The Prince - Chapter 12

Hello guys and girls!  I know that a lot of you are enjoying the story, and I’m personally very happy about that!  I hope that you continue to enjoy it through this chapter, the next chapter, and then the epilogue!  As with the last couple of chapters, there will be a contest for an advanced copy of chapter 13 (the final chapter of the story).  Details will be in a message on the yahoo group!  The link is .   As always, you can also email me any comments and questions.  My email is    


David :)

The Prince

Chapter 12



    Margaret was stuck in traffic.  It was 9 in the morning, and she was stuck in traffic.  Rarely did she drive, but there always seemed to be something going on whenever she got behind the wheel of a car.  “This is going to be a nightmare!” she yelled as she looked around at all the traffic in front of her and behind her, at a complete stop.  The weather was bad, so she couldn’t really see very far in any direction.  Her cell phone began to ring as she sat there with the automatic transmission in park.  “Hello?” she answered.


    “How are things going?” the Queen asked.  “Have you picked up the package yet?”


    “Not yet.  I’m stuck in traffic right now.  There seems to have been an accident on this highway.”


    “Oh.  Well, I won’t keep you then.  I just wanted to know if you’d picked it up yet,” the Queen said.


    “I will call you when I do,” she said.  “How is my brother?”


    “He’s fine.  It’s been a month since everything happened and he still seems down a bit.  I hope that this will make him feel a little bit better.”


    “Yeah,” Margaret agreed, “it will either cheer him up or give him closure.  One of the two.”




    “Well.  I should probably let you go,” Margaret said as a police car drove past her on the right hand side.  


    “Alright.  Be very careful,” the Queen advised.


    “I will.  Bye, Mom.”


    “Bye!” the Queen responded as the connection between them closed.  Margaret thought about what she was doing.  She was on a mission, it seemed, to fix her brother’s love life.  Perhaps in the back of her mind, she was concerned with his social well-being more than her own.  Perhaps she thought that if there were any member of her family that could hope of having a normal relationship with a hot man, it would be her brother.  Perhaps she felt that if she fixed this, karma would be good to her in the future.  Either way, though, she knew what she was doing.  She’d hoped that Marcia would be the only other person that would know, but the Queen figured out that something was going on before her departure the day before.  Alex didn’t know, though, as far as she knew, and that’s the way she wanted it.  She didn’t want him to know, just in case the plan she’d hatched in her mind didn’t work out just the way she was hoping.  It was her way of sparing him more hurting and more pain.


    It was only a few minutes later that the traffic began to again move at a very slow pace.  Before long, she was out of Birmingham completely, heading north on I-59 toward Gadsden.  She passed Springville and the new Wal-Mart just off the interstate.  She went through Ashville and Steel.  And the trees.  All those trees, with their bright, green, new leaves.  She loved the way the mountains all around seemed completely unspoiled by the civilization that seemed to be creaking toward it.  The rain stopped on her way up, leaving a fresh, cool breeze out that ran through the car the moment that she pushed the little button to lower her driver’s side window a bit.  She passed through Gadsden, remembering very vividly the directions that Marcia had printed for her but that she’d left in Cabocha.  Just to verify, though, she picked up the phone and called Marcia’s extension at the palace directly.


    “Good afternoon, Queen Isabel’s office,” Marcia said.


    “Hello, Marcia!” she said.


    “And how are you?” Marcia said, quite professionally.


    “I’m fine.  I take it that someone’s there.”


    “That is correct,” Marcia answered cryptically.


    “My brother?”


    “Yes ma’am,” Marcia said.


    “Oh!  Then I just need you to say yes or no to this question.  Am I going to take Exit 183 off of the interstate?”


    “Yes.  You would need to contact the regent’s office for that, ma’am.”


    “Alright.  Do I take a right or a left?”


    “Right.  That’s the correct number,” Marcia answered.


    “Thank you, very much, Marcia.”


    “Yes ma’am.  Have a wonderful day,” Marcia responded.




    “Bye,” Marcia answered as she hung up the phone.  For Margaret, it seemed that the mission she was on was almost exhilarating.  She was doing something that would be special for Alex, the man who’d kept her out of trouble with their mother on more than one occasion.  He’d also been the only one who’d never judged her for anything she’d done.  That was her reason for doing this for him.  That was her reason for being an intercessor in the situation with Gavin.


    The rain started again as she drove out of Gadsden and toward Boaz.  It was a cooling, calming shower, though.  It was a difference from the shower she’d experienced in Birmingham.  She drove into Albertville after passing through Boaz.  Beyond the exit on the interstate, she seemed to remember from landmarks where to turn once she got into town.  She seemed to remember a large department store, a K-Mart exactly, on the left hand side where she was to turn right.  Once on Highway 75, she drove past the First Baptist Church and then through a couple of lights, past the Board of Education office and down further, heading out of the town and into the countryside.  Once she passed the small airport, she knew she was close.  As if the car were pulling her along the route she was to follow, she turned down Gavin’s road.


