The Lost Princess

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Chapter 5

I had no idea how to prepare myself for a testament reading and I doubted I had someone or something available to help me, so I decided to just change clothes to jeans and a shirt. Before closing the door and leaving, I looked at the sea and the shining sun through the balcony. It was a speechless view and while I closed the door and walked down the stairs, I asked myself to whom I should tell or ask to go visit the sea with me.

It was when I realized I had no idea where I was heading to. At the moment, I was under the stairs that led to the corridor in which my room was, but I had no idea of which direction to follow, so I decided to follow the noise that I was hearing and I soon realized it sounded like kitchen pots, so I should be close to the kitchen.

As I predicted, I found a large kitchen on full steam, but on a table that served around 12 people I found only Jean and by his side there was one of the ladies that Justine had introduced me earlier, the one that had short curly hair, but I wasn’t sure if she was Frida or Pearl, I just knew she was caressing Jean’s hair and he was smiling at her.

I cleared my throat so that they could notice me there and Jean immediately got up, while the lady put her hand away, trying to bow down at me and she walked to what I thought was the kitchen pantry.

“Good morning, princess. I was… just feeding myself”

I tried not to laugh.

“Do you know where the meeting room is? I’m kinda lost here”

Jean got up, put the chair in its original place and walked towards me, but before he passed right through me, he raised his hand in front of his stomach, showing that I could lead the way, even though I didn’t know it. Yet.

While we were walking, I saw that even though he was more mature and serious, Jean had the same cheek bones as Chuck and that they were extremely red, probably because I catched him in a private moment.

“Was that Pearl or Frida?” I asked, biting my lips.

“Pearl” he answered, looking at where we were going.

“Hmm… Jean and Pearl” I said and bit my lips again.

My comment stopped Jean from walking and he turned to me with an angry expression on his face.

“It’s not what you think. We’re… friends. We’ve been friends for a long time. That’s what I rather be because I need to be focused on my job, princess. And my job is to protect you. She knows this and she’s also very hardworking”

“Okay” I said, trying not to laugh at Jean’s seriousness.

We followed the way and by the time Jean realized I was staring at him, he murmured:

“Oh, I’d like to know how long will this smile last when your aunt sees you wearing this attire, princess”

I rolled my eyes and we got closer to a door in which Chuck was standing in front of.

“Good morning, princess” he greeted.

“Good morning” I replied, then added: “Chuck, does Pearl also pat your head while you’re eating or this kind of treatment is it only for Jean?”

I heard Jean howl by my side and put his hands back while Chuck laughed so loudly that I also felt the need to laugh. After staring at his brother, he looked at me.

“Pearl is very fond of everyone here, but we all know Jean has special treatment, princess.”

And that was my turn to laugh loudly, until I noticed something that made me stop and I pointed at him like I just noticed something extremely important.

“Oh my God! Jean and Pearl… PEARL JAM!” I said in a higher pitch, hitting my hand on my forehead. “If that’s not one of the best couple’s name, then I swear--”

“Princess, for the love of God! You’re being awaited at the meeting” Jean cried, trying to make mine and Chuck’s laughs come to an end.

“Okay, okay!” I said, surrendering myself and getting inside the room while I sang something between the lines of Pearl and Jean, hanging out on a three, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

“Oh, grow up, Charles” I heard him saying to Charles, who was laughing even harder after I got inside the room, but my happiness was replaced by fear when I saw what was waiting for me.

Inside the room, wearing formal clothes, I saw Aunt Nina and three men that now looked at me from head to toe.

“You may come in, darling. Sit on that side. We were waiting for your lawyer and father Fernando. Was there any problem with your bags during the flight?”

“Nope. Everything’s fine” I replied without understanding, but only later I realized she was suggesting that I was wearing trashy clothes, which made me feel stupid.

A while later, the door opened and a tall, redheaded woman with blue eyes got in - also wearing formal clothes - and carrying a little suitcase.

“Good morning” she greeted, raising her hand to greet me in particular. Only after hearing Aunt Nina clearing her throat that I realized I should’ve gotten up to greet her. “I’m Abgail Foster, but you may call me Abby, princess. I’ll be working by your side and making what’s possible to help you here.”

“Nice to meet you. You may call me Nick” I suggested, only to find Aunt Nina’s anger again, shaking her head.

