Don’t forget to like, comment and add this book to one of your lists! 💜
That’s very important so other people can find it and knowing that I’m not writing for ghost readers 👻 really helps me to keep willing to post every Sat.
“Princess, is there something special you’d like to have for lunch?” Justine said as I took my shoes off.
“Not really, thanks” I replied, heading to my room, but then I remembered something: “Justine, Pearl lent me some shoes and my mother’s necklace… I need to put them back, but I don’t have the key… Do you have it? Or do you know where it is?”
Justine got closer, taking the shoes from my hands.
“Oh, the queen’s chamber. Her belongings… I thought they had given you the key already, princess. We only have access to half of the stuff, but the more important pieces are locked and the key is with her lawyers, I just don’t know which one of them has it” she said, shrugging and looking sad.
“Okay, I’ll inform myself later”
“I’m sorry that you didn’t know about this, princess” Justine continued, taking my hand with her free hand. “You look a lot like her”
I didn’t know what to say, so I simply nodded, agreeing.
“Would you like to make me some company? Change your clothes and come. When your aunt arrives, the boys will warn us” she swore with a smile.
I nodded again and let her hand go, going to my room.
After I changed my clothes, putting on a blue t-shirt and khaki shorts that I used to wear when the sun shined in Montgomery - which was a rare thing to happen - I found Justine concentrated on the pan she was working on, and then I felt a little bit uncomfortable being there. I sat close to the fridge and started to use my phone, which I hadn’t done in a while, and found just one text message.
Kiddo, send some news. I hope everything’s okay, that’s what my father sent me.
I didn’t answer him and simply deleted the message. I knew I was being too immature and maybe a little bit naïve too, but I felt hurt and, even though I missed him, my pride was too loud to not be heard.
After she turned around and noticed me there, Justine started to talk to me and, after she called me “Princess” for the tenth time, I begged her to call me “Nick” and now she switched between both of them or simply called me “princess Nick”.
“Justine, my second mother” I heard Chuck saying as he entered the kitchen. He held a bouquet of white roses and a small pink box.
Justine raised the wooden spoon and pointed at him.
“What do you want, Charles?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.
“No… Don’t call me Charles. It’s enough that my brother does it all the time” she asked, coming closer. “I want you to forgive me. Simple as that. You see, I brought an offer of peace” he handed in the box and the flowers.
“Flowers?” she asked, taking the bouquet and then the box. “Chocolate!” and then she smiled.
“Nothing like the ones you make, but…”
“Oh, Chuck!” she exclaimed, putting her presents on the balcony so that she could hold his face. “You know how to get my forgiveness, don’t you?”
“Uhm” he grunted because he couldn’t speak properly until Justine let him go.
“Just promise me that you won’t do that ever again” she asked, letting him go.
“Scout’s word” he promised, doing something that looked like a military salute.
“And say sorry to princess Nick” she continued, pointing at me.
Chuck, who looked like he hadn’t noticed me yet, looked me in the eyes and bit his lips.
“No, he doesn’t need to, Justine. Everything’s fine…”
But Chuck was already coming towards me and Justine held his arm, taking a flower from his bouquet and handing it to him. When he stood next to me, he said:
“I’m sorry, princess. I had no intention to offend you. Neither you nor Justine” he said, giving me the flower.
After that, the guy that prevented me to fell on my face earlier entered the kitchen and I realized, by that, that it meant that everyone, including Ella, Hugo and Aunt Nina, were back, so I told Justine that I would play with them and so I left the kitchen, searching for Ella.
By Monday morning, I woke up with Frida knocking on my door to inform me that the tailors were here already. It took me a while to understand what she was talking about and what I had to do with it, but soon I was wearing a black shirt and jeans, to receive them.
“Do I have time to eat?” I asked, feeling starving.
“I can arrange something, don’t worry, princess” and then she left, leaving me with small slices of bread and tuna pate.
After five minutes, Frida came back and I had to leave my orange juice there to follow her.
François and Antoinette Dupont looked more like siblings than a couple. Both of them had the same height, they dressed the same, had dark brown hair and eyes, were tanned and even their pointy noses looked the same as they analyzed me.
