The next morning, Henry found himself standing on a platform in front of a mirror that covered the whole wall, while two tailors knelt by his feet, placing pins in his navy blue pants. Charlotte was standing on a platform next to him in a gold dress that matched the buttons and epaulets on his jacket, while another tailor was placing pins in her dress. Henry yawned for the millionth time that morning, and Siren looked at him with concern.
“Are you alright, dear? You have dark circles under your eyes,” she asked. Henry gave her a sleepy smile.
“I’m fine, Mom. Just a little tired,” he answered. Piper snickered.
“What’s the matter, Hen? Stay up too late last night?” she teased, threatening to reveal his nightly excursion to meet Jasper. He shot daggers at his sister, but she just sneered. Siren had a nagging feeling that there was something she was missing here, but she decided to drop the matter.
“Oh, you two are going to look so adorable at your coronation, dear. With your little matching outfits,” she gushed as she clasped her hands in front of her chest, admiring her son and his future bride. Charlotte and Henry exchanged uneasy glances, while they did their best to plaster on fake smiles.
Charlotte’s girlfriend, Duchess Anais, sat behind her hunched at an all too small table for her half-giant figure with Piper, while the pair etched out ideas for Piper’s dress.
“I think we should make the skirt a little poofier,” Piper suggested as she took the pencil from Anais, “I am a princess after all.”
“Speaking of my coronation, I’ve been thinking,” Henry stated, “and I think I found my first official decree as king.”
A grin spread across Siren’s face.
“That’s wonderful, darling! What is it?” she asked eagerly. This caught the attention of everyone in the room, and now all eyes were on the Prince. Henry cleared his throat, now feeling a little uneasy with all this attention.
“Well, every time we have a meal in this place there’s always an overabundance of food that gets thrown out. I mean, why the cooks decide to make full-on feasts for just the four of us is beyond me. It doesn’t make any sense!” Henry began, but Siren’s face turned serious, signaling for him to get on with it, and Henry swallowed hard as he worked to get back on track.
“So, anyway, I was thinking….we never use the guest house out back, so what if we renovated it and opened it up as a soup kitchen type thing? We can donate all the food we don’t eat, considering it’s just going to get thrown out otherwise.”
Siren continued to watch her son for a moment, her expression unchanged, and Henry was a little afraid she was going to flat out reject the idea. Finally, her lips curled into a huge grin.
“Honey, that’s a wonderful idea. Your father and I will start working on the plans as soon as possible,” she responded. Henry smiled. Just then, one of the royal family’s butlers appeared in the doorway.
“Pardon the interruption, Your Majesty, but there is someone here to see the Prince,” he announced. Henry glanced around for a moment, a little confused. Most of the people that came to visit him were already in this room.
“Um...send them up then, please,” Henry replied, and the man simply bowed slightly in response as he disappeared to go fetch the mystery visitor. Several moments later he reappeared and stepped aside to reveal Henry’s guest, who was holding a long, black box in his hands.
“Jasper!” Henry exclaimed excitedly as his face lit up like a Christmas tree, and he stepped off the platform to approach him, much to the dismay of the tailors. Jasper sheepishly grinned at Henry. Henry’s enthusiasm and Jasper’s blushing pink cheeks at the sight of Henry did not go unnoticed by Siren.
“Jasper,” Charlotte and Anais mouthed to each other eagerly before they turned their attention back to the pair. Jasper glanced around the room to see that he was almost entirely surrounded by royalty, save for a few workers, and he suddenly felt out of place and a little intimidated.
“So, you’re the infamous Jasper,” Piper said, her voice a little devious. Henry shot her a serious look as he shook his head a little, signaling for her to keep quiet and to stop insulting his guest.
“I don’t know if I’d say infamous,” Jasper responded timidly.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Jasper. We’ve heard so much about you,” Siren said as she gave him her sweetest smile.
“Oh, uh, thank you, Your Majesty. It’s so wonderful to meet you too,” Jasper replied. He then turned his head away from Siren and the rest of the group so that his mouth was right by Henry’s ear.
“Do I need to bow or something or?” he whispered. Henry did his best to conceal his amusement at Jasper’s question. He subtly shook his head.
“No, you’re good,” he quietly answered back. Jasper turned to look at the room again as he smiled.
