Author's Note: And so we come to the end. I had planned on a fluffy wedding to end the story, but that turned out too boring. So here's something different. Thanks for reading and thanks for all your supportive comments over the years (!!). It's been fun, and now it's time to give our lovely hero and our brilliant, powerful, successful heroine their happy ending.
Epilogue – Ten Years Later
The best part about being the Crown Princess of Genovia was that Mia had the day off for her birthday. It was now a Genovian national holiday. The parade in her honor began at noon. That meant Mia had the entire morning to sleep late and lounge around her family's wing at the palace doing nothing much except watch TV and admire her perfect husband and their two perfect children.
At least that was the plan. Not even monarchs get what they want on their birthdays. Michael woke her up at eight o'clock and warned her that the kids were going to fix her breakfast.
"Breakfast? Who taught them to cook?"
"It's an important life skill. I'm supervising." Whatever that meant. As far as Mia knew, Michael hadn't even boiled an egg since they moved into the palace over seven years ago, before Jacky was born.
"I want a croissant and coffee. We can send Jacky and Chris down to the kitchens to bring back Mommy's breakfast in a couple hours. Come back to bed."
Her disobedient prince grinned and shook his head. He spent most of his days at the palace with the kids, and he still enjoyed getting them all into trouble. He was very lucky that the palace staff, and his wife, adored him. "I think we can handle pancakes. Blueberry or chocolate chip?"
Mia tried again to avert the certain culinary disaster. "It's my birthday, and I want a croissant and coffee."
"It's your birthday so you should go back to sleep."
Mia listened to all the opening and slamming doors, whining, flushing toilets, and arguing necessary for a seven-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy to wake up. Let Michael handle it. Usually Mia would be already on her way to Parliament by the time the kids woke up, and on weekends she was tired enough to sleep through anything, including Jacky and Chris's mini-crises, until Michael decided to wake her.
Mia was thirty-five years old today, and she felt like she had lived at least twice that long. She probably looked like it, too, from all her long nights at Parliament, early mornings worrying about the kids' flus, sore throats, and bruises, and her too-frequent trips to Brussels, Rome, Paris, Geneva, and everywhere else that a conscientious European leader had to go.
Her father had abdicated two years ago, and now he was enjoying his well-earned retirement in tropical islands surrounded by beautiful women, with regular visits to Genovia to visit his grandchildren and harass people in Parliament he had never liked. Maybe it had been a mistake to give him a permanent seat in Parliament. He was still the person Mia went to for advice whenever things went wrong, and things sometimes went very wrong. Who would guess that a tiny country with only 30,000 inhabitants could have so many problems? But Mia did her best, and she thought she was pretty good at what she did.
Mia had brought home some papers from the office about new EU immigration policies, but today was her birthday and she did what Michael had suggested and allowed herself sleep a bit longer. She was very good at sleeping. It was too bad that she didn't have the time to do more of it.
Two hours later, two very cute kids and one very cute husband came into Mia's bedroom half-yelling, half-singing "Happy Birthday". All three had more flour and pancake batter on their clothes than would be needed for at least four dozen pancakes. Mia was surprised to see a perfect stack of pancakes waiting for her in the dining room.
"We helped," Chris insisted. "There was a box full of dead chickens and Daddy said I couldn't touch it but he let me look inside the oven and he said it was big enough to cook me but then he wouldn't let me go in and find out whether it's big enough. Nanette called me names and Jacky laughed."
Prince Christophe Thierry Robert Moscovitz Grimaldi Renaldo was, like most five-year-old boys, a handful. He had inherited his father's dark hair and eyes, but he was one-hundred-percent Grimaldi Renaldo, with the shameless charm and happy self-confidence of generations of minor leaders. He could always make Mia laugh, especially when she shouldn't. He attended kindergarten in the mornings, and in the afternoons he ran around the palace trying to avoid his private lessons with his tutors. When he was very good, the kitchen staff would allow him to help wash dishes. When he was bad, he had to sit quietly and drink tea with the spouses of foreign leaders with his father.