    As she was pulling up, Conner and Paula were sitting at the house in quiet.  Ray had gone to Oneonta with Paul, and so he wasn’t there.


    “What are you doing, Mom?” Conner asked inquisitively.


    “I’m working on a dessert for tonight’s dinner,” she answered, continuing to roll out pie dough.


    “What kind of dessert are you making?”


    “A yummy cherry pie,” she said, taking a moment from the dough to stir a pot simmering away on the stove.


    “Yum!  Can I help?”


    “You can in just a little bit.  When I get the top piece of crust on, I will need someone to put some holes in the top so that it doesn’t explode?”


    Conner laughed.  “It would be funny if it did explode?”


    “Are you going to clean the oven if it does?”


    “I will try!” Conner said.


    Paula smiled.  “That would be very sweet from my sweet little boy, but I think we should still cut the holes in the top.”


    “OK,” Conner said.


    “Why don’t you go work on your story for a little bit, and I’ll call you when I get ready,” Paula instructed.


    “OK,” Conner said, walking out of the kitchen into the dining room, where he’d set up all this things earlier in the day and before he was distracted by Gavin’s departure for work.  He sat quietly drawing a picture of himself and Gavin at the beach.  Since the TV wasn’t on, the only sounds were the ones coming from the kitchen.  Given the dining room’s location, he could hear when someone pulled into their driveway.  He could hear the white SUV that Margaret was driving as it crossed from the road into the driveway.  “Dad’s back!” Conner yelled as he jumped off the chair and ran toward the door.


    “That’s odd,” Paula said to no one in particular.  “He’s not supposed to be back until this afternoon.”  Either way, she walked from the kitchen to the front door as the door slammed announcing Conner’s departure from the house.  She wiped off her hands with the apron wrapped around her waist as she came into the view of the door.


    Conner stood quietly and watched as the white SUV came to a complete stop.  It wasn’t his dad, as he’d initially thought, but someone else.  It took him a minute to realize just who was in the vehicle.  As Paula came up to the door, Conner bolted off the porch, running toward the vehicle.  Stepping out was a young girl, with long blond hair, wearing jeans and shoes with a modest heel.  She’d taken off her sunglasses before climbing out of the vehicle.


    “MAGS!” Conner yelled as he ran toward her.  Paula looked in amazement as her little boy ran toward her.  There was no danger in her mind, so she just walked just outside onto the porch.


    “CONNER!” Margaret yelled back as she bent over to hug the little boy.  “How is my favorite American this morning?”


    “I’m great!  What are you doing here?  Where’s Alex?  Did he come with you?  Are you really a princess?  If you’re a princess, why don’t you have a prince?” Conner asked in what seemed like one single long breath.


    “I am here to talk to your brother.  Alex is at home with our mother, so he couldn’t come with me.  Yes.  I’m really a princess, and you just asked the same question my mother has been asking for the last year,” she answered almost as quickly as he’d asked.


    Conner hugged her again before the two disconnected from each other and she stood.  Conner grabbed her hand and began to pull her toward the house.  “Well hello there, Princess,” Paula said with a smile on her face.  It was almost as if she could envision what was going on.  As she and Conner climbed the stairs, Margaret extended her arms wide and hugged Paula, as if they’d known each other a longer time than they actually had.  Paula returned the gesture.


    “So what brings you to Alabama?” Paula asked.


    “Well.  I’m worried about my brother,” Margaret explained.


    “Ah.  We heard about what happened over there.  Is he OK?” Paula asked out of genuine concern.


    “He’ll be alright.  I hope,” Margaret said.  “He’s got a lot to deal with, and he doesn’t seem to be handling it very well.  With Mom being sick, and then the stuff with Gavin, he’s not been himself.”


    “Your Mom’s sick?”


    “Yeah.  We found out the day that Alex got home that she has breast cancer.”


    “Oh no!” Paula said, taking Margaret into another hug, a hug that only a mother than give a grieving child, whether it’s her own or not.  “Come inside, I’ll fix you some coffee or something,” Paula said, wrapping her arm around Margaret and pulling her into the house.  Conner followed closely behind.  


    “What’s breast cancer?” he asked them as they walked in.


    “It’s a bad illness,” Margaret explained.  “It’s when a lady gets a bad growth in her boobs.”


    “Oh!” Conner said.  “Is your Mom gonna die?”


    “Yeah.  She is.”


    “I’m sorry.  I need to send Alex a letter,” Conner said.


    “That would be very sweet,” Margaret explained as Paula smiled.  “He would love that.”  Margaret smiled at Conner’s idea, feeling deep down that it would be one of the few condolence letters that Alex would receive that came completely from the heart.


