The Mirror's Reflection

Chapter 7

Clarisse felt Joseph’s hand at the small of her back; he was trying to give her strength and courage to see the plan through despite the added complexity of Charlotte being involved. He could only hope that Shades and the Royal Guard would adjust their plan of attack to accommodate this change in circumstances.

Charlotte continued to move forward, her eyes locked with Clarisse’s. When her face was lit enough, the Queen saw her mouth the words, “I’m sorry” before the man who was holding her hostage tightened his grip on her waist and pushed the barrel of his gun further against her temple.

Seeing Clarisse’s eyes widen at the sight of a gun, Lord Crawley sneered. “While my employees may prefer the beauty of the blade, I prefer the power of a bullet.”

“So I see.” Clarisse answered as she tried to stall for time. She fought the urge to check the time; she knew it couldn’t be too much longer, though.

“I brought Charlotte along as additional security – just in case you tried to be foolish and not do what was expected or you. Although I must admit, you always have done exactly that. From marrying the King and giving him heirs even though you didn’t love him to giving in to your feelings for Joseph which allowed us to coordinate this whole wonderful evening.”

Clarisse’s fingernails were imbedding solidly in the tender flesh of her palms…fighting to contain her emotions. She exhaled slowly. “It seems you have everything and everyone figured out.”

He laughed. “Yes, it seems I do. Everyone had just written me off as a drunk which allowed me to move all the pieces into place to finally bring my family back to the palace and the throne of Genovia. They may have lost it first to the Chevalier family and then the Renaldis because of their inability to stay away from the bottle; but I will reclaim it once more and our honor.”

This time it was the Queen who laughed. “If you consider what you’ve done here tonight honorable, then you are more of a fool than even I believed.”

Mia watched the exchange with feigned interest; her focus was centered on the knife that was almost within her grasp. While her grandmother and Lord Crawley shared a history and ethics lesson, she was waiting for an opening that would allow her to regain a bit of an upper hand. Silently calculating her odds for success, she waited.

“You will hold your tongue woman or I will be forced to destroy this lovely woman in my arms.” He pulled Charlotte closer to him. “Although I was planning on keeping her around as my mistress so she could be taught some lessons on how to show respect to Lords and Ladies. Her treatment of me at State dinners and functions has been less than desirable…she needs to be taught some manners.”

Joseph thanked the heavens when he saw the tiny flash of light at the door which indicated all the pieces were in place. He only prayed he could get to everyone in time. His hand went to the small of Clarisse’s back to silently tell her to get ready. As the clock began to strike midnight, he shouted. “Now!!!”

At his words, he stepped in front of Clarisse and knocked the candle over so it would fall onto the abdication documents burning them beyond recognition. Clarisse hastened towards the ante room to secure the Renaldi seal back in the safe. Joseph lunged towards Mia to try to move her from harm’s way, but she rotated out of André’s grip and away from Joseph, grabbing the knife as she moved out of his grasp.

Joseph couldn’t stop his momentum and had to pray that Amelia’s anger would carry her through her desire to subdue André. As he moved towards Charlotte, Shades and the Royal Guard swarmed from behind the shadows to subdue Lord Crawley. Fortunately, the man had been so stunned by Joseph/Jacob’s actions that he hadn’t immediately pulled the trigger, giving them valuable seconds to save Charlotte’s life. He tackled Charlotte, driving her to the ground while Shades secured the gun before even a shot could be fired.

The final chimes of the clock sounded and then there was an eerie silence as the dust settled around the room and all activity ceased. In a matter of twelve seconds, the balance of power had been restored. The Renaldi seal was back in the safe protected by a combination that only the Queen knew; Lord Crawley was being restrained by the Royal Guard and Mia had André against the wall with the knife pointed directly at his heart.

The Queen’s voice broke through the silence. “Amelia, why don’t you let Shades take it from here?”