Princess Jacqueline Valérie Megan Clarisse Moscovitz Grimaldi Renaldo was more like her mother, for better and for worse. She was very tall for her age, an awkward dancer, hopeless at tennis and golf, super-observant, and much smarter than most people expected. She attended a public elementary school in Genovia, in an attempt to give her something vaguely resembling a normal childhood. Unlike Mia, Jacky was growing up with the knowledge that she would become the next Crown Princess of Genovia, and, unlike Mia, she had happily and enthusiastically accepted her position as soon as she was old enough to understand what it meant.
"Daddy mixed up the salt and the sugar," Jacky said. She grinned because she knew that her mother would eat the pancakes anyway.
Did pancake batter even require sugar? That didn't give Mia much confidence that the pancakes would be very edible. But a present is a present. She accepted the plate of pancakes from Michael and smiled as if she were shaking hands with an African dictator with a poor human rights record or a Republican US president.
"They look good," she observed. Each pancake was a perfect circle with uniform thickness, and they had little pieces of fruit – she hoped that was fruit and not bits of Chris's dead chickens or worse – in them. None of the pancakes she had made with her mom back in New York ever turned out so well. If she didn't know that they were the result of her children's first attempt at cooking, they would look and smell delicious.
"Go ahead and try them," Michael said. "There's real maple syrup." It was a dare, like they were all kids again.
Chris was oblivious to his mother's dilemma. He sat across the table from Mia and said, "I ate five and Jacky ate two and Daddy had a croissant and coffee and he said we weren't allowed to tell you that. Can we watch cartoons now?"
"Michael! You are in so much trouble!" Not even Chris believed that his mother was really angry with his father. She was laughing too much.
Michael attempted to look contrite, even though he wasn't. He said, "Don't let your pancakes get cold. We spent hours in the kitchen… and we succeeded in convincing the very best cook in Genovia to cook for you. Frédéric wouldn't have spent his morning on pancakes if we weren't there setting off the fire alarms."
The palace's top chef, Frédéric Morel, was the world's biggest snob and refused to make normal food, even when Mia really wanted a pizza. No one, not even beloved Prince Consort Michael or everyone's pet Princess Jacqueline, could get him to change dinner menus once he had made up his mind.
"Frédéric made me pancakes? Our Fred? Awesome. You guys are the best." She kissed Michael and then she kissed Jacky and leaned across the table to attempt to kiss the top of Chris's head, then she kissed Michael again and tried the mango-kiwi-passion-fruit pancake that she never knew could exist. Wow, it was her new favorite food on the planet. Frédéric was a god.
Watching Mommy eat wasn't interesting enough for the kids, and they were granted permission to watch cartoons in the living room, but only French cartoons because Chris needed to work on his French.
Dowager Princess Clarisse had loudly objected to their decision to teach their children English as their first language, as she objected to so much in their lives. Yes, Grandmère was still alive. She still resided in her own wing of the palace, though with fewer mixed drinks and cigarettes, on her doctor's orders. Michael spent time with her every day, with or without Mia and the kids. It had taken Mia years to realize that Michael and Grandmère didn't hate each other. Clarisse was Michael's mentor for how to be the Prince Consort, and he was the finest pupil and most attentive audience that she had ever had. They bickered and complained about each other constantly, and they understood each other in ways beyond the comprehension of non-Prince-Consorts. Or that was Prince Phillipe's theory. He had stopped complaining about Michael after the birth of his first grandchild.
Watching Mia eat was very interesting for Michael. He sat down and poured himself another cup of coffee. "Clarisse wants me to wear a naval officer uniform to your parade. She's still on my case about joining the Genovian navy. I think she wants me to drown so she can take over raising the kids."
"Then they would never learn how to cook." Mia started eating her third pancake. Cranberry, boysenberry, and lime. Heavenly. "You could have just told me that Frédéric made the pancakes."
"That wouldn't be as much fun. He wanted us out of there so he could work on the banquet after the parade."
Several hundred representatives of Genovia and the European political world would be attending her birthday banquet in the afternoon. It would be a very elegant celebration. The Genovian royal orchestra with violin soloist Boris Pelkowski would perform. Though unannounced, everyone knew that Michael would perform a new song he had written for Mia's birthday. He had done so on all her birthdays since her 25th. The birthday cake was a state secret, not even Mia knew where it was coming from or what flavor it would be. This sort of event used to scare Mia, but now she accepted it as part of her everyday life.
