Melody kept putting one foot after the other, trying to keep her balance in those high heels. Her heart was beating faster by the second. Everything about her pinched and twitched, her dress, her hair, her shoes…
‘It’s fine, see! Nobody’s laughing!’, she thought to herself and smiled sweetly at the people below. Each step brought her closer to them. She smiled even sweeter and clutched her locket. ‘I’m Melody. I’m no princess, I’m Melody!’, she reminded herself.
Jim was in a trance. He stared at the girl coming down the stairs. She was very young. Hardly sixteen, he guessed. He found that he couldn’t move and wondered if anyone could. Her black hair, it was so…dark and…beautiful. She was a vision in a dress. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Her smile was pretty and cute and her lips were as pink as her cheeks.
As she reached the floor, he felt his heart beginning to pound. He noticed he was still staring and with much effort, finally managed to tear away his gaze to return to the kitchen, but not without turning around once more. A young man, maybe a year or two older than himself was bowing to her, offering her his hand. She took it and they began dancing.
Jim tried his best to concentrate, but for the next part of the night, he watched her dance. She was graceful, like a princess from a book. He looked through the little hole in the kitchen and couldn’t stop looking at her face. Yes, it was beautiful and soft and her features were close to perfect, but still he thought he saw something more. Was it fear? Or maybe sadness? He couldn’t quite tell, but she just seemed like so much more than some princess in a pretty dress…
Melody turned off her thoughts, striving for perfection. And she realized it worked. One of the men she danced with even congratulated her on how she seemed different. More elegant. Melody didn’t remember dancing with him before, but he seemed to remember her from last time. She smiled at him and thanked him for the compliment.
The evening went on like that, she didn’t have one minute to herself and was dancing the whole night. She soon felt extremely dizzy. She wasn’t allowed to eat, because of her dress and dancing so much without eating anything made her feel slightly sick.
The night got later and once, for a moment, Melody caught a glimpse of something flying through the air, something small and…violet? But it was only for a moment and Melody blamed her lightheadedness.
After hours and hours and hours, the first guests began to leave. Her mother and father saw them off and thanked them for coming, while a young boy she had never seen before went to grab their coats.
After a while the pauses in between dancing got longer and Melody finally had a chance to sit down. She clutched her locket again and smiled to herself. This was something no one could ever take from her. She wouldn’t let them.
Jim had to start scrubbing the used dishes, but he was used to it. After a while he noticed Morph had left his pocket and he sighed to himself and hoped to God they wouldn’t see him, deciding to look for him later.
Jim noticed the guests were slowly but surely leaving as he gathered the rest of the dishes from the ballroom. He saw Danny at the entrance, helping all the rich people into the coats. Jim grinned and grimaced at Daniel, who stuck his tongue out at him when no one was looking.
Then Jim saw the princess sitting on a bench not far away. She was clutching her locket, her eyes closed, smiling. His first thought was that a man had given it to her. A man she loved. He didn’t know in that moment that he was right, but not in the way he thought.
In the next hour, all guests had gone. Jim cleaned the rest of the dishes, which took him another half an hour and then went to find Morph, hoping nobody had seen him.
He went through the empty ballroom, where the servants and a few of the boys from the ship were sweeping and mopping. Jim carefully opened the door and strode through the empty and dark hallways. They were large, he couldn’t even see the ceiling, which was probably also due to the dark. “Morph.”, he whispered. “Morph!” There was no sound.
Melody had resigned to her room for the day. She unbraided her hair and let it fall over her shoulders. She got out of her dress somehow and put on her white nightgown. It was slightly see-through, but she didn’t notice. She was still feeling a bit dizzy. The night had been so strenuous and hard, she didn’t want to just leave it at that. She wanted the last few minutes of the night to be nice. So she could go to sleep with a nice feeling in her stomach. She stood up and decided to sneak off to the library. Still clutching her locket that hung around her neck, she closed the door behind her and made her way across the dark and empty hallway.
As she reached the library, she sat down and looked out of the large window. It spread right up to the ceiling and showed a great view of the ocean and the night sky.
