-Are you sure, darling?”
The deep voice came from a corner of the room. It was a man’s. He was in a suit, a cigar in hand, looking out the window at the street. It was a rainy night. No one was outside at this time, in those conditions.
-Yes, I am.”
At the desk in the middle of the room, a woman was writing. She was young, twenty five at most, her red dress shone under the candlelight. She was sitting straight. In her hand, there was a long white quill filled with dark blue ink. The paper was stained by tears.
The man turned.
-I disagree with what you have chosen, Linda, darling.”
She put the quill down and folded the parchment in three equal pieces, like a letter.
-You always do, James. Disagreements are the reason we aren’t married. I can’t stand you darling.”
-But Linda, my princess, you don’t understand. Alexander is too young to take our place. You are the heiress of the kingdom. If you die, your legitimate son will become heir. Alex is too young. He’ll be killed by your political enemies. You are foolish.”
-He might be young, but he is smart. And he’ll learn. He’ll have you, and Jane.”
-Jane might be nice and willing to help, but she’s isn’t the brightest lantern. And she can’t keep a secret.”
-Keep on insulting my cousin, would you.”
-Linda… I’m sorry, love, I just… I can’t stand her.”
-Is it because she revealed you are Alex’s father to my parents?”
-Well, yes, but I forgave her… I don’t want you to be mad at me.”
-What day are we?”
-The twenty second of December of the year two thousand, five hundred, and eight.”
-I just needed you to tell me we are twenty second! Would you help me close it, please James?”
He took one of the candles in his hand and let some wax slip onto the paper. She quickly pressed her ring to print a seal and a latin phrase.
-Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici.” They both smiled at his words.
-By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe.” she translated.
-That fits you, honey.”
-Thank you, James… Do you say that because I’m as good as dead?”
-No, of course not, Linda!”
-I have to leave now. I’ll give my will to my father.”
-I can take care of it if you want.”
-No James. We are not married. My father might not like me, but he is a man of honor. He will never modify my will in his favor. And I’ll give a copy to Jane just in case.”
-Do you have to run into the belly of the beast?”
-Yes. If I don’t, they will reveal to the world Alex’s existence, and that can’t happen while I’m alive, otherwise, I’ll be imprisoned and tortured, your reputation will be ruined, and dishonor will be brought upon our kingdom.”
-So many consequences for an error Jane made.”
-There will be o scandal. Alexander will grow up to become ruler when my parents will die. You will be forgotten by history.”
There was a silence. James opened the door for her and followed her out.
-I’m sorry, you know. I’m so sorry for Alexander. He will never get to know his mother well. He probably won’t even remember me.”
-I know, Linda, I know. I’m sorry too.”
-But it’s not your fault, you don’t have to regret anything.”
-I don’t regret what I did. I just regret not being there for you.”
They arrived at the bottom of the stairs and James stopped.
She started to walk away, but before opening the door, turned around and kissed him in silence.
James closed his eyes and tried to grab her hand, which caused her to move back.
They exchanged a knowing look and she exited the building.
Oh no… I forgot my umbrella inside! Thought the young lady.
She was wearing a gorgeous long red dress under a fancy vintage beige trench coat, but it wasn’t enough to shield the cold winter wind, and she was shivering.
The rain was undoing her elegant hair do and darkening her caramel colored hair.
She soon arrived at a castle that looked straight out of a fairytale. She rang at the golden gates and a concierge opened the door with a welcoming smile.
-Hello Miss. What can I do for you?”
-Hello Simon. Would you give this to my father when he will be back from his trip.”
-Sure.” a curious gleam shone in his eyes. “With all due respect, miss, what is it?”
-Miss! You are young… Isn’t it a bit… precautious?”
-No. It’s long overdue. You see, I have a… I have a task to do. I just needed time to gather up the courage and, well, do it.”
-Well then, I hope the King, your father, will be glad at the news of your courage and willingness to accomplish this… task, Miss.”
-Oh, Simon, if only he could be glad. He will definitely not like what I’ve decided for the future of Al…”
She stopped mid sentence and looked at the old man.
She could trust him.
-I see Miss. Well, you shouldn’t stay out in the cold. Come in! Your mother is in her room, she’d love a visit!”
-I… I’m sorry, I can’t.”
-No problem, Miss. I hope to see you soon!”
-Me too, Simon. Good night.”
She knew she wouldn’t see him anymore, she would die soon.
One last thing to do.
She walked some more and arrived at a building.
She opened the door with a golden key and started walking up the stairs.
The young woman opened the last door.
A younger woman in a blue dress was playing with a little kid on the floor of the living room. They had figurines of horses and soldiers in their hands.
The boy was around three, he had Jame’s blond hair and oval face. His naive blue eyes shone at the sight of Linda.
-Mother!” He raced to hug her and she took him in her gracious arms.
-Alex, honey, you’re not in bed yet?”
-No… I was waiting for you.”
-He threw a tantrum when I tried to get him in bed, Linda,” said the other girl. “I thought waiting for you would be better.”
-You were right, Jane, since it’s the last…” She stopped. She didn’t want Alexander to know it was goodbye.
The kid was playing with her hair. It had been held up in a braid around her head like a diadem, but the rain, wind, and horse ride, had made it fall onto her shoulders like a commoner…
-So… It’s over?” asked the blonde woman to her cousin.
-Yes. I am leaving in an hour, at most. James will be waiting for me by the river, and we will go to the… the place you know. I shall be meeting our enemies at sunrise.”
-You could try to not go.”
