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The Arranged Crown

Chapter 1 - The White Dress

White. I was adorned in all white. White dress, white shoes, white veil. My hair was styled with curls flowing down my back, and my makeup was applied and set. I’ve spent hours surrounded by ladies touching and applying, making everything look perfect. My corset has been tightened, rendering it difficult to take deep breaths to stay calm. The coordinator went over details, and all I could do was stare at my reflection in the mirror, trying to comprehend how I got here.

Fireworks, ice sculptures, waterfalls—all of it was extravagance beyond what I could have ever imagined. For any other couple, this would be too outrageous, too expensive. At the end of it all waits a prince who is to be my husband. None of this was what I wanted for my wedding day. It was too much, and yet exactly what was expected of me.

The maids then came in to make finishing touches, tucking and straightening in attempt to make me look flawless. The jewels on my ears, wrists, head, and neck were worth enough to feed the country for at least five years. Despite their weight, they felt light in comparison to the importance of this day. The thing that surprised me the most was that even with all this, I still looked like myself. As absurd as it may sound, losing myself among everything that was going on was my greatest fear. Could I possibly step into this role and not become someone different? Is who I already am right now enough to fulfill what was necessary?

The bridesmaids dressed in purple and gold were one of the few details I got to choose without any argument. My best friend and maid of honor smiled at me reassuringly. She was the only one in the room who knew through the façade but was supportive in every way. The rest of the bridesmaids were either relatives to the Sovereign Prince or daughters of nobles. All of them thought Andrew had swiftly swept me off my feet; the truth was the world’s best-kept secret. We were nothing more than acquaintances who have made the world think we were in love.

Booming orchestras and flashing cameras were enough evidence to say that this would be the event of the year, possibly the decade. I would long be remembered for how well this day went. It could even indicate the future of the principality. The pressure was a lot, but I didn’t carry it alone. I could take comfort in the fact that my fiancé had felt it even more than I had; that was our strongest connection at this point. It was enough to keep me steady as I walked down the aisle. His suit was exquisitely tailored in a way that was only fit for a prince. Though his face looked stoic, he gave me a reassuring glance as I stepped nearer to our future together. My father gave me away as we reached the altar, and he shook Andrew’s hand as they had so many times before. The Sovereign Prince and Princess were also smiling as Andrew took my hand.

I went through it all exactly as I was told. I said my vows; I promised my life and loyalty. I signed my life away to the prince who also entered into this covenant. We swore allegiance to serve our country and sacrifice our own lives for the people. Then I watched as a brilliant crown of jewels was placed on his head. I could no longer get out of this, not that I would want to. There weren’t better options. Really, there weren’t.

The prince was a few inches taller than me. His blue eyes were one of his most appealing features, but I also had a bias when it came to eye color. His hair was light without being blonde. He’s very good-looking and respectful. Honestly, he was one of the best-looking gentlemen in the whole region. Every other lady thought I was the luckiest girl alive. When it came time, he kissed me. There’s nothing wrong with the kiss except that there’s no spark. I’m now married to someone with whom I don’t share chemistry. But no one could tell anything was missing. They all thought exactly as they have been told.

The reception was just as extravagant as the ceremony. The principality’s most honored dignitaries sipped wine and told stories of other brides and weddings as if they could compare to today’s events. I smiled, waved, and kissed cheeks; I did everything I should. They all thought I’m flawless as I faked a loving look at my new husband. He returned the same look as he greeted and schmoozed with endless lines of influential people. They all assumed what we wanted them to think. All I could think about were the hours after the reception was over when we were expected to leave for our honeymoon. I was about to go on a honeymoon with someone I barely knew. My heart began to ache at the realization that I was about to have my only wedding night, and I hadn't even gotten the chance to fall in love first.

As my smile faltered, Andrew squeezed my hand gently. I cared and had a deep respect for him, and maybe that would be enough. It’s not that I couldn’t grow to love him; I just hadn’t gotten the chance to try yet. The tinkling of the glasses resonated through the room. His lips met mine, and my heart raced slightly. Maybe tonight wouldn’t be so awkward after all. At the cue, we started our first dance together. Andrew was raised taking ballroom dance lessons, and it showed as we glided around the elaborate reception hall. If he guided me through this lifestyle the same way he guided me as we danced, all would go according to plan. Part of me felt like I could trust and confide in him.

“Andrew?” I asked him as he pulled me in for a spin. It felt strange to call him casually by his first name.

“Don't worry, I've got you,” he answered, reading my mind. “If you fall, I fall with you. We're in this together now.”

The maids and butlers were still carrying presents into the room currently set apart for wedding gifts. The dance floor thrived as couples made their way to dance while the younger girls giggled and watched the young sons of the nobles. I curtsied as more and more people congratulated us on our marriage. As socially draining as this reception was, I wanted it to keep going. When I threw my bouquet into the crowd of screaming girls, it landed in the hands of Andrew’s younger sister Lori. The idea of the seventeen-year-old princess meeting suitors soon added to the high spirits that currently rippled throughout the principality. Her catching the bouquet wasn’t planned, but it was a perfect enough set-up that it could have been.

“I know you’re anxious, but you need to eat something,” Andrew pleaded with me. “It’s been a long day, and food will help calm some of your nerves. If what you want isn’t here, I’ll have someone fetch you whatever you would like. Everything that I have is yours now, Kiera.”

Because I started to feel weak, I followed his instruction and ate the delicious food prepared by the palace kitchen staff and sipped the special wine kept for rare occasions. If there was any benefit to this being my new home, it was the food quality and selection. As I ate, I took the time to admire the grand ballroom once again. Although I had been here every year for as long as I could remember, the sparkling chandeliers and intricate gold designs on the ceilings always left me in awe. The historical artwork has been kept in pristine condition despite the ballroom being modernized with sound systems and security cameras. It truly was a dream reception if there ever was one.

As the party began to wind down, I could spot guards and maids loading our transportation. “Are you ready to head out?” my husband whispered in my ear. I nodded because there was no point in stalling much longer. I was physically exhausted, and the day still held more that demanded my attention. We walked through a tunnel of bubbles and sparklers as the second set of fireworks for the day exploded in the sapphire night sky above us. The lit horse-drawn carriage glowed beneath the brilliant stars, a picture only seen in fairytales.

Andrew opened the door of the carriage for me as I took my last glance at the crowds we were leaving behind. I blew kisses as young girls gushed and older women cheered. I simultaneously stepped into the carriage and stepped into my new future. Andrew sat next to me and put his arms around me. As we rode into the first two weeks of our new life, the weightiest realization of all hit me: I am now the princess.

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