Author's note: Thank you for reading this far! I'm excited to continue on with this story. If you haven't read the last chapter yet, you can read it here: https://vocal.media/futurism/glass-to-gold-chapter-one And if you haven't read started reading and this sort of thing sounds like your kinda cup of tea, then you can go here to start from the beginning: https://vocal.media/futurism/glass-to-gold-prologue I hope you enjoy! Leave a heart if you want to see more and keep an eye out for chapter 3.
The hot sun was beating down on the busy streets, congested with more than the usual marketplace crowd. Vendors had signs up, hastily painted with the sales they had going on. The prince’s ball was apparently good for business as most of the vendors had pulled out their more pricey items, pushing them on their customers who bought them up quickly, racing against other customers. One particular vendor that usually sold fruit, had acquired some rather gaudy looking jewelry and a sign on his stand that read: Exotic Novian Jewels! One Day Only!. He had a line down the block. Other vendors had lines even longer, using androids to go down the line selling beverages and snacks with special coupons that would give them a discount on whatever special items they happened to be selling for the ball. The chiming noises of sales being made was mixed with the chattering of the crowd that made the whole market feel alive.
Thalia was dragged out of bed that morning by Leela who insisted that they had to go to the market that very moment. She had seen some sort of jewel or accessory online that was listed as “in store only” and had to have it. She said that it was the perfect thing to go with her dress and that maybe if they were lucky, the vendor might have something similar for Thalia. Thalia rolled her eyes, thinking that she probably had something that would suit her fine at her vanity, but had relented to go when Sara and Madame Lainey had said that they needed to go to the market anyways. She figured if she went, she could at least convince Madame Lainey to pick up some fresh berries and lemons for a pie that she wanted to make. Twenty minutes later, Thalia found herself sitting in a hover carriage next to the three other women and two guards and not too long after that, they were immersed in the crowded streets of Trisiria’s capital, Lion City.
“There’s so many people today.” Sara commented, her eyes wide as she looked at all the people walking in the streets. “Lady Leela, are you sure that what you wanted to get is still available?”
Leela nodded, determination in her eyes. “I put it on hold. They should have it set aside for another hour at least.”
“Good then,” she said before adding, “I think it’s best that we go to that booth first then. It might take us an hour just waiting in line.”
Leela leaned over Thalia, pressing her face up against the glass of the windows. When she leaned back, she was frowning. “Can’t we move any faster? The jeweler’s booth is still on the other side of the bridge.”
Thalia chuckled and said, “I think it’d be faster to walk there, Lea. There’s just too many people out today.”
Leela thought for a moment, taking another glance out the window and then looking at her port. She bit her lower lip, a thing she did when she was nervous. Thalia could tell that she thought that walking was a good idea, but she didn’t want to ask Sara to go with her. When she looked at Thalia, there was a whisper of something, a silent plea for Thalia to suggest that they walk. With some fake reluctance, Thalia sighed. She looked up at Madame Lainey and Sara and drew in a fake annoyed breath.
“How about you walk with Leela, Sara? I’ll stay with Madame Lainey and you can go help Lea find her…. What was it?” Thalia said, looking at Leela with a question in her eyes. She never actually saw what it was that Leela wanted to get so badly.
With a hopeful expression, Leela answered, “The most beautiful pearl necklace with matching earrings! There was even a ring that might go well with it!”
Thalia waved her off as she tried to show her, looking at Sara. “That. Will you please go with her and find that?”
At Sara’s nod, Leela squealed making Thalia wince. At least if she stayed with Madame Lainey, she wouldn’t have to put up with all the loud and excited noises that somehow came from her small sister. Sara had the carriage stop, inputting the command into the mini screen on her door. It stopped with a tiny bump that barely phased any of them. One of the guards, a green-eyed man with a young freckled face and blonde hair, stood to leave with Leela and Sara. He had, Thalia noted, not been asked to go with them but she saw how he stared after Leela, puppy love plain in his eyes though he tried to hide it. She smirked a little bit, thinking about several of the young men they had to guard them at home. Most of them had crushes on Leela and she could see why. Leela was such a beautiful girl and her personality was bubbly and innocent. Her soul was kind and always had been and Thalia knew that she would make someone really happy one day.
