For God’s sake, did I behave that badly throughout these fifteen years to deserve this? And what did they expect me to do? Did they expect me to go to a country of which I’ve never even seen a picture, assume the throne that I “gained” just by chance and take care of a child and a baby? And how come they can “take me by force”?
I took a deep breath, trying to organize my thoughts, then got up and took off my clothes. I thought that taking a bath could help me, so I turned on the shower and tried to think of what I should do first. I eventually concluded that I would figure out everything I could about my mom and maybe after that I could untie a lot of tight knots that were tangling my brain.
I got out of the bathroom, wore my most comfortable pajamas, that was one of my dad’s red flannel and blue pajama pants I got as a Christmas gift three years ago. When I left my bedroom, my dad had already left and I took that as an opportunity to sit on his armchair, bringing the box he showed me earlier closer to me. On the box, there were a lot of pictures and newspaper articles about her. And she was pretty! Wavy blond hair and big brown eyes that looked like mine. According to the articles, her name was Caroline Marie Rodriguez DeValence II (well, that sounds like a royal name) and looked happy in most of the pictures. I mean… She was smiling, at least. As far as I knew, there was nothing about me or about her life when I was born, but, in between the pictures, I found something that surprised me.
Inside an old envelope, with only a stamp on, there were a lot of pictures and when I realized what they were all about, I gave up on the rest of the box to focus on that specific envelope. They were pictures of me with her. Pictures of which I could obviously not remember, but now that I saw them, it was as if I could feel the love she felt for me. Among them, one got my attention: we were close to a fireplace, she was sitting on a big and white armchair, wore kind of a navy-blue blanket and I was on her lap, with a little dress with lots of laces and, as I narrowed my eyes to look for the details, I realized the laces were pink and white. In the pictures, the ones she was holding me were different from the others. It didn’t matter if she wasn’t looking at the camera. She was looking at me. Without even bothering if there was a camera. And she smiled differently than in the other pictures I saw on the box. In another one, I was laying down on her lap and she was holding me, facing her, or the camera. There was one in which I was sleeping on a baby crib… Another thing that I noticed was the resemblance. I looked like her in a peculiar way, but I didn’t know how to explain.
I checked the hour on the clock above the TV and it was past midnight. I gathered all of those pictures again and put them on the box, then took a deep breath. What was I supposed to do now? The first option that came into my mind was: go to sleep. Tomorrow I have school, right? Or will they take me tomorrow? By the way, who would take me there?
I got the box again, willing to learn more about the place my mom ruled, but, as I was about to open it, a red light crossed the room and I stopped.
“Dad?” I called and then I saw the light again, crossing the room and disappearing. After that, I heard a gunshot.
I ran to my dad’s room and opened the door, finding him on the floor.
“Nick, get down!” he shouted.
As I looked down, I noticed that the red light was right on my chest, so I got down quickly and right after that a gunshot hit the wall in the corridor.
“What’s this? What’s going on?” I shouted, crawling to my dad.
“I don’t know. They told me they were going to get you peacefully. They said they needed you.” another gunshot. This time, it broke the window and there were pieces of broken glass everywhere. My dad wailed and I noticed he was shot.
“You’re hurt? They shoot you!” I screamed and attempted to look for my dad’s phone.
“I’m alright. You need to get out of here, Nick” he asked, holding his right arm so that I couldn’t see the blood mark.
I shake my head. I wouldn’t leave him there and I didn’t know what to do or what was happening. When I found the phone, I pressed the button to unlock, but when I was almost calling 911, someone broke into the front door.
It was the end. To me and to my dad. I held him in my arms and kept typing, until I saw the shadow of a tall man coming into the dark room with a gun in his hand.
I closed my eyes and waited for death, but it didn’t come. I heard the noise of gunshots and felt as if the man was coming closer, until everything stopped.
“He ran away.” I heard a robotic voice coming from the radio.
I dared to open my eyes and besides seeing that my dad was still alive, I saw the tall man, the same I saw when I came home after work, staring at me.
“Then get here. We need to take the princess.” and, then, he turned off the little device he was using and squatted down. “Everything is fine, Princess Nicolle. You’re safe now”.
After being led by counselor Isaac (because I couldn’t move), he started to help my dad and, after that, he introduced himself and told us that we just faced a terrorist attack. Someone followed him and Jean - who was another member of Combellmont royal guard -, discovered where we lived and waited until dawn to attack. They thought it was a kind of “total cleaning service”, in which neither me nor my dad should have survived.
“Princess, do you mind if I start to gather your stuff or would you like to leave them here?” I heard Jean ask and I stared at him.
It took me a while to remember that they needed me to pack my bags to go.
“I’d rather you call the ambulance and let me take my dad to the hospital!” I begged.
“Impossible.” he said and crossed his arms. I kept staring at him.
He wore a black suit and was tall, but he had more muscles than Isaac, which made his suit look tight around his arms. Isaac had brown hair and his eyes were narrow and brown too. As for Jean, he had black hair and dark green eyes that were waiting for me to react.
But I heard a painful muffled moan coming from my dad and noticed that Isaac took the bullet that shot his right arm, closer to his shoulder.
“Nick, everything is fine” I heard my dad saying, as he was holding onto the kitchen balcony.
“He needs to go to the hospital.” I said.
“No. We can’t risk your safety. If, after we leave, he still wants to go, we’ll call an ambulance.”
