Hello dear reader. Since you ended up here, I conclude that you don't need C&J to walk into the sunset hand in hand any more than I do. NHEAS's final chapter is set up as a play. No fluf, but a fight for you. The title says it all, doesn't it?

6. Who's afraid of Clarisse Romero

Characters

Clarisse, Queen Regent of Genovia

Joseph Romero, bodyguard, head of security and lover to Clarisse

Scene 1

A spacious living room with several sitting areas. The furniture is expensive. Because of the leather chairs there's something masculine about the room. It is clear that no one lives here yet.

A door opens and Clarisse, an elegant attractive woman, walks in. She is followed by Joseph, a balding man, whose strong features make him handsome. They are both in their sixties. Joseph eagerly watches Clarisse looking around and he is relieved when she smiles.

JOSEPH

Does my Queen like it?

CLARISSE

Yes I do. It's lovely Joseph. It looks comfortable.

She sighs happily. A large Poodle walks into the room.

I really look forward to this holiday.

Noticing a French window she walks toward it and opens it.

I'll have a look outside.

JOSEPH

The grounds are safe.

CLARISSE (smiling)

So I'm allowed to explore?

Joseph smiles at her.

Come Maurice.

Clarisse leaves and her dog follows her.

JOSEPH (speaking loud enough to be heard by Clarisse)

I'll make tea.

CLARISSE (of stage)

Wonderful!

Joseph lovingly looks at the spot where Clarisse just stood. He takes a small jewellery box from the pocket of his black leather jacket. He opens it and stares at the contents.

JOSEPH (in a whisper)

During a moonlit walk when the scent of flowers hangs in the air I'll give you to her.

Joseph closes the box and puts it back in his pocket.

But first things first old man. Tea.

He leaves.

Scene 2

The living room. Clarisse stands with her back to the fireplace. Joseph's hands rest on the mantelpiece and his arms imprison Clarisse. She cups his face. They kiss.

JOSEPH

Wine?

CLARISSE

That would be nice.

JOSEPH

There's a wine cellar here.

Clarisse kisses him.

I can show it to you if you like. And you haven't seen the kitchen yet. There will be no servants walking in. We have complete privacy.

Clarisse's hands wander off to Joseph's butt.

CLARISSE

I will definitely take advantage of that my love.

Joseph steps forward, pressing Clarisse toward the mantelpiece. With one hand on her neck he kisses her.

Scene 3

Evening. The hall way. Modern art graces a wall. There is a small antique sofa with a telephone table next to it. Competing with the sound of the wind is the ringing of the phone. Joseph enters. He picks up the phone.

JOSEPH

Romero.

He listens.

Princess! How are you?

He listens and smiles. The click-clacking of high heels is nearing. Clarisse enters the hall. She too is smiling.

Yes, she is nearby. Hold on please.

He hands the phone to Clarisse.

CLARISSE (formally)

Thank you Joseph.

Speaking into the phone:

Darling! How are you?

She listens.

Yes, I can imagine. Chile is beautiful.

She listens and sits down on the sofa.

Some ten years ago. It was a state visit.

She listens, looking apologizingly at Joseph. He smiles at her and sits down next to her.

Yes, it's nice here.

She listens.

I read a lot. And I make long walks.

Joseph caresses Clarisse's knees underneath her skirt. She listens, seemingly poised, but when Joseph's fingers moves higher, she shivers and stills his hand.

I will talk to him later on. He's on holiday now.

She listens.

Good bye darling. Give my regards to Lilly. Have fun!

She breaks the connection and rises. Joseph pulls her down and makes her sit on his lap.

JOSEPH

What do you need to discuss with me?

CLARISSE

She was referring to something I need to talk about with the prime minister.

JOSEPH

Oh. Does Mia know you're spending your holiday with me?

Clarisse shakes her head.

She's your granddaughter. Don't you think she suspects something already?

CLARISSE

I doubt she thinks that the two of us are -

JOSEPH (interrupting)

She won't care that I'm a simple bodyguard.

