Chapter 1: Prologue
I remember how I died. I can tell you. I was walking back to the dorms at Yale, sipping on my coffee. I was listening to Fall Out Boy to wake me up, and I had the music on so loud I couldn't hear anything besides what was blaring out of my earbuds. You know how when you're a kid your parents always tell you to look both ways of a street before you cross it? You should listen. I wasn't paying attention -though to be honest I should have-, my mind still bleary from exhaustion. I'd been cramming for history finals all night you see.
Anyways, I think you get what happened next; I got hit by a car while crossing a street, something you might read in some kind of trashy fanfiction and yada yada yada. As I felt myself being pulled into... wherever I was going, I heard a voice whisper in my ear.
"You have died, young one. But, like everyone who's lived a mediocre life, I can give you a chance to be someone great." I wan't sure whether I should feel insulted or not about the 'mediocre life' part. It was true, after all. I felt strangely... calm about being dead. I suppose I'd felt more like a ghost than anything else; kind of floating mindlessy around. " Do you accept to be reborn, child?" I thought about it for a second. I mean, I'd had my whole life ahead of me when I died; why not give it another go? Sure, I'd miss my friends and family but if I was never going to see them again anyways, why not? Determination filled me. I'd made my decision.
"Yes," I croaked. "I accept your offer." Man, if only I'd known the shitstorm I was about jump into headfirst after saying those five, dreaded words.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Angela's second life kicks off and she makes observations about the world around her.
I'll spare you the gruesome scenes of my birth for two reasons. A) I never want to relive those memories and B) The scene just after my birth was my first clue as to what time period I'd been reborn into. When I was born, the first thing I felt was the blast of cold air. To my mortification, I wailed, my lungs burning after the action. I heard more crying like there was no tomorrow, but it wasn't coming from me. Despite the pain I was in after being pushed out of someone, I picked up on it. My tiny body froze. If there was someone else crying and it wasn't me... then who was it? It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time for me to realize I might have a twin. As I was swaddled in cloth, a brief conversation ensued. See, I couldn't hear or see well, but I heard some snippets. "Husband... Sons... No," At 'sons', I froze. It couldn't be. Fate wouldn't be that cruel. I took a second to calm down. There had been a resounding no following sons, and it didn't feel as if I had an extra body part, so maybe I was still a chick. Hopefully. Oh for the love of God, please! There was a shuddering sigh, of exhaustion or disappointment I didn't know. If it was the latter and I was a girl then wow, how sexist was that? I perked up as the people around me kept talking. "Girls... Henry... Visit?" Henry? Who the hell was Henry? Was he a relative? I was carried to a woman laying on a bed. I couldn't make out any of her features, but I did see her illustrious mane of auburn hair. "Mija," the woman groaned. I blinked. My mother had been Dominican in my last life, and I'd been raised speaking Spanish; this woman had just called me her daughter. My mind whirled. Okay, so I knew my mother spoke Spanish. Where could we live? It was possible I was back in the states, the had plenty of speakers there. I could also be in, you know, Spain, or somewhere in the Caribbean. Henry was an English name though and even if England didn't have as many speakers as the previous places I'd listed, it was still a possibility. My head hurt and another body was placed in my mother's arms. My twin -I was sure of it now- nestled beside me and since there was only so much my baby brain could take, I drifted off to sleep. What I didn't know was that after I'd passed out, my parents had named me and my twin. What I didn't know was that during my sleep, I'd lost a chance to get valuable information.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
AN: What Angela thinks aren't necessarily my opinion. If something offends you, please politely PM me about it. Although some of her character is based off me and people I know, she isn't me. Also, if I owned the Tudors, Catherine of Aragon would get the happy ending she deserves.
After my original fury at being reborn into Tudor England, fear and worry consumed me. I was living in a time where innocent people were burned at the stake for 'being witches', homosexuals were killed for just being themselves, and s woman's only use was popping out kids. Some part of me thought that yes, maybe, despite my initial horror at the thought, I should have been reborn as a guy. Life would be a hell of a lot easier anyways.
Another problem; I'd been bisexual in my last life. While I saw no shame in that, I had no desire to lose my head because of it. I didn't think you could just drop your sexuality like something out of a Jehovah's Witness video. Anger filled me at the ignorance of the people around me; because of them, I could never completely be myself!
For the next few hours I replayed my parents' earlier conversation, trying to discover more clues as to whether Henry VIII was my father or my brother. I suppose the latter would have been better, I wouldn't be his spawn after all, but it also meant that I'd have to live with him longer. I was falling asleep again when it hit me; God, I was so stupid sometimes! Henry VII had only had one wife: Elizabeth of York whereas his son had -as everyone knows- six spouses. Sine my mother's name was Catherine,unfortunately the second Tudor King had to be my father, but there were two possibilities, one of which I hadn't considered before. The first: I was the daughter of either Catherine of Aragon, who I'd always been fond of, Kathryn Howard, or Catherine Parr. The only problem? None of these women bore twins.
The second option was that I was a bastard; that would partly explain why Henry blatantly said I couldn't inherit his crown. But that was complicated as well because Henry VIII only acknowledged illegitimate child was Henry Fitzroy. From what it sounded like, the king had already acknowledged me and my twin as his children. I was thoroughly perplexed by my situation, and frustrated as well.
Call me vain, but in my last life, I had prided myself over my wit and ability to banter. Sure, I hadn't been the sharpest tool in the shed, but I certainly hadn't been stupid, especially when it came to history. The fact that I was living in history but I somehow couldn't figure out my heritage... it was a blow to my pride.