Thinking of that made her frown as the memory of her father’s quiet conversation with King Simon replayed through her head. She sighed, if only she had the chance to fall in love and make someone happy like that. But she wouldn’t, her birthday was tomorrow and she knew that in the coming weeks, her father would announce her betrothal to some duke or nobleman. At the thought, her mind quickly switched to Vincent and her dream from the night before came swimming back into her mind. Soft touches and a gentle kiss on her knuckles. She tried to push the thoughts away, a task made easier by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Madame Lainey was staring at her, a knowing smile on her face. Before Thalia could ask why she was smiling, Madame Lainey turned to the screen that Sara had used to stop the carriage and typed in a command. The carriage parked itself under a shady tree and Madame Lainey Stood to get out.
“Where are you going?” Thalia asked, standing up herself. The other guard, an older man with the same green eyes as the boy from before, stood and followed Madame Lainey out the door. When she didn’t get an answer, Thalia followed. “Madame Lainey, where are we going?”
“My favorite cafe is just across the road from here.” She replied, a smile planted on her face, reaching all the way up to her eyes. “I thought we would stop and get a snack before we do our shopping.”
“Oh.” That was all Thalia said as she craned her neck up, trying to see past the crowd to the cafe. As if on cue, Thalia’s stomach rumbled. After being rushed out of bed and dressed, there was no time to eat breakfast that morning. “That sounds nice actually.”
Madame Lainey led her through the crowd, zig zagging between people expertly as if this were a maze she had gone through multiple times and had memorized it. Thalia followed behind her, muttering apologies to several people after she bumped into them. How did Madame Lainey do this so gracefully? She couldn’t even take two steps without almost running over someone, yet Madame Lainey didn’t seem to have any troubles at all. When they reached the cafe, Thalia looked semi-frazzled with her hair frizzing out from the humidity, falling out of the braids that they were set in that morning, and sweat making her face glisten in the sun. Madame Lainey got them a table inside where the cool air was refreshing and smelled like coffee and sweet cakes. Thalia instantly felt relaxed.
Madame Lainey ordered herself a coffee with cream and a delicious sounding cinnamon roll with pecans on top. After scanning the menu, Thalia asked for the same, the only difference being that the coffee needed to have 4 cubes of sugar added as well. The waiter, a young girl who was probably 14 years old, smiled at them and went off to get their order. Madame Lainey talked with an old couple at the table next to them, apparently they had been long time friends. While they did that, Thalia glanced around the cafe, looking at the art on the walls. A picture from the second millenia was hanging on the wall above their table. It was a picture of a map, done on old wood in black paint. The map was of the world how it was before the continents shifted and merged together in the 4th millenia, a few hundred years before today. Thalia had learned about it in her history lessons with Professor Drake Oswalde. He said that the earth used to be divided into 7 continents and that there used to be 195 countries which Thalia thought was untrue. The world they lived in now only has 6 countries, divided between the 6 warriors turned kings that stopped the world war that happened a thousand years or so ago. Even then there had only been 32 countries.
“Thalia?” Madame Lainey asked, bringing her attention away from the painting to look back at the old woman. “Tell me what’s on your mind, little bird. You’ve been…..distracted all morning.”
Thalia sighed, she knew she was acting off, but she had hoped that no one noticed. Everything from her birthday to that boy, Vincent, had been on her mind. Her birthday was tomorrow, so was the prince’s ball, and she wondered how long it would be until her father announced to her and the world who her betrothed would be. Would it be months? Weeks? A couple of days? She wasn’t sure but she felt like there was a clock attached to her fate, ticking down the seconds until the end of her world came. Thinking about the arranged marriage made her insides squirm and though she already hated the idea, there seemed to be a new cloud of sorrow hanging over her. Every time she thought about the arrangement an image of Vincent would flash in her mind and make her cheeks grow warm with color. Her mind would replay the whole scene from the day before and some insane little voice in her head whispered hope into her. Hope that her father would let her marry him. It was an impossible thought and even though she knew that, she caught herself thinking about it. Why would father marry her off to him? He wasn’t high on the social pyramid and he probably didn’t even know the boy or his father. She also noted that she had just met him yesterday and that that was not enough of a meeting for her to decide that marriage was the next best step. She would probably never see him again anyways and she felt dumb for thinking that anything of that sort would be possible. She had to remind herself that she didn’t even like him. She didn’t even know him. So what if he was a handsome guy with super soft and warm lips? That didn’t mean anything.
