Monday, November 17, 2014

Black Keys Chapter 21

(SM) owns Twilight.
(CozItRunsInMyBlood) owns the plot.
(RobzBeanie) is a lifesaver and she beta this.
(janosch73) is my amazingly wonderful per-reader.
Chapter 21
Isabella Marie

"Papa!" My voice was panicked and my breaths were shallow. Fear filled my insides and tears filled my eyes.
"Bella," his voice was very low and his breaths were barely there. Worry filled his words and an undeniable sorrow in his tone.
"Papa, I'm so scared, please come here already," begs and pleas.
"I'm afraid I won't make it this time, Sweetie-Pie," gasps and sobs.
"No, no, Papa, you have to come here, you have to."
"Papa loves you so much, Bella."
Do you know that feeling you get when you wake up in a bed that's not yours? You open your eyes and look around, wondering where are you and what has brought you there. Panic and confusion fill your senses for a moment or two until you remember everything?
Well, that wasn't what happened to me this time when I woke up in that bed that was supposed to be mine and the prince's. I knew right away where I was, even before I opened my eyes. The strong smell of musk and cedar wood refreshed my memory and reminded me of everything I hadn't even forgotten.
Memories came rushing back to me, of my brother and his wedding that turned out to be mine as well, followed by the prince cutting his shoulder to protect my honor or his or maybe his sister’s, who knows … then getting sick and waking up thinking that he’d hurt me somehow or while I was sleeping. Alice and her promise, and then the queen threatening my life. Salma and Thunder. Hope and Faith …
A small smile tugged on my lips at the thought of the good time I’d had with the horses, and I opened my eyes thinking it'd be to bright sunlight, only to be met by the bright green that was the prince's eyes.
My gaze held his for a moment. He was sitting on the side of the bed, right beside me; his eyes were on me and his lips smiled softly. My first thought was to wonder how long he had been sitting there … watching me. My second thought was a memory of those smiling lips pressed into my own.
My smile died.
"Good morning, Sleepy Princess," he said. "Good afternoon, I mean." His smile remained and his voice was just above a whisper, as if not to disturb me.
I sat up on the bed and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, then asked, "What time is it?"
"A bit after four."
"I slept for too long," I sighed, moving a hand through my hair and stretching a little with a small yawn.
"Not that much, you went to sleep at almost seven," the prince said. When I looked into his eyes, I found that something had shifted in them, something I had no idea about what it was.
"Yeah," I replied in a low voice, my eyes searching his for answers to questions I couldn't even place for myself.
"Were you having a bad dream?" he asked in a voice that was barely louder than mine.
I swallowed thickly, wondering if I'd been talking in my sleep. And though I didn't want to answer him, I still found myself doing the opposite.
"A nightmare," was my reply. A memory, was the truer answer.
A moment of silence filled the room, and I assumed he saw that I wasn't going to say anything more about it than that since he asked no more questions.  That moment was followed by the prince taking a glass of water from the nightstand beside me and handing it to me. "Here," he said. I took it from him with a thank you and started drinking it, thoughts of the, uh … thing we’d shared last night – or in the very early hours of today – consuming me. What I’d said to him earlier this morning almost caused me to blush, only because I'd said what I said and yet he was still being kind enough to offer me water and … those looks.
When I was finished with the water, I placed the glass back on the nightstand, noticing that small box I'd seen last night when I woke up from my little nap. I picked it up and examined it.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Um, it's for you, why don't you open it?" the prince replied. If I didn't know better, I would've said there was a bit of bashfulness in his looking-away-and-focused-on-the-box eyes.
I frowned slightly, confused at that certain look and why it was there, then opened the small box in my hands. I drowned in shock right away.
I couldn't do anything except stare, but even that was interrupted by the blurry vision caused by my teary eyes. A wave of mixed feelings and rush of a hundred questions hit me hard, paining and curing at the very same time.
Longing. Passion. Ache. Wondering. Happiness. Embarrassment. And, gratefulness.
When? How? And, why?
I blinked tears away and let out the breath I'd been holding, still staring and still too shocked to speak. It seemed like all I was able to do was gawking. Ogling. Shaking my head slightly. Pressing on both of my lips hard. I was just … I couldn't believe my eyes.
"I hope those tears are not because of how bad the design is?" the prince's voice brought me back from my shocked state, his tone urging me to say something. Anything.
"It's- it's … beautiful," I breathed out, wiping my tears with the back of my left hand, my right one clutching the small box for dear life.
The grin that dominated the prince's beautiful features when I said that was almost blinding.
