Stephen was just your ordinary thirty-two-year-old bachelor living in the modern Republic of Gadstonia. He woke up most mornings in his townhouse situated in the capital city, had himself coffee and cooked his breakfast, went to work as an operations assistant at a local baseball field, engaged in several sports and social hobbies in his spare time, and was friends with the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex…
Attended both of their weddings, in fact.
Just your ordinary guy.
Stephen’s life had silver spoon perks and obligations. Even “ordinary living” was to an extent for his own safety, but he enjoyed every chance he had to live outside of the limelight over the last several years. Fewer things were more refreshing to him than coming home to a quiet uptown suburb after a state affair, slipping into a pair of sweats, and plopping on the couch to catch up on some TV. Or enjoying sports at the pub on weekends like other “ordinary people”.
He even got a personal kick out of how the ordinary people dated as the casual attitudes and dating apps bucked the traditions of the institution responsible for his silver spoon. If his royal friends could do it though, he thought, why couldn’t I? Either with the right woman, he’d bend the institution towards accepting more of the twenty-first century, or for the right woman, he’d break himself of the institution to be with her. That’s more or less what they did, right? He’d have to call them later for their advice…
So, he was on his third date with a respectable woman he matched with. She was a fellow sports-lover and a gym teacher. They were starting to feel something special, so he treated her to dinner at a posh local restaurant and planned to invite her to his place afterwards.
She accepted his invitation. She went to the restroom while he paid the bill. He enjoyed the perks of deep pockets but at the same time learned how to treat friends without making them uncomfortable. Somehow, he kept the real reason for his pockets hidden after all this time. Since he was thinking about the dukes, he pulled out his phone to send either of them a message, only to find he received one:
Westdonian Bridge is down and Forrest Hill is vacated.
Oh no…that meant both the current monarch and their intended successor were both very recently departed, which meant big things for him very soon, but his date returned before he could respond. He buried his concerns for the sake of appearances, but they grew in his mind. More than anything, tonight was not going to go at all like either of them hoped.
They pulled up to his townhouse later to find black vehicles in the driveway.
“Oh, is your family home?” His date innocently wondered, unbeknownst to her they were actually his family’s secret service.
“Something like that,” Stephen admitted. He had to prepare her but wasn’t sure how. There was going to be a lot to think about in the coming days. He might not have time for her.
“Listen,” He said at his doorstep. “Have you heard of Operation London Bridge?”
“No,” Slim chance many people outside The Firm and the British press knew. Granted, parts of the “secret” plans found their way to the internet and allusions to it were made in pop culture television series over the last few years, both places where the ordinary people could find them if they were interested. But still, this wasn’t going to be brief without that foundation to go on.
“Operation London Bridge is the series of protocols that take effect in the United Kingdom when The Queen dies. Gadstonia has something very similar…and its in effect now.”
“What does this have to do with anything?” His date wondered.
“Everything,” He sighed. “It means I’m about to be the next ruler to the Republic of Gadstonia.”
“What?” She balked.
He finally opened the door to his place, where he was greeted by several bows and “His majesty, the King” from the security detail who were either waiting on him or preparing the townhouse for his departure.
Stephen solemnly stood in his entryway while his date was rendered dumbstruck. He turned to her and clasped her hands. Pain in his eyes met wild confusion in hers. He wished the gesture could help comfort her or make sense of the situation.
“I’m sorry I’ve never been totally honest about who I am. I know it’s the worst foundation for a relationship. But at the same time, I’ve never had anything as special as what we have and I really wanted to work it out if we could. And I hoped I’d have the time to until now.”
“Who are you?” his date whispered. Emotion pinched her throat.
“This morning, I was Stephen Alexander George Connoroy the Eighth, Grand Duke of the Gadstonian Republic. Her Majesty, Queen Daphne, was my grandmother and her son, Prince Stephen, was my father. Both have passed away and now I ascend the throne.”
“I’m-so sorry…” his date choked. She felt a mix of fear and sympathy. Fear, of course, because someone special to her was not completely honest about himself. And now she stood in the presence of royalty. But sympathy because someone special to her just lost part of his family. Though she feared once more about being there for him in his time of need, much less what this could mean for their relationship.
“Um, do I need to-curtsey now or something?” She shakily attempted a pose.
“Only if you’re that traditional,” he mused, hoping a gentle smile and touch might comfort her.
“Your Majesty, you must prepare to appear before the council,” a security man politely cut in.
“Right…” the heir apparent sighed. “Duty calls…but is there someone to spare to take my date home first?”
“Yes, Majesty,” the security man bowed before turning to delegate the task to another member of the detail.
“I can’t apologize enough,” the heir told his date again, shaking his head. “I can understand if you don’t want me anymore and the next several days are going to be a whirlwind for everyone. But I promise I could write and still find a way to make things work, if you still want me that is.”
“I don’t know,” she started crying. The next thing anybody knew, the security chosen to escort her home approached them, gently parting the breaking hearts.