It was morning when Ray departed Hope on a diplomatic tour of the kingdoms. Unlike most trips, his best friend would not be one of the party.
Moira was required to remain in the capital during the time that led up to her birthday that would bring her of age. Many new responsibilities had yet to be learnt and implemented, as well as a city-wide festival to prepare for. The extravagant merriment was, not only to celebrate the momentous occasion, but also the anniversary of the founding of the city. A grand ball and banquet was to be held at the culmination of the festivities, one day after the Princess’s sixteenth birthday.
The event would take place three months after the departure date, the Prince promised to return before this time.
Having bid farewell to his parents and a few other dignitaries, Ray then approached Moira to bid her farewell.
She was speaking with her mother, her face turned away from him.
“I am away then,” he spoke, as he leant forwards to plant a friendly kiss on her cheek,
Hearing him address her, the young woman turned her head, just in time meet his lips with hers.
For a few shocked seconds, they were frozen, fused together at their mouths.
The moment passed, they both took a couple of uneasy steps back from one another.
Their companions could do nothing save watch on in amused silence as the young people strove to maintain their composure.
At length, Ray stammered, “till…,” he cleared his throat, “till we meet again.” He bowed and, without hesitation, mounted his horse.
“Safe travels,” she called out to him as the party started to move off.
After a little way, Ray glanced back.
There she stood, gazing after him, a finger pressed lightly against her lips.
This image of her seared itself into his mind for the entirety of the journey. Over the following months, many new thoughts began to wander through his mind.
The memory of her lips against his, the warmth of her embrace, the smoothness of her skin, the softness of her hair, the melody of her voice. He began to feel butterflies at the mere thought of her smile or mention of her name.
The travellers returned to Hope, one day ahead of schedule, upon the eve before the ball. With no official greeting party to meet them, Ray wasted no time in tracking down Moira’s location.
Knocking on the door to her private rooms, he could feel his heart beating in his throat, anticipation rising with every tap.
She was facing away from the door, towards a mirror stood in front of a panoramic window, the setting sun bathing her in a warm orange glow.
She wore a dress made from many large and beautiful flowers, in which she twirled about herself, growing a few new ones as she moved them seamlessly around her body with smooth waves of her hand. A look of irritation merged with dissatisfaction flickered across her face.
“I’m back.” Ray spoke from the door way.
She turned with a gasp and he felt his heart skip a beat as her face lit up to behold him. She launched herself across the room, flinging her arms around him as they collided, “welcome back!”
Ray managed to maintain his balance.
“You have perfect timing,” she declared, grinning at him as she extracted herself from his arms which had automatically wrapped around her.
She gave a twirl, “this dress is for the extravaganza tomorrow, what do you think?” She held out the skirts to show the variety of vibrant and fascinating flowers.
With an objective mind, the prince replied, “it’s very… extravagant, although, it is maybe a little over the top. If I am entirely honest, I don’t think that it suits your personality very well.
The Princess nodded, a small sigh of relief escaped her lips, “thank goodness you said as much. It was my mother’s suggestion, big and bright, however I just can’t seem to make it work. I think I shall go with a much simpler design.”
Before his eyes, the blossoms reverted back into buds, the buds to stems and the stems to seeds which feel to floor where they disappeared into dust.
All that remained was a woman in her undergarments. Feeling a sudden heat rise through him, colouring his cheeks, Ray found himself scrambling for something else to focus on. His hand dug into his pocket as she covered herself with a robe, seemingly unaware of his discomfort, however with an almost unnoticeable rosy tint to her cheeks.
“Here,” he drew a small velvet pouch from his cloak. “Happy Birthday.” She took the gift from his outstretched hand, “but the celebration is not until tomorrow.”
“And your birthday is today.” His reply came with cheekily raised eyebrow, “Whilst I was in the former East, at the glass forges, I was given one, very short lesson on how to make glass ornaments. It’s far from perfect, however I think that you will like it.”
Opening the bag, Moira tipped into the palm of her hand, a small glass daisy on a slim silver chain. “Oh,” her breath caught, “Ray, it is beautiful, I love it. Thank you.” She slipped her arms around him once again, “my favourite flower,” she murmured.
A few moments in to the thankful hug, she drew back with a quick movement. “It actually gives me a wonderful idea.” At this statement she began to usher him out of the room, “I have work to do,” she chuckled.
Having opened the door for him, she paused. “Out of curiosity,” she asked, “what is your favourite flower?”
Ray thought for a moment, “I suppose, probably those sunflowers that are smaller than usual sunflowers. I find them very cheerful.”
She nodded, a playful twinkle in her eye, “alright then.”
She shut the door behind him.
For a moment or so, Ray stood, simply staring at the door, grinning to himself. In his mind there was only one thought.
“So this is love.”
The following day at the ball, the princess appeared wearing a simple yet elegant dress made entirely of daisies, with a necklace to match, and a single dwarf sunflower over her heart.