“So, Nina… When you told us that it was an emergency and asked for exclusivity and secrecy…” Antoinette started.
“Yes, Nicolle has always dressed like the… normal Americans. And those were the only clothes she had brought to Combellmont, so I thought it was necessary for both of you to help her out. After all, she’s leaving for school next week and it would be better if she showed a more professional look right from the start” she explained, sitting on an armchair. We were in a type of closet inside her room.
“Of course…” François confirmed, tilting his head.
And, after long hours, I was measured from head to toe, while I was sitting and standing and, for a couple minutes, I had to get half naked, wearing only my underwear as Antoinette measured different parts of my body. Needless to say, that I looked uncomfortable and embarrassed, that’s when I finally heard Aunt Nina talking to François:
“What do you think about five formal dresses, five party dresses and five sets of casual clothes with five pairs of shoes? Each shoe should have a heel that’s about 1 inch, at least until she figures out how to walk on heels… And, please, if you could hand everything in as soon as possible because, as you’ve seen, it’s really an emergency”
“Yes, ma’am. About the measures…”
“Make everything her size… After a while, I’m sure she will fit the regular measurements or, at least, the normal ones”
François didn’t answer, but probably nodded.
“Antoinette?” I called, indecisive whether I was pronouncing her name correctly.
“You may call me Nette, princess” she replied, helping me to get dressed, even though there was no need for that.
“Do you work with any type of clothes? I mean, what are the chances for me to get plain shirts and jeans…?”
“Almost none” Antoinette interrupted me.
“What?” I said, not understanding.
“The chances are almost none, princess. If you need regular clothes” she made it clear to pronounce regular with a disgusted expression, “I’m sure you can visit the mall in Paris and get some there”
“Okay…” I murmured, raising my eyebrows and looking down, as I got out from behind the folding screen.
Aunt Nina’s room decoration was a mix between yellow, dark red and the same dark wooden color that I saw in her office.
“There you go, I think we’re done with you, Nicolle. You can move on and do your chores” Aunt Nina informed me with a small smile.
Which chores? I wanted to ask her. I mean, Ella was off to school and the castle was in pure silence, so I left Aunt Nina’s room and headed to Hugo’s.
“Hey, you’re up” I noticed. He looked back at me with his big green eyes. “Why don’t you cry to warn everyone? Actually, do you ever cry?” I asked, leaning on the baby crib.
Hugo looked at me with curiosity, moving his chubby legs.
“Hugo, between us both, what do you think about Aunt Nina? Does she treat you nicely? Doesn’t she pinch you or hold your cheeks too tight? I need to admit that sometimes I don’t feel good around her. Can you keep this secret? This is just between both of us” I asked, sighing.
He smiled. Or at least I thought that what he did looked like a smile, and then raised one of his tiny arms and I held his hand. He held my finger back. Tightly.
“Okay, It’s probably just me or I’m really going insane” I assumed, rolling my eyes. “I mean, you and Ella were raised by Aunt Nina and both of you are alive and well, right?”
Hugo babbled something and then pulled the finger he was holding inside his mouth.
“Ew” I said, but didn’t move my hand away. His gums without teeth put some pressure on my finger.
He didn’t seem to bother at all, as he sucked my finger like it was a pacifier, making a funny face. I kept staring at him for a while, until I looked up and saw a picture of Hugo with our mom. In the picture, she was smiling like she was in the pictures she was holding me, when I was the same age as Hugo.
“Do you miss her?” I asked, knowing he wouldn’t reply.
“I believe he does, but he doesn’t know how to speak yet, you know” I got scared when I heard Chuck’s voice behind me.
“Hey” I said.
“I came to walk with him. Do you want to do it?” he asked, leaning on the door.
“No, you can do it” I denied, moving my hand away from Hugo’s mouth.
Chuck got closer and started to move Hugo, like he had done it a thousand times earlier.
“Chuck?” I asked, while I was observing.
“When did you all learn it or why did you learn how to take care of Hugo?”
