"You are ruining my life!" The yells coming from inside the Queen of France and Scotland work room can be heard by anyone who passes through it. The guards outside of it simple shrug their shoulders at each other, already used with the fights and yells that now happen for years.
"Isn't Anne ever going to give mother a rest?" James asks his father as both of them walk to the Queen's work room. They are still on the other side of the hallway but they are already able to hear the Princess' yells.
"I don't think so, my son." Francis shakes his head and both son and father laugh together as they approach their destination. They are used with it, mother and daughter to much alike for their own good. It's difficult to point who is more stubborn.
As the door swings open, both Mary and Anne get silent. It's difficult to find someone with the courage to interrupt them in the middle of a fight, as it most of times everyone who gets close, gets involved.
"Father! Why don't you tell Mother I'm allowed to go to Paris with Aunt Claude?" Anne is fast to try to find some support as she sees who enters the room. She has both of her hands at the sides of her hips and Francis has to hold his laugh at how much she looks like her mother.
"Do not get me involved on your discussion, Anne. This is between you and your mother." For the past sixteen years, Francis has got to know better than to get between mother and daughter, as the blame of their discussions has felt in his lap many times even without his involvement. Anne sighs and turns again to her mother, trying to reason with her even knowing there are minimum chances of her winning the discussion.
"Mother, you are being completely unfair!" The young princess throws her arms up and Mary rolls her eyes at her daughter. She gets scared sometimes on how much Anne looks like her.
"Anne, this has nothing to be with being fair or unfair. It is not appropriate for you to travel alone with your Aunt to Paris. That's it."
"It's just Paris, Mother!" Anne almost yells and for a fraction of second Francis sees his sister on his daughter. Perhaps it was not a good to let them grow so close. "And I will be with Aunt Claude!"
"As if being with Aunt Claude means any kind of reassurance." James whispers, making his way to the chaise on the side of the room, and Francis laugh at the statement. He knows that's the main reason why Mary worries about Anne with Claude. His sister might have gotten older and might have never given any reasons for them to worry about the responsibility she has with their children, but she is still the same of many years ago. Careless. Free. Wild. And he knows that his sister is going to Paris to visit a friend for a few days. A friend that does not have an appropriate reputation.
"Shut up, James!" Anne yells at her brother and his only answer is to laugh at her.
"Do not speak with your brother like that, young lady." Mary warns her and with that she gains another roll of eyes.
"I beg your pardon, your Majesty, for speaking badly of your son." Anne is ironic, her tone of voice challenging her mother and Francis knows that this fight won't end well.
"Don't start being ironic, Anne. You will get nothing of it." Mary's voice is harsh and James quickly looks at his father; he also knows it won't end well.
"That's because I never get anything!" Anne yells and Francis tries to interfere, but she's faster. "James gets to do every single thing he wants; Henry gets to do everything he wants; so does Aylee, who is a toddler, and even Marie and Francis, who are still infants!"
"Anne, be careful." Francis warns her, but she doesn't listen to him.
"Even John! Even John, who is just your godson gets to do everything he wants with yours and father's blessing, while I must remain locked inside this castle!"
"You do not get to remain locked inside this castle, Anne. You get to travel with me, with your father and with your friends many times on the year. You are freer than many royal kids are able to be and this conversation is over now. You will not travel with your Aunt to Paris and I do not want to hear a single thing about this anymore." Mary sits in chair, her face serious, her back still and Anne burst in rage.
"Why do you have to be so mean with me? Why do you have to hate me like that?" Anne hits her palms open on Mary's desk and the Queen answers her daughter at the same level.
"I do not hate you, Anne! I care about you! Even though you think I'm being mean." Their eyes are on the same level, their faces almost touching and no one in the room dares to breathe. James and Francis eye each other deciding silently if they should interfere.
"You hate me." Anne says with clenched teeth and the words that leave her mouth after that feels like the sharp twist of a blade inside of Mary. "I bet you wish you had lost me while I was still inside of you, just like you lost that baby before James."
Mary has to sit back in her chair on her daughter's words, air sucked out of lungs as the words hover in her mind. James knows that things are about to get ugly, he quickly gets up as his father goes in the direction of his sister, that for the look in her eyes, now realizes the mistake she has just committed.
"Anne Valois-Angoulême!" Francis yells, but at that, Anne is already leaving the room and his son's arms are around him, preventing him from committing any mistakes. The King breathes deep as he takes his son's arms off of him and both men turn to look at Mary, with watered eyes on her chair, staring blankly at the wall across the room.
"I will go talk with Anne." James whispers, knowing his parents need a time alone and his sister some sense in her head.
"You better. She does not need me or your mother doing that right now." Francis whispers it and James walks out of the room, the last scene he sees inside of it is his crying mother in the arms of his father.
"I absolutely do not need your advices right now." Her cheeks are red from the cold and her eyes red and swollen from crying. She feels like disappearing from the world, she knows she messed up with her parents, but she really does not need his brother speaking on her ear.