Right after that, a man, which probably was father Fernando, got in and after greeting me (this time I got up), he sat on one of the chairs that were away from mine. Then, one of the three men that were already there when I got inside the room got up and went to the other side of the table. He opened a purple portfolio, took out some documents and started to read.

“I, Caroline Marie Rodriguez DeValence II, Combellmont’s queen, France’s consul, widowed from Louis Odélio DeValence III, daughter of Juan Miguel Agostín Rodriguez and Alma Dulce Agostín Rodriguez, declare to be in full use of my mental capabilities and writing this will (that is now read to ye) in order to obey my last orders as the leader of this kingdom.”

After what felt like an eternity, but it only took three written pages, I felt shocked and also relieved, because some of her words clarified some serious subjects that were making me confused.

One of them was the fact that I never understood, when my father told me so, that they could take me by force if they wanted to, but, after her will was read out loud and I had to sign it twice, stating that I was present and that the judge had read the will my mom wrote, there was a declaration saying that they could use force and even arrest me to take me as a prisoner to Combellmont, but then I would stay in jail and would be treated as a traitor of my own kingdom and that there was nothing I could do in that situation, nor could my hometown, since I was actually born in Combellmont.

Another thing that got crystal clear to me was that only in her testament that my mother assumed my existence, making it clear that she knew where I lived and that her testament should only be read after I was taken to Combellmont.

Well, on the testament, both me and Nina became shocked to know that my mom left me as the heir to the throne, but Nina - that was left to be the counselor - was the one that could authorize or deny my orders as I, even though I was still a minor, could authorize and deny hers. In that part, I had already felt my hands tingling and sweating.

The cherry on top of that cake was the fact that I was obligated to go to a school in France, being allowed to go back to Combellmont only on the weekends, at least until I turn eighteen, when I’ll be prepared to my coronation or to hand the job to Aunt Nina, that would be obligated to hand the job to Hugo as soon as he turns eighteen too.

And then, after the reading came to an end, father Fernando got up and said some words that I couldn’t hear and I also didn’t pay attention to him. The first to leave was Nina, with her lawyer by her side.

“I’m sorry… May I go too?” I asked Abby.

She, who greeted the others, turned to me.

“Yes, sure. Princess? Is everything fine?” she asked and I nodded, walking towards the door.

My head was spinning and I ran through the corridor, passing by Chuck as I was heading to my room.

After I found my way, starting to recognize some paintings that were hanging on the walls, I got in and hurried to get my mp3 and put my earphones on the maximum volume.

When will all of this stop? I started to hear the intro of “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” while I tried to stop the questions that were desperately popping on my mind because I couldn’t lose myself to the feeling of despair on my chest.

In the old days, when I discovered that my parents met themselves at a U2 concert, I got obsessed with them and that was my favorite music. I used to listen whenever my dad put me to bed and I asked myself where my mom could be or if what would happen to me if my dad kept drinking the way he did.

I started to sing out loud so that the questions would stop coming.

It was working. I had my eyes closed and suddenly I was at home again, in my room, dancing without knowing exactly what I was doing and which steps to do next, trying to distract myself from all of the physics work I should be doing instead of dancing.

And, suddenly, I felt a hand pulling my earphones carefully and I had to come back to reality.

“Jesus Christ! You scared me!” I said after I opened my eyes when Chuck pulled my earphone, looking at me with both curiosity and amusement in his shining eyes.

“Well, the animals from the palace could say the same. There are singing teachers in Combellmont, princess” he provoked and smiled. “Your lawyer says she needs to talk to you”

I took a deep breath. Shit.

“Do I need to go back to the meeting room or will she come to me?”

“Whatever you feel like” he informed, shrugging.

“Tell her to come, please” I replied, taking the other side of my earphones out and putting my mp3 aside.

Chuck stayed there for a while before asking me:

“Do you need something else, princess?” I noticed he looked worried.

Maybe a way to teleport myself? To be born with better luck in the next life?

“No, thanks”

And, then, he left.

A while later Abby knocked on the door before getting in.

“Princess, we need to discuss the testament”

“You may come in” I asked, walking to the writing desk that was in my room and I sat on the chair, asking her to sit on the armchair.

“Oh, princess, I would feel uncomfortable if… May we switch seats, please?”

