Chapter 8 - Changes
2 years later...
The eyes that meet mine in the mirror look the same as they did two years ago. However, the person they belong to is someone completely different. I might still have the same name, but not for much longer.
It’s been almost two years since I met Sir Bisalion and he told me of my heritage. A lot has changed in those two years. I have spent all of my free time learning the history and language of Monaco. I’ve also spent the last two summers in Monaco training to become a princess. And now that the day is almost here I do not feel prepared at all. The eyes that meet mine are eyes filled with uncertainty, fear, and a feeling of not belonging. I have learned a lot about Monaco and although Sir Bisalion says that I am ready for the coronation, I do not feel ready at all. The coronation is tomorrow and after that, I am bound forever to the title, the country, and to this place.
The first 16 years of my life were spent with laughter, joy, family, love and so much more. I might have some unpleasant memories, but the good outweighs the bad. And now that I am accepting my title I’m afraid of what my future will look like. Will it be filled with the same love and joy I’m used to? Or will it be filled with loneliness and sadness? I don’t know and that scares me. I have no doubt that I will miss my family, my best friend, and miss being a normal girl. Although everything is changing and changing faster than I would have hoped I still have 8 months after tomorrow to get used to the idea of me moving to Monaco.
Sir Bisalion has kept his end of the deal and so I have kept mine as well. Nobody at home knows my real identity, besides my grandma, and I am relieved that I have been able to live a seemingly normal life. After the coronation tomorrow I am afraid that people will recognize me. But I am praying that nobody will know. Well nobody besides my family and Kat. I invited my mother, father, grandma, and sister to the coronation. They don’t know why I invited them on a vacation to Monaco, and I can’t tell them till after the ceremony. I know it will break my father’s heart when he learns the truth. That his father is alive and that his oldest daughter is moving to another country. But a deal is a deal and I can’t tell them till after the coronation.
Kat will be watching the whole thing from her bedroom back in Denmark. I haven’t told her why she has to turn on the TV, I simply told her that she had to watch the news regarding Monaco and that I would talk to her as soon as I can. With everything that is happening tomorrow I don’t know when I will have time to talk to her and explain everything.
I look at myself one more time. For a future princess, I am dressed very casually. A pair of dark blue denim jeans, a long-sleeved white cotton shirt, and a pair of black sneakers. Not normal attire for a princess. But I am not a princess yet, at least not officially. And this outfit won’t raise suspicion with my family when I pick them up from the airport. Which is where I am heading now. I walk out the door and down the hallway till I reach the grand staircase. I haven’t gotten used to the palace yet. Everything is grand, gold and so big. High ceilings with large gold, crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. The staircase can easily fit 6 people walking next to each other. Although I haven’t seen that happen yet. I walk down the stairs and out the door where two cars are waiting for me. To not raise suspicion with my family I told them to get two cars that aren’t what a royal would normally use. I just hope nobody thinks to question it. Two guards are going to be driving the cars. One in each car. As I walk to the second car a third guard opens the door to the backseat for me. I thank him when I get in and put on my seat belt. When I am safely seated in the car the guard closes the door and steps away from the car as the cars begin to move.
“Directly to the airport Your Highness?” the guard asks me.
“Yes, thank you so much,” I tell him.
It’s not a very long drive only 1 hour with the traffic and everything. I lean my head against the window as I watch the city pass by. Monaco truly is a beautiful place, and with the palace place on a cliff overlooking the ocean, I still haven’t gotten used to it. The buildings blend together and my eyes begin to drop until they finally close completely. It’s been a tiring few days and sleep hasn’t come easy to me. With all the preparations for the coronation and all of the changes, I haven’t gotten much sleep in the nights. So when my eyes close I welcome the darkness for the time being. A chance to escape the real world.
“Your Highness? We have arrived at the airport,” the guard tells me as I wake up from my sleep.
“Thank you. What time is it?” I ask him politely and with a calm voice.
“It’s 5 pm Your Highness,” he tells me while looking at me through the rearview mirror.
“Thank you, Jeremiah. My family landed 15 minutes ago, so they should be making their way to the exits soon.” I tell him.
“Of course, Your Highness. I will be escorting you to the airport. As agreed I will keep my distance so that they won’t know anything.” He tells me.
“That’s alright Jeremiah,” I say and get out of the car.
I walk towards the entrance to the airport and find the arrival hall and wait for my family.
