Disclaimer and rating - see first part.
Please note that some of the medical info may not be entirely (or perhaps even at all) accurate just please play along, ok?
Chapter 5: Soaked
The next morning shone brightly on the happy couple. Neither Clarisse nor Joseph had ever remembered such a feeling of contentment as they awoke.
“Good morning, my love.” Joseph said as he leaned over to kiss her.
“Mmm that sounds sooo nice to hear.” She was almost purring.
“Since there’s nothing going on around here, what would be on my beautiful wife’s agenda for today?” Joseph asked with a smile.
“Oh Joseph, don’t tease you know Mia’s coronation is only a week away and there are at least a million things to do. Which reminds me I need to get with Charlotte, there needs to be arrangements made for…” As she continued on now lost in her own thoughts, Joseph decided to get up and take a shower.
He got out of bed and walked around the room looking for his robe. As he searched for where it had landed when she disrobed him the night before, he could feel her eyes watching him.
“Enjoying the show?” he teased.
“Oh very much so - although I’m sure I might enjoy it more if it were closer to me.” She responded in a husky voice.
He looked over and smiled at her. “Let me shower first and then I’ll see what I can do about that. How does that sound?”
He decided to leave the robe wherever it was hiding and get about the business of his shower. As he entered the bathroom, he heard her ordering tea for herself and coffee for him.
He was enjoying the feel of the warm water cascading down his skin when he sensed her enter the bathroom. He didn’t see or hear her but rather sensed it. He liked that he could sense her presence it had proven very useful over the years as it was his job to protect her. He saw her in front of the mirror washing her face and brushing her hair. She was wearing his robe - the one that he had been looking for only moments before, but he was confident that her normal satin pj’s were not underneath. He watched for a moment and then a mischievous thought crossed his mind. Stepping quietly out of the shower while it was still running, he grabbed her by the waist and pulled her back with him under the streaming water.
“Joseph! What on earth are you doing?” She sputtered as the water came down over her head and face.
“Soaking you, my love."
“You do remember what happened to you the last time you soaked me?” She laughed as she questioned him.
Back in time
It had been very tense around the castle for the past several months. There was excitement at first when the King had announced that the Queen was pregnant with another heir. But after the initial excitement had worn off, it was evident that things just didn’t seem to be right.
Clarisse continued to spend a great deal of time with Joseph and insisted on long walks in the evening. It was one such evening at about her 8th month. She had been unusually quiet, but Joseph had just walked along with her sensing that she wanted to talk about something important tonight.
“I want you to do something for me Joseph.”
“Anything your Majesty anything.” Came his quick response.
“Don’t be so hasty, Joseph. You don’t know what I’m going to ask and it could cause a conflict of interest or loyalties should I say.”
“You know my loyalty lies only with you, my Queen.” He was very serious now but also concerned about what she was going to ask.
She stopped and turned to face him. She cupped her hand against his cheek which was a tender exchange that she shared only with him.
Her voice was very serious and her eyes conveyed something…he couldn’t quite place it which disturbed him even more.
“What I am about to ask you is not the Queen asking of her servant, but rather a friend making an urgent request to another friend.”
“Rupert is making plans to be present at Phillipe’s birth.”
He started to say how wonderful (as the King had chosen not to be present at Prince Pierre’s birth), but the look in her eyes made him
“Under no circumstances do I want him there.” Came her stony reply.
“But your majesty I would have thought that was what you wanted. I know you were at least somewhat disappointed when he went away the day that Pierre was born even though you understood it was his duty nonetheless..” Joseph was truly surprised.
Her expression didn’t soften. “Perhaps if I told you the truth about the night Phillipe was conceived, it will help you understand.” She took his hand and pulled him down to sit beside her on the bench. Her face had a faraway look as she recounted the events of that night.
“Rupert and I had been arguing earlier in the day regarding his desire to produce another heir…just in case. I was angry because it seemed to me that he believed something would happen to our son our precious Pierre and I couldn’t bear that. I also knew that my wifely duties would once again be required of me and that thought did not please me either. Please understand that Rupert and I were friends (Joseph noted she said “were”) but there was just not a connection between us. While that didn’t seem to bother him, it made it difficult for me to “perform” as it were. At any rate, he came to me that night and I explained my position to him and pleaded with him to not make me do this. There was yelling and I struggled.”
Joseph broke in now unable to contain himself. “Did he force you?” The anger was rising noticeably in his now taut features.
