"Mother, please, I can do this myself," Joann said, exasperated.
"No, you cannot," Queen Mary said.
"Yes, I can," Joann replied as her mother tried to get her to get into a flaxen dress.
"Please, Joann," Queen Mary said, "you need to be ready for Ida's reception."
"Ida has seen me for the first twelve years of my life, Mother. She knows how I am. She knows who I am. She knows I wouldn't wear a dress if I chose."
"Well, you need a dress for this. Just for this."
"No, Mother!" Joann walked to her room and closed the door.
"You need to be proper," Queen Mary called from behind the door.
"I don't want to be proper," Joann replied as she opened her wooden wardrobe. She took out a sky blue knee-length dress that matched her ultramarine colored eyes.
After she put the dress on, Joann checked herself out in the mirror. She plaited her hair and looked at herself again. Her blond hair seemed to shine. She slightly crossed her legs, still standing up, and looked at her sky blue boots.
Joann never really liked dresses. You could trip in them. They felt funny.
Joann quickly checked her reflection again and walked out of her room.
Meanwhile, someone was hunting. He watched as his arrow sliced through the air, making contact with the rabbit. "Score," he whispered.
Cameron looked around quickly and then ran from his hiding place and started inspecting the rabbit thoroughly. Might be enough for some shoes, he thought. It was nearing winter and the only thing Cameron really had was a tattered shirt and a pair of tattered shorts.
Cameron had to watch out for guards as they had to out for him. Cameron only had to make sure they didn't find him and his lean-to. If they found him, that would certainly be the end of that.
Being an outlaw, a poacher, Cameron thought, gives you not many choices.
An arm grabbed his and he tried to get out of the guard's grip. The grip was hard. Cameron kicked. Finally, when all seemed hopeless, he bit the guard. "Agh!" the guard yelped.
Yuck, Cameron thought as he ran through the forest. Guards.
Cameron eventually came to his lean-to, and that's when he remember he forgot the rabbit. He sighed. Well, he thought, it shouldn't be too bad skipping just one meal...
He opened his eyes after a rest, and he saw the sun setting. He decided to explore around the forest, near the castle. Even though he had lived in this forest for ten years, he still did not know every bit of it like the back of his hand.
When he heard voices at the side of the castle, he decided to listen.
"Joann is quite stubborn," one voice said. "Shall I perhaps bring her with me to teach her to be like she should be?"
"Thank you for your suggestion, Mae, Darling," a voice that belonged to Queen Mary said, "but Joann needs to stay here. I have already found a young prince to marry her to."
"Oh really?" Mae said. "If you happen to change your mind, tell me."
Cameron listened until the voices faded into the darkness. Joann? Isn't that the princess? he thought. Or one of them?
He ventured around the castle more. He found a vine that went all the way to the middle dining room. He looked inside. It was large. The chairs had different symbols on the top, and each of the symbols had at least one jewel--a moonstone the shape of a teardrop, a jade the shape of a clover, a bloodstone the shape of a heart.
He watched as the royal people filed in. There were many people. Cameron then remembered that there was a diner party in one of the princess's honor, because she was getting married either tomorrow or the next day.
As the people sat down, he could identify the people. Queen Mary, Princess Ida, King William, Princess Joann, and three people from the next castle over: Prince Aaron, Queen Mae, and King Stewart.
He watched the feast, thinking mostly about the food he would be able to get if he was a king or prince.
Suddenly someone clinked a fork against a glass, and the room quieted. Queen Mae stood up and smiled. "To Princess Ida, who, in a day's time, will be a noble beautiful queen," she started.
"Why, thank you, Aunt Mae," Ida said, her cheeks turning pink.
"...and in hope that Princess Joann will marry a rich, handsome prince in the future," Queen Mae continued, looking at Princess Joann and Prince Aaron; she had put their seats next to each other. Joann was refusing to look anywhere; now her glass dropped and she stood up, her hands on her hips.
"And what if I don't want to marry?" Joann said.
"Joann, dahling, you're going to have to marry soon, once you're eighteen."
"And if I don't?"
"You will be married, Joann," Mae said almost forcefully.
"I won't!" Joann said as she stomped out the door in her blue boots. She walked to her room and slammed the big doors.
"Oh, dear," Queen Mary murmured.
"It's the truth," Mae said simply. "She has to get married."
"Yes, but did you have to say it like that?" Ida said as she went to check on her sister.
Now it was just Mae, Queen Mary, King William, King Stewart, and Prince Aaron. Aaron couldn't help but smirk.
"Joann?" Ida said as she quietly opened her sister's door.
"What?" Joann replied from her closet.
"Are you alright?"
Joann came from her closet, her hair unbraided and wavy and she was now in a black simple dress. "I'm fine, Ida," she said. She sat on her bed. "I just wish Aunt Mae and Mother would stop with this marriage nonsense. I don't have to get married if I don't want to, right?"
Ida looked at her for a moment. "I don't know," Ida replied. "Mother will want you to. Aunt Mae will want you to. For crying out loud, everyone in the whole kingdom will expect you to! But you don't really have to if you don't want to. It's your choice."
"What about you?" Joann asked Ida. "Did Mother force you or did you choose?"
"Me?" Ida said. "Well, Mother told me she was marrying me off to someone. I met him. I didn't like him at first. Well, Joann, some marriages aren't based on love. But sometimes love grows."
"Like yours," Joann murmured.
"Just like mine."