Every part of Arya’s body was drenched. The heavy raindrops pelting on her head did not stop her from trudging on. She was a woman on a mission that had to succeed by all possible means. A mission that had been planned for so long. For years, she’d dreamed of the moment when she’d finally meet him, the king of Niveria Kingdom. And if all went well, it was going to happen in a few minutes.
The universe seemed to conspire with her because less than a minute later, a car cruised to a stop ahead of her. It was the very car she had been waiting for, a black Rolls Royce. As she walked forward, a head bobbed out of the window.
As she drew closer, she saw that face that was very familiar with. None of the pictures she’d seen had done justice to it. He had a perfectly symmetrical facial structure. His prominent jaw curved the lower part of his face creating sharp planes. The black hair on his head was neatly combed back. King Armand had to the most handsome man Arya had seen up close but that did nothing to lessen the hatred in her heart. He was dressed so casually in a white polo shirt it was hard to believe he was the king she had seen in pictures, always dressed to kill.
“Hello,” he said, lips curving into a breathtaking smile. There was nothing gentle on his face except his smile. “Why on earth is a beautiful woman such as yourself walking in the rain?”
Arya managed a sweet bashful smile and held up a drenched map. “Uhmm I’m new to the island and my first shift at the tea factory was supposed to start an hour back.”
She made sure not to look straight into his eyes, aware that the king had a soft spot for vulnerable women. For that reason, she had to appear like a damsel in distress. “I failed to convince the manager to let me work after being late on my first day. I’m trying to find my way out of this place.”
“Where are you going?” he asked. “I’ll give you a lift.”
“Thanks but I don’t know you, sir. I’m not sure I can get into your car.”
She started to walk and the rain increased immediately. “Stop. I’m Armand, the king of this island.”
She stopped and turned, walking back. “Oh my goodness! I’m sorry I did not recognize you. I recently lost everything and I’ve been so stressed out I didn’t do enough research on the island.”
“Don’t worry,” he pulled out an identification card from his shirt pocket. “If you don’t believe me, take a look at my id.”
“No,” Arya shook her head as he held up his identification card. “I do believe you but surely I can’t get into the king’s car. I’m just an ordinary girl.”
The door opened. Arya glanced at it then back at the king, appearing as though she was contemplating a decision she didn’t have to think about.
“Please,” he insisted.
“If you insist,” she said and climbed into the luxurious car. It had a warm fruity scent. Welcoming and lovely. “I’m Arya.”
“Pleased to meet you, Arya.” he said and fired up the car.
“I need to pick something from the palace,” he said. “Would you mind if I drove by the palace and then I can take you to wherever you’re going?”
“That’s okay,” Arya smiled, mission accomplished.
According to her informant, a resident who lived close to the palace, the king was said to be nice and kind to people who needed help but his mother was something else. He may have been king but the queen mother was the one in charge, the one who took care of everything and kept him in check. She believed what they said about the queen mother but as for the handsome king, she found it hard to believe his niceness. A handsome rich thirty five year old raised by Oriana couldn’t have turned out as nice as his subjects believed. Surely, it was all just for show which made her hate them more.
They came to the palace, a standing out proudly in the middle of Niveria Island.
The palace was enormous. The stone walls and detailed pillars were painted brilliant white. Pointed towers decorated the building on all sides.
“Do I have to step out?” Arya asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I may get caught up by something and I can’t let you stay here by yourself. Muriel will take you to have something in the kitchen.”
She turned for the first time and saw a guard in uniform seated at the back. “Hello.’
Arya marveled as she walked through an arched door into the baronial building, welcomed by a butler. It was spectacular and well appointed, a show of their wealth. They entered through an arched door and Arya remembered the room she had last seen as a child. A few things had changed but it was still very familiar. The walls of the room were lined with oil paintings in gold frames and the air smelled of the best flowers which made Arya wish she could stay there forever.
“And who is she?” she heard the voice, distantly familiar. Her voice may have changed a bit but her tone was the same, cold as ice. Arya looked up to see the queen mother Oriana descending the stairs. She was wearing a silvery gown, her neck and ears adorned with jewelry. Her face, now years older had developed wrinkles and even under the makeup, but she was still beautiful.
“She’s Arya,” her son said, making his way up the stairs. “I’ll be taking her to her apartment after I get the documents I need for that deal with the road construction company.”
“Who are you?” she faced Arya. The two women were almost of similar height. “No, I don’t want to know your name. Where are you from and why the hell are you with my son?”
For years, Arya had ached for a face-off with her worst enemy. She’d waited for the day to finally confront her and let her know that she would take vengeance. But today was not that day. Today, she had to be the meek girl from another island, the girl who’d lost a chance to get a job that’d help her survive.
“I’m Arya from Rion island. I came here to start a new life-“
“I have time for your life story,” Oriana’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you here?”
“Your son found me in the rain and offered to give me a lift. He had to come and pickup something so he suggested to come with.”
“My son is very kind man and I don’t like everyone taking advantage of it to get close to him,” the queen mother asserted.
At that moment, the king started to descend the stairs.
“Muriel I told to get Arya some food and dry clothes so why is she still here?”
“This woman needs to get on her way because she has no business in my palace.”
“No mother,” the king patted her shoulder. “Let her stay and have something to eat first.”
“Wait,” he said as an afterthought. “One of the maids quit last week. If Arya wants, she can take over so we don’t have to look for someone else. She really needs the job.”
Arya was starting to think that King Armand was actually different from his mother. Maybe it was actually possible that a child raised by the evil woman could turn out to be a good person.
“No interview, no background check. I’ll not hire anyone just like that. You cannot trust anyone immediately after meeting them, Armand.”
“Let her be on probation,” he suggested.
“I will not allow it.”
King Armand leaned down and whispered something in his mother’s ear.
“Fine,” the mother said. Now it was clear that he was up to something and if Oriana approved, it couldn’t be anything good.