“What’re you saying’? He’s coming with me! I mean, I’m only leaving if he leaves too!”
“No. Don’t even bother.” I shouted. “I don’t know where I’m going to, I don’t know what I’ll do, but whatever you expect me to do, I’ll only do it if my dad comes with me.”
Jean and Isaac looked at each other and I didn’t know why it looked like they were having fun. My dad was staring at me, holding his shirt that now was ripped off and had a whole due to the gunshot.
“If I say that he’ll come, will it make you come faster?” Jean asked, coming closer.
If his intention by getting closer to me was to make me frightened, it didn’t work. If he wanted to kill me, he would’ve done it when he entered the apartment, but it didn’t happen. He was there to help Isaac to take me, so he wouldn’t hurt me, would he? Testing the courage I’ve never used before, I got up, crossed my arms and walked towards him.
“Yes.” I replied.
After that, Jean smiled as if he was talking to a little kid.
“Pack your bags, princess. We’re taking you both to Combellmont.”
Leaving the apartment was a ridiculous process. As I tried to put everything I didn’t want to leave behind on my bag and helped my dad to do the same, I heard Isaac and Jean calling the police and minutes later two police cars arrived with their lights on, but, thank God, with their sirens off.
“I ask them to come discreetly.” Isaac complained between teeth.
“They are police officers from a small town, Isaac. Whoever attempted this attack will not come back. They probably know they shot someone and, after that, you got in the apartment.”
“For God’s sake, princess! Get out of the window!” Isaac shouted, entering my room and putting me away from the window.
“Hey! No touch, please” I said, trying to get away from him.
Isaac let me go.
“We can leave now, princess.”
He grimaced and rolled his eyes. I took my backpack and purse, but Isaac moved himself and took them away from my hands. After that, I went to my dad’s room to help him out, but he decided to take only a backpack. Beside my stuff, I asked them to take the box that had pictures and articles about my mom, and my dad sealed it with duct tape everywhere he could.
After a while, we were being escorted by Isaac and Jean and all of our neighbors were watching us. As far as I could tell, we would be the subject matter for tomorrow’s gossip in town, and this was confirmed when we got into a black Mercedes and were escorted until the border of the town by two police cars.
“We are flying solo, Charles. We’ll be there in about an hour or so. Everything is clean until now. You know what to do. Reserve the entire floor and prepare the princess’ suite.” Jean ordered his phone and after hearing a short answer he hung up. “Tighten your belts.”
I obeyed and soon I found out the reason for that order. Jean drove at high speed and everything was blurry.
“Hey, I don’t know how y’all drive in your own country, but here we have rules and transit plates” I warned and felt my dad holding my hand.
Jean looked impatient and nervous. He pressed the steering wheel and took a deep breath before telling me: “I’m sorry, princess, but that’s necessary since we’re only two trying to deal with an emergency.”
I couldn’t explain why but I got pissed off whenever he called me princess. It didn’t feel like I was a princess at all.
I held my dad’s hand and kept staring at the blurry road.
Even at dawn, New York looked chaotic and its lights were quite hypnotic, but when we stopped by a hotel, I couldn’t control myself and got really euphoric. That is, until Isaac opened the car door and I had to pretend that everything was normal.
“Here you’ll be safe, but I recommend you stay away from the windows and don’t talk to anyone but your dad.”
I arch my eyebrows without answering and followed Isaac, as Jean was behind me and my dad was by his side.
“Just to be clear: we can’t afford this place” I said, looking around.
Everything was golden and white. The reception was huge and, since we passed by the revolving door, I counted five chandeliers until we got to the front desk.
“Yes, you do. Not officially, but you do” I heard Jean saying behind me.
“Good night, gentlemen. Who placed the reservation?” the receptionist asked before I could comprehend what Jean was saying.
“Combellmont’s royal guard” Isaac informed and handed in a card with small and golden letters.
The receptionist opened up her eyes in shock and noticed me for the first time, then kept staring at me for a couple seconds. Then, she typed something really fast and handed in two cards for two different rooms. She wished a good night, took the phone and started talking to someone.
“C’mon” my dad said and I followed them around.
We headed to the elevator and stayed there for an eternity. To my embarrassment, every time we stopped somewhere, Isaac and Jean didn’t let people get in, until we arrived at the floor in which I would stay the night and I counted three more guards waiting for us. One on the left side, one on the right side, one closer to a door. The door to my room.
“Good night, Isaac. Jean.” The one closer to the door greeted the two and looked like he was trying not to laugh.
“Step away from the door, Charles.” Jean replied, rolling his eyes.
Charles pretended like he didn’t hear it at all and then bowed at me.
“Good night, princess.”
“Good…?” that was all I could say.
Charles looked a lot like Jean, but had more hair, bigger cheeks and less muscle. He didn’t look like he was a guard, but one of my classmates, maybe one of those that were addicted to sports and that stuff.
“Step away from the door, Charles.” Jean repeated.
Charles moved away and Jean opened the door.
“Your suite, princess. Your father will be in the other room. As I’ve said, please, stay away from the windows. I’ll stay here, watching your door, so if you need anything you can call me.”
I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t say anything. I had nothing to say, actually. So I got inside the room and Jean came after me, putting my backpack in front of the bed while putting the box and my purse on the bed.
“Good night, princess. We’ll head to Combellmont tomorrow” and, after realizing I wouldn’t say anything, he left.