    “I’ll fix you some coffee,” Paula said as Conner sat down and pulled out a clean piece of paper.


    “Thank you, very much, ma’am,” Margaret said.


    “You know.  It’s not very often that we have a prince or princess in the house.”


    “It’s not very often that I’m in a place where I’m not caudled like a princess,” Margaret said.  “It smells so good in here.”


    “Thank you.  My parents are coming over for dinner tonight, so I thought I’d fix a good dessert.  Cherry pie.”


    “Oh wow!  That does smell good.  Can I help with anything?”


    “Not right now, but if you’d like to stay for dinner, I could use your help,” Paula said, taking full advantage of the offer.  She poured Margaret a cup of coffee and handed her the warm mug.  Margaret blew on it once or twice and then took a couple of sips.


    “I’ll have to check with the consulate and see how much time I have here.  They’re taking care of the flight plans and all.  I would love to stay for dinner, though.  If I remember correctly, your probably the best cook in America.”


    Paula blushed a little.  “You haven’t eaten my mother’s cooking then,” she said with a little joke as she stirred the pot on the stove.  In just a minute, she grabbed the mixture of cherries and sugar and put them onto a cold eye of the stove.  She turned off the hot eye immediately, and the flame from the gas stove fell out of use immediately.


    “So…has Alex been moping around for the last month like Gavin has?”


    “Pretty much.  He’s got a lot on his plate, but no matter how busy he is, he still looks distracted by something.”


    “Exactly how Gavin has been then,” Paula said.  “He works all the time and then tries to pretend like nothing’s wrong, but you can tell his heart is broken.”


    “Where is he working?”


    “A little restaurant called Andrew and Shelley’s.  He got a job there shortly after…everything happened,” Paula said.




    “He says he likes it, but he’d rather be someplace else.  You can tell it in his eyes.  He’s a server there.”


    “Ah!” Margaret thought for a second.  “Would the two of you like to go to lunch?” she asked.


    Paula turned and smiled at Margaret.  “I think that would be an excellent idea,” Paula said.  “The pie can wait a little while,” she added.


    “Good.  Then I will take you all out to lunch then, provided that we can go there.”


    “That would be a great idea,” Paula said, smiling.  “CONNER!” she said in a louder tone.


    “Yes ma’am?” he answered from the dining room.


    “Go get cleaned up.  We’re going to go see Gavin for lunch,” she said.  Conner didn’t say a word, but you could hear the excitement in his steps as he jumped from the chair and ran up the stairs.  Paula and Margaret chuckled a little bit and continued talking about Alex and Gavin for a few minutes.  Paula was elated that there might be a chance for them to get back together again, despite the distance and whatever other obstacles might stand in the way of their happiness.  Conner quickly washed up and came back downstairs.


    “You are NOT wearing that, Mister,” Paula said, talking about a hideous outfit that Conner had chosen for himself.


    “Why not?” Conner said.


    “Because it doesn’t match!  Go get your white polo shirt and put it on. That will make it match.”


    “Yes ma’am,” Conner said, feeling a bit down that his decision had been shot down.  When he returned, he was wearing the white pull over polo-style shirt and the same khaki shorts.  He’d put a fauxhawk in his hair, though.


    “You know,” Paula said as she walked over to him, “I really do love you, but you are going to be the death of me.”


    “OK,” Conner said.  “Now…you go get ready.  Times a wastin’ woman!”


    Both Paula and Margaret tried their best to keep from laughing at him.  “Alright!  I’m going to get ready,” Paula said.  


Conner sat next to Margaret at the kitchen table as she left the room.  “I’m glad you’re here,” he told her.  


“I’m glad I’m here too.  It’s not everyday that I get to hang around the coolest kid in the world,” she said, patting his back.


“But you get to hang around with Alex all the time.”


“Don’t ever tell him this, but you’re much cooler than he is,” Margaret said.  Conner smiled.  It was only a couple of minutes later that Paula came back downstairs, having changed into a different shirt and some jeans.  She ran a brush through her hair as she walked back into the kitchen.


“Alright, y’all.  Let’s go,” she said, putting the small brush back in her purse and grabbing her cell phone as they walked out the door.


“I’ll drive,” Margaret said, grabbing the keys to the rental car and getting herself ready.


“It’ll be nice not to have to drive for once!” Paula said as she locked up the house.


    “Shotgun!” Conner yelled.


    “No sir.  Back seat, Mr. Butler,” Paula said.


    “Awww…Man!” Conner whined as he went to the back door.  Margaret unlocked the door with the remote and he climbed in.  He slid easily across the lather seats and latched himself into the middle seat of the long bench.  Margaret and Paula chuckled once again at Conner’s excitement.


    “If only his energy could be bottled.  I’d be a rich woman,” Paula joked and Margaret laughed.