As my twin started wailing, a nursemaid came to hush her. "Please calm, Your Highness," she murmured, humming while she tried to calm my sister. "Her Majesty the Queen will be most displeased if she thinks you are not cared for." Okay. Now at least I knew I was a princess. But this just created a bigger problem; by the time Henry had married Kathryn Howard, he'd already had trouble fulfilling his marital duties and he was bedridden when Catherine Parr had rolled around. Besides, he had still sounded son starved so this was before Jane Seymour. But the only Catherine before Jane had been Catherine of Aragon.
Don't get me wrong, I've always admired Henry's first wife. She burned with a quiet fire and she was kind, merciful, and stubborn too with an iron will. But her as my mother meant I'd have to watch, powerless, as she was thrown away like trash by her husband and die miserable and alone; forbidden to even write to her only child for the last six years of her life. Or her two or three, depending on if Queen Mary I was born yet. Speaking of Mary, I'd have to watch as she turned from a young, charming princess adored by all to a tyrant who was so consumed with restoring England to the Catholic faith that she disregarded the innocent lives it would take to do so.
And what about myself? I'd be tossed aside as well. I'd have to epitome of the evil stepmother from Cinderella, except with no happy ending. Don't get me wrong; I greatly admired Anne Boleyn in my last life. She was witty, intelligent, and bold. She played with fire and she got burned. But that doesn't change the fact that her handling of Catherine of Aragon and Mary was absolutely horrendous. I still believed she played a key role in fucking her step-daughter up enough that she became known as Bloody Mary. Being realistic, I didn't expect the famous queen to treat me any different when she got the throne.
Despite the danger I knew was looming over the horizon, a small part of me swelled with excitement; I had adored Catherine of Aragon in my last life and now I got to know her personally in this one! I already knew who my favorite parent was going to be. Maybe, I thought, This life won't be so bad after all.
It'd been five years since I'd been reborn into Tudor England and in that time, I'd charmed every heart in my father's court, even the Duke of Buckingham's.
"Margaret! Margaret!" I heard someone yell behind me. I turned to see my twin, Mary. My heart warmed at the sight of her, dressed in her light summer gown, auburn hair neatly combed, her eyes -so much like our mother's- alight with mischief. "Come!" Mary continued. "Our aunt has arrived with Uncle Charles!"
I stood hurriedly at my sister's words and together we scrambled out of the gardens to greet them. When our Aunt Mary saw us, her eyes brightened. We dropped politely into curtsies; she was was the Dowager Queen of France after all.
"Your Grace," I said, "How do you fair?" My aunt tossed me a fond smile.
"I am most well, Your Highness. As are you, I take it?" Behind us, Uncle Charles made a strangled sound.
"Hello?" he said. "I'm here too you know," I turned to him, shamefaced. After Mary and I muttered our apologies, I turned back to the duchess of Suffolk.
"Do you bring news from court?" I asked eagerly. "Have you any letters from Mother of Father?" My twin wrinkled her nose at me.
"Papa tells you not to be so formal," she reminded. I shifted in discomfort. I'd been American in my first life and using 'English terms' to address my parents felt... odd.
Over the years, I'd grown to adore Mother, as I'd expected, but Father had also wormed his way into my affections. I fully admitted to being self-righteous sometimes. When I gave undoubtedly more attention to Mother than him, I'd seen how it hurt my father. At that moment, well, it was the first time I'd seen him as a real person. As human. I'd began to think of how he wasn't a monster yet, of how hadn't I practically preached about looking at different perspectives of history in my last life? About not judging someone right away? Shame had filled me when I realized the hypocrisy in my beliefs. Yes, he became a murderous tyrant later in life. But he wasn't one now. And who knew? Maybe I could change him.
After that, I'd tried to get to know my father for who he was now, not the person he was supposedly destined to become. I quickly grew fond of him, maybe even loved him to a certain degree, but the fact he would betray Mother, Mary, and me was always at the back of my mind, haunting me.
Our aunt's smile dropped and her face grew pinched.
"I'm afraid you won't see your parents for the next few weeks," she told us apologetically. She didn't say why, but I already knew; the gossip in my household was impossible to tune out. I knew my father had taken a new mistress, although I didn't know her name, and that he didn't want me or Mary to know about her. Anger swelled within me. I'd long come to accept that it was simply a product of the time I had been born into, but I hated knowing how Mother must silently suffer as Father took mistress after mistress, sometimes even flaunting them.
Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I cursed them. Whores! I'd think. How dare those harlots cause my mother pain! I knew they didn't really have a choice; if my kingly father wanted someone, he was going to have her. Besides, even if they could turn down going to the King of England's bed, their families would give them hell for it.
My thoughts were interrupted by Uncle Charles.
"What do you say we go to the gardens and play a game?" he proposed. My sister and aunt agreed, the latter amused, the former eager. I followed them swiftly, trying to rid myself of my thoughts; I was a vain creature, not even I could deny that. But so openly acknowledging my defects... It was unsettling. I hoped for many things. I hoped that Father and Mother would visit soon. I hoped that my tortured thoughts would cease. But most of all, I hoped that if there was a God, He heard my prayers. My prayers that I would, somehow, be able to keep my family from falling apart.
This was it. This was the day I had been waiting for for almost a month and a half. Father, it seemed, had kept his mistress longer than my royal aunt had expected. But now, he had tired of her, and Mary and I were being summoned back to court.
It's about time, I thought with satisfaction. Beside me, my sister shifted restlessly, peering through the windows of the carriage.
"Your Highness, please!" Lady Salisbury exclaimed. "Be cautious! It would not do for you to fall out of the window." Mary pulled back, a bit put out, and I laughed at my adorable little sister as my chest constricted with the amount of love I felt my heart fill with. I still remembered the day I realized I was born before Mary.
Mary and I were three when I came to horrifying realization I was the first-born and not my royal sister. Our aunt and uncle had traveled with us to court for Christmas, and we were currently alone in the throne room, curtsying before Mother and Father. Father grinned widely at the sight of us and beckoned us to rise. He stood, Mother following his example. He walked to us, arms wide; Mary and I got the message. We raced into his arms, my sister with more childlike glee and I with still some hesitance despite caring for Father.
