In the winter, the Royal Family had spent most evenings playing card games in the parlor, which had a massive stone fireplace to keep the room warm. Now that springtime had arrived in Corona with its warmer weather and longer days, they preferred to spend their evenings in the conservatory, its large windows providing breathtaking views of an island in bloom.
Eugene and Rapunzel were sitting next to each other at a small table. They were busy writing thank you notes on monogrammed stationery to all their wedding guests for the plethora of gifts they'd received. Rapunzel had beautiful penmanship but her hand was getting tired from all that writing. Eugene had offered to take over the task but being left-handed was messy - the ink that he'd just put down would smear as his hand moved across the page.
"Eu-gene," Rapunzel giggled as she took the note from him to inspect it. "We can't send this one out like this."
"Why not, Blondie? I think Gunter would appreciate receiving a Eugene Fitzherbert original along with our gratitude. He's got an eye for this sort of thing, might even frame it. You're not the only artist in this family, you know."
He rubbed his chin and furrowed his eyebrows in mock contemplation. "Does this look like a shoe or a boat to you?" He teased.
Rapunzel kissed her husband's nose before taking the quill from him and starting over on a crisp, clean paper.
"Oh, I see. You want to keep my artwork for yourself. Well, that's very selfish of you, Blondie. A talent like mine needs to be shared with world. You know . . . I could be persuaded to sign it for you . . . in exchange for another kiss, perhaps?"
The Queen smiled to herself as she listened to the newlyweds' playful banter. She sat close to one of the windows taking in all that natural light as she slowly turned a ball of pastel yellow thread into a row of ducklings. Lately, she'd begun embroidering on what looked like really large "napkins." Their odd size made Eugene quite nervous because they reminded him of blankets, blankets that were much too small to fit any of the beds in the castle but seemed suspiciously the right size for a basket or, gulp, a crib.
The King was sitting next to the Queen reading an expense report prepared for him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seemingly unconcerned with his wife's strange new embroidering habits. In fact, no one else in the room seemed bothered by the presence of these "napkins."
Eugene shook his head. He was being irrational. He had no reason to freak out. It was too soon, they'd only just returned from their honeymoon . . . three weeks ago, or was it four? Rapunzel would've told him as soon as she'd suspected that . . . that something was amiss. And the Queen . . . well, she couldn't possibly have known before Rapunzel knew, right? Besides, he and Rapunzel had talked about this. They were going to wait a few years before . . . before they'd have any use for these "napkins" the Queen insisted on embroidering. Still, Eugene could not deny the fact that yesterday, she'd finished embroidering a pink rocking-horse and the day before that she'd embroidered a light blue sailboat.
He shot an anxious glance at his new wife who smiled back at him sweetly before dipping her quill in the inkwell and penning another thank you note. She didn't look any different; she wasn't glowing. The girl who could chart the stars would assuredly not make a miscalculation of this nature, he reasoned. Eugene nodded in agreement with himself and smiled back confidently at his princess.
So there, the matter's settled, he thought, crossing his arms and looking smugly at the Queen as she continued with her embroidery, oblivious to Eugene's internal struggle. She could make piles and piles of these napkins. She could decorate the whole darn castle with them for all I care, it wouldn't make one bit of difference, he thought.
Still, Eugene felt the fog of doubt creeping in, the Queen had a way of predicting things. She'd known that Rapunzel would return home even after everyone, including the King, had lost faith. She'd known he would be part of her family before he had even dared to hope it was possible. Sure, this was a lot sooner than they had agreed to but these types of accidents happened all the time; he certainly wasn't planned.
Eugene caught himself smiling at the thought of the impending arrival and all that he or she would entail. He could feel his enthusiasm building up with each successive thought. He'd always liked kids. He had a way with them. Back at the orphanage, he had read stories to all the younger kids. He was almost giddy when the Queen interrupted his reverie with her clear, pleasant voice.
"Rapunzel, what about Amaryllis?"
Eugene knitted his eyebrows in contemplation. He thought this was an unusual name and a mouthful but he had thought the same things about Rapunzel's name when they first met, and now he thought it was the most beautiful name he'd ever heard. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, it just rolled off his tongue. Maybe he could get used to a "Princess Amaryllis." Yes, he was liking the sound of that already.
"Hmmm. Or Marigold," she responded absentmindedly. Eugene frowned. He thought the tone in Rapunzel's voice was all wrong. It was the same abstract tone she used when discussing fabric swatches with her mother. She was being much too casual about this. Shouldn't she be taking this more seriously? Shouldn't she be more excited?
"You know," the Queen smiled her daughter, "we'll need more than one."
More than one? That could only mean . . . .
"Twins! We're having twins?" The words left Eugene's mouth before he'd even realized it and in an unfortunate high-pitched squeak too.
Everyone stared back at him as if he'd suddenly sprouted an extra head. When the implications of his words finally sunk in, the King and Queen beamed at him.
"That's my boy," the King boomed, walking over to Eugene and patting him on the back encouragingly, "already taking initiative."
"Eu-gene," a blushing Rapunzel chastised him, her eyes impossibly large. "We talked about this, remember?" She said without moving her lips, putting her ventriloquy skills to good use.
"Flowers, Eugene," the Queen clarified with a smile, "I was thinking of what flowers to plant in the garden now that it's spring."
Eugene was mortified. He could feel the temperature in the room rising and it had nothing to do with the weather. Thanks to his little outburst, he was certain he was now a deep crimson red rivaling Pascal's. He looked over to the little guy in hopes that he could have someone to commiserate with but was surprised to see him looking rather bored and in his usual shade of green. Humph! It must've gone over his head; perhaps I'm giving the frog too much credit.
"Oh, by the way, Eugene," the Queen said not trying very hard to suppress a giggle, "I could use your help taking these baby blankets to the orphanage."
"Well, this is awkward," he muttered as he sank down in his chair.