"What are we having, besides the box of dead chickens?"
"I'm sure it's nothing we have ever heard of, and you'll say that it's your new favorite food and ask whether we can gave it next year, too."
He was right, but there's nothing wrong with being predictable. Mia said, "Thanks to Grandmère, you'll be wearing the opposite of a naval officer uniform. No jeans, please. What's Jacky wearing? Did Sebastiano make her a dress?"
Jacky was beginning to develop very strong opinions on fashion. To her cutting-edge-stylish father's surprise and regret, her strong opinions were at least seventy years out of date.
"It's baby blue and frilly with puffy sleeves and lots of lace. Seb did his best to make it not embarrassing. She loves it. I told her she would have to ask you whether she could wear a tiara like her mommy."
The dress sounded perfectly acceptable for a seven-year-old girl, but Mia knew that Michael also considered her taste in fashion to be hopelessly old-fashioned. That's why he had chosen the outfits she would wear throughout the day. He was good at knowing what clothes suited her and what would send the right message to the international press when her picture showed up on the front pages. According to Grandmère and him, extensive fashion knowledge was part of being Prince Consort.
"She's too young for jewelry, don't you think?"
"She's mature for her age. But if we let her, we have to do something for Chris, too. He'd love Clarisse's naval officer uniform, if they made them in his size. Do we have a sword he could wear?"
"You had better be talking about a blunt, useless ceremonial one. I don't want him skewering my cats."
"Their blubber would protect them from surface wounds."
Mia let the insult to her cats, Naps and Josie, go. The TV was in the next room, and Mia could hear the beginnings of an argument. Chris and Jacky had already exceeded the magical time limit for how long two children could sit silently watching cartoons. Mia looked through the doorway and saw that TV screen was switching between a French speaking cat and English-speaking Bugs Bunny, as the kids fought over the remote control.
Her responsible, mature daughter said, "If you don't listen to me, I'll make you be the ambassador to Mongolia!"
"No you won't!"
"Yes I will. Wait and see. I'm a princess like Mommy and you have to do what I say."
"But—but you said you'd make me be the ambassador to New York and live with Granny!" He stood on the couch, which was against the rules, and called out, "Daddy! Jacky lied!" Jacky leaned over the side of the couch so she could hear what their parents said, too.
"I'll handle this," Michael said to Mia. He put down his coffee and stood up so both the kids could see him. "Chris, you aren't allowed to watch any cartoons unless they are in French. You skipped your French lessons yesterday without permission. As a punishment, you have to watch that French cat." That wasn't much of a punishment, but Chris still looked disappointed because he had lost the argument and gotten a rebuke from his father. Then Michael turned to Jacky. "Remember what your mother told you last week, Jacky. We don't believe in nepotism in this family. Your brother has to work for a living. You, on the other hand, have inherited wealth, power, and social position."
Now the kids were both indignant because their father was making fun of them, and Mia was trying to be the good parent and to not laugh. She loved Michael's attempts at parental discipline.
"I'll ban Chris from the country, like Grandpère did to Daddy," Jacky said. "I can do that, right?" That question was directed to her mother, the expert on Genovian law and what a Crown Princess could and could not do.
Mia said, "Your brother is a citizen of Genovia, and all citizens are allowed into the country. If you want to keep someone out, you need to strip him of his citizenship first, and that's very difficult to do. Your brother is not going to commit treason or espionage."
She would explain what qualified as acts of treason and espionage on some other day. Chris was already bored with the conversation on boring law and government, and he was still unhappy that his father was making him watch French cartoons. Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd reappeared on the TV screen. Maybe they should try to live without satellite TV and its many American and British channels for a couple weeks. That would be hard, though. Mia would have to ask Lilly to TiVo Gossip Girl and Project Runway for her.
"I don't want to be a stupid ambassador anyway," her son grumbled. "I'll live in the Bahamas with Grandpère."
Michael walked into the living room, took the remote from Chris's hands, and changed the channel back to the French cartoon. He sat down between the kids, and said in his flawless French with his now natural Genovian accent, "Je n'ai pas compris. Il y a ici quelqu'un qui parle français?" Mia thought that Michael was better at getting the kids to use their French than their tutors were. She half-listened to Chris and Jacky's explanations in français of the cat, its stupid owners, and the wicked mice while she finished her pancakes and slowly drank her coffee.
