Secrets, Shades, and Charlotte

A Princess Diaries Movie Fiction

By Ilse O'Hara

Author's Note: I do not own any of the characters in the two Princess Diaries films; all characters are copyrighted to Meg Cabot and Gary Marshall. I have not used this fiction for any financial gain or success. Please enjoy and leave feedback... this will probably be a short story, with maybe a few chapters, but I have not decided yet (wink and a smile)!

A gorgeous and momentous day had given way to a stormy and desolate night. Rain pounded on the roof of the large castle that the royal family and its closest advisors and friends had called home for the past few hundred years. Everything was quiet, as it should have been because of the ungodly hour. Only one person was awake and up. The queen's beloved and cool-tempered assistant Charlotte was sitting by herself in the staff kitchen, holding a cup of rosemary and citrus tea, staring out of the pitch-black windows that so expediently reflected her thoughts and mood. Charlotte was thinking about the past two weeks' events, and a smile played on her lips at the thought of the form queen of Genovia, Clarisse Rinaldi's final happiness in life as a result of her spontaneous marriage to Joseph, the head of security. In that surprising day, the present queen of Genovia, Queen Mia had refused an arranged marriage to secure her place as ruler. Charlotte, as she gazed out into nothingness, thought fondly of Mia. She felt somewhat protective of Mia, not exactly matronly and not exactly sisterly, either. She felt more like an aunt or an older cousin, perhaps. She and Mia did have some rather amusing moments while Mia was in her teens and learning the endless rules of etiquette, the bottomless pit of proper behavior, and the chasm filled with tips on how to portray the perfect picture of charm. Even Mia, who had just celebrated her twenty-first birthday, had found love in the past weeks with none other than the scheming and conniving Viscount Mabry's nephew, Lord Nicholas. Lord Nicholas was the supposed other heir to the throne, but, Charlotte recalled smiling and getting a little teary-eyed, he had declined it in front of everyone at the wedding. Mia and Nicholas were engaged to be married the following spring. Charlotte's happy and optimistic thoughts of love were replaced by the small, cynical voice that served as her conscience and source of judgment on all matters big and small, like the placement of the tables in the palace's vast rose gardens for the annual spring pear festival to the decision of what tea to serve Her Majesty (former Her Majesty, that is) with her morning breakfast of pears, mandarin oranges, and strawberries. Charlotte thought,

"Everyone has found love-Joseph and Clarisse, Mia and Nicholas, Andrew and some girl who was Nicholas's date at the spring festival...everyone except you!" Charlotte became so unbelievably sad that she started to cry. Charlotte never cried, only when something was immensely emotional, for instance, the coronation ceremony where Clarisse had been freed of all responsibilities to the crown, though Charlotte knew she would happily advise Mia on anything that Mia came to her about. Just then, someone began walking down the stairs slowly, so as to not fall in the darkness.

"Damn," thought Charlotte, "if it's one of those stupid maids I'll scream,"

Although, to Charlotte's complete surprise, the former queen, Clarisse emerged into the kitchen with a lonesome expression on her face. Charlotte quickly wiped the tears out of her eyes and jumped to her feet saying,

"Your Majesty! I am so sorry, I shall return to my room immediately so as not to disturb you, ma'am,"

"Oh, dear Charlotte," Clarisse said, sitting down across from her at the long and cleanly scrubbed wooden table, "you never have to leave when I come in, do stay. Joseph had to go away to some convention about interns and such-although I highly doubt that I can withstand the presence of yet another bumbling intern, Lionel is quite enough," she finished, laughing her elegant laugh. Charlotte figured the queen was lonely without Joseph, in fact, she was the first person to sense something between the two of them six years ago in San Francisco after unintentionally walking in on them dancing most intimately in the deserted ballroom of the embassy. She suddenly remembered her manners,

"Oh, pardon me, ma'am. Would you like a cup of rosemary-citrus tea? I have it made," Clarisse nodded gratefully. Charlotte brought it over to her when Clarisse finally took a close look at her face,

"Charlotte! You have been crying! Are you alright, my dear?" Charlotte quickly replied,

"Yes, ma'am. I am great! I've never been better," she finished, in a chipper tone.

"Charlotte, you never were a good liar. Something is the matter. Do you want to talk about it," the former queen asked, as lightly and tactfully as if she were asking a question about the weather. "Do I want to talk about it?" Charlotte thought. She sat down across from Clarisse and said in a low voice,

"I don't know what to do," Clarisse sensed that this was not work-related, as Mia had practically forced Charlotte into signing an indefinite contract to remain in the castle as her assistant. She looked at Charlotte's face and saw the eyes looking absently out into the pouring rain, and a sudden realization hit her. She was lonely! She didn't have a home other than the castle, and Clarisse knew that she had no family, for she, herself, had plucked teenaged Charlotte out of the same orphanage that Mia had desperately fought for. Charlotte had denied herself pleasure and the company of man for her job and ... for me, Clarisse thought. She slowly cleared her throat and said quietly,

"Is it about love?" Charlotte's face turned from shock to embarrassment to sadness and finally to resignation before she whispered after a heavy silence,