CLARISSE (cupping Joseph's face so he can't look away)

I was going to say making out. Since we're ancient in her eyes. To her we're just friends.

JOSEPH

Oh.

CLARISSE

The girl would blush to see us at night.

JOSEPH (grinning widely and caressing Clarisse's sides)

And at dawn. And noon.

CLARISSE (shaking her head)

We're like teenagers.

JOSEPH

Care free and without worries. We'll soon be like that again.

Clarisse wants to continue their conversation but Joseph stops her by kissing her and pushing her backwards.

Scene 4

The living room. Vases filled with various wild flowers and piles of books have been added. Clarisse is pacing the room. A door is opened and closed. She quickly sits down and picks up a book. Joseph enters carrying some newspapers.

CLARISSE

You're back soon.

JOSEPH

You lured me.

Clarisse smiles absent minded.

And it's raining.

He waits for a reply.

Would you like some tea?

CLARISSE

Hm.

JOSEPH

Maybe you can make it this time?

CLARISSE (looking up)

Is your knee hurting?

JOSEPH

No.

They look at each other. After a moment Clarisse closes her book and gets up. As she walks past Joseph he smiles at her. She leaves the room, leaving the door ajar.

JOSEPH (softly)

I'm not your servant my love.

Joseph starts reading a paper. It doesn't take long before Clarisse returns carrying a tray with cups, a biscuit-tin and a tea-cosy.

CLARISSE

The water is boiling.

Joseph rises to take the tray from her. He places it on a coffee table.

JOSEPH

Do you realise that we have never had so much privacy?

Clarisse makes an affirmative sound.

JOSEPH

Is something wrong?

CLARISSE

It's just… I love to spend time with you Joseph.

JOSEPH

So do I mi amor.

Clarisse struggles to speak. Joseph gets nervous.

And in a year and a half we can spend much more time together.

Clarisse gives him a feeble smile.

What is it Clarisse? Aren't you looking forward to that?

The water boiler can be heard clearly now.

CLARISSE

This thing Amelia asked me to talk about to the prime minister...

JOSEPH

I planned to ask you about that. Will the two of you try to undo the wedding rule for her?

CLARISSE

Not quite. I could have talked to Mr Motaz before he left for his holiday, but I wanted to talk to you first.

Halfway her line the water boiler switched off.

Tea.

Clarisse leaves the room. Joseph thoughtfully looks ahead. His hand reaches into his pocket. He leaves the room.

JOSEPH (of stage)

You like it here don't you? We could live here after our retirement. It's close enough to Pyrus to visit your granddaughter.

CLARISSE (of stage)

Live here?

JOSEPH (of stage)

Yes.

CLARISSE (of stage)

Like a couple of useless old people?

The door opens and the couple enters.

JOSEPH

Useless? We've deserved to live quietly. To do things we want to do, rather than things –

CLARISSE (interrupting)

What do mean living here?

JOSEPH

It's ideal. The garden is over two hectares, so you can do a lot of gardening. The grounds are completely walled, providing safety and privacy –

CLARISSE (in an undertone)

Is this place for sale?

JOSEPH (grinning)

Not any more.

Clarisse carefully places the tea pot on the table.

CLARISSE

You bought it.

JOSEPH (smiling proudly)

For us.

CLARISSE

Why?

JOSEPH

Why?

They look at each other.

You like this house don't you?

CLARISSE

It's wonderful. For a holiday.

JOSEPH

Dios mio! I had pictured you to be happy when I told you.

CLARISSE

What makes you think that you can plan our future just like that?

JOSEPH (angrily)

Other women would be thrilled.

CLARISSE

Other women would have been consulted.

JOSEPH

How had you pictured our future Clarisse?

Clarisse struggles to make a reply.

I've worked it out into detail. Have you pictured it at all?

Silence.

Well?

CLARISSE

I pictured us together.

JOSEPH

Where?

Clarisse shrugs. Unable to face Joseph's expression she turns her back at him and fusses with some flowers. She doesn't notice that Joseph leaves.

CLARISSE

Joseph. I love you. It's -

She stops talking when the door slams shut.