And infectious.
"Thank you so much," I said with gratitude filling my every sense and a grin decorating my face. I had no idea if he had any idea how much this meant to me. I couldn't even tell how much this meant to me. So much. More than so much.
"You've very welcome, Beautiful Princess," he said with the smile still living on his lips.
"It's so beautiful," I said in awe as I stared at it some more.
"Beautiful Princesses should only get Beautiful things," His words expressed sincerity and it made my chest swell at the sound of it.
It wasn't the amount of diamonds that were placed in the jewelry that he’d just gifted me that made me so in love with it – no, it was the jewelry itself and what it resembled, what it meant and what it felt like to realize all of those things.
"When did you buy it?" I wondered. Because this beautiful thing in my hands wasn't something you could just pick up from a store, and mine only broke last night. Of course he had to search for it or so … I just couldn't get when would he buy this or from where.
"Last night when I went to see Salma, I asked one of the guards to go to the family's jewelry designer and get him to do this for you. I gave him the details and how I wanted it to look, and when I got the box in my hand, I came back right away," he explained, smiling.
"Oh, my goodness!" I gushed. "I can't believe you got it done in such a short time."
He only shrugged with the smile still on his lips.
"Wait, what do you mean by 'details'?"
"I had this picture for it in my mind and I told him about it; he made it just like I wanted it."
"Wow! It's as if you designed it yourself!"
His answering grin was outstanding, and my chest ached some more.
I couldn't wait any longer, I wanted to wear it right then and there. It just had to be worn, and it felt like I would put it inside of my heart if I was able to.
I took the necklace out of the box. The diamonds in the cross charm made it heavier than any charm I'd ever worn before, but then again, I'd never worn something that beautiful before. I'd always worn pretty stuff, yeah, but nothing was ever that beautiful.
The cross-shaped charm was decorated with tiny, small and big diamond rocks – so many diamonds. A big rock in the center of it was shaped like a rose and it was surrounded by four hearts – three of them were the same size and one was much larger and took the place of the bottom part of the cross.
It was breathtakingly beautiful. It was a cross made of hearts. Hearts. And he designed it. Him. The 

I fumbled a bit with the lock, but got it done eventually, then looked down at the cross hanging over 
my chest and couldn't help grinning widely and thanking the prince once again.
"It's too much," I said.
"Nothing is too much as long as it's for you, Beautiful Princess," he told me.
A blush crept up my face and neck as I looked into his beautiful green eyes. His words – yet again – sounded very honest and his expression looked very true. And I- … I couldn't understand.
"Why are you like that?" Because I had to ask.
Our eyes stayed locked together for longer than a few moments before he sighed then answered my question, "I've been wondering the same, Princess."
More confusion. His answer made me even more confused. I couldn't understand if he meant that he was wondering the same as in why was he like that with me? or if he was wondering why I was like that but wouldn't ask me the question that I’d just asked him.
I bit my bottom lip, my eyes narrowing a little and my head cocking to the side as I tried to solve the mystery that was the prince sitting in front of me.
Why was he so very patient with me that way? Why was he that kind? I'd hurt him last night and told him we couldn't be even friends. I'd never apologized. For anything, that is. Why would he be like that?
He gave me a cross! He gave me hearts! He also gave me no hint of an explanation as to why he was like that. Why was he treating me like that? Why was he so good to me? Why?
"Why are you okay with me wearing a cross while your mother is not?"
He frowned. "My mother is not okay with you wearing a cross? I don't think so."
"Oh, trust me. She's not!" I almost snorted, did he know his mother at all?
"Why would you say that?" His frown deepened.
"She told me that herself."
"She did what?" His confused frown turned into shocked, wide eyes.
"Yep, she said she wished her only child had gotten married to someone better than me, and that she would've been grateful if you’d married a Muslim instead when I wouldn't take off my cross at her demand."
I watched as his nostrils flared and anger filled his eyes as he clenched his fists. "I can't believe she said that!"
"I have no reason to lie."
"Of course. It's not what I meant, I just–" He didn't complete his thought, only moved a hand through his wild locks of hair then gripped it in frustration, groaning before shaking his head and looking down toward his lap. "She shouldn't have said that," he eventually said in a low voice.
"Yeah," I emptied my lungs in a long sigh.
"People should never be judged for what kind of faith they've chosen to be theirs, Princess." His eyes met mine again, and it made me wonder if his words were meant for his mother's actions or … mine.
I didn't reply to him, I only held his gaze for a few moments, searching for a confirmation to my doubts, but I found none. He was always so hard to read.
