The photo shoot was fun. It was stuff like all three of us lying together on our fronts and then one looking down on us. It was good fun. We were all in jeans and a t-shirt. The pictures were sold on to Chandler's where we would be front page business unless there was a wedding which there normally was, but this would go on the front.
My party was okay actually. It had most of my friends over like Lucy, Emily, Phoenix, Immy, Harriet, Isuri (she was Sri Lankan), Millie and I. There were about eight of us who sat around and did girly things. It was a sort of long weekend party thing. Which turned out to be three days.
Vanessa turned up and decided to make us play sardines. The whole freaking palace was in play. This was no small game it was full on war. Chris turned up and we hid together. It was an amazing hiding place and only Vanessa found us in an hour. We were on top of one of the guest bedrooms. It had a large wooden top so we hid up there. People found Vanessa so they had three people hanging around the room. Chris would breath loudly when they got near. Phoenix found us next. Chris hit the bed hard and it accidently broke the bed so everyone found us.
They were all flown home or to where their families were in the world after it was over. I lay on my bed next to Chris.
‘Never do that again.’ He said. He was face first on the bed.
‘I won’t. It was fun, though. Vanessa's face when we broke the bed.’ I started sniggering.
‘No no, no. When you hid behind the suit of armour and groaned whenever they walked past.’
‘No no. When you tried to find me and you found Vanessa and she thought you were playing and you said “You must know Taylor. You know; Small, red hair and bloody awful temper. She is annoying most of the time. She is your step daughter.” And I started laughing.’
I went back to England leaving, Dad and Vanessa. She had a small baby bump which was hardly noticeable. Mary and Jane had become more and more fussy. I had only one year of being free left before I was married and then go to university. I had left my smart car in Ethelburgesa but brought Dylis back to England. Dad had had her spayed as soon as possible. but was going to buy Vanessa a blue whippet which we could breed from. I was told to pick her out and then buy her.
I lay on my bed in the palace looking at the white ceiling. Chris was out hunting with Titus and his uncle. I literally had nothing to do but pack for my next school year in England even then I had someone to do that for me. Being a princess was a lonely thing. I had very few real friends who I could trust with my life. Chris and Phoenix and Emily that was it. I could hardly walk into a room and say “hey I am Taylor, who are you?” Chris would slaughter me straight out. Vanessa walked into the room disrupting my thoughts.
‘Come on Taylor. We have not had a girl chat since I married your father. We are going for a girls day out. Okay?’ I nodded and got up.
‘Taylor, I can’t guess how much your life has changed. Only two years ago you were a normal girl who seemed pretty well off and lived a normal life as a nobody. And it was all flipped in a day. You have been so strong to push through all of this.’ I gave her a small smile.
‘I just feel so lonely. Dad invited my whole tutor around for two weeks at Christmas and I felt even more cut off from them. I live a different life to them. Christmas is different.’ I started to cry gently. I hardly ever cry, but it was just coming out. Vanessa sat down and pulled me into a hug.
‘I am really not the person to talk to. But I grew up going to a proper ladies school and going to expensive balls. I knew when I grew up that I would marry a man I would hate but grow to love. I found your father who is such a nice man. You grew up away from all the things that I grew up in. You would probably grown up and married a nice man you would love if you had stayed in England.’
‘I love Chris. And I would not change anything but I just hate the feeling of not being enough for everyone. I am worried about Chris. He is growing more distant and I feel like he does not like me anymore but is sticking with me because he has to because of this bloody law.’ ‘I can’t sympathise with you I am sorry. But I can listen and give my guidance.’ It felt nice to be hugged by someone who was like an older sister and yet a bit like a mother to me.
Titus came to see me once while I was working. .
‘Are you okay with your wedding to Christopher?’ I nodded. ‘I see he is in good hands.’
‘I would not say good hands. We prank each other too much.’
‘No, but he loves you.’
Chris sat beside me on the bus despite the crush of people.
‘Less than two years. It is odd. And we are getting married.’ I took his hand.
‘How could you tell?’
‘It is you. Keep talking.’
‘But I think that I made the right choice on you. I fell in love with you slowly. Like the way water freezes.’
‘Thats romantic.’ I commented dryly.
‘Hey, I tried.’
‘Hay is what horses eat. Did you want some?’
‘I’m out. I can’t take it anymore.’ I laughed. The year eights were looking revolted. I don’t know why they were sat at the back of the bus, but they were.
‘Mark is going to pick us up in the limo after school. Jane said something about not enough shirts.’ I groaned and slumped in my seat. It almost felt unnatural to slump in my seat of a year and a half of being sat up straight.
I walked straight into Emily once I was off the bus.
‘I feel so sorry for you.’ I looked at Chris who looked guilty.
‘What are you not telling me?’ I demanded. He shuffled his feet.
‘You have until the start of the next academic year to get married.’
‘They shortened it?’ He nodded. ‘This will hit me tomorrow and I will bloody kill someone.’ Chris let my language slide.
