Once upon a time there was a little girl. She carried a green baby blanket and sucked her thumb. She lived with her aunt and thought that was normal. Her life was blissful, she was spoiled, and her heart full and unburdened.
Skirts grew to dressed and pigtails turned to sensible up-dos. The heart that had no want learned what it was missing. Strange how once you get the thing you never knew you were missing you feel a little emptier than before – now you can lose it.
My butt is cramping.
Well there goes that poetic moment.
But actually, I need to get out of this chair. How much longer could he possibly take? I've been sitting here for hours, managed to go through my entire life's story in my head, yet here I am. It's not even lunchtime. I strain my eyes to peer out the large windows looking out over the bay of Maldonia's capital city. Little white boats float out at sea like seagulls. Lining the shore, stacked on top of each other as easily as children's blocks are multi-colored houses, piling up the hills on top of which rests the historic palace and parliament chambers. I am thankful every moment that Maldonia is an island nation, just far enough out to sea off the shore of the mainland of Europe that the war has little to do with us. They say is coming to a close soon. I'm not sure I can believe it.
"Until next week, your highness." The low voice of the portrait artists stuns me out of my reverie. While he packs up his brushes and palette I take a moment to stretch my arms and back. I stand up but it doesn't feel much better because I'm wearing about 30 pounds of clothing. The King Mother – my other grandmother – wanted my first official portrait to be in full traditional Maldonian dress. She said it would ease the people's minds about me being raised American. So here I am in a massive purple skirt with petti-coats with a thick cream sash weighing on my shoulder.
I make my way back to my room with my skirts bundled up in my arms so I won't trip. When I first arrived about 8 months ago the hallways were a maze, but I have most of them memorized now. Dad had a map from his childhood that he let me use so I wouldn't get lost.
Apparently in palaces the term 'bedroom' apparently does not refer only to the room where your bed is. My bedroom consists of two rather large rooms. One is a living area with several couches, a fireplace and a desk fully stocked with stationary for me to write letters back home. My mail sits in a neat stack in its center, placed there by one of the maids – probably Leona. She doesn't speak any English, which forces me to practice my Maldonian even in my down time, but even when I am completely failing at getting a point across she knows exactly what I need from her. My mail consists of a couple of letters from my friends. Virginia writes the most consistently and Mary the least, but I don't fault her for it. She's caught up in wedding details right now and seems to be getting everything she ever wanted.
I have brief Maldonian lessons about six times a week. The language is tricky, but essentially it's Italian with a few cultural quirks added in. If I am to be queen one day I need to be able to speak to my people. My father likes to think it isn't necessary. He doesn't like seeing me spending my time with them in lessons, but my mother has the sense to know that with a monarchy already spiraling toward the status of figure-head my inability to communicate could mean the complete transition of this branch of government to being obsolete.
I move into my actually room-with-a-bed and discard of the costume with less care than my father's mother would have liked. At least I have the motivation to spread it out on my bed for Leona to deal with until another dreadful portrait sitting next week. I change into a more casual dress and hurry to the patio by our gardens for 1:00 lunch.
My life is pretty much all routine here. It's a bit of a culture shock after Aunt Lotte's spontaneity but I don't mind it. Schedules are more my style, so I'm really comfortable knowing exactly what I have to do each day and when I have to do it.
The terrace is so sunny that I can't see when I first walk out. Mom is pacing around, rehearsing a speech in Maldonian that she is going to make before Parliament and Dad is sitting drinking coffee and going through letters. When my heels click on the stone deck he looks up and grins the same grin I've always sported when I am careless enough to let myself be loose. I've learned that Dad is always loose, and in that respect I am my mother's daughter. In every other aspect I would have made the perfect Daddy's Girl.
"Darling! Come, we've been waiting. Helena, bring the tea, please." Dad stands from the small table and puts a careful hand on my shoulder as he invites me to sit down. Helena, another maid, brings out a blue teapot to fill my cup with my favorite strawberry white tea. I blow on it and take a sip, reaching for a sandwich from the platter Dad holds out to me.
