Once upon a time in a Kingdom far, far away lived a beautiful Princess with her mother, the Queen, and her father, the King. Princess Alaia was their only daughter and the apple of her father’s eye. She had flawless, deep mahogany skin and a head full of wild, bushy curls that her handmaiden, Zoya, wrangled and wrestled into a long braid down her back. Alaia was very stubborn and strong willed but also very kind and she had no airs about her, even though she was next in line for the throne.

Everyone at court loved her and she had many friends, but Zoya, the handmaiden who had tamed her hair and pressed her clothes and brought her tea ever since they were both twelve years old, was her very best friend. They did everything together and shared all their secrets and never argued or tired of each other.

So it was that the King and Queen were getting old and tired of running the Kingdom. The King wanted to retire and play golf and the Queen wanted to spend her days flying small planes, which was her most favourite hobby. They decided that, at 17, it was time for their daughter to marry and take over the reins.

“It’s time for you to marry and take over the reins,” the King told Princess Alaia as she was contemplating her next chess move against the court jester. Princess Alaia rolled her eyes and heaved a heavy sigh. She had no interest at all in marrying one of the suitors the Kings of neighboring lands had paraded before her, or whichever noble man her father would inevitably bring for her to choose from.

She was already deeply in love, but the object of her heart’s desire, the one who made her stomach turn somersaults, was not of noble birth. Her parents were very liberal, but when she’d tested the waters by referencing the Prince of England’s marriage to a commoner and his brother’s courting of a Hollywood actress, they had burst out laughing as if it were the funniest joke she had ever told.

She’d confided in Zoya that the last thing she wanted was to marry one of those high-born, low-brow chaps from some other poncy kingdom.

“The last thing I want is to marry one of those high-born, low-brow chaps from some other poncy kingdom,” she moaned to her friend, whose arms were burning with the strength it took to detangle Alaia’s curly locks.

“I wish you wouldn’t have to either…” Zoya sighed, sadly. “But…why not, actually?”

“Because,” said Alaia, staring wistfully at her reflection in the mirror, “I’ve already found the one who makes my heart sing.”

“Oh! Well that’s…congratulations, I suppose. Who’s the lucky guy?”

Alaia shook her head.

“What does it matter, when it’s a love that can never be?”

“I…I also love another who can never be mine. I know exactly what it’s like.”

The two friends looked at each other in the mirror with sad eyes and heavy hearts and said no more on the matter.

And on the day Alaia’s father stood before her, talking of marriage and excited at the prospect of all the princely men that would one day be his son-in-law, she wasn’t brave enough to tell him who it was she really wanted. Instead, she gave him a doleful look and put the jester in checkmate.

**

The King declared the Princess’s eligibility across all the neighboring lands and invited the best of the best to court her hand in marriage. Over the next few days, a parade of young gentlemen visited the palace, bringing jewels and silks and spices from far off places to impress the Princess. The Queen, Zoya, and most of the court gathered in the great hall to watch the presentation of strapping young men sashay in front of the Princess.

“Presenting the son of the Earl of Port!” yelled the court herald.

“Oh look! This one speaks four languages and was winner of the Annual Boar Hunt three years in a row,” said the King, reading from a scroll as the young man with blonde curls and muscles out to here paraded up and down in front of the Princess like a cow being sold at market or a pageant contestant or whatever.

“Mmm yummy,” said the Queen, waggling her eyebrows at him suggestively.

“Too short,” the Princess muttered just before she yawned a wide and gaping yawn.

The King huffed and his shoulder sagged. “Next!” he yelled, and in came another fine specimen of noble breed.

“Presenting the nephew of the Duke of Harlots!” the court herald cried.

The man had cinnamon skin and a square jaw and beautiful long dark hair. He posed in front of the Princess like those body builder type guys, jutting his rock hard butt out for the court to ogle appreciatively.

“RAWR,” said the Queen, smolderingly, as she clawed the air like a little minx.

“This one is the foremost breeder of Arabian stallions across four Kingdoms and won the Annual bow and arrow shooting contest five years running!” said the King.

“Much, much too tall,” said the Princess, examining her fingernails and wondering when this foolish exercise would be over.

“For Christ’s sake…” muttered the King. “Bring in the next!”

“Presenting the dowager emperor of Flibbit!”

In came an older man of about 70, his hands resting on his substantial belly, the sunlight from the windows flickering off the reflection of his bald head and highlighting the bushy trails sticking quite far out from each of his ears. The Princess’ eyes opened very, very wide until her eyebrows almost disappeared into her hairline. Zoya, sitting beside her, stifled a giggle by pretending to have a coughing fit into her handkerchief.

