I cannot recall a day of my life that was not filled with the constant pressure of being anything but perfect. It either came from my mother or my father but always had to do with my crown and title. Unlike how small my country of Cálida is, my official title is indeed not as small. My official title of Prince Phoenix Elliot James of Calida is the one I was born with and the future I was sentenced to. I would run the country of Calida the day I turned eighteen as is the tradition of the eldest male royal family heir to do so. As I had every intention to do so.
I turned seventeen at the start of this summer and unfortunately my time as a prince was running out. I would be preparing my coronation for next summer. That along with finding a future bride.
My father and mother claimed that as Prince Phoenix James, I had a responsibility to my country that I would one day understand. One of those responsibilities included finding a bride before my eighteenth birthday or settling for a pre-arranged marriage. That was another tradition that I thought was outdated yet was constantly told I would have to follow since I was a young boy.
My whole summer has been filled with endless appointments with future brides set by my mother and father. All daughters of famous diplomats, princesses of other small countries, and noblewomen of Calida. All contestants that were evidently swaying my way for the crown of future Queen of Calida or were simply pressured to meet with me. In some cases, they were both true.
“Phoenix, Darling, come drink some tea with your mother will you?” My mother stood in the doorway in a light blue floor-length dress that highlighted her equally blue eyes which was a feature that I inherited from her. Her light blond hair was in her usual updo with a smaller jeweled tiara sitting right on top. The exact tiara that she has worn every day since marrying my father.
Her smooth voice woke me up from the daydream state I was currently in.
I followed her down the corridor of the palace that leads to a study on the other side. Inside the office was a young lady perched in one of mother’s chairs. The young lady looked around my age with long blond hair that ended at her waist and a bright green dress that made her look like a lime. She instantly became nervous around my presence, an effect that I had on many girls apparently.
“Phoenix, your father and I thought it would be great if you met Miss Violet Holloway.” My mother said pointing to the blond sitting down. My father and mother have been bringing new candidates to our home every day for the past week, knowing very well that I was too kind to make a scene in front of our guests. I doubt they knew I had caught on to the dilemma they had forced me into.
“Mother, a word outside please?” I said walking out, not giving her a chance to respond.
After a few moments, I heard my mother’s heels click across the corridor stone floors. She faced me and put on her innocent face. An innocent face that might have worked on my father but definitely was not going to work on me. Not again.
“Mother, this is enough! I am tired of all these different girls. I’m not interested in any of them. Plus today is suppose to be my one day off!” I sighed trying to control my voice so the blond candidate would not hear.
“Wait, are you trying to tell me you are gay son? Oh, son, I should have known!”
“What the hell? No, I am not gay mother. I’m just tired of all of this. I just want to go to the states for a year that is all I ask for. One year to find out who I truly am mother,” I pleaded. I have brought up the subject many times in the past but it has never gotten anywhere. My parents would always say that it was my duty to stay in Cálida, finish up my studies, and maybe one day visit the states on official duty.
“Well that’s easy darling, you are the Prince and soon to be King.” My mother said with such certainty.
“Mother, that’s my title, the one thing that I’ve been defined by all my life! Please convince father on giving me one year. I will be back right before my coronation and will take place in a pre-arranged marriage of your choosing.” I begged desperately. I needed this. I was gasping for air here in the palace and something in my gut was telling me that I needed to get out of my country to find that fresh air.
I have begged mother and father to let me go to the United States to further my education more times than I can count, but my parents would never hear of it. So this time I showed the final card I held, the pre-arranged marriage one. I always told my mother and father that if I was going to marry for my country that it would at least be my choice of a bride. It was becoming clear that I was going nowhere with that so I thought I could use it to my advantage instead. A year in the United States for my agreement in a pre-arranged marriage. It sounded like a very fair trade.
My mother stared at me, for what felt like an eternity. I focused on her blue eyes trying to seek any sign of her possibly letting me go.
“This will cause a lot of chaos with the media Phoenix James, but I will see what I can do about it with your father. Meanwhile, get ready for lunch with Miss Violet, she is one of your father’s candidates for you.” My mother said pointing her head towards the office.
I kissed my mother on her forehead and walked towards the study. The sooner the date is over, the quicker I can get an answer from my father.
However. lunch was still a disaster in my book. Violet, like the other choices, was only interested in my lifestyle and probably already pictured herself moving into the castle. All these dates made me great at sensing when people wanted to be around me because of my title, and Violet reeked of a gold digger and a little bit of cheese too. Yuck, how I loathe cheese.
I called for one of my drivers to take Violet home as soon as she was done with her lunch. My drivers had grown accustomed to the schedule since my parents had chosen girls that were just horrible choices. It almost made me regret telling my mother I’d take part in a pre-arranged marriage of their choosing.
The evening had made me grow tired and soon I drifted to my chambers where I could not remember falling asleep.