"The Pearl of My World!" he laughed. "The Sun of My Sky! How good it is to see you!" Mother watched us from a distance away, a soft smile gracing her elegant features.
I disentangled myself from Father and Mary's arms and embraced her. She drew in a surprised breath, and I knew she was going to reprimand me for nearly tackling her to the ground later, but as I buried my face in her hair, I felt her relax. Mary watched enviously as I guardedly kept our mother all to myself. Father seemed to have gotten used to the idea I favored Mother over him; ever since I began giving him affection, he seemed to think I was closer to Mother simply because we were both of the fairer sex.
Mother released me and embraced Mary just as tightly as she had me a few moments ago.
"Mijas," she greeted warmly. "How I have missed you." Then, my sister, who was beginning to pick up my speech patterns, asked a very valid question.
"Mama, Papa?" they turned their gazes to her at the curiosity in her voice. "How come Margaret got to enter the room before I did?" I froze. After all, Mary was supposed to become Princess of Wales in a few years' time. Why had I, the second born, entered to greet our parents before her?" Mother sucked in a sharp breath and Father looked uncertain. Our mother took initiative, seeing as how Father had lost his tongue.
"You see, my darling Mary," she said carefully, "While you may be betrothed to the Dauphin of France, your sister was born first and is thus your Papa's eldest heir."
My blood turned ice-cold. I could feel my heart beating wildly in my chest as I stared at my parents. Many emotions ran through me; horror at the thought that I might someday be responsible for an entire country, and greed at the fact I had a chance to go down in history, but most of all, relief. Relief that no matter what happened, as long as I was alive, Mary would never be known as Bloody Mary. As long as I was alive, Mary would never get a chance to be Queen of England. History might even sympathize with her, making her out to be a martyr, standing against a cruel tyrant for her faith and for what she believed was right.
Hope whelmed within me; I could make this work! I could take the brunt of everything for Mary when the time came; Anne Boleyn, the death of our mother, our own father's betrayal! In that moment, I realized how much I truly adored my little sister. I was willing to take every blow for her, to take everything hurled our way, every smug Boleyn or Howard's snide barb, every threat to take the Oath of Succession, every time our father proved he had really and truly no place left for us in his heart.
I also realized how much I'd changed since my last life. I'd been selfish, arrogant, and prideful then as well as self-centered and vain, Mary was a bright light in my life, the center of my universe. She had, without meaning to, reigned in my selfish, conceited ways. My sister, with her bright smile and warm blue eyes, identical to Mother's. My sister, who'd be destined to become a broken, bitter woman, remembered as a tyrant and hated by all.
Damn destiny, I thought fiercely. I'll protect you, I promise!
Flash Back End
As I rested my head against my palm, I watched on as Mary sulked on the other side of the carriage. Ignoring Lady Salisbury's protests, I stood up, moving to the seat next to my sister. Wrapping my arms around her, my solemn oath from two years earlier came to mind. I still meant every word of it, and, as Mary rested her head against my shoulder, I knew that I'd even die for my twin if I had to.
After visiting court, weeks passed. Those weeks turned into months and those months turned to years. My bond with Mary was stronger than ever, growing with each passing day. My parents couldn't hide the strain in their relationship from me, although my sister wasn't aware, and every time we were at court, I showed my wit and intelligence to all. I did my best to comfort Mother, and endeared myself to Father, hoping that, if he was to still cast us aside, he would at least show more mercy.
Any time I thought of Father discarding us like we were nothing to him, well, it hurt. I wasn't even angered by the possibility of me being declared a bastard; in my old life, although it was sometimes frowned upon, people didn't make a huge deal about it. Most peoples' reaction were along the lines of "Whatever, who cares?"
No, what hurt me most was how I knew that although Father claimed we were important to him, he'd still break Mother's heart, leaving her to die alone in a pathetic manor by the moors, and leave Mary and I to fend for ourselves after throwing us into the claws of the Howard Boleyn clans.
Speaking of the Boleyns, they were the reason I was seated at my desk, trembling as I tried to pluck up my courage. Mary and I were six now, and while I should be at our embroidery lessons along with her, I had feigned illness and requested to return to my chambers. In truth, I wasn't lying. My stomach churned with nerves and my fists clenched at my sides. My heart raced furiously in my chest and my skin felt hot. I felt a bead of sweat roll from my brow. It was February 19, 1522. Historically, Anne Boleyn had officially arrived at court on March 4, 1522.
I was writing to my father in an attempt to convince him to let Mary and I visit court by that date. I needed to meet her. I needed to meet the woman who would be the one of deciding factors in the first ever European royal divorce. I needed to meet the woman who would play a key role in the Protestant Reformation of England. I needed to meet the woman who would tear my mother from her throne and celebrate her death. I needed to meet the woman who would cause my dear, little sister such agony and sorrow.
The historian in me knew my judgement of the future queen wasn't fair. But this had become personal since I'd been reborn; Anne could have just as easily agreed to become Father's mistress, as her own Papa had pushed her to be, instead of usurping my mother. I'd always sympathized with Mary, right up until she began burning protestants at least, and I'd admired Mother, but now that I knew them personally, well, a dark, twisted part of me despised Anne Boleyn. I hated how she didn't stop Father from harming her stepdaughter. I hated how she'd tried to humiliate my sister at every turn. But most of all, I hated Anne Boleyn because despite after everything she'd done or pushed my father to do, every time she watched on as he hurt Mother and Mary, I still respected her. I respected her and accepted she had deserved to be remembered and God, I even pitied her!