Thalia blushed red when she blinked the thoughts away, realizing that she still needed to answer Madame Lainey, who was staring at her with an expression that said she was still waiting and are you doing okay? She cleared her throat and said, “I uh...I’m-”
Thalia was spared answering her because the waitress from before came barreling towards them, hot plates in one hand and steaming mugs in the other. She set the food down in front of them, the enticing smell of cinnamon and toasted nuts wafting in front of Thalia’s nose, making her stomach rumble and her mouth start to drool.
“Can I get you ladies anything else?” The girl asked, blinking her pretty brown eyes at them. When they said no, she smiled and nodded her head. “Just let me know if you do, I’ll be back around in a minute.”
Thalia was shoving a big forkful of the cinnamon roll into her mouth when Madame Lainey said, “So? You were saying, little bird.”
She tried to chew around the big piece quickly while she said, “I was saying-”
She gulped, swallowing the piece before trying to talk again. “I was...I’m just nervous I guess.”
It was true enough, all the things going on and the anticipation that was building inside her was making the insides of her stomach knot up. Madame Lainey eyed her suspiciously, taking a sip of her coffee. Then she said, “Well, I assume you’re not nervous because of the ball tomorrow. So what is making you this way? Is it-” She paused a moment, the look on her face turning into a mischievous grin. “Is it Vincent? He’d be a fine match, you know.”
Thalia’s face must have been the shade of a dark red apple and she choked on her coffee, which she had just raised to her lips to take a sip of. “No! I.. Why would I…? No, it is not because of him.”
Madame Lainey chuckled and before either of them could say anything, the bell on the cafe’s door chimed. Madame Lainey, who had been facing the door, smiled with surprise and stood to greet the new customers walking in. Did she know everybody? It sure did seem like it. Thalia turned around to see who the newcomer was and froze in her spot. An elderly man close to Madame Lainey’s age was walking in with a bag draped over his shoulder which Thalia recognized immediately as a bag of flour. He was tall and his hair was grey. His eyes crinkled with the smile he gave Madame Lainey as she greeted him. But his company was the reason that Thalia had froze and the reason she could feel her cheeks turning a bright shade of pink. Vincent was standing behind him, grinning at her. He had locked eyes with her the moment he saw her bright red hair. He was also carrying a bag of flour and it occurred to Thalia that the man next to him was his father and they were on a delivery. She could see the smug look on Vincent’s face and thought that he must be replaying the look of angry shock on her face when he picked her up. Her own face deepened in color.
“Why don’t you and Vincent join us for some coffee?” Thalia heard Madame Lainey say and she shot her a glare that could cut through glass. Of course she didn’t see the glare though, she was too busy talking to look at Thalia.
The old man smiled and said, “We would love to, wouldn’t we Vincent? We just have to get a signature from Ms. Mimi and we will be right over.”
After a nod, Madame Lainey came back to the table, a devious looking smile planted on her wrinkled face. Thalia continued to glare at her, wishing that she had gone with Leela and Sara instead. Her cheeks felt warm and she guessed that they were probably red. She took some calming breaths, trying to compose herself. She decided that she would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her so flustered, suddenly grateful that her father had shoved etiquette and diplomacy down her throat her whole life. When Vincent and his father came to sit at their table, Vincent sitting across from her, she put on her most poised face and promptly ignored him, pretending to listen to Madame Lainey’s conversation instead. She could feel his eyes on her though and it was hard to not look at him. She was relieved when the bell on the door chimed and he looked away.
A man had come into the cafe, holding a thin long cane in his left hand. He was tall and very handsome. His hair was dark and his eyes were green as the grass in the spring. He looked like he was in his mid twenties but something in his eyes suggested that he had been a lot older than he looked. He was dressed like a nobleman, a nice black suit and satin tie with an old world feel to it, but Thalia was pretty sure that she had never seen him around here before. Nonetheless, Thalia felt like he looked familiar, though she wasn’t sure why. An unsettling silence had washed over the cafe with his entrance, but Thalia didn’t register it until the waitress who had served them dropped her tray, sending the dishes on it crashing to the floor with the distinct sound of glass breaking. Every head turned to stare at her and then turned back to the man who had cleared his throat.
