I am no protagonist. My life is not a book and if it is, it must be the most uninteresting book ever written. The author must be pulling their hair in frustration.
My name is Dahlia Grace, people call me Dahl (not like I know a lot of people). I lead a very uneventful life.
I work at a small publication company as an assistant. It is not at all within my career choices as a Journalism graduate but here I am, breaking my back carrying boxes of mangoes my boss purchased from god-knows-where. Initially, I thought I could climb my way up the ladder and become a full-time writer. It's been four years.
At some point I realized a college degree does not mean anything anymore nowadays. In high school we thought we only needed to get to college. In college we believed we only needed to graduate. But what happens after that? Right after graduation, we are faced with an even bigger beast—unemployment. When we defeat an enemy, another one takes its place. Some people manage to pass through this point in life with no sweat, some barely make it and some do not. I am among those who barely did.
Granted, I am not a good writer either. I barely passed the course. I was one of those who had dreams but not the talent. In a sea of remarkable people, I am seafoam. These are not my words, by the way. Among the few people I know, there is my mother.
My mother was a beauty in her younger years. She also had a lot of potential and a bright future but ever since having me, life has been really tough for her. Whenever she has the chance, she makes me remember that I was not meant to be born.
I cannot deny that her opposition to me studying to become a writer made me stubborn. In a way, it is the loudest scream I could ever do. A protest. A rebellion. I had learned the futility of it all the hard way.
If I had listened to people who had told me I would not make it, would I be in a better place?
Tonight, I sleep with the weight of a long day on my shoulders. Sleep is the only luxury I allow myself. In my dreams, I am somewhere far away.
The Marvalov family which I come from is one of the few clans in the kingdom that have been supporting the Royal Family for generations. But among those few families, only the Marvalovs had produced several queens. From my great-great-great-grandaunt to my younger cousins and nieces, the women of my family are brought up and educated on court etiquette and traditions by the Marvalov Queen of their time, and on occasions when the reigning Queen is not a Marvalov, the Marvalov Royal Concubines take up the role. My grandmother was not an exception.
From an early age, she was brought to the palace by her grandaunt who initially joined the court as a royal concubine. There she stayed for years and years, only seeing her beloved mother once a month. At the end, when the niece of Countess Freeda was chosen instead of her, she married the Duke of Ronchester whom she did not love. She was already twenty, at the age when noblewomen are deemed quite old to marry.
Fearing that the same fate might befall her child, my mother had hoped to give birth to a boy but she did not love me any less. According to my dear uncle, Duke Delaney, my mother named me Nelfera Dahlia hoping that I live a long life with dignity. She had died six months after conceiving me so she had lost the chance to see this come true.
To honor my mother’s dreams for her one and only child, I have diligently studied my books and learned how to carry myself in public. In the place of my parents, it was my mother’s older brother who raised me and despite my father’s frequent absences, I never behaved poorly around him. I never demanded his undivided attention for I understood that he had more pressing matters to attend to. I placed myself in a corner of his priorities, learned when to speak and when to keep quiet. It was not for the royal court. It was all for my mother. So, when finally, my time came and my aunt brought me to the palace at the age of ten, I was not thrilled at all. There was no training which paid off, no hardship that deemed fruitful. It was all just mere consolation; the biggest prize was to live up to what my mother had wished for me.
My aunt was, as a rule, strict in educating me. She disciplined me very strictly and formally. Since my uncle had initially raised me only with love and affection, I found it difficult to adjust in the palace under my aunt’s care. I had sleepless nights and my days were spent in agitation and anxiety. It took me my everything to not burst in tears when reading law books, writings on proper etiquette, scrolls and scrolls about court rituals and country traditions. I had injured my hands doing embroidery and I learned to not complain even though my hands were numb from all the writing lessons.
Once, I tried, whining with tears in my eyes and my hands clutched close to my heart, "Auntie! My hand hurts!"
"It is 'Your Highness', Lady Nelfera." My aunt had told me calmly. She was a Royal Noble Consort of the King and was to be addressed 'Your Highness' at all times, even by her immediate family.
"And never argue." So I never did again.
It was by sheer force of will, and my aunt's who had failed to grab the chance for herself to be queen, that I passed all of the ordeals that made me a strong candidate for the Crown Prince's consort, the Crown Princess.
At fourteen, my marriage with the Crown Prince, who was sixteen at that time, took place. Lazarus made a dependable friend and a mischievous enemy. We had a silent agreement that our marriage was only political and since we were in it for the rest of our lives, we might as well get along.
On the night of my wedding, I was taken from my aunt's care and brought to the Emerald Palace where I would live, like all the other Crown Princesses before me, until the day the Crown Prince ascended to the throne. It was then when I witnessed my aunt burst into tears for the first time in my life. She had always been expressionless as a statue, cold as ice, so when she clutched my face in her shaking hands and smiled at me so dearly, I let my own emotions roam wild and free for the last time.
In between sobs she had whispered to me, "Keep our lessons close to your heart, Your Highness. And I will keep you in mine. Remember, most of all, the things that will do you good might not feel right in your heart. Use your head well, child."
I wept with her there outside the Topaz Palace. I realized then that all along she loved me in her own ways. She was raised the way she was and she raised me the way she did because she knew well how to survive in the Royal Court.
Years have gone by since that night. My aunt had passed on due to an illness, my beloved uncle is in exile in a far away land, the Marvalov family has been disgraced and I, the Crown Princess, am in death row.