They sat around the table; she sat between Marguerite, her only friend of many years and Pierre, who she had been delighted to be greeted by. Sebastian and Sheila were also sitting at the table, with Mia and Lilly, Charlotte and of course, Joseph. She was quite excited, giving that she hated birthdays she felt completely spoiled, and she smiled at Charlotte with questioning eyes.
"Charlotte, you managed to thoroughly convince me that I was dining with Sebastian tonight!"
"I am getting far better at lying, Your Majesty" Charlotte answered quietly, her face going red.
"Oh, dear!" Marguerite, who had been laughing with Mia and Lilly since they had sat down suddenly intervened, "Call her Clarisse!"
"Marguerite!" she reprimanded, "Do leave her alone, Charlotte can call me whatever she's most comfortable with!"
"I can think of something she might choose to call you, giving you are her boss".
Although Marguerite was the same age as herself, she acted far from it. She was not desperate to regain her youth, definitely not, but out of the two of them, she had been the rebellious one. She had been the one that walked straight out of her arranged marriage, had set up home with a toy boy and lived the life Clarisse had so desperately wanted. She now lived in New York with a young man called Marco, who was a producer on Broadway.
"Oh really!" Pierre smiled, whispering quietly "Mama, you must relax slightly. Aunty Marguerite was merely jesting". He patted her shoulder.
"I am quite well and relaxed, thank you Pierre" she laughed, kissing his cheek, "How I have missed you!"
It was a merry event, with much banter that she was much happier to listen to and laugh at, than take part in. she couldn't quite believe he'd gone to this trouble, collecting together the very few people in the world she cared for and bringing hem altogether to celebrate something she found insignificant. It did not anger, in-fact it made her feel special. They ate a fine meal, which Joseph quietly insisted was all on him, which she grudged but did not argue.
"I believe", he smiled, as they sat drinking coffee, "That there are some presents waiting to be opened by you, Your Majesty".
"I believe there is", Pierre smiled, producing a perfectly wrapped parcel from his side, "You see Mama I was too busy to phone you this morning because I was wrapping this and then I had to catch the plane".
"I see", she smiled taking the present from him, "All is forgiven".
It was a stunning silky jacket that felt like water when she touched it. It was red with delicate flowers at each corner.
" Why! Darling, its beautiful" she smiled, holding the jacket up.
It took her nearly forty minutes to open her birthday gifts from her friends. Mia and Lilly had clubbed together and bought her the entire collection of Cary Grant movies, which they insisted was for her to drool over. Charlotte gave her a quaint pair of earrings and a silk scarf which was lovely, and Clarisse thanked her profusely. The girl blushed so furiously, she was bright red. Sebastian and Sheila gifted a stunning bunch of flowers and another scarf and from Marguerite she was given a pair of stunning, though killer heels.
"My Darling", Marguerite smiled, as she thanked her, "Never, ever can you own enough shoes".
"Of course not", she agreed.
"So, my dear what are you wearing to this ball tomorrow night? Something absolutely wonderful no doubt, giving the seamstresses and dress-makers you have at your disposal".
"The reason Lady Marguerite is asking, your majesty" Joseph interrupted from beside Marguerite, "Is that I was rather assumptions and invited her to the ball".
"I see, Joseph" she answered, "That was a good idea".
"I thought so" he smiled.
The night had been wonderful but she was tired, she was tired with all the true attention being lavished on her.
"I think" Joseph smiled, checking his watch, "it's time we made our way to the palace, for all the company here it will be a busy day tomorrow".
"True", Sebastian agreed, standing up and putting a coat over his wife's shoulder, "Anyway, we must go home and make sure Marissa is in bed".
"Of course", she smiled, "Thank you so much for coming".
Again, they smiled with a hug goodnight and with their security, who had been standing by one of the doors, left after saying goodbye to everyone.
"Well, I do believe I have been harangued into going for ice-cream with my niece and Lilly", Pierre commented, lifting his jacket from the back of his chair, " And of course. Charlotte". He offered his mothers shy assistant a smile. He was fond of Charlotte but all those rumours of a relationship between them were absurd.
"Well, you will look after them now" she questioned.
"They have security with them, four men I believe" Joseph answered, offering her shawl.
"Yes, well be back by at least 12, Amelia" she ordered, "You have a ball to host tomorrow evening".
"Yeah, ok!" Mia sighed, dragging her uncle and Lilly out of the room with Charlotte in tow. She distinctly heard Mia comment loudly to her new uncle as they made their way out, "You know, you don't look like a priest".
She chuckled to herself and then turned to Marguerite, the only guest left in the room.
"My dear!" Marguerite leaned forward with no bow or formalities and kissed her soundly on the cheek, she flinched at the contact but Marguerite paid no attention, "I shall see you tomorrow, I'm staying here tonight and I promised Marco I'd phone him, needy little boys, eh? Goodnight Joseph, look after her!"
"She's quite insane", she commented, watching her friend sashay out of the room, "But she's devilishly good fun".
"She seems to be quite that!" he answered, draping the shawl over her shoulder and them, made for the door. Carrying the gift bags that contained her presents.
"Joseph", she grabbed his arm as he walked past her, and stopped him in his tracks. There was no one on the room, it was theirs to talk for the while that she waited to be open with him.
"Thank you" she said sincerely, honestly.
"You are entirely welcome".
"No one has ever done this for me" she continued, "Nothing like this".
"I wanted to", he answered simply, "You deserve to be loved".