“Yeah, Henry hasn’t shut up about you since you guys met,” Charlotte announced, a playful smile on her face. Henry’s grin immediately faded as he shot her a look, which she ignored. Jasper felt butterflies start to swarm in his stomach at the thought of the Prince talking about him to his friends.
“And you guys have been spending an awful lot of time together. Isn’t that right?” Piper teased. Henry’s eyes widened as he glared at her, but she just continued to grin. Henry stood there, desperate for someone to change the subject, which Anais quickly picked up on, and she decided to give him an out before it turned into relentless torment.
“What’s that?” she asked, gesturing to the box in Jasper’s hands.
“Oh, right,” Jasper said, looking down at the box he had forgotten he was holding. He turned so his body was facing Henry as he opened it up.
“Ta-da!” he exclaimed, revealing Henry’s shiny new sword. Henry’s face lit up as he began to reach into the box.
“Henry Hart!” Siren snapped, and Henry stopped dead in his tracks, his happy expression swiftly disappearing. “Did you really commission a sword ?!”
Henry winced as he dared to look at his mother, and he saw that she was furious.
“Yes?” he answered softly.
“Cool! Can I see it?!” Piper exclaimed as she shot up, but Siren held out a hand to stop her.
“Absolutely not! Henry, what were you thinking?! When are you ever going to need a sword?” Siren barked. Henry just shrugged.
“I don’t know. I just thought it would be cool to have one, I guess,” he lied. The truth was, he commissioned it on impulse; he just wanted an excuse to see Jasper again.
“Oh...uh, don’t worry about this one, Your Majesty. It isn’t meant for wielding, it’s just for show,” Jasper interjected. Siren’s expression softened a bit.
“Really?” She asked, doubt dripping from her voice.
“One hundred percent. I even have a mount for it back at the shop. I just couldn’t carry them both,” Jasper continued. Siren still looked skeptical, but Henry could tell she was slowly coming around to the idea.
“Thank you,” Henry mouthed to Jasper and Jasper winked in return, which sent Henry’s heart into overdrive.
“Well...I suppose if you aren’t going to wield it…” Siren said, a little more calmly now.
Since she could tell Henry wasn’t going to get yelled at like she had hoped, Piper quickly grew bored of the conversation and went back to sketching out her coronation dress.
“I can keep it?” Henry asked eagerly. The Queen crossed her arms over her chest as she exhaled sharply.
“I suppose,” she replied. Henry and Jasper exchanged excited smiles before Henry went back to admiring the sword. He slowly reached in to grab it, but underestimated how heavy it would be, and once he pulled it out of the box, the metal end clumsily hit the floor with a loud clang. Jasper pushed his lips together and looked down at his feet for a moment, doing his best not to laugh, while Henry’s friends and sister openly made fun of him.
“Nice move, loser,” Piper said in a mocking tone without looking up from her sketchbook. Anais and Charlotte broke out into a fit of giggles and Henry shot them a look. He gently placed the sword back in the box as he took it from Jasper.
“Finished!” Piper announced as she looked at her sketch proudly. She set the sketchbook down on the table in front of her, stood up, and took a deep breath. She waved her hands over her, and pink, sparkling smoke began to swirl around her, starting at her feet, and as it moved up, her outfit changed from her usual casual wear, tan pants, a blue long-sleeve shirt and a brown leather vest, to a forest green formal dress. The bottom of the dress was poofed out and reached the ground, while the bodice was covered entirely in silver rhinestones. The very top of the dress and out towards the sleeves was a translucent green material with silver rhinestones scattered about. The pink smoke dissipated once Piper reached her neck, and she looked into the mirror and smiled, satisfied with her creation.
“Oh, honey, you look beautiful,” Siren said, as she admired her daughter’s creation. Jasper turned to Henry, shock plastered on his face.
“Your sister can do magic?! Can you?! Have you been holding out on me?” he interrogated. Henry let out a chuckle.
“No, Piper’s the only one in our family that picked up the ability to do magic. She’s been able to do it since she was five,” Henry answered. He then lowered his voice to make sure his sister wouldn’t be able to hear.
“And she’s pretty powerful too. Sometimes a little too powerful.”
