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Charlotte awoke to a beautiful day with sunlight streaming into her windows. She stretched and yawned and looked at the clock. It said six o'clock, and judging by the placement of the sun, it meant A.M. She walked into the adjacent bathroom, which was not extravagant but was more than a toilet and a cheap sink. She brushed her teeth and hair and looked into the floor length mirror. She remembered Clarisse's comments about Shades. She was not sure, but she had a feeling that Clarisse was going to be up to something today matchmaking wise. She put on her signature black dress, black pumps, and single strand of pearls before going downstairs and personally making Clarisse's breakfast herself, as Queen Mia wasn't going to be up until much, much later. She knocked on the door of the former queen's suite and heard Clarisse's musical voice saying,
"Good morning, Clarisse," Charlotte said as she put the breakfast tray on the small white wrought iron café table near the window overlooking the gardens, "I hope I am not too early,"
"You are never too early, Charlotte," Clarisse said, getting up and walking over to the table, "you seemed to have my routine etched into your brain. I have only been up for an hour, and I have a great idea for you to make an impression on Shades." Charlotte's hands shook, and she almost dropped the china teacup in her surprise before saying,
"Come, Charlotte, I know you like Monsieur Shades a lot, don't try and pretend that you aren't at least a little excited," Clarisse said as she sat down at the table as Charlotte poured her some tea, "Those strawberries look simply spectacular," Charlotte was enraged! Clarisse had said she had a plan for Shades and now she was not telling! As she doled out fresh cream for the berries, she said,
"Clarisse, you should be ashamed of yourself for getting me all excited and then not telling me what I am supposed to do to get Shades to notice me. Really, and I thought you were always perfectly tactful, no matter what the incident," she joked. Clarisse laughed out loud, more than just her elegant, dinner-party style laugh but her unrestrained, booming laugh that was usually only heard while she was in the company of Joe. Charlotte just stood looking at Clarisse with a false expression of martyrdom until Clarisse had stopped the booming part and was onto the silent shaking bit of her laughing fit,
"Really, Charlotte," Clarisse said, calming her storm of laughter and reeling it back in to the dinner party laugh, "you are too funny! Anyway," she added at the end, her voice turning brisk as it always did when it turned to matters of extreme importance, such as business of the palace, parliament sessions, and instructing Mia whether or not chasing a chicken was allowed, "I have a simple, subtle, yet ingenious idea of how to get Shades to notice you in-what do you call it, nowadays-"in that way," she finished, pausing to smile as Charlotte blushed a little before explaining her plan. Charlotte merely listened and nodded her head a little while the former queen told her what to do, but then a slow smile spread to her lips in the cleverness of the whole scheme. When she had finished explaining, Clarisse said,
"Go now, my dear! Quickly, because I just saw Lionel start his "grounds check". That should give you about, oh let me see, four hours alone with Shades," she finished chuckling.
"Yes, I will. I will go now! Thank you, Clarisse," Charlotte called as she practically sprinted out of the room and down the hallway towards the security complex. As she neared the door, she slowed down and tried to calm her nerves. She opened the door and walked in. Shades was sitting by a monitor that was surveying the sleeping Queen Mia, a chessboard was in front of him, but the pieces weren't set up. Evidently, he and Lionel had just finished a game. He didn't take his eyes off the screen, as it changed its view to the front foyer of the palace and stayed there, and said in an angry tone,
"Lionel, how often have I told you? You need to be quieter when you move," he glanced up and saw that Charlotte was standing there with a confused expression on her face, "Oh! Charlotte! Excuse me, I am so sorry, I thought you were Lionel because last time I told him to do a grounds check, he came back and asked me if he could dig up some of the roses because they had thorns on them so technically they were endangering the queen's safety and I am babbling and I am going to stop explaining myself right now," he finished stammering while really thinking to himself, "Way to go, Tom! Trying to impress her for weeks and now you ruin it. She will probably never speak to you again for thinking that she was Lionel-I mean, come on! How could that beautiful woman with those gorgeous eyes-stop it stop it stop it! She does not like you! Get over it!" Charlotte saw how embarrassed he was and went on to continue her plan,
"Shades, it's perfectly fine. I should have knocked. Clarisse sent me to ask you about security numbers for the fall dinner party-oh, do you play chess," she asked in what she hoped conveyed an impressed tone. Shades glanced over and saw that she was genuinely interested and said, embarrassed,
"I've always wanted to learn, but I have never had time," Charlotte said, looking wistfully at the board and its various pieces. Shades looked at the board and looked at Charlotte. Ask her to play! Yeah, I'll ask her to play and teach her and then I'll