Suddenly she felt the need to sing a song. Just to feel like herself again. Just to show that she did things princesses didn’t. She opened her mouth and began singing. With every tone, she felt better. Princesses don’t sing? Well, she was singing. And by doing that, she proved to herself again that she was more than everybody knew or understood. She was Melody. Fifteen years old. A girl who loved to swim in the ocean and sing. She was a mermaid. Not a princess. And she loved it.
He wandered on, looking for Morph and whispering. Jim kind of disliked the people here. They reminded him a great deal of all the people at home. They judged everything and everyone, they were greedy and arrogant and selfish. And still Jim was excited to be here. This was a big thing. He was part of a very serious mission and he was going to do his best to...
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a tone echoing through his head. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard. He sneaked along the hallway, trying to find out where this overwhelming sound was coming from. When he got closer, he realized it was someone singing, a girl maybe...
Jim checked every door and was now determined to find out who it was. He could understand the words now...
“You may not be a prince,
but I still find you charming,
you might not be knight,
but you rescue me every day,
and you may have no armour,
but you're shining...”
Jim finally found the door and peaked through a crack. What he saw almost threw him off his feet. It was the princess! She was wearing nothing but her nightgown and she was sitting in the library all by herself, singing quietly. The way the moonlight shone upon her black, long hair, that was still curled from the braid she had worn earlier took Jim's breath away for a moment. Her voice...it was clear and high and echoed through the room, through his mind...truly, the most beautiful girl, er, voice in the world.
He took a step closer, when suddenly Morph appeared next to him, hovering over his shoulder excitedly. He squeaked and rubbed against his cheek.
“Ssshhh, quiet, Morph!”, he hissed under his breath. But Morph was too excited he had found his friend again. He giggled with his high-pitched voice and started zooming around Jim’s head. “Morph, stop it, cut it out!” Jim took another step back and tried to catch him, when he stumbled and pushed open the library doors as he fell inside the room.
Melody spun around and saw the boy lying on the floor, getting up. “Who are you? What are doing here? Were you...” She jumped up and suddenly noticed the singing had been quite hard on her head, which was already spinning. Her knees got weak and suddenly everything went black.
Jim sprang to his feet. “Oh, God!” He ran over to her and lifter her head onto his lap. “Damn it!”, he muttered to himself. Morph lurked over his shoulder. Jim turned to him, looking mad. “This is all your fault, you hyperactive little blob!” Morph looked guilty and sank onto Jim’s shoulder in shame.
Jim turned his attention back to the princess. “Hey. Hey, you.”, he whispered. “Are you okay?” He suddenly noticed her nightgown was see-through and blushed. “Oh, damn.”
He looked around and then carefully picked up the princess, trying not to look at her. He ordered Morph to follow him and carried her out and towards the kitchen.
He had seen this plenty of times before. His mother used to always forget to eat and then she worked herself to the bone waiting on tables. She used to have this quite a lot.
He reached the kitchen and was glad to see it was empty. He sat her down next to a counter. “Hey.”, he whispered very softly and touched her face. “Wake up, okay?”
Melody slowly began opening her eyes. The first thing she saw was a boy about her age. His face was calm and strangely soothing and she just looked at him for a moment, before asking: “Where are we?”
“In the kitchen.”, he replied and shook his head. “You need to eat something, you’re completely worn out.”
Suddenly her memories returned to her. “Did you see me in the library?”, she asked him.
“Yeah, I did. I heard you singing and then I found you there.” He looked away and added: “You have a really beautiful voice.”
Melody’s eyes widened. “Did you just say I have a pretty voice?”
“I said beautiful, actually.”, he said and grinned at her. “Why?”
“Nothing, it’s just...no one has ever said that to me before...”
“What? I don’t believe that, someone must have noticed it before!”
“Well, no...I don’t really usually sing when people are around. Princesses shouldn’t sing.”
Jim stared at her. “Why not? If they’re good at it...”
She looked at the boy in front of her. He was surely peculiar. And yet she liked him.
Suddenly he got up and grabbed an apple. “Here.”, he said and handed it to her. “Eat this while I make you something proper to eat.”
“You really don’t have to-“
“I won’t have you faint all over the place.”, he said and started cutting up some vegetables to make a soup.