"Yes you need." James sits by her sister, both of them looking out at the snow falling in the patio. "Believe me; you would rather listen to my advices right now than to mother and father's one."
"Idiot." Anne whispers and brother and sister stay silent for a couple of minutes, side by side starring out at the snow. Memories of their childhood playing out at it are the first that come into their minds, the forts and castles build by them and their parents as they would sneak out of their meetings and the kids from their classes.
"I screwed up everything with Mother, didn't I?" Anne is the one to break the silence between them and James turns to look at her, directly in her eyes. She might be just like their mother, have her hair and her face, but her eyes are the exact copy of their father's.
"You have no idea how." James shakes his head and Anne sighs, turning back to stare at the snow.
"Thank you very much." She whispers and James laughs.
"I thought you wanted my honest answer, little bean." Anne has to smile as James uses her childhood nickname, the one that he gave her on the first time they met. When he thought that the tiny and bald little baby looked just like a bean.
"I did not think it would hurt so much to hear. The truth, I mean."
"Neither mother thought it would, I guess." James whispers, starring at the now falling snow and Anne quickly looks up at him. He looks just like their father, with the exception of his eyes of course, that are darker than their mother's, and she remembers when their parents would say they were a perfect blend of them both.
"What do you mean, James?" The older brother takes a deep breath and stares at his sister, knowing that perhaps it was time for her to know.
"Well, you know mother lost a baby a few years before I was born right?" James says and Anne nods at him.
"Three years before you were born." This time James nods and continues with his story.
"Yes. Then it took them five years to have you, right?"
"Right, James, I know how to count, alright?" Anne rolls her eyes and James smiles. "Keep going."
"Well, what you don't know, is that mother lost two babies before having you, Anne. Two." The silence is heavy between them as Anne stares at her brother, now knowing what say, not knowing what to do. She had really screwed up, that's all she could think.
"Why didn't I know that?" Her voice is a mere whisper and James is quickly in grabbing his sister's hand, caressing it.
"Because mother and father never talk about that." James lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding and Anne's blue eyes keep penetrating in his, paying attention. "Grandmére was the one who told me, when I was nine, after I overheard a conversation between some servants. She made me promise not to tell anyone that I knew, especially Mother and Father."
"It still hurts them." Anne whispers, looking down at their intertwined hands and James nods.
"Of course it does. I mean, they love us to death but don't you think Mother still thinks she could have another three kids running down the hallways of the castle, even fighting with her as you do?" Anne lets out a little laugh and James brings her to his chest, kissing her head. "After mother suffered her second miscarriage she stayed three weeks locked inside of her chamber, neither Father was allowed to enter it. John would keep me entertained during the day and father would sleep in the chaise in my chamber." Anne nods into him and he continues. "They think I don't remember, or never put the pieces together, but I did. When she finally left her chambers, after a whole night talking with father, she came into mine. I ran to her and she hugged me so tight, I joked I was going to explode. Then she whispered in my ear how she loved me, how she was sorry for everything and how I was her only son and that's all that mattered for her, that I was going to be her whole world forever."
"She decided to not have any more kids." Anne whispers again, her arms around her brother's waist and she breathes deep, remembering of when she was a kid who loved to hug her big brother even though he always said he was too big for hugs. She hadn't realized till now how she missed his embrace.
"Yes. She was so scared when she find out she was pregnant of you, Father too. I think he knew that if the pregnancy went wrong again, he would not lose just the baby, but Mother too. They were extra carefully on your time. Mother went to bed rest way earlier than expected but still you were born premature."
"A little bean." Anne says, laughing, and James nods.
"Yes, a little bean. You were so tiny, that they did not allow me to grab you till you completed four months. I think Mother was honestly afraid you were going to break." Anne laughs and moves to look at her brother. "You were their miracle, Anne." James smiles brighter and Anne shakes her head lightly, scared of how James' smile looks just like their father's. "I mean, they had another four kids following you without any other miscarriages or problems, but you were the one expected, taken care of. Mother would spend the whole day in the nursery beaming at you, she even give Father more power to rule Scotland when you were an infant. And then when you turned one, she threw the biggest party France had ever seen in and infant birthday, even bigger than mine and I'm the heir to three countries." Anne laughed more and smiled at him. "She smiled brighter than ever while showing you to the court."
Their conversation is interrupted by children laughter, as Henry and Aylee go running to the snow, followed by their little friends. James and Anne laugh as Aylee with her six-year-old strength throws a snow ball at Henry, who in revenge tries to hit her. The little girl is fast, she is able to run away from the snow ball as she runs to her oldest siblings.
"James! Anne! Come play with us!" Both Anne and James smile at her innocence as Anne caress her braids. It's the same one she used to wear when she was of her age, a braid that their Mother used to do on her every single morning. The Queen used to sing a Scottish song while braiding her daughter's hair and the servants would smile every time they heard the music coming from the Princess' chambers. There had been never a happier time in France then when King Francis and Queen Mary's children run around the castle. They emanated happiness, love; all that they received from their parents.
"I have to go talk with Mama and Papa, darling, but I promise I will come later." Aylee nods, excited, as she then grab James hand and try to pull him with all strength she has.