“No. Not physically anyway. He waited for me to stop struggling and then told me that I would accept him willingly. I not so gently told him that wasn’t the case. He then whispered in my ear a threat so terrible that I couldn’t bear the thought of it.”
Joseph was very confused. If he hadn’t raped her, what could he have possibly threatened her with? He knew that Rupert would never use Pierre in that manner besides their son what or who else was there?
Before his mind could finish that thought through to the only logical answer, she broke in. “He threatened to send you away.” The tears were flowing freely now. “Oh, Joseph, I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t have that. I couldn’t bear the thought of my life without you in it every day. You are my rock to keep me grounded and the wind that lets me soar and you always know which it is I need.”
Her statement hit Joseph like a slap across the face. Although, in reality, he hadn’t heard anything past “he threatened to send you away.” His anger rose unabated now. He was angry that Rupert had played such an emotional card on her; angry that she had played into his hand; but most of all, angry with himself for allowing their relationship to grow and be noticed to such a point that the King saw it and used it as a tactical advantage to get what he wanted from his wife mainly sex. Joseph thought he was going to be sick.
He fought to control the feelings that were raging inside of him. He looked over to her. She was still sitting there tears rolling down her face, but she was quietly waiting. She was waiting for him to get through the emotions that she herself had dealt with months ago. The emotion was gone; she now just wanted Joseph to help her with ensuring that Rupert would not be there for the birth. Once she sensed he had regained at least a bit of control, she spoke quietly, “So will you help me?”
He took a few deep breaths. “Just tell me what you want and it shall be done.”
They spent the next hour or so devising a plan that would require Joseph to make some secretive arrangements with his contacts from other countries which would result in a matter of national importance (or at least have the appearance of national importance) which would require no one less than the King himself be in attendance to try and resolve.
Once they formulated the details of the plan, Joseph looked directly into her eyes. “Your Majesty…Clarisse…I fear that my friendship with you has put you at a direct disadvantage in your dealings with the King. I could never bear the thought that someone was able to hurt you because of me. It is my duty to protect you. Please promise me that you will never let that happen again for if it does, I will have no choice but to leave of my own accord as I will not nor cannot bear that kind of guilt and responsibility.”
Their plan had gone off perfectly and Rupert was planning to leave soon as it was just a couple of weeks before her due date. However, he stopped by to pay Clarisse a visit before he left.
“I promise to be back as soon as I can. I’m so sorry Clarisse I really wanted to be here for you. I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye on the issue of having another child…”
She broke in - not letting him finish. “Eye to eye! You forced me to have sex with you by threatening me I guess you could say that we didn’t quite see eye to eye on that issue!” She was barely containing her anger at that point.
He sighed, not wanting to fight anymore. “I’m sorry that it had to come to that and I’m sorry that I’ve failed to find a way to make us closer. But I felt it my duty to Genovia to ensure the future of the throne; and, if that meant a second heir, than so be it.”
The fight had left her as well. “And your duty to me?”
He shook his head and with sadness in his eyes replied, “Will, unfortunately, never be as important to me as my duty to my country. Hopefully some day you will understand. I assumed you knew that went with the territory when you agreed to marry me.”
She didn’t know what to say at that point. She just knew her head hurt, her body hurt and her heart hurt. She just looked up at him, tears glistening in her eyes, “Then, my King, you go do what you must and, while you are gone, I will do my duty to you and to Genovia by producing another heir to the throne. Please know, though, when you return I will serve as your Queen for I do understand the concept of duty despite what you may believe. However, my duty as your wife will be concluded upon the birth of your son. And while we will not share a bed again, I promise to never betray you as I understand the risk that poses to the crown. You must promise, however, to never, ever threaten to send Joseph away again. Give me your oath as King that you will never do that again.”
He looked at her intently and saw, for a moment, the same young girl that he had been betrothed to many years ago the bright blue eyes, the beautiful heart; and at the same time, he saw that she had become a formidable woman who did, in fact, know her duty and was prepared to do it. He also knew that, despite her best efforts, she could never love him as a wife should love her husband nor he as a husband should love his wife.
“We will be friends then?”
“Your oath, my King.”
He paused, looking at her intently before responding. “You have it. As King of Genovia, I swear it to you this day.”
A look of relief crossed her face. “Then, after some time has gone by and my heart has time to heal, we will be friends.”
He kissed his wife on the head and then on the lips, one last time. She didn’t fight him but rather accepted it as a way of saying goodbye to their marital relationship and welcoming what she hoped would eventually be a good friendship.
