At precisely nine on the nose she knocked on the door.

The guard opened it and held out an expectant hand. She placed the envelope into his waiting hand, and he moved aside to let her in after motioning her to follow.

He lead her to the office that last time she’d only seen a glimpse of. The desk was clear of all paperwork except a file folder with a single piece of paper attached. A computer monitor was dark, but a hum told her the computer was on. A pen, a ruler and a highlighter sat next to the papers.

“You will see His Majesty before midnight, or you will not see him at all. You know what you must do.”

The guard closed the door without further instruction.

Belle,

Nothing is free. If our arrangement lasts beyond the night you will assist me as a social secretary of sorts. Before you is a folder containing all the invitations I have received for the next six months, along with a copy of my known schedule.

You will organize the invitations in chronological order. Then, using the calendar and the guest profile on the computer you will create for me a list of all events in upcoming order. You will indicate he name of the event, the date, the location, the sponsor and my availability. I will use this list to determine what additional events I can fit into my schedule so accuracy is of the utmost importance.

You will not leave your seat.

You will not touch anything on the desk other than what is essential for your task.

You will do nothing but work on your task.

If you finish your task early you will sit still, looking ahead, hands folded and resting on the folder.

Disobey me in the smallest way and you will fail.

And I will know.

She turned the letter over. There was nothing else written on it. Then again, she supposed nothing need to be said. The instructions were clear.

She tapped the keyboard to waken the computer. 9:03. Just under three hours to determine her fate.

She looked at the stack of invitations. She estimated it’d take no longer than an hour to complete.

It was going to be a long night.

* * *

10:24 pm.

She finished double checking her list. The instructions did not mention anything about printing the list. So she saved the file, straightened the sorted file and put her folded hands on top of the folder and began to wait.

* * *

11:39 pm

Her arms and legs ached from lack of movement, she suspected she’d have pins and needles once she was allowed to move.

Her neck was stiff.

The instructions did not say she could try and stretch it.

So she didn’t.

She had an itch on her nose. She desperately wanted to itch it, but did not.

She was sweating.

She had to fight the urge to answer the phone every time it rang. He clearly had another handset elsewhere. He also clearly was testing her, not answering until at least the third ring.

She wished she had worn flats instead of heels.

Her hair was falling out of the simple bun that she had pulled it into.

She didn’t know what time it was, she hadn’t worn a watch.

She really wish she had.

She told herself that she would be collected.

***

11:55

She was at her breaking point. She could not take it any more.

The door opened and her eyes went wide.

And then she smiled.

But still, she waited.

After all. She still hadn’t been given permission to move.

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