    The two women climbed into the car and Margaret started it up.  She pulled out of the drive after carefully backing the car out of the space where she’d parked it.  In just a moment, she was pulling out onto Highway 75, following the directions as Paula gave them to her.  She pulled into the parking space close to the door.


    “It’s not as busy as it normally is,” Paula said as she grabbed her purse.  Margaret grabbed her tiny bag.  “That’s a lovely bag,” she noted.


    “You can have this one, if you’d like.  There is sweet old man that makes them himself in Old Cabocha.  He’s made them since my grandmother was a young woman.  Then he’s made them for my mom and for me.  My sister never really liked them, but we’re keeping the tradition alive.  Plus, he’s got a cute grandson around my age!”


    “Oh!  Well that is sweet, but I can’t…”


    “For real, it’s OK.  He gives them to us as a marketing thing.  That way, he can put on his advertisements that he’s the official bagmaker of the Queen and Princess of Lorenzia.”


    “Oh wow!  That’s really sweet of you, Margaret.”


    Margaret smiled as Conner was beginning to get restless in the back of the car.  “Let’s go already!” he proclaimed.


    “OK…OK…Mr. Impatient,” Margaret said, turning and giving him a smile and a wink.


    The three of them climbed out of the car.  Conner walked around and waited on Margaret, taking her hand as they walked into the restaurant.  “You don’t want to hold my hand,” Paula asked.


    “Mom. I love you, but it’s not every day that I get the hold a princess’s hand.”


    “I guess you’re right,” Paula said, smiling at Margaret.


    The three of them walked into the restaurant and were met by the bubbly Shelley, co-owner of the restaurant.  “Hey Ms. Butler!  How are you?”


    “I’m good,” she said as she gave the girl a hug.


    “And the youngest Mr. Butler.  How are you doing, future hottie?”


    “I’m good, Shelley.  This is my friend Margaret,” he said, introducing his brother’s employer to Alex’s sister.


    “Well, hey!  It’s nice to meet you,” Shelley said, holding out her hand to shake.


    “Likewise.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about your restaurant.”


    “Ah!  Well welcome then!  Y’all want to sit in Gavin’s section?”


    “YES!” Conner answered.


    “Alright.  Then follow me, please,” she said, grabbing three menus and walking them to a table at the front of the restaurant.  She sat them before speaking again.  “So I can get you a sweet tea, Mrs. Butler.  And Conner wants a coke with lime.  What can I get for you, though, Margaret?”


    “A sweet iced tea, I suppose,” she said.


    “Alright.  I’ll get those right out and then Gavin will be right out to take your orders,” Shelley walked over to the bar and got their drinks right out.  She brought the drinks back in just a second.


    A round of ‘thanks’ and ‘you’re welcomes’ were heard from the table as Shelley placed the drinks in front of their respective owners.  Conner sat on the inside of one side of the table, with his mother on the outside.  Margaret sat across from them.  She was the first to taste the tea.  She actually liked it and thought to herself that she would have to remember to ask Maria about that when she got back to the palace.  


    Shelley walked back into the back of the restaurant, where Gavin was sitting in the breakroom.  Since his section had been empty for a bit, he decided to take a moment to just sit and relax.  “Gavin!” Shelley said.  “Your section’s got someone,” she said, giving no details of who was at his table.


    “Alright,” he said, grabbing his pad and pen and heading out to his section of the restaurant.  He wasn’t looking up as he walked, instead, he was flipping to a blank page in his order book.  He walked up to his section and looked to see which table was occupied.  From that moment, his eyes became transfixed on the table’s occupants.  His body became rigid and stiff at the sight of Alex’s sister sitting there with his mother and brother.


    “Hi,” he managed to say to Margaret after he realized he’d been standing there in shock for a few seconds.


    “Hello yourself,” Margaret said, smiling at him.  “How are you?”


    “I’m good.  How are you?” he asked, wanting really to ask how Alex was doing.


    “I’m fine,” Margaret answered.


    Gavin looked over at his mother and Conner, who were smiling.  “So did you have a nice trip over?” he asked, trying to act as much as himself as he could.  He was a swirl of emotion.


    “Yeah.  I did.”


    “Glad to hear that,” Gavin said, without really thinking about his response.


    “So what can I get for you?” he asked, looking at Margaret.


    “I want a burger!” Conner yelled.


    “Well, I figured that, Con-Con,” Gavin said, smiling at his brother.  Conner could feel that Gavin was nervous, excited, relieved, and confused…all at the same time.  Conner giggled as Gavin made a silly face.


    “What would you recommend?” Margaret asked.


    Conner whispered.  “Get a burger!  They’re good!”


    “Alright,” Margaret said, turning to Gavin, “I’ll have the same as him.”


