"I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting." I apologize as I enter the parlor. Cassandra is sitting in the armchair, a tea cup in front of her on the table. She's impeccably dressed, wearing a blazer and skirt suit, her brown hair perfectly curled over one shoulder, her make up effortless. She looks way more regal than I do, dressed in my blue blouse and jeans. I make a mental note to speak to Daniel about my wardrobe requirements. Even though I love wearing my casual clothes, I should probably dress up more, and not just for formal events.
She rises from her seat, her long legs elegantly unfold as she shakes her head. "No, no. It's honestly no trouble. I should be the one apologizing to you."
I take a seat across from her. A staff member pours my tea and I thank them before adding a lump of sugar. It's a little bitter, I much prefer it sweet. "What do you have to apologize for? I was the late one." I joke, bursting out into awkward laughter.
She gives me a small smile in response, clearly well bred. I suppose it isn't polite to just laugh out loud, and my laugh is quite boisterous. "I should really be the apologetic one here. You've almost been Daniel's wife for nearly four six months and we have only conversed in passing at stuffy parties." She shakes her head. "It's truly my fault and I invited you here for tea to ask for your forgiveness for more than one occasion."
Now I'm intrigued. To be a hundred percent honest, I wasn't really focused on developing any friendships or lasting bonds with any of Daniel's family members because I assumed I wasn't going to be sticking around so the fact that Cassandra never reach out didn't bother me at all. Now though, that Daniel is so set on me staying his wife, I assume I should try. Cassandra always kind of rubbed me the wrong way and it's all because she's clearly a part of Vanessa's posse, a group of toxic ladies that I want nothing more than to avoid. I suppose though, I should give her a chance. She looks sincere enough. Still, I remember Daniel's warning. He said it can be dangerous and that people would do anything for the crown, add that to the fact that Cassandra is Vanessa's friend, I'm wary--at the least.
"I didn't reach out to you. You're my sister-in-law now, and we should get to know each other and I'm sorry I didn't make an earlier effort." She lifts up her teacup with her slender hands, her giant diamond ring flashes on her finger. "On top of that, I haven't given you a fair chance." Cassandra shakes her head and smiles sheepishly, taking a poised sip. "I'm sure you're aware of my friendship with Lady Vanessa, so I won't lie about that. I let her bias poison my view of you. I love her like a sister, but sometimes she can be a real--pardon my language here-- but sometime she can be a real bitch, especially to those she thinks wronged her and I listened to what she said of you before I passed my own judgement and for that I am terribly sorry. I hope I haven't ruined our chances of being friends."
I shake my head. "I appreciate this and no, you haven't. Truthfully, I believe we are both at fault." I wince. "I let someone else's opinion of you poison my own as well." I admit.
She raises her brows. "Really?"
I nod. "Yes.... Daniel said... some things, so I believed him."
She smiles and nods. "Ah. Of course. I believe he thinks I have no personality?" My eyes widen and I'm about to apologize when she laughs quietly. "I don't blame him for thinking that way about me. I have been silent; I play the part the world wants me to play. The tabloids don't want an opinionated, loud princess, they want someone pretty to look at and speculate if she's pregnant or not or if she got a new haircut." She grins. "Then you came along."
"Of course. Look at you, with your casual clothes and your un-royal upbringing? You're an icon. You're progressive. It's inspiring, and although myself and many other ladies of the court are too intimidated by Vanessa to tell you so, we all believe it to be true."
"Wow." I breathe. "I didn't realize people felt that way about me."
Cassandra nods enthusiastically. "Mmhm. Not only are you a foreigner, but you were once a maid before Daniel fell in love with you." She laughs. "Of course, that alone is iconic. Michael and I thought Daniel would lie a lonely, old man without love in his life."
I smile, loosening up and feeling more and more comfortable with every passing second. Daniel was obviously wrong about Cassandra. She's very pleasant and her personality shines through with every word she speaks. She asks me about my likes and dislikes and we bond over our shared love of animals. She gushes over Baxter and confesses she's always wanted a dog but with her oldest son, Jeremy's allergy to pet dander, they've never been able to have one. She gives me advice on how to survive the boring royal parties and gatherings and tells me who I should steer clear of if I want to avoid a boring conversation about my "new haircut". She jokes sarcastically about how the world seems to be obsessed with when she'll have her next child and that the tabloids gush if she has a new style. I laugh and make a joke that it's also happened to me on more than one occasion. When I wore my hair in a ponytail, my picture was all over the front page of the world news. It was ridiculous.
"I know!" She exclaims, nearly spilling her tea. It seems her earlier poise was just a screen. "It's always 'oh Cassandra, when's the next royal baby? Are you pregnant now?' Heaven forbid I wear baggy clothing, everyone thinks I'm hiding a baby!" She places her tea down. "No thank you, two is surely enough for me."
I giggle. "I understand that. It seems my name is always next to 'Baby Bump Watch'."
She laughs along with me for a moment. "Speaking of which..." She grins and wiggles her eyebrows. "Are we to be expecting a little prince or princess from you soon?"