Everyone watched and waited, their breath held as the Princess wrestled with her emotions. She wanted so badly to exact revenge on the man who had taken advantage of her heart and of her trusting nature. She had never felt so betrayed in her life. Then she thought of her grandmother and how betrayed she must feel right now. She cast a quick glance in that direction to see Clarisse standing in front of the marble table surveying the ashes of what had once been the document that would have changed their lives forever.

She heard a noise behind her and turned to see Shades and Joseph coming up behind her. They don’t realize he’s not with us anymore! She thought with sudden alarm. She whirled quickly and handed the knife to Shades before quickly stepping in front of Joseph and bringing her knee up sharply to his groin area.

“Amelia!!!” Clarisse cried out as Joseph cried out and doubled over in pain.

“You’re welcome, Gramma. He deserved it! Captain Kelley, arrest this man.” Mia ordered.

Captain Kelley rushed to where Joseph was kneeling on the floor, but stopped short of arresting him. He looked to the Queen. “Ma’am?”

“As you were, Captain – there’s no need to arrest him.” The Queen advised.


Clarisse put her hand to her head and sighed…it had been a long night. “Mia, please. I’ll explain in a bit. Captain Kelley, please see that Lord Crawley and André are given an armed escort to a holding cell and call the local authorities. Scott, please get medical attention for Amelia and Charlotte and…” she looked at the man still sitting on the floor. “Joseph?”

He raised a hand to indicate he would be alright – he would just need a few minutes. “Alright then, just Amelia and Charlotte and then please escort them back to the Princess’ suite.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Both Shades and Captain Kelley bolted into action at their Queen’s command. Captain Kelley issued orders to the guard while Shades scooped Mia into his arms and headed toward the infirmary with Charlotte close behind. Neither knew exactly what had transpired this evening; but they were certainly hopeful the maids could shed some light on it…since they always knew everything.

Within minutes, the throne room was cleared except for Clarisse and Joseph. The Queen let exhaustion overcome her and was sitting with her eyes closed on the throne, thankful that all had worked out for Genovia – even if she and Amelia may never be the same again from the events that had taken place tonight. Joseph had finally been able to stand and had moved over to sit on the steps leading up to the platform where the throne rested.

He finally stood and quietly spoke. “Your Majesty?”

Her eyes opened to find his. His heart broke as he saw confusion and pain coloring the normally crystalline blue orbs. “Yes.”

Joseph sighed. “May I suggest that I escort you to the Princess’ room while I take care of…” he hesitated, unsure of what her reaction would be when he brought the subject up again. “…other matters.”

Clarisse shuddered and her eyes went cold. “Of course…”

Joseph moved closer as she stood up. He wanted to reach out to her; but couldn’t handle watching her flinch at his touch. He would deal with his ‘problem’ and then set about trying to get things back to normal with the woman he loved more than life itself. “I’m sorry, Clarisse.”

“As am I, Joseph…as am I.”


After ensuring Jacob was behind bars and assuring him he would be back soon for a lengthy conversation, he found his way back to the cell that he had been held in. Alexandra was sitting on the bunk looking less than pleased with her predicament. “You tricked me.” She scowled.

Her statement was laughable considering all of the deception that he had experienced at her hand. “You deserved it.” He replied.

“My head is hurting.” She complained.

This statement did bring a smile as he thought about how she had earned the goose egg on her forehead earlier that night…

Joseph walked up to the bars and looked at the young woman who was ‘standing guard’ while Jacob and André were out doing God knew what to Clarisse and Amelia. He knew he was running out of time if he was going to intervene. “I guess I should have known better than to think a beautiful young woman such as yourself would be interested in an old man like me.” He sighed.

Alexandra sauntered up to the bars so she was standing only inches away from him; her hand slipped through the space between them and caressed his chest. “Oh, I don’t know, Joseph…you are very handsome. You just come off as very unavailable since your affections are clearly directed towards a certain member of the royal family.”

