could hear the crashing surf when we left the windows open at night. There was a lot of land behind the house, which was perfect for horseback riding.
Aunt Josie was pouring tea into three cups, which prompted me to ask, “Do you have guests?”
“I do,” she replied carefully. “Will you join me?”
“Do I have to? I was planning on reading the new book Uncle Eric brought me back from his last trip to Baerney. It’s been weeks since I’ve had a day off.”
She hesitated, wringing her hands and looking down the hall toward the front of the house. I frowned at her.
“I know, but I would like you to join us. Please.”
“Very well,” I agreed.
I grabbed another cup and poured some tea into it. I followed her down the hall, which led to the front of the house. The parlor was to the left of the door. We walked in, and I saw an older couple sitting on the couch against the right wall. They weren’t that much older than Aunt Josie and Uncle Eric. I studied them because there was something familiar about both. I cocked my head to the side. Recognition bolted through me, and I stepped back. They both looked like me. The woman was an older version of me, with the same honey-brown skin, high cheekbones, full, pink lips, and petite nose. My oval jade-green eyes matched the man’s. The resemblance to him was just as recognizable. I had his strong chin and prominent brow and his dark brown—almost black—hair coloring. But it couldn’t be them, could it? No. They were dead. These were just two people who bore an uncanny resemblance to me.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Elsie?” Aunt Josie suggested in her sweet, quiet voice.
My legs carried me to the chair beside hers and across from our visitors. I perched on the edge with the teacup settled between both of my hands. I waited for one of the adults in the room to speak.
“Els,” Aunt Josie said. “These are your parents.”