"Yes, ma'am," Clarisse, even though she had been primarily focused on her duty to her country still had some maternal instincts. She stood up quickly and ordered Charlotte to follow her to her room. Charlotte just meekly followed. Once inside, Clarisse told Charlotte to sit down on the couch and wait for a moment. When she came back, she had a beautifully embroidered blanket and she sat down next to Charlotte, put the throw over both of their legs, and put her arms around Charlotte and said,

"What's the matter, dear? Tell me everything that you want,"

Charlotte just felt herself melt in the former queen's arms-she always felt as if Clarisse was her mother, albeit an adopted one. She had wanted to hug Clarisse a lot over the past year, but most especially on the night that Clarisse had rejected Joseph's marriage proposal because of her duty to country, not to self. Charlotte simply put her arms around Clarisse and just began to cry,

"I just don't know anymore. I have no one that's like, that's Joe to you or Nick to Mia for me. All I focused on was work, and I was completely happy because I felt that the harder I worked and the better something turned out, the more I would begin to even scratch the surface of repaying you back for, well for everything. Now, that you're no longer in charge and Mia has the throne, I will still work for her gladly, but I won't be the workaholic I was for you because I don't owe her as nearly as much as I owe you. And ... and ... I just want to be loved," she finished, starting to cry again. Clarisse hugged Charlotte tighter and rubbed a soothing hand across her shaking shoulders. She had recalled a conversation with Joe, regarding the present head of security, Thomas Simmons, a.k.a. Shades, in allusion to the darkly tinted glasses he wore everywhere, no exceptions. Joseph had mentioned Shades' interest in Charlotte, not professionally but romantically. Clarisse had seen Charlotte's gazes linger on the uniformed man in black as she did her rounds just before a dinner or an entrance sort of thing. In addition, Clarisse thought, they were the two who communicated with the headsets and used code names and everything. Charlotte would definitely be pleased to learn this bit of information.

"Charlotte," she said, after Charlotte had calmed down a little.

"What, ma'am?"

"Two things, dear. Number one, no more your majesty, ma'am, etcetera. Just call me Clarisse. Is that clear?" she added this last bit in a forced stern tone, but as Charlotte looked up, her face a vision of shock, she saw the faint hint of a smile trailing on the older woman's still young-looking features. Startled, she replied,

"Yes, ma'-, I mean, yes, Clarisse,"

"Jolly good," Clarisse said, "secondly, I have a prize bit of information regarding an extremely handsome eligible young bachelor who has taken an interest in you," Clarisse saw Charlotte's eyes light up, "Though, regrettably, it isn't Prince William I am sorry to say," The two women shared a laugh as they both remembered Mia's "Planned Partner Picking Day", as the young queen referred to it, although some good did come out of it. Mia gained an amazing ambassador to France and a new best guy friend in the process, though Clarisse was certain that Nicholas would have no problem with their friendship because of Jean's sexual orientation.

"Who, may I ask, is this gentleman?" Charlotte asked, her heart thumping wildly with hope while her exterior features tried to remain the picture of coolness and poise.

"The head of security, dear," Clarisse said taking Charlotte's hand and rubbing it.

"But you said he was ellig-." Charlotte started but then stopped before letting out a soft, "Oh!"

"Yes, dear. Monsieur "Shades" is highly interested in you, let me say. I do feel a devilish bit of matchmaking schemes coming in to this old brain of mine. I am sorry, dear, but I think I am going back to bed, but you are welcome to stay here," Clarisse, said getting up from the sofa and walking towards her bed. Charlotte quickly replied,

"No thank you, your maj-...Clarisse," she said, "I am perfectly composed now. What happened tonight won't happen again, I do apologize for it," she finished, looking down at her feet with shame. Clarisse quickly "hastened" over to Charlotte and gave her a quick, reassuring hug while saying,

"Oh, my dear. Don't ever think that you have to remain the perfect assistant all of the time, which, I must say, you are. Goodnight, dear. But..."she said, her voice expressing the smile that was also on her face, "I cannot wait to see how you and Shades play out. I am most excited," she finished, adding in a last goodnight before turning around again. Charlotte turned to leave as well, but then a sudden question popped into her head as her hand was on the ornate gold-leafed door handle,

"Clarisse," she called.

"Yes, dear," answered Clarisse, popping her head around the corner of the doorframe that led to the bedroom part of the suite.

"I was just wondering something. Why did you have me come here instead of the kitchen?" Here it was Clarisse's turn to go a little red as she answered stammering,

"Well, I wanted you to be away from prying eyes, and as there are no longer any cameras installed in my room," she broke off.

"Oh. Right. I should have remembered that. I ordered them to be taken down. Duh," she turned around but the former queen's reply made her turn around and flush pink with delight.

"Really, Charlotte? Oh, my dear you are the most perfect assistant,"

"Thank you, Clarisse. I try," Charlotte said as she walked into the deserted hallway and wove her way up staircase after staircase, through corridor after corridor, until she reached the castle's west tower, the one from which one could sea the beautiful ocean, so far away and unreachable but so close at the same time. When Charlotte had first come to the palace, the queen had given her the pick of any room that she possibly wanted, and Charlotte had picked the spacious, circular room in the tower. She got into bed and turned on her side, trying to fall asleep and ignore the endless flood of questions that was entering her mind.

That is all for now! Please read and review! Reviews will fuel this story and nothing else! Positive and negative criticism is encouraged!