The guilt ate me alive at night, gnawing through my mind like a maggot does through flesh. I rubbed my temples and sighed; I had long ago come to the come to the conclusion that trying to plan for everything was taking a terrible toll on me. Nevertheless, for Mary's sake, for Mother's sake, and for my own, I was still trying.
After handing my letter to a pageboy, I laid on my bed, running a hand through my hair. The little violet band wrapped securely around my right wrist was so the staff and our caretakers could identify me and not mistake me for my royal sister.
My plan was to befriend Anne Boleyn. I would charm her and she would be loyal to me, no one else. Either she would give up on being Queen of England and if need be I could try and replace her with someone like Jane Seymour, or when she married Father she would be determined to protect me and Mary. Either way, Mary would be safe and I was trying to make a plan that would shield Mother as well.
Three days later, when Father's letter said we would in fact be permitted to return to court, I smiled. However, a deep unease ran through me not a moment later; things hadn't even started yet. This was just the calm before the storm.
As I laid in my bed, lavish and warm as it was, I felt cold. I stared up blankly at the ceiling above me, one arm propped behind my head and the other toying with an auburn lock of hair. Today was March 4, 1522. Today was the day Anne Boleyn had first arrived at the English Court.
Multiple emotions ran through me; nervousness, anger, hostility, but, most of all, fear. She wasn't supposed to catch Father's eye for another five years, but what if I had miscalculated? If he noticed her any time soon, all my plans would be for naught; I wouldn't have time to form a strong bond with the older woman. This brought me to another problem. I desperately wanted to keep Mother as Queen of England, but Father had wanted his annulment anyways pre-Anne. Every year, her position at court weakened and it was common knowledge my father no longer visited her bed.
An icy coldness swept through me. I loved my mother, adored her even, but if I had to choose between her and Mary, what would I do? It would be like tearing out a piece of my heart. Both were so precious to be on such fundamental levels that I would surely split into two halves. On one hand, if Father still became determined on making Anne queen, there would be nothing I could do. Anne may be more lenient if my plan succeeded, but Father would most certainly not. If this scenario happened, my best bet would be to bend my knee to Father so the brunt of his anger would not be directed towards me or Mary, but it would wound my mother beyond measure. And Mary... God, what would my sister think of me?! I couldn't bare the thought of my sweet twin hating me.
Emptiness ran through me at the thought of Mary being hostile towards me. Clenching a fist, I turned on my side, curling in a fetal position. Thoughts I'd never so much as considered raced through my mind. What if, because of my actions, I made everything worse? What if I had to choose between my mind and my heart? To choose between Mother and/or Mary's safety or their feelings? Who was I to play God in a time that wasn't my own? Who was I to try and interfere with people who stood the test of time as a person who shouldn't exist in the first place?
Unshed tears blurred my vision. My stomach rolled nauseatingly and I broke out in a sweat, trembling. For the first time, I felt like what I actually was. A silly young girl in over her head who had no idea how to keep her loved ones safe. A stupid, useless time traveler who, when the time came, would fail in protecting either her mother, sister, or both from a man who, contrary to now, wouldn't give a damn when it truly mattered. I'd probably just end up hurting them myself in the process!
I let out a strangled sob and the lady in waiting sleeping by my bedside must have heard it because she bolted upright.
"Your Highness?! Your Highness! Help! Someone get a physician! Alert their majesties!" her panicked voice was the last thing I heard before my vision transcended into darkness.
When I came to, my head was pounding. I groaned slightly as I opened my eyes. To my surprise, I wasn't in my own chambers. Then I remembered what had happened. The weight of it all came crashing down on me and I slid further under the covers of the bed I had been resting in. A selfish part of me wished to be blissfully ignorant for just another hour.
I stayed there, curled up on the bed for a while. I was struggling, my mind caught between trying to escape the thoughts of my meltdown and buckling under the pressure of them. Finally, I rose out of bed; just staying there was getting me no where. As I staggered towards the doorway, I heard angry shouts from the other side.
"What in God's name do you mean you don't understand what's wrong with her?!"
"Please, Your Majesty! We've been examining the possibilities as quickly as possible!" A surge of pity swept though me; I didn't envy the poor man who bore the brunt of my father's anger. Pushing the door open, I stared at the sight before me. My father, the King of England, was looming over a terrified looking man, his face a glowing red shade and his expression a mask of pure, unaltered fury. Beside him was my mother, her eyes full of worry. She was holding Mary's hand as my sister trembled, pressing against the Queen of England's side. But that wasn't what caught my eye. It was the state of disarray that donned all of them; Mary looked tired and haggard and her eyes were red, presumably from tears. My mother's face was taught and her jaw tight, her skin pale and a frown marred her face. And then there was Father. His state of dress was pristine of course, but the fury he showed off, the danger, it made me shiver. It reminded me of what he was to become.
To my surprise, my mother had some of her ladies and maids with her. They, true to tradition, wore only white and black, but one of them noticed me before anyone else. Her eyes widened and she sank into a deep curtsy.
"Your Highness," she said. That got everyone's attention. Heads whipped around to see me. The ladies and maids all copied her and I hurriedly motioned for them to rise. Even after six years of this life, it still felt a bit odd to me having everyone be so-how do I put it?- reverent towards me.
Turning to my family, I smiled weakly. Mary was the first one to react. My sister, bless her, looked to Mother and Father for permission before bolting towards me. I nearly grunted at the force of the impact, but that had been a habit long since trained out of me by our parents and tutors. I buried my face in her hair and hugged her desperately, not wanting to let go. Distantly, I heard Mother dismissing everyone else outside of the room. Mary sobbed into the nape of my neck, her arms tightening around me.
"I was so scared," she said between her tears. "I was terrified that God would call you to Heaven and you'd leave me here." I didn't know what to say to that. Grasping for words, I tried to sooth her with a joke.
"Hey, I'm not going to die yet, Mary. I'm too amazing to go out any time soon!" She glared at me, evidently not amused.