It didn't stop my wondering, though.
"True," was my one-word reply.
"I'm sorr–"
"It wasn't your fault," I interrupted him, shaking my head. "And it's no big deal, anyway."
"No big deal?" he asked, surprised. "You mean it didn't hurt you? To be taken as a less good person without you doing anything to give the person judging you a bad impression of you? It doesn't hurt at all to know that only because of your faith someone will always think less of you – no matter what? It doesn't hurt, Princess?"
My eyes moved between his for a second, perceiving, observing. I swallowed thickly, "I guess it does."
It wasn't news to me that I'd hurt the prince since the day of the wedding more times than I cared to admit, but it was out of my hands. I wouldn't lie and say I didn't mean it, because I did. I meant to hurt him. It was just that… God! I couldn't believe how similar I was to… the queen.
Yeah, to the queen of all people.
But it wasn't like that with me; I didn't judge a person because of their race or religion. The girl that was as close to me as anyone could get – my assistant – was African-American. A very decent number of my employees were Jewish or Atheists. I didn't have anything against different races or religions. Or… did I? No, of course not. It was only this particular religion that I had a problem with. And I had my reasons. I did. I wasn't like her … yes, I wasn't. Or … was I?
Good God!
The prince nodded, "I know it does." And that hurt more than what we were talking about. "So, I apologize for what my mother said to you," he said. "I won't justify her actions because there is nothing that could justify that, but I do hope that one day you can forgive her and realize what a good woman my mother is." I had to hold back an eye roll at hearing that. 
"She is," he insisted, as if he were able to read my mind and knew his words were unbelievable to me. "She's a queen, she's responsible for lots of things in this kingdom, and it's a lot. Her biggest dream was – is – for me to be the next king after my father. Our marriage almost ruined everything for her, threatened this dream and the possibility of it ever happening. She's already had everything planned, even my bride. She just wants someone to blame, and her blame – unfortunately – is misplaced; it should be directed at Jaser, not at you." He sighed. "This still doesn't justify her actions, but I hope it helps you understand her reasoning a bit, Princess. She's just upset and overprotective, and she's not the only one who feels betrayed."
The way the prince was talking, I really couldn't understand how he did it, or how he was able to comprehend all of those things. His words about his mother – how did he understand her so well like that? And how was he able to convince me to understand all of that? It was really strange. And above all, I wondered how he was able to understand me this much.
He knew I felt betrayed.
And again, I found out that I had more in common with the queen than I'd ever imagined.
The biggest question that was roaming inside of my head was: Was this why he was treating me this way? So nice, so kind and so… caring? Was I really just like everything he’d just said about his mother? Because it felt like it. It felt like his words were all about me, along with his mother.
Was it only because I felt betrayed that I was treating him this way? Hurting him over and over again? Was my cruelty towards him misplaced just like the queen's blame? Was I really mistaken when I blamed him for everything that was happening to me while there were other people I should be blaming, especially since I knew he wasn't really the one to blame?
There was a 'Yes' brightening in my mind behind each and every one of those questions. And it wasn't easy to take in. It was saddening and embarrassing at the same time.
I pressed both of my lips together into a tight line, then I nodded. Because I understood. Most of the things, at least. To a point.
I only hoped that the prince would've told me as well that if I found it really, really hard to ever forgive the queen for what she’d said to me or how she’d made me feel, if that meant the prince would find it as hard to forgive me for all of the times I'd unintentionally and intentionally hurt him.
Or if he would've told me why I cared so much for how he felt for me or because of me.
My head was spinning already.
The prince offered me one of his small smiles and asked, "Do you fancy eating now?"
"I'm famished," I admitted.
His smile grew bigger and he nodded, "C'mon."
"Oh, snap!" I gasped when I attempted to get up only to find my new necklace falling from my neck to my lap. I held it up, confused as to why it would fall down after I'd locked it, and happy that it didn't happen somewhere else where I couldn't find it later. I held it up and examined the lock, finding that it was different from the other locks I was used to.
"Let me?" the prince's voice asked. His hand reached out in an offer to take the necklace from my hand, and I handed it to him.
He sat closer to me than he was a minute before. I moved my hair to the side and waited for him to put it on for me like he’d done so many times on the wedding night.
"There are two locks in this necklace, the bigger one is covering and securing the smaller," he told me as he worked the locks. His breaths fanned over the side of my neck, making my skin tingle and my heart ache, reminding me of last night and all the times I felt his very warm breaths on my neck and face. One specific memory made me shiver and close my eyes as I relived the moment that I hated and loved all the same.
