"Ocean separates lands, not souls."
"You have your passport and driver's license?" I asked.
"Yes," Will replied, flashing them to me.
"You packed enough suits?"
"Underwear and socks?"
"I hope so."
"I sleep only in my underwear."
"Didn't need to know that. Laptop, phone, iPod, and all their chargers?"
"Check, check, check, and check."
"Then it looks like you're set," I said, straightening the lapels of his suit. "Call me when you get to Japan. I'll be up."
"Are you sure you don't want to come?" Will queried one more time.
I smiled. "You know my answer. It's the same as the other fifty times you asked. I wish I could, but I need to stay here for Mia. Besides, you have James going with you. You'll be fine. I'll see you when you get back."
"But two weeks is so long," Will whined.
"This is what it means to be king. You need to practice some more." When the prince's face fell sorrowful, I added, "You're doing so well already. Verona will be lucky to have you as King."
"Will, get a move on!" James shouted.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," he grumbled. Hugging me goodbye, Will got on the plane. I left with Walt and Patty, who drove me back to Windsor Palace. I'd be sleeping there for the next two weeks while Will was in Japan. If he needed anything, I had to be ready to provide it. Since all important documents were in the palace, I needed to stay there.
"Are you going to see Mia today?" Patty inquired, turning around to look at me in the backseat.
"Yes, ma'am. I have more presents for her. We got a tree set up in her room. It's small, but it's a tree nonetheless. It's cheered her up. Mia says she has a huge present for me, but I don't know what could be so huge that she could buy in the hospital. We're still planning on coming to your Christmas dinner. Mia seems to be feeling a lot better these days. I don't know what her numbers are right now, though."
"I'm sure they're getting better," Patty assured. "When we get back to the palace, I'll show you to your room. Will ordered you have a room to stay in while you're here."
"He didn't have to do that! I'd be fine on a cot in the office!"
"We wouldn't let you do that. There are so many rooms in that place that go completely unoccupied."
"That's too kind of him and you. Thank you," I said sincerely. "What can I do to help today?"
"You really want to help?" Patty asked.
"Then, just stick around me. I'm sure I'll find something for you to do."
The next day…
"Japan is awesome. The people have all been so nice, but God, I thought London was busy. Japan isn't normal. Enough about me, though. How are you? How are things there?" Will inquired, staring inquisitively at me through Skype.
"Everything's fine here," I said. "Oh, before I forget, thank you for letting me use a room here. It's so nice!"
"Anything for you! Any news?"
"Not much. I've been helping Patty and Walt around the palace. I get most of my work done for you pretty fast with you not here to distract me," I teased.
"At least it's never a dull day with me there!" he joked. "How's Mia?"
"She's been great lately! Her hair hasn't been falling out as much, which she's thrilled about."
"How are her numbers?"
"She hasn't told me anything. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing…" I glanced at the time. "Don't you have a meeting soon?"
"Yes, but I thought I'd call you beforehand. I wanted to talk to you."
I couldn't help but smile. "That's sweet, but I don't want you to be late."
"He won't. I'm watching him," James piped up, appearing in the background.
"I trust you. But really, you two should get going. Always better to be early than late. Unless it's a surprise party, which I doubt it is."
Will laughed. "Most definitely isn't. I'll see you soon, Annie."
"Bye, you two!"
The trip to Japan was simply a goodwill trip. I got along fantastically well with the prime minister, which seemed to shock my father. It made perfect sense to me, however. Growing up an only child, I found talking to adults easier than people my own age, with a few exceptions, like Annie and James.
"Will, we have another meeting with the Prime Minister, and I can't find that tie that Walt bought you," James said.
"Isn't it in my suitcase?" I asked, getting up to help my friend search.
"Don't you think I've already checked there?"
"Yeah, but maybe you missed it. My tie wouldn't be the only thing in there, you know."
"I'm aware of that, thank you."
We searched through my luggage again, but it was to no avail. We couldn't find the tie. With only five minutes before we had to leave, panic settled in.
"Call Annalise," James said.
"She's in Verona, though," I pointed out.
"Yes, but she also knows you like the back of her hand, so she'll know where you would've put it."
"You assume this is my fault?"
"Well, I didn't touch it."
"How do you know? You can't even find it."
"Just call Annalise before we're late!"
I obliged, calling her on Skype. It rang for a good minute before she answered. Her hair was in disarray, and her eyes were half shut from sleep. It dawned on me it was almost two in the morning her time.
"What's the matter?" she murmured, rubbing her eyes.
"I'm so sorry. I completely forgot about the time difference. I'll let you go," I said, getting ready to hang up.
"Will, I told you to call me if you needed anything, no matter what time it was. What do you need?"