"Not funny," she mumbled.
After a while, I reluctantly wriggled out of her embrace. Before I knew it, Father had swept me up and held me close to his chest. He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to. I closed my eyes and pressed closer to him. I could hear his heartbeat and I felt the comforting warmth that was so purely him before something caught my attention. There was a bruise by his collarbone. A bruise. There hadn't been any jousting tournaments yet this spring and no one would have dared strike the King so I knew he could only have gotten it one way; it had been a gift from one of his lovers. Suddenly I felt cold and before my Tudor temper could consume me, I made a wise choice. Squirming from his grip until he let me go, I focused on Mother.
I didn't run to her like I had Mary or Father which I think surprised all of them. To be fair, I'd started to before a throbbing headache formed between my eyes. Clutching my head, I slumped slightly against Father, whom I was still beside.
"Margaret?" Mary asked, her voice trembling. "Are you alright?" I opened my mouth to respond but in an instant Mother was by my side. She put a soft kiss on my temple and lifted me up herself. I was actually rather surprised she had the strength to do so.
"Get the physician," she said softly. "Please Henry, order him back." She carried me back to my bed and placed me there as we waited for the man in question. I was impressed by her calmness and handling of the situation but as my gaze met hers, I saw the panic she was hiding, probably for all our sakes. I touched her cheek, feeling the need to comfort her, before letting my hand drop.
"Rest," she urged me. "Regain your strength." I complied warily, dimly aware of my family around me as I succumbed to sleep once more.
It had been two weeks since my meltdown. In that time, I hadn't been allowed to leave my room since my little escapade and physicians were almost always swarming around me. Mary visited me as much as she could and Mother was almost always by my side. Father stopped by a few times a day, always seeming to be deep in thought.
Today, however, was special. You see, I was finally being let out of the chambers that had become more like a prison over the last half month. Lady Salisbury and my sister were beside me along with several of my and Mary's caretakers. I asked for my Father almost immediately; I needed to estimate just how much I had missed out on during my recovery. Nevertheless, I was rejected. Apparently, the King was at a meeting with his Privy Council. My brow furrowed at that. Father was a young, lively man who enjoyed having his fun. Why on Earth would he be at a council session on a beautiful day like this?
"Where is Her Majesty then?" I asked. The poor page who I had called for answered weakly.
"The Queen currently resides in her chambers. She and her household are mending shirts for the poor." My eyes flew open at that. My queenly mother's actions were not out of the ordinary, but if her household was there, that meant that Anne and Mary Boleyn would most likely be there as well.
"Can we go there?" I did my best to keep the urgency out of my voice. Lady Salisbury smiled indulgently at me.
"Her Majesty must accept you first, Your Highness."
"She can receive us when we arrive," I said. Eyebrows rose at that; I was generally known to be a rather polite child and Mother had raised me to have better manners than the ones I was displaying.
"Your Highness," Lady Salisbury said cautiously," Are you well?" Anger blossomed within my chest. I needed to visit my mother. Why couldn't she see that?!
"I'm fine!" After the words left my mouth, I winced at my tone; they'd sounded sharper than I intended. Lady Salisbury frowned slightly.
"I will make a request to Her Majesty. If she accepts, we will be able to visit within the hour. Why don't you play in the gardens while we wait?" At this, Mary perked up.
"Come on Margaret," she encouraged. "Let's go!" My seething temper was calmed somewhat by her smiling face. My sister's happy, carefree features were so warm and open. It was hard to believe that the charming little girl before me would end up burning hundreds of people at the stake. I pushed away that thought. If I had my way, little Mary would never become that cruel, bitter, miserable person.
Mary pulled me towards the gardens, it was a warmer March day after all, and we sat on the benches and fed the ducks in the pond for a while. We made our way through the hedges as my sister informed me of the studies I had missed. I nearly flinched at the thought; make up work was a bitch, no matter what time period you lived in.
Our good fun was interrupted by the same page boy from earlier returning.
"Your Highnesses," he said, bowing lowly. "Her Majesty is prepared to receive you now, with open arms." Mary gave him a warm smile and rose to her feat. I followed swiftly as did Lady Salisbury. Together, our party made our way to Mother's quarters. My stomach felt like lead. I was nervous and shaking, my hands sweaty. I clasped them together by my side and felt bile rise in my throat. As we were announced and the doors opened, I saw Mother sitting upon her chair and her ladies and maids of honor around her, as usual. But there was a person who had caught my eye. I swallowed thickly.
Because sitting by my mother in a stylish black dress, speaking avidly with another pretty lady was a woman I had not seen before in person. Still, I recognized her pale skin, black hair and eerily dark eyes, ones that enraptured you and made you see only her and nothing else from her portraits. There, sitting in front of me was the woman who would become Mother's bitterest enemy. She would be instrumental in the downfall of my mother, my sister, and myself if I didn't play my cards right. I was staring right at the one and only Anne Boleyn.
For a moment, I could only stand there, frozen. Multiple emotions rushed through me at once. Rage, fear, pity; there were too many to identify. Mary tugged at my hand, pulling me from my whirlwind of emotions. Her eyes were full of concern. I forced myself to walk past Anne Boleyn to my mother. I curtsied before her and she smiled warmly. Mother motioned for chairs to be brought by her and once we got settled, she spoke.
"We have two new arrivals from the French court who you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting, Margaret," she said. She glanced at Anne and the woman who she'd been speaking with earlier. "These lovely ladies are Anne and Mary Boleyn. They are maids of honor." To a casual observer, my mother sounded perfectly pleasant. I, however, was not one such person and I stiffened when I heard the undertone of anger and hostility in Mother's voice. Glancing up at her, I saw the Queen's face to be slightly pained. And then, I remembered why.
