That was the first time that I got on an airplane, but I couldn’t enjoy the trip. I added “unfit” on the list of feelings that were living with me at that moment. Chuck kept himself awake and was sitting in front of me, as Jean slept and Isaac stared at us from far away.
I watched my dad sign a bunch of papers, including the ones that allowed me to fly to Combellmont and he followed us to the airport, but when he came closer to say goodbye, I couldn’t say a word.
“You know what’s funny? I’m not feeling sick, but if we were on a bus or in a car and I was in this same position, I’d feel terrible” I heard Chuck saying while he was looking out the window.
He wasn’t paying attention to the book he was reading and I wasn’t sure he said that to me or to himself, but after he realized I’d taken my earphones off just to listen to what he was saying and that I was staring at him, I noticed that it was the second option.
“Oh, pardon, princess” he apologized, biting his lips.
“If you allow me to, may I ask you a question?”
I nodded once.
“I know that everything may seems crazy to you. I can’t imagine that someone would endure all of these events and would still be here, talking to me” he paused and straightened his back. “But… Have you ever suspected? That you were a princess, I mean. Have you always lived a quiet life in that city and never heard or looked for your mother?”
He stared at me with curiosity in his eyes, waiting for an answer. Isaac went to the pilot’s cabin.
“I wasn’t that interested in knowing about my mom because I thought she left me. I always thought she left to live her life and that she didn’t want to know about me at all, so I never worried about her or so. I lived my life with my father.”
“And will you miss it? I know you’ll miss your father, but what about your life in that city? School? Your friends?”
I stopped looking at Chuck and kept looking at my hands.
“I’m sorry, princess. You don’t have to answer”
“I wasn’t very… Popular in school or in town. I used to hang out with some classmates and even had a friend, but one day my father was picking me up at a pajama party and hit the car. Spencer’s parents were trusting him to pick us both, but he had drunk, so he lost control of the car and hit it. Nothing bad happened to anyone, but my dad lost his license and his job and I lost the closest friend I had. Spencer couldn’t visit me anymore and then her family moved to Canada. And, of course, everyone in town knew that my father had drinking problems so I had no one to hang out with.”
After a while, I looked at Chuck and he was looking back at me.
“Say something, Charles” I asked and realized that my voice was trembling. “I… give you permission to speak? Or I authorize you to answer? Whatever, just--”
“Your dad is an idiot” he said and looked out the window. “And we are about to land. We are in Combellmont already.”
The jet landed and suddenly I was between Isaac and Jean again, but without my father this time. We were in a shed, or kind of a shed, in which helicopters and tanks were parked, besides another jet like ours, but it looked like it was broken.
I gave up on knowing what time it was, but it bothered me not to know. We left the shed and got in a car and as we drove the quantity of guards increased. Everyone greeted Isaac, Jean and Charles and a few dared to look at me but the ones who did it bowed to greet. I couldn’t react and suddenly saw myself happy to be between two guys I had known for a while - more than twenty-four hours.
This time, I was alone at the backseat of the car and Isaac was the one driving and, even though the windows’ glass were dark, I could see a little bit about where I was. It was like watching one of those old movies that took place at some boarding school, but this time with much more beauty and enthusiasm. You could see that the city had electricity, but, besides the light poles, torches were hanging on the wall and I soon noticed that that place’s flag was purple and golden, with a lion’s head in between with five stars above.
I also noticed that, the more we headed, the more I could see the sea for the first time and, even in the middle of all that was going on, I smiled.
“We’re here, princess” I heard Isaac saying and the car stopped.
That’s when I turned around and saw the castle.
Once again, the only thing that came into my mind were the movies and that you could never really realize how big a castle is through the screen.
I got out of the car and saw that Isaac got angry because I didn’t wait for him, but he didn’t tell me anything so I thought that the best I could do was ignore him. In about a few seconds, another car arrived right after and the ones that arrived before were already waiting for us.
“Princess, this is your new home” Isaac announced, looking rather proud.
I nodded, biting my lips and he looked like he understood that I didn’t know what to do, so he gave me his hand so that I could move forward and I did.
Before we got closer to the front door, a small chubby lady with gray hair and a Spanish accent opened the door and smiled at me, bowing.
