She was dressed in pure radiance, the very picture of beauty. But her smile, though lovely, was anything but real. She had been to so many balls before that she had quickly lost count, and this one was just like any other.
Already she had been asked to dance with the usual men. They were always the same. None were ever right. None were ever the one she searched for. They were always more concerned about her status or her looks rather than who she truly was.
Then again, she doubted anyone really knew just who she was. A princess, yes. But lonely. So lonely.
"Dance with me, Princess?"
A young lord bowed before her and she rose with a soft sigh. Beaming, he swept her off toward the crowded ballroom floor. The room was a flurry of movement and color as the guests danced together. Laughter could be heard over the sound of the stringed instruments providing the lively music.
The princess allowed her gaze to sweep the crowd as she danced with the young lord, and she could not help but wonder when the king was going to appear. It was by his invitation that she was in his kingdom at all, and she knew that everyone here was earnestly awaiting his appearance. No one had ever seen him before, but everyone knew that he was the most wonderful, kind king in the whole seven kingdoms.
She wanted so badly to meet him.
A murmuring suddenly filled the room, replacing the laughter. A new, lovely song filled the air as the people quieted, and some even stopped dancing. Everyone had turned to look expectantly at the large open doorway.
Even her dance partner had taken an interest in whoever it was arriving. He gave a quick bow and then hurried off deeper into the crowd. The princess stayed where she was, suddenly afraid. What if the king did not like her? Or worse, what if he did not even notice her? There were so many people...
A man entered the ballroom. He was young, and he had the most pleasant face the princess had ever seen. His clothes were of pure white and even though he was obviously of great royalty, he smiled and talked openly with anyone that addressed him.
"Is that the king?" the princess asked a nearby dancing couple.
Glancing up from his wife, the dancing man took one look at the new arrival and shook his head. "That is his son, the prince of the seventh kingdom."
Hope filled the princess as she watched the prince make his way through the crowd. Would he notice her? She was too frightened to go up to him herself, so she simply watched from afar. He danced with many women--young and old--throughout the night, and he even spent the time to talk with the men as well. But he never came to her.
It became very late. It seemed to her the prince had danced or talked with everyone in the ballroom, and the princess was the only one that sat alone, quiet and anxious. She wanted so badly to meet him...
"Why are you afraid?"
Startled from her thoughts, the princess glanced up--right at the prince himself. He smiled down at her, and a peace blossomed within her. He had come to her...even though she had nearly been hiding from him.
Many people had left the ball by now, and the people were no longer dancing. A sadness filled the princess's heart. She desired to dance with the prince. A sudden conviction came over her, telling her that if she danced with him it would somehow change her forever. To be in the presence of such a magnificent, powerful man...The princess was too shy to ask him to dance with her. She told herself she was just being silly. Why was she so disappointed that she would not get to dance with him? Silly.
"I...just am." she said softly, avoiding his gaze.
He laughed, and the princess could not help but look at him again. He was so pure, so unlike the other men she had met.
"I thought that if you did not come to me by this time, I would have to go to you myself," he said with a smile. "Because there is one thing I must ask you."
A small gasp escaped from her mouth as the princess stared at him in surprise. He had been waiting for her all night? For the first time in ages, a smile graced her face as she listened to what he had to ask. And this time, the smile was genuine and full of joy.
"My princess, can I have this dance?"