Reluctantly Royal(3)

By: Nichole Chase

The tears formed in my eyes, and despite my desire to stay calm and collected in front of a prince, I was lost. They ran down my face unchecked while I stared out the window and sniffled.

“Here.” He handed me a hanky and I took it with a watery smile.

“Thanks.” I dabbed at my cheeks while debating how rude it would be to blow my nose. “I’m such a mess.”

“You just lost your grandfather. I think you’re holding yourself together remarkably well.” He offered me a soft smile.

Trying to smile back, I felt like snot was going to run down my face, and I quickly looked away. Giving up, I used the hanky to quickly rub my nose. I’d have to buy him a new one. And from the looks of it, it would be an expensive one, and for a moment my old mindset kicked in and I worried about the cost. Snorting, I barely caught a little snot that escaped.

Max looked so uncomfortable sitting next to me, pretending that he wasn’t listening to me quietly cry. It would have been comical if it wasn’t for the hole in my heart.

As the car drove up to the school Marty attended I wiped at my cheeks again. Turning to look at Max, I tried to pull myself together.

“How do I look?”

“You couldn’t look anything but lovely if you tried.” Max’s smile was honest.

“Will I scare him?”

“Scare him?” He looked at me confused.

“Marty.” Had he forgotten I had a son? “I don’t want him to panic when he sees me.”

“No.” He shook his head. “You look serious, but lovely.”

“Thank you.” I took a deep breath and tucked his hanky into my pocket. “I owe you a new one.”

“Of course not.” He helped me out of the car. “Would you like me to accompany you inside?”

I hesitated. I didn’t want to be rude, but this was something that I needed to do alone. “I think it would be easier if there was no one else there when he finds out. He was very close with my grandfather.”

“I’ll stay with the car then.”

“No, I’m sure you have more important things to do. I can get a taxi back to our flat.” I shook my head.

“I’m not leaving you at a time like this, and I’d rather have you in the air on the way to Lilaria before the press catches wind of things.” He closed the door and leaned against the car.

“I guess you’re right.” I chewed on my lip again. “I’ll book tickets from my phone.”

“The royal plane is waiting for us. I’ll be seeing you home.” He tucked his hands in his pockets and his eyes bored into mine. “I’m not leaving you alone to deal with this.”

I watched him for a minute, surprised by his vehemence. “I owe you thanks again.”

“You owe me nothing.” His eyes were sincere. “It’s my pleasure to help.”

“Such a princely thing to say.” I felt my mouth pull up in a small smile.

“Well, if the shoe fits . . .”

“Is it crystal?” I looked down at his feet.

“Leather.” He lifted one foot and smiled. “Much more comfortable than Cinderella’s slipper.”

“And manly.” I laughed and straightened my shoulders. I would have believed my own performance if I didn’t ruin it by sniffing. “Well, time to face the music.”

Taking a deep breath, I rooted through my soul for a role that would fit this moment. A strong woman, a capable mother who could be the rock her son would need.

Without a look back I strode up the steps and through the double doors. The further my feet took me, the stronger I felt. I could do this, tell my son that his best friend had died, and be there to hold him when he fell apart. By all that was holy, I hoped my strength would hold and I wouldn’t turn into a sobbing mess.

The woman at the front desk was more than understanding and took me to a small conference room while someone fetched my son. When the door swung open, Marty ran straight into my arms.

I pressed a kiss to the top of his brown hair and squeezed him tightly. “Hey there, big boy.”

“Why are you here? Do I get to go home early?” He looked up at me with eager eyes.

“Yes.” I smiled and knelt down so that we were eye to eye. “Something has happened and we need to go back to Lilaria.”

His face froze. “Something bad?”

“Yes, baby.” I placed my hands on his shoulders. “We can talk about it in the car.”

“Is it Great-Grandfather?” His big eyes looked up into mine and shimmered with understanding. “I had a dream about him last night. That he was telling me good-bye.”

My mouth fell open for a minute, but I managed to pull myself together. “Yes, it’s Grandfather.”

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