Despite the conversation Millie and I had earlier I decided I’ve give her and Angelica benefit of the doubt. I’d give them both more time to ‘adjust’ to the idea that I was James’s daughter, Millie’s step-daughter, and Angelica’s half-sister. I ran a quick shower and changed quickly as I thought over the events of the past twenty-four hours. Laurel came and knocked on my door about fifteen minutes after James left me. I invited her in.
“Laurel, it’s okay if I call you that, right?”
“Of course, Miss Juliet.”
“You don’t have to call me Miss. You can just call me Juliet. Most people call me Jules.” I offered. “Miss sounds too weird and official.” I laughed.
Laurel let out a small laugh. “You are a strange one, that’s for sure.”
“Good strange, like how peanut butter and Oreos can be so amazing together or bad strange like Lady Gaga fashion sense?”
Laurel started laughing again. “I’m not quite sure, to be honest. You are going to change this place though. That much is for sure.”
“I don’t really want to go down to dinner.” I admitted sheepishly. Since when was I nervous around people? This was weird for me.
“I’m not really comfortable around Millie and Angelica, to be honest.”
Laurel nodded. “They are a bit much at times.”
My stomach growled.
Laurel gave me a knowing look. “I could bring you something from the kitchens, or you can brave them.”
I nodded. She was right. I made my mind up right there. I was a guest, I should have to hide. I wasn’t one to run and hide. “Give me a minute, I’m nearly ready.” I finished drying my hair. I was wearing clothes I was comfortable in. I was wearing a pair of cropped shorts that had started life as a pair of jeans with a crimson fitted top. I was as ready as I was ever going to be. Laurel looked me over and there was something in her eyes that I couldn’t quite place. As quickly as I saw it, it was gone. She governed her face back to the polite mask she always seemed to wear.
“You will definitely change things around here.”
I smiled. “Can you show me to the dining room? I may forget to eat, but my stomach sure doesn’t.” I laughed.
Laurel showed me to the dining room and disappeared around the corner. That left me alone. I took a deep breath and walked in to the dining room. Millie, Angelica, and James were sitting at the table with a woman I’d never met before.
“Ah, how good of your to join us.” Millie snorted.
“Juliet, it is one of my advisors, Carolynn.” James indicated the stranger sitting next to him. She was a plump woman with a cheery smile and was the only woman in the room not sneering at me.
“It’s a pleasure.” I smiled.
“Carolynn has helped Angelica and Millie with images and appearances. I’d like you to go shopping with her tomorrow. And she can help-” James started.
“I have a question.” I interjected.
“Are you planning on trying to get me to change everything about me?”
James looked taken aback. Angelica covered up a laugh with a cough and Millie was staring at her dinner with a disinterested gaze. “What do you mean?”
“Just what I asked. Do you expect me to change who I am? I mean, I have my own clothes, my own style. I know it’s pretty different that any of you would wear. I am who I am, and I don’t want to change who I am. I don’t know what it really means being your daughter, James, but if I’m going to have to change who I am, if that’s what you want me to do, I’m sorry but I won’t.”
James stared at me for a long moment, before his face softened into a ghost of a smile. “There is no denying you are her daughter. Very well, Carolynn will go with you and you can find something that suits you and is appropriate. You should know that certain things, certain garments, are and are not tolerated in public. Our society is, well there are certain expectation that you will come to find, that are different from they might be in America.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Like, certain mannerisms and…terms that Americans use so freely.”
“Cursing, my dear.” Millie interjected. “That foul mouth of yours is an embarrassment. A proper lady doesn’t behave in such a way.” Millie condescended. “I’m sure that mouth of yours could make a sailor blush.”
I stared straight at her. “Oh you haven’t heard anything yet. Oh, should I call you Mum?”
Millie tensed. “I’ve already told you what to call-”
“That’s a marvelous idea!” James beamed. “I’m glad you two are getting acquainted. Now, I have a meeting to attend. You ladies should continue chatting. Good evening.” James stood and hurried out.
“So, what’s for dinner?” I asked, choosing a seat. “Whatever this is, it looks delicious.” I smiled.
I started fixing myself a plate and dug in while everyone else stared at me. I think might just be able to enjoy being here for a while.
I talked with Carolynn and listened to her suggestions, most of which I shot down. I watched as Millie and Angelica tried to ignore me and pretend I wasn’t there. In these instances, I felt the need to make my presence known.
“Mum, would you please pass the salt?” I smiled, sweet as pie. It would be rude for her to say no or ignore me. Millie just didn’t seem the sort of be rude in front of company. Somehow I doubted she’d let others see her snakelike side.
Millie’s look was flat, but not exactly harsh as she handed the salt and pepper to me.