“Okay” I replied, trying not to roll my eyes as I got up and sat on the armchair.

“So, I am American and I understand that this can be confusing. Soon as your mom died, I was contacted and they offered me this job, so I studied your case and everything about it and now, after the reading of the testament, we received two copies, one for each. So I’d like to know if there’s something you disagree or you didn’t understand and would like to talk about”

Basically… everything? I opened my mouth to say something, but I didn’t know how to say it without sounding completely stupid - which turned out to be a habit since I arrived in Combellmont.

“Princess, did you understand everything that’s on the testament? Would you like me to translate something?”

“No, I understood”

“I know you must be confused, but this is the moment to talk about something you disagree, so that we can write about and start the process to revert whatever sounded negative to you”

Okay, I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Well, everything sounded negative to me. I mean, how come they could send me to jail if I didn’t want to come? And they expect me to prepare myself for this job in two years? In another country? Didn’t I come to live here?” I knew I was panicking, but I couldn’t control myself. “How come my mom thought this was fair and good for me? How did she think that even though I spent my whole life in another continent with a different lifestyle, I would still be fit to rule this place? And what if in two years I refuse to let Aunt Nina take the throne, that means I’ll have to wait eighteen years to let Hugo rule?”

“Sixteen”

“Huh? He can be crowned king with sixteen years?”

“No, in two years your brother will be two. Then you can only hand the throne sixteen years later”

“Right…”

“Nicolle, I know this is a lot, but I’m here to be by your side and clarify things. We have only two years to adapt and to debate about things you disagree with. Obviously, they’ll hold onto the process for as long as they can, since you’ll be the one deciding things within two years, but before that, there’s nothing you can do besides talking and insisting. The good thing is that if we can mingle your opinion with your aunt’s, whatever you decide, as long as she agrees with it, can be approved. We have to form alliances and keep things in a good term”

“Yeah… I don’t think that’s going to happen. She doesn’t look like she’s someone who likes to break laws or disobey someone” I remembered, rolling my eyes.

“Well, you’re the niece. Discover how to amuse her and start a friendship. As I could tell, she’s straitlaced, but takes care of your brothers, which means she must care for her family. If you can convince her, then we have an alliance”

I took a deep breath.

“Then, let’s do it” she started, searching through the desk and found a drawer, where she found a notebook and some pens. “You need to write your declaration stating what was read. As your mother’s testament, this is something secret and private. It would be handed to the ones that were present during the reading”

“Okay” I confirmed, taking the notebook and the pen.

“Let’s start sketching it, while I reread the testament, ask you some questions and you tell me if you agree or disagree, okay?”

“Okay” I said and then Abby took the document, reading and pausing to ask me something whenever she felt like.

“Is it true that you didn’t know about your mother or about Combellmont?”

“Yes”

“Write about that. I declare to be the absolute truth that I had no knowledge about who my biological mother was, nor did I know about the place in which I was born, believing that I was American until I was contacted by the royal guard”

Abby kept reading and then asked me again:

“Now, after knowing about your mother’s last wishes, do you pretend to follow them?”

Abby’s question has put an extra weight on my shoulders. Did I want to do this? No. I didn’t want to go to a school as snobbish as Abeley and spend the whole week there. I didn’t know what it meant to be prepared to be a queen and just the thought of it made me want to laugh because it sounded ridiculous, but these were my mom’s last wishes. Even though she didn’t bother to know how I was, who I had become, she believed I could do this. My mom trusted me enough to list me as her immediate heir. She could have listed Aunt Nina, which would have been easier, obviously, but, for some reason, she didn’t want to. Aunt Nina could have simply asked me, after the reading, if I wanted to give up and let me leave this place, but she also didn’t do it. She didn’t say a word and was willing to obey her sister’s last wishes.

It felt like I was about to agree, as I rethink about the life I had spent in America and at school. I mean, I spent a whole life at Abeley. It wouldn’t hurt to spend two more years at another Abeley with a different language, right? I would learn a couple things, maybe how to handle forks and knives, like Ella, and if those next two years turn out to be a total nightmare, I would be more than glad to hand the throne to Aunt Nina and live a normal life. Maybe I could travel to Europe, since I didn’t plan to go back to Montgomery so soon.

“Yes” I replied and started writing again.

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