When I opened my eyes again, I found the prince's one more time staring deeply at me.
I had to hold my breath at the look in his eyes. He was so close, his face only an inch away from mine, our lips almost touching – he was that close. And I knew, I just knew, that look, oh, God! That look! I knew what he wanted. I knew what I wanted. And I knew it was the same thing. But…
"Are we pretending?" I had to ask because I had to know. He's never replied my request last night of pretending that we never shared that thing, and I wanted to make sure of what he wanted to do or if he was going to do it. I felt like a small kid wanting to play but knowing I wasn't allowed to do so. But the difference was that the one not allowing me to play wasn't a parent, it was my own head. My head was denying my heart what it wanted to feel. To touch. To do.
"I'm not," was his quick, whispered reply that made me question his sanity, or his forgiveness limits. Because it was too much for me to believe that he'd forgotten all of the hurtful words I'd said to him yesterday and was still able to look me in the eye with so much passion in those beautiful green eyes of his.
I couldn't believe it. Too much. It was too much.
"Don't kiss me," I whispered back, and against everything in me that wanted the opposite.
"I wasn't going to."
And I was surprisingly disappointed and upset. To a point.
The hours that followed were peaceful. We ate and had very light conversations. Mona came and went a few times. One of those times was to take back the world-cup-thing that let out the wonderful smelling smoke, and I had to ask her about that tradition and why she’d only done it starting from yesterday and not since the day of the wedding. She answered that the smell of the rosebuds that were decorating the bed on the wedding night was still filling the room and the musk would've killed it, so she didn't do it the first two days. Her answer made me notice how there were lots of things that I wasn't aware of or hadn't paid attention to – like the fact that I hadn't even noticed the disappearance of the rosebuds that had filled the floor the past three days and were gone in the middle of the day yesterday. It made me also notice how everything around me was super organized and everything was very neat, even those silly traditions. Well, some of them. A few of them.
Crazily, I liked the way I was bonding more each day with Mona.
The prince then asked me if I wanted to take that tour of our wing, and I eagerly agreed. My mind forgot everything bad with every new room I saw. Everything was decorated perfectly. And there was nothing I couldn't love. The rooms were pretty, each one of them. The three guest rooms, the three receptions, the two dining rooms and the two living rooms. The kids' rooms were what made my heart flutter inside of my chest; they were too cute and just adorable. Two rooms with two beds, each.
Imagining that those could've been rooms for my kids was a lot for me not to tear up. I’d always loved kids and I'd forever want them. And even if those rooms weren't meant for my kids, I still couldn't help my motherly hormones or whatever inside of me that made my heart ache with longing and hope.
I had a scarf over my shoulders when the prince snuck us out once again, but this time it wasn't down and under the palace – nope, it was on top of it. We got there with hidden ladders behind the secret doors, and the sight from up there was magical.
The sky was beautiful shades of orange and red, and the sun looked amazingly stunning with the perfect round shape and the outstanding golden color. The prince made a little comment about it that made me blush, saying that it was the same beautiful color of my locks.
We watched as the sun disappeared more one moment after another, saying a silent goodbye as it hid behind the clouds, making space for the moon and changing the day right before our eyes into night, something that like star-gazing and mounting climbing I hadn't paid that much attention to before in my life. I had no idea how I was so blind to such beautiful things around me.
"You really like nature, huh?" I asked the prince as I studied him while he studied the sky. It was really inspiring, to learn that this powerful man had such a tender soul that loved to watch the sun as it set and as it rose, loved to gaze at the stars, loved the sky when it was blue and when it was black. Someone who had the whole world in his hands, yet liked simple things that many people didn't even care the slightest for.
"I adore it," he simply replied, and I had to smile, hugging the scarf to my chest in comfort.
"So, nature is your passion?" I asked, titling my head to the side, wondering if he liked horses more or nature.
"Along with other things, yeah," he said with his eyes still gazing away at the sky. I wondered about those other things and what they were, his next question snapping me out of my thoughts.
"What about you, Pretending Princess?" His tone was teasing and his narrowed eyes and lopsided smile were playful, both making me blush hard and look away.
It was so easy to read him this time, because he wasn't trying to hide it. And I completely understood why with the tone and the look. My questions were those of someone who was curious to get to know the other. It was as if I was doing the very thing I'd told him earlier before I fell asleep that I would never do – be friends with him. And I wondered if my mood swings – as they must've appeared to him to be – were giving him whiplash already.