“You’re the best, Mum.” I smiled. I knew the grin was cheeky, but I couldn’t help myself. I had a lovely dinner. Millie and Angelica didn’t seem very hungry and they left quickly. I talked with Carolynn for a while after they left, and she seemed like a nice lady. I felt bad for her, she was convinced she’d be able to make it work. She seemed to think I’d somehow fit into this mold she had created for me. Unfortunately, she had no idea what she was up against. It seemed I was a star shaped peg they wanted to fit in a square shaped hole. After a while longer, I bid Carolynn goodnight and managed to find my way back to my room, all by myself.
“You deserve a cookie.” I heard a familiar voice I could place. I turned to see Gwen.
“Hey!” I smiled. She actually had a cookie for me. “Chocolate chip! I love chocolate chip cookies! Oh my god, and it’s still warm. Have I told you you’re amazing?” I asked around a mouthful of cookie.
“No, but you’re welcome to. I figured I’d make sure you got here okay, and cookies just make everything better.” Gwen shrugged. “So I talked to Ben today.”
“He seemed pretty cool.”
“Yeah, he can be.” Gwen smiled, a far off look in her eye. I cocked my head to the side.
“Are you two?”
Gwen nodded and her smile widened. “Oh yeah.”
“Oh, so he’s your boyfriend?”
“Ew, no.” Gwen shot me a look of disgust. “He’s my brother.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I laughed.
“No problem.” Gwen laughed. “I have to get started on my chores. Good luck tomorrow. Word on the grounds is that we have some very important guests coming. It’s going to be an early morning. Get some sleep if you can.” Gwen sauntered off and I went into my room. I changed into my pajamas, crawled into bed, and managed to fall asleep almost immediately.
The next think I knew, Laurel was gently shaking me awake.
“Dude, what time is it?” I yawned as I looked around.
“Time to wake up.” Laurel smiled. “We have some very important guests coming.”
“Who the hell is so important?” I groaned as I sat up.
“The Royal Family.” Laurel replied, her face clearly unamused.
“No, really, who is it?”
“Really. It’s the Royal Family. Now get up.”
I was more alert now. “Wait what? Why is the Royal Family coming here?”
“Because our queen is visiting her baby brother.”
“Who is that?”
“James is related to the Royal Family?”
“Yes, his sister is married to our King. Now come on. I’ll answer your questions, but time is of importance.”
I pulled myself out of bed. “My aunt is a queen?”
“Fast study, aren’t you?” Laurel laughed.
“Yeah, about that…so what does one wear to meet a queen?”
“What are the nicest clothes you brought?”
I shrugged. Laurel covered her face with her hand and took a deep breath. “It might not mean much to you, but it does to us. Think of her as, almost like your favorite grandmother. You may not agree with everything she says, but you do your best to be polite and appease her. Appeasing her is of the utmost importance. Your best bet might be not to talk much, to be honest.” Laurel covered her mouth. “No, that’s not what I meant!”
“Relax, it’s cool. I know I have a big mouth. I know I say stupid things.” I padded over to my clothes. I did bring a dress with me. It was white and went to mid thigh with a black belt that cinched below the bust. I was proud I’d even remembered to bring shoes to match, a pair of low black heels. I pulled it out and showed it to Laurel. “Well? What do you think?”
“Much better than tattered jeans.” Laurel smiled.
“Is it queen worthy?”
Laurel shook her head. “Not exactly, but for you, it’s brilliant.”
I narrowed my eyes. “And what does that mean?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like - it’s just that-” Laurel stammered and I burst out laughing.
“I’m totally kidding, I was just teasing. I’m a mess and I know it.”
Laurel sighed and shook her head. “Right. Well, I’m actually supposed to basically brief you proper etiquette and behavior and such.”
An hour later, I had my hair styled, and my make up done, and felt not like myself. I wasn’t particularly comfortable in what I was wearing or why, but I put on a smile. I’d fake it as best I could. We were all gathered in the sitting room and Eleanor brought me my tea.
“I’m happy Aunt Cassie is coming. Do you know if my cousins are coming too?” Angelica cooed.
“I’m not sure.” James answered as he sipped his tea.
“Oh…” Angelica lowered her eyes to her own tea and then shifted to me. “This will be interesting.”
Not long after, a beautiful woman strolled in. There was an air of power around her, but she didn’t have to flaunt it. There was something about her that told you if she whispered an order, everyone would jump to action. Everyone stood.
“Cassie!” James smiled as he pulled her into a hug.
“James,” Her smile was soft and genuine. There was something about her. She was simply…radiant. I saw a lot of James in her. “I got your message. What surprise do you have for me?
“Well, a niece.” James grinned, but there was a hint of nervousness behind it. “I’ve recently found out I have another daughter.