A week or so after the King had left; Joseph was standing guard outside her room. He wanted to be nearby should she need anything or should the baby decide to make his entrance into the world. He was calmly standing guard when he got an uneasy feeling. Only a moment later he heard the scream, “Joseph!”
He ran into the room as quickly as he could. The site before him caused his heart to stop with fear. Clarisse was lying curled upon her bed and he could see blood on her nightgown. She looked pale and frightened. After a moment had passed, he sprang into action yelling for Charlotte and Olivia he instructed them to call the doctor and advise him of the situation at once. They, too, bolted into action and began getting the necessary help. Joseph laid Clarisse back on the bed and propped her feet up, placed himself behind her, and then just held her trying to say words of comfort while they waited for the doctor to arrive.
By the time the doctor arrived, Clarisse had lost a decent amount of blood and was feeling very weak. The doctor confirmed that she was, in fact, bleeding (it took everything Joseph had not to punch the doctor for stating something that was so painfully obvious) and that she needed to move to the hospital right away as she was ready to give birth and needed special attention.
“No” came the quiet but determined statement. “I shall give birth here.”
Joseph tried to reason with her, but she had made up her mind. Before he could argue with her any further another contraction hit and it was time to push. After a few times of this, her strength was gone and she grew still. Joseph panicked as her hold on his hand slipped away.
“Clarisse, dammit you wake up right now and deliver this baby.”
There was no response.
The doctor looked to Joseph and said, “Without being at the hospital, I’m afraid there’s little I can do to assist her. I can try to give her something to force her to wake up, but medicine will take time.”
Joseph had a thought. He whispered to Charlotte who looked at him and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
She ran away quickly to do as he requested.
Only moments later (though it seemed a lifetime to Joseph) she returned with a very large pitcher of ice water.
“Forgive me, my queen.” And with that, he unceremoniously dumped the ice cold water on her.
She awoke with a start, “What the hell!” She was sputtering and spewing and trying to figure out what in the world had just happened. She looked up and saw Joseph with the pitcher.
“I don’t know who in the hell you think you are, but when I finish delivering this baby, I’m going to make you regret what you just did!” Her anger was very evident, but to Joseph’s relief, she was awake and full of a renewed energy.
“As you wish, your majesty. But for now, please focus your anger at me towards delivering that baby and then you can do whatever you feel necessary to me.” If he wasn’t so concerned about her, he would have been laughing at the sight she now made, but that would come another time now it was time to work.
And work she did. With her renewed sense of purpose, Clarisse made short order of giving birth. Once she heard Phillipe’s first cries, the adrenalin left and she sank back against Joseph and drifted into unconsciousness once again. The doctor attended to her and to the baby and then Joseph held her while the maids changed the bedclothes, sheets well everything as it had been soaked through with Joseph’s remedy.
Joseph slept in a chair next to Clarisse that night holding her hand throughout the night. He had wanted to stay awake and keep vigil should she awake and need anything. The doctor had assured him that she would be alright now she just needed her rest, but he was still worried. However, the adrenalin from the day had left him as well and he succumbed to the tiredness in his body.
He continued to sleep soundly until he was awakened by a large pitcher of ice water being dumped on him.
He shot up from the chair, “What the hell!”
“Doesn’t feel too great does it mister?” Clarisse was laughing wholeheartedly at his expense. The cold water had certainly brought him fully to his senses and, after the initial shock, he noticed that she had been the one holding the pitcher!
A smile shot to his face as he realized that she must be feeling much better and then he joined her in her laughter. “No, you are right it doesn’t. But it did do the trick, didn’t it?”
“While that may be the case, I don’t think you should quit your day job anytime soon to become a doctor as your methods are quite unorthodox!”
He reached over to her to take her hand and kissing it gently he said, “I would never, ever, dream of quitting my day job. The fringe benefits are great and it is by far too interesting to ever dream of quitting for something as boring as being a doctor!”
“Do you forgive me for soaking you?” He asked.
She reached up and touched his cheek and softly replied. “Of course, my dear. Of course.”
“Do you forgive me for soaking you?” Joseph asked as he undid the belt of his now soaked robe and removed it from her body.
One arm went around his neck and the other went to his cheek as the warm water coursed down their now heated bodies.
As she moved her lips in for a kiss, she softly replied, “Of course, my dear. Of course.”
Chapter 6: Oh My!