“Well, previously, that was a job for the women of the castle. Even before Hugo, Ella had your mom, your Aunt Nina, Justine, Frida, Pearl or anyone else to help her, but things got a little bit chaotic after king Louis’ death and soon every help came in hand, so we started to train and learn” he explained as he bathed Hugo. “First you have to feed them, then dress them, touch them, bathe them. They are like bombs, but more sensible”
I cracked a smile, helping Chuck by giving him the towel.
“Why, princess? I heard you don’t even know how to hold him… Do you want to train too?” he asked, searching for clothes on the wardrobe, holding Hugo on his lap.
“No. Maybe someday” I said, compressing my lips.
Chuck didn’t say anything after that and started to dress Hugo. He put him in a special chair that was colored in green and grey.
I followed them everywhere, until we reached the place where we had our picnic the other day, but, this time, we spent a little while there and, after that, Hugo started to look annoyed and Chuck said that it was a signal that he was hungry, so we split ourselves. While he took Hugo to Justine, I headed to have lunch, with Frida on my side.
“Princess, may I give you advice?” she asked while we were walking.
“Sure” I said.
“Eat something light. Only the necessary. Doctor Ambrosio is coming in an hour or so and you’ll do some exams…”
“Ah, right” I said, feeling sad that I had to do those exams.
That information actually made me lose my appetite and I started to get nervous, eating on Aunt Nina’s side. She was silent, as usual.
After lunch, Justine came to our table, with Isaac behind her, to tell us that doctor Ambrosio and Abby were waiting for me and we followed them to the room where doctor Ambrosio was waiting.
“Justine, come. If the doctor needs anything special to the princess, you’ll be the first one to know” Isaac suggested and I realized Justine didn’t like the doctor, as she raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms.
Even against her will, she followed us and then I saw Abby searching something through her documents. I asked everyone to feel comfortable around doctor Ambrosio because I knew that it was something that I must do.
“Today I’ll ask you some questions, and I expect you to answer them with honesty, do you get it?” Doctor Ambrosio narrowed his eyes, talking to me.
He was a middle-aged man that was around my height, had white hair and a bald spot right on the center of his head. He also had blue eyes and a bunch of wrinkles.
“Yes, sir” I said.
He asked Abby to help him with the scale, which informed that I was around 65kg and his measuring tape marked 5’3’’. Abby simply raised his eyebrows as the doctor frowned his face, like he had seen something absurd, and Aunt Nina put her hand on his mouth as she looked at the numbers, like the doctor had just said that I have cancer or something.
“Do you use to do exercises?” Doctor Ambrosio asked, as I held his arm to get off of the scale.
“Physical Education was mandatory at Abeley and the school was very known because of their extracurricular projects regarding exercises, but I don’t fit the athletic type” Aunt Nina nodded and I lowered my eyes. “I couldn’t bare more than a month doing those activities, even though my father tried his best to enroll me”
“Well, now is a good time to start doing something. Have you ever dieted before?”
“I never thought that it was necessary” I said, shrugging.
Doctor Ambrosio didn’t reply and just shook his head, writing something in his notebook.
“Are you allergic to something?”
“Nothing that I’m aware of”
“Do you drink?”
“Do you smoke?”
“No, sir” I said with a grimace.
“Have you ever taken any contraceptive?”
I kept silent, as I felt shocked with that question.
“Should I consider your silence as an affirmation?”
My cheeks felt hot and I knew that they were red with embarrassment.
“Have you ever used any other drug?”
“No” I quickly denied, putting my hands back and feeling nervous.
“Do you suffer from any eating disorder?”
“No” a grimace appeared again and I was wishing that that questionnaire was over.
“So it seems like you have the perfect condition to follow the recipes I’ll write. In case something’s off, we’ll know by tomorrow”
“Tomorrow?” I asked, as doctor Ambrosio had started to collect his things and Aunt Nina offered me my shoes like they were soaking wet and dirty.
“Yes. Tomorrow I’ll collect some samples and you’ll be physically tested”
“Uh” I said, as I put my shoes on.
“I’ll give you the empty samples and you’ll hand them in, completed, by tomorrow, understood?” he asked, handing me two vessels with red lids.
I looked around, unbelieving, but Abby and Aunt Nina didn’t understand my reaction.