I wait for probably 10 minutes before I see my sister’s smiling and adorable face as she walks through the doors. It instantly brings a smile to my face and I wave with all I have so that she might see me. Behind her are my father, mother, and grandma. Selene is the first one to notice me and her eyes light up as she sees me waving. She runs towards me and as she reaches me I engulf her in a big embrace.
“I missed you Nutty!” she beams at me. She might be 10 years old by now, but to me, she will always be my little sister.
“I missed you too Selene!” I tell her as I hug her a bit harder. I might only have been in Monaco for a week but I always miss my family.
By now the rest of my family have made their way towards us. I start by embracing my mother in a hug, greeting her quickly, then moving on to my father doing the same, and finally my grandma.
After the greetings, we make our way to the cars and I jump in one car followed by my grandma, while my mother, father, and sister ride in the other car. As the cars start moving my grandma turns to me with a slight smile on her face.
“How are you holding up sweetie?” My grandma asks me. I can hear the worry in her voice.
I smile slightly and look out the window as I think of my answer. I have always told my grandma the truth but this time the truth isn’t so pretty.
“I’m alright I guess. I think that after tomorrow everything will finally seem real. Until now it’s all been so surreal.” I tell her, it’s the truth. At least some of it. I don’t tell her how afraid I am of the future.
“You know, when I lived here all those years ago and I met your grandfather for the first time, I thought all of it was a dream too. Then on our wedding day, everything became real, but although the future was uncertain and a bit frightening, I knew I could do it. Your grandfather supported me and he was there for me through everything. It might not seem like you have anyone here to support you. Just remember even though I am not always with you physically, I will always be just a phone call away. And I will always listen to you and support you. I love you, Nathalie.” She says with a melancholy smile.
Her words hit home, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
“Thank you, grandma. I love you too.” I tell her.
For the rest of the ride, we make small talk and I tell her what I have been doing for the past week.
We finally arrive at the hotel where they will be staying and we find their rooms.
“Alright, tomorrow I have arranged for us to attend a special ceremony in a church. I have arranged for some outfits to be sent to you in the morning and a car will pick you up and drive you to the church. I will meet you there, but just go in and find your seats. There should be a sign on the chairs for you guys. The car will be here at 1 pm, so make sure to be ready. It’s a black-tie event, so it’s a bit different from what we are used to.” I tell them.
I can see that my parents are a bit skeptical about the whole thing but they both agree.
“Do I get to wear a beautiful princess dress, Nutty?” my sister asks me.
I smile at her, she has always loved princess. If only she knew,
“Of course you do. You will be the prettiest princess at the ceremony.” I tell her, the smile never leaving my face.
I turn to my parents.
“I better get going. I will see you at the church tomorrow.” I tell them. I hug them all goodbye and walk out the door. Outside the door, Jeremiah is waiting for me.
“Back to the palace, Your Highness?” he asks me.
“Yes please,” I tell him. We begin to walk towards the elevator. I get lost in my own thoughts the whole way back to the palace. I try to remember these last moments. The last time where the world won’t know who I am. Everything is changing. Nothing will be the same for me after tomorrow. Great waves of sadness crash in my mind. I can feel the tears in my eyes but I hold them back. I think back to when I kept telling Sir Bisalion to not call me ‘Princess’ or ‘Your Highness’, well that went out the window. When I’m in Monaco everyone calls me by my title. In the summers I have spent here I have heard my first name maybe 5 times. It has become such a foreign thing to me. I never thought I would miss hearing my real name. I was always a bit conflicted in regards to my name. I never used my middle name ‘King’, and after the whole revelation of me being a princess, it finally made sense. But now I miss the times where my biggest concern was if I should use my middle name or not. But back then I was only known as ‘Nathalie’. Plain, simple, and quiet Nathalie. After tomorrow that won’t be the case, and I am going to miss my name. It’s not because I will be getting a completely new name, but the chances of me being called by simply my first name are slim to none. And there is not a thing I can do about it.
I think back to why I am here, in Monaco, right now and I remember that I’m doing this for my sister. As long as I keep repeating that to myself I hope I’ll be alright. A feeling of dread has settled in my stomach and I am very nervous about tomorrow. Although I have practiced everything so that I know the words I’m still nervous about what will happen. If everything will go as planned. I hope so. I just hope that after tomorrow I will be able to calm down a bit and return to my normal life in Denmark. Even if it’s just for the next 8 months.
I don’t realize we have made it back to the castle until the door beside me opens and a guard has his hand stretched out to help me out of the car.
