The princess gone rogue. It was the perfect story, a unique opportunity. For the first time in his life, the cards were in Joe Bradley's hands, and Princess Ann (or Anya, as she was calling herself) didn't suspect a thing.
Irving had just left to develop the pictures of their afternoon so far and promised to meet them at the dance that night.
"So, what would you like to do now?" Joe asked, hoping it wasn't anything too expensive. Irving had lent him some money, but he didn't want to spend all of it too quickly. As he learned earlier, the princess had an expensive taste. And why shouldn't she? She was a princess.
"I think I just want to window shop," Anya answered, a dreamy smile on her face. "Just stroll around the streets without a purpose."
"That's fine by me," Joe said, offering his arm to her. She hesitated, but after a thought, slipped her arm through his.
"How long have you been in Italy?" she asked as they paused in front of a boutique.
"A few years," said Joe, "I'm from New York originally."
"You know, I've never been there!"
This was a fairly surprising revelation. "Really?"
"Really. It sounds lovely though. The city that never sleeps," Anya said thoughtfully. "Strange how you ended up here in Rome."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're in the fertilizer business," she said, "so I find it odd that you're in Rome, especially for such a long period of time."
"Oh!" He'd forgotten about his cover. "I'm here for some, uh, research. It's taken longer than expected, so I can't go back until it's finished."
"I see," Anya said, turning towards him. "Life isn't always what one likes, is it?"
Joe smiled. "No, it's not."
They stopped to look at a window display of china plates. "Now, I'm going to assume that there
isn't a Mrs. Bradley since I did sleep on your bed last night," Anya began, "but are you seeing anyone?"
Another unexpected question. And here he thought that he was supposed to be the interviewer, not the interviewee. "No, no Mrs. Bradley, no girlfriend. I haven't had the time to find her, I guess." Romance was always a juicy topic that the press loved. "Now there has to be a special someone in your life, pretty girl like you."
Anya shook her head. "No, there's no one!"
"I don't believe that. Are you sure you don't have a boyfriend?"
"Quite sure. My parents wouldn't allow it."
"Wouldn't allow it?"
"No, they'll make their own choice about who I should see, I suppose, though that will be dreadfully boring and awful."
"You should rebel and date someone they wouldn't expect."
Anya laughed. "That would definitely surprise them."
"So, changing the topic," Joe said as they moved onto the next window. "How did you get here?"
She looked away. "I'm here... for a school trip. We're going all around Europe, and Rome is the last stop."
"Have you had fun?"
Anya shook her head. "Not really, it's been most boring. I have to stick to a schedule, and I'm not allowed to do what I really want to do."
"Like window shop and tour?"
"Exactly! I'm never allowed any fun."
"So why don't you talk to your parents or teachers about this?"
"They wouldn't allow it," Anya sighed. "I have to do what they want, when they want, and smile the whole time." She stopped. "You know, I've never really told anyone about this before."
"Really?" Joe was surprised.
"Yes," she answered. "And the strange thing is, Mr. Bradley, is that I've only just met you, and yet I feel like I can tell you anything in the world."
A guilty feeling settled in his stomach as Anya walked ahead, peering into the shops.
"Anya…" said Joe, searching for the right words.
She faced him, her skirt twirling as she turned. "Hmm?"
"Nothing," he said. There was nothing he could say. Anya smiled and returned to looking at whatever caught her eye in the window. She was so alive and full of life, he couldn't imagine her being restricted into a confined schedule. It was a crime, really. And it was also a crime to lie to her. He had to do it, he wanted to leave Italy, get back to New York, but there was something about this princess that made him want to change his mind.
But like she said, life isn't always what one likes.