Cassandra frowned at him. “James,” she started cautiously. “explain yourself.”
James sighed and smiled. “Do you remember, about twenty years ago, Rose?”
Cassandra’s eyes went wide. “Yes…”
James gave a sheepish smile.
“Is Rose here now?” Cassandra asked looking around.
James’s face fell and he shook his head. “No, she’s…well…”
Cassandra nodded and her face grew solemn. “I see.”
“But, this is Juliet,” James pulled me forward.
“It’s a pleasure, your highness” I curtsied to her.
Cassandra let out a laugh that rang like bells. “Juliet is it? I am your aunt, you do not have to be so formal. You may call me Aunt Cassie if you like.”
I smiled. “That works for me, Aunt Cassie. I’ve got to be honest, I was really worried about meeting you. I’ve never met any one really important, let alone a queen.”
“You’ll do fine, child. Is this why you asked me to bring Ian and Christine along?”
James nodded. “I thought they might teach her a little about our world. She’s been in America for the past twenty-one years.”
“Speaking of, why didn’t you tell me about her before?” Aunt Cassie’s eyes narrowed.
“I didn’t know.”
I was shocked when quick as a whip, Cassie smacked him across the back of the head. “You should have been smarter back then” She turned to me. “I’m glad my baby brother was an idiot. You’re a lovely young lady. I’m sorry he wasn’t more responsible. I’d like you to meet two of my children. Ian? Christine? Where are you two?”
Four people strolled in. As there was only one boy, it wasn’t hard to guess who Ian was. He was tall, lean muscled, with startling blue eyes. I noticed he had the same dark hair as Cassie. One of the girls had the same blue eyes as Ian, and other than her blonde hair, she was the spitting image of Cassie. That had to be Christine.
“Here they are, Cassie.” Smiled an official looking woman in a business skirt suit.
“Thank you Patricia.” Cassie turned to me. “Juliet, this is Ian, my son, Christine, my daughter, their advisor, Lana, and my advisor, Patricia. Everyone, this is Juliet, apparently she’s my niece.”
Lana, the advisor was slender with mocha skin and dark hair. What really caught my attention was her hazel eyes. They looked almost foreign in her face, with the darker features, but they made her look all the more beautiful.
“It’s a pleasure.” I smiled and offered my hand, feeling more awkward than anything else.
“Children, the adults need to speak. Lana would you take Juliet into the city with Ian and Christine? I believe some shopping was promised to her.”
Lana paled slightly. “Of course.” Lana looked to Ian and Christine. “And we’re all going to behave ourselves?”
“I believe the latest negative tabloid of us featured me carrying you our of a club, drunk.” Ian replied with a shrug.
Lana’s cheeks flushed, clearly flustered. “I thought we agreed not to talk about this again.” She huffed.
“Sounds like you guys know how to have a good time.” I smirked. “If we’re going out, can I change?”
Everyone looked surprised. “I suppose so,” Lana nodded. “but please hurry.”
“I’m coming.” Christine smiled.
“Sure, if you want to.” I shrugged.
Christine followed me up to my room and I started to pick out an outfit only for her to interrupt.
“No. I think this top suits your figure much better.” She smiled handing me a baby blue halter. “Oooh, with these!” She handed me a snug pair of denim leggins. “Oh, and wear those!” She pointed to my heels.
I let out a nervous laugh. I hadn’t had someone help me dress since I was a kid. She was way too excited about it. “Um, okay then.”
I changed quickly and Christine gasped.
“You have a tattoo!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Thanks.” I looked over my shoulder at it. “I like it.”
Christine eyed me for a long moment. “Does your dad know?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
“Maybe you should change one more time.”
“Tattoos are…frowned upon.” Christine started rummaging through my clothes and pulled out a yellow and black babydoll top. “Here we go. This way you don’t shock them too much.”
I nodded and pulled it on. “What’s the big deal? They’re just a couple of tattoos?” I called from the bathroom.
“A couple!” Christine gasped barging in. “Where?”
I showed her the one on my shoulder. She could actually see it clearly now. “I got this one for my mom about two weeks after she died.” I felt a sad smile on my face.
Christine looked at me with a strange look on her face. It wasn’t pity, but it wasn’t far off. “I can’t imagine my life without my mum. I’m sorry you lost yours.”
I shrugged. “You learn to live with it. I guess it’s kind of cool to have found my father.
Christine sighed. “Let’s go. They’ll wonder if we’re gone too long.” Christine grabbed me by my hand and pulled me back to where everyone was waiting. “We’re ready.” She beamed.
I followed them out of the house to a limo. An advisor, two royal children, and me in a limo. This felt like the opening of a bad joke.