"Can you have Joseph bring the car around Charlotte? I'm ready to leave."

The Queen of Genovia swept the last of the papers from her desk into a thick attaché case before turning to check her hair in the mirror. It had been a busy morning and she was looking forward to getting out of her office, even if it was to attend a lunch meeting with the Minister of Labor and some officials from the Department of Trade.

She had suggested they meet at a restaurant in Pyrus, not far from the ministry offices. This would hopefully help ensure that the meeting was as short as possible. The Minister tended to like to linger over after-dinner coffee whenever he got the chance to eat at the palace. Clarisse wasn't sure what the allure was – it could have been the company or the fabulous food. It was probably the food, she decided.

Clarisse reached for her case as Charlotte stepped back into the office. When Clarisse looked up, she noticed her assistant had a rather concerned look on her face.

"Is Joseph here?"

"No ma'am. I'm afraid not. There's been an accident with the car –"

The edges of Clarisse's world went suddenly black. She'd been down this road before – she knew what was coming next. Next Charlotte would tell her that it happened quickly and he'd felt no pain…

She must have dropped the attaché case.

"Oh! Your Majesty, no – I'm sorry!" Charlotte scrambled to apologize, immediately aware of what was going through the Queen's mind. "It's just that the roofers were still working on the garages and when they were taking your limo out, one of them dropped a hammer and it went right through the front glass! Joseph said to tell you he will come for you in the Jaguar, if that is alright." Charlotte finished speaking as she knelt down to pick up the papers that had spilled from the case.

Clarisse shook her head, as if to clear it of the unwanted visions that had leapt to mind when she heard the words that Joseph had been in an auto accident. She laughed somewhat nervously and knelt beside Charlotte to help gather her papers. Charlotte caught her eye and said, "I'm so sorry, Your Majesty. I know I should have phrased that better…"

"Oh, Charlotte," Clarisse patted her assistant's hand somewhat absently. "I shouldn't let myself be haunted by old ghosts." She closed her case and rose smoothly to her feet.

Charlotte smiled at her while wondering what sort of gods the Queen sacrificed to that allowed her to stand up with no accompanying knee crackling, while Charlotte had to practically pull herself off the ground using the edge of the desk. Perhaps it was all the dancing she did that helped her move so smoothly.

Clarisse swept through the doorway and towards the stairs which would take her to the ground floor and the sight of her bodyguard. She supposed if they were to take the Jaguar, it would be just the two of them. He would drive and she could sit in the front seat next to him, or so she hoped. He was notoriously stubborn about such things, sometimes.

By the time she reached the doors to the side entrance where her limo would normally be waiting for her, she was almost humming in anticipation. It was a gorgeous day. The meeting would be short and she could insist Joseph take a scenic route back to the palace. Perhaps a drive down to the beach?

Perhaps.

And perhaps pigs would fly. She remembered what her schedule looked like for the afternoon. Charlotte had the diplomatic pouch to be worked through and there were reports to read, letters to send. She was supposed to return a call to the German chancellor and another to someone in France – she couldn't remember who.

Joseph hadn't arrived yet. She waited patiently just inside the doors. Charlotte stood close by. Clarisse looked at the small clouds that quilted the sky in puffy white.

"It's really much too nice to be cooped up inside, isn't it?" Charlotte mused.

Clarisse smiled at her. "Exactly what I was thinking. Oh well, at least I can enjoy the drive back and forth from Pyrus – all 15 minutes of it."

"Well," Charlotte hesitated, before addressing the queen. "There isn't anything on your schedule this afternoon that couldn't be rearranged. Why not take the afternoon off and enjoy the beautiful weather?"

Clarisse eyed her assistant slyly. "Are you plotting, Charlotte?"

"Not at all, Your Majesty," Charlotte almost giggled. "It's just seems like you could use a bit of a break. This is a perfect afternoon for a drive down the coast or a picnic in the woods or something like that."

Clarisse laughed. "Oh, all right. You really don't have to twist my arm. If I can get through the lunch meeting, I will see if Joseph is willing to accompany me for an unscheduled afternoon off."

Clarisse didn't see the wide smile that graced Charlotte's face at the mention of an afternoon with Joseph. She had indeed been plotting and it seemed to have worked.