A/N: I know the timeline with Mia and Nicholas is a little off as technically he doesn't profess his love until the day of the coronation, but in my little realm of reality, I had to mess with that a bit to fit my storyline - please forgive me! LOL
“Oh my, Joseph that was absolutely amazing.” Clarisse had finally turned off the water. They had just spent the last half hour or so making love under the gentle spray of the shower.
“I can’t argue with that, my love. So, what time is Charlotte expecting you this morning?”
She laughed, “You know, Joseph, you have had me so distracted in the last 24 hours or so that I have no idea even what time it is.”
He closed the distance between them once again and kissed her on the neck, “Is that such a bad thing?”
She returned his kiss. “Most definitely not,” She then sighed, “However, I do have some things I must take care of today; although I would much rather spend it with you.”
“I understand, my dear, but once Mia is crowned Queen, promise me we’ll take a few days away just for ourselves.”
“That is a promise I can make. But now, I must attempt to get dressed and find Charlotte.”
“I’m going to check on the security plans for the coronation today. How about we meet for lunch in the kitchen?”
“Oh that sounds wonderful; I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Things at the palace seemed almost normal with the Queen busily preparing for the upcoming festivities, Joseph attending to security matters; and, Mia, well she didn’t seem quite herself.
“Mia, my dear, what’s wrong with you? You seem very preoccupied today. You aren’t worried about the coronation, are you?” Clarisse asked with concern.
“What, huh…oh no Grandma. Everything will be fine. I’m even getting much better with the arrow thing.”
Clarisse smiled, “Well that’s good to hear as I’m sure it would cause quite a stir if you set one of our guests on fire that night!” She teased her granddaughter good-naturedly.
“Oh Grandma, don’t even tease about something like that. After the fiasco at the reviewing of the royal guard and the garden party incident, I don’t think I could bear another embarrassment like that.” There was a look of panic across her face.
Moving towards her, she put her arm around Mia, “You’re right dear; it was not kind of me to tease like that. I do apologize. You are going to be absolutely wonderful.”
Mia did not seem convinced and still seemed very preoccupied with her thoughts, “Well, let’s hope you’re right, Grandma.”
Sensing she needed a little more convincing, “Mia, why don’t you join Joseph and I for lunch? We’re going to be meeting in about a half an hour in the kitchen. Joseph always cheers you up, right?”
A big grin spread across Mia’s face, “Well, not as cheery as he’s made you obviously. You’re positively radiant today, Grandma - must’ve been that long shower this morning.”
“Don’t freak out, Grandma. The maids know everything, remember! Olivia brought your tea up and noticed you were in the shower and then when she brought your breakfast up a half hour later, you were still, uh, showering.” Mia was giggling uncontrollably now.
A flush had crept up Clarisse’s face, “Well, I shall have to speak to Olivia about being a tad more discreet, won’t I?” She tried to sound angry, but she was more embarrassed than anything.
Mia quickly covered for Olivia, “Don’t be mad at her, Grandma, I asked when you were going to surface from your room and that’s when she told me you had been showering for quite a while. She didn’t mention anything about Joe, but seeing your face guess we all know where he was now too!” With that statement, the giggles returned.
“You’re sassing your Grandmother again, aren’t you? Well, you seem to be feeling somewhat better even if it is at my expense. So, should Joseph and I expect you for lunch?”
“Wouldn’t miss it, Grandma. Thanks for cheering me up.”
“Anything for you, my darling. But… (and there was definite warning in her tone), I don’t want that story going any farther than right here, is that understood?” Clarisse gave her the best Queen tone she could muster.
Mia bowed low in response and tried to sound serious, although one look at her face would demonstrate she was anything but, “Of course, your majesty it shall be our secret.”
She swatted Mia on the top of the head, “You’re sassing me again! Now go on and finish up and I’ll see you in the kitchen in half an hour.”
With that Mia rose up and gave her Grandma a quick hug and ran off to finish her paperwork.
45 minutes later
Joseph and Clarisse were already seated at the table when Mia came running in.
”Sorry I’m late…no wait, I’m not late everyone else is just early, right?” She was grinning from ear to ear.
“I’m afraid that is once you are Queen, my darling. As you are just Princess at this moment, you are most definitely late.” Clarisse teased.
“I’m just practicing consider it another Queen lesson. So what’s for lunch I’m starved.”
“French onion soup, sourdough bread, various cheeses and fruit.”
“Ok, well it’s no hamburger and fries, but I guess it will do.”