Father had never been very subtle about his liaisons, sometimes even flaunting them Bessie Blount being a prime example, and at this time, historically at least, the elder Boleyn sister had been his mistress. To her credit, Mother was significantly more controlled than me; if it had been my husband's whore- and later I would feel a bit guilty for referring to Mary Boleyn as such- I would abuse any power I had over her. The tension in the room was thick and the two women before me looked extremely uncomfortable.
A part of me wanted to embarrass and humiliate the both of them, here and now. I didn't know how I would be able to, but, for a moment, my blood boiled and a desire to hurt them consumed me. The emotions faded as swiftly as they arrived and horror filled me. This wasn't who I was; I was better than that! But the anger still churned in my stomach, a remnant of my disturbing thoughts just moments before.
Only when I felt a tug on my hand did I realize that everyone was waiting for a reaction. Plastering a smile on my face, I rose to my feet. "Hello!" I chirped. "How are you?" Mother allowed them to rise and Anne Boleyn answered.
"We are quite well, Your Highness. May we assume the same goes for you?" I lifted my chin proudly and in a rather haughty voice I responded.
"Yes, you may Mistress Boleyn." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Anne's mouth quirk up into a smile. I walked towards her, the plan to befriend her still firm in my mind. Seeing a deck of cards by the table, I tilted my head towards them.
"Would you like to play?" I asked. They nodded and as we began, everything resumed to as it had been. Mary sat by my side, holding my hand and I grinned at her.
"Mistress Boleyn, what is France like?" The sisters looked up.
"Pardon me, Your Highness, but to which of us is it you speak?" Mary Boleyn asked.
"Either of you."
"Well then," the elder Boleyn said, "France's weather is fairer than here in England. The French court is very festive as well; the French do enjoy their balls."
"And of the Dauphin?" I pressed. "You were a part of Queen Claude's household, I'm sure you must have at least seen him from afar." Anne smiled slyly.
"That depends Your Highness, on if you mean to think well of him or not." She blinked after that, as if surprised she'd said something so complicated to a child. To be fair, Mary was probably confused. I glanced at my twin and saw her eyebrows furrowed; my assumption, it seemed, had been correct. But Anne was not speaking to a child. I was mentally twenty six years old and I had the blood of some of the most ruthless monarchs in history running through my veins. Through my mother's line, there was the House of Trastámara directly. From my father's was the House of Plantagenet, although more distantly and running through a weaker line. All in all, once I aged in this life, woman or not, I wasn't going to be someone to be trifled with. Well, unless I was bastardized.
My right hand, which had lain across my lap, tightened into a fist. I looked down for a moment, trying to get control of myself, before noticing how my knuckles were white with the strain I was putting on them. Relaxing the limb, I inhaled deeply.
"Are you alright, Your Highness?" My eyes darkened when Mary Boleyn asked the question. My twin, who had been sitting boredly as we played, straightened to attention.
"Yes, thank you." Somehow, my voice had remained level. Focus, Margaret, I told myself. For Mother and for Mary. I glanced at the former for strength. She'd always carried herself with pride and poise, with a secret fire beneath the surface just waiting to be unveiled. As subtly as I could, I copied her sitting position.
Chin up slightly, shoulders and back straight, legs and arms relaxed. Hands in her lap and her eyes looking down her nose just a bit to remind everyone she was the Queen of England, no matter how kind she was towards them. I didn't know how to feel about that last part, though it probably had to do with her insecurity about her lack of a son.
My lips thinned. Mother shouldn't have to live this life; having an ass for a husband- and it was true, no matter how much I cared for Father- was bad enough, but him actively letting others to undermine her or doing so himself was more than that. It was downright dangerous for her. I suddenly felt guilty. How could I love someone who hurt and would continue to bring harm to those I cared for? I had opened my heart to Father and I couldn't exactly judge him for things he had not yet done, that was true enough, but I could resent him for his poor treatment of my dear mother.
"- Highness?" I blinked and saw the concerned faces of my sister and the Boleyns.
"I do not think you are well, Your Highness, despite what you say," Mary Boleyn said. Anne's eyes snapped to her, blazing.
"Hush Mary!" she hissed. "Do you want all of England knowing this?" The elder Boleyn's face flushed. My sister didn't look away from me though. Her hand touched my cheek gently, in a way that reminded me of Mother. She said nothing but her tense posture told me everything I needed to know. My left hand wrapped around her free one, squeezing it gently. My twin relaxed; she was my strength and I hers. Without her, I was just half of myself.
A part of me knew I was becoming too dependent on Mary. It wasn't fair for either of us that I was leaning on her so completely. But since my meltdown, I had become vulnerable. When looking at Father, all I could see was the monster he was to become. All I could see was how terribly he treated his wife, the woman he had sworn to cherish. When looking at Mother, all I could see was the fallen warrior. The woman who after everything she had gone through would die miserable and alone, leaving her daughter to fend for herself.
Mary was different though. Maybe it was because we were twins, or because she was younger than them, I didn't know. All I was certain of was that when I looked at her, when I saw who she would become, I was filled with determination. I was alive, she could never become Queen. I was here, but if things continued as they had in history, she would still be bitter and full of spite and hate and hurt.
NO. That person, that's who my sister would have become. But I, I was going to save her from that. I had a plan, I was fighting for the people I loved- because I'd be damned if Mother had to suffer as terribly again- and I would battle until I was dead.
Meeting Anne Boleyn's gaze, I could feel my eyes flash. I would succeed. I had too. And my first step to doing so was getting to her. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, after all.
"Mistresses Boleyn, I rather like the both of you. If I return to visit tomorrow, will you give me the honor of your company again?" The two glanced at each other in slight disbelief, and I could have sworn I saw guilt cross Mary Boleyn's face.