I feel my face flush. "Uh... Um.. I don't know. We aren't really thinking about that now." I lie. Of course we are. Daniel cares extensively about this, and I know he needs his heir in order to secure his place on the throne, so it's been at the forefront of my thoughts ever since he first hit me with that stupid contract a few months ago.
Cassandra frowns. "That's a shame. Queen Clarita is a sucker for grandbabies, and she definitely wants to see some of you and Daniel's children running around the castle." She nods and takes another sip of her tea before continuing. "I hate to put a damper on this, but I'm sure you're aware of the necessity of an heir."
I feel the urge to roll my eyes but stop because she's right. "I am." I say instead.
She nods. "Good, because I'd hate for you to find out that the only reason Daniel wants to have kids is to secure the throne."
I nod. "I know, he doesn't seem like the 'fatherly' type." It's another lie. I know Daniel will one day be an excellent father. The way he cares for me just shows that he'll love and spoil any son or daughter of his. The thought makes me smile. I can picture him holding our baby.
She nods in agreement. "It's sad to say. Michael was the same way at first but once he saw little Jeremy for the first time he completely fell in love--practically begged me to have another one and now that Alain is old enough he wants another!" She laughs. "Men are so strange."
"They really are." And Daniel is one of the worst. He is so out of touch with his own feelings, yet he acts like he's completely head over heels in love with me. It's so infuriating.
She nods along with me. "Sadly, they are inferior in that aspect, but back to what I was saying I am glad to hear that you're aware of the necessity of a young prince or princess."
"I may be a commoner, but I do know the importance of continuing the royal bloodline."
"Good. It can be a little heartbreaking to find out the man you married only wishes to give you children out of some duty to the crown and not because he loves you enough to start a family with you."
I understand that. Daniel only wants to see me pregnant because it will help him win some stupid title. I mean I understand that he wants to be King so he can help out his people, but I can't help but feel cheated. Of course, this whole situation makes me feel cheated. Somehow I wound up with a man who refuses to let me go, and refuses to admit he loves me.
I realize she's awaiting my answer. "I bet, but I understand what I signed up for." Literally. I literally signed my name.
"Good. Being in the public eye can be a strain, they talk. Speaking of which, why did you leave?"
I lift my teacup for the first time, trying to buy some time, now that it has cooled, and as soon as I do, I feel sick. The smell enters my nose and I have to physically put the cup down and cover my nose and mouth because all of a sudden vomit bubbles up in my throat. Cassandra gasps. "Oh dear! Are you alright?"
I shake my head and make a run for the bathroom. I barely make it to the toilet before I empty out the contents of my stomach. Well, there goes the grilled cheese, I think wryly. I heave until there's nothing else to cough up and wipe my mouth with toilet paper before flushing the toilet. "Annie? Are you okay dear?" Cassandra knocks on the door.
"Yeah.." I croak before clearing my throat and trying again. "Yeah, I'm okay." I wash my hands in the sink and open the door to see her grinning from ear to ear. I raise a brow. "What?"
Her eyes sparkle with an emotion I can't decipher. "You smelled the tea, didn't you? Is that what caused it?"
I rub the back of my neck awkwardly and nod. "Yeah, I think so. It gave me a headache and made me nauseous all of a sudden."
I didn't think it was possible, but her smile widens. "Oh my God."
"What?" Now I'm a little freaked out.
"Have you been unusually tired lately?"
"I mean, a little." I have been sleeping a lot, but that's because I was depressed over Daniel. When I was back home, I slept most of the day. "Why? What?"
"And now the tea." She states, but it means nothing to me. My blank stare must set her off cause she rolls her eyes. "Oh come on. You have to see the royal physician."
The physician? A doctor? She thinks I need to see a doctor? I'm not liking this at all. She grabs my hand and tries to drag me but I dig my heels firmly into the ground. "I'm not going unless you tell me why the hell I have to see a doctor!"
She looks back grinning in false exasperation. Cassandra looks around, seemingly to check that there's no one near us, and then turns back to me. "You were sensitive to the smell of the tea," she explains. "It's a little quirk that all Windsor pregnancies have. Apparently the women are always sensitive to the smell of tea-- the same happened to me Jeremy and Alain."
Shit. "Did you say pregnancy?"
She nods enthusiastically. "You could be pregnant! And the morning sickness? I think there's a possibility you're already four or five weeks along! This is so exciting! You're going to be a mother!"
Four or five weeks along?
Before I even know it, my head feels weightless and the room starts to spin. My vision blurs before my knees give out and I fall to the floor. The last thing I hear before everything goes dark is Cassandra's high pitched scream.
I wake up to a bright white light, and I have to blink a few times before I can open my eyes. I see a shadow looming over me and nearly jump out of my skin when I see an older woman with dark red hair looking down at me, red glasses perched elegantly on the end of her nose. "Can you hear me, Your Highness?"
The voice I hear is kind of fuzzy, like I'm under the water, but I can still make out the words so I nod. My vision is still a little blurry but I can tell that it's a woman standing over me. Why there's a woman over me, I couldn't tell you.
"Princess Annalise, do you know where you are?" The strange librarian-looking lady asks me once more.