Lunch was served and the trio began eating. Clarisse had just started to eat her soup when Joseph slid his hand under the table and onto her leg and began gently rubbing it.
Clarisse jumped slightly at the unexpected touch and dropped her soup spoon. “Oh my!”
Joseph never even looked up but just slightly smiled as he continued to caress her leg.
“Are you alright, Grandma?” Mia asked.
“Oh, oh yes I’m fine. I guess the soup was hotter than I expected.” She attempted, somewhat lamely, to explain her actions.
“Ok then, well I can blow on it for you if you like?” Mia teased.
“That won’t be necessary, young lady. Just eat.” All the while she was trying to focus on eating as Joseph continued to move his caresses higher on her leg. She would get him for this!
After a few minutes of silence, concealed caressing, and eating, Mia finally blurted out, “Ok, so I just have to ask you something.”
Both Clarisse and Joseph looked up at her outburst.
“What it is it, Mia?” Joe asked.
“Well, it’s Nicholas.”
“What has he done now?” Clarisse asked. “I thought you two had decided to play nice since he refused to challenge you for the throne?”
“What? He hasn’t done anything…I mean nothing bad - really…” she was beginning to ramble.
Joe cut in to her musings, “Mia, what is it you wanted to ask?”
“Oh Joe, we're in love and we are thinking about getting engaged!” There she had blurted it out.
Before Joe could respond, Clarisse cut in. “Absolutely not!”
“But Grandma…” Mia tried to interject as her face started to fall.
“I won’t have it. Mia in a few days you are going to be crowned Queen and there will be so many new responsibilities and … Oh my!” Her tirade ended as quickly as it started with her jumping slightly and shouting again. Of course, Mia didn’t know it but Joe had squeezed her thigh to get her to stop. She shot him a look that resembled daggers coming out of her eyes.
“Do you have something to add, Joseph?” She asked sternly.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear. After a few moments, Clarisse’s expression softened and she nodded. She began to speak to Mia once again, but notably softer.
“Mia, my love. I think it’s wonderful that you are in love with Nicholas and he with you. Perhaps you could invite him to dinner here tonight and the four of us could discuss future plans. I still think it’s a bad idea to get engaged so soon, but perhaps we can reach a compromise after we all speak about this. What do you say to that?” She had used her best negotiation tone and it had worked.
“You mean it, Grandma? That’s great. I’ll go call him now. And, Joe, I’m not sure I want to know what you said and/or did, but thanks! You two are the best!” Her young enthusiasm was returning with full force. She kissed both of them on the cheek and ran out of the kitchen.
Clarisse turned on Joseph. “So you think you’re quite smart, do you?”
“I would never presume to think such a thing your Majesty.”
“Oh don’t start with the ‘your majesty’ line with me…a few minutes ago, you were making improper advances towards your Queen and then being insubordinate…why I might have to put a note in your file, young man!” She was trying to sound angry, but failing miserably as the look on Joseph’s face was priceless as he tried to feign remorse.
He leaned forward and closer to her and, in doing so, moved his hand even farther up the inside of her thigh causing her to gasp. “I will gladly take any reprimand you have to offer, my Queen, as long as you will be the one doling out the punishment.”
His advances and insubordination forgotten, she leaned in and kissed him. The kiss deepened as his caresses continued causing her to emit the most beautiful sounds he could ever remember hearing. She finally broke for air and rested her forehead against his. “Joseph, do you think we’re doing the right thing?”
Momentarily confused, Joseph replied, “I can’t imagine anything more right than this well, except it might not be entirely proper in the kitchen during lunch time, but I’m always open to new things.” He smiled.
She pulled back and playfully smacked him on the arm. “No silly I was referring to encouraging Mia and Nicholas. They barely know each other.”
“Darling, I’m not saying we should encourage them to run off and get married. Just not discourage them from pursuing what is in their hearts. Not everyone has the long ‘getting to know one another’ period as you and I have had.”
“So you believe this will be alright?” Her concern was evident.
“We will meet with them tonight. There will be dinner, dancing and discussion. I think asking them to spend a year getting to know each other while Mia adjusts to her new responsibilities is a small request and I think Nicholas will know that she is worth the wait. I may have to explain to him that if she is anything like her Grandmother (whom I waited many, many, many years for) which I’m certain she is…a year will be a small price to pay for forever.”
Smiling deeply at his compliment, “As usual, you are a very astute man, Joseph; and, for the record, one "many" would have made your point.”
“It was for dramatic affect, my darling.”