    “Excellent choice, ma’am,” Gavin said, smiling and joking with Margaret for a second.  “And for you, Mom…I mean…Ma’am?” he said, turning to his mother and smiling.


    “I’ll have the spicy chicken salad, please, sir,” she said.


    “Another great choice!  I’ll get those right out for you guys,” Gavin said.  He smiled again at all of them as he took the menus away from the table.  He took them back to the host’s station and then entered their orders into the register system.  He walked back into the kitchen, where Shelley was working on plating some of the orders.


    “So who’s the hot blonde?” she asked upon noticing Gavin walking into the room.


    “That is Her Royal Highness, Margaret, Duchess of Meditaira and Princess of Lorenzia,” Gavin said honestly, calling out her full title.  “But her brother calls her Mags.”


    “You’re shitting me?!?” Shelley said.  “We have ROYALTY in this restaurant?!?!?”


    “Yep.  She is the fifth in line for the throne, after her brother, her older sister, and her older sister’s two children.”


    “What the fucking hell?!?  Their lunch is sooo free!” Shelly said.  “Make it REALLY good, boys.”


    “No…Shelley…she won’t take it.  She’s more stubborn than her brother is about things like that.”


    “O…M…G!!!” Shelley said again.


    “Don’t treat her like a princess.  She’ll appreciate you more for it in the future.”


    “Why is she here?”


    “I have no idea, but I need to find out.  Mind if I take…”


    “How do you know she’s here for you?”


    “Remember when I was in the papers???” Gavin asked.


    “OH SHIT!  That’s his sister!?!”


    “Yeah.  That would be her!  So mind if I take the rest of the afternoon off?”


    “Yeah.  It’s not like we’re busy today!  The Baptist church must be having a social tonight or something and nobody had time to come and visit us!”


    “Alright.  I’ll help get their food ready and then I’m gonna sit with them.”


    “Alright.  Have you eaten?”


    “No ma’am.”


    “Then fix something for yourself too…and it’s on the house!”


    “NO!” Gavin protested as he helped get their plates ready.


    Gavin worked and worked for a few more minutes to get their plates ready.  He resolved himself in those few minutes that he couldn’t imagine why his ex-boyfriend’s sister had travelled thousand of miles to see him.  Maybe Alex had sent her to relay the final blow.  Ah…How nice would closure be?  Or maybe Alex didn’t know she was there and she’d just come to talk to him about something, perhaps something about keeping what he knew about Alex quiet in the future.  Whatever the reason, he became more and more nervous as the time to eat with them rolled around.  He didn’t know what to say or how to act.


    “Alright.  Everything’s ready,” Gavin told Shelley.  They each grabbed two plates and walked out to the table where his mother, brother, and Margaret had been sitting.  They placed the plates around to their respective diners and Gavin sat next to Margaret on the bench.  Shelley rushed over to the bar and grabbed a glass of ice and a pitcher of tea.  She poured some of the tea into the glass and took it to where Gavin was sitting.


    “Now,” she said as she refilled Margaret’s and Paula’s teas, “y’all enjoy, and if you need anything.  Please don’t hesitate to tell your server.”  There was a bit of laughter from everyone as Shelley walked away from where the four other sat to eat.


    “So how have you been?” Gavin asked Margaret, forgetting that he’d already asked her that question.


    “I’ve been fine.  Is there someone else you want to ask about?” she asked.  Paula chuckled.  Gavin looked at her, but said nothing.


    “How’s your Mom?”


    “She have good days and bad days, but she’s doing OK overall, I guess.”


    “I heard about the regency thing,” Gavin said, remembering that the Queen had set up a regency to take over the day to day functions of her job.


    “Yeah.  She said that she just wanted to spend her final days in the company of people that she loved.  She’d planned on going to Periñán next week, but her doctor doesn’t think it’s a good idea.”




    “Yeah.  Tell me about it.”  Margaret stopped for a second.  “I don’t know that things have totally hit me…yet.”


    “Well,” Paula chimed, “we will be here for you if you need us.”


    “I really appreciate that,” Margaret said.  She was eating her thick steak fries with a fork, which Conner thought was weird, and upon saying that, she simply set it down and wiped her mouth with the napkin that was in her lap.  It took her a moment to regain her composure as she thought about what was going to happen.  “So is there anyone else you want to ask about?” she said, turning things back to Gavin for a second.


    “Yeah…” he said, fidgeting with the salad he’d ordered.  “How is he?”


    “He’s a wreck.  He’s dealing with the stuff with Mom, the stuff with Elizabeth, among other things,” she answered.  Everyone knew exactly what she meant by ‘other things,’ especially Gavin, who’d been dealing with his own demons for the entire time.


    “Conner?” Paula asked.  “Are you about ready to go?”


    “No, Mom.  I’ve just started eating.”


