Chapter 7: Word Up
TWO long weeks passed by in blessed after James Romans left his households. After Anya’s unexpected breakdown, James had made a call to Dean, stated that he would like to stay at home for at least two more days until Mum returned. He then made a call to have his flight ticket rescheduled.
Hotpot dinner for that night had to be postponed as neither the Romans’ siblings had any appetite to eat. Thankfully, Josh had stepped in and ordered take outs for everyone.
When morning came and to everyone’s shock, Rosy made a surprise return. Her conference had ended earlier than expected.
All in all, James had been very happy to stay until Friday before he really needed to leave for work.
Mario, the Sous-Chef of the restaurant had begged him to return to work soonest as possible as they have received a full booking from celebrities for the rest of the whole next week.
JOSH Campbell yawned tiredly and loudly, then cracked his neck left and right. Just as another yawn began to escape from his mouth, something swiftly fast hit on his arm, caused him to groan.
“Close your damn mouth when you yawn,” Anya Romans frowned deeply, holding a flying swatter on her right hand. Putting the swatter down, Anya resumed eating her breakfast.
Rosy who sat at the head of the table, simply shook her head at her daughter’s behaviour. Turning her head to Josh, she says,
“Josh, dear. Not that I minded you’ve been staying our place for a while now, but when are you planning to return to your own apartment?”
Josh immediately stopped munching his breakfast. Looking up, he met with four pairs of eyes who were waiting for him to reply.
It had been a surprise to everyone one evening while they were having dinner after a long day at work when someone had rung the doorbell.
Aidan took the liberty to open the door, he was shocked to find Josh with a piece of large luggage.
Josh invited himself in, with dark bags underneath his eyes from lack of sleep.
“Please let me stay here while waiting for my new neighbour to move in.”
That was two long weeks. Josh sighed heavily, stabbing the scrambled eggs before putting them into his mouth.
“I can’t go back there until that darn new tenant above me finally decide to move in. I’m sorry Rosy. I’ll pay you for this week’s room rent.”
“Oh, hush. You silly man. You’re a family, Josh. My home is always welcome for you.”
“Maybe you should make him pay us rent, ma. I mean, after all, we’ve already provided him with shelter, feed him and clean his laundries.”
Anya’s remarks were responded by a gentle tap on her head by her mother as she headed to the kitchen’s sink and washed the dirty dishes. Josh smirked victoriously and pointed out his tongue at Anya, who rolled her eyes in return.
Finishing her cup of coffee, Anya took her dirty plate and cup to the sinks before heading to her bedroom to fetch her bag and files. A moment later, she returned with files and bag on each hand.
“I’m going now, Ma,” She went over to Rosy and kissed her cheek.
“Have a wonderful time at school, honey!”
“Hold on, Anya. I’ll drop you off to school. Rosy, do you and the boys need a ride to Home’s?”
“No, thank you, dear. Duke and Aidan would accompany me to Home’s today. Won’t you, boys?”
Duke nodded. “Yes. There are much for us to discuss! Isn’t that right, Madam?”
“Discuss?” Anya rose an eyebrow suspiciously. Before she could question him further, Rosy cleared her throat and quickly ushered her to the door.
“Anya sweetie, you will be late if you don’t leave now. Be sure to say hi to Steve and Emma for me!”
A song by a Nü-metal band blasted through the speaker of a police car on the road, heading toward their destination, twenty minutes away.
Yo, pretty ladies around the world
Got a weird thing to show ya
So tell all the boys and girls
Tell your brother, your sister
And your mama too
We’re about to go down
And you’ll know just what to do
“Wave your hands in the air like you don’t careeee,” Josh enjoyed himself singing tune-deaf to the song while banging his head and tapping his hands on the steering wheel. He wore a red wine sunglasses, which he proudly claimed, made him looked cool and mysterious.
Definitely a good way to impress the ladies.
On the passenger seat, Anya too banging her head and moved her hands accordingly to the song’s upbeat tune with a broad smile. It was one of many things they shared: the love for music. Whether it’s alternative rock, pop or ballad, they always enjoyed the music.
With the university’s entrance gates approaching and close on sight, Anya grinned widely to herself, seeing the reaction of her peers when a police car suddenly entered through the entrance gates.
