I was sitting around the kitchen table talking to my mom about my first day back when our front doorbell rang. I looked at my mother. We were not expecting any guests.
“I’ll get it,” She said getting up from her seat and heading towards the front door.
“What are you doing here?” I heard my mother say at the door.
I crept behind the wall trying to find out who was at the door. It was a tall man around mid 30′s standing in all-black attire. He stood in a military stance, legs slightly separated and his arms behind his back. I was going to grab my pepper spray before I heard him speak.
“Hello, Natalie. The King and Queen of Calida are here in the States. They have requested an audience with your daughter. I am here to retrieve her,” The man said in a stern voice.
I felt my jaw drop. How did I not know that Phoenix’s parents were here and why did they want to talk to me? I closed my eyes and started thinking. What would cause them to travel all the way to the states just to talk to me? At that moment, a light bulb lit up above my head. Phoenix ended his engagement and they thought it was my fault, but how could they have figured so far?
Silly Mila, they have the power of a whole country, of course, they had the power to find out about you.
“No. Absolutely not. Luke, please, do not do this to her,” My mom pleaded back in a whisper. Luke? So this mysterious man was Phoenix’s driver that I have heard so much about, but how did my mom know him?
I came out from behind the wall and saw Luke’s eyes get wider, “Mom, is everything ok?”
My mom looked back at me. Concern filled her face, “Nothing is wrong princess. I was just telling this man that he has the wrong house,” She responded oblivious of my eavesdropping.
I looked back between my mom and Luke waiting for someone to break first. Luke was the first one to speak up, “Wow, Natalie, she looks just like you,” He said as he stepped closer towards me. His gaze made me feel uneasy.
I took a step back and my mom stood in front of as she was protecting me from Luke.
“Well obviously he knows you, mom,” I told my mom, “What do you want?” I asked stepping behind my mom and trying to stand braver in front of Luke. He had the feet, experience, and muscle categories down, but I hoped that I was at least selling the attitude. He released the military stance that he was holding and repeated the robotic message he had told my mother at the door.
“You can’t go Mila,” My mom said grabbing onto my arm. Her force was almost pulling me deeper into our home. I did not understand why she was so nervous. It really should be me that felt those emotions, but for some reason, my brave attitude was working too well. I wanted to face them.
I looked back at my mom. I grabbed her hands, “I have to go Mom. Phoenix needs me to do this. We need to do this for him,” I told her. There was an understanding within her eyes. She was there to hear every story that Phoenix told us at our family dinners. She was there to hear the hurt that was behind his stories. The mother in her had wanted to protect Phoenix ever since that moment. She cared for Phoenix and understood the cause of toxicity, his parents.
“Ok, but I am going,” She said reaching for her purse.
Luke stood in front of her, “You cannot be inside, Natalie. It was a strict request for only Mila. I promise I will protect her. I will not let anything happen to her. Trust me.”
“You lost that trust seventeen years ago, Luke,” My mom whispered, yet was loud enough for my ears to pick up. My mom had traveled to Calida right before I was born, maybe that is where she knew Luke. I choose not to comment on that exactly at this moment but made a mental note to ask my mom about it later. It was clear that there was a lot of history
Luke looked like was genuinely hurt by my mom’s words. He stared at her while my mother continued to look down.
“Luke, could my mother wait in the car outside?” I asked. Luke looked at me again as he had forgotten that I was there in the first place. He coughed the awkwardness away and told my mother she could come along but would have to wait in the car. Under no circumstance, could the King and Queen of Calida know that Luke had disobeyed their orders. When we got into the car, Luke let us know that he would wait outside with my mom to make sure that she stood out there clearly knowing my mother well.
When we arrived to an apartment complex, Luke told me to head up to room 214. As I walked up the stairs, I took one last glance behind me. I saw my mother on the verge of tears. She was really scared of these people, part of me was too.
I knocked on room 214′s door and another man dressed in black peered out.
“Name?” He asked.
He opened the door wider and I walked into the unknown of apartment 214.