"Yes, Your Highness," Anne said carefully. "If you have not tired of us by the morrow, we will be very pleased to spend our time with you." I smiled, but if felt unnatural on my face, like when glue got on your hands.
"Excellent!" I exclaimed. That, I think, is when the wheels truly started to turn. I was about to walk right onto a battlefield and if I wasn't careful, I wouldn't even know what had hit me.
It had been a week since my first meeting with the Boleyn sisters. Every day since then I had visited them, dragging my twin along with me. Mary Boleyn was kindhearted, even if she was not as sharp of mind as her sister, and had it not been for the fact that she was my father's mistress, I would have quite liked her. Mother made no move to stop us, which I had at first considered odd, but upon thinking about it, I realized she probably didn't want to anger Father, especially in these troubled times. He wasn't looking for a divorce-yet. But I knew my mother suspected it. She had been born and practically raised on her parents' war campaign; she knew when a battle was brewing.
During our meetings, I was careful to assess the Boleyns. Every time we visited, Mary Boleyn seemed to look guiltier and guiltier. Perhaps it was because she was our father's mistress. Perhaps it was because of the opinion her own Papa had about my mother; I could already guess that it wasn't a high one. Whatever it was though, she became kinder and gentler whenever she saw us. This time, the four of us were by the back of the room, staring at each other. Mary- my sister, not the Boleyn one- had grown bored today. In that boredom, she had thought of a game we'd played together hundreds of times; Straight Face. The game was similar to that of it's twenty-first century. If you smiled at someone else, you were out.
Mary Boleyn and my twin were up first. My sister stared right at her, and I could see the childish seriousness in her eyes. Th elder Boleyn seemed to notice it as well, for the corners of her mouth began to twitch. Soon, a laugh bubbled from her lips and a full blown grin slid onto her face. My twin puffed out her chest proudly, glancing at Mother to see if she's noticed. She had. Our mother made her way to us, her features gentle.
"Margaret, Mary," she said chidingly. "Have you been playing that silly game of yours again?" She tried to look stern, but there was no heat behind her words. Mary dipped her head a bit, sheepish and I glanced down at my hands. Our mother sat in a chair beside us, but as she opened her mouth to speak, a page burst through the door. Mother raised an eyebrow and her gaze bore down on the poor man. He scrambled to bow
"Forgive me for the intrusion Your Majesty," he said. "But the King calls for the Princess Margaret." I rose to my feet and Mary followed, but the page stopped her. "Only the Princess Margaret, Your Highness." Hurt and envy flashed across my sister's face at his words. I reached out to her, but she shifted away from me. I stared at her in disbelief. She was going to act like this now? Seriously?! Sometimes, it was hard to remember that although I might not desire our father's approval with all my heart, Mary did. It must feel like he was snubbing her.
Grudgingly, I let her actions slide, but a buzzing frustration was still at the back of my mind. Unsettled by my twin's actions, I set off towards my kingly father. It was a meeting that I would never forget.
As I was guided through the halls of the palace, I heard tense whispers from nobles. Attentive eyes were staring me down, almost as if they were waiting for something, before I arrived to my destination. As soon as I did, my breathing picked up erratically; these were the doors to my father's Privy Council. But why was I here? Swallowing heavily, I pressed my hand against the sturdy oak doors and entered.
There in the room was Father, surrounded by ministers and advisers, and important nobleman. But they weren't what caught my eye the most. No. By my kingly father was a little boy, no older than three. He had red hair and sparkling blue eyes accompanied by high cheekbones and a pale complexion. He looked a lot like me. Like Father. My mouth was dry. I knew who this boy was.
Luckily, before I could say anything, the King spoke.
"Your Highness," he said. I curtsied respectfully.
"Your Majesty." My father's eyes flicked to the boy, my- no, I couldn't bring myself to say the word.
"After your illness, I have spent much time thinking," he began. "England does not yet have an official heir. I have realized how important the matter is, and plan to instate you as the Princess of Wales. The men around me are here as witness to my decision before your ceremony. Your brother," and here he gestured to the boy, "the Duke of Richmond and Somerset will accompany you to Ludlow" My vision felt hazy and my skin hot. I opened my mouth, and closed it again. No, no! This was all wrong! Mary had been made Princess of Wales in 1525, yet I was taking the position three years earlier than she had! Father gave me a gentle, expectant smile, as if waiting for me to be pleased.
But I wasn't. Mary couldn't come with me, Mother couldn't, Lady Salisbury had always favored my sister so she wouldn't; I would be desolately alone to defend myself. Alone with a boy who was completely capable of my downfall. He was a threat to my mother, my sister, and myself. And the King was sending him with me. Suddenly, I didn't take the protection of my parents so lightly.
How in God's name could I have forgotten about Fitzroy?!
I plastered a smile on my face, fear and anger pulsing through me.
"I am most thankful, Your Majesty." My father frowned slightly at my flat tone but I paid no mind. I had known I would have to fight eventually, but I had not expected to do so so soon. Still, I drew myself up to my full height and my gaze met Fitzroy's. Inside though, I was shaking; in focusing on the long term, I had completely overlooked Bessie Blount and her bastard. I would be without any close allies and apart from Mary, my whole world, and Mother, my idol. And now, my grave miscalculation put me right in the firing range of my biggest rival- even now, never mind when we were both older. At that moment, I didn't see a brother, I saw an enemy.
I had been thrown into battle without warning but I was my mother's daughter; war was in my blood. I was ready.
I confess that after I was dismissed from my kingly father's presence, I raced straight back to the safety of my mother. I nearly flew, the poor page escorting me straining to keep up without running. Since I was returning to her chambers, there was no need for Mother's permission (this time around) and I entered hurriedly. At the sight of her, and of Mary, I relaxed slightly. Nevertheless, the Queen must have seen my alarm for she dismissed everyone else except us twins from the room. Her voice was gentle and soothing when she spoke.
