The Royal Palace
An orange and pink radiance illuminated the sky and showered the terrain as the sun set over Watima—a city in the country of Kéra Asnela. With a population of twenty-four million inhabitants, Kéra Asnela was home to many diverse people in the continent of East Africa.
Spread across one hundred and twenty acres of land sat Winthrope Estate Palace—home to the five members of the royal family: King Isaac Winthrope, Crown Prince Remington Winthrope, Prince Omari Winthrope, Princess Cadence Winthrope, and Princess Cadena Winthrope, who was also Advisor to the King.
On the east wing of the palace, next to a thicket on the manicured lawn, a leopard stretched, yawned, then laid down, closing his eyes for a nap.
A few feet away at the open terrace doors, a ruffled Cadena paced back and forth, stopping to glance at herself in the full-length mirror before picking up her pace again.
“Tell the princess that she is requested at my side, please,” she said to Amara—who was a part of her retinue.
“Yes, your highness.” The woman ran quickly to get Princess Cadence.
Standing idly next to the mirror, Cadena’s primary assistant, Tally, spoke.
“When are you going to stop pretending that you yourself are not a princess?”
“You call it pretending; I call it non-acknowledgment.”
“You cannot just change the rules on a whim because you do not like them. Royal tradition would’ve fallen long ago if that were the case.”
“What’s that European saying about rules made to be broken?”
“Well, it’s a good thing you are not European.”
Cadena’s brows dipped. “Why do you care so much about my acceptance anyway? You know this family doesn’t take certain traditions too seriously.”
“And yet, The Spirit does.”
Cadena froze, and her eyes left the mirror, slowly moving to Tally. “Why must you bring The Spirit into this?”
“So, you can face reality. You have the visions. The gift is only given to the next in line to be wed or queen. That’s you. Or are you no longer receiving the sight?”
Tally waited quietly for Cadena to lie, but Cadena’s mouth was tight-lipped, her jaw locked. Not even her breathing could be heard.
The tall wooden mahogany double doors to the room opened, and Cadence, Cadena’s twin sister, floated through the door. She was donned in a royal gown with their sacred blue and gold colors deeply engrained in the material. At the bottom of the gown, jewels laced the trim.
“Everyone is waiting for you in the courtyard.”
Cadena’s brows dipped. “Everyone?”
Cadena turned around to face her sister. “Everyone?” she emphasized.
Cadence smiled and sighed. “You know the guests wait for you to make an entrance. They are mingling amongst themselves, but official family pictures cannot be taken without you.”
Cadence balked. “You’re the next queen.”
“I am not the next queen. You are.”
“I don’t have the visions.”
Cadena sighed and dared not glance at Tally. “I cannot be a queen without a king, and furthermore, I have no desire to be in that position.” She almost rolled her eyes, but years of training in royal etiquette prevented her from such an expression, even in her personal quarters.
“Regardless. The handsome photographer hasn’t snapped one photo of the family.”
Cadena pressed her lips together. “Why do you call him the handsome photographer? Doesn’t he have a name?”
Cadence blushed. “Mr. Raphael Valentine, the handsome photographer from the States, has not taken one photo of the family because everyone is waiting for you. Is that better?”
“You know he is wedded; why do you blush over him as you do?”
“He’s gorgeous, and I have eyes, sister. Don’t you?”
“Of course I do, but The Spirit wouldn’t like you gushing over a wedded man.”
“Oh, now she cares what The Spirit thinks,” Tally murmured.
Cadena cut her eyes at Tally, then turned to face her completely.
“I always care about what The Spirit thinks. I love The Spirit, respect The Spirit, and worship The Spirit every day with my prayers. Just because I have my own thoughts, feelings, and desires doesn’t mean I discredit The Spirit.”
“I did not mean to—”
“You’re excused, Tally.”
The room quieted, then Tally nodded and fast-walked out of the room. Cadena took in a breath, then turned back to face her sister.
“You were saying?”
“The King, Prince, and Princess of Myriad are joined with our family. The King, the Princes, and the Princess of Befania, and the presidents of Zambia and Zimbabwe are also waiting for your entrance. It’s rude to keep them waiting.”
“This celebration is for Aunt Imani and her companion Hakim. There is no reason why everyone should be waiting on me.”
“And yet they are.”
Cadena stared at her sister.
“You could take a lot of anxiety off your shoulders if you embrace your royal roots and stop fighting the inevitable.”
“I called you in here to ask about this dress.”
Cadence’s eyes traveled over the gown. The top half of the material was gold and wrapped around Cadena’s breasts, then flared lightly over her belly and hips, flowing down to her ankles in cobalt blue.
“The gown is beautiful.”
“What about my arms?”
“What about them?”
Cadena sighed. “Does it appear improper or not, Cadence?”
“Not. I think it’s sexy.”
Cadena’s eyes widened, and she spoke in their Swahili language. “Ninaiondoa.” I’m taking it off.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“So you think it’s okay to be sexy in front of guests?”
“Sister, you’ve got it naturally. It’s not the garb that makes you sexy, per se. It’s you. Don’t look at it as a bad thing. I’m sure Gemini will love it, yes?”
Cadena peered at her sister. “Why would I care what my royal guard would love?” She folded her arms.
“Have you forgotten that you’ve confided in me, or are there some ears close by that I need to know about?”
Cadena closed her lips. It was true; she’d entrusted her sister with the deep-seated desires she carried for her guard, Gemini. But those desires didn’t go farther than the whispers from her lips to Cadence’s ears.
“You were never supposed to repeat that in public.”
“Sister, I don’t know if you can’t tell, but we’re not in public.”
“You’re not to speak the words ‘Gemini and me’ into the atmosphere ever.”
They stared at each other for a long moment. Then Cadence took a breath.
“Okay. Can you calm down?”
“I am calm.”
“Yes, and that’s why your chest is heaving heavily…because you’re calm.”
Cadena turned from her sister and dropped her head back, attempting to steady her inhalation.
Cadena lifted a hand, silencing Cadence. She strolled to the open terrace, refreshed by the refreshing breeze that cruised across her face, neck, and shoulders. She rested her hands on the marble balcony’s edge and stared at the peacefully sleeping leopard.
In the distance, music could be heard. Cadena knew it was the joyful sounds of festivities from Aunt Imani and Uncle Hakim’s ceremonial celebration.
Cadence’s voice sliced through the noise when she spoke. “Sister, while I don’t know your struggle—I understand it. To be smitten with someone who will never be destined as your life-mate must crush your heart. But if it helps any, Father will allow you to love who you want to love. He will—”
“It’s only desire. I can get over it.” Cadena’s spirit wrestled with that tale. “And furthermore, it’s not tradition. Father would be prouder if I honored the sacred traditions. Besides, you heard Tally. I have the visions. It means I’m next. That person can’t be…be…” Cadena sighed. “There’s no point of entertaining such yearnings regardless of what I want or…feel.”
“You can fall in love with someone else. You could change your guard and remove yourself from any memories or longing for him through space and time. It’s ultimately up to you.”
Warm arms covered Cadena’s as Cadence closed her in an embrace. “I love you.”
Cadena smiled, looking at the horizon. “I love you, too.”
“Come, please. You know the next person to march in here will be Remington.”
Cadena smirked. “Swinging all of his testosterone everywhere with that deep voice: ‘Cadena, it is rude to keep our guests waiting!’” she mimicked.
They laughed, their high-pitched amusement carried off into the clouds. Cadena turned around to face her sister. “We’re off.”
Cadena slipped into her golden shoes, and together they left her quarters.
Read Chapter Two HERE.