Pushing away from the doorframe, the young queen paced restlessly around the room. Peace, however, was not to be found and, at last, she dropped to her desk and took up her pen.
"My darling Newel," she began, her pen scratching across her paper and leaving an elegant train of ink in its wake. "I try to be strong, but tonight is one of those nights when I feel that I do not belong. I was not born to be queen, and tonight I cannot repress the feeling of shame that whispers 'Imposter' in my ear. I have done everything in my power to keep you from ever suspecting. I never want you to feel as if greatness is not your right by birth, as I sometimes do. You, at least, will carry your head high with no doubts of your royal blood. And, together, we will achieve all I ever dreamed of - never fear!"
A sudden knock at her door sent Mara's heart leaping into her throat. Such admissions as she made on paper in her darkest times were never meant to be read. She crumpled the paper in her hand and hurried to the fire on her hearth.
"Mama," whimpered a timid voice at her door.
With a weary sigh, Mara glanced down at the crumpled paper in her hand. For a moment, all of her misgivings and doubts were present in every feature of her face. Then she tightened her jaw and tossed the crumpled letter into the flames, watching as the fire turned it to ash as it had to all of Mara's previous confession letters. As the last bit of paper wilted and blackened, the weary look on Mara's face faded away, and it was replaced with a smile of haughty confidence.
"Yes, my son," Mara called.
The knob twisted and the great door opened a few inches, revealing a little boy's frightened face.
"What is it, Newel?" Mara asked gently.
Newel's fist rubbed against his face and he dragged a blanket across the floor with his other fist. "I had a bad dream," he whimpered.
"Come give me a hug," Mara invited him, kneeling down and opening her arms. The little boy ran to her and snuggled into her embrace. Mara buried her nose in his hair. "Even our dreams conspire against us," she murmured. She shifted her head and rested her chin on Newel's head. "But your mama knows how to get rid of your bad dream. I will have your Nanny take you back to your bed, and she will sit with you and sing to you. Will that suit my prince?"
Newel nodded reluctantly as his Nanny was summoned and instructed. He threw one last look back at his mama as Nanny led him away.
Mara watched them go. Then she strode across the room to her mirror. She pinched her cheeks and settled her dress. There was several more hours of the party awaiting her downstairs and, whether her conscience liked it or not, she alone was queen of Lerata.
Mara always believed she was born to be queen, but had she?