“Is this… Is this what I’m thinking it is?” I said, holding the vessels.
“I guess so, princess”
“Okay” I said, and then the doctor kissed my hand – the one that wasn’t holding the vessels – and Aunt Nina’s, nodding to Abby as he left.
“Oh, don’t worry, dear. If everything you said is true, then there’s nothing to fear, right?” Aunt Nina said, smiling. “Miss Foster, I imagine you came to hand in Nicolle’s declaration regarding the testament, if you want to give my copy now…”
“I’ll talk to the princess once again and then I’ll hand every copy on the same day, ma’am” Abby informed her, sitting on the chair closer to the desk. “At the moment, there are some things that I need to discuss with the princess”
Aunt Nina, who had her hand raised to pick the document she thought Abby would give her, pushed her hand.
“Okay, I’ll leave you alone. See you at dinner, Nicolle. Will you stay for dinner, miss Foster?” she asked, reaching the door.
“Oh, Americans are prohibited by law to deny free food, ma’am” she replied, trying not to laugh. “And, as doctor Ambrosio will be here tomorrow morning, I’m gonna ask the princess if I can stay the night in”
“That’s okay by me” I said, looking at Abby.
“We’ll arrange a room for you. I see you at dinner” she greeted and left.
And, then, there was just me and Abby in the room.
“I need you to read the declaration and sign it one more time. Each one of these copies” she asked, giving me seven folders with the declaration in.
As I read and signed each one of them, Abby opened her notebook and started to look at some things, looking concentrated.
“Finished” I said, giving the folders back.
“Just a moment, princess. I need to finish my declaration” she said, typing fast.
“Declaration?” I asked.
“Yes, if I’m going to spend the night here, I need to send some e-mails to specific people, saying that, if I’m not back in forty-eight hours, someone must call the consulate to have at least my notebook back”
“Why is that?” I couldn’t disguise my unbelief and so Abby finished, sent the e-mail and closed the notebook.
“Princess, you just need to know that I like to be cautious” she said, staring at me.
“Okay” I replied, frowning.
“Now, about the exams… Did you lie to doctor Ambrosio?” she asked and I could see that she was also asking for honesty.
“No” I denied, shaking my head.
“Not once?” she narrowed her eyes.
“Not once, madam… I mean, miss”
“You need to tell me the truth because if your exams show that you lied by tomorrow morning, I need to find a way to change them or cancel them for a reason”
“No, that’s fine. I don’t even know what my blood type is, so I think those exams are good” I assumed, sitting by her side.
“Yeah, repeat those same words to me after the exams are over” she murmured and raised her eyebrows. “The doctor gave me a recipe that you must follow until tomorrow, like a preparation of sorts. If you wanted to eat something heavy for dinner, forget it”
I sighed, getting angry and Abby started to make questions about whether I was in agreement with all those exams or not.
“Abby, am I really overweight?” I asked after a while.
“According to the doctor, yes. To me, not really. You are the average American girl and they expected a model, so I guess that’s their problem, not yours”
“No, not really, no. If I’m going to school and I’m going to live here from now on, that’s my problem” I reflected, looking at my stomach and feeling bad.
“Hey, stop it! I hated being the tallest one in my class and my classmates used to call me horse face! Nowadays I don’t have problems with my height and I learned how to do makeup and enhance each detail of my face” she said, feeling proud of herself.
“I’m happy for you” I said, with a sad smile.
“You’ll adapt, princess” she shrugged. “And, if you don’t, in two years you’ll be able to forget all of that and only come back to Combellmont when necessary”
“What do you mean? When necessary…?”
“If your Aunt Nina dies” she explained, like it was something natural.
And then I kept thinking about it for a while.
“Do you think that it might happen?”
“Your aunt dying?”
“Yes, I mean… What happened to king Louis didn’t look like an accident or bad luck, you know, and then my mom also died… What if someone’s behind it? What if they are also planning on killing Aunt Nina?” I asked, shivering.
“Well, if this happens, I think that you better hire more guards, since, following your way of thinking, you’d be the next” she said, crossing her arms.
The information shook my head, and I remembered the outrage that happened even before I arrived at the castle and kept in silence.