Despite Henry’s best effort, Piper still picked up on his last sentence, and she smiled a little to herself. Jasper just nodded in response, satisfied with Henry’s explanation.
“So, if she can do that, how come you have to get your clothes tailored?” Jasper questioned.
“Because using her magic to alter my clothes would be helpful, and god forbid she ever do anything nice for me,” Henry answered, getting a little louder at the last half of the sentence as a hint to Piper, but Piper just ignored it.
The girls continued to marvel at the dress, while Henry and Jasper fell into an awkward silence.
“Well, I guess I should go now,” Jasper said.
“Oh….uhh...right. Let me walk you out,” Henry responded as he set the box containing his sword down before he gestured for Jasper to go through the door first.
“Be right back, Mom. I’m gonna walk Jasper out,” Henry announced before disappearing through the doorway.
“Okay, but hurry back! We need to finish your outfit fitting and then it’s time to look at crowns!” his mother called back, unsure if he was even listening or not.
Henry led Jasper down a few hallways and down two flights of stairs before they finally made it to the foyer by the front door. Jasper looked around for a moment, marveling at how big the place was. A single table with a vase full of flowers sat in the middle of the room, with a grand crystal chandelier hanging above it. Across from the front door stood the grand staircase, that broke off halfway up into two separate staircases leading to the left and right wings of the castle. After admiring the place for a minute, Jasper finally met Henry’s gaze and they both awkwardly smiled at each other, unsure of what to do next.
“Well, I guess this is it then,” Jasper said finally, hoping that the Prince would state otherwise. Henry felt his heart ache a little at Jasper’s words. Was this Jasper’s way of saying he didn’t want to spend time together anymore?
“I guess so,” he answered back. Jasper felt his heart sink. The sword had been the excuse they used to see each other, and now that it was done, neither was brave enough to admit that they wanted things to continue.
Jasper glanced down at his feet as he bit his lower lip for a moment.
“Well, I’m gonna go then,” he said, jabbing his thumb towards the door. Henry’s heart sunk into his stomach.
“Okay. I guess I’ll see you around then sometime,” he said. Jasper just nodded, trying to conceal the fact that his heart was shattering into a million pieces.
“Definitely. I’ll see you around,” Jasper replied before proceeding to open the front door. Right before Jasper closed the front door behind him, Henry spoke.
“Wait! Are you hungry? Let me buy you lunch as a thank you for the sword.”
Jasper felt his heart skip a beat.
“Yes! I mean, um, sure. That sounds good,” Jasper responded trying his best to conceal his excitement.
“Great! Let me just go change real quick. Wait here,” Henry said before speeding off up the stairs and to his room. He got changed out of his coronation outfit and into something more casual (well, casual to him anyway; to anyone else it would still be considered formal) before going to the fitting room again and sticking his head in.
“Hey, Mom, I’m gonna go take Jasper out to lunch as a thank you. I’ll be back soon,” Henry declared as he started back towards the foyer before even waiting for his mother to respond.
“Henry, wait a minute!” Siren called after him as she stood in the doorway, “you have your fitting, remember?!” But it was no use. Her son had already disappeared. Siren shook her head and exhaled sharply as she went back to managing Piper and Charlotte’s fitting. She didn’t like how close her son was getting to this boy; she didn’t like it one bit.
Henry took Jasper to a quaint little restaurant in the middle of town, with white tablecloths and tiny candles as the centerpiece. Jasper didn’t want to admit that it was one of the nicest places he had ever been to, and he might even go so far as to say it was a little...romantic too. But, surely that was just a coincidence.
At the end of the meal, Jasper tried to insist on paying for his half, but Henry wasn’t having it. He paid for their meal and ended up paying for everyone else’s meals as well, telling the waiter to put on the royal family’s tab.
After they had finished, Henry bought them both vanilla ice cream cones from a tiny cart just a few doors down from the restaurant, and now the pair were walking side by side through the marketplace, eyeing the various merchandise at the carts and in the shop windows.
After a while, Jasper stopped dead in his tracks to admire an object in the toy store window, and Henry had taken a few steps ahead of him before he realized Jasper wasn’t by his side anymore. He turned around and walked back to where Jasper was standing as he looked into the window, trying to see what Jasper was looking at.