This time her voice sounds far less cloudy and out of touch. This is great, however, I have no idea where I am. "No."
The woman nods and speaks in a slow, quiet voice, almost like I would speak to Baxter when he gets anxious.
"That's alright, this is all completely normal. Fatigue and fainting are both normal behaviors for your condition." The strange woman explains.
"Huh? Who are you? Where am I?" I spit out questions and try to get up, but she reaches out and pushes me back down onto the bed.
"No, no, Your Highness, please lay down. You need your rest. A woman in a state such as your own should not be so excitable." She shakes her head, and pushes me down with such force that I have no choice but to do as she says.
I'm about to ask who the hell this lady thinks she is when Cassandra steps behind her. "Oh good, you've woken up. I was worried about you! You gave me quite a scare!"
Now I remember. I fainted. "I'm sorry." Then I remember something else. "Wait, you said my condition?"
The woman with the red glasses nods. "Yes. Based on the blood test I gave you, you are pregnant."
Oh. Right. Now I remember everything.
"Congratulations!" Cassandra says with a grin. "You're going to be a mother!"
I weakly smile back, too numb to process this information right now. I don't know anything, but I know one thing, I'm happy. I'm elated actually. There's a baby growing inside me, a little child half me and half Daniel. I find myself resting my hand on my belly. "I'm pregnant?"
"Five weeks." Cassandra grins.
Five weeks? Damn. Its been five weeks? That means that by the time I left Daniel... It would have been too late. I would have already been pregnant by the time I decided I didn't want him in my life anymore. That means I wouldn't have been free. I would have been tethered to him, no matter if he decided to threaten my family or not. And that's a sobering thought. I was never free of him, and now that I have this little baby growing inside me, I never will again.
What scares me even more isn't how much that thought horrifies me, but how happy it makes me and I find myself grinning. I don't realize I'm crying until Cassandra wipes my tears with a tissue. "That's... amazing."
Cassandra nods, showing me her own watery smile. "I know you don't know it, but Daniel is going to be so happy."
Daniel. He's definitely going to be happy, but not for the reason I'm shedding tears of joy. He's going to be happy because just like with me, this has now brought him one step closer to the throne. It's a sad, sobering thought, but one that I have to put stock into. Daniel won't be happy about this baby because he already loves it--he'll be happy about it because to him, it's just another pawn in his chess game to the throne.
While I'm wallowing in a mixture of emotions, the door bursts open and Aline bursts through the door, her eyes wildly scanning the room until they land on me. Two guards trail behind her. "Ma'am! You can't come in here!"
She turns around. "If you try to remove me so help me GOD I will unleash hell upon the person who tries to keep me from my best friend when I've learned she's fainted!" She yells and the guard takes a step back, but doesn't budge.
"Cassandra? Can you give us a moment? And take the guards away and tell them everything is fine?" I ask her. She nods and does as I say. leaving me and my best friend alone in the room.
Aline practically runs to me. "Oh my! What's wrong, Annie? Is it the flu? A cold? Did you trip over the hem of one of those dumb fancy dresses you have to wear? Oh no! Or have you become mute from some unseen tragedy?"
I laugh at her hysterics. "I'm fine, Al."
"But why are you laying in the hospital wing of the palace? You're clearly not fine!"
I giggle and shake my head. "Well actually I'm... I'm pregnant." I say in a small voice.
I have never heard a louder scream than the one that comes from Aline's lungs. She squeals and grabs both my hands, jumping up and down, the widest smile on her face. I can't help but smile along with her. "OH MY GOD! You're pregnant?! I'm gonna be an auntie?"
I smile and nod, more tears of happiness forming in my eyes. "Yeah." I sob out. "You're gonna be auntie Allie."
She starts to cry to. "This is amazing! I mean, right? It has to be amazing." She sobers up for a second. "Wait, is this not amazing? What did Daniel say?"
I shake my head. "He doesn't know. I haven't told him yet."
She frowns. "But he'll be happy, right?"
I pause for a moment before nodding. "I think so." I know so. He'll be happy, but not for the reason I want him to be.
She shakes her head. "I understand. This is the final puzzle piece."
"Sadly." I sigh. "I just want him to be happy because it's our kid. It's half me and half him and I want him to be happy because we're starting a family, not because it will give him the crown, you know?"
Aline smiles at me sadly and takes my hand. "I know, Annie. I also know that even though he is stubborn as an ass.... that man loves you, so he is going to love this baby. Trust me."
I feel more tears welling up at the corners of my eyes and I squeeze her hand. Her words are so sweet and I wish more than anything for them to be true. Daniel will be happy I'm pregnant, and he'll be the best father, this child will want for nothing, including the attention of his parents. I just hope that's enough for this child, because I'm starting to discover that it might just be enough for me.
Hello my lovelies! Long time no speak! I hope quarantine is treating you well. Where is everyone from?
I have nothing to do except sit at home and write, so that's what I've been doing. I will be updating once every 1-2 days. I have abandoned the update schedule due to me having a lot of time so I'm sorry for the craziness!
Finally I just want to say that I love and appreciate you so much and please stay safe and healthy in these trying times! I'm glad my writing can serve as a bit of entertainment!