"James lost my tie I was supposed to wear today," I explained.
"I didn't lose it, you did!" he protested.
"Is it your red striped one?" Annie asked.
"Yes, how'd you know?" I replied.
"Look down." Following her instructions, I felt my face heat up from embarrassment. The tie was already around my neck. "Anything else?"
"No. Sorry for waking you up. I'll let you get some sleep."
"It's okay. Have fun, you two." Annie didn't bother hanging up. She merely face-planted her pillow and fell back asleep. Chuckling, I ended our conversation.
James and I hastily left my room, barely making it on time to the meeting. My father raised his eyebrows at us but said nothing. He probably wanted to criticize me for something, but I wasn't in the mood for his belittling comments. I was tired of it, to be honest. Even if I did something right, he wouldn't comment on it, only on the things I did wrong.
The 'meeting' ended up simply being a walk through the garden with just me and the Prime Minister. He was intrigued about my life- both professional and personal and particularly in Annalise and James.
Once the meeting finished, I had about an hour to myself. I fully intended on napping, but my mother had other plans. She entered my room and shut the door.
"I have some news I think you'll enjoy," she said, sitting in an armchair across from my bed.
"Oh? What would that be?"
"We get to go home early."
I shot up. "What?"
"Your dad must stay a little longer, but he dislikes the idea of no one of the royal family being in Verona for such a long time, so he's sending you back. Why don't you call Miss Stark and tell her so she can prepare for your arrival? You are leaving tonight, so be ready."
"Are you staying ?"
"Yes. Someone needs to keep an eye on your father. Usually, I'd want to keep an eye on you, but Miss Stark does a wonderful job of that herself."
"Do you like her, mother?"
"I do. She's sweet, level-headed, mature. She's perfect for you."
"Perfect as a secretary or as something more?"
"It sounds like you're insinuating something."
"Annie is just my friend and secretary. She'd never date me," I said, trying to hide the pain of that statement with a smile.
"You're the Prince of Verona. What girl wouldn't want to date you?" Mom remarked. "You two seem compatible with each other. It doesn't make sense."
"Don't look at me. I'm an idiot when it comes to stuff like this. I better get packing if I'm leaving tonight. I'll see you later."
Five in the evening and I'd yet to hear from Will. Worry began to settle in because he never went more than three hours without checking in on me. It'd been almost a whole day without even a word from him. The only message I had received from him had been a cryptic: "Won't be able to talk for a while- talk to you as soon as I can."
I texted back, asking him what he'd be doing, but Will never responded.
To curb my growing concern, I decided to clean in my office. It's not that it was dirty, but I felt like rearranging a few things. Playing some cheerful Christmas music, I set to work. Walt brought some cookies, and I munched on them periodically, sometimes singing along to the music with a mouthful of cookie.
I was in the middle of rehanging some garland when I heard someone behind me. I turned around, forgetting I had a cookie sticking out of my mouth.
"And here I was, worried you might not be having fun without me," Will said as he leaned up against the doorway.
I nearly spat my cookie out and exclaimed, "What are you doing here?! You're not supposed to be back for another four days!"
"Dad found out he had to stay longer, so he sent me to hold down the fort. Mom would've come to keep an eye on me but says you do a good job of that."
Still in disbelief, I went up and hugged him. "I'm glad you're back. It's been dull without you around."
"Is that your way of saying you missed me?" he queried.
"Yes, it is. How was your trip? How was Japan? Was the palace beautiful? You have to tell me everything!" I exclaimed, pulling him onto the couch. Will laughed at my eagerness but delved into his story. About twenty minutes in, someone from the door said, "I was wondering where you went."
I found James standing there, a grin on his face. I jumped up to hug him too.
"Hey Anna, how was it with his Royal Highness gone?" James inquired.
"I got so much work done, I don't know what to do with myself," I replied.
"I'm sure it's because you didn't have much because I wasn't here," Will said.
"No, quite a bit was from when I couldn't get any of it done because you were distracting me."
"Anything exciting happen while we were gone?" James asked.
"No, unfortunately. I have to say, it's more exciting with the two of you here," I replied.
"How's Mia doing?"
"Okay. Still haven't heard anything about her numbers. I'm worried."
"I'm sure she's getting better," Will consoled, wrapping an arm around my shoulders.
"I hope so… but hey, you never finished telling me your story. James, you need to stay, so I know which parts are true and which ones he's exaggerating."
"Hey!" Will protested.
"You would exaggerate," James remarked.
"I don't like you two," the prince grumbled, plopping down on the couch.
"No, you don't. You love us," I said, sitting next to him.
He sighed. "Guilty. Now, where was I?"