Only those who recognised the number plate would simply snicker while new kids would gasp and wondered who the hell caused enough trouble for the police to come to the school early in the morning.
“Alright, kiddo. Off you go,” Josh pulled over at the side of the entrance.
Anya pulled the handle and got up. “Thanks for the ride, Joshy!”
“Take care and don’t get into trouble, ya hear!”
Anya waved a hand in the air while she walked toward the university’s gates as the police car drove away.
AT four-forty five o’clock in the evening, Anya Roman’s last class of the day finally ended.
Packing her stuff, the youngest Roman saw her two best friends waved at her outside. Smiled brightly, Anya waved back and signalled them to wait while she finished packing.
Meanwhile, while Emma Greens and her boyfriend, Steve, were waiting for Anya outside of her class, they heard a commotion made by a group of girls passing by.
“Did you see that hot guy at the front gates? He’d winked at me!”
“No. He was winking at me!”
“As if, girls. He was actually winking at me!”
The discussion ended up in a heated argument that made the couple rolled their eyes.
Shortly after the group of girls passed by, Anya rushed in toward them.
“Sorry, I’m late!”
“No worries, Anya,” Emma smiled cheerfully.
Anya smiled. “I’m famished. Do you mind if we stop by somewhere to eat before heading to the libra—”
Her little conversation was interrupted by a ringtone from her mobile. Anya took out her phone from her jeans pocket and looked at the screen flashed at her.
“Excuse me for seconds, guys!” Anya ran ahead and clicked the green button.
“Greetings, Miss Anya. Have you finished with today’s lessons yet?”
“Ah, excellent news for me then! If you don’t mind, could you meet up with me in front of your school’s gates please?”
“What? Like... Right now?”
“Yes. Right now,” Duke’s background noise suddenly filled with female voices shouting in high-pitched voices.
“I’ll be waiting. Please hurry!” He hung up the call.
“Wait, Duke — Really, that man!” Anya cursed lowly.
“Who were you talking to, Anya?” Steve approached her from behind. He got worried after she didn’t return from the phone call and wondered if something happened.
“U-Uh!” Anya laughed awkwardly. “My cousin. You remember Duke, right?”
Steve and Emma nodded. Briefly remembering the happy-go-lucky man whom they’d met a month ago.
“What about him?” Emma asked.
“He said something about work, so I have to go and check it out. I’m so sorry for this, you guys.”
“It’s fine if you have to go now, Anya. But before you leave, we have something very important to share —”
“Thank you for your understanding, Emma, Steve!” Anya pulled the two in a group hug before quickly released them. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow — ciao!”
Anya ran faster than a bullet, leaving her two best friends stunned and eating dust. Emma sighed loudly, putting both hands on her hips.
“Just when we were about to share with her our great news... Still, it can’t be helped that she’s constantly busy juggling between classes, meeting deadlines, and managing Homez on daily basis.”
Steve nodded. “True. Still, don’t you think she’s being a bit secretive lately? Like, I’ve a feeling there’s something that she’s trying so hard to keep from us.”
Emma shrugged. “Maybe it’s personal? You and I both know how stubborn Anya is.”
“I guess you’re right. She’ll tell us when the time comes, right?”
Emma nodded and smiled lovingly at him.
“Do you think she’ll freaks out when we tell her that we’re officially engaged now?”
“Knowing Anya, she just might faint.”
At his reply, Emma smiled bashfully as she leaned closer, arms wrapped around her fiance’s neck and kissed him deeply on the lips. Wrapped around her left finger was a dazzling diamond with many brilliant facets Diamond Engagement Ring.
ANYA barely made it out of the university gates with a swarm of girls gathered at the sight of the Excalibell Prince, who was hiding behind the shades of the trees.
Short of breath and irritated that she had to go through the same experience again, Anya wiped the sweats dripping on her forehead using the back of her hand, as she made her way to the Excalibell Prince.
“Yo,” Anya poked his shoulder from behind.
Duke turned and smiled broadly. Unlike before, he didn’t bother to pull her into a hug and simply standing there with a big smile on his face.
“I’m glad you could make it, Miss Anya.”
Anya shrugged. “So, what do you need me here for? Wait for a second...” Her eyes glared sharply at him.
“What are you even doing here? Did Aidan tell you to take the day off again? I’ll murder that man!”
