“I love you with all my life, but it’s not like you will ever know.”
Our last stop of the trip was Cote d’Ivoire, where we volunteered at an orphanage. A handful of the volunteers spoke broken English, but since we were in their country, I opted to speak French with them instead.
We chatted about the kids, what happened to their parents, how long some of them had been here, the situation of the orphanage, how much funding they had, and more.
For seven hours, Annalise, James, and I cleaned rooms, helped make lunch and dinner, and played with the kids. They gravitated towards James, who seemed to be good with kids in general. A particularly shy kid attached himself to Annie. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I watched her interact with him.
Meanwhile, I chatted with Hakim- the head of the orphanage. He ensured everything ran smoothly there. He was our guide and taught us the ins and outs of what went on. Currently, it was break time, so the kids were running amok and playing. Annalise sat in the corner with a few of them watching a card game. James played football with them outside.
"Ta petite amie?” he asked.
"No. Juste amis,” I replied.
No. Just friends.
Annalise glanced over at me and smiled before returning to spectating the card game. I was silently relieved she couldn’t understand much French other than the basics. Otherwise, I’d be mortified if she overheard any of this conversation.
Continuing to converse in French, Hakim said, “You look at her differently.”
“To everyone but her.”
“She doesn’t love me back. Not like that, and I’m content being just friends with her.”
“She loves you like you do her.”
“Ah, I don’t think so.”
“I know she does. I see it.”
I merely smiled, not believing what he was saying but knowing better than to argue. I’d never be lucky enough to have Annalise reciprocate my love, and I’d accepted the fact. As long as she stayed in my life, I’d be happy.
Mia threw her arms around me when I arrived at Windsor Palace. Somehow, someone convinced security to let her in. Instinct told me it was Will, despite him vehemently denying it.
“I missed you!” Mia exclaimed.
I gripped her tightly, thrilled to be home. “I missed you too!”
Mia pulled away, and I prepared myself for the barrage of questions. “How was it?” Did you enjoy it? What was your favorite place? Speaking of favorites, which dress was your favorite? That black dress was stunning and have you seen the tabloids-”
“Has she always been able to talk this fast?” Will asked, thoroughly entertained. Mia flushed, which made him quickly say, “It’s impressive. I’m glad someone who can talk as fast as me.”
I made a face. “I’ve never heard you talk that fast.”
“No, but she sounds about the same speed as my brain. Believe it or not, I think before I talk. I do now, at least. Also, we have some gifts for you. Want to open them?”
“Will, I hate to disappoint, but you have dinner with your parents and the Prime Minister in fifteen minutes, which you need to get ready for.”
“Mia can open them quickly. I can be a few moments late,” he said.
“You can, but you shouldn’t. Don’t give him any more reason to be upset,” I said gently. I didn’t need to mention who I was referring to his father; Will got the gist. Reluctantly, he listened to me.
“You three meet me in my office after dinner. I want to hear about your adventures while we were away. I’ll see you later.” Will hugged Mia and kissed me on the top of the head. When he was out of earshot, Mia asked, “What was that?”
“What was what?” I replied, grabbing my suitcase and heading towards my office.
“That kiss on the head. Since when does he do that?”
“I don’t know. It’s a recent thing. It’s nothing,” I said.
“Nothing, my ass.”
“It’s nothing.” I waved it off with my hand, hoping they’d drop the subject. “So, Mia, what were you up to while we were gone?”
“Just school really,” she admitted. “Although I had lunch with some of the nurses that took care of me. They’re all doing well and glad to hear you’re doing well too! How was the trip? Tell me all about it!”
She, James, and I collapsed onto the couches in my office as he and I dove into our adventures. I kept quiet about the argument I’d had with Will’s father. I’d tell Mia about that in private. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust James not to know, I just didn’t see the point in troubling him with the knowledge.
Four hours later, Mia and James were passed out. I went to the computer to check the agenda for tomorrow when I heard Will say, “Do you ever stop working?”
Will shuffled next to me as I said, “Those two fell asleep, and I was checking what I have to do tomorrow.”
“Take a break tonight. Let’s wake up Mia and let her open her presents, sound like a plan?” I nodded and shut off my computer. Will picked up a magazine Mia brought along. “What are the tabloids saying?”
“Spreading false rumors that we’re dating. Our pictures are splashed on the cover of everything.”
“I can see that.” Will flipped through to the article on us, smiling every once in a while. “They sure found a lot of witnesses in a short amount of time. Some are surprisingly accurate. I should commend that reporter for not skewing the facts like they normally do.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Did you not read it?”
“No. I don’t really want to read about myself,” I said.
“You should. It’s a decent article.” He set the magazine down and looked over at James and Mia. “Think we should wake them up and let Mia open her presents?”
My sister skyrocketed up, causing me to wonder if she’d been faking sleeping so she could eavesdrop on our conversation. “Presents?!”
Will grinned. “I guess that answers that.”