Ch. 50.9 – Ezra and Janine walked towards the second story balcony where King Matthew had just given his speech. His arm was around his wife, and his other hand rested on his little son’s shoulder. Beside them stood Queen Natalie, tall and regal, dressed in black. The crowds cheered, waving ribbons and handkerchiefs, and shouted, “Calloo, callay.”
Dread filled her. Janine’s steps slowed.
Ezra looked over at her. “What’s wrong?”
“Can’t we skip this part and go back to the dragon’s caves?”
“Jay isn’t planning to take us back until later tonight.”
Janine looked down and bit her lip. “It’s all very well for you. You’re a hero, and everybody loves you. I’m just the ugly princess who woke you up. They’ll look at me and cringe.”
Ezra put his arms around her. “You know I love you, warts or no warts.”
Tears flooded her eyes. “You really mean that.”
“Yes I do. I’ve always been able to see what you are inside — a brave, good person who is intelligent, just, kind to everyone, and fiercely loyal to her friends. You are beautiful. However… When was the last time you looked in a mirror?”
Janine grimaced. “Years. I try not to.”
A slow grin tugged at his lips. “Come here.” He took her hand and guided her into a side room, where a large, full-length mirror hung on the wall. “Go ahead, take a good look.”
Reluctantly, Janine looked at the reflection. First she studied the young man by her side. Ezra was handsome, dressed in his blue uniform with the gold stars along the collar. She barely noticed the white of his damaged eye.
He smirked at her. “Come on.”
Janine turned to her own reflection. The girl she saw was dressed in a beautiful, blue silk dress. Chestnut brown curls cascaded past her shoulders. She had grown taller. At last Janine looked at her face — and froze.
Staring back at her was a girl whose face was unmarred by warts. Scattered across its surface were a smattering of freckles. She gasped and touched her cheeks and forehead. Her skin was smooth! Her head whirled.
“I… I don’t understand.”
“Remember how Fritter tried to use Fart Remover in the tunnels, and the other gnomes made fun of him for messing up? I examined it later, and it was actually Wart Remover. The soldiers used it regularly in the last troll war. Fritter cured you.”
Janine couldn’t believe it. “I opened that bottle once in Fritter’s room, when I was looking for an ingredient. It didn’t seem to have an effect on my face then. It just made me gag and cough.”
“Did you look in the mirror afterwards?”
“Of course not. I was a little busy at the time.”
She didn’t mention what she’d been looking for. Both Jay and Fritter had made her promise not to reveal anything about the effects of dragon’s tears.
“Maybe two doses were needed to make them go away completely.” She touched her cheek again. “Fritter never said a word about my face. I could kiss him.”
“You will not,” Ezra said firmly as he put his arm around her. “Any kissing you do will be with me.”
Janine grinned at him. “Does that include babies?”
He snorted. “Let’s not rush things. We can’t even get married for another two years.” He kissed her. “Though I might be able to get my brother to make an exception.”
After another lengthy kiss, Ezra turned her back to the mirror. “And now you see what I have always seen.”
Janine’s face glowed with happiness, and her heart was full of amazed joy. “Yes.” She saw a prince who truly loved the real her.
“Now, my princess, let’s go meet your people.” He took her hand.
As fireworks lit up the sky, Ezra and Janine walked forward to join the Royal family on the balcony, and a dragon winged overhead, roaring in triumph.