“At ease Miss Anya, please! I have Madam’s permission to be here. As a matter of fact, she was the one who informed me that I should be the one telling you about the matter myself...”
Anya scoffed. “Not surprisingly. Whatever the two of you have been up to lately, I bet on my bank account it has something to do with magic, is it not?”
Duke gulped, forcing himself to bravely take a stand against the younger woman.
Anya took a step forward in a threatening manner.
“Duke. What have you done?”
Inhaling deeply, the Excalibell Prince explained calmly.
“Miss Anya. Ever since our paths have been crossed, I am aware that life has not been the same for you. Though they are less affected by the circumstance of the situation we’re in, nevertheless, I apologised sincerely for what happened.”
Anya watched in silence with guarded eyes as Duke continued.
“Starting today, Aidan and I shall move out of your place, Miss Anya.”
“We realised our presence may draw unwanted attention and considered a threat to your safety as well as others. Hence, we decided to move out of your house to keep you and the people closest to you safe.”
“But,” Anya stuttered.
“Ah, fear not, Miss Anya! Although it may seem hard for you to believe, I do keep some money in a bank account in this world which I’ve earned throughout the months I had to pretend as a fencing instructor at Marian’s all-girls private high school.”
Duke puffed his chest forward proudly and not paying attention at all to his surrounding as he continued to elaborate.
“Marian’s father is a very strict yet wise man. Despite my royal background and wealth, he’d wanted me to be able to earn money by myself, stated that should anything was to happen to my kingdom, I will still be able to provide for Marian, at the very least. Coincidentally, there was an opening at Marian’s school and so, Marian applied for me as a fencing instructor at her old school. I’d worked there for over a year and a half, and earned more than I could count for! With the money that I’d earned and the ones that I am currently earning, it’s more than enough for both Aidan and myself to pay full wagon for the condominium we’ve just bought.”
All the while Duke had been rattling about his stored savings, he failed to realise the youngest Romas was gawking at him as if he was a ghost.
Moving out. Bank account. Fencing. Prestige School.
Anya snapped out of her mind and shook her head. Sighed deeply, she massaged her now throbbing forehead.
“So let me get this straight: you and that damn butler are moving out from my home?”
“Yes,” Duke nodded firmly.
“You used to be a fencing instructor at Marian’s old all-girls prestige high school?”
“Indeed I was.”
“You earned a lot more than you could ever ask for and now with that money, you used it to buy a condominium.”
“Oh my god, DUKE!” Anya roared angrily. “Why didn’t you do it sooner?! We could have avoided certain things!” She slapped his arm hard.
“M-My apologies, Miss Anya. There were many distractions which enabled me to do it sooner...”
Anya’s response was definitely not what he nor Aidan had expected to see. They had thought she would be so excited that she ended up doing side flip when he announced that they were moving out of her home.
After all, they would be out of her hair and she no longer has to deal with Aidan’s ‘Know-it-all’ attitudes at home. Besides, she didn’t even want them over in her place in the first place, right? Duke pondered quietly.
Decided it was best for him to break the long awkward silence between them, Duke let out a nervous laugh.
“Anyhow, why don’t we go to my new place now? I’ve been dying to show it to you anyway!”
Quickly, he grabbed a hold on her wrist and led the way before she could protest.
THE place which Duke had taken her was the last place Anya expected to be in. When he dragged her to an expensive neighbourhood and insisted that they were not lost, panic arose within her as she stood awkwardly in front of tall apartment buildings structured of glass, with dark tinted glasses painted in elegance colour.
Anya gawked unashamedly at the big logo, ‘Le Frost’ — the most expensive condominium in the whole neighbourhood. Only the high and might ones could afford to buy or rent a unit or two and live there.
Hell, the cost of buying a unit worth of Anya’s two years of allowance! Besides Steve’s wealthy family, she knew no one else who was wealthy enough to buy a unit at the condominium.
Yet, here stood a somebody who had purchased it hours ago.
“Is something the matter, Miss Anya? Do you not like my new place?”
Anya shook her head. “It’s nothing. I do like it. I’m just...Surprise, that’s all.”
Duke noted then smiled. Gently, he ushered her to enter the lift before closing it.
Inserted the residence penthouse’s card key, Duke then pressed the number. They waited in silence as the lift slowly ascending to their destination.
