The most disquieting darkness! Even though there was warmth before her, Muriel was frigid.
The doctor's voice followed his hard footsteps. "I'm going to wait outside the door for the knocks. Do you need anything?"
Muriel heard him go to the door. Then the door was loudly opened and closed.
Then ... grinding, sliding, rough movement. Judging from the noise's direction and distance, Muriel believed that the empty bookcase was in fact a hidden door of sorts.
Soft yet big. Clapping against the stone floor. Footsteps? Feet that ... were probably covered in leather? Muriel didn't exactly understand.
The steps went to her left, where that door was. There were three knocks with significant pauses between each one. Then there were two rapid knocks. She heard the doctor's muffled voice. "I'm leaving now."
Metal sliding against metal.
The sliding lock.
Muriel's toes pressed together. Her fingers curled and pressed into the armrests.
She was blindfolded, tied to a chair, and locked in a room with a man she didn't know much about.
Her lips opened a little, and her tongue twitched as she thought to lick her lips, but then she thought that doing such a thing might be considered bold or even vulgar.
Footsteps again, moving back towards the right.
Then there weren't anymore steps.
Something was blocking the heat from the fire.
A scent ... linen and leather with some herbs and musk. And there was a mild wooden aroma hidden in there somewhere.
Fluid, smooth, deep, as comforting as a deep cup of hot chocolate enjoyed while watching a blizzard from a window.
Muriel tilted her head to one side and wondered what exactly she had expected. Something wheezy? Something smoky? Something watery?
She quietly responded to him. "Good afternoon, Your Highness. Thank you for sparing your time to have a conversation with me. I'm highly honored."
"I ... I need to apologize." There was certainly hesitation in his voice, but he didn't sound flimsy. "I haven't ... haven't spoken to many people in a long time. I'm not as civilized as I once was."
"That's perfectly understandable and acceptable, Your Highness."
"Do you truly believe that?"
She nodded. "Yes, Sir."
"Well ... thank you." He cleared his throat. It sounded normal. "When you ... when you were in the capital, did you have a pleasant time?"
Another nod. "Yes, Sir."
"Did you meet any interesting people?"
Muriel didn't know why he would ask such a thing. Her brow furrowed. "I didn't make any friends, but I have been introduced to many people."
There was a new pattern established. The prince asked her the most boring questions, mostly about the Capital Season, and Muriel would answer. What was your favorite ball? What was your favorite ball gown? Did you find any interesting foods? Did anyone make you laugh? Did anyone flirt with you? Did you do any shopping?
Then the prince ended it all by saying, "I should leave you now. I'll ring a bell in my room so the doctor will know to collect you. Thank you for everything, Miss."
"I'm glad to know I pleased you, Your Highness."
She heard the man walk back to the left. She felt the fire. She heard the opening of the sliding lock. More walking, then the dragging noises that were likely from the bookcase.
Muriel waited a few more minutes.
The door was opened. Doctor Bergson's voice was there. "Hello. Are you alright?"
Muriel turned her head towards the voice. "Yes, thank you."
"I'm going to let you see, then."
He walked up to her and took away the blindfold. Everything seemed to be the same as it was before. There was no prince. The bookcase was in its place as if it had never been moved.
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