He couldn’t believe he was doing this, but desperate times called for desperate measures. He let his hand drift out to comb through her golden locks and offered. “Perhaps I’ve never been provided with a suitable alternative.” His eyes locked with hers and held them. It was to his advantage that she was very young and, thankfully, more naïve than she pretended to be.

She closed the distance between them, her lips tentatively touching his. Joseph knew this was his opportunity. He deepened the kiss and let his hand slip to the back of her neck. With one quick move, his hand gripped her neck and jerked her head back and then slammed it into the steel bar. As her body went limp, Joseph maintained his hold on her neck and sank to the floor with her. He moved her until he was able to retrieve the keys out of her pocket and free himself. He placed her carefully on the bunk and put a cool wet cloth on her forehead. Locking the door behind him, he left to find Clarisse.

He unlocked the door. “Come on. I’ll get you some medical attention and then turn you over to the Master at Arms.”

“Is Charlotte alright?” Alexandra asked as they walked towards the infirmary.

“Why do you ask?”

“I was worried that he would hurt her. You have to believe me when I tell you I didn’t want to do that.” She confessed.

“Do what?”

“Lie to her to get her to leave her suite. I told her that Princess Amelia needed her. I know she had not been feeling well, but he insisted. When she got to the end of the corridor, he grabbed her and then he pulled out the gun. That’s when he sent me back here to watch you.”

He shook his head. “I have no idea how you got messed up with such bad influences. I suggest when you get out of prison that you make better choices for your associates.”

She sighed and then grinned. “Understood. But at least I got to kiss you.”

He grabbed her arm, pulling her along. “That’s enough. Let’s go.”


As Joseph walked back towards the private residence, he thought about the number of things that had gone wrong. He had never considered security outside the staff quarters to be necessary since the Palace itself was guarded…but he had never considered such an elaborate deception within the walls of a place that was supposed to be safe – they would definitely need a better screening process for their employees and for guests at parties. He would also need to speak with Lionel regarding how much information he had, he was sure, unwittingly shared about Palace security with André. They would need to make necessary changes to their security protocols to compensate.

He met up with Shades in the security office and confirmed that he would contact the press secretary later to advise that both the Queen and Princess had come down with a virus and would be staying out of the public eye for the next week to avoid exposing any of the citizens to the illness and that no guests would be allowed in the Palace during the same time.

Joseph found Clarisse around two a.m. sitting with Mia and Charlotte in Mia’s suite. The women all looked exhausted, but too frightened to sleep.

When the two men were admitted into the suite, Mia came running up to Joseph and hugged him fiercely. “I’m so sorry, Joe…I didn’t know. Gramma explained to me. Where is he? Did you know about him? Where has he been all this time?”

“Amelia!” Clarisse’s voice cut into the line of questioning.

“Sorry, Gramma.” She turned towards the older woman…worried about how she was holding up and how long it would take before she could come to terms with the whole Jacob/Joseph ordeal. Mia hugged him again and whispered in his ear. “I really am sorry about the whole…you know…I thought you were…him.”

Joseph placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “It’s alright, Princess, I deserved it.”

Mia was taken aback. “How can you say that, Joe?”

Both Clarisse and Charlotte turned in his direction at his admission. His eyes locked with Clarisse’s. “I let Charlotte, you and your grandmother down…I deserved what you gave me and more.”

“You rescued us and, even though she won’t talk about what happened…I know you rescued Gramma as well.”

“It was my job to keep you all safe…and I failed. For that, I couldn’t be sorrier.”

“I forgive you, Joe. And…” she leaned in to whisper in his ear. “She will too…just give her some time.”

He nodded his head in understanding and hoped that the young woman was right. He hugged her again before releasing her and stating. “I’ve asked Shades to stay with you and Charlotte tonight, if that is acceptable?” His question was made directly to Clarisse as that would mean that he would be watching over her.