“Goodnight Jeremiah” I smile at the driver and one of the guards.
“Goodnight, Your Highness,” He tells me back.
I take the outstretched hand and step out of the car. I make my way towards the palace doors and walk through them. I reach the stairs and begin my ascend. As I reach the second floor where my room is located I hear a voice to my left.
“Did everything go as planned, Nathalie?” A dark and gruff voice asks me. I turn to my left and see the elderly man with a fancy suit.
“Yes, Your Majesty. Everything is set and ready for them to arrive at the church tomorrow” I tell him as I curtsy.
The man is my grandfather. He might be my grandfather by blood, but not by love. In the almost two years I have known I was a princess I have spoken to him a total of 12 times. So, I don’t regard him as my grandfather and I address him as ‘Your Majesty’. He is the only one that calls me by my first name, and technically he is the only one allowed to call me that.
“Good. And what about you? Are you ready for tomorrow?” He asks me. The man has no emotions in his eyes or voice. It’s not anything new, but it always makes me feel unwanted when I don’t know how he feels when talking to me.
“Of course, Your Majesty” I answer him as I curtsy again. It’s a weird custom and one I have had to get used to, but none the less I still have to follow the rules.
“Good. I will see you tomorrow,” he tells me and then he turns around and walks away from me, never giving me the time to respond.
I turn the other way and walk down the hallway to my room. By now I am just about ready to pass out from all the stress my body is feeling. The nervousness in my stomach only continues to grow with every passing minute, and it is making me very uncomfortable.
As soon as I reach my room I quickly change into my pajamas and then I just fall on the bed. Even though my stomach is so nervous I welcome the darkness that my exhaustion brings and I fall asleep almost instantly.
The next morning I am up at 8 am. Although the ceremony doesn’t start until 2 pm there are a lot of things that need to be done before then.
My whole morning is spent getting ready, and since I am the main attraction today I have a whole team helping me get ready. The whole idea of me being the center of attraction does not sit well with me, but I can’t do anything to change that. And so with me feeling down and sad I let the ladies do what they want with me. It was agreed a long time ago what I would look like today. The dress I will be wearing has been in the making for 6 months now and even though I think that it is a long time for a dress, I have been told by one of the dress designers that it is very normal for such a dress to take that long.
To me this might be a day filled with sadness and a sense of giving up, I know that it means a lot to the King and to the people of Monaco. And that might just be one of my biggest fears. What if I am a bad princess? What if I disappoint the people of Monaco? When the King eventually dies their lives will be in my hands, and I am not sure I will be able to do the right thing. I just pray that when the time comes for me to be Queen I will be ready.
“Your Highness? It’s time to put on the dress.” One of the maids tells me, bringing me out of my thoughts.
“Yes, thank you,” I tell her. By now I have had my hair and makeup done, but I haven’t looked in a mirror yet. I’m waiting for the dress to come on before I look in the mirror.
The maids help me put on the dress that was placed on a mannequin before. It’s a deep red ball gown with a slight v-neck with off should straps. I must admit that it’s a beautiful dress. As the dress is finally on, I can feel the soft material and I put on my red 5 cm heels.
I finally turn to the mirror, and the person staring back at me is not one I recognize. I have never seen myself look so beautiful and it brings a smile to my face. But it doesn’t last very long. With my outfit completed, I know that it is almost time for the coronation ceremony.
“You look beautiful, Your Highness!” one of the maids tell me with a beaming smile.
“Thank you,” I say to her and return her smile. Slowly the maids leave my room and I am left alone again.
Today is the anniversary of me learning that I am a princess, which also means today is my 18th birthday. I never thought that this would be how I would spend my day, but it is a tradition in Monaco. The one next in line to the throne is always presented on their 18th birthday, whether it be with a small greeting of the citizens of Monaco, or as in my case a big ceremony to officially declare me a princess. But today also marks two years since I met Raphael. After I accepted Sir Bisalion’s offer I never saw Raphael again. I have tried to forget about him over the years, but he never completely left my mind. I remember the comforting feeling he emitted, and he made me feel safe. I didn’t talk much with him, but the few words we exchanged were enough to bring me comfort and a feeling of not being alone. I could really use a feeling like that right now. But he isn’t here.
A knock on the door brought me out of my thoughts.
“Come in,” I call to the person behind the door.
The door opens and in walks Sir Bisalion. He stops and bows to me.
“Your Highness, it is time,” he tells me with a monotone voice. And then his words register in my brain.