With her back against the walls, Anya silently observed the handsome Prince stood before her while he cheerfully hummed a tune.
It clicked to her finally after months of living together, how dashing he looked in plain clothes and jeans. No surprisingly how easily women swooned at the sight of him on the streets.
Anya easily forgot the man she bossed around at home and work was an actual Prince from another dimension. Of course, he could afford to own a residence penthouse at Le Frost!
Mentally sighed, the youngest Romans decided to ease the atmosphere between them by asking questions about his new place.
“So, Duke. What made you chose this place over the others as your new headquarter?
Duke tilted his head slightly toward her. “Well, we found that this place is located strategically between your apartment and Homez’s, as it is at the centre of the city. Moreover, it is a walking distance to the train station, so it is very convenience.”
Duke smiled broadly again.
“Isn’t it great, Miss Anya? Now we can visit each other whenever we want!”
Anya shook her head, though she let his contagious smile affected her this time.
When the lift stopped and made a soft ting, Duke unlocked the door and keyed in the password code as taught previously by Aidan, before opening the door.
“Welcome to my humble abode, Miss Anya. Please come in. There’s no need to be shy!”
Anya hesitatingly entered the residence penthouse. It wasn’t her first time entering a bachelor’s pad — she’d been to and slept over at Josh’s apartment countless times before — and yet, Anya couldn’t get rid of the awkward feelings as she entered the penthouse.
The first thing she noticed about the residence penthouse was that it was spacious and wide. The flooring was covered with laminated marble tiles, and the living room walls painted in light pale peach that matched perfectly with the white ceilings.
Being a perfect gentleman, Duke led her to the living room one long and small sofa, a small coffee table at the centre, and opposite the table, a plasma television screen in the living room.
Anya sat down on the sofa while Duke excitedly went off to the kitchen to serve his first guest a drink.
“This is too awkward,” Anya sighed.
Looking around the penthouse, she couldn’t help but be amazed by the interior design. Her eyes strayed to the dining room that has a long dark brown curtain with designated iron-curved windows, a six-seating rectangular table with red chairs and a polyester designated rug.
After a minute or two of admiring the layout of the place, Anya checked on her mobile phone for any messages.
No messages or missed calls from Mum asking her whether she would be coming to help out at Home’s whatsoever. Sighed, she kept her phone back inside her jeans and waited for the Prince to arrive with her drinks.
Would he mind if I switch on the TV, at least? Anya pondered. It’s really hard to believe that I’m actually at THE Le Frost! I wonder how Steve would react if I told him I’d been at Le Frost before him? He would be in shock, no doubt. And then he’ll start asking questions after question and...
Anya quickly shook her head.
No matter what happens, nobody besides herself must know the truth about them.
Sighed again, Anya checked on the clock hanging on the wall that read: five thirty-five.
We came in around five twenty-five. How long does one really needs to prepare a simple drink?
Restlessly, Anya got up, stretched her arms and legs, and made her way to where the kitchen was.
“Hey, Duke? Need some help in there?”
The sudden sound of broken glasses on the floor caught her immediate attention. Anya fastened her pace to the kitchen.
Anya stopped and gasped at the sight of scattered glasses and trails of blood on the kitchen’s floor. Her eyes moved from the broken glasses to the Excalibell Prince, hissing painfully by the sink.
“What the hell happened to you?”
Anya rushed over to the sink and found that both of his palms suffered deep cuts from the shattered glasses.
Without waiting for him to answer, Anya searched for a clean cloth, found them and immediately adding pressure to his wounded palms to stop the bleeding.
“I watched,” Duke winced. “I watched how Aidan had done it so easily, plenty of times before. I... I thought it would be easy and attempted to do it for you. But it seems that, even doing so, I’m causing you troubles. I am really a useless prince who can’t do simple things, am I?” At Duke’s voice broke by the end of his sentences, something inside Anya stirred.
As gently as she possibly could, Anya covered his wound with another clean cloth before leading him to the living room.
“Do you know where do you keep the First Aid box?” Anya asked once she had the Prince safely seated on the sofa.
“I think it’s on the top shelf near the stove.”
Nodded, Anya went back to the kitchen while the Prince sulked on the sofa. Five minutes later, Anya returned with the First Aid box, a small bowl filled with warm water and soap. She took a seat next to Duke and gently treating his wound.