Clarisse hugged Charlotte and then kissed Mia on the cheek. She touched Shades on the shoulder. “Thank you, Scott, for your help tonight and for watching over them. I’ll speak to your boss about a promotion.” She smiled weakly.

“Thank you, ma’am; I, we, are all sorry that we weren’t able to stop it before it came to this tonight.”

“We were all deceived, Scott.” She turned towards the two women. “Try to get some rest and I’ll see you later this morning when we’ll try to sort out how to handle all of this as discreetly as possible.”

Charlotte nodded. “Yes ma’am.”

Clarisse turned to Joseph. “Shall we?”

He nodded and opened the door, walking, as he always had done before, two steps behind her. When they arrived at her suite, the footmen opened the doors to allow them inside. Joseph wasn’t sure how to proceed from here. He had no intention of leaving her alone in the suite tonight…even with the guards outside. He didn’t want to argue with her; but she needed to understand that HE needed to be here…to make sure she was alright.

He looked up to find her standing at the open door to her bedroom. “Where is everything? Oh my God, the maids…” Her hand went to cover her mouth as she thought someone else might be privy to what had happened here tonight.

Joseph quickly moved behind her, careful not to touch her. “I took care of it, Clarisse…no one else knows. All evidence was removed, the sheets have been changed, and the vase was from my room…so no one will even realize it is gone.”

Her shoulders visibly dropped as relief flooded her body. “Thank you…for everything.”

“No thanks are necessary.”

She turned around, anger filling her eyes. “So I am not to be thankful for you stopping that…animal before he violated me any more than he already had? Am I not to be thankful for you insisting that we follow through so we could discover who was trying to wrestle the throne from my grasp yet again? Am I not to be thankful that you know me well enough to know that I’ve needed space…even though you don’t know why?”

Joseph rested his forehead on the wall next to her door as she unleashed her remaining emotion. He couldn’t even look at her…he couldn’t even fathom what to say. He had no idea what had happened to her tonight and knew that she could not talk to him about it tonight…if ever. He let out a slow breath. “I’m sorry and…you’re welcome.”

Neither spoke and neither moved for several minutes. Finally, he spoke. “I’m not leaving your suite tonight. You can choose where I stay…but I am not leaving.”

He had expected an argument…had almost hoped for one. Instead her words, spoken quietly, tore at his very soul. “While your presence is…unsettling, I would be more upset if you were not here with me.”

“I’m going to get ready for bed now.” She said as she walked towards the bathroom. Once the door was closed, he walked into her bedroom. He turned down the bed for her and then moved the chaise lounge in front of the area where the secret passage way emerged. It was important that she feel safe and know that no one was going to get anywhere near her or hurt her…ever again. He reclined on the chair and closed his eyes, trying to find peace somewhere in his troubled mind. She had let him stay…that was an important step…maybe there would be hope for them yet.

Before he could get too comfortable, he heard her crying…it was almost as though she were inside his head. Then he remembered – the earpiece. She must have forgotten about the microphone hidden inside the necklace. Her gut wrenching sobs, though only heard in his head…tore into his heart just as if André had physically plunged one of the knives into his chest. She had been a tower of strength, surviving God knows what…and not until she was assured that everyone and everything was alright…would she let herself fall apart. He had seen it when Rupert had died and then again with Philippe. He had felt a special connection with her as he was the only one she had ever let see her like that. It made him wonder…did she know that he could hear this time or had she truly meant for it to be a private moment? Regardless, he would wait for her…and while he waited…he would allow himself to cry too.

Several minutes later, she emerged. Her face was tear-stained and she looked as bad as he could ever remember. He watched as she surveyed the arranging he had done. A grateful look crossed her features when she noticed that his ‘post’ was in front of the only secret access to her bedroom. She didn’t speak, but nodded her thanks; he returned the gesture.

Though they both closed their eyes…neither slept; it had been a long day and would be an even longer night.