I first saw Phoenix when I walked into the apartment. He stood up with concern on his face and met me at the entrance, “Are you ok, Mila? I am so sorry about this. I had no part in this,” He whispered. I assured him that I was okay and that it was not his fault. I walked deeper into the living room that was acting also like the lion’s den today. A blonde-haired woman in her late 40′s sat in the living room’s couch. She had a shiny jeweled crowned on her head and I automatically began to guess how much that thing was worth. It had to be millions of dollars, I guessed taking in all the different jewels. She was staring right at me and I realized where Phoenix had gotten his ocean eyes. Right by her side was a grey-haired man dressed in a fancy suit. He did not need any jewels as his wife did, everyone in the room could tell who he was without an introduction.
“Ms. Torres. Take a seat,” The King said first. It looked like we were past polite gestures. They didn’t think I was worthy of such actions.
I choose to sit in a chair directly in front of them, only one coffee table stood between us. Phoenix was heading towards the seat next to me when his father held up his hand. His wedding band shined as he did a soft flick of his fingers and suddenly the man who opened the door for me was there again. He stood in front of Phoenix, pushing him further into his bedroom.
“What are you doing? Get off of me! Father, you have no right!” Phoenix shouted but it fell on the deaf ears of his parents. The man had completely pushed him into his bedroom and held the door closed, like a toddler being placed into time-out. Phoenix’s parents eyes never left mine waiting for me to crack first. I was not going to give them the satisfaction.
“So what was the point of humiliating your son?” I spoke out first. My voice was more steady then it had ever been. I was pissed and wanted to project that.
“Oh, that was nothing, sweet child. What is humiliating is an uneducated poor whore weaving her way into my son’s bed and ruining his life. A life that I worked so hard to build,” The King said. He stood up, towering over me trying to scowl me like a child. I was not backing down.
“I might be poor, but I have been able to offer your son more kindness in four months than you ever did in seventeen years. That is why he will always despise you, for the rest of his life,” I said with spite in my voice. I glanced from the King to his Queen. She had not said anything since I walked in. She did not look at me with disgust like her husband did, but rather with deep terror. I understood that feeling because it was how I felt around Nick Collins.
“Silly girl. A Prince does not require kindness, they require discipline and integrity. Something that I thought my son would find here. Instead, he has only managed to ruin his image and his engagement. To our surprise, they have all been linked right back to you.” He spat at me.
“You will no longer be able to see our son,” The Queen’s voice enter into the conversation for the first time. The terror in her eyes was not as bright as before, but I could still sense it within her. She was scared of her husband and wanted to please him. Before my incident, I would have called her pathetic, but now I could tell that she was forced into this role too often and was her new cycle.
“You have no right. I am not a citizen of Calida. You have no reign over me or my actions. If your son wants to see me, he has every right to,” I stood up, tired of being attacked by the two. My heart went out to Phoenix. I understood now how traumatic it could have been growing up with this every day for seventeen years. Phone once told me that he felt like he was suffocating and I understood why.
The Queen reached down and pulled out a tan file out of a black briefcase. There were paper clips all on top of the file. The Queen pulled open the file and tossed it on the coffee table that was in front of me. I went and picked it up. The file was a file on me. My school ID photo stared back at me on the left side of the file. The right side was even more shocking. It had my full name, birthday, age, home address, school grades, and a copy of my birth certificate and social security. The stack of papers was endless. They had everything on me.
“You might want to take a peek at the last page,” the King told me. He patted off imaginary dust off his trousers and took a seat by his Queen. He was playing a game of chess with me and had me in the exact spot he needed to win.
It was a copy of a letter. It’s cursive letters read:
Dear Natalie Torres,
I write on behalf of my son, Luke. He has shared your letter with us and we were shocked while hearing the revealing news, you are with child, his child. I regret to inform you that my son has shared a lack of interest in being a father to your child. He will be starting a job at the palace and does not want to be associated with you any longer. He will be pledging to a life of service for his country of Calida and will make all of us proud. He wishes to not know the child or to hear from you again. Please do not reach out and respect his decision as we do with yours. Do as you wish with the child.
“You see Ms. Torres. It was quite a shock to us when we found out that your father has been working for us all along. What are the chances of that?” The King said chucking at towards his Queen before looking back at me, “We have decided to terminate his position effective immediately and it would be a shame if the same happened to your mother. She is a nurse at McClare’s Clinic, right? Anything could happen especially knowing that her supervisor is in desperate need of money. A quick transaction and you could be living on the streets with your mother. Unless you had a change of heart and left my son alone to his studies.”
Checkmate, I thought to myself. Check-fucking-mate.