“Oh, welcome, princess! We were waiting for you.” she greeted, and Isaac and two more guards passed behind me (I wondered where Charles and Jean could be). “I’m Justine, the housekeeper of this castle”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Justine. I’m Nick” I replied in Spanish, trying to make her feel more comfortable so that she didn’t have to force herself to speak in English with me.
It worked and her smile got even bigger.
“You must be tired. Let me take you to your chambers. Tomorrow you can search through the castle if you want”
“Thank you” I nodded, thankfully.
After that, Justine guided me and Isaac with the other two guards escorted us.
As impressive as it seems, the hall was huge, with a lot of big chandeliers and a lot of frames hanging on, besides having tables with jars filled with white roses. It wasn’t my favorite type of flower, but I had nothing against it. We climbed one of the stairs that led to the first floor and kept walking. The carpet was tinted in a darker purple.
“Your aunt was going to wait for you, but her health is really fragile so she must have the most rest she can, especially now that she’s taking care of your siblings.” Justine said as she walked, until we stopped by a door at the end of a corridor and she got a key to open it, handing it to me. “This is your room. Everything is white because we didn’t know which color you’d like, but feel free to decorate as you wish, princess”
I got the key and got inside the room with Justine beside me. If the bathroom of the suite I was sleeping in that hotel could fit my whole room inside, this bedroom could fit my whole apartment in Montgomery or maybe two of it. In the middle of the wall on the left there was a balcony that led to the sea and on the right there was a desk and a chair and, as everything in that room and in the castle in general, was white and golden.
“Your mom always preferred that we all changed black to white as the mourning color. And that’s what we did” she explained with a sigh and it looked like she was about to cry. “Oh, princess! My condolences!”
She took a napkin out of her pocket and started to cry while I was looking desperate at Isaac.
“Justine, please!” he said, hugging her. “C’mon. Let’s give the princess some space. She needs to rest too.”
Justine waved with the napkin still on her hand and got out of the room.
“Good night, princess. And welcome” Isaac said and closed the door.
I looked around, saw my backpack and my purse and asked how someone could have brought those things to my room already.
I couldn’t sleep, but I was beaten by the tiredness after walking around the room, changing clothes, wearing my pajamas again and brushing my teeth. I was hungry, but I didn’t know how, when or with whom I could get food. I didn’t even know what time it was, so I lied down and soon enough I slept after staring at the ceiling.
“Ouch!” I heard someone saying and I tried to open my eyes, but everything was too bright and I covered my head with my arm.
I scratched my eyes and waited until I could open them again and, when I was able to, I saw a pair of green eyes staring at me with curiosity.
“You hit me” a tiny voice accused, sounding surprised.
“I’m sorry” I said and sat down.
“You drool as you sleep” she said, smiling.
I dried my mouth with my arm and tried to disguise the stain I had made on the bed, putting a pillow on top of it.
“Your sister. I’m Rafaella Constance Rodriguez DeValence” she declared, shaking her head every single time she said a different name, which I found funny.
“That’s a big name” I said.
“But you can call me Ella”
Ella looked like a doll with green eyes and blond hair, rosé cheeks and her face was shaped like a heart. She wore a pink dress with small yellow flowers around, and, closer to the door, I saw yellow sneakers.
“Why do you have black hair?” Ella asked, grabbing my attention again.
“It’s my dad’s hair color” I replied.
“But you have the same eyes as mom’s”
“Rafaella!” I heard someone screaming through the opened door. “Rafaella, I can’t believe you wanted to wake… Oh, honey! You’re awake?”
It was the woman who greeted me at that online conference. Nina, or, as I should get used to, Aunt Nina. She was even thinner in person and reminded me of those moms who pick up their children in big cars at Abeley.
“I was already up. Ella asked to come in”
The lie didn’t convince Nina and she kept staring at the little girl until she finally said something.
“I opened the door and lied on her side, then she woke up. Sorry.” Ella explained, lowering her head.
“You know it’s a bad thing to get into someone else’s room without permission and you know it’s not educated to stare at people, Ella” Nina scolded her, crossing her arms and then looked at me. “We are against lies here and I hope you can understand and accept this, Nicolle.”
And then I wish there was a whole on the ground so I could jump right in.
“I’m sorry” I said.
“But this isn’t someone else’s room, Auntie Nina, it’s mommy’s room. And I used to get in here aaaall the time! Mommy and I used to eat breakfast together on the weekends” Ella justified herself.