"What troubles you so, child?" Mary's expression was still standoffish at best, and I grimaced inwardly; she herself had a Tudor Temper and I dreaded her reaction.
"Father-" my voice broke slightly but I took a deep breath and recovered it. "Father has decided he will make me Princess of Wales and send me to Ludlow Castle." Mother's face lit up like a Christmas light but I saw no surprise in it. She had known. She had known and not told me or Mary. My mother seemed to realize where my mind was headed and hurried break through my thoughts.
"I wanted to tell you, Margaret, I did. However, I also wanted you to enjoy the time you had left with Mary." Speaking of my twin, I turned to see her reaction. My sister sat in her chair, frozen. Her face was closed off, but there her eyes looked strangely wet. My anger at Mother cooled for a moment as I tried in vain to comfort my little sister.
"Mary?" I asked tentatively. "Are you alright?" Without warning, she hurled herself at me. My eyes widened, and I braced myself for a blow. It never came. Instead, a little pair of arms wrap around me and a liquid substance made contact with the crook of my neck. I pulled back a bit.
"Hey, don't cry. Please." Mary sniffled and tightened her grip.
"Don't go," she pleaded. "I'm sorry for earlier. I was just angry Papa wanted to see you but not me too, that's all! I don't want you to leave!" I was rendered speechless by her admission. I kissed her forehead and glanced over her shoulder at Mother. A soft smile sported her face. She toyed with a lock of her hair and sighed almost regretfully.
"Margaret must go Mary," she said. "You father commands it." At her youngest daughter's dismayed gasp, Mother walked towards us. We separated from our embrace and she put one hand on my left shoulder and the other on Mary's right. "No matter what," she said, "Promise me you will never truly fight each other. It would break my heart to see the children of my womb warring."
"Of course we won't!" My sister replied indignantly. "Margaret and I are not just sisters, we are twins! We will always protect one another!"
"We swear it!" I added. My lips twitched up; for so long I had plotted on how to keep this little girl safe. But now, it seemed as if she thought I needed her protection. I nearly laughed at the irony. In the coming years, I would remember our promise with both relief and bitterness; for all the times it was kept and then the times it was shattered.
A bit of a filler chapter honestly; I had to rewrite this thing four times. Things will get more interesting soon though :)
In the next week and a half spent preparing for my ceremony, Mary and I clung to each other. We were practically joined at the hip playing games with the Boleyns, studying, and feasting. We were both eager to make the most of our remaining time together. Mother was a comforting presence as nobles -without subtly- placed their young daughters before me in hopes I would request them to be my companions.
Currently, Mary and I were eating sweetmeats we had bribed from Mary Boleyn. We sat in my chambers, sprawled out across my bed. My sister's eyes were closed with contentment and I smiled softly at her. Suddenly though, she cracked them open. Mary's expression was unnaturally intense and I started at her resemblance to Father in that moment.
"You'll contact me while you're at Ludlow, won't you?" she asked. I inched over to my sister and bumped her shoulder with mine.
"Don't be stupid Mary," I told her. "Of course I'll write you letters." My twin's face nearly crumbled with relief and I felt something akin to regret wash over me. I touched Mary's cheek gently and slowly her gaze turned to mine.
"Did you really think I would forget all about you?" Mary shifted closer to me and I grinned slightly at the action, despite the serious tone of our conversation.
"I've seen it happen before," my sister told me. "Lords and Ladies return from their travels and suddenly their baby brothers and sisters aren't good enough for them." I sighed at her words and ran a hand through my hair for a moment, thinking of the best way to comfort her. Then, I remembered.
"Mary, do you still have the hairpins that Father gave us for our fourth birthday?" My sister gave a surprised noise but nodded against the crook of my neck. I shrugged her off of me gently and slowly began removing my hairpins. They were red with white streaks- Tudor colors- decorating them and Mary's were the same but in reverse. "I'll wear your hairpins," I suggested, "And you can have mine. That way we'll always be reminded of each other." Mary's face brightened and her eyes danced with glee. We traded them quickly before any of our servants could come in; for some reason, this seemed like a moment between just us, not something that anyone else should bear witness to.
Once it was done, my twin took a handful of sweetmeats and I shook my head. Mary had a sweet tooth almost as bad as the one I'd had in my first life. A sense of loss swept through me at the reminder of my old life; I adored Mother and Mary and I loved Father, but I missed my old family and friends. I missed my little brother's muffled curses in Spanish when I embarrassed him in front of his friends and my dad's warm, secure presence. I missed my mom's ringing laughter and the Spanish lullabies she would sing to me and my brother when we were little. My chest hurt and my breath caught. Tears pricked at my eyes. I'd been pushing the thought of my old family away because they hurt too much to think about but now, everything was rushing back to me at once.
I was distracted when a little pair of arms wrapped around me. I looked down, my heart swelling with gratitude and I opened my mouth but Mary made a hushing sound. "Don't say anything," she whispered soothingly. "Just relax Margaret. Go to sleep." Obediently, I willed my eyes closed and my arms encircled Mary.
I missed my old family and friends and I always would. But I had a new one that needed me in the here and now, more than my old one ever did, and I loved them just as fiercely. My eyelids suddenly felt heavy and when my sister's breathing evened out I knew she was asleep. My lips curved up a bit and I pressed a light kiss on her forehead. Before I knew it, I was out like a light bulb as well.
Chapter 15: MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT
Hello to all of you! First off, I just want to say that I'm so grateful to all of you for travelling on this amazing journey that has been Thorns with me. That being said, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I'm not at all happy with how this story is progressing. I know that I can do better.
So as of now, I'm announcing a total rewrite of Thorns. The plot will be completely different. Don't worry- Margaret will still be a thing, as well as historical characters. But the pacing, writing, and plot will be a lot better.
Hope you all understand!