It was a beautiful day for a parade. Of course, Genovia had perfect weather for ninety percent of the year. If Mia were to list the best things about Genovia, the weather would come close to the top of the list. The unexpected gray or rainy day reminded them of how lucky they were to live somewhere that was almost always bright, warm, and sunny. Another great thing about Genovia were all the flowers. In her years working in the environment offices, Mia had helped to limit the amount of construction in the tiny country, reduce the number of polluting cars and boats, expand the public parks, and clean the beaches. All those measures had been initially unpopular in Parliament, but Mia had fought and won because she was right. Genovia was one of the greenest countries in the world, and she was now world famous for being an environmental crusader, kind of like Al Gore but younger, female, funnier, and better-looking. It was good to get attention for doing something other than being born a princess and marrying Michael.
There were plenty of problems in Genovia, first and foremost a severe housing shortage because too many people wanted to live there. Michael suggested in private that they invade France and claim more land for Genovia. In public Prince Consort Michael was completely apolitical and voted anonymously like an ordinary Genovia citizen. He said that ruling the country was Mia's job, not his.
Mia changed into the light-weight green summer dress that had been carefully selected for her appearance at the parade, then joined her family in the living room, where they were now watching a superhero cartoon dubbed in French. The cartoon was now getting a musical accompaniment from Michael with an acoustic guitar. Jacky and Chris were completely absorbed in the cartoon, in a way only possible for kids under the age of ten, and Michael was singing a Genovian folk song celebrating Princess Rosagunde, the only significant figure from Genovian history. Michael's version involved descriptions of superpowers suspiciously like those from the cartoon.
"Rosagunde couldn't fly," Mia said once Michael had finished. Jacky shushed her to be quiet so they could watch their show.
"How do you know? You weren't there." He stuck his tongue out at Mia and started playing a Beatles song. Eleanor Rigby now had a flying horse and could shoot lasers with her eyes. Michael was spending too much time with Chris.
Thanks to Michael, music was part of their family's daily life. He had several guitars and a piano in his 'study'/music room. They had had the room sound-proofed when they moved in to avoid waking babies. Now that they didn't have babies to disturb, he brought his guitars into the living room and provided soundtracks for all occasions. After a long day at Parliament, Mia would gladly listen to Michael for hours. Jacky and Chris were a more demanding audience, and Michael learned the traditional Genovian children's songs for them. They complained whenever he changed the words or improvised on the tune. He did also his best to broaden and improve their musical taste by performing solo arrangements of his favorite songs from Piaget's Children, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Pink Floyd, the Clash, and everyone else that a well-rounded child should know.
Michael's band Piaget's Children was still around, but now months could go by without everyone being in Genovia for long enough at the same time to play together. Michael encouraged his band mates to do other projects, collaborate with other bands, and try out solo work, while he stayed in Genovia with his family. The band's albums came out less frequently than they used to, but they were worth the wait. Mia thought that their music was cooler than ever. Prince Consort Michael would sometimes become Mikey M for a couple days to do a concert in Paris or London, and he made occasional appearances at music award shows and other high-profile events, but most of his music-making now had to take place in Genovia, either down at the night club Kassia with his friends or else in the form of playing his guitar for his family.
The cartoon bad guys were all captured, and the superheroes were reciting the morals they had all learned during the episode. The relaxing morning was over. It was time to get ready for their appearance as a happy family at Mia's parade.
Mia got up and turned off the TV. She stood in between the TV screen and her family and declared, "You three are a mess. It's time to wash up and get dressed for the parade." She was the princess, and Michael and the kids knew to listen to her when she was serious, especially when it concerned what she considered her duty to Genovia. Genovia had to be the most important thing in the world to the Renaldo family, otherwise they shouldn't be the country's rulers.
Michael put down his guitar, and Jacky got off the couch and went to her room. Chris was going to be more difficult; he was still sulking about having to watch cartoons in French.
"Don't wanna go," he mumbled.
"Yes, you do. You like parades."