Scene 5

The living room. It's dark outside and it's raining. Clarisse is squatting by the fire place. It takes a while but then she's got a fire burning. Her dog, lying nearby, barks.

CLARISSE (eagerly looking at the door)

Joseph?

She listens attentively.

You're just glad to see flames, aren't you Maurice?

She caresses the dog, and then seats herself on the sofa. She picks up a book, reads a few lines, and puts it down. She notices her embroidery, reaches for it, and thinks the better of it. When at last she hears footsteps, she brightens up. She rises. Joseph enters.

JOSEPH

What's that smell in the hall way?

CLARISSE

I've made a Croque Monsieur. The first one got a little burned, but the second was just fine. Shall I make you one?

Joseph clears his throat.

JOSEPH

I had a little something in the village. I'll make myself an omelette.

CLARISSE (sounding insecure)

All right.

She steps towards Joseph.

I'm sorry for ruining your pleasure in telling me that you bought this house. I've walked from room to room again, thinking of the effort you put into decorating it. It moved me Joseph.

Joseph instantly brightens up. He walks toward Clarisse and kisses her fiercely.

JOSEPH

I'm sorry for running off like that. I was… hurt. Now listen to me: this house offers an opportunity. Think about that while I have a shower. I'll make myself a snack afterwards and then -

He stops talking to kiss his lover again. Clarisse holds him tightly.

Or is your offer to make a Croque Monsieur still open?

CLARISSE (stepping away a little)

At your own risk.

JOSEPH (chuckling)

We'll talk afterwards.

After kissing Clarisse again he leaves.

Scene 6

The kitchen. Joseph puts his cutlery down.

JOSEPH

That was nice.

Clarisse seems tense.

No really Clarisse. You'll make a fine cook.

CLARISSE

I don't want to be a cook.

JOSEPH

You never tried it because there was no need for it.

CLARISSE (a little annoyed)

I've had ample opportunity to try my luck in the castle's kitchen. I never felt like it. Now Joseph, we need to –

JOSEPH (interrupting in a playful tone)

Wouldn't you even want to cook for me?

CLARISSE

Joseph... Amelia worries about being a queen at age twenty-one. She would like to graduate from university, travel, learn. Even raise a family.

JOSEPH

Unfortunately she can't. The constitution says that she-

CLARISSE (interrupting)

Twenty-one is very young and -

JOSEPH (interrupting)

You became a queen on your eighteenth birthday.

CLARISSE

I was a queen consort then. And these are different times.

JOSEPH (raising his voice)

This is your time. My time. Our time!

He rises.

CLARISSE (uncomfortable with Joseph's reaction)

Joseph –

JOSEPH (interrupting)

We have a relationship Clarisse. I can get angry at you. Do you think I don't see what this will lead to? She asked you to remain a regent, didn't she? You'll discuss things with Motaz and manipulate parliament in your skilful charming way and then you'll be a regent for the next what...? Ten, fifteen years? What about US?

Clarisse rises and walks toward Joseph.

CLARISSE

That's why I wanted to talk to you first Joseph. To Amelia this is about parliament and me. She doesn't know that to me it is first and foremost about you and me.

JOSEPH

So if I say no?

Silence.

Great!

In a polished tone of voice he continues.

To me it is first and foremost about you and me.

In his normal tone of voice he continues.

Hell it isn't! You just want me to be understanding! To say that you should naturally support your granddaughter and SACRIFICE OUR HAPPINESS! The coronation has always been the magic moment. The moment that you were free. The moment we could become a couple.

CLARISSE

I will fight for us in parliament just as I will fight for Amelia.

JOSEPH

Parliament will not allow for two traditions to be broken. If they are going to prolong your regency, they will not allow you to marry a commoner.

CLARISSE

We can be together without getting married.

JOSEPH

Is that how you had pictured our future? What am I to you? A convenience that should be kept out of sight? The moment parliament says no to your request to get married they'll insist that for the country's sake your partner will have to leave.

CLARISSE

I'll make that request after I made sure Amelia has more time. When they are not facing two propo-

JOSEPH (interrupting)

After. Not before.

