I wake up, remembering what kind of a mess yesterday night was. What am I supposed to do? It’s not like I can prove to Caroline her son will always stay with her. She’s a mom, she’s paranoid and she’s been waiting for a child for too long. Her fear is beyond reason, it can’t be fixed with any arguments or words.
But maybe I can fix the mess I made with you.
Determined, I get out of bed and put on something decent enough. I walk out of my room, heading towards yours and hoping this will work out. I knock on your door, which squeaks as you open it.
“Morning.”, I wave awkwardly. You just step to the side to let me come in.
“You woke up early.”
“I did.”, I stare at my hands, which are nervously folding. “I came to apologize.”
“It’s not like you said something untrue.”, you shrug.
“Yeah, but I shouldn’t have said it. It was mean and insensitive.”
A small smile creeps up your face.
“I’m sorry.”, I stroke your cheek. You take hold of my wrist and stare into my eyes. I don’t dare to move. I feel you touching my other arm, before you kiss me. Not long after, you have picked me up and gently rested me on the bed. Your hands have slipped beneath my clothes. I feel your warm needy touch, losing all connection to the outside world.
Before anything more happens you look me in the eyes and whisper:
“Why do you make it so hard for me to be mad at you?”
Not long after breakfast, my parents send a car for me. Philip gives me a hug before I walk through the door and says:
“You are always welcome to come again.”
Caroline gives me a weak smile.
“Tell your mother to call me as soon as she is free.”
“I sure will. Thank you for sheltering me.”, I thank both of them and turn to the car. You escort me the whole five meters, holding my hand.
“So, you have to leave.”
“Yeah. Sadly I do.”
“Call me when you can.”
“I will.”, I give you a kiss on the cheek, “Bye.”, I get in the car and draw a heart on the window with my finger. You giggle and start to wave as the car begins to move. We don’t break eye contact until I’m too far away. I know I should be feeling sad that I’m leaving, and I am for being away from you, but I’m also happy. Caroline hates me and I can’t help but feel guilty.
My mom greets me with a smile when I arrive.
“Hey.”, I give her a hug. My father is also standing next to her, but rather than a smile he has a worried expression on his face. Whatever, he lost the right to have me care about him a long time ago.
“Let’s go to your dad’s cabinet, there’s something we need to talk about.”
Slightly surprised I follow both of them. It’s probably something about the parade next week, they’ll maybe ask me to hold a speech. Or it could be about my ‘stubborn’, as mom called it, decision not to talk to my father. But no, mom looked too cheery, it can’t be something serious.
“So, Bella,”, she begins when we have all sat in our chairs, “on the way here we were discussing something very important to your future.”
“Now, please don’t declare yourself against the idea before you actually hear the whole story.”
She implores, putting her hand on top of mine. “We met with the royal family of Italy, which also includes Prince Arnaldo.”
“Please don’t finish with ‘who happens to be your age’.”, I interject.
“He doesn’t, he’s a year older, but still a suitable candidate for your hand.”
“I can’t believe you.”, my cheeks start to burn, “Both of you.”, I glance at my father.
“Isabella, can you please-“
“No! I refuse to listen to another word.”, I stand up.
“But if you just-“
“You promised! You promised you would let me make my own choice!”
“Yes, we know that-“
“I can’t believe you would do this to me.”, I run out the door, before either of them can follow me. I lock myself in my room and start to throw everything I can reach. This can’t be happening! No! I won’t let it!
I ring you as soon as I calm down. How can my parents do this to me? Your phone keeps ringing and ringing, but nobody picks up. I don’t give up until I receive a text “Can’t talk. With family.”. I presume it’s one of those pre-programmed ones. Ugh, Alex, just pick up your phone! Of all the times you could’ve left me alone, you pick now?
I’m about to text you to call me immediately when my father invites himself inside.
“You didn’t take the news lightly. As I presumed.”, he softly observes. I only cross my arms avoiding eye contact.
“Why are you here?”
“Despite what you believe, Isabella, I’m not your enemy.”
“You drug my boyfriend and then you arrange a loveless marriage for me. You really expect me to believe you’re not the enemy?”
He sits on the bed staring at me, even though I still refuse to give him a look.
“I know how it looks. But you must know I try my best to ensure your happiness.”
“It’s an arranged marriage. The one thing I asked you not to force me to do. Do you remember that? When I was thirteen and instead of a birthday present I demanded you two to never ask me to do that?”
“Of course I remember that. I remember the look in your eyes when you realized something like that can happen to you. We were shocked you expect we would do something like that. We’ve always wanted you to be happy, how could we subject you to an arranged marriage? So we promised, knowing that it doesn’t change anything. That’s why we still both you a present. So that you don’t waste your wish on something you’d have anyways.”
“What are you saying? That five years ago you were better parents than you are now?”
“No, I’m trying to tell you this was never our plan. We want you to be happy.”
“So why do it then?”
“Isabella, we’re trying to do our job as parents and as rulers. But, I know how you must feel. After all that happened with Alexander, having him ripped from you now is too cruel. I know you’ve been trying to get him back constantly. He’s your true love and I understand that, I wouldn’t have let him stay with Caroline and Philip. I want you to be happy, I want you to be with the love of your life.”
“But you have to take care of the kingdom? Is that what you’re saying.”, I sass. He looks away from me, crossing his fingers in a business manner.
“I have talked with your mother. She insists on you marrying the prince, she think you’ll love him with time. She invited the family to stay at the palace for a month, to convince you of that.”, I turn to disagree, but he stops me, “all I ask you is to give him your serious consideration. If at the end of the month you still want to be with Alexander, then I’ll support you. I’ll tell the family things didn’t work out, I’ll talk to your mother, I’ll deal with everything.”
“You know the whole thing won’t work, I can never love anyone else.”
“Yes, that’s probably the case, but you never know what you might feel in a month. Even if you’re right … just show your mother you’re making an effort. Let her see for herself there can’t be anything between you and the prince. She’ll let go of the idea and you’ll be free to marry Alexander.”
I stand in front of him with a stern face.
“Do you promise that if I do that you’ll never choose another suitor for me? You’ll let me be with Alex and never ever,” I stress, “interfere in my relationship again?”
“Yes, I promise.”