With that she stood and took his hand, “I think, my dear husband, we should retire to our suite for a little afternoon nap before the festivities tonight.”
“But, I’m not tired, my love.” He said as he trailed behind holding her hand.
Grabbing the bowl of fruit to take with her, she squeezed his hand and smiled, “Neither am I, Joseph…neither am I.”
He couldn't resist. As thoughts of feeding fruit to Clarisse while lying in bed began to dance through his head, "Oh my..." was all he could say!
Chapter 7: Dinner and Duty
The afternoon had been uneventful…well outside of the royal suite it had been uneventful anyway. Joseph and Clarisse had spent the afternoon enjoying the fruit and each other (that’s a story for another time) and being hidden away from all the preparations for dinner that night.
Nicholas had arrived promptly at 7 p.m. for dinner dressed in a dark blue suit. Mia was dressed in a simple cut royal blue dress that flared out slightly around her knee. Clarisse was dressed in a teal dress that brought out the blue in her eyes, and Joseph, of course, was in black.
After the customary greetings, the four made their way to the dining room.
“I do believe, Nicholas, that we must be two of the luckiest men alive.” Joseph began with a smile as he admired his wife walking with Mia a few steps ahead of them.
Nicholas smiled and responded, “Indeed we are.”
The compliments got them an over the shoulder smile from both ladies as they entered the dining room. Clarisse made sure that she was seated across the table from Joseph rather than next to him for dinner, “I’d rather not take any chances with you trying to make me drop my spoon again.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, my dear.”
Mia and Nicholas just looked at each other with confused looks as Joseph chuckled. So Clarisse sat next to Nicholas and Mia sat across from him next to Joseph. It definitely wasn’t the way Mia had it planned, but figured it best not to debate that with her Grandmother right then.
The conversation drifted to the subject of the upcoming coronation and all of the plans that were being made and last minute details that had to be taken care of. Finally, as the last course was being served, Mia couldn’t take the waiting anymore.
“Grandma, I thought we agreed that we would discuss the relationship between Nicholas and me tonight.”
“Well, proceed my dear. What is it you would like to discuss?”
“Ok, well” she shot a look to Nicholas across the table for encouragement; he smiled and squeezed her hand. “It’s just that we love each other and really want to be together and I know what you’re going to say but we really, really do love and care for each other and, just a few days ago, you were willing to have me marry someone whom I didn’t love for the sake of my country and while I was willing to go through with that, which, oh my gosh, thank goodness I didn’t have to…”
As Mia continued talking at an increasingly fast pace, Clarisse just watched in amazement wondering when she was going to take a breath. She smiled and waited patiently for Mia to come up for air.
“…and so, having said all of that, I think it would be ok for Nicholas and me to get engaged. I’m not saying we would marry right away, but we would like to get engaged. Wow that was a mouthful!”
Joseph couldn’t help himself, “Indeed it was, Princess.”
“And Nicholas, what do you have to say about all of this?” Clarisse turned to the young man.
He stumbled a little bit under the gaze that she was giving him. Although it was plastered with a nice smile; he knew she expected the truth in his response.
“Well, your majesty... (he paused and then smiled) I don’t think I could say it any better than Mia just did.”
With this, Clarisse burst out in laughter. “No, I doubt that you could, Nicholas. My granddaughter certainly has a way with words generally using a lot of them in fast succession is her preferred method of delivery.” Everyone chuckled, except Mia, of course.
“I don’t think that was very funny. Who’s sassing who now Grandma?” She tried to sound serious, but her lips were turning up into a smile even as she finished her sentence.
“Ah, doesn’t feel too good when it’s the other way around? Does it, my love?”
“Ok, point made. Grandma 1, Mia 0. But seriously, Grandma, what do you think about all of this?”
“Honestly my dear, I believe that if you two are as much in love as you say you are, then getting to know each other a little more and waiting a year to allow the country to get used to you as Queen and you to get used to your role as Queen is not too long to wait.”
“I understand, Grandma, but I’m afraid.” Mia turned very serious now as did the rest of her dinner companions at her words.
Clarisse took her hand across the table. “What could you possibly be afraid of dear? Joseph and I would never let anything happen to you.”
“Never mind. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Joseph interrupted now. “Princess…Mia…what is it?”
She finally blurted it out, “How do I know something isn’t going to happen that keeps us apart like it did you and Grandma for so many years? Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy that you two are finally together but Joe, I gotta be honest, I don’t think I’m as patient as you are and I’m not sure Nicholas would be either.” She seemed relieved to have that burden off of her chest.
