“You know,” the prince said while reclining on his luxury sofa, “I really think you’re trying too hard. It’s cute, your failures I mean, but all you’re going to accomplish is further injuring yourself.”
Poppy was seething with rage, her breath ragged and hair askew. For the past two hours she’d been trying to find a way out of this damn place, but so far her attempts had all fallen flat. There was indeed no space between the door and the floor; the surfaces were flush against one another. There were also no little holes in the walls from mice, although Poppy had looked everywhere from behind the fridge in the kitchen to underneath the rugs.
She’d even tried to use a fountain pen to pry off the baseboards, which was how she’d become so haggard. Oftentimes holes near the ground would be covered up with a slab of wood by lazy repairmen, but Poppy would never know if this was the case, what with the super adherent they’d used.
Not to mention, every time she put weight on her left leg it caused an increasingly irritating pain to ache deep within her bones. Poppy briefly wondered if this was what arthritis felt like.
Decidedly, the most annoying thing about the whole situation were the prince’s unappreciated comments he occasionally served. “You’re almost there,” he said while she fruitlessly pried at the baseboard. “Oh, that’s a smart place to look,” he slightly smirked while she crawled beneath the ottoman. What made it so much worse was that he always used words of encouragement which definitely held a double meaning.
He could just stop talking forever and Poppy would like that very much, including all that entailed.
The ceiling was much too far away for Poppy to reach, so she ruled that way out for the time being. As for the fireplace, well it was aflame and Poppy had no idea how to turn it off. She’d looked for a switch, a remote, or something, but it appeared to her that the green flame roaring within was a permanent accessory to this room.
As Poppy leaned against the wall to catch her breath, the prince yawned and stretched his long legs out before him. “Watching you scurry about has made me hungry. Do you have any dietary restrictions, fairy?”
Poppy scowled at his choice of words. Scurry. Like she wasn’t working her ass off over here but rather fooling around. She ignored him and wiped the sweat off her brow with a sleeve.
“I do believe I make a very good sandwich, although I’m not sure how I’d manage to make one the adequate size for you. There are plenty of options in my kitchen, though, so I’m sure you’ll find something you like.” He stood and looked down at her. Even for a giant he was tall, so to Poppy he looked like an absolute tree.
“Shall I assist you to the kitchen?” he asked. Poppy took a step backward as he knelt in front of her and held his hand out, palm upward.
This boy was incredibly difficult to figure out. At times he was thoughtful and at other times cruel. Poppy’s theory, that she was only there to entertain him, was festering. She turned her nose up at him and marched in the opposite direction of the kitchen, even as her stomach gurgled at the thought of food. Her meager breakfast that morning seemed like it had been ages ago, and according to the grandfather clock this wasn’t far off.
“Whoops,” she heard the prince say before she felt her shirt tug up at her. He picked her up by the scruff of her clothing and lifted her up, up, up until the ground was ridiculously far away.
“Ack!” she bit her tongue as her feet dangled and the floor moved far beneath them.
“Ah, she speaks again. I do love hearing your voice.” The smile in his voice was evident. Poppy was entirely certain the boy was a sadist at this point, probably a result of his upbringing as a royal. She silently asked the Fourteen Saints why she, of all people, had to deal with him. This was just unfair.
Perhaps it was her retribution for stealing for all these years. If that was the case, Poppy figured there must be some more suitable punishment. Don’t thieves get their pinkies chopped off? She’d probably prefer that, although she had no idea who she could argue this to.
Poppy tugged down at her shirt, which was riding up her stomach, to no avail. Finally, the prince gently set her down onto the kitchen table and she was indignantly able to yank her clothing back into place. He leaned down so they were eye-to-eye.
“You really shouldn’t be walking around on that,” he pointed to her ankle. “It’s already swelled up more.”
Poppy looked and it indeed was no longer the size of a small blueberry, but an average one. She grimaced and instinctively reached for it. A giant finger blocked her way.
The prince clicked his tongue. “You don’t go prodding at it either. Let me to fetch you some ice.”
She frowned at him but decided he was right, as difficult as that was to admit. Poppy lowered herself down beside a salt shaker and set her back against it for support with her legs sprawled before her. She could feel the immediate relief of setting her weight down and off her ankle.
He retrieved a chip of ice out of the icebox and wrapped it in a cloth napkin. “Here, elevate your foot on this,” he said and set the ice in front of her. Poppy hesitantly did as he said and felt the coldness permeate the cloth and cool her aching joint. She closed her eyes for a moment.
“I apologize if it hurts badly,” he said. “I can’t help but feel as though this is my fault.” Poppy cracked an eye open and was surprised to see a hint of remorse on his face. Huh.
The Prince removed several different things from the fridge, including ingredients and condiments for sandwiches as well as several different kinds of fruit. He cut off wedges of a peach, apple, and something orange with a sharp knife. He then arranged them all on a plate and set it on the kitchen table.
“I know you like fruit,” he stated. “And since you just saw me prepare it, you are free to assume it has not been tampered with, not that I’d have a reason to poison you.”
Poppy pressed her lips together as she eyed the succulent-looking fruits. Her mouth began to water. She was very hungry.
“Here,” he lifted a wedge of the orange-looking fruit and held it in front of her. She gingerly took it. “That’s called a nectarine. It’s good.”
Poppy eyed the prince, then eyed the fruit. It certainly looked good. Although the outside was orange, the inside was a crisp white. The wedge itself was large enough to fill her lap. She carefully took a bite from it, as if eating from a section of watermelon.