But it really wasn't that simple. I wasn't just moody, with my mood shifting easily and so much, it was just hard inside of me, and hard to explain. The prince was someone interesting; he was very kind, caring, smart and handsome, simply any girl's dream. But he was a Muslim. A part inside of me wanted to get to know him and maybe really be friends. Sometimes I even thought – with all of the chemistry and my attraction to him – that we could be even more. But every time I thought that, I could never help the feeling of being a cheater. As if I was betraying the two people I loved the most, even more than my own parents. And I couldn't do that, I couldn't go on. It was easy to pull away, but it was even easier to be pulled back to him. It was such a war.
Before I could tell him about my obsession with reading that I barely had the time to fulfill, a gasp left my mouth at the sound of loud voices.
The sound wasn't annoying, not at all. It was just surprising. And loud. And I didn't know what it was or where it was coming from. I looked around me in search of the source, but found none, so I asked the prince, "What is this?"
"It's the Azan," he answered.
"The what?"
"Azan. It's the call for prayer. You hear it five times a day, once for each prayer," he explained.
"Why have I never heard it before?"
"Our wing has soundproof walls. Nobody can hear anything from the outside of it or from the inside."
I nodded my understanding, then stood still as I listened to the sound of it; it was surprisingly nice, peaceful and strong. What I felt was curiosity mixed with hints of that feeling you get when you learn about a new thing – you're silent as you take things in and observe and then you're wondering about new questions you never knew you would ask, at all.
The prince was looking at me all the while I listened to it with a small smile on his lips, and when the call for the prayer was finished, I gasped again at the sight of a huge guy in a uniform nearing us as we stood on the roof.
Fright hit me hard, I felt it in my stomach before it made its way to my chest as I watched the guy as he took one step after another toward us, a big gun in his hands just to add to the mix of his thick, black beard and scary, hard features.
"Hey, it's okay, he's just one of the guards," the prince's voice was nearer to me than before. The arm that he threw around me with his hand holding the space between my shoulder and elbow and the squeeze he gave it blew a wave of security and safety right into my face and reached my every sense as he hugged me close to his body.
The guard said some words in Arabic that sounded like a greeting and nodded his head once to the prince then to me without making any eye contact with me.
"If you'll excuse me for not using English right now, Princess, I promise to translate later," the prince asked and I nodded quickly and for a few times.
Their conversation went on for only a minute. All the while the prince was holding me to him in assurance rather than protection since there was no harmful threat anywhere close. It was all in my head, and I knew in my heart that the prince wouldn't let him hurt me if it ever came to that. He'd promised.
The guard didn't glance my way even once, completely ignoring me. His head was bent down all the while he talked to the prince except for a very few times that he looked him in the eye. And I despised the fact that it was for sure because they weren't allowed to look at any of the royal family in the eye or with such humbleness, because that huge guy looked like a slave to me, with no power whatsoever, just by the pose he was taking as he stood in front of the prince.
When the guard was dismissed, he left with another nod to the prince and a nod to me, and then the prince explained that he was changing shifts with another guard and he was only checking if everything was okay or if we needed something.
When it got dark, it was our cue to go back to the wing, because despite the lights that lit up the whole place, there were mosquitos up there which I definitely didn't want to be friends with or get to know any better – because if they were in any way related to the ones in New York, then I was better off away from them.
Once we got back, the prince went to offer his prayer in one of the rooms and I followed him. I watched him pray once again and I still felt the same as I’d felt the first time I saw him praying yesterday.
I didn't know if it was the form of the prayer itself that pulled me to it or the fact that he was the one who was praying. I only knew that I was so touched, still, by the fact that this commanding man who made strong, huge men stand still in respect and obey could be that humble and touch his head to the floor in front of God and for God.
And I found myself yet again holding my cross, closing my eyes and saying my first prayer while holding a cross that was made of diamonds and hearts. Maybe in a different language, maybe with a different religion, maybe in a different prayer, but it was for the same God. And I couldn't love that moment more.
That night as we sat in the living room, the prince taught me more about the secret doors and the alleys. It wasn't so hard to understand with the technique he'd been using to teach me, but I still felt the need to learn it over and over again, and the prince didn't hesitate at all to reply to each of my questions or any of my wonders. And when we were finished with the day's lesson, he burned the paper he was using to show me the directions. The feel of him sharing something that important and secretive with me almost made me dizzy with the war of emotions that consumed me.
For a brief second, I wondered if someday soon I'd be using the information for my escape, but my thoughts were interrupted by Mona informing us of Princess Alice's presence and her request to meet with the prince and me.





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