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A Thoroughly Modern Princess
"Can somebody please turn on the air-conditioning?" Emmaline asked peevishly, her voice muffled as two seamstresses, aided by Tabitha, her longtime lady-in-waiting, pulled the heavy silk gown over her head.
"I'm afraid the air-conditioning is on already, Your Highness," one of the seamstresses informed her as the dress settled around her with a deafening rustle.
"Well, can somebody turn it on full-blast?" Emmaline asked, reaching up to wipe a trickle of sweat from her hairline.
"It is on full-blast," came the maddening reply.
"I sincerely doubt that." Emmaline brandished her sweat-streaked fingers.
Tabitha caught hold of Emmaline's hand. "Oh my goodness, Your Highness, your makeup is running! Quickly, somebody, please ... before it drips onto the dress!"
A mad bustle erupted in the designer's studio as both seamstresses and both their assistants rushed for towels.
Emmaline stood motionless, captive hand in the air, feeling additional beads of sweat popping out on her brow.
They must be lying about the air-conditioning. It was so bloody hot in there, and it couldn't be blamed only on the fact that she was swathed in layers of silk, wired undergarments, and petticoats that were to give her wedding gown its distinct lines.
Within moments, Emmaline's fingers had been swiftly cleaned with a damp cloth and her face was well blotted with a dry one, lest the beige foundation trickle down and smear on the white confection she found herself wearing.
She certainly would have preferred to forgo her usual heavy makeup on this hot and humid late summer morning, but it would never do to have the photographers who now followed her everywhere capture the bride-to-be looking anything less than radiant.
She would also have preferred a much simpler wedding dress than this frou-frou number -- complete with a twenty-five-foot train -- that had been created for her by Porfirio, one of the world's foremost fashion designers, who now hovered fussily at her side, emitting troubled moans at the prospect of tinted perspiration spurting forth from the bride-to- be.
And Emmaline certainly would have preferred a far simpler wedding day than the vast state affair that had been painstakingly planned for her and Remi, and now loomed less than a week away.
In fact -- and here was a novel concept -- she would have preferred to chose her own groom.
But that, of course, was out of the --
"All right, ladies, now the buttons. The buttons," Porfirio ordered, clapping his hands in a brisk staccato. "Quickly, please. We haven't got all day."
As the seamstresses and their assistants began fastening the elaborate rows of buttons at her back, Emmaline's gaze met Porfirio's in the mirror. He flashed her a synthetic smile. She expertly returned it.
What a silly man, she thought, continuing to regard him as he turned his attention back to the dress. That outfit he had on seemed positively clownish. Were purple suede gauchos worn with a lime green tank top and lime green espadrilles really the height of Buironese fashion?
She had no idea whether Porfirio was his first name or his last -- not that it mattered. It was the only one he used. Here in Buiron, only the royals and Porfirio were known by a single name, and the latter was far more regal and eccentric, if that was possible, than most members of Remi's family.
Emmaline had hoped to use one of her favorite designers in Paris or Milan to create her wedding gown, but Queen Cecile had insisted --
"I'm so sorry, Your Highness!" a seamstress said behind her. "I was just trying to pull the seam together while Giselle fastened the button, but it seems to be --"
"Ouch!" Emmaline squealed again, as the seamstress gave another tug and the fabric dug into her waist.
Another profuse apology ensued, followed by the timid suggestion that Emmaline hold her breath.
She inhaled, detecting the faint and unpleasant scent of something deep-fried hovering in the air.
The tugging resumed.
She watched herself in the mirror, noting that her alabaster skin appeared paler than usual beneath the mask of makeup. What she wouldn't give for a healthy tan. But those carefree days were long gone. For the past few years, Mother -- backed by Dr. Estrow, the royal dermatologist -- had insisted that Emmaline coat herself in SPF 45 sunscreen and a brimmed hat every time she ventured into the light of day.
"You must protect yourself," Mother had said. "Skin cancer can kill you. And what about freckles?"
Yes, to the queen's way of thinking, freckles and cancer were equally malignant.
Surveying her reflection, Emmaline noticed that as the dress came down over her head, a few tendrils of long dark hair must have escaped her updo and now dangled about her face and shoulders. She rather liked the look, and for a moment toyed with the idea of wearing her hair down on her wedding day.
But that, of course, would never do. For one thing, she hadn't appeared in public with her hair flowing in an undignified manner since her mouth was full of baby teeth. For another, her personal stylist had already concluded that her customary topknot would best suit the diamond-encrusted tiara head-piece and veil -- the icing on the cake, as it were.
Herself being the cake.
After giving herself another head-to-toe once-over, Emmaline scowled into her own wide-set green eyes in the mirror.
This was simply too much dress, too much lace, too much -- everything -- for one petite princess. Barely over five feet tall, even in these heeled satin pumps, she was awash in a cloud of white, yet this getup was anything but light and airy. It weighed a ton.
Help! she silently begged the diminutive woman in the mirror ...A Thoroughly Modern Princess. Copyright © by Wendy Staub. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.