I was awoken by one of the maids cleaning a non-existing mess in my room. The maid had her long black hair tied into a braided crown as was customary for the royal maids. Yet, this jet black hair was very familiar to me.
“There is nothing to clean here Cassandra, take the day off,” I said catching the maid’s attention. Cassandra was another constant in my life. She has worked for my family since she was nineteen. She dedicated her life to caring for us that I considered her a second mother figure. She took care of me when I got high fevers, when I broke my leg at age 11, and I fear that I would have broken down long ago if it was not for her keeping me sane. She chose to never get married which sadly made me jealous that she had the choice to leave in the first place.
“Oh my dear Phoenix, this is my job, I am at your service now and up until you become King. Plus, knowing you, you probably have some burger wrappers hidden under your pillows,” Cassandra gave me a genuine smile followed with a smirk.
There was the word again, King. Was I ready for all this responsibility? I knew that going to the States was a way of me running from all of it and I could not help it. I had to think about myself for a while and not about all the people of my land. I could be a selfish Prince this one time in my life, but not a selfish King later.
I sighed and pulled the burger wrapper under my pillow and gave it to Cassandra as she left with a smirk on her face. She knew me too well.
When I got out of the shower, I looked at myself in the mirror. My blond hair started dripping water droplets over my forehead before I dried it and styled it back. My ocean eyes stared back at me as did the bags under my eyes. My jawline was sharper today than previous days and I felt some stubble under my chin. I got my razor and gave myself some well-needed self-care.
When I went back into my bedroom suite, the drapes were pulled back, letting the sunshine on my antique furniture and bookshelves that wrapped around my bed. It looked like Cassandra made my bed and had my breakfast delivered to my bedroom just the way I liked it in the mornings. I put on one of my favorite Giorgio Armani suits on before I picked up the newspaper that laid splayed out beside my breakfast tray.
The Cálida Times headlines read in big bold letters, ”PRINCE PHOENIX ELLIOT JAMES OF CALIDA FLEES THE COUNTRY"
I momentarily froze. The media always wrote pieces of the royal family that were sneaky but they never wrote pieces that were untrue in Cálida. It was against the law to do so. I continued reading and the article mentioned myself leaving to the United States for a study year. I was left confused. I barely discussed this with mother and she told me she would discuss it with father but as far as I knew, everything was still up in the air.
I finished my breakfast while I responded to emails on my phone which was a part of my morning routine. It appeared that news of one particular Prince going to the United States had spread into global news. My emails were flooded with schools in the United States that would state how they would love to take me for my study year. All emails that were forward to me by my publicist, Jenna. She ended the chain with one that caught my attention the most. One of the emails came from a high school in a place named Brownsville, Oregon. I’ve never heard of the town and according to the email, neither have a lot of people. The email continued talking about how they would love to have me and their small town would be perfect for me. I googled the town and the scene started to grow on me.
“Good morning, son.” My father said startling me as he stood tall by my door. Unlike my mother’s straight blonde hair, my father’s hair laid in short brown curls under his crown. Even without his crown, you would immediately know how important he was by the way he stood. He owned every room that he walked in.
“Father.” I nodded acknowledging him.
“So the United States?” He said picking up the newspaper I had next to me.
“Father I know it’s crazy and you most likely won’t let me go but I h---” I started to say.
“Where would you be going? I am sure you have had enough time to look through the list of potential schools that I had Jenna send over.”
I thought about it for a moment. I looked up to find any sarcasm in my father’s face but did not find any. He was being dead serious.
“What?” I asked.
“Go, I’ll have a car waiting for you in an hour. Scott will take you to the airport. I will have Cassandra pack your bags. I will personally arrange your living quarters and have them prepared for your arrival. One year Phoenix. That is all we are giving you. Do not dare to forget that when you get back from your term, you will be dedicated to being King and your marriage.” My father says firmly as he sets the newspaper down on my lap.
“Yeah dad, anything, thank you.” I got up and hugged my father. Something that took us both by surprise. He was not an affectionate father at all. Cassandra once told me that my grandfather was the exact way before he died and that she hoped I would change the cycle.
“Thank your mother for this one.” My father says while awkwardly patting my back. He released his hold and walked towards the corridor.
“Oh, and before I forget Phoenix, I had hoped that you would pick Brownsville, Oregon. It was my top choice,” He mentioned before exiting the room.
As soon as he left, Cassandra came in and helped me pack. She cried the whole time saying how much she was going to miss me. I reassured her that I would be in good hands. My father said he would personally arrange everything and he would never have me leave if it was not completely safe for me.
Before I knew, the hour was up and Scott was there to collect my bags. My mother and father stood by the front gate as they watched my luggage being placed into the car. They hugged me and wished me luck, not to mention the lecture of responsibility and trust. They would be watching my every move, not like it was any hard the media would do it for them. I got into the car and waved to my parents until they disappeared. I was going to Brownsville, Oregon where I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I was excited to find out.