There was silence for a moment as everyone tried to absorb what she had just said. Finally Clarisse stood up and walked around the table to where she was. She pulled Mia up to stand by her so she could look her directly in the eye as she spoke.
“Mia, the situation between Joseph and me…well, it was unique. It was another time. I was already married to someone and not just anyone, but the King. We were not free to love each other as you and Nicholas are. I had a lifetime of duty to country and others drilled into me. And, although I don’t doubt your sense of duty, the duty required of you is far different than was required of me; and, of Joseph. As I said to you on what was to be your wedding day, I made my choices duty to country over duty to self; you, however, are in the wonderful position of being able to achieve both. Besides,” she moved over to Joseph and took his hand. “I am the luckiest woman in the world that Joseph waited for me. I’m everything I am because he loves me and I can’t imagine one second of my life past, present, or future without him in it.”
The tears were glistening in Mia’s eyes. “I know Grandma and you’re right. I guess I just needed some reassurance.”
Clarisse gave Mia a quick hug. “Now, enough worry for the moment shall we dance?”
Mia perked up a bit, “Only if I get to pick the music.”
“Oh dear.” Clarisse and Joseph both said in unison as they walked arm in arm to the dance floor.
Mia came back a few minutes later after making the selections.
“Ok, Grandma, you and Joe go first. I picked out something very special for you.”
Joseph stood and turned to Clarisse as the first strains of music filled the room. “Shall we, my love?”
“I would love to.”
As they began dancing, Clarisse leaned into Joseph. “What song is this? I think I’ve heard it before, but it’s been awhile.”
“I believe Celine Dion sings this it’s a song called “Because You Loved Me”
As they continued to move in time to the music, Clarisse listened intently to the words:
For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through - through it all
As she listened, her heart was filled with love for the man who had always stood by her and been a true friend bringing truth and joy to her life. She moved even closer to him as they danced.
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me
Across the room, Mia and Nicholas watched as the two moved across the dance floor to the powerful words. Their eyes locked in a gaze that spoke of years of friendship and love. Nicholas was the first to speak, although it was not more than a whisper to Mia.
“I want you to look at me some day the way she looks at him. If that means we wait a bit to let our relationship develop into something that’s even half as strong as that it will most certainly be worth the wait.”
You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you
You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you
As the song repeated the chorus a few more times, Mia watched as they moved together as one. She knew this came from a lifetime spent
together through both good times and bad. She leaned over and kissed Nicholas on the cheek. “Yes, yes it will.”
The dancing continued into the evening and ended when Mia tried to teach everyone some of her dancing styles. Clarisse could only shake her head. “If that’s what they’re calling dancing these days, my dear. I will pass. I prefer to dance in the arms of a man, not floundering about all by myself to music I don’t understand.” Everyone had laughed at the image of Clarisse “floundering about”.
Mia walked out with Nicholas to say good night.
“Joseph, let’s take a walk. It’s such a beautiful night.”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea. Let me grab your wrap and we’ll be on our way.”
He put his wrap around her shoulders and his arm around her waist as they strolled along the palace grounds. They were just conversing about Mia and Nicholas and young love when Clarisse stopped dead in her tracks.
Joseph stopped abruptly as well since he had his arm around her. One look at her face caused his stomach to lurch in his throat. “What’s wrong, Clarisse. You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
She didn’t speak. She just kept staring straight ahead. Finally, Joseph followed her gaze to see what held her in such a trance. As his eyes followed the path of hers, his heart sank as he saw the object of her stare. It was the greenhouse. He knew it was going to be a long night.
Back in time (but not so long ago)
After hearing her tell him, once again, that she was putting duty ahead of herself ahead of him ahead of them, it was all he could do to get out of the room without exploding. Years of emotions that were hidden away and controlled for so very long were now threatening to erupt inside of him like a volcano. He had been angry before, but never had he been this angry so angry he wanted to hit something - anything that would provide release from all of this pressure building inside of him. After storming out of the room, he had stewed and simmered just below boiling in his suite until darkness descended around the castle and he decided he had to get out and find something to help deal with these emotions. He went for a walk a very brisk walk trying to use up some of the negative energy that now threatened to destroy him from within.
He checked with security first to determine the whereabouts of Clarisse and Mia as he had no desire to interact with either of them right now. Clarisse…well for obvious reasons; and Mia, because he didn’t want to have to explain himself and she had enough on her plate with her wedding approaching only a couple of days away.