Silence.

You've already decided to grant Mia's request. How DARE you reproach me for planning our future!

He walks out, banging doors until the front door closes with a heavy thud. Clarisse drops herself in a chair.

Scene 7

Night. The living room. The curtains are still open. In a corner of the room a lamp is shining. Clarisse is sitting on a sofa. She's wearing a vest and her legs are covered by a plaid. She is staring ahead. The clock behind her reads nearly half past twelve. She tilts her head when she hears footsteps. The living room door opens. Joseph quietly enters. Clarisse rises, dropping the plaid on the sofa.

JOSEPH (slurring, just as he'll do throughout the rest of the scene)

Still up?

CLARISSE

Have you been drinking?

JOSEPH

Welcome home Joseph. Thank you darling. I've had a few drinks yes. I'm a grown man; I can drink just as I please.

CLARISSE (clearing her throat)

I've been thinking about what you said. You were right. I had already made up my mind about Amelia. I apologize for that. Please believe me when I say that I was convinced that you wanted to allow her freedom as well as I.

JOSEPH

Really?

CLARISSE

Yes!

She walks toward Joseph and slowly raises her hands to cup his face.

CLARISSE

I love you.

JOSEPH

You love me in your castle when no one can see us.

He removes Clarisse's hands and walks to a cabinet to pour himself a drink.

Yes, I'm having another one.

Silence.

You're not going to comment that? Good girl! Bottoms up!

He finishes his drink in one drain and refills his glass. Clarisse is upset by his behaviour, but she doesn't comment it.

I realised something Clarisse. You didn't tell the whole truth.

He takes a sip.

Some months ago, you woke up in the middle of the night. It was before I had to leave. Before the time the servants rise to pamper you.

Before Clarisse can reply, he continues.

You had a nightmare. Something about a flower girl refusing to hand you flowers cause she only wanted to give them to the young queen. If you remain a regent, you will still be the queen bee, right?

Clarisse inhales deeply.

Right?

Joseph takes another pull at his glass.

CLARISSE (speaking reluctantly)

I… I did have… I hadn't yet accepted that I had to step down. That is true. But it has nothing to do with you and me.

JOSEPH

Bull shit! Our future is part of the problem! Stepping down from the throne. From being Her Majesty to being Mrs.

Joseph finishes his drink and bangs down his glass. Clarisse takes a step back.

No this house is not a castle! But it is a bloody mansion! We could have a wonderful normal life here. I'll cut wood, you'll cook. Just like normal people. Don't give me that look Your Majesty. After all these years I deserve a nice life. There's NOTHING wrong with taking care of your husband. It's as normal as giving a FUCKING BLOW JOB, but you can't bring yourself to do that either can you!

Clarisse's cheeks colour but she remains silent.

Aren't you controlled! REACT!

CLARISSE

And act like you?

JOSEPH

I'm not good enough anymore? I may fulfil your every wish and warm your bed, but when it comes to you being available for me: NADA! Say something!

CLARISSE

I prefer to talk to you when you are sober Joseph.

JOSEPH (shaking his head)

I do not. Let's try something new shall we? Sparring! I know you're not the Ice Queen people think you are. I've had you.

Joseph drops his jacket to the floor and removes his shirt in a poor imitation of a striptease. He shows Clarisse his back.

See? The imprints of your nails Clarisse.

Joseph turns around and looks at Clarisse who stands still as a statue. He chuckles.

I think you need a drink.

He pours her some whiskey.

When I'm drunk, so should you be, it's only fair.

Joseph walks towards Clarisse and tries to bring the glass to her lips. She moves her head away from it.

I want to know what you really think Clarisse.

CLARISSE

I'm thinking that I have never seen you like this and that I prefer to keep it that way!

JOSEPH

Yeah! FIRE! But not enough.

Joseph throws the drink into Clarisse's face.

CLARISSE

Merde!

Joseph falls down to his knees and hits the floor, laughing his head off. Clarisse wipes her face with her sleeves and makes it for the door. She is stopped by Joseph, who grasps hold of her legs and drags her toward his upper body.