Mia could order him to do what she said, because she was his mother and his sovereign, but he was too adorable and she never had enough time alone with either of her kids. She sat down on the couch, hugged him, ruffled his hair, and then tickled him until he was no longer sulking.
"Everyone in the entire country is coming to my parade," Mia said over his giggles. "It will be the most fun parade ever. There will be horses and acrobats and soldiers in uniforms." Now for her trump card: "Uncle René will be there."
"Really? He will?"
"He'll really be there. He's family. If he misses my parade, I'll throw him in the dungeon. Now let's go get you ready."
Mia used to be worried by how much Chris idolized René, the happy-go-lucky black sheep of the Renaldo family. Now she used the promise of seeing Uncle René as a reward for good behavior. René still lived primarily at the Renaldo's French estate Miragnac, where he contemplated his long-lost lands in Italy and partied hard with his friends. Sometimes Mia tried to convince him to do something remotely productive with his life, and he would laugh.
Chris's second favorite person in the world was Mia's half-brother Rocky, but Rocky was studying film at UCLA and couldn't skip classes for a week to fly across the world for a parade. Helen Thermopolis wasn't coming, either. Mia's mom would never feel comfortable at the formal, official functions that were a part of Mia's life. They would have a private family birthday party when Mia and her family went to New York City in August.
One family member had flown in from the US for Mia's birthday: her sister-in-law Lilly. She was now a fully trained and licensed psychiatrist, and she had a shockingly successful private practice in NYC, where she bullied her adoring clients back into mental health. Lilly sometimes tried to complain about how the common people of Genovia suffered in order to support Mia and Michael's lavish lifestyle at the palace, but that didn't prevent Lilly from visiting them often.
Jacky needed help with buttoning the back of her dress, and Chris wanted a real sword and not a fake one. Mia was glad when outside help arrived, in the form of Auntie Francine and their invaluable nanny Estelle. When Jacky was born, Mia had been worried and alarmed by the large staff at the palace appointed to help look after her child. Now she had no idea how other working moms and dads survived without all the help. Taking care of two small children was hard work.
Michael was changing into his parade outfit: white short-sleeve T-shirt, gray wrinkled linen trousers, and red flip-flops. "I think that is the most normal outfit you have ever worn in pubic," Mia observed. "Are you becoming an old fogey already?"
He grinned, and then he reached back into the closet and took out a traditional Genovian olive grower's wide-brimmed straw hat. There were maybe two traditional Genovian olive growers left in Genovia, and not even they would wear hats like that. They belonged in museums and the background of old paintings.
"Do you like it?" Michael put it on and examined himself in the mirror until he had found the best angle to wear it, according to fashion rules beyond the comprehension of average mortals. Of course, he was right. It looked good on him. Mia marveled at the birth of a new fashion trend.
"You'll be the belle of the ball, as usual." Mia did her best to kiss her husband on the cheek without disturbing the perfect angle of his hat. He tossed his hat onto their bed and kissed her properly.
"It's your day, Your Highness. I'm there to make certain the kids don't do anything too stupid. And when I say 'kids', I mean your son Chris. My daughter is an angel. Did you already get the emerald tiara from the vault?"
Mia pointed to a polished wooden box on her dressing table. "Francine brought it with her." She had many tiaras. This one was light-weight and pretty without being so valuable that she would be nervous about wearing it outside for a long time. She let her husband help her pin it in place.
"Dazzling, as always," he declared when it was finally in place.
"Yeah, isn't it? Grandpère got it for Grandmère after she had Dad."
"I meant you, not your jewelry."
Mia smiled and accepted the compliment because after nine years of marriage, she knew that he meant it. Besides, it was her birthday. She was allowed to forget about the bags under her eyes, the extra weight she never fully got rid of after Chris's birth, EU immigration guidelines, carbon emissions, and every other unpleasant thing. If they didn't bother Michael, they wouldn't bother Mia, either. She was happy now.
They stayed by her dressing table, enjoying the moment until the voices of their children were too loud to ignore. Based on what Mia could hear, giving Chris a sword was an even worse idea than she had suspected.