The day was odd at most. I guess the pictures went viral and now everyone had seen how great my family was. It must have looked really bad. The king wants to look like his wife and eldest child get on. I could hate Vanessa for all they know. Phoenix stayed by me in all our lessons and Emily stayed with me in our lessons. I guess it was shocking that kept me going. I had a year to plan a wedding and then go to University. Phoenix and I had decided to go to Oxford and read English literature. Oxford had already accepted us so I had to work harder than ever to get the grades I wanted to get to Cambridge. Dad said I could not make it but then it was me and I am full of surprises.
I was sent home at christmas to a six months pregnant Vanessa and Dad.
‘So you thought it was irrelevant to tell me but fine go ahead and tell Christopher. I mean it does not concern me that I am getting married in a year.’ I was stood in the library opposite my father who was sat in a large leather winged chair looking like he was done with me. ‘I mean I have nothing to do with this do I? Nothing to do with my life is it?’
‘No. Let me finish. I could hate Christopher right now. Not saying that I do but now the wedding dates have been put freaking forwards?’
‘Taylor. Please see my point of view.’
‘Yes. Enlighten me Father dear.’ My father seemed to age ten years.
‘If Jamie gets married before you then he rightly gets the throne. We would lose it and it would go to the Maylords. ’
‘He is not going to marry Phoenix anytime soon. They have hardly even met and he asked her out. I mean Phoenix is slightly wacky but not that crazy.’ A movement out side of the window caught my eye. Jane was stood in front of the large windows which were in the library but she was in the gardens doing her way of saying I need you. I moved her along with my hand. She moved quickly on.
‘Taylor. I am sorry. I was thinking too quickly.’ I looked at him.
‘Taylor. I am sorry. I never meant it.’
‘I reiterate: You Think? I am not stupid.’
‘I never said that.’
‘It was implied.’
‘You know what. I think I have been letting you have too much freedom. You are grounded. You will plan your wedding and act like a princess should.’ I sat down on the floor.
‘Be that way.’ He got out of his chair and stormed out slamming the door. I went and sat down in my favorite part of the whole palace. My corner of the library.
The library was a big room. Absolutely huge. There were winged chairs and normally a roaring fire in the winter. Anyway there was this small corner where I used to hide when mum and dad fought when I was younger so I was told. I walked to the dark corner and sat and cried. I cried because my life was just like school: ruled by people who think they knew me. I cried because I wanted to get married in my own time. I cried because I just wanted to. I wanted to cry because I was only seventeen and engaged. I had already seen how corrupt the world was from a young age. Mum and dad splitting up, the General killing my tutor, kicking me out of the palace and now this. Getting married before I had seen the world in its truest of true colours.
I fell silent when the door opened. Orange light spilling into the room as the door was opened and closed.
‘Taylor? Are you in here?’ It was Vanessa. I kept silent. I did not need her sympathy. ‘I know you are in here. I want to talk to you. You know, girl talk.’ I got out of my hiding place and kept along to another row.
‘Fine.’ I stood up and walked towards her. ‘You got me. What do you want to talk about?’
‘Girly stuff. We found out that we have twins. One girl, one boy.’
‘How does this dramatically affect my life?’
‘Drop the sarcastic tone Taylor does not suit you.’ She said sharply.
‘Sorry I’m not sorry.’
‘I would be kicking down walls and throwing such a big tantrum if I was you. But Tony has decided to let you name both of the twins.’
‘They are your children not mine.’
‘Yes. But Tony felt that you were feeling left out. You have been sent to England and now you have this thrust upon you.’
‘I just feel useless. Like I am a small chess piece in this large game of chess that is the world. Move me somewhere and let the enemy take me.’ Vanessa pulled me into a hug.
‘Hey. I feel the same way. I feel like I have to look a certain way and act a way that the elders will approve of.’
‘Tell me about it. Shoes, clothes, makeup. Be the perfect role model for the younger children. Chris is amazing at it. I am so jealous. He just takes it in his stride.’
‘I know. Tony put secret cameras in the tree and film him asking you to marry him. Don't’ worry we have destroyed them but it was a beautiful thing to say.’ I smiled.
‘He can say the most beautiful things sometimes.’
‘I just feel that he can do better than me. I am a princess. He could have all the girls in the world and he picked me. I am not pretty and he would be a fool to say that I am.’
‘No but if I can dream I will always dream of you because you are the center of my universe.’ I looked up to see Chris. ‘And I could have any girl in the world but I picked you. Do you want to know why?’ I shook my head.
‘Because you are strong. Stronger than me. Strong than anyone. Why? Because you have lived through every thing hell has thrown at you and kept smiling. You have gotten to the end of each week and smiled. I knew I loved you when I had to let you go.’ Vanessa had slipped out some time ago.
‘I just want to plan a wedding where I can do what I want. The date, the people, the flowers, the dress. God I don’t want to see that dress.’ Chris took my hand.
‘You will look amazing.’
‘You are meant to say that aren’t you. Because you are going to marry me so you have to be nice. Vanessa said I can name both of the twins.’
‘So I have chosen Valentine and Cecily.’
‘They are nice names. Welsh and?’
‘I don’t know. It is just they are the names in the The Allegiance.’ Chris smiled. He sat down beside me.
‘Are you okay?’ I shook my head.
‘I want to be normal. Be like Hannah Challenor where you have to work to get a guy. We just-’
‘Happened.’ He finished.
‘Yeah that.’ I said lamely.