“I’m ready to go!” announced Ronduin as he entered the kitchen. His parents, who had been sitting at the table with Cook Agnes, looked at him wide eyed. Cook Agnes hid her smile.
Ronduin had stayed awake into the deepest night sewing a bag for carrying his possessions across the muddy fields. He had filled this bag with stockings, a knife, a clean pair of pants and a warm vest.
“What time are we leaving ?” he asked expectantly.
The three adults at the table looked at each other for a moment, each hoping someone else would give Ronduin their disappointing answer.
Finally, the Queen spoke.“Oh, my dear Ronduin. It will take us many days to make the castle ready.”
“We have decided to clean the old kitchen on the ground floor and make it ready for Cook Agnes, so she won’t have to go up and down stairs to care for the chickens,” said the King.
Ronduin started to feel a bit silly for thinking they would be ready to leave the castle that very day.
“It is good you have finished your preparations,” said his mother.
“That means you will be able to help with the rest of the preparations,” added his father.
“But, first, sit down and eat some porridge,” said Cook Agnes.
As they ate in silence, Ronduin imagined walking with his father across muddy fields across the on the double skis. He imagined his mother on the skis for a single person. He imagined feeling the joy of newfound freedom as they approached barn hill. He thought about running from barn hill all the way to the stable in the foothills. In his mind’s eye, he could see Mirabel and Rowan, standing near the tree at the bottom of barn hill. He could see Mirabel’s smiling face in his mind’s eye.
Suddenly, Ronduin stopped eating. His eyes grew wide and then he blinked as if by blinking he could make his sudden realization go away.
“What are thinking?” asked the Queen, noticing Ronduin’s look of distress.
“I just thought about how Mirabel and Rowan know me as just Ronduin, not Ronduin the Prince. They still think the Prince is sickly. As soon as they see three of us crossing the mud on skis, they will know that the prince must be the shortest person and they will see that the prince is not sickly at all.
Then, when we get close enough, they will see my face and be surprised to discover that I, Ronduin, am the prince, the not sickly prince. They will realize have been hiding the truth.
Ronduin was quite for a moment. Then looked down and in soft voice, almost a whisper, said, “And maybe when she knows I have lied to her, Mirabel won’t want to be my friend anymore.”