✧Happily Ever After✧
The first started with the King and the Queen. As they stepped out onto the balcony, the cheer of the crowd was enough to shake the havens and the earth. Erna flinched at the noise and held her breath. It had been a few years since she became a princess, she would have hoped she would be used to the crowds by now.
Erna looked out over the balcony, to the sea of faces all looking at her with bright beaming smiles and elation. The square in front of the palace was filled to bursting.
“I have never seen such a crowd,” Princess Greta said, approaching the frozen Erna, “never in my entire life.”
Erna couldn’t help but smile, Greta was only fourteen, but she seemed to handle the situation with a calmness she did not expect from the little girl.
After Princess Greta came the newly married Crown Prince and Princess. They had pretty much been fighting with Erna to get the front pages of the tabloid and it was easy to see which paper favoured which royal by the story on their front page.
Erna clenched her hand, mostly to support herself than anything else. It was a particularly nervous day for Erna as it was to be the day the twins would be officially introduced to the world for the first time.
While the Crown Prince and Princess waved to the crowd, they responding with more cheers, Erna tidied up her dress. She subconsciously checked her tiara was straight and the pendant of her necklace sat properly. It was the blue diamond Bjorn had bought her on their honeymoon, and had once been the centre of a flurry of accusations of being greedy and extravagant. Now, it had practically become the symbol of the Grand Duchess household.
As the Crowned Prince and Princess had their time in the spotlight, Erna’s heart fluttered wildly, she felt like a glass bead being blown about by the wind. She knew how much the people loved the twins, so what was making her so anxious?
Erna smoothed out the wrinkles on her dress for the hundredth time and became aware that she was going to wear a hole in the dress with how much she was fiddling with it. It was her first official appearance since giving birth.
A low, calm voice crept up from behind her. He was adjusting the blue sash across his chest. She looked Bjorn up and down, her beautiful prince, who had led her from the prison of her life, showed her the world beyond the familiarity of the four walls of her bedroom. The splendid drapery of his uniform dazzled in the sunlight.
He looked into Erna’s pale face and whispered affirmations. Just like the night of their debut meeting, when he had saved a country girl, he came to her now to support her.
Breath. She told herself.
He looked down at Erna with a reassuring smile and held her frozen hand. Erna’s heart became steady just at his touch and as always, his love became her salvation. She wanted to ask him if she looked pretty, fishing for more positive affirmations to help her feel better, but she felt embarrassed at needing such, she was a grown woman, not a little girl.
“Ready?” Bjorn asked and after a brief pause, she nodded.
Bjorn looked behind him and nodded to the babysitters who had been looking after the twins while they went out onto the balcony. The twins were wrapped up in cream coloured lace, marked with a blue satin ribbon. Seeing their serene, sleeping forms, Erna smiled.
After handing over the sword to the attendant, Bjorn hugged Ariel. Erna quickly straightened her glove and took Frederick in her gloved hand. At the same time, the crown prince couple who had finished their greetings turned around.
Now it was their turn to face the cheering masses.
“Bjorn and Erna Dniester, with Ariel and Frederick Dniester.” A servant shouted out, introducing the pair. The Grand Ducal couple stood at the balcony railing.
The cheers shook the whole city, carried by the spring breeze. The curtains and the national flag fluttered vigorously in the wind.
Erna was only just able to catch her breath and worked up the courage to give a small wave to the endless crowd. She only gave a little wave as she was scared of dropping the baby. Bjorn did not share the same fear and he waved as vigorously as he always did, skilfully holding his daughter in one arm.
The crowd chanted the names of the twins. It was a cheer filled with affection and love for the new members of the royal family and erased Erna’s anxiety. She raised her heated eyes and looked at Bjorn, who turned to look down at his wife. When she smiled, he smiled too.
She found herself thinking about her small room in Baden Street, with large windows that gave her a panoramic view of the country side. Orchards and streams, apple blossoms, fields full of flowers that bloomed different colours each season. Every time she blinked her eyes, the memory f the country girl flooded her mind. She had come a long way and she looked back on those times with sadness. She was never going to be that simple country girl again.
She wondered what kind of memories were to come, with the twins and Bjorn. No doubt Leonid and Rosette will have children of their own. She wondered if their children would get along with her children and would she have more?
Erna raised her eyes with sparkling anticipation and looked at Bjorn once more. She tried to imagine him as an old man, just like his father, and she would be just like Isabelle. Bjorn bowed his head and kissed her, something she did not expect and she was brought back to the present.
The warm spring sunlight fell on Erna’s smiling face. The voices of the children woke her as they grew louder. The shadows of their movements played through her eyelids and she slowly opened her eyes to see a pair of wet, slobbery lips lean down to kiss her a hundred times.
Bjorn stood by the bed, checking his pocket watch. “Wake up Erna, three minutes left.”
“Hmm?” Erna mumbled sleepily.
“You made so much fuss about tradition, but seem to have completely forgotten.”
Erna sat up with a surprised sigh. The twins clapping as their mother slowly came back to the land of wakefulness. Tradition was precious, she thought, as she bundled herself out of the bed before the twins could pile on top of her.
Hurriedly she tided up her hair and looked around for some clothes. Tradition was precious, but there was no way she could go out onto the balcony naked, she started to imagine all the gossip and scandal.
“One minute,” Bjorn said, handing over a gown to Erna. Erna hurriedly put it on and went out onto the balcony.
“Bjorn, are you coming, hurry,” she called back into the bedroom.
Bjorn smiled as he hugged his son, carrying him out with him. His wife’s impudent attitude was understandable, given the other tradition the two shared on the eve of the fountain being turned on.
Bjorn took the struggling Frederick out onto the balcony with him and as they stood side by side, the entire Grand Ducal family, they witnessed the first sputtering jets of the Grand Fountain. They all cheered with joy as the sound of splashing water reached them.
“It really has become a family tradition,” Erna whispered as she stared at the sparkling water. Bjorn leaned in and hugged all three of them together.
“Shall we have breakfast in the greenhouse? Orange trees are blossoming.” Bjorn made the suggestion as he wiped a tear from Erna’s cheek.
The twins loved the peacocks that lived in the greenhouse, a gift from the Queen of Lorca. It would be a nice quiet morning to have breakfast in the greenhouse and watch the birds.
“Fo…un…tin.” Bjorn’s eyes softened as he looked down at his daughter, who clumsily stumbled over the words.
They were already making plans to build a hundred snowmen during the winter, when the twins would be big enough to hop through the snow on their own. The smell of sweets and the soft, childish giggles, were no longer a dream or a fantasy.
Frederick looked like he was in a playful mood. People had taken to calling him Rick, to which Bjorn religiously reminded everyone that his nick name was Bibi. The name that was intended for him, was now given to his son and Bjorn had ever intention of teasing him for it when he got old enough.
And his wife, Erna.
He smile resembed the wind of this spring, looking at him with loving eyes.
Following their newly founded tradition, the Grand Ducal couple took in the landscape together, until the waters of the fountain flowed out along the canal and to the Abit river.
The flowers will bloom, then wither, then bloom again and Bjorn knew he was going to enjoy them every year. Like the ending of a beautiful fairy tale, about the prince fell in love with the princess, happily ever after.
“I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the loyal readers who followed Problematic Prince from its inception to its conclusion. Translating this story has been a roller coaster of emotions, for the past 6 months. I’d also like to extend a massive thank you to my exceptional co-editor, Carl, whose invaluable support has enabled me to release a new chapter every day. Apologies for any shortcomings in the translation; rest assured, I will continue to strive for improvement in the future.”