Duke had not said a word the whole time she was treating him. He gazed on the floor.
Truth be told, Anya did not like the crestfallen look on his face at all. No. She’d much prefer to see the constantly sunshine look on his face than this.
Now that the Prince had been treated, Anya headed to the kitchen to see if she could figure out exactly what had happened.
In the kitchen, Anya spotted the broken and a few shards of glasses were lying on the floor.
Carefully, she picked up the big shards first and threw them away into the dustbin, followed by sweeping the rest. Anya did that for a couple of minutes.
Next, she picked up the electric kettle that was lying on the floor, wiped it dry with a clean cloak, then placed it back to its stand and turned it on to boil.
“DON’T go and beat yourself up now.”
Anya merged from the kitchen carrying a tray consist of two small cups, a mug, and few biscuits that she’d managed to find in the kitchen cabinets.
Duke who was still sulking by the time she came to the living room, remained unmoved from his seat and with his head down.
Carefully putting everything on the table, Anya sighed softly while looking at him with arms crossed on her chest.
“I’ve never thought of you as pathetic, Duke.”
Her words somehow got through him. “Listen. I really appreciate the kind gesture that you’ve shown me by attempting to personally serve me a tea. Really, coming from you, it’s such a great honour. But, it’s not like I was expecting more from you, Prince. I understand that you do not familiarise doing with stuff like serving tea to guests. You are a Royalty. As such, you aren’t supposed to do those things. So don’t beat yourself up over it, okay?”
Duke lifted his head ever so slowly. Long bangs still covered his face as he spoke with a melancholic tone in his voice.
“My mother was a commoner.”
“I think, the main reason why I am interested to know how it feels like doing commoner’s stuff is that my mother was a commoner before she got married into the royal family. I want to embrace my mother’s culture, to know both sides of the world... ”
Anya observed as Duke’s face lightened up a bit at the mentioned of his beloved mother.
“Mother owned a successful florist shop in town. According to my father, her flowers had always bloomed beautifully, even during the harsh cold of winter. My father mentioned how he’d fallen in love with her at first sight during one cold winter when flowers kept on blooming and blossomed beautifully and surrounded her. He’d thought she was Ceres, the Goddess of agriculture, who had descended from Heavens. He’d said she was the most beautiful woman he’d set his eyes on.”
Anya smiled fondly at the King’s words. Slowly, she took a seat on the sofa beside him and hold his hands while Duke continued.
“My mother had been a strong, hard-headed, charming and kind woman. Nobody in this world could ever replace her in my father’s heart. So when she died gave birth to me, I’d thought Father would loathe me for sure for taking away the love of his life. I’d thought everyone else would feel the same way too...” Duke’s voice broke a bit.
“But he didn’t. Nor did anyone else. Instead, I’m constantly showered with love and respect by Father and everyone around me. It made me wanted to get to know her more, especially her roots. That’s why... That’s why I enjoyed staying here with you, Miss Anya. Living in this world with you taught me everything I’d wanted to know about my mother.”
Duke smiled charmingly. Taking her hand into his, he gently kissed the back of her left hand.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.”
“No problem,” Anya returned a smile.
After a moment of an understanding silence between them, Duke’s cheerfulness sprung back to life. He stood up, stretching his long arms and yawned before turning to Anya.
“Miss Anya? Do you mind if I request you a personal favour?”
At her nod, he continued. “Very well. Would it troubles you to teach me how to cook a delicious meal for dinner tonight?”
“Cook?” Anya raised an eyebrow.
“Yes. Since we are living separately now, I would very much like to be independent enough to at least be able to cook something. I can’t always depend on Aidan on everything at all times. Despite being my Butler, I am very aware that Aidan has a lot of things going on his plates aside from protecting and taking care of me. For example, the Challengers.”
The tone of his voice darkened. “Miss Anya, danger will continue to follow us as long as we are still trapped in this world with no way back. Again, I am very truly sorry to dispose this upon you and I know you’ve been working hard to assist us in finding a way to get back home. But nonetheless, no matter what happens, please know that I will protect you. You’ve become truly a dear friend to me despite our differences. I promise I won’t let any of those Challengers touch even a hair on you. So rest assure and please don’t worry,” Duke smiled warmly as he brushed few strings of her hair and moved them behind her ears.