-No. If I don’t, he will go after Alexander, they know he is here. I can’t have that. I’d rather die.”
Alex’s head was falling on the woman’s shoulder.
-He is exhausted, Jane, I’ll go put him to sleep.”
The young mother kissed her son’s hand when she let go of him. He woke up.
-Mother? Are you leaving already?”
-Yes Alexander. I must leave.”
-Will you be back in the morning.”
She wanted to lie, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
-No. I won’t be back.”
-Never. But we’ll see each other again. In a long time. You’ll be patient, right?”
-Yes mother… Where are you going?”
-I’m going somewhere beautiful. Somewhere the roads are paved of gold and diamonds. Angels will come to pick me up and make me fly on their wings. The sky is always sunny, but somehow, there are always several rainbows in the sky. It’s warm and every one I loved will be there.”
-Can I come with you?”
-Not today. But soon.”
-Will father be with you there?”
-No, he will stay here to take care of you and raise to take the throne, my prince.”
-When will I see father?”
-Soon… He’ll come tomorrow to see you.”
-Really? Do you promise he will come?”
-Oh mother, I am so excited!”
-I can imagine… I have to go now. Sleep, my Alexander, tomorrow will be a new day and you will need strength and courage. You are my son. You are a prince. On your shoulders will lay the fate of a kingdom, my son.”
She rose from the bed and opened the door.
-I love you.”
-Me too, honey. I love you. Goodbye.”
Alexander didn’t sleep well that night. He dreamt of his parents. They were holding his hand, but slowly disappearing in the dark. “Mother! Where are you! Mother!” He screamed in his sleep.
When Linda came back into the living room, Jane was looking at a picture on the chimney.
It was them.
Alex had just been born, James was smiling, Jane looked even younger, and Linda looked less broken. She hadn’t lived through all the hardships life threw upon her yet.
-I remember that picture, Jane. We were at the park, it was summer.” Linda’s voice was sweet, but sad, with a hint of melancholy.
-Yes, we just had a picnic near the river.”
-It was a long time ago.”
-It was. The past is past, we cannot change what has happened, Linda.”
-No. We cannot change what has happened,” Linda repeated, “but we can look out to the future and shape it however we dream.”
-You are inspiring when you say things like that.”
-Did you kiss Alexander?” The smallest of the two asked.
-Yes. For the last time.”
-I’ll take care of him, Linda, count on me.”
-I know I can count on you. But I have written my will.”
-You have?” Linda could sense the worry in her cousin’s voice. “What have you decided.”
-Jane… I know you will disagree… I left the apartment to you.”
-You shouldn’t have… It’s yours! James gave it to you to raise Alexander properly.”
-I decided Alexander should be raised by James. By his father. Not by you.”
-Linda! James never did anything for Alex. He never came to visit! He never helped! He wasn’t there for his birthday, for his first steps, for… everything! I’ve helped you since the beginning and I’m willing to dedicate my life to him, for you, for him, for our kingdom. He shall rule over us all. He will be magnificent. He will be strong and pure of heart. James cannot take care of the future monarch.”
-Jane, this is hard enough without you scolding my choices.”
-James will never be strong enough to raise your son.”
-He’ll never know if he doesn’t try. You can live with them at the palace if you want to. You are the princess of the kingdom. The last princess. Everyone else has died.”
-It’s not my fault. I’m an orphan, a single child. There isn’t anyone else in the family but you, your parents, Alex, and I. If Alexander is not recognized as your son and rightful prince…”
-Then you will become queen.”
-I don’t want to, Linda.”
-I know. Don’t be afraid. Whatever God sends your way, you will be strong enough to face. And you won’t be alone.”
-Yes. You have to leave soon. What did you decide for the rest of your belongings?”
-All the rest, including my signet ring and the rights to my poetry, will go to Alexander.”
-Everything else to Alexander, didn’t you hear.”
-You shouldn’t do that. You’re putting his life in danger by making him the richest toddler in the world.”
-Linda. You are the best mother I could ever dream of for your son, and the most amazing cousin. Alexander and I, we will love you no matter what. But putting him in danger is the worst choice you could make, you know.”
Tears rolled down Linda’s face and with the last drops of energy, she screamed and cried.
-Don’t you think I know that already!”
-Don’t you think I love him, I want him to be happy. But no matter what I do, everyone will be disappointed.”
She fell to her knees.
-I know, Linda, I know. You are doing the best you can.”
She rose a second later, dried her tears, and started to leave.
The princess was strong and seeing her cry had shaken Jane, it was the first time she showed weakness and humanity to her cousin.
-We love you. James and I will always tell Alex how much you loved him and how strong you were. I promise.”
When Jane woke up, the sun had risen. Alexander was pulling on her dress with a smile.
-Auntie Jane? Wake up! I want to play? Mother said father would come to visit today.”
-Yes Alex. He will come.”
-Why are you crying?”
-It’s… Your mother left.”
-I know. But isn’t she somewhere beautiful? She is with everyone she has loved. She is happy. I will join her someday. Oh, I am so excited, I hope that day will come very soon, Auntie Jane.”
Jane smiled sadly at the boy’s words. He hugged his Auntie Jane and dried her tears.
In a parisian building, behind closed windows and curtains, James was punching a wall with all his strength. The pain melted with his anger and he punched harder.
-I can’t believe she’s gone!” He screamed. “She’s gone.”
It took him some time to calm down. He sat at the very desk she had sat on to write the day before.
He got the signet ring out of his pocket and read the phrase out loud, those words had been her last.
-Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici.”