“What is it, what are we looking at?” he asked. Jasper sighed as he finally tore his gaze away.
“It’s nothing. Let’s just go,” he said as he started to walk away again, but Henry reached out and grabbed his wrist to stop him. Jasper looked down at Henry’s hand now clasped around his wrist before moving his gaze back up to Henry, as he felt a swarm of butterflies invading his stomach once again.
“C’mon, what is it?” Henry questioned. Jasper winced a little as he worked to avoid Henry’s gaze.
“You’re gonna think it’s stupid.”
Henry took a step closer to Jasper as he moved his head to try to get Jasper to look in his eyes again.
“I promise I won’t. Just tell me,” he responded gently. Jasper finally locked eyes with Henry again, and he could see that the Prince was being sincere.
“Do you see that metal bucket in the window?” he asked. Henry turned his attention away from Jasper for a moment to look.
“Yeah,” he replied before he faced Jasper again, confusion etched on his face. Jasper licked his lips and took a deep breath prior to continuing.
“Well, I know it’s kinda weird and stupid, but I’ve sort of always really loved buckets. I think they’re cool, and I’ve wanted to start a collection since I was young. I begged and begged my parents to buy me a bucket just like that one, to kind of get the collection started, but they always refused,” Jasper explained. “See? I told you it was stupid,” he said as he looked down at his feet. Henry felt a pang of guilt again as he thought about the mountains of presents and toys his parents had provided for him growing up.
“That’s not stupid,” Henry responded tenderly. Jasper locked eyes with Henry again.
“You don’t think so?” he asked gently. A slow, genuine smile crept across Henry’s face.
“Not at all.”
Jasper could feel all the heat rising to his cheeks and he tried to look away so Henry wouldn’t notice.
“Hey, could you do me a favor real quick?” Henry asked.
“My sister has a necklace on hold at the jewelry store a few doors down from here, would you mind stopping in and getting it for me?”
Jasper furrowed his eyebrows.
“Why can’t we both do it?”
Henry raised his eyebrows as he frantically searched for an answer.
“Because….because…” he stuttered out, “because...I have to go to the bakery to talk to them about my….cake for my coronation,” Henry answered quickly, pointing his finger in the direction behind him. Jasper crossed his arms over his chest, clearly not buying Henry’s excuse.
“Okay. So, why can’t we just go to the bakery first and then the jewelry store? Why does this have to be a separate endeavor?” he interrogated. Henry swallowed hard, desperately searching for another excuse.
“Well, because….the jewelry store and the bakery are both gonna close soon. So, that’s why,” Henry responded unconvincingly. Jasper continued to stare at Henry for a moment, trying to figure out why he was suddenly lying.
“Pretty sure they’re both gonna be open for a few more hours considering it’s only four p.m. but alright,” Jasper said as he started walking backward still staring at Henry. Henry gave him his best convincing smile as he waved goodbye and Jasper just rolled his eyes and smiled as he turned around, continuing on to the jewelry store. Henry immediately let out a sigh of relief as he quietly slipped into the toy store.
Fifteen minutes later, Jasper met Henry outside of the toy store once again.
“Sorry, Hen, the jewelry store said they didn’t have anything for your sister, and even if they did, they couldn’t give it to me because I don’t work for the royal family,” he said as he met Henry’s gaze.
“Ah, don’t worry about it. I’ll get it later,” Henry lied, knowing full well that there really was no necklace. Henry had a huge smile on his face and his hands behind his back and Jasper immediately frowned.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked.
“I got you something,” he said. Jasper furrowed his eyebrows and smirked as he moved his body towards Henry.
“At the bakery? I just had ice cream, so I don’t think-” he started, but he stopped once Henry revealed the object in his hand.
“You got me my bucket?” he asked softly as a jubilant smile crept onto his face and he took it from Henry. Henry felt his heart swell at the joy on Jasper’s face.
“Henry, you’ve already done so much today. I can’t accept this,” Jasper said as he thrust the bucket back towards Henry, but Henry held his hands up to block him.
“No way! It’s a gift. I’d really like for you to take it.”
Jasper looked down at the bucket and back up at Henry.
“Well, at least let me pay you back,” he insisted, but Henry just shook his head.
