Inside, I drop my hands down hard on the sink and hang my head, trying to catch my breath. Trying to block out the memory of what just happened. My eyes sting with salt water, and I try blinking the tears away. It’s stupid. All of it. But I can’t help but feel incredibly embarrassed. The absolute worst thing I could ever feel. I splash water on my face before slipping back out into the hall. Instead of heading back towards class, however, I head in the opposite direction.
I’m now standing directly in front of a large door with a golden doorknob. No one’s around. I turn the knob and disappear inside.
My eyes adjust to the darkness as I find a candle on the wall and light it. I circle the room, lighting the other candles until all are lit, and the room is a cozy glow of warmth. Taking a deep breath, I look around me. The Royal Naming Room.
The space is small and circular. Paintings of past royals hang gallery-like around a center column, and all along the outer wall, organized on shelves in impeccable order, are the Naming cylinders. I walk around the room, touching the cylinders with my fingers. Each represents the Naming of a past royal. Each cylinder almost identical to the next–tipped in gold; sitting upward in a golden stand engraved with a name; containing a parchment slip, rippling from what looks like an air wave.
Only one thing marks each cylinder as unique. Each name’s meaning, written across the parchment in beautiful black ink. Most of these meanings–if not all of them–represent something stately. Something royal. Strong. Powerful ruler. Protector. Defender. King.
Except for one.
I stop mid thought. My finger grazes the engraving of Casper Dash–Royal, and I realize I’ve passed my immediate family’s names. I back track. My eyes find the row of Blacks: Eric Black–Honorable; Henrietta Black–Ruler of the House; Richard Black–People’s Ruler; Alicia Black–Noble. And mine. My heart races as I slide my finger down the cylinder and read the meaning trapped inside.
I stare at it for what feels like a century. Willing for the meaning to change. To say something like leader. Queenly. Victor. But there it is. Strife. Reminding me that I have caused every ounce of strife dad has felt the moment my meaning was read. The moment my mouth formed the word in front of the entire kingdom. The shock on his face feels as real today as it did four years ago. My entire insides seemed to die right there, on the spot. Because I knew. I knew right then and there, he would never look at me the same.
And there, besides mine, an empty glass cylinder sits. Colton Black. Waiting for its meaning to be placed, locked and sealed behind its frozen prison. What will happen if Colton receives the same shocking revelation as I did? I shake my head. It won’t happen. It can’t happen. Not twice in one family. Colton will be fine. Dad will be relieved, and we can all go back to being…what. Happy? Maybe. But were we happy before my Naming? More happy than now.
Too many moments have passed. I blow each candle out, one by one until I’m standing in the darkness, hearing nothing but my own breath. It’s calming, in a way. Total silence. Complete aloneness. No one to judge me. In these rare moments, I feel completely relaxed. Oddly, it’s in the room that holds my very name that allows me to feel this way. But here there are no condescending eyes. No sorrowful looks. No disappointing glances. Nothing. I tug at the whistle hanging around my neck. And like dawn, anxiety rises again.