In the mornings, she needs help tying the bow at the back of her dress. The cooks become irritable the moment she enters the kitchen, so there's no use trying to help with the food, either. It's to be served where she waits at the dining table, even if she finds that dull. She does. Warm bath water is nice, now that she's gotten used to air, and cold water brings goose pimples to her skin. The maids heat it for her, dumping it into the basin when she's been undressed and sat in the small tub. When she goes into town, it's by carriage, and unless she's with Eric, someone else is driving.
I had more independence before, she thinks, scrunching up her nose as she turns her comb over. On horseback in the fields is the only place she really feels in control of herself anymore. With Eric, it isn't so bad. He keeps her distracted with the hair falling into his face that she needs to push back, and the smile he offers when she still stumbles over words, or when her foot accidentally brushes his beneath the table. With his arm around her waist as she pulls back on the reigns so that they roll to a stop beneath a shadow-casting tree.
When his father passed, however, too soon, more responsibility came to rest on his shoulders. He isn't around all that often. Though he does come to see her before he slips into his bed almost every night. Only a room away, she thinks wistfully every time her door shuts again.
Not only is she without Eric, but after the servants became used to her quirks, and she grew into her human skin, they stopped laughing as much. Stopped being playful. Their smiles are sweet, but they're nothing like the comfort of a laugh. She feels she can't even talk to them. They seem intimidated by her, which she'd experienced before, but only because she was doing things to get into trouble. Now... Now, she can't even have a friendly conversation without pressing it, all because her husband is a King.
She's expected to attend events, but only ever so often. Mostly it consists of sitting and looking serious. Something she's hardly ever been able to do. Sebastian would get so mad; it'd only make her giggle more. And if Eric takes her hand, she's lucky, and they're both deemed slightly inappropriate.
Sighing, Ariel swings her legs out from under the table, rises and walks over to the window where she plucks a flower from over the terrace. Slides it into her hair. White, stark against the color of her hair. Her eyes wander the top of the sea water. Flounder and Sebastian still see her. Now and then. But they know better than to come sticking their heads up where they could be snatched up by a gull. Fear's gotten the better of them. Ariel wouldn't exactly like them to be in danger, either, not without her anyway.
Behind her, the bedroom door swings open softly, but she only tightens her fingers against the banister.
"You're still awake?" Eric asks. Ariel isn't sure she likes the concern she hears in his voice. Though who better to worry about her than her husband? Ariel nods, spreads her arms out as Eric enfolds her waist, leans in to kiss her gently on the cheek. "Did something happen?"
Ariel rolls her eyes. Something always has to have happened. She can no longer take care of herself. A thousand other insinuations each time someone asks her a question. She loves Eric, dearly, but he couldn't understand. Being carefree, then forced into ruling a land may be two very different ways of life, but the people, they treat him like he can do anything. He can, she knows, and she's proud. She used to be able to do anything, too.
Stepping closer to the edge, and out of his arms, Ariel turns to lean back against the guard rail. They're all afraid of her, she wants to say, but knows he'd have a talk with them, and all over again she'd be forcing people to go out of their way for her. "I was only thinking," she says, quirks a small smile so that he'll believe her, though he doesn't quite.
The worry in Eric's eyes don't go away, but now, at least, it's comforting to her, because at least she knows her husband can see her well. He may not know her completely, yet, but he's growing to. The same way she has yet to learn everything about him.
"Will you be able to rest soon?" he asks, moving to grasp her hips before his hands, instead, fall to his side again.
Nodding, Ariel sweeps passed him, and as she does so, she grips his arms and places a soft kiss to his cheek. As she climbs into bed and pulls the covers up, he turns out the lanterns and leaves the room. Ariel turns into her pillow. But she does not sleep for many hours to come, and when she does, she dreams of water surrounding her, vibrant colors, music, a world without edges. One she only used to know.