    “No.  We should get a box and go to the house, if Gavin will let me drive his truck,” she said, looking at her oldest son.  She seemed to know that it was the perfect time to bow out.  Gavin looked at her and handed her the keys to his truck without thinking of how he would get home.  Gavin motioned for Shelley to come over after a second.  “We need a box for ours if you don’t mind.  And how much do we owe you for ours?”


    “I’ll run get those, and not a cent, Mrs. Butler,” Shelley said.  “Our system just went down, and we’ve lost all of the orders in the place.  It’s going to be a while before we get them back up.”  Shelley looked directly at Gavin.  Gavin knew that she was lying through her teeth, but said nothing.  He’d deal with that situation later.  She ran to the bar and grabbed two styrofoam boxes from a storage cabinet below the bar.  


She brought them back quickly and put Conner’s lunch in a box while Paula put the rest of her salad in another box.  The table seemed oddly quiet.  Gavin stood with his mother and brother as they readied themselves to leave.  He hugged them both and then tried to joke by asking his mother to take care of the car.  She knew it was a joke, but no one laughed.  Conner climbed into the booth beside Margaret and gave her a hug.  She kissed his cheek.  Conner was elated that a beautiful girl had kissed his cheek.  They said their goodbyes and Conner and their mother left the restaurant, holding both of the boxers, with her purse over one shoulder.


    Gavin sat again, but this time, across from Margaret, so that he could look into her eyes, those beautiful green eyes that were an exact match for her brother’s.  “Margaret.  I’m going to be completely honest with you.”


    “I would expect nothing less, and I will be completely honest with you.”


    “When I found out about Alex, I was so pissed off that I just drove home.  I didn’t know what to do or what to think or how to react.  It was an overwhelming piece of news.  Ya know?”


    “Yeah…Well, I can imagine.”


    “And then to make things worse, two days later, my picture was all over the news here.”


    “And that brings me to the first reason why I’m here.  I’m so sorry that those pictures were plastered all over the world.  I feel bad because I’m the one that took them.”


    “It’s not your fault, Margaret.”


    “I know it’s not technically my fault, but I still feel a bit guilty that it even happened.  For that I’m so truly sorry.  If I’d not come over here and taken those pictures, you and Alex would have had a little bit more time to yourselves.”


    “No.  I loved your visit.  That was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had.”  Margaret smiled at Gavin’s words.


    “I certainly enjoyed it myself,” Margaret said, smiling a bit more.  “And if it’s any consolation, Alex told me that he was on his way to tell you the day you found out.”


    “I believe you.  I believed him when he told me, but it complicated things so much between us.  I couldn’t take it and I snapped.”  Gavin looked down.  “I felt bad about it after it happened.”  Gavin began to get emotional again.  He looked up, but not at Margaret.  He couldn’t meet her eyes for fear that he’d start crying.  Margaret reached over and put her hands on top of his.  The simple touch sent him over the edge, and a few tears managed to escape his eyes before he could contain them.


    “I’m going to ask you a very simple question,” she said.  Gavin nodded.  “Do you still love him?”


    He managed to look directly into her eyes as he said “Yes.”


    “Well, I can say for certain that he is still so much in love with you.  I’ve personally seen him turn down at least 300 guys in the last month.  None of them could remotely compare to you in his eyes.  He even still wears the bracelet you gave him.”  In her bag, her cell phone began to ring.  She pulled it out, but there was no number on the screen.  “I need to take this.  It might be about Mom,” she said.  Gavin nodded.  She flipped open the phone as he took a second to regain his composure.  “Hello?”


    “Please tell me that you’re going to be home from London tomorrow,” Alex said.


    “I promise you that I will be home tomorrow.  You OK?”


    “I’m about to go crazy,” he told her.  “I went to the Senate today, and she stared at me the whole time.”


    “Elizabeth?” Margaret asked.


    “What other ‘she’ would I be talking about?”


    “I was just making sure.”


    “Well, she answered all the questions that each Senator asked her with a contrite comment and then she’d look up at me.  She even told them that ‘faggotry’ was a nasty thing and that anyone who supported it was going to catch AIDS or something.”


    “She’s a dumb fucker.  Don’t let her get you down like that, Alex.”


    Gavin perked up at hearing Alex’s name.  There was something about just hearing his name that made him physically hurt inside.  His tears began to flow again, but quietly and slowly.  Margaret looked at him and simply reached one hand across the table and touched his.  It seemed as though he were trembling.  “I wish he were here with me.  I really do.”


    “You know, I bet he’d feel the same way if he knew what kind of hell you were going through.”  Gavin nodded.


    “I doubt it.  He probably hates me,” Alex responded.


    “I bet he loves you just as much as you still love him,” Margaret said.  Gavin nodded again.


    “Ay.  I think I’m going to let you go and go get a drink.”