The night air hit his face and cooled his exterior but did nothing to alleviate the boiling point inside of him. He strode around the grounds almost in a haze until he came to an abrupt stop. He found himself directly in front of the greenhouse that contained her majesty’s roses the same greenhouse where they had first decided to be friends real friends. That seemed so many years - a lifetime ago now…
He decided to go in maybe going back to where it all started would bring him some peace and help him come to terms with what was going on in present day.
He was wrong…
The scent of the flowers evoked powerful memories and reminded him of her all of the wonderful things about her. Then the realization that it was never to be never would she trade her passion for her country and these roses for her passion for him. She had told him once that these were her passion, but he had foolishly thought that a warm bodied man who worshipped the ground she walked on would be an acceptable substitute…apparently he thought wrong. Although he was lost in his anger and misery, his fine tuned senses heard the door close quietly behind him. He whirled around with anger spilling from every pore of his being he looked at her and reigning himself in as much as he could said, “What are you doing here?”
“This is where I need to be” was the soft reply.
“Because it is my duty.”
“Duty?” The statement had left him momentarily confused but after thinking about it for no more than a few moments, he understood what she was saying to him.
“Does anyone else know you are here?” He stressed the “anyone” part.
“No - and that is the way it should remain.” Her voice was uncharacteristically calm considering the look of pain and anger on his face.
“I can’t be responsible for my actions you should leave.”
“You have been responsible for far too long this is about my responsibility to take care of the ones I love and would do anything for.” She had closed the gap between them and placed her hand on his cheek.
That was his undoing. Seeing the look in her eyes and knowing that something had to be done if there was any hope of salvaging the relationship, he allowed all of the pain and anger he was experiencing to spill out of him. He grabbed her and pushed her back so she was pressed against the wall of the greenhouse. His kisses were insistent and hard as he placed them along her neck and shoulder. He reached down to begin to undo the buttons of her blouse, but grew impatient and ripped the delicate material causing the buttons to fly in many directions. His hands grabbed the soft flesh of her breasts and his head dipped down to taste the valley between them. He pulled them to the ground discarding his shirt he rolled on top of her feeling her skin against his. He continued his barrage of kisses along her exposed skin until he could sense nothing else but her and the scent of the roses that surrounded them. He moved enough to pull her skirt up exposing her long beautiful legs. The panties were torn away and he began a less than gentle exploration of her womanhood. Her tears had not been registering on his radar but when she let out a small cry as a result of his hands he stopped cold.
Looking down at the woman lying beneath him, he saw really for the first time the lengths she was willing to go to the pain she was willing to endure to see this through.
He sat up pulling her skirt back down and pulling her up.
“Why?” she asked quietly.
“I’m so sorry I just can’t do this. I appreciate your willingness to do this, but it’s just not me. I’m so sorry that I hurt you.”
The tears spilled freely now and the sobs were racking his body.
She moved over closer to him and just held him for awhile. After the sobbing finally stopped, he looked up at her. He had a new appreciation for her and her sense of loyalty however misguided it was - to someone she cared very much about.
“Why Charlotte? Why did you come here tonight? What did you hope to accomplish?”
The tears were flowing from her now. “I just thought if you used me as a substitute to release some of your emotions, that maybe you could then find a way to make this work. I know you love her, Joe and she does love you I see it in her eyes. She just doesn’t know how to handle it right now.”
“And you thought by my sleeping with you, it would make things better?” He seemed a little confused. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a beautiful woman, but…”
“I never thought of it as you would be sleeping with me, but rather using my body pretending it was her.”
“Thank you Charlotte…thank you for - well - everything. I hope Her Majesty truly appreciates the lengths you are willing to go to for her. We, no I guess I, will find a way to make this work out. I’ll be retiring soon anyway perhaps time apart will allow me a fresh start.”
Charlotte now stood and putting back on what was left of her blouse and wiping her face off with some water from the hose. “You don’t really believe that do you, Joe?”
“No, Charlotte…no I don’t but one can always hope, right?” He tried a smile, but somehow it didn’t reach his eyes. “We should probably leave now the time is right for the security rotation that we can get to the secret passageway unseen and back into the castle unnoticed.
As they exited the greenhouse, Joseph had been correct that security was not around. However in their haste to get into the secret tunnel before security came back around, neither noticed that Her Majesty was standing in shock only a few feet in the opposite direction they were headed…