“Nuh uh! You don’t pay someone back for a gift!”
Jasper smiled a little as he continued to admire his new bucket.
“Thank you,” he said sincerely as he smiled at Henry. Henry thought his heart might burst.
“Now you can finally start that collection.”
The pair began to walk again in comfortable silence as they made their way to the Blacksmith’s shop. As they reached the door, that same sinking feeling they felt in the castle foyer overcame them both.
“So, I guess this is it,” Jasper said softly as he looked down at his new bucket, trying to conceal his heartache.
“I suppose it is,” Henry said. They looked into each other's eyes for a moment, both of them desperately hoping the other would be brave enough to say that this wasn’t the end. Suddenly, the door swung open to reveal a burly man with dark hair.
“There you are! You told me you were just going out to make a delivery, but you’ve been gone all afternoon!” he exclaimed.
“Sorry, Ray. Henry and I sort of lost track of time,” Jasper said sheepishly. Ray’s attention then turned to the Prince.
“Ahh...the delivery was to Henry. I should’ve known. You’re the only one that ever hijacks my employee,” Ray said sharply. Jasper’s eyes widened at Ray’s harsh tone. He couldn’t believe his boss was really talking to the Prince like that.
“Ray!” Jasper cried, but Henry just shook his head.
“No, he’s right! Sorry, Ray,” Henry said sincerely. Ray just gave Henry a wry smile.
“C’mon, Jasper, let’s go,” he said as he gestured for Jasper to follow him inside.
“Can you just give us one more minute? Please?” Jasper begged. Ray looked between both boys, their eyes pleading, and he let out a sharp breath.
“Ugh, fine! You have one minute! But, hurry up! You still have work to do, and the sun’s gonna go down soon,” and with that, the door shut with Ray disappearing behind it. Jasper turned his attention to Henry again as they both stayed in an awkward silence.
“I better get inside before he comes back,” Jasper said as he jabbed his thumb towards the door.
“Yeah, I better be getting home too. I still have a lot of coronation prep to do, and I’m sure my mother is furious by now.”
More awkward silence.
“Well, I hope I see you around sometime,” Henry said softly, shrugging. Jasper nodded.
“Yeah! Hopefully!” Jasper responded.
“Okay,” Henry declared, and with that, he turned around and started back towards the marketplace in the direction of the castle. Jasper watched him go for a minute, hoping with all of his might that Henry would just turn around. But, he didn’t. He just kept walking, and Jasper finally admitted defeat and went inside when Henry had completely disappeared from view.
Ever since he had taken that first step away from the shop, Henry’s mind and body were screaming at him to turn around and tell Jasper that this wasn’t it. He kept thinking about how stupid and unnecessary it was that they were both willing to give up the friendship they built just because they didn’t have a viable excuse to see each other outside of just wanting to see each other for the sake of it. He sincerely debated turning around several times, but he was too afraid that Jasper would reject him. Maybe Jasper really wasn’t his friend, and he was just being friendly because Henry was a customer. Maybe he actually saw Henry as sort of nuisance, and he was secretly happy that their interactions were coming to an end. After all, at least half the time Henry spent with Jasper, Henry was complaining about how scared he was of becoming king. Henry would probably get irritated after a while too if the tables had been turned.
When Henry finally reached the castle, he swung the front door open to find a furious Siren.
“Henry Hart, do you know what time it is?! There is still so much that needs to get done today! You don’t just walk out like that without permission, especially when we’re in the middle of something-” Siren began, but Henry soon tuned her out. His mind kept wandering back Jasper, but now instead of feeling butterflies at the thought, all he felt was heartache.
A few days passed, and try as he might, Henry couldn’t stop thinking about the boy in the Blacksmith’s shop. He tried to focus on his coronation planning, but something would always trigger a memory he had with Jasper. After three days of not seeing him, Henry was lying awake once again, thinking about how ridiculous it was that they stopped communicating, just like that. He tossed and turned for hours, but just like the nights previous, his mind kept racing, preventing sleep. Finally, in the middle of the night, he decided enough was enough.
“This is so stupid,” he mumbled to himself as he threw the covers off himself. He got up and grabbed a jacket, not even bothering to change out of his pajamas as he snuck down the hallway and out the front door.