Eight Years Ago
“Helga, honey, come here!”
“What is it, Mama?”
My mother’s smiling face turned to face me. She was sitting down again. I noticed she did that a lot recently. Ever since they told me about the baby, Mama had been sitting much more. I wondered if the baby liked that better.
“We’re going to have a visitor next week. It’s the Royal family from a neighbour kingdom, and they have a boy that’s twelve, just your age. Your Papa and I thought…”
“Now, Amalie, leave the girl be,” Papa boomed, coming in from the garden behind Mama and I.
Mama smiled at him, but rolled her eyes. “Darling, she’s twelve, she’s going to have to face the facts soon.”
Papa smiled down at me. “Yes, but not today,” he said, ruffling my unruly red hair, the exaxt same shade as his.
“I don’t ever want to marry,” I said astutely. Papa chuckled, but Mama hid a frown.
I knew it worried her. I was twelve, not stupid. I was also the heir to the throne, after all; I was expected to marry and have children.
My nanny, Lilly, kept telling me that one day I would wake up and boys would be fascinating creatures - that I would want to marry and have children with one. I had difficulty believing in her. Boys - even Princes - were loud, smelly and tended to treat me weird because I was a girl.
I thought, if it was such a big deal to have children, maybe I could marry - one day. But not to any of the boys that I knew now, I knew that much. Or I could adopt. I’d been taken to the orphanage last week on the Royal Family visit; it was my first time there, my first official outing as Crown Princess, and I couldn't understand how there could be so many babies with no Mama and Papa. It was so sad, I had made Lilly tell me why they stayed at the orphanage.
Adults could adopt the children, care for them like a Mama and Papa would. I very much liked that idea. I thought it would make the children happy, and I wouldn’t have to get married.
But when I had mentioned this to Mama, her eyes had grown very wide, and she had looked almost afraid of me, so I decided not to mention it again.
“It’s a diplomatic visit,” Papa said, sitting down next to Mama. “Not a marriage arrangement. You worry too much.”
She smiled at him. “Maybe you’re right, but there’s little else for me to do.”
“You just look after out little Prince.”
“I’m getting a brother?” I exclaimed, surprised.
Papa nodded. “And he should be here soon.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. My assessment of boys stood, but maybe a baby boy would be different. I certainly hoped so.
Papa looked at me. “We won’t talk about marriage with the foreign Prince, Helga, but could you prepare some activities for you and he to do? A few games? His father and I will be talking about very boring business things, and I think he would enjoy having someone to play with.”
I nodded. “Of course, Papa. I’ll go ask Lilly for help planning. How long will they be here for?”
“Three days,” he told me, a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. “Thank you, my Little Queen.”
I turned bright red but smiled under his praise.
As I turned to run up to my room to start planning how to entertain the Prince, I thought I saw a look of worry linger in Mama’s face, but then it was gone and she smiled at me.
“You’ll be the perfect hostess by the time you’re fifteen,” she said wistfully.