Prince Theodore did know the majority of the scripted pages, needing very little prompting. They sat reading for several hours more completely enraptured. Queen Evangeline had decided to take a stroll through the palace by chance and had overheard the reading. She now stood quietly in the doorway after recognising the voice of her son. Her heart pounded with excitement, but she said nothing keen to be a silent witness of his progress. In the past he wouldn’t have left his chamber by this hour, let alone be reciting the works of William Shakespeare off by heart with a young woman whom he had known less than a week. The Queen dashed around in search of king William. She found him reading in his private parlour, wearing his ‘thinking cap’ and lost in a deep chain of thought .

“My dear! Our son!”

“Goodness gracious who has he upset now?!” He jumped from his comfortable seat.

“No quite the contrary William dear.” 

She took King William’s hand and led him to where the young pair were reciting fluently. “Just look at them!” Queen Evangeline beamed.

The King’s jaw dropped and a wide Cheshire cat smile spread across his face.

“How has the young girl managed this!” King William said in a raised whisper.

“Shhhhh!” She put her slim index finger to her lips. They watched for a further 10 minutes and slipped away arm in arm.

“My goodness that girl is a miracle. We must congratulate her.”

Queen Evangeline nodded in agreement with her husband. Bonnie and Prince Theodore continued completely oblivious to the fact that they had just  been observed. At last, they seemed at ease in each others company. The coldness which had once been prominent between them had slipped away. Bonnie closed the book and Prince Theodore smiled at her.

“I very much enjoyed that.” 

“And I also your majesty. I shall have to go now, but until tomorrow.”

“Oh must you go?”

“Yes. Pardon my saying but you look slightly tired.” 

He outstretched his right hand. His slim fingers were pressed together on his perfectly manicured hand. A ring glinted on his middle finger. Bonnie took it.

“Very well. Fair well Bonita.”

“Until we meet again your majesty.”

Bonnie left the palace. Her heart danced for joy, so much was changing for the better she could feel it. I cannot wait to tell Mother she thought. She picked up her skirts and ran home to the confinement of her cottage. Maira was nowhere to be seen. This was odd. Bonnie ran into the garden, still no sign. She eyed the note upon the kitchen table. It read :

“Bonnie your Auntie Margaret has been taken ill. There was no-one to nurse her except myself. I’m not sure until I shall return, but word has spread of your wonderful progress with his Majesty. I told you that you would be suited to the job. I shall write  to you soon to keep you informed of my plans.

Love Mum”

Bonnie’s heart sank. She longed to have someone to share her good news with. Still, she would have Prince Theodore’s company tomorrow. She brewed the kettle and made herself a warming cup of tea to heat her chilled fingers. Bonnie reminisced in happy thoughts, feeling very proud of her progress. Her happiness was dampened with the thought of her poor Mother. She wondered how ill Auntie Margaret really was? and whether it was catching. Bonnie deeply hoped not. Unfortunately, Bonnie’s Auntie Margaret was sicker than first anticipated, meaning that her Mother Maira would not return home for some time. Bonnie stayed longer at the palace working over her hours in the days to follow. Theodore seemed much changed, more enthusiastic and happier in himself. Bonnie decided to make a suggestion.

“Your Grace might we take a quick walk outside?” Bonnie was careful to emphasise the word ‘quick’.

“Bonita I am not so sure.”

“If you don’t mind me saying I think the best way to deal with fear is to face it.”

“You can tell I am afraid?”

“Yes. We shall walk slowly and we shan’t go far. I promise that I will not let go of your arm”

“You swear it, truly?”

“On pain of death. I shall take great care of you! Come on, follow me !”

Bonnie took Theodore’s hand. She fetched one of Theodore’s cloaks from his wardrobe and draped it around his shoulders. She led him slowly downstairs. He stood momentarily hesitating in the huge hallway as if having second thoughts. Bonnie took Theodore’s arm in hers, opened the glossy door and helped him down the small flight of stone steps. Theodore trembled ever so slightly as she held his arm and he felt the wall for guidance with his free hand. Bonnie was immediately struck with the wondrous sight of the palace grounds.

To be continued….

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