"Um, I can teach you if you want. We could play some games and I could teach you about the pieces," Shades said, his voice betraying his nervousness. Damn it! What are you, twelve? It's like your asking a girl over to do some homework. Charlotte could see that he was a little nervous around her, was that a good sign? Delighted, she went over to the little table and sat down saying,
"Really? You wouldn't mind?" Shades looked over and saw her face convey an expression of pure joy, which made his heart start beating even faster and said,
"No! I mean, I am totally fine with it," Charlotte gave him her best smile as she thought, "Am I flirting too much? Am I trying too hard? I hope that he likes me...I hope" her thoughts were cut short as Shades said,
"So ... do you know where the pieces go?" Charlotte had a general idea of where they all went so she tried to set them up to the best of her knowledge. There were some pieces placed incorrectly so Shades came over and said,
"Here, let me help you," He stood behind her and reached over her shoulders and helped her place the pieces in the correct spaces from her point of view. Charlotte's heart started fluttering when Shades reached over her, and she caught a whiff of his cologne, and what a cologne it was. It smelled of peppermint and something woodsy, maybe a sort of tree or something. Shades likewise felt his hands shaking as he leaned in over Charlotte and smelled her perfume. "She smells like...I don't know... like a fruit or something. Pears!" Shades thought, allowing himself to smile at the thought of Genovians' love in general for their precious pears. Charlotte allowed herself to turn around and look in his eyes... well, at least, his sunglasses. They both stood there, oblivious to the world around them, unknowing of the two spectators that were peaking through the somewhat ajar doorframe. The present and former queens were watching with their breaths held. Clarisse, directly after Charlotte had left her suite, had "hastened" to Mia's room, woke her up, and filled her in on the entire story. Mia, a huge sucker for romance and romantic stories in general, had thrown on a bathrobe and "hastened" down the halls with her grandmother. Not wanting to spy too long, the pair of queens "hastened" back to Mia's suite as it was further away from the security complex and began to discuss Charlotte and Shades' situation.
"Oh, Grandma! Did you see the way she was flirting with him? She was all over him!"
"Ah, yes," Clarisse said back, chuckling a little, "I must confess I told her to do that, just to make her true intentions clear,"
"True intentions," Mia said, absentmindedly stroking the back of His Royal Highness Fat Louis while mulling over the entire situation, "Wait, you mean that she wasn't really there to see about the dance? Grandma, you are a sly, sneaky fox!"
"Your Highness, if I ever here you talking to my wife like that again, I may set Lionel on you," came a growly voice from the door, not a mean sounding growl, but a playful one, sounding sort of like a lion playing with its cubs.
The two queens exclaimed at the same time, and "hastened" over to him. Mia let her grandmother get there first and Joe pulled her into his arms and they shared a short, but sweet kiss. After they were done, Mia made short the rest of the distance between the pair and herself by leaping over and clutching them both in a huge bear hug-group style.
"JOE! I missed you so much! Lionel is soo annnnoooyyying," Mia complained, "you're the only one he's scared of so when you're not around he acts as if he had your job,"
"Former job, Your Highness,"
"Mia," Clarisse chided, "Queens never leap like that, we pirouette,"
"Right," Mia said, blushing and laughing at the same time, "because they're so much different."
"I came across an interesting situation in the security complex," Joseph said casually.
"Omigod! Were they kissing? Tell me everything," the young queen demanded pulling Joseph down onto her pink toile couch.
"No," Joseph said smiling at Mia's extremely disappointed facial expression, "they were playing chess. But Shades, as I was walking out of the room, suggested to Charlotte that they have dinner tomorrow. In town," he finished, downright laughing now at Mia's scream of laughter and her chant of,
"YES! YES! YES!"
"Tell me, your majesty, how did you know about Charlotte and Shades?" Joseph asked, curiously looking at Clarisse as he said this. Now it was Mia and Clarisse's turn to go red and Clarisse said,
"Well, erm, that is we, no, I, well," she said stuttering, "I sort of set them up,"
"I watched," Mia said with a smile.
"I see," was Joseph's reply, which, as usual, was accompanied by his signature half smile. A sudden crash from down the hallway sent Joseph cursing out of the room,
"Damned Lionel. Probably trying to set up a bug. Excuse me, Your Highness, my dear,"
"Any moment now, Charlotte will come rushing in here to tell us what happened. We will NOT," Clarisse said, emphasizing the last word as she surveyed the sprawled queen in watermelon pajamas, "give her any notion whatsoever that we saw it all. Is that clear?"
"Duh, grandma. Besides, I want to here it from her point of view," Mia said with a smile.
That's all for now! I tried extra hard on Clarisse's character so she would sound exactly like Julie Andrews! Please Read and Review!