The silence of the night was stinging, loneliness hung grimly in the atmosphere as she stared at her design book. Cassie bit her lip and leaned closer to the table so she could take a closer look at her designs.

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A sigh escaped her thin lips. She had spent a whole day within these walls without stepping outside. She had buried herself in creating a hundred designs in twelve hours, but the intensity of her work couldn’t chase the feeling of pain away.
A rush of memories infested her mind at once, and she had no option but to toss the pencil she’d clutched between her fingers to the table. She pushed back her seat and straightened the milky white dress that she was forced to wear by the King.
A numbing pain ate at her heart as she moved towards the window, which usually offered her an insight into the beautiful hills and fields that surrounded the area around the palace.
As she reached the window, the wind caressed her face lightly, playing with some strands of hair. She took in the clean smell, and the flowery scent it carried.
‘Freedom,’ she gave the evening breeze a name. She missed being free. Cassie missed waking up in the morning and going to work. She missed getting a good cup of tea and a cheap breakfast of fried plantain from the little restaurant that was beside her shop.
She couldn’t believe that her family would completely forget her in the King’s palace. She found it hard to come to terms with the situation that she found herself.
When Eno had been kidnapped by the king, Elvis and Elena, her siblings, had done everything in their power to save her, but why was her case different?
Two months had passed, and nobody had showed up for her. From the little she heard, her mother had fled the country in other not to be arrested by the angry King whom she had outsmarted.
Since Yemi had invested so much in her elder sister Eno, and couldn’t make her his wife at the end, he had decided to redeem his image by taking her as a replacement for his lost wife.
‘F^ck!’ Cassie cursed in frustration.

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She resented the king from the first time he set foot in their house. Yemi’s pride was laced with impudence, and he wasn’t any different from his younger sister, the princess.
Yemi had walked into her shop on Christmas Day and had taken her against her will. He told her that she would be his wife once the rituals were completed, and she had no control over the matter.
A tear scurried down her cheeks as she thought of a life with a man she had no attraction for. Why did she always end up with the wrong men?
Before giving up on relationships entirely, Cassie had dated eight men and it all ended sourly with each. She had been hurt and broken countless times, but being forced to get married was the height of her ill-luck.
Cassie had dreamed of a life where she could afford Fashion school in Milan or Venice. She loved creating designs and working on them occasionally, she wanted to make a name in the fashion world, but the King was bringing her dream to an end by forcing her to marry him.
Yemi was a very powerful monarch, and her average family couldn’t afford to stand up against him. It would mean doom. She just wished her sisters could find a way to reach out to her, maybe that could alleviate her suffering somehow.
Cassie had totally pushed out of her mind plans to escape the palace. She knew if she abandoned the King, he would go after her younger sister, Elena and she didn’t want that.
She shrugged and wiped away the tears that troubled her lashes. She had no option but to sacrifice her happiness for the greater good of her family. But she wouldn’t forgive them that easily for abandoning her, especially her mother, Tamar Benjamin.
Suddenly, the door to her room flew wide open and an angry looking Princess Tayo sauntered in.
‘It is dinner time…’Tayo crossed her arms against her chest in annoyance.
Apart from ignoring Yemi whenever he spoke to her, she had purposely avoided eating for some days now. Maybe that could persuade him to release her.
‘I am not hungry.’ Cassie replied defiantly.
‘Oh yea? You’re going to eat tonight, whether you like it or not. And that nonsense of ignoring my brother whenever he speaks to you ends today.’ The princess waved a finger over her face.
Just like Eno her sister had told her when she had been rescued by Sam from the King’s palace; the princess’ arrogance was greater than her brother’s. What irked Cassie more was the fact that Yemi couldn’t take his own decisions sometimes, so Tayo had to do it for him.
‘And if I don’t?’ Cassie stuck her chin arrogantly.
Couldn’t these people understand that she wasn’t made for this sort of life? Every morning she awoke with maids by her doorsteps, fawning over her like she was a queen of a hive. Life in the palace was something different from the ordinary life she had lived. She was out of place.
‘Trust me; you aren’t going to like what would follow.’ Tayo tilted her head and laughed.
She had warned Yemi about taking another commoner as a wife. At first, she had assumed her brother had considered her advice, only to come home after hanging out with her friends to meet Yemi with another woman.
At first, Tayo didn’t have a problem with Cassie’s presence in the palace. She was a striking beauty, so she passed the test of elegance, which all potential queens had to pass.
She was tall and slender, with a warm complexion that looked edible. Tayo had thought her brother lucky, only to discover that he had taken the lady since her sister’s rescue by the Mask.
That night, Tayo had been furious with the King. What on earth had possessed her brother? Why couldn’t he just let go of the impoverished Benjamins and move on with his life?
‘You and your whole house can be bought with a few coins. You should always remember that when next you talk back at anyone in this palace.’ Tayo ran her eyes disdainfully over the skinny figure.
The princess’ words cut Cassie deeply, but she maintained composure. Tears tickled her lashes badly, but she wouldn’t let them fall. Her mother had brought this upon her.
‘You cannot talk that way to me. Ask you brother to tell you the truth! He kidnapped me here. I am not after his name or his money. He doesn’t mean anything to me.’ Her voice was shaky as she tried to defend herself.
Tayo scoffed and rolled her eyes, ‘I don’t have time for your drama. The King has made his choice, and I will support him. But I wouldn’t have you insult my brother one more day in this palace.’ Once she was done talking, Tayo snapped her fingers and two hefty guards hurried into the room and grabbed Cassie roughly by the arms.
The Princess rolled her eyes and laughed as she watched her brother’s prisoner fight with the guards.
‘I warned you Cassandra, you should learn to respect your King. Now you are going to eat or you will be assisted of course by these hefty men.’ Tayo winked.

To be continued…

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