I couldn’t sleep. I walked around the room, controlling myself not to go near the windows, took my phone and thought about calling Rupert, so that he could warn Miss Picket that I had to leave town, but how could I explain something like this? He’d probably think that I was joking or drunk. I felt like I was about to faint and a terrible headache started to shoot me down.
“Jean?” I called, going closer to the door and we opened the door at the same time.
“You called, princess?”
“Can you get my dad? I’m not feeling well. I need… something” I said, sighing.
“Your father is already in his room, resting, princess. Do you want me to call a doctor?” He looked rather reluctant.
It felt like I was about to cry and I raised my hand, denying the suggestion.
“No. Can you get me a painkiller or something? Anything.”
“Sure, what are you feeling, princess?” He asked and I noticed he was about to grab my wrists, but he stopped.
“Just… I… I don’t know.” I couldn’t express myself clearly, so I just closed the door and Jean didn’t stop me.
I looked at the box that was on the floor, beside my backpack, and sat on the floor, in front of it, starting to open it. I couldn’t care less about the tears and hiccups that were filling in the room.
After throwing the top of the box away, I spread the pictures on the floor and kept staring at them for a long time, until I heard someone knock on the door.
“Excuse me, princess, may I come in?” someone asked. A voice I didn’t recognize.
“Yes.” I answered, cleaning the tears with the back of my hands and trying to control myself.
“Hello?” I heard and, when I turned around, I saw Charles. “I brought you the painkillers you asked before. Oh, you’re crying? Do you want me to come back another time?”
I heard Jean clear his throat and Charles looked at the door, where Jean probably was standing.
“You can come in” I said and Charles obeyed, closing the door, but not before I heard Jean clearing his throat even higher and stronger.
“Something tells me that he’s going to be cruel when reporting about me” Charles whispered and got close to me, sitting on the floor beside me, but half a meter away. “I brought you medicine, soothing pills, vitamins… What do you need? I mean, miss… Princess.”
“I need you to stop calling me princess for starters” I took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry, prince....” he stopped and tried not to laugh. “I’m sorry, but that isn’t something we can control. It’s the way we show respect for the royalty. We learn this as soon as we grow up.”
“I’m not from royalty. I don’t even know where y’all live, how do you expect me to become a princess?”
“We don’t. You are the princess. They are calling you ‘the lost princess of Combellmont’. And everyone is waiting for you.” He confessed, as he offered me the medicines, asking me to choose one. I chose the painkiller, as I’ve asked Jean before, and a soothing pill.
“How wonderful!” I mocked after taking the pills and drinking the water Charles brought.
He smiled and I noticed a small cut on his lower lip.
“You’ll have everything you wish to adapt yourself to this new life and you can always count on your aunt, who’s very anxious to meet you.”
I tried to remember where an aunt fits in this whole story, but I just howled.
“I hate all of this.” I looked at the box and the pictures. “I hate not knowing what to do, where I’m heading or what’s waiting for me.”
Charles looked impressed with my reaction, so he got up and told me: “It’s late already.” He was about to call me “princess” once again, but controlled himself. “Go to bed and lay down. I’ll put the box on your side and, if you allow me, I’ll put the armchair closer to the bed and I’ll tell you everything you’d like to know about your kingdom.”
He raised his hand and I held it while he helped me get up. Then, I went to bed, laid down, just to realize I was wearing the flannel, my pajama shirt and jeans. Charles waited until I laid down, motionless, and, after that, he put the box beside me. He went to the armchair and brought it closer to the bed, sitting on it.
“If you allow me, just for tonight and I beg you to keep this a secret, how should I address you?” he asked.
“Nick.” I replied.
“Okay, Nick. My family and friends call me Chuck, except when I’m at work… Then, Jean insists on calling me Charles.” he explained.
“Are you and Jean family?”
“Siblings” he replied and then amended: “He loves to play the older brother role.”
“I have siblings too, right… Chuck?” I asked with an involuntary smile on my lips and yawned, feeling the effects of the soothing pill.
“Two. Princess Rafaella and Prince Hugo. And, as I’ve said before, you also have an aunt, Princess Antonina. They are introduced this way to the public, however, inside the castle, they allow us to call them Ella and Nina.”
I saw Chuck coming closer to the box and he took some newspaper articles, but I just closed my eyes and kept listening to what he was saying.
“Your mom was the most loved queen and she really dedicated herself to Combellmont. Unfortunately, she died right after Hugo was born and, since then, Nina is the one that takes care of your siblings. She’s always really adorable with everyone in the royal guard, even though people that maintain the castle say otherwise. To me and to my brother she’s admirable. Her health was always fragile, so she doesn’t really go outside the castle, but she has been going out to pronounce and she was the one that revealed your mother’s testament, she was the one that assumed your existence. It was shocking to everyone, but it didn’t blemish your mother’s figure. Your mom was strong. I mean, she preferred to leave your custody to your dad, married King Louis and then he had that sad ending on the Adriatic sea…”
I wanted to ask about what happened to King Louis, but I fell asleep and didn’t remember anything else that Chuck told me after that.
I woke up to the room maid taking the pictures that were under me, since I tend to move around a lot while I’m sleeping and ended up sleeping on the pictures and newspaper articles. When we exchanged looks, I didn’t know who was more scared, me or her, and, after whispering an apology, she bowed and left the room, probably to warn one of the guards that I was already up. Then, a couple seconds later, Jean entered the room.
“Good morning, princess. Should I ask them to bring your breakfast?”
