Pookums just whined. It was time for his dinner, and Mommy hadn't seen that he had any. Usually it was her job.
"I can't stand it. I just can't stand it. Maybe I'll talk to him tomorrow." Pookums whined again, as if to convey some great wisdom or other. Mostly he just snuggled again. Some things the doggies of the world just couldn't do anything about.
She scratched his head. He sniffed. Maybe some food would come later.
"Ow! Watch it!" William spun around. "You nearly put that blade in my face."
She reached up and kissed him. "And such a pretty face, too. It shouldn't have been in the way." She backed off to try the jump one more time.
"No! Ow. I'm getting out of your way!" He parked his lanky self along the railing. "Watch where you skate! You little brat!"
"Such temper for a king." He could barely hear her. "You must learn to control yourself. Why did I agree to be seen with you anyway?" She came cruising around the corner of the rink. She leapt. She landed. She crashed. "Why can't I get this right?"
"Here. Let me help you." She smacked his hand away.
"You won't be there to help me on Olympic ice, will you?" She brushed ice shavings out of her hair. "Damn brat. Why did I agree to go out with you anyway?"
"And who says you'll make it to the Olympics anyway? Britain has so few stars....why are you even trying?"
"Why are you?" She glared at him. "Why did you let your grandmother ruin your life? What can you do with a crown at fifteen? How can you do this?" She snapped around and backed off to try the jump again. "A country that has no hope, no present, no future -- those are your words. Precisely." She mimicked him. :"'We have no future.'" "So why did you take the crown?"
He stuck out his tongue at her. "Why do you do these jumps?"
"Precisely. I believe you see the point. Let's go have lunch. Did your people bring anything?"
He just looked after her. Picked up her skates where she'd shed them. And followed. Women. What could you do with them?
Sigh. How could he tell her he loved her after that?
Shanna. Shanna. Why could he not have her now? Why could they not be married? Shanna. Why?
He wanted to run up to her right now and hiss her hand, tell her it would be okay. She was crying. She hadn't landed her jumps well. He could tell that. But she'd brush him away again.
Shanna. He was in love. Shanna.
Harry slammed the door. "Crown. Girlfriend. Looks. Smarts. He gets it all. When do I get something around here?"
The voice answered him. "When you deserve it. He has a job to do. She will help him do it." Versace, as usual. Couldn't let those dresses go, could she? Why couldn't she have stayed around and been queen? Why did his flippy, pretty brother get the job? Why did his grandmother have to take sick, anyway?
"It wasn't her fault. They just think it's time to train somebody new. And the only way you can train is on the job. You know that. Now quit trying to steal her. She only has eyes for William. Now stop it."
The voice faded with a smile. A last twinkling of sequins. Mommy...Mommy....
He put his head down and began to cry. Again.
Again. He couldn't stop. Why wouldn't she quit? She never had anything nice to say. Always do this, do that. Why hadn't he wanted to go to McDonald's that one last time? She'd just wanted to have lunch....
It was several hours before he could concentrate on his homework.
"No!" William of Wales was not used to being slapped. "Keep your hands off me! Now!" She turned her head to the window.
Thank God for dark windows. That would have killed his reputation. "Well. See if I try to kiss you again." Even as he slumped into the corner of his seat, he couldn't help eyeballing her. What would she do? How would he react? He wished he had all the answers. Or at least some.
"If that's your definition of kissing, no wonder you have problems with girls." Ooo. Now that hurt. He looked around. She was staring at him. Hard.
"Kindly explain yourself. Problems? I've never had problems with girls."
"Perhaps because you've never tried to kiss them that way. Or have you?" She wouldn't let him alone.
"Pardon me, but I prefer expressing affection to the people I love." He tried his huffiest voice. It didn't work. He faltered.
"That's your idea of affection?" She seemed to stop for a second. "You love me? William, you've never said that before."
"Well, I do, and I want you to marry me." Oh God. Grandmother would positively murder him. "Not until you're eighteen," she'd said, "and then chosen carefully." Oh God. He was dead. Dead.
Her eyes widened. She looked at him. Finally, "You really mean this, don't you? And I just slapped you? Oh, I'm sorry!" And she reached over to kiss him.
Elizabeth slid off the couch. Time to go finish up some of those papers that she hadn't quite gotten to that morning. Before she'd had to go out hand-waving and smiling to the people. And yes, she was smiling these days. Sort of a job requirement now. Even if she didn't feel like it.
Pookums toddled after her. That was generally what he did best, toddle after his mistress and make sure everything was okay. Sometimes these humans needed someone to loan a head for scratching purposes. Seemed to work. Now if we could have some more of that meat....
Oh, why hadn't he called? He'd been on an away engagement that day. Had he forgotten about her? Or was there really any point to that big, massive celebration they'd had so many months ago? And what was the point of celebrating anyway, after Diana? She was gone. Nothing was the same. Nobody to pick on. Nobody to smile at. Nobody to fondly hope about that she'd finally catch onto the ropes of monarchy. Nobody. Who could she pick on now?
Sometimes things were worse than they seemed.
William sat on his favorite rock and thought. It had been a two-hour drive to get him up here, but they'd let him out of school to do it. His homework was done and everything. They'd made sure of it before they'd signed the slip.
He'd been a little bad about that. Thought he could get away with it. They were holding him prisoner there, they were.
Couldn't anybody understand? This was the love of his life. And she might not have much time left. How much did she know about the genetic profiles they'd done on her when she was two? She didn't skate like she had any idea. The rented specialists had told him that people with that kind of illness rarely survived to age 21. So far she was 16. Could she make it? Would she even want to? Who would want to be doomed to a life like his? Was there any hope?