Michael said in a low voice, "We can leave the banquet early, ask Estelle to baby-sit, and go somewhere quiet. You, me, Jean Pierre, and whoever we're using as a driver these days." Jean Pierre was Mia's bodyguard. Michael refused to have a bodyguard of his own. He had taken years of self-defense and weapons courses until Lars would accept the idea of the Genovian Prince Consort being allowed to wander around in public without being followed by a large, heavily armed man.
They had several private places hidden around Genovia where they could go and be undisturbed. There were restaurants with private rooms, small cafes with sympathetic owners and discreet clientele, and bars willing to throw out all their other customers if Crown Princess Amelia and Prince Michael wanted to come in for a drink.
She said, "I'd like that."
"Mommy!" Jacky hollered, at the same time as Estelle loudly scolded Chris and Francine called out, "Mia! Michael!" One of the cats screeched, and Mia rushed to the door to do damage control. Her well-pinned tiara stayed in place on her head. Michael took his hat and followed her.
Estelle held the child-size ceremonial sword, Chris was grinning too much, Jacky was glaring at her brother while she pet Josie the overweight Persian cat and got cat hair on her puffy blue dress, and Francine was talking on her mobile in too-rapid French for Mia to be able to easily follow what was going on. Whatever crisis had passed, thank god, and no one was dead or bleeding.
That was Michael's assessment of the situation, too. He said, "Chris, whatever you did, don't do it again, OK? I think we're ready for Mommy's parade."
The palace was in chaos over last-minute preparations for the banquet. Mia didn't like the idea that all the fuss was just over her birthday, but she was the head of state and she shouldn't complain. She did her best to be grateful and undemanding.
The Grimaldis, Renaldos, and one Moscovitz were assembled in the Golden Salon. Of course, they were arguing bitterly over completely unnecessary and insignificant things, as they always did whenever the extended family assembled for any occasion. Today the arguments were over where they were all stand at the parade. There was a raised dais with throne-like chairs for Princess Amelia, Prince Phillipe, and Princess Clarisse. Behind the dais were several rows of seats for the rest of the family, and everyone demanded to be seated prominently in the front row.
The argument paused when Mia entered with her husband and children. A few people remembered to wish her a happy birthday. Most wanted to hear where Michael wanted to sit. He had been reluctantly tolerated by the family at the time of his marriage to Mia, and then he was cautiously approved by the family when he wasn't a disaster as the palace's host. He was liked a little more when Jacky was born, a little more when Chris was born, a little more when he let MTV do a documentary on Genovia's emerging music scene, a little more with every successful album he released, and so on. By the time of Mia's coronation, he was more popular with her relatives than she was.
He could become dramatically less popular now if he claimed the seats that everyone else wanted. Luckily he sensed that, too. "Top row on the aisle. We want the best view of the parade."
"Yeah, because there's acrobats and soldiers in uniforms and elephants and ponies," Chris said, not entirely accurately.
René laughed and said, "I'm sitting with my old friends. Put me on the top to see the elephants." This was the most fabulous news that Chris had heard all day. He cheered and hugged René's legs because he wasn't tall enough to hug the rest of him yet.
"No one said anything about elephants," a Renaldo great-uncle complained. Now everyone wanted to know more about Chris's elephants.
"Aunt Lilly will sit on top, too," Jacky said. "She wants to sit with us." She was already standing by her favorite aunt and hoping to attract Lilly's attention once she stopped arguing with a Grimaldi cousin. Lilly would have fought her way to the first row as a matter of pride, but she was a good aunt and would never disappoint her niece.
"Fine, but I'm not sitting next to René unless the swine promises not to say a word about the physical attributes of any of the women who may appear in the parade."
"You can sit next to me," Jacky said. No one could say no to an adorable little girl who would one day rule a country. Lilly agreed, and then she started telling everyone else where they should sit, because she couldn't allow an argument to continue without having her say.
There were no elephants at the parade. The buildings along the Rue Principale were decorated with flags, flowers, streamers, and balloons. The pavements and squares were filled with people celebrating the unlikely but beloved country of Genovia. Prince Consort Michael sat between their two kids and answered all their questions about the parade, the spectators, the TV camera crews, and elephants. Crown Princess Amelia sat in the center chair on the royal dais, wearing her tiara and waving at the cheering crowds.
Everything was perfect now, and the future for Mia, Michael, and their family would be even better.
(THE END THE END THE END THE END!!)