“Oh,” said the Queen, her upper lip curled as if she’d seen a particularly strange looking bug.

“Behold!” said the man, his arm flung dramatically in the air. “The rumors of your beauty do you no just–

“Just keep it moving, pops, you’re older than I am,” the King butted in, ushering the bewildered man across the hall and through the doors on the other side.

“The next young man, please!”

“Presenting the son of the Lord Kingsly…er…otherwise known as..er…’Li’l Shawty’,” the herald shouted (and then mumbled confusedly at the end).

A stringy young Asian man of about twenty five slid in to the great hall, accompanied by a full, beat-boxing choir. The man began rapping his rendition of “Ice, Ice Baby” while gyrating in front of the bemused Princess.

“Oooh yessss!” said the Queen, as she wiggled her shoulders and shimmied to the beat.

“THIS ONE,” yelled the King over the din, “OWNS A FLEET OF HIGH END CARRIAGES AND WAS VOTED ‘BEST TWERKER’ OF THREE KINGDOMS FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS.”

He lowered his scroll and looked at the man, whose head was now on the floor and his ass in the air, and then looked at his daughter. She raised one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at him and the King raised his head to the heavens and asked the saints to give him mercy in his old age.

“Alright alright ALRIGHT ENOUGH OF THAT! ENOUGH OF THE TWERKING!” he screamed, as a nervous servant ushered the man (still rapping) and his beat-boxing choir out of the hall.

“Aww,” said the Queen, her shoulders slumped in disappointment.

“Alaia,” the King sighed. “It has been three days and we’ve seen all the eligible men in the closest three Kingdoms. You must choose someone to marry. This is just the way it is.”

Alaia looked at her father, summoned all the bravery she could, pointed her chin defiantly in the air and said

“But Father, I…I already know who I want to marry!”

“What? Well dear girl why didn’t you say so?” he beamed. “Is it the son of the duke of Hannover, the one that wins all the foot races?”

“No.”

“Oh well then it must be the strapping young son of the Viscount of Blueberry, who wins all the art contests?”

“No, not him.”

“The son of the Baron of Brawn?”

“Nyet.”

“It’s…it’s not that twerker, is it?” the King asked cautiously.

“Ooh I like him!” said the Queen. “Ice, ice baby, too coooold!”

“It’s not any of them, Father. It’s… it’s..”

“Yes, yes, my girl, out with it…”

The Princess took a deep breath and said

“It’s Zoya.”

“Zoya?!” exclaimed the King.

“Zoya!” cried the Queen.

“Me??!!” shrieked Zoya.

Alaia turned to her handmaiden.

“Yes, it’s you, it’s always been you. I was just too afraid that maybe…maybe you didn’t love me back. But I can’t marry someone else and live a lie. It’s you or…or no one at all. I’ll run this Kingdom alone, if I have to.”

“You won’t have to,” said Zoya, as she grasped Alaia’s hands “because I have loved you since we were twelve years old, but I was too afraid to say. I am not of noble birth, I didn’t think our love could ever be…could it?”

They both looked towards the King, who was standing with his eyes wide and his mouth agape.

“Aaaaah this is wonderful,” cried the Queen from her perch, clapping her hands merrily.

“It is?” said Alaia.

“It is?!” exclaimed Zoya.

“It most certainly is not!” yelled the King.

“Well, why wouldn’t it be?” asked the Queen.

“Because she’s not noble, Irina,” said the King.

“Oh George, please, it’s 2016. Let’s join the 21st Century, shall we? I think it’s a perfectly good match, we won’t have to move some stranger into the castle, and they seem to be quite in love!”

“But…but Irina, my dear, this cannot be, it’s just not done.”

“Oh pshaw, George. Pshaw! Let’s get on with this, I have a plane to fly at 3p.”

“Get on with…?”

“Yes yes George, on with it. Go ahead, make the proclamation, please.”

“Make the proc..?”

“Get on with it, George!”

“Alright, alright! Jeez!

And so the King announced that his daughter, the Princess Alaia of Tantilly Baum, was to be betrothed to her one true love and boon companion, the former handmaiden Zoya of nowhere, three days hence, and the entire Kingdom – commoners and all – were invited to the wedding.

**

Emboldened by the proclamation, the hunky nephew of the Duke of Harlots married his stable hand, James.

The King eventually came to grips with the fact that his daughter-in-law was of common blood. He retired from the throne and spent the rest of his days working on his golf handicap.

In addition to flying planes, the Queen got a part time gig as a backup dancer on L’il Shawty’s five-Kingdom tour.

And Queens Alaia and Zoya became great rulers of the Kingdom and lived happily ever after.

==

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