JOSEPH

Now that I'm on my knees, I have something to give you.

He pulls up her flared skirt. Clarisse hits him.

JOSEPH

Hey! That's not ladylike! I just wanted to leave a hickey. You marked me after all.

Clarisse frees herself for his grasp and leaves.

A token of my affection and love!

Scene 8

The living room. Morning. Clarisse is sitting at a table, stirring her tea. Joseph enters, not looking too good.

JOSEPH

Here already?

CLARISSE (cautiously but not unkind)

Good morning.

JOSEPH

I slept in a spare room, for your information. My room was already occupied.

CLARISSE

Our room has a huge bed. But it's up two stairs, I doubt you could have managed that in the state you were in.

Joseph grumbles. Clarisse doesn't keep her eyes off him.

JOSEPH

You came back to cover me with a plaid.

CLARISSE (kindly)

Yes I did. Have you eaten already?

Joseph makes a gesture to indicate he's not hungry.

JOSEPH

I woke up last night. I turned around to embrace you and I found myself lying on the floor. I remembered everything. I was rude. For that I apologize.

He clears his throat.

About what I said last night…

Clarisse looks at him encouragingly.

It will be good for Mia if she won't have to become a queen at twenty-one.

Clarisse smiles with relief. Joseph raises his hand to stop her from commenting.

But it's not good for me to always be the runner-up.

CLARISSE

You stand second to none.

Joseph clears his throat and checks if there's still tea in the pot. Clarisse rises to get a glass from a small cabinet.

JOSEPH

You can play housewife when it suits you can't you?

With clenched jaws Clarisse puts down the glass in front of him.

CLARISSE

Hangover?

Joseph picks up the glass and throws it against the door.

Joseph!

JOSEPH (pointing at the shards)

That is our relationship.

CLARISSE

No!

JOSEPH

Yes.

CLARISSE

Joseph no!

JOSEPH

And that is a good summary: Joseph no. I don't take first rank Clarisse. Genovia will always lead the field.

He stands behind her and with his hands on her shoulders makes her sit down. He kisses the top of her head before taking a seat next to her.

We both envisioned our future together. I pictured us to quietly live here and I guess you pictured us to live at the castle.

Clarisse makes an affirmative sound.

In case a miracle happens and parliament prolongs your regency and allows us to get married, we would have to live at the castle.

Joseph starts pacing.

This house would merely serve as a retreat. I don't want that Clarisse. I rather like the shadows. And can you picture how the servants would look at me?

CLARISSE

They respect you!

JOSEPH

Whether you admit it or not, I'm one of them. They won't accept it when I reach the top of the tree.

CLARISSE

That's –

JOSEPH (interrupting)

Let me finish. The other option is that your regency is prolonged and that we can't marry. No marriage, no affair. Parliament will not allow it.

CLARISSE

We'll slowly let the people get used to me having a relationship. They'll be happy for me! They'll think it's cute that we found each other at our age. Parliament won't be able to counter that.

JOSEPH

You're not the only one who knows how to manipulate people. What if parliament says no and the people are content with that? To me all that matters is whether I can live here with my wife. Clarisse Romero.

CLARISSE (swallowing hard)

You want me on your conditions.

JOSEPH (sitting down next to her)

You want me on yours.

CLARISSE

We could spend every other weekend here?

JOSEPH

You are negotiating. I'm past that.

Silence. Joseph studies Clarisse, who is staring ahead, biting her lower lip.

CLARISSE

I could start a rose garden here…

She turns to face Joseph and tries a smile. Joseph doesn't answer it.

With a few servants. New servants. I could rule from here.

Joseph taps her hand before rising.

JOSEPH

I don't want servants. In ten year's time we might need someone to help us in the garden, but not now!

CLARISSE

I could live here with you and travel to the castle to work so you won't be bothered -

JOSEPH (interrupting)

What if parliament says no to prolonging your regency? What if they prefer to have a young queen rather than an old one?

Clarisse inhales audibly.

They won't mind if you got married then. Will you cope here Clarisse?