“Table for one?” He asked in the smoothest voice she had ever heard.
The waitress quickly composed herself and nodded to an empty table near the window. When he sat, she scrambled to pick up the broken glass, apologizing multiple times before disappearing into the kitchen again. Everyone started to talk again, but in mostly whispered tones. Thalia strained her neck, trying to hear what they were saying, only succeeding in hearing a few words like “deal”, “payment due” and “what a shame”. That last one puzzled her but before she could think to ask, Vincent had taken her hand into his, drawing her attention back to him. She had almost forgotten that he was there.
“I want to apologize for the other day,” he said quickly, before she could remove her hand. “I didn’t mean to make you so… uncomfortable.”
Thalia hadn’t been expecting that and found herself momentarily speechless, the scene from moments ago and his words just now making her brain feel fuzzy, like static on the radio. She pulled her hand away, having wanted to snatch it out of his grip, but instead pulled it away nicely. His face flashed with disappointment but he didn’t try to grab her hand again. Remembering her plan to be as high class as she could, she drew herself up, sitting straight as possible, and gave him her best noblewoman face.
“I would hope not.” She said, fixing what she hoped was an intimidating glare on him. “It is not proper to treat a lady like that. It is even less proper when you don’t even know her yet.”
Vincent gave her a thoughtful look and then nodded. “You’re right. Where are my manners? Can we start again? The right way this time.”
Something about the way he looked at her made her soften and she pondered it for a moment, glancing once at the older couple at their table. Madame Lainey was chatting away with the miller and together they paid no attention to her and Vincent. When she looked back at Vincent, he was staring at her in such a way that suggested that he would really like to get to know her. She felt her cheeks warm and then took a sip of her coffee so she could compose herself. He waited patiently and grinned when she gave him a curt nod.
“I suppose that would be fine.” She told him.
Vincent stood up and gave her a respectful bow. “My name is Vincent Nupar and it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lady.”
He held his hand out to take hers and she hesitantly gave him it. He brushed a kiss against her knuckles and waited for her to respond. When she didn’t, he cocked an eyebrow at her and said, "And your name is…?"
A flare of reluctance played across her mind, making it nearly impossible for her to give him an answer. He just shrugged and said with an arrogant smile, "I guess I will just have to call you the Kitchen Master."
With her cheeks feeling hot, she replied, “Thalia! My name is Thalia Whitley.”
He smirked at her and sat back in his chair. “That's better now, isn’t it? Now, won’t you tell me about yourself, Lady Thalia?”
“I uh…” She said, trying to find her words. “What.. what do you want to know?”
“Everything.” He said before adding, “Including your profile link.”
He laughed, confirming that he could see how hot her face was as she guffawed at him. This was not what she had wanted to happen. It was just like before and she criticized herself internally for being so easily phased by him. How would she ever make it at the ball with all the nobles if she couldn’t even handle staying poised with this commoner? She furrowed her brow and stared at a blank spot on the wall behind him.
“W-Why would you want to know that?” She asked.
“How else will I get to see you again if I can’t comm you?” He countered. “Should I just make deliveries to your house everyday and hope that I’ll run into you again?”
“Excuse me?” She said, noting that Madame Lainey was now watching her from the corner of her eye which only made the whole situation more awkward for her. “I don’t think that would be appropriate. I don’t even really know you.”
He gave her a thoughtful look and nodded. Then he countered, “If I can’t comm you or see you again, then how will we get to know each other?”
Thalia opened her mouth to reply but found that she didn’t have an answer for that. He had a good point but she knew that her father wouldn’t approve. She also knew that her father was making her marry someone she didn’t know and suddenly the thought of befriending Vincent sounded like a great idea. Before she could second guess herself, she reached into the small handbag she had and pulled out her port. A victorious grin spread on Vincent’s face and he quickly pulled his own out. He had his profile pulled up before Thalia and waited patiently for her to get hers up. After a moment, they had confirmed their links and now Vincent could contact her whenever he wanted to, which made Thalia a little nervous, especially now that Madame Lainey’s words were echoing through her mind. He'd be a fine match, you know.