“But this is your sister’s room now, Ella, and you haven’t asked for permission” Nina insisted.
“That’s fine. Truthfully. Ah… I want to have breakfast. With Ella.” I lied.
Nina sighed and then got out of the room.
“Alright, I’ll ask Justine to bring breakfast” and, before getting out, she turned to tell me: “Nicolle, at eleven o’clock your mother’s lawyer will be here to read her will. I hope you’ll be at the reunion room at ten to eleven. Don’t be late”
Ella took a deep breath, which made her hair fly around and she kept looking at the door.
“Hey, it’s okay” I said, grabbing her attention.
She shook her head in disagreement and I saw that she was about to cry.
“Uh… So this was your mom’s room?” I asked, trying to make her speak instead of cry.
She nodded, scratching her left eye with the back of her hand.
“On weekends, when I came home, I used to wake her up and we would eat breakfast together. I’d brought her flowers and she’d taught me how to read… But then after I learnt I was the one reading to her”
“That sounds… nice” I said. “What do you usually read?”
“Everything, but I like stories that have fantasy, trips…” she explained, with sparks in her eyes.
“I used to like The Beauty and The Beast.” I shouldn’t add that I had the same feelings as Belle towards the town I lived in. “She was my favorite princess”
“When I heard about you, I thought you were like the Sleeping Beauty” she assumed.
“That’s why you kept staring at me while I was sleeping? Did you think I wouldn’t wake up?” I asked, trying not to laugh.
Ella laughed and covered her face, embarrassed.
“No. I don’t know. Maybe” she admitted.
After that, Justine knocked on the door and got in with two people with carts like the ones I saw at the hotel.
“Good morning, princess. I didn’t know what you’d like, so I brought a bit of everything! I hope you like it.” Justine announced while touching Ella’s hair. “I brought pancakes, and chocolate syrup, dear. Oh, and these are Frida and Pearl and, if by any reasons I’m not around, you can call them.”
“Nice to meet you” I greeted, trying to look at them, but neither of them was looking at me and answered my greeting with a nod. They were thinner than Justine and one of them had fringe while the other had short curly hair.
After they left, Ella started to eat and basically amused herself with the pancakes and chocolate syrup, while I took a bread that had cheese in, herbs and something that looked like sausage.
“Justine knows how to make every type of croissant” she said, pointing her chin to the bread that I was eating. After I delicately cleaned my mouth with a napkin, I said:
“That’s the name of this? It’s delicious!” I pointed as I ate.
“You speak with your mouth full” she was amused.
I said “sorry” as I swallowed and cleaned my mouth again.
Ella didn’t have any problems using the forks and knives they had brought and I tried to follow her steps even though I looked and felt ridiculous.
“You must not tell Auntie Nina that I didn’t eat fruits first, okay? It’s not lying, it’s just… not telling” she asked as she held an apple.
“Your secret is safe.”
“What’s in the box?” she asked, pointing to the box that I had brought with the pictures and newspaper articles of my mom.
“Pictures” I explained, getting up and calling her to take a look.
“That’s mommy!” she said after I showed some pictures.
Then I realized that not all of the things were in the box and that my father probably took it from me when I was in the shower.
“Mommy gave me this doll!” She informed me, pointing to a moppet that was in a chair in one of the pictures. “She told me to call her Nick!” Then she smiled. “It’s my favorite doll”
I smiled back, watching her. Ella looked like a real princess. The kind that everyone hears about and that are in the books. Even though I was sitting on the floor, I kept my back straight and tried to stack up everything in the most organized way. Her hair had a golden hair clip that looked like a bow with pink jewelry and her nails were done, painting in pink.
“After, if you want, I can show you some pictures of my mommy and my daddy. And Nick. I can show you my entire room if you want” she suggested, getting up and staring at me anxiously.
“Alright. Now?” I asked, holding her hand.
“No” she paused, thinking. “Now you need to dress up for the reading. Auntie Nina doesn’t like delays” she informed me, letting my hand go and going to the door to put on her sneakers. “I’ll see if she’s already dressed up and if I can go to Hugo’s room. Thank you for breakfast… May I call you Nick too?”
“Thank you for breakfast, Nick.” She thanked me and came back to where I was just to hug me, which left me speechless.
After that, Ella let me go and got out, closing the door carefully.