“Where’s my dad?” I asked, rubbing my eyes and sitting on the bed.
“He was waiting for you to wake up, but decided to eat breakfast with the guard this morning.”
This morning? I looked around, looking for my phone and, when I found it, I noticed it was past noon.
“Why didn’t you wake me up? It’s late already!” I exclaimed as I got up, staggering around the room.
“It wasn’t necessary.” Jean replied just like that.
I snorted and shook my head, entering the bathroom. When I left, after brushing my teeth and pulling up my hair, the breakfast was already in my room, with three different breakfast carts laying around the suite table.
“Wow, who’s gonna eat with me?” I asked, wondering if they’ve called a meeting now.
“It’s a diverse menu, princess. I advise you to get fruits, water and milk” Jean suggested, hiding a smile. “And your aunt would like to talk to you. She’s worried and wishes to see you even if it’s online. May I bring the notebook for a call?”
I replied, shaking my shoulders without knowing what to expect. I opened each closed tray on the carts, picking eggs, bacon, sausage and bread. I poured a glass of orange juice to myself.
When I was about to finish my dish, but had my fingers and mouth dirty, Jean brought the notebook and put it on the table, in front of me, when I waved to a woman with short blond hair and narrow brown eyes and pointy nose.
“Oh, my sweet niece!” she exclaimed and covered her mouth with her hands.
I pointed a finger and got up so that I could chew the food without her noticing it and, only after that, I sat down to talk to her, while cleaning my mouth and fingers with a napkin.
“Good morning” I said, forcing myself to smile.
“It’s already evening here, darling.” she informed me. “I just need to know if everything is okay. I heard about the terrible attack you and your father suffered and I hope you’ll be here immediately.”
“Ah, yeah. It was nuts, but everyone is fine.” I confirmed, without knowing how to express myself.
“Oh, Nicolle. I hope to meet you soon. And your siblings are anxious.” she said with a short smile.
I nodded once again, not saying a word.
“I imagine how hard it must be, but we have a lot of time for you to adapt yourself and you’ll have every support we can give you. By the way, I think you already know that, but I’m your mother’s sister. Your aunt, Antonina, but everyone calls me Nina around here and you may as well call me Aunt Nina.”
“Okay.” I replied.
This time, she noticed I didn’t know what to say, so she decided to say goodbye.
“I’ll let you have your breakfast in peace. I’ll be waiting for you and your room is ready for your arrival. See you soon, darling.”
“See ya… Aunt.” I said and, after that, she hung up.
I took a deep breath and continued to eat. After all, I was really hungry.
After taking a shower and being amazed by the bathroom box that would fit a bed inside, and by the bathroom itself, that was probably the same size as my bedroom back in Montgomery, I started to try to ignore whatever I was feeling.
As I ran my hands through the glass, I saw a pair of frightened eyes with lots of eye bags. My eyes. But I refused to let the doubts tangle my brain again, so I dressed up and left the room to meet my dad.
“They wanted me to ask for permission to let me in.” he said with a grimace when we met.
I howled, shaking my shoulders, got closer to my dad and hugged him.
“Calm down, Nick. I’m still recovering.” I let him go, trying to see his arm. “I’m fine, but I came here to talk to you.”
“Okay, what’re you telling me now? That you’re an FBI agent? That I’m half alien? That my mom was a mermaid? Actually, that’s something I’d like to be true…” I provoked him.
“Nick, I’m going back to Montgomery.” he said.
I stared at him.
“What’re you sayin’?”
“Dear, I want you to understand me… I know that you must be confused with everything that’s going on, but all of that was predicted in your destiny. Your mom was the one that was supposed to be here, explaining everything to you, but, sadly, she couldn’t do it.” He started, then sat on the chair that Chuck sat the day before. “All of that, you being a princess, you having the right to become a queen… It was something I already expected. Caroline wanted to keep you away from all of that, but she made me promise that I’d take care of you and educate you so that you’d become a good person, which you are.’’
I couldn’t believe in what I was hearing.
“You started learning Spanish when you were little because that’s Combellmont’s official language. I did everything I could to keep you in Abeley because I wanted you to have the best education in town. That’s why I insisted you should try Ballet, swimming classes, music classes… I did everything I could so that you could be who you’re now… A princess.”
“What’re you sayin’?” I repeated, feeling desperate.
“And I know that you’ll be well treated and will have a future with great people that will take care of you. The care that you always needed and that I failed to give. Even after the accident… You know how much I regret that, but now you can leave all that behind and follow your life! Start a new story.”
“So that’s it? You really intend to leave me like that? Do you even understand what you’re doing to me?” I wanted to shout, but kept talking between teeth so that Isaac and Jean wouldn’t come in and interrupt us.
“Nick, I’m not leaving you. I’m freeing you! You’ll start a new chapter of your life and I’ll be in Montgomery if you ever need me. If you need me, I’ll be there.”
“I need you now, dad!” I couldn’t manage my tone this time.
“I’m so sorry.” he concluded and, after that, he got up. “But I’ll not come with you. You don’t need me as you feel like you do. And after you are crowned, what good would I be? I’ll always be treated like a burden to you. You’ll be better without me.”
I didn’t feel like crying and asked myself if I had cried so hard yesterday that I had no tears left today. As bad as this news was, I could only feel anger and disappointment. Seeing that I had shut down, my dad walked towards the door.
“I’m sorry, Nick. I’ll always be your dad and you’ll always be welcomed in your old life.”
Then he left, leaving me there. Alone.