It was slightly crunchy like an apple, but it had a taste similar to that of an orange, although much less tangy. She liked it.
“I guess you were hungry,” the prince observed as she gorged herself on the nectarine. The juice spilled onto her hands and face, even seeping into her clothes, but Poppy found this to be just about the most delicious thing she’d had in a long while and she didn’t particularly care how she looked.
She got about halfway into the wedge before her stomach panged with fullness. Poppy hadn’t eaten like that in a long time, and her belly made sure she was aware of that fact. She was suddenly exhausted.
The prince thoughtfully chewed the sandwich he prepared while she’d been eating, although his eyes had flicked to her every so often as if he were utterly fascinated. Poppy had completely ignored these gazes, however, as her nectarine had been the most important thing in her life for about ten minutes. She’d relished every bite, up until she felt queasy.
“I’d let you use the bath, but I’m afraid you’d drown,” he said thoughtfully, setting the sandwich on his plate.
Poppy realized just how sticky she was. She felt gross, especially what with possibly the most handsome giant to ever exist looking at her. She wanted to cover herself, even though she knew she shouldn’t care what he thought. Poppy silently cursed at herself. She was like a dog; she was fed once and became more amicable.
The prince scratched at his chin for a moment before his eyes flashed. “Oh, I have an idea.” Poppy watched as the boy searched his cabinets and came up with a shallow baking dish, plenty large enough for Poppy to fit in. “I could fill this with warm water and soap and it’ll fit you just fine.” He smiled, satisfied with himself, and Poppy couldn’t help but recognize his genuine yearning to be helpful.
He looked at her for approval, and when she shrugged he took that as her acceptance. “Okay, then I’ll set this up for you and place it in the bathroom. Just because you’re small, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a proper bath.”
The bathwater felt heavenly.
Poppy couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a bath. For as long as she’d been living alone, her version of a bath had been scrubbing herself down with a soapy rag and rinsing with freezing water from her supply on the window ledge. Cleaning herself had never been something enjoyable, but rather an uncomfortable task she’d push off for as long as possible. It was one of the reasons she always yanked her hair up and out of her face.
But this, this was bliss. The shallow dish worked incredibly well for someone of her size, and the prince had even found some bubble bath for her to mix in. These bubbles were large and pink in the light, unlike the suds she’d force through her hair and just as quickly washed out because the cold temperature had been unbearable.
Poppy had tried to use her magic to heat up her water before, but unlike with her food, she never managed to get the incantation quite right. Probably because she didn’t know how to alter it for larger bodies of water.
She let herself sink into the makeshift tub, up until the bubbles reached her chin. The water was so warm she could have absolutely fallen asleep, although she made sure not to. The steam rose from the water and hit her face, she could see it rising in light wisps from the tub.
The prince had set it on the floor beside his own, giant-sized tub. He could have really put it anywhere, but at least here in the bathroom she had privacy. She’d set her clothes to dry on the lip so that when she got out they’d at least be somewhat dry. They’d been the first things she dunked into the water, scourging away any hints of dirt and nectarine juice.
He’d offered to clean them, but Poppy firmly shook her head. The last thing she needed was to be separated from her clothes. Besides, she didn’t completely trust the prince anyway. For all she knew, he could be a pervert or something. Then again, weren’t all teenage boys?
As she sat in the tub, her mind flew to several different places, but it always came back to the same thought: why was she here? Well, she knew how she physically ended up here, but why had the prince helped her like this? Certainly there was something he was looking for, some use he had of her. People obviously didn’t help one another just to be nice, at least that was Poppy’s experience.
It was certainly possible that she simply intrigued him. After all, the Little Folk were just fairy tales to the giants. Sure, they knew that witches, wizards, dragons and such all existed, but the fae had all but disappeared these past two centuries. At least in the eyes of the giants.
Once the giants had invented electricity and other modern-day discoveries, they found magic to be less useful. They also found the fae to be a threat to their growing economy. Why would people pay for electricity when they could purchase a fairy’s magic for much less? Well, events happened and the fae ended up being the ones who had to go into hiding.
Poppy hugged her knees to her chest. The warm water soothed her ankle. She’d removed the wrappings so she could get into the tub, and she was almost certain it was simply a bad sprain. All she needed was time and to not move it too much and she should be fine.
If it weren’t for this injury, she’d be much more antsy to get out of here. However, since she’d stopped searching for a way out and given herself a chance to cool down, Poppy realized she had no idea what she’d do even if she did manage to escape.
With her ankle busted, it’d be far more difficult to get food. After all, her excursions to the kitchen were very time sensitive. It’d be easier if she could rely on Oak, but she had no idea where he was or if he would even give her a ride to the kitchens every few days. Their relationship hadn’t exactly had time to flourish yet, so she wasn’t sure how far his kindness went. It’s not like he was a puppy and she could train him, although she wasn’t sure how training a mouse went either. She’d never tried it before.
Then there was the fact that she wasn’t even sure if her stuff was even in the guestroom anymore. After all, it had been nearly twelve hours since the prince had made that order for the rooms to all be cleaned out. Poppy wondered why he even made that order in the first place. Were people coming to visit the castle?
Poppy’s mind swam around for a while longer, thinking of all the possibilities. Overthinking was how she’d survived this long by herself. She clicked her tongue. There was no point in being silent anymore; she had questions that needed to be answered.