    “Alright, Baby Bro.  Just be careful, and I will be back in Cabocha tomorrow.”


    “Alright.  I love you, Margaret.”


    “I love you, too, Alexander,” Margaret said.  “Bye.”


    “Bye,” Alex said.  They both hung up their phones.  


    “Sorry about that,” Margaret said, still keeping her hand on top of Gavin’s.  “You OK?”


    “Yeah.  I’ll be fine.  It’s just a little hard at the moment.”


    “I can’t say that I know what’s going on in your mind, but I can be here for you.  You and I are friends.  We have one thing in common.”


    “What’s that?”


    “We both love Alexander Joaquin Ivan Petrov Saavedra, Crown Prince of Lorenzia,” she said.  She looked at him for a second as he smiled.


    “I guess you’re right.”  He stopped.  “Wow.  It feels good to actually tell someone that I am still in love with him.”  There was another pause as he smiled for a second.  “So I take it he doesn’t know you’re here.”


    “Nope.  I wanted to come myself, in the event that you hated him and never wanted to see him again.  It was my own weird way of protecting him, I suppose.”


    “Ah.  That makes sense.  I could have been a total bastard to you.”


    “You?  A TOTAL bastard?” Margaret joked.  Gavin laughed again, but he wasn’t quite sure why.  Hearing his laugh put a smile on her face.  She knew it would also put a smile on Alex’s.  




    “Damn right.  And don’t you forget it!” she said, smiling.  There was another pause.  Gavin pulled his salad over to him again and fidgeted with the chicken pieces.  Margaret simply watched him intently.  “Why don’t you come back to Lorenzia with me tomorrow?  It would be good to see you two together again.  Plus, you could meet Mom.”


    “That would be interesting.  How many country boys from Alabama get to meet the Queen of any country?” Gavin smiled, a bit nervously.


    “So what do you say?”


    “It would be awesome, but I just don’t have the money right now,” Gavin said honestly.  “I’m struggling to pay my car payment and insurance.”


    “Well.  You wouldn’t have to worry about it.  I brought one of mother’s planes over, so we’ll go back in that.  We can also arrange for you to bring it over…all at our expense.”


    “I would feel guilty about that, though.”


    “Well…you shouldn’t.  You would be a guest of the Crown Prince and me,” Margaret said.  “You could even have your own suite in the palace if you wanted.”    


    “That’s very nice of you Margaret…”


    “Have some more tea,” Shelley said, walking up and pouring them another glass of tea.  “And Gavin.  If you want my opinion, you should go.  There are a couple of servers that have been asking for more shifts for a bit before their vacation, so we could have it covered here.”


    “I just don’t have the money, guys.”


    “Well.  You wouldn’t need any, but I understand.”  Margaret smiled.  “I won’t bug you about it again.  I’ll just tell Conner, and let him bug you!”


    “Oh God!  Are you TRYING to kill me, Margaret?” Gavin said, smiling.  “Seriously, though, I would really like to…”


    “Then go, Gavin!” Shelley said.  “This could be your only chance.  And if you’re worried about money, I could give you and advance on your paycheck for a couple of weeks.”


    Gavin considered the options.  He looked at Margaret and Shelley, who were both trying to convince him to take advantage of the opportunity before him.  He went between their eyes.  “Can I think about it for a little bit?”


    “You can.  I’m going to have dinner with your family,” Margaret said.  “You’re welcome to come with me when I leave, if you’d like.”


    “And just let me know if you need an advance,” Shelley said, winking at Gavin and walking off with the pitcher that she’d brought over to refill their teas with.


    “I’m glad you came, Margaret.”


    “Me too.  It’s actually good to see you, even though I know that I have no chance with you!”


    “If you did, you’d probably not want me.”


    “Oh.  There’s so many errors in that phrase!” she winked.


    “So why don’t we skip this joint and go back to my place,” Gavin said, in a very joking manner.


    “Ooh!  Alright.  I’ll drive!” Margaret said.


    Shelley walked over to them as they were walking out.  “Here Gavin!” she said, handing him a check.


    “What’s this?”


    “Andrew said if you didn’t take your ass to Lorenzia, he would make you pay for it, so I went ahead and made out an advance check.”


    “Thanks, Shelley,” Gavin said, folding the check and putting it in his pocket.  He smiled at her.  Shelley reached up and hugged him.


    “Have a good time!”


    “I’ve not decided completely to go…”


    “Oh!  You’re going, damnit!” Shelley said.


    Gavin smiled again and walked out of the restaurant with Margaret.  They climbed into the SUV and pulled back out of the parking lot.  They joked and talked for a bit.  Gavin was still toiling over the idea of going back to Lorenzia with her in his mind.  What if she didn’t know the whole story and Gavin was too busy for him?  What if they saw each other and the spark was gone for some reason?  He was nervous.  They arrived back at Gavin’s house a bit later.  Margaret went into the kitchen to help Paula while Gavin ran upstairs to take a shower.  It was only a few minutes before Gavin returned to lower level of the house, wearing a nice shirt and a pair of shorts.


