Genevieve woke from a normal night of sleep: heavy and dreamless. She slipped out of bed and allowed herself to be dressed.
“Today,” she whispered to her white-and-black reflection.
She made her way to the dining room downstairs, where Hamlin was already eating breakfast.
“Morning, dear,” she said, rubbing the broad, hunched shoulders.
“Morning,” he mumbled without raising his head.
“Are you ready?” She asked cheerily. Hamlin lifted an inscrutable blue gaze, and dropped it again in silence.
“Oh, come. It's going to be fine,” Genevieve soothed, seating herself at the table. She wasn't going to let him see how her hands trembled against everything they touched. Actually, she wasn't going to let herself see that, either.
“I mentioned that background information that Papa gave me yesterday?”
“I don't want to see it,” Hamlin rumbled. “I want to go to my room and stay there...” he stopped chewing. “Forever.”
“Stop it. Let me read it to you. This is good, it will help us be prepared. We'll know what to expect.”
Genevieve set the brown paper packet down upon the linen tablecloth. It was wrapped up with twine, and had been labeled The Simon siblings in black ink. She bit her lips and stared at it for a second. Then she made herself tug off the twine and remove the contents.
Three small, cream-colored cards lay within.
She picked up the first one, and read it out loud.
“'Percival Simon. Twenty-one years of age. Soft-hearted, deeply protective of loved ones. Very concerned about fulfilling responsibility. Carefree and playful, when he gets the chance, but lately rarely does. Full of longing, full of sorrow. Doubts himself easily. Tends to be scatterbrained.'”
Genevieve looked long at the card in silence. Hamlin's fork scraped against his china plate. She carefully set the card down and picked up the next one.
“'Musetta Simon. Nineteen years of age. Poet. Veritable master with words, both written and spoken. Opinionated, impulsive, outgoing, flirtatious. Wildly imaginative. Occasionally tactless. Has only the best of intentions, but is often more talk than action. Will make a good leader, once she gains self-control and grows into her personality.'
“Hm,” Genevieve murmured with a frown.
At length, she took up the last card.
“'Soleil Simon. Eighteen years of age. Shy, introverted to the extreme. Tends to be serious. Is more of a reader than a writer. Perennially soft and sweet, but has a temper like fire if provoked. Lacks her siblings' artistic capacities, but has enough common sense for the three of them put together.'”
Silence reigned. Genevieve stacked the cards into a neat pile on the table. Hamlin was using his eyes to bore a hole into his breakfast.
“Well, I think they sound lovely,” Genevieve said briskly. Her knife chittered against the butter dish as she attempted to spread butter onto her muffins.
“Genevieve,” Hamlin said slowly, “what if they laugh at us? What if they refuse to take us seriously? We have no way of knowing how Slumberers would react to this.”
“But they're not Slumberers. Not anymore,” Genevieve said, smiling. “They've already met Mort, and they're on their way here. Besides – they're Viviana's children, for goodness' sake! If they're anything like her, we'll be fine. And the King wouldn't have summoned them here if they weren't,” she added matter-of-factly.
Hamlin stared down into his teacup. “I wonder how they took it, the waking up.”
“Very well, I should imagine,” Genevieve replied. “Probably didn't come as too much of a shock. They'd been prepared their entire lives, after all.”
“When did Mort find them?”
“Just around midnight. They should be here any minute.”
“Gen,” Hamlin rasped, lifting his gaze helplessly, “I'm not ready for this. It's been too long. Three years is too long. What if -”
“That's why it's happening now,” Gen interrupted gently. “You won't be better prepared by waiting another moment. The only thing you'll be tomorrow is one day older. Did you think we could stay hidden away in this castle forever, brother?” She reached across the table to take his hand.
There was a great whirring from the courtyard, followed by the clattering of hooves.
“Look alive, Prince Hamlin,” Gen whispered. “There are guests at your gate.”
Hamlin stood to his feet and grimly made his way towards the door. Genevieve followed, pulling her hat's black netting forward over her face. Her fingers brushed the locket: it rested against her breastbone, shivering with each pulse.
Copyright © 2012 by Olivia Meldrum
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