I brace myself as we pull up to the banquet hall, a white stucco monstrosity flaunting French windows echoed by excessive arches. As expected, a crowd packs the sidewalk before it: reporters readying microphones and cameramen hoisting their equipment on their shoulders; photographers, bulky cameras clicking and flashing (they can’t see us through our limousine’s tinted windows, but, apparently, they see a public demand for pictures of the vehicle); others here simply because idolize us, because of who we are rather than what we do.

           I’ve been dreading this for days now, fighting the temptation to try to back out. But I know Mother wouldn’t stand for it; I am a princess, and, as such, I need to make sure that I don’t seem “aloof” to our citizens. We govern them, and they, in turn, govern us.

           I pull a breath into stiff lungs. The driver reaches my door and opens it for me, as if I haven’t the strength to do so myself. I force reluctant legs to propel me out, into the throng. As my mother slides out behind me, questions pelt me. Too many at once to make out any of them.

           My mother takes charge, telling the crowd that they will have their questions answered if they kindly wait until she calls on them. The crowd instantly quiets; my mother is a true queen, her presence commanding the respect and obedience her slim frame and average height cannot. I swallow what feels like a baseball and prepare for the onslaught.

           The first person my mother calls on—a reporter for Channel 7—remarks to me, “I love your coat, and I think I recognize it. Did you get that from Queen Holly?”

           My late grandmother. Yes, I’ve topped my shift dress with one of her coats, a gray wool belted trench. One of her favorites. I didn’t want to wear it; I feel as if, after clothing Grandma, it finds my inhabiting it a colossal disappointment. But my mother insisted, proclaiming it a symbol of tradition—something that she holds as dear as she does my brother and me, or maybe even more (I don’t like to ruminate on that question). I tell the reporter that yes, it did belong to my grandmother, and I feel honored to wear it.

           Another reporter asks us whether we look forward to the gala. A big to-do where we’ll parade around like zoo animals, making small talk with people who love us but don’t know us, people in glitzy gowns and custom-made suits sipping from champagne flutes that they’ll refill far too many times. Mother says we can’t wait.

           A reporter asks me when Arthur and I are going to have children. The question wracks my gut with pain very much like that that I felt three nights ago. I see myself doubling over on the toilet, Arthur smoothing stray hairs off my sweat-drenched forehead, my mother in the other room, talking on the phone with our doctor. We didn’t speak, didn’t dare voice the panic twisting our brains, as if that would jinx it, as if that would make a difference.

           It didn’t. When he arrived, the doctor confirmed our worst fears. Even though I’d spent the last hour contemplating it, it hit me like an asteroid fresh from space. I collapsed into Arthur’s arms, and he collapsed onto me, and we cried ourselves as dry as cacti in the Sahara. I’ve spent every free moment since either trying to convince myself that I don’t deserve the blame or excoriating myself because I feel I do. And now I have to pretend it never happened because Mother says we can’t reveal it, because it would “weaken our bloodline” in the public’s eyes. They would, she feared, lament Grandma’s decision to, after the death of her son—her only living relative except for me and my brother, who were both too young to take the throne at the time—allow my mother, a commoner by blood, to take the throne following her death. I don’t think they’d judge us so harshly, and, if they did, I wouldn’t want their support, anyway. But I will oblige, because I have to. Because I’m a princess.

           I don’t tell the reporter of the pain. I don’t tell her that we don’t have to have kids if we don’t want them. I don’t tell her that it’s none of her business. Instead, I swallow my grief and anger and tell her that we’ll get to it when the time feels right, with a smile that I can’t help hoping will tell her she’s offended me but know won’t.

           They move onto other topics, other questions. Mother fields a few. Then, they ask me about Kristin—my brother’s girlfriend of two years. They tell me—as if I don’t already know—that rumor has it that she and I don’t like each other very much. The rumors are true. I tried to like Kristin, I really did, but she’s made it impossible for me. The way she drags my brother window shopping to not-so-subtly point out that she “adores” a piece of jewelry that they “happen” to pass by in one of said windows; the way she reminded him at least twenty times that she had a birthday coming up; her snide remarks about the clothing of people who probably can’t afford better, or who would rather spend their money on more worthwhile things than Michael Kors dresses or Giuseppe Zanotti heels; the way she constantly whines about having to work, just like almost everyone else. It gets to a person. But I assure the reporter that such talk could not be further from the truth; Kristin and I adore each other. The reporter nods, smiling, but I can see disappointment flashing in her eyes.

           Another woman comes forward. A baby wriggles in her arms. I freeze for a moment, the glint of its denim-blue eyes piercing my flesh, its coos ice picks thrust into my ears. The woman asks if I’ll take a picture with the child. I force a breath into lungs as stiff as crackers. I’ll do as she asks. It will break me. But not here, not now, not until I’m alone in my room, with a pillow to muffle my sobs. Because I will not let Mother down.

           Because I’m a princess.

September 03, 2022 01:17

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Arilynn Gilbert
18:58 Sep 06, 2022

Thats beatiful.


Marie White
16:45 Sep 07, 2022

Thank you!


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Tommy Goround
09:55 Sep 03, 2022

Short; engrossing... I like the way you write this. (Thought it was a parallel with a celebrity for many paragraphs) The Queen (consort) mother is a formidable character. The MC seems introspective and noble. Theme: The Line must continue. Sex is not a plaything. In fact, half of her job is to procreate or else her brother's line will succeed. But the second half of her job is to inspire the people. They mutually govern each other. What a wonderful analysis. Who wanted to give Mick Jagger a knighthood? Perhaps they don't see any elements...


Marie White
16:43 Sep 03, 2022

Thanks so much for your feedback! Your analysis was spot-on, and I like your suggestion of writing "I am" rather than "I'm." Thanks for reading!


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