CLARISSE

In time I…

JOSEPH

Will. You. Cope. Here.

CLARISSE (rising and holding on to the back-rest of her chair)

No WORSE than you would if we spend our married live at the castle!

JOSEPH

SEE? A chattered glass! I wish we'd had this nice chat years ago! It would have spared me a lot of heartache. LEAVE!

Clarisse stiffens. Joseph turns his back to her and walks away from her. He rests his hands against a wall and bends his head.

Leave. Please leave.

Clarisse shakes her head and sits down. Behind a window Maurice appears. He walks in circles and then lies down.

You are still here, aren't you? Leave.

CLARISSE

And then what?

JOSEPH

I'll resign. We part.

CLARISSE

No!

JOSEPH

Yes. I want you for myself. I don't want to share you with Genovia. With duty. With pomp and circumstance.

CLARISSE (softly)

You share me now. You shared me for years. It never stopped you from loving me. How can one night of drunkenness make our love meaningless to you?

JOSEPH

I've had my doubts before. About us. It took a mere smile or a wink and I went weak kneed all over again. Last night... I saw the light.

CLARISSE

When wine is in, wit is out!

JOSEPH

I learned more about us in the past eight hours than I learned in years.

CLARISSE

You learned that we are both anxious about our future. That is normal!

JOSEPH

Normal people may be anxious as to what hobbies to choose after retirement. They're not upset about retirement itself. With you there are too many options. Regency yes or no. Marriage yes or no. Mansion yes or no.

CLARISSE

Don't pretend this is my problem! There are options, yes. But there always were, even though we never discussed them.

JOSEPH

You could have told Mia that you couldn't do it. That you and I had plans.

CLARISSE

I want her to have a life!

JOSEPH

I WANT A LIFE AS WELL! You could have left the girl alone. Leave her in San Francisco. The Renaldi line would have come to an end, but rocks crumble to sand, what's the big deal! But no: you want to sit your precious throne!

Maurice barks.

CLARISSE (stamping the floor)

Had she not asked me, I would have stepped down, as you bloody well know!

JOSEPH

And then we would have faced the main problem: how and where do we life?

CLARISSE (crying)

Together! Joseph please!

JOSEPH

No. We went over this.

CLARISSE

Wine and wit!

Maurice barks.

JOSEPH

I have a very realistic view of our future.

CLARISSE (wiping away her tears)

Clouded by rage, fear and self-pity!

Maurice barks.

JOSEPH

Self-preservation! If things go the way I want them to, in eighteen months we'll live here. But in two years we'll be divorced because you can't deal with a retired life without a staff.

CLARISSE

And that will be my fault? Add a couple of servants to the mix and see what happens! I love you for heaven's sake!

JOSEPH

But not enough.

CLARISSE (crying again)

You are stubborn! I love you with all my heart! I love you despite last night. You are my mate.

Silence. Joseph is moved by the sight of Clarisse and he steps toward her, but he stops himself. After briefly closing his eyes his leaves.

Scene 9

The living room. Clarisse is still sitting were she sat in the previous scene, even though it's five minutes later on. There are footsteps on the stairs, accompanied by an occasional thud.

JOSEPH (of stage)

I packed your suitcases. Security has a car waiting in front of my house.

Clarisse rises, bringing her hand to her neck.

The front door is opened.

JOSEPH (of stage)

Bring these to the car. Her Majesty will be ready in a minute.

Halfway Joseph's line Clarisse marches to the door. Joseph enters the living room carrying a coat. He holds it up in front of Clarisse. She furiously takes the coat to hang it over her arm.

CLARISSE

You're making a mistake! Despite what you may have gotten into your head: I love you. We were happy. We will find a way to be happy again.

Joseph gestures toward the door. Clarisse sighs.

I will wait for you Joseph.

They leave. Off stage doors are opened and closed. A dog barks. Cars leave. Joseph enters the room. He sits down and cries. After a while he takes out the jewellery box and opens it. He leaves. The silence is broken by the sound of a flushing toilet.

...

...

Author's note: So, what do you think of the story?