"Being suspicious, you might accidentally hurt an innocent person."
“Oh God,” Everly said, holding her hand to her mouth.
Mia scooted away from her. “Are you going to be sick again?”
“If I read any more of this pregnancy book, I am.” She slammed it shut, tossing it onto my coffee table. “Did you know some women get a brown line going from their belly button to the Deep South area? Or that your nipples will change color? Or that your va-jay-jay will turn blue?”
I nearly choked on my water. “Your what now?”
“What is it?”
I bit back a grin. “What?”
“Your hoo-ha.” Everly narrowed her eyes at me. “Are you done?”
“I was going to see how many alternative names you had before you were going to call it what it is,” I confessed, unable to hold my laughter back any longer. Everly chucked a Hershey’s kiss at me.
“Mark is never going to want to have sex with me again if I have a blue vajazzle,” Everly said with a groan.
“I think you underestimate a man’s sex drive,” Mia remarked, grabbing the pregnancy book and flipping through it.
“What do you know about men’s sex drive?” I demanded. “Mia Theresa Stark-”
“Please, I haven’t done anything. You’re not the only Stark girl without a love life.” My mouth dropped open, partially offended despite her speaking the truth. “I just hear a ton of stuff from my friends who are sexually active, and let me tell you, a blue va-jay-jay isn’t going to deter Mark from having sex with you.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited to be a mom, but for Christ’s sake, this baby needs to be born already. I want sushi, I want sweet and sour chicken, and I want wine. I really want wine.”
“I hate to break it to you, but you have almost five more months to go.”
Everly chucked a Hershey’s Kiss at Mia. “Thank you for reminding me.”
“Any time.” Mia got up and grabbed her backpack. “Anna, I’m heading to a study group. I’ll be back later, okay?”
“All right, be careful.”
“I will. Love you!”
“Love you too!”
When Mia shut the door, Everly pushed herself off the couch and joined me at the dining room table. “What are you working on?”
“A baby shower.”
“A client’s,” I said. It wasn’t a lie, but what Everly didn’t know was that it was for her, and I’d carefully been getting her input on what she wanted, unbeknownst to her. Her mother was financing it, so money wasn’t an issue. As many problems as Everly had with her parents at the moment, her mom still wanted her daughter to have the baby shower she’d always dreamed of.
Everly sat in a chair, cradling her belly. She stared at the baby shower plans, but her gaze appeared distant.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked. “Are you still thinking about having a blue hoo-ha?”
“I am now.” Everly glared at me momentarily before saying, “No, I’m thinking about something else. Something suspicious.”
“The fact that Mia seems to know more about men’s sex drive than we do?”
“No, but that’s suspicious too.”
“So, what is it?”
“If you thought someone was lying to you, and you couldn’t ask them about it because you’re not friends with them, and the only reason you’re friendly to them is because you’re their S.O.’s cousin, what would you do?”
“Depends on what Lorraine’s doing,” I said, not looking up from my work.
“How’d you know I was talking about her?”
“You got way too specific in your description.”
“Oh… well, do you find it weird that she won’t let anyone but her mom join her on trips to the doctor to get ultrasounds? Mark’s been with me to mine, and so have you and Mia. Lorraine won’t even let Will, and he’s tried. Multiple times! Lorraine always says he can, but then something comes up, and the appointment is moved to a time where he can’t attend. Am I crazy, or do I see a pattern with her behavior?”
“I’d hire a private detective. That’s all I can think of,” I said. “Why would Lorraine fake a pregnancy, though?”
“To trap Will into marrying her and ascending the throne?”
“You did say you thought he was going to break up with her.”
“Yeah, I still believe that. He held your hand more on your trip to Africa than he does with her now. He’s marrying her because he has to. That’s all there is to it.”
“Everly, this is a serious accusation you’re making against her. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m saying I want you to tread carefully. If Lorraine really is trying to take the throne, I doubt she’s doing it alone.”
“You think she has accomplices?”
“Yes. Probably her mother is one if she’s allowed to go to the doctor’s appointments. If you’re determined to catch her in the lie, then hire a private detective and work from there,” I said. “But if you do, and it turns out you’re right, don’t let anyone know I gave you the idea in the first place. I don’t anyone thinking I’m doing this because I’m jealous and want Lorraine out of the picture.”
Everly raised an eyebrow. “Are you?”
“Yes, but I’m not helping you for that reason. I’m doing this because I don’t want to see the throne fall to someone so manipulative and dangerous. I’m protecting the throne.”
“If Will ever abdicates, I’m putting your name into the pool for suggested rulers.”
I got up to get a snack from the fridge. “Please, a girl with no higher education has no chance of becoming Queen.”
“You’ve been thinking about going back, though, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know if I can still get into St Andrews, let alone any university. I haven’t been to school in over four years. Who would want to take me?”
“Are you kidding? The publicity the school would get would be reason enough for them to accept you. It might not be the way you want to get accepted, but if it gets you where you want to go, then I say do it.”
“Mia’s considered going overseas to get away from the media here. They still follow us occasionally,” I said, involuntarily sneering. I hated how the media kept tabs on us despite having nothing to do with the royal family anymore.
“The paparazzi will always follow you two around, unfortunately.” Everly stood up. “I’m going to head home and start looking at private detectives. Text me when you finish on this baby shower for the day, so we can go eat.”
“Give me-” I checked the clock, which read twelve p.m.- “five hours. Then we can go eat.”
“Sounds good. Love you, Annalise!”
“Love you too!”
Everly bounded out of my apartment, and I sat back down, pulling up the news. As usual, Will and Lorraine were on splashed on the front page of every media website.
He’s marrying her because he has to.
Everly’s words echoed in my mind. The more I studied the photos of the royal couple, the more I noticed the bags under Will’s eyes, how he was never seen holding Lorraine’s hand, and how his smile never quite reached his eyes. The Will I used to know was nowhere to be seen. Even at the hospital, he appeared healthier than now.
This Will… this was a ghost of the man he used to be. This was a man exhausted from his life and his decisions. Between being engaged to a girl he didn’t love, losing his best friend, watching his dad deteriorate from Alzheimer’s, and running a country, it was no wonder Will looked dead.
I reached for my phone, finger hovering over the ‘call’ button. I hadn’t seen Will since the hospital, but seeing his appearance had me severely concerned for his health.
No, I chastised myself. Will made his choice. Will chose her over you.
I slid my phone away and buried my face in my hands. I’d never dealt with this in my life. I’d lost friends before. I’d grieved over the loss of friendship for a few weeks, but then I moved on without hesitating.
Why was Will so different?
Why could I not get over him after almost a year?
What was wrong with me?