"Come, James, come!" James smiles to her and as Anne nods to tell him she is alright, he gets up to chase her younger sister in the snow.
He holds her for minutes, caressing her long curls and whispering in her ear that everything was going to be alright. He can feel her twisting his doublet in her hand and he curses the pain she feels. He feels it too. For the children they might have had and for the way their daughter spoke.
"I could never hate her." She sobs and Francis is able to lead her to the sofa near the fire, her head still in his chest.
"I know that, my love. And she does too, believe me. What she said it was out of rage." Wounds of eighteen years ago have just been opened again and if he still hurts, he cannot imagine how Mary does.
"How could she misunderstand my protection by hate?" She shifts so she can look into his eyes and he extends his arm to wipe a tear in her cheek. "I know that I'm overprotective with her, more than with any of our other children, but I can't help it." She sighs and Francis grabs her hand. "She will always be that fragile little girl that got out of me so tiny that I thought she would break."
"I didn't even want to pick her up, afraid I could hurt her." He caresses her hands as he remembers that moment sixteen years in the past, he had never seen a tinier baby in his life and for a moment he thought he wasn't going to be able to take good care of her.
"I never, ever, in any of our endless fights regretted having her." Mary whispers and Francis kisses her head. "She's our little miracle, Francis. I prayed so hard for her safety, for her healthy."
"You don't have to explain yourself, Mary. I, better than anyone, know what you have been through to have that girl and how both of us have protected her for her whole life. "
"Hasn't she never asked herself why she is sixteen and we never talked about marrying her?" Mary gives Francis a small smile and he returns it with his own, knowing well enough that neither one of them had the courage to even think about marrying Anne to some foreign man and send her to life away from them.
"The only thought of giving any of my daughters in an alliance and send them away makes me shiver." He shakes his torso and Mary cannot help but laugh, wiping away her tears.
"And to think you only have your wife because my mother sent me away in an alliance." She shakes her head and he puts her in his embrace again, laughing and kissing her head.
"Please, I do not need to image our daughters like that." Both of them laugh and the moment is interrupted as the door is gingerly opened, making both of them turn to look at it.
"I was hoping I could speak with you. Both of you." Anne takes a deep breath. "Even though you might want to lock me in the tower or throw me in the dungeons for treason." Anne's voice is a whisper and both Mary and Francis let out a little laugh. They are all hurting, but Anne is still able to make fun between it. It's one of the endless things they adore in their daughter.
"We would never do that, Anne. You know that" Francis shakes his head and pats the newly opened space between Mary and him for him to sit.
"Your father would never do that to his children. He only locks his wife in the tower." Mary whispers and Francis laughs, shaking his head. That moment, years in the past, caused a lot of pain for them, but now older and have faced many obstacles together, Mary somehow understands what he did. Both of them did stupid things in the past but it was all to protect the other.
"Wait, what?" Anne switches his head between her parents and both of them shake their heads.
"I believe this story can be left for another moment." Mary nods at Francis and turns to look at Anne who gives her a shy smile. "Now, what did you want to speak with your Mother and me?"
"I shouldn't have spoken to you like that." Anne says to both of them, but her eyes remain in her Mother. "I'm terribly sorry about that. I know that you don't hate me."
"I could never hate you, Anne. You are my daughter." Mary's eyes are watered again and Anne feels like crying too. Despite all fights she gets into with her mother, she would never intend to make her cry. "We may fight; we may disagree in many, many things, but I would never hate you. And more important, I would never resent having you; I would never wish you weren't born."
"I know that." Anne quickly wraps her arms around her mother's waist and Mary can feel the tears falling from her daughter's eyes. "I'm truly sorry, Maman, truly." The small word that leaves her daughter's mouth, that for a long time she hasn't heard coming out from her oldest daughter, brings Mary to tears.
"I know that you are, darling. I know that." Mary kisses Anne's head and the princess embraces turns tighter on her mother's waist.
"I was so mean to you. I didn't think on how much I was going to hurt you. If I could take it all back, I would." Anne then leaves her mother's embrace and stares deep into her eyes. "James told me everything. I had no idea on how much I was going to hurt you with those words."
"James?" Francis is the one to ask as Mary's mouth stays open but without any sound coming from it.
"Gradmére told him. That you lost two more babies before having me." Anne's voice is a whisper as Mary smiles, a sad smile, and caresses her daughter's dark hair. "I should never have spoken to you like that. I'm really sorry."
"I was so scared when I found out I was pregnant of you, darling." Mary whispers and Anne looks down at her hands, playing with one of the embroideries of her skirt. "I don't think I would have endured losing you too. And when I first held you in my arms, so tiny, so fragile, it was as if all had made sense." There are tears falling from Mary's eyes by now, and her daughter's arms quickly wrap around her neck. "It made everything right. I had you and then I was able to have more four kids, twin even."
"I love you, Maman." Anne whispers in Mary's ear and there are tears even in Francis' eyes now.
"I love you too, Anne. Don't you ever doubt of it."