He stared out at the hills. Could she understand how much he loved her? Was there any time? Did she have any clue how beautifully she'd skated the night before?
He loved her. He wrapped his arms around his long legs and wanted to cry. But not here. Security kept too close an eye on him, and he didn't really like that new guy. Must do something at some point. Make him feel like he's doing his job and then send him away. That's what Daddy always did. Mommy just yelled.
Well, there wouldn't be any yelling any more. That was one good thing about all this.
He gradually uncurled himself from his rock and pasted a little smile on his face. He had to get back. They'd miss him.
Couldn't have it getting out in the papers.
Wouldn't mind if he never saw another paper again, much less one with his name in it.
Was she serious about him really having the talent to go pro with it?
"Hello, gorgeous!" Hello, gorgeous? She wasn't kicking him in the butt? He almost said, "Are you all right, Shanna?" But somehow those words didn't want to come out of his mouth. He'd torn apart the medical books he could find on her condition. And she looked ever so slightly like she was starting to go downhill....no, best not even to bring that subject up. Sigh. When could he talk to her about it? Could he ever?
"Hiya, cutie." It was the best he could do. She came up and draped her arms around his neck for a kiss. And then wrapped an arm around his waist. He looked at her. Did she have any clue how much he loved her?
She looked up in his eyes. The answer was yes. And he knew he had this woman. Who would need anything else?
"So when do we start planning the wedding?" Wedding? This girl had the nerve even to think about a wedding? Well, hell, why not? Maybe she would live. People survived these things. There was one guy still going at 45.... So why not.
He sat down in front of her. Cross-legged. "Well, what do you want? You realize we can't even talk about this for another several years, but what do you want to do?"
Funny. He'd never known she was a romantic. "Well, I spent a couple of days wandering around Westminster Abbey, and wouldn't this look cute?" And she was off. He let her ramble. She'd obviously been doing some thinking. And all he could do was look at her.
He almost cried there again, just watching her. She never gave up, did she? "Um, and the flowers....what do you think? I kind of thought that maybe we could...." And of course they could. Did she have any idea what resources were available...? She rarely talked about it, the reason so many other girls wanted him, the supposedly-unimaginable wealth, the status, the prestige, and all this girl wanted was a spray of white roses on the pews? That was all?
He was starting to think he'd made the right choice. She squeezed his hand to bring him back to earth.
He was sure.
Elizabeth walked through the garden, stopping to sniff a flower or two. It wasn't helping today. It just wasn't. Three days with no word. Sure, this was an official visit, but he could have at least called.... Pookums and some of his comrades did their best to keep up behind her. She was outpacing them. They were not happy with this. But she generally fed them after walks, so this was acceptable, at least.
"Ma'am. A phone call. Do you wish to take it out here?" On a cellular phone? Hardly. She stepped indoors. This had better be good The weather had been rotten lately, and she hadn't had a chance to get outside much. This had better be good.
As she hung up the phone a few minutes later, she felt much better. He would be coming home in a few days. He missed her. And she could hear it in his voice. Everything was all right. She even felt like snipping away at a few rosebushes. Now where were her cutters? She would have somebody bring them. Those bushes desperately needed to be attended to. She'd have a word with that gardener, she would.....
He still couldn't face her. What if he said the wrong thing, brought up the wrong subject, stammered out the wrong words? But he'd said he'd be at her competition. She was expected to win, of course, but she never took that seriously. One slip of the skate blade and somebody else would have the medal. She got so nervous before these things....he wondered if a box of chocolates was even the right thing to bring. What if it got on her costume? He loved her, oh, he loved her. He was going to have to sneak in the back way and watch privately, but at least he could be there for her. She always said the worst time was when you came off the ice. What would the scores be? Would they like you? Would they not like you? And they expected you to smile through the whole thing. Didn't they realize the pressure they were putting on these girls?
He checked his hair again. It was in that loose cut she liked. His clothes looked fine.
Maybe they'd stop and pick up a few Beanie Babies along the way.
Harry wasn't happy. His mommy hadn't spoken to him in some time. He'd always depended on her. And it had been at least a couple of weeks. Probably schmoozing with Versace and Freddie Mercury.
He'd even resorted to going to Kensington Palace and pleading. Threatening to break one of her figurines if she didn't talk. Problem was, no figurines. Her buddies had them all. So, no leverage. He couldn't even kidnap one of her dresses. Damn. Not even a sequin.
Dad had some kind of "guys-only" dinner planned. Talk sports and be polite. Yeah. All of a sudden it was guys together. Not even Tiggy was invited. Now that was strange. He was even letting William have pizza. Strange. Very strange.
"Where?" She was startled. "You can't arrange things like that. We'll be found out!"
"Not here. They're used to dealing with us. They know how to handle royals." And with that the car pulled up beside a door that didn't look like it was there at first glance. "Madame, shall we?"
She gasped. "All this?" Elegance. They might as well have been in Buckingham Palace. "I can't believe this is real. Where are we?" She looked at him and then looked at the surroundings.
"They know how to take care of us here." He steered her to a table. "And there are waiters who know how not to remember we were here. Get used to it." And he squeexed her knee.
"Dad got a raise and we came here...and it wasn't like this. I just can't believe this!" The food was perfect. The service was instant and courteous. Perfect.
"It didn't have to be." He smiled again. "Are you having dessert tonight?"
She raised her eyes to his. "Maybe. I just might. What is there?"
"What do you want?"