Royals, hm?

Maya catapulted headfirst off her bed, landing on the finely carpeted floor with a colossal thump. Wait, carpeted? Maya grasped the side of the bed and got up, looking around the room. The side of a fine mahogany four-poster bed, she soon realized. Puzzled, she tried to figure out what kind of weird dream this seemed to be. For, in place of her purple LED Light lit bedroom with posters of Will Smith and Kobe Bryant, there were rich, gold-plated paintings of aristocrats seated upon thrones. In place of her rose-gold, pull-out, sit-down dresser that had been her 16th birthday gift, was a pale ivory dressing table adorned with white and blue lace. A baby pink bow hung off the end of the open drawer, which upon further inspection, proved to contain sashes of every colour, ranging from bluebell blue to deep purple. But what made Maya realize that something was truly amiss, was the fair-haired girl curled up on the bed, dressed in a cream nightgown. Maya was certain that she’d hit her head too hard when she fell off the bed. She edged closer to the sleeping girl. She looked like some delicate princess who’d wandered off the set of a Hollywood period drama. As she was about to wake her, the bedroom door was flung open, and a stern-faced, matronly woman rushed in, clanging a silver bell. “Hurry up, Princess, you’ll need hours of primping to alter that ghastly countenance.” she said, hurriedly tugging apart the curtains and overthrowing the bedspread. Maya scrambled to move out of the way as gorgeous sunlight poured into the room, illuminating the massive chamber. But what caught her eye was the vast expanse of sea that beckoned from the window, the steep overlooking cliff edged with pink and purple bougainvillaea. Pushing open the window, Maya breathed in the salty sea air in gulps, staring in wonder at the gardener who was dressed in ancient-looking clothes. Whatever was this place, and why could nobody see her?

If she went by her surroundings, and the bevy of maids scrubbing the fair-haired princess clean while they deftly braided her hair, she could assume that she’d somehow been transported into the settings of an old storybook, or possibly even gone back in time. Maya wasn’t too astonished, she was the sort who'd take something like that in her stride. Besides, everyone knew that you’d be out of the strange, mysterious place soon enough, so one had to enjoy these experiences while they lasted. But what Maya was annoyed about was the fact that she was literally living within the pages of her adored fantasy books in a royal land, yet she seemed not to be the main character. Heck, she’d even have settled for the brown-haired best friend who would serve as a plot device and to make the main character seem prettier, but here she was stuck being utterly invisible. She definitely wasn’t the main character in real life, so this annoying twist of fate was really grating on her nerves.

Back to the fair-haired main character. Maya watched curiously as she walked out in the dress that had been picked out for her, following the matronly lady and the princess down a staircase. Unfortunately, the portraits that stared down at her were quite ugly, and the cheap taffeta of ladies-in-waiting in the room below made Maya wonder about the status of this particular royal family. As they walked into the room, the princess grabbed a short, dazed looking girl and whispered frantically in her ear, “I know it is Father’s greatest wish for a prosperous alliance with Nord, but the thought of marrying that disgraceful man is upsetting me so!”

Maya’s ears immediately perked up. This had all the beginnings of a perfect enemies-to-lovers romance that she so loved to read. Leaning on the banister, she continued to eavesdrop, hoping for some mention of a poor, handsome stable boy who was the first and true love of the princess’ life. She was disappointed when she heard the dazed girl whisper, “He may yet prove to be your one true love, Esme! Prince K is better than having no one at all!”

Interesting. So the princess had never loved anyone before. Even better, this could be the first love trope.

The day passed, and soon it was a dull autumnal evening. Maya waited with bated breath for the arrival of the famed prince, which she was absolutely convinced would be at a ball. The princess had even picked out a ball gown-esque outfit. She followed them to the parlour room. Alright, maybe the famed ‘sworn enemies dancing together with palpable sexual tesnions, swaying under the chandelier as the prince drew the princess close by placing one hand on the small of her back’ scene wasn’t going to happen, but maybe this would allow for the marriage of convenience trope. Maya wasn’t going to give up so easily.

Trumpets sounded. The prince’s arrival was announced. And Maya was so stunned, she forgot to move out of the way of the maidservant who was clutching a tray of tea. Fortunately, she simply passed through her.

Maya stared, and then stared some more. She could not believe it. The man standing in front of her was the most….old she had ever seen a prince be. He was at least fifty years old, complete with a potbelly and a perpetual sneer. At that moment, Maya felt worried for a second, and then immediately relaxed. Of course, the first guy introduced was never the actual love interest. Now, there would come along an effortlessly charming, deviant, grinning dark-haired prince who would somehow save the princess from her fate, not that she would thank him for it. And then, they would-

Maya’s inner ramblings stopped short. In what seemed like the world functioning at 1.5x speed, a series of events fast forwarded around her. The fair princess marrying the old guy. Twins born nine months later. The fair princess greeting subjects, arranging flowers, crocheting. Years passing by speedily, and there was absolutely no sign of a dark-haired troublemaker.

Maya was dizzy by the time she woke up in her bed. Yes, her bed. She looked around. Her Fresh Prince of Bel Air poster grinned back at her. There was no sign of anything remotely royal. And no, Maya was absolutely certain that it was not a dream.

She leaned against her pillow thoughtfully. Absolutely nothing she had seen had been like any of the royal books and stories she pored over. It was a crushing sense of….relief.

While her friends fawned over royal balls and escapades and wished they lived in that era, Maya was secretly glad she didn’t, for she’d rather stay miserable in hours of online classes and retain her right to vote than be a trophy wife with a dozen royal babies and no civil rights, aeons ago.

Author: Ananya Chaure

Editor: Durva Shesh

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