“I’m counting on you, Duke,” A smirk began to spread across Anya’s lips, which Duke returned with a broader grin.
“That being said, Miss Anya, let’s make dinner!” He then unexpectedly, pulled her arms toward the kitchen.
“Ah, Duke! Wait!”
Not stopping for even a second, Anya was helplessly being dragged to the kitchen by a very exciting Prince.
AT six forty-five o’clock later, the whole residence penthouse was filled with the delicious aroma of a big bowl of spicy Meatball spaghetti with garlic loaves of bread, along with hot bowls of mushroom soup that were being served on the dining room.
“And that’s how you made dinner!” Anya grinned proudly at their achievements. Meanwhile, Duke who standing close beside her, couldn’t get rid the wide smile on his face even if he tried as he stared at the freshly homemade dishes on the table.
“I-I made these? All of them? I can’t believe it!” He looked at Anya. “You’re a brilliant and kind teacher, Miss Anya. Thank you!”
“You’re a good student who paid attention and listened well. You’re welcome.”
The two of them chuckled delightedly before taking their seats and started to eat the dinner.
“This soup is delicious!” Duke praised loudly, sipping on the mushroom soup.
“The spaghetti’s good too. Well done, Your Highness,” Anya nodded with a proud smile.
“I have you to thank for.” Duke smiled back. “Without you helping me, I doubt I could make them properly.”
“Practise makes perfect. I appreciate the compliments, though,” Anya winked.
They continued to dine while keeping each other’s company happily.
AT eight-thirty o’clock in the evening, Anya and the Excalibell Prince arrived in front of her condominium. Despite the young woman’s kept telling him that she was capable to walk home on her own, Duke insisted that he walked her home and wouldn’t hear any of it until he made sure that she got safely inside.
“It is very ungentlemanly of me, after inviting you over to my home and then simply left you alone to return home, Miss Anya. Moreover, I’d made a promise with Mister James before he left, that I will watch over you in his stead,” The Prince had stated firmly.
Great. Another James. As if Josh’s constant hawking on daily basis wasn’t enough.
Anya sighed softly but said nothing.
Just as the two friends were about to depart, they heard a familiar voice calling them.
“Ah, there you two are,” Rosy smiled motherly at the two of them with a grocery bag. Beside her, Aidan who was carrying two full grocery bags in his hands.
“You’re back early tonight, ma.”
Rosy nodded.“Mmhm. We’ve decided to close Home’s earlier tonight. How do you like the penthouse? Pretty cool, right?”
“Yea, it’s cool. Wait, when did you go there, Ma? This morning?”
Rosy nodded, opening the door and let them all in.
Meanwhile, Aidan’s sharp eyes gazed upon Duke’s bandaged hands, and he frowned immediately.
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you on the way back home. More importantly,” Duke turned to Anya. “Thank you very much for tonight’s lesson, Miss Anya. I’m sorry for causing you trouble even though you were my first guest...”
Anya shook her head. “It’s cool. Take care not to injure yourself now.”
With one final wave and wished them goodnight, the Excalibell Prince and his Butler parted ways.
“WHAT a day!”
Anya yawned tiredly after she showered and changed her clothes. Her eyes strayed at Casey who was already curled up on the blanket.
Anya smiled and softly brushed her furs.
“Well, at least dinner was okay. He really was a good student. Maybe after this, he’ll have that butler to teach him something else,” Anya smiled.
Stretching her arms and legs, Anya got up from the bed to switch off the light, and returned to her bed, yawning sleepily.
As Anya’s head landed on the soft pillow and sleep slowly taking over her consciousness, at the corner of her eyes, she saw a bright white light flashed on one of the bookshelves.
“What is it now?” Anya groaned, blocking the light with her hand as she tossed the blanket and angrily marched toward the bookshelves.
Her eyes widened at the source of the light: it was a golden engagement ring that she’d found inside an old pouch months ago.
Anya gasped loudly. “Oh my God! I totally forgot to return this ring to him!”
Barely react to anything, the light from the ring suddenly shone very brightly.
“W-What’s happening — Aaaaaah!!”
When the light finally stopped, neither Anya nor the golden ring was found in the room.