I started getting used to the idea of having a mother and father about two months ago. That's when I found myself calling them Mom and Dad instead of avoiding calling them anything. Your Majesty was obviously too formal and I knew calling them by their first names would just be hurtful for them. I did pretty well at just saying 'excuse me' whenever I needed on of their attentions. The first time I used the parental title was at the Festival of Bells, a Maldonian tradition celebrating its culture and history. There were huge garlands made entirely from sleigh bells being hung in the foyer and my mother was standing under them. I saw them slip and just as they were falling I screamed, "MOM!" She stepped away just as the bells came crashing to the floor, but I don't think she even noticed them. The only reason she stepped forward was because she was shocked that I called her Mom. I'll never forget the looks on my parents faces that day. It was like I was a baby again, the child they might have raised.
Mom comes to sit with us, finally fed up with Maldonian grammar, and asks me how my sitting went. I made a pained groaning sound in return. Dad burst out laughing. "Oh, yes, you are my daughter!" He exclaims with a flourish of his fork in my direction. I grin and steal a piece of melon off his plate while his defenses are down.
Shaking her head, Mom reaches across dad's plate to the pile of letter's, beginning to sort through them herself. She flips by several before peering at a plain white envelope with eyebrows raised. Dad and I are too busy savoring lunch to notice her reading what we think is just another royal something-or-other, when Mom puts the opened envelope in front of me.
"I think this may be meant for you." Her curls are falling from her bun in the wind, tangling in the wires of the understated, (somehow) casual tiara she is wearing. There is a secretive glimmer in her brown eyes, and her dimple is showing so I know this is something good. In that moment I swear that I could not have been separated from this woman my whole life to see such subtle pieces of me deep inside her.
I straighten my mouth and pull out the suspicious piece of paper. All of my mail should be sitting on my desk, so this letter is something unknown, the unknown of course being something I have had ever changing luck with. My own curls, just like Mom's, get in the way of my goal before I force them behind my ear and unfold the crisp note and begin with the greeting.
I have recently been offered the honor of filling a political science/international relations internship at the American Embassy in Maldonia.
I frowned. The note was typed and very ordinary. I thought it odd that a mere intern would write personally to the King and Queen when they are just an American that should only be concerned with the American Embassy. Interns from any country never have business at court. Curiosity urged me to read on.
While most of my official work will of course be in the American offices, I do look forward to learning the customs of your country. If life and this position serve me well I hope to make a career out of politics abroad.
This was all basic information. The letter went on, mentioning dates. The intern would arrive in a month or so, at the start of his next semester at…Colombia. I skipped right to the end.
"You're kidding!" My lips stretch across my face as I beam at my parents. Mom had moved to stand behind Dad with her hand resting light as petals on his shoulders.
Mom nods, giving a happy squeeze to Dad's shoulders while she explains, "The American Embassy hires new interns every year, and so we notified Daniel of the opening in case he wanted to apply. We thought you would be excited."
I push my chair back to engulf them both in a hug. My mom's fingers tangle lazily into my hair. We stay there in the gentle breeze coming off of the ocean, breathing in each other at the smell of the honey-suckles weaving up the trellis. When we step apart I fold the letter and hold on tight. "I'm really glad I came."
Mom's eyes start to water. She's always been really emotional around me, and the tears haven't necessarily been uncommon. Dad is just as bad. Of the two of them he is certainly the most dramatic. They share a heavy-hearted look and Mom speaks for the both of them. "We're so glad to have you home."
Lunch is calm and pleasant. We talk of the goings on for the week, and what we can do with Daniel gets here. Aunt Charlotte is coming to visit in a week, eager to fall in love with a Duke and asking me if there are any eligible men around. Helena comes out on the patio fifteen minutes, carrying my amethyst tiara.
"Princess, the car is waiting to take you to the groundbreaking of the new hospital."
Princess – that's my title. I am Princess Evangeline, daughter of King Naveen III and Queen Tiana, first in line to the Maldonian throne. I live in a palace overlooking my people. I've met princes and lords; I wear crowns and the finest gowns. I attend groundbreakings as a representative for the royal family. I have a boyfriend that writes to me every week, and is crossing an ocean to be with me. I conquered an evil witch-doctor's curse.
"Go get 'em, Darling." Dad gives me a kiss on my forehead, followed by Mom.
"See you guys later. Love you."
"Love you, too."
I get to the doorway and curtsy for Helena so she can fasten the tiara to my hair. When it's in place I reach a hand to ensure it is in place and walk with purpose to the front drive, prepared to do my duty for the country I came home to.