    “See.  If he were bi, I’d give Alex a run for his money!” Margaret said.  Paula laughed.  Gavin blushed.


    “It really is good to have you here, Margaret,” he said.  “If for nothing else, I know my place in the world!”


    “You know I wouldn’t joke with you if I didn’t like you!”


    “Yeah.  I know.  So if I were going to go to Lorenzia with you…”


    “You’re going to Lorenzia?” Paula asked.  “I’m so happy,” she said, walking over to her son and giving him a hug.


    “I just said if, Mom…But if I were to go back to Lorenzia with you, would it still be a surprise for Alex or could I call him before I got there?”


    “Either way.  A surprise would be more fun, though.”


    “That’s true, I suppose,” Gavin said, with a smile.  He was thinking about just seeing Alex again.  He was painfully nervous about the encounter, though.  Things were completely different from before.  He knew things would be more complicated, but he longed for the attempt at least.  


    Ray, Edna, and Paul arrived a few hours later.  Ray knew her, but it took Edna and Paul looking directly into her eyes to know who she was.  They didn’t say anything, though.  They waited until Gavin took a moment to introduce her, as Margaret Saavedra, Alex’s sister.  They knew she was a princess, but they treated her as if they’d known her forever.  After all, that was the Southern way to do things.  After only a short time, Paula had dinner ready.  With Margaret’s help, they brought everything to the table.  Everyone dug in.  Following their examples, Margaret began to fix her plate as well.  She enjoyed everything.


    “One day, I’m going to show up and ask for a cooking lesson,” Margaret said as she ate.


    “Well, then you better come to my house!” Edna said, winking at Margaret.


    “MOM!” Paula said.


    “I’m only playing, sweetie.  You cook far better than I ever have,” she complimented.


    “Both of you cook really well,” Margaret said, “I’m sure.”


    “So what time would we leave in the morning?” Gavin asked.


    “So you’re definitely going?” Margaret asked.


    “Going where?” Ray asked.


    Gavin looked at Margaret and responded, “I’m going to Lorenzia.”


    “As a guest of Her Majesty, Queen Isabel III and Crown Prince Alexander,” Margaret said, looking at Ray as well and smiling.


    “Well…” Ray responded.  “Well…”


    “I’ve got to talk to him.  We’ve either got to end it or get back together.  I can’t take letting it fester in my mind.  Then when Margaret came this morning it became more and more a reality.”


    “OK,” Ray said.  “I think that will do you good, Son.”


    “So we’ve been hearing things about the Queen.  How is she?” Paula asked, changing the topic of conversation once again.


    “Officially, she’s doing all right; however, she has her good days and her bad days.”


    “Well.  We’ll be praying for her,” Paula said.


    “She’ll be glad to hear that.  Conner,” Margaret said, “did you still want me to take the letter to Alex for you?”


    “Oh!  Yeah!  I finished and then put it in an envelope.  I didn’t know how to address it, though, so I just put “Alex” on the front.”


    “It will get it to him, I promise,” Margaret said, winking at Conner.


    The family sat talking for a bit of time.  They talked about everything.  Edna asked about Lorenzian cuisine; Paul asked about Lorenzian women.  Everyone but Edna laughed, but even Edna couldn’t hold back after Ray winked at her.  Margaret again helped Paula when the cherry pie was served, topped with ice cream.  Again everyone enjoyed the food and the company for a bit longer.


    At around 9, Edna and Paul left for home.  They seemed to hug Gavin for longer than normal.  Paul even slipped him his credit card in the usual fashion in which cash exchanged hands.


    “I should be off as well,” Margaret announced.


    “You’re more than welcome to stay here,” Paula said.


    “Yeah.  That way, when we leave in the morning, you don’t have to drive up to get me,” Gavin advised.


    “That does make more sense,” Margaret said.  “Would you mind?” she turned to Ray and Paula.


    “Not a bit,” Ray answered.


    “I’ll just sleep on the sofa if that’s cool.”


    “No,” Gavin said.  “You take my bed.  I’ll sleep on the sofa.”


    “Y’all argue about that later!” Conner said from upstairs.  He’d been allowed to stay up a bit later than normal, since his grandparents were there.  “Margaret.  Will you tell me a story?”


    “Of course,” Margaret said.  “I’ll be up in a few minutes.”


    “Did you brush your teeth, Conner?” Gavin asked.




    “Did you use the bathroom?” Paula asked.


    “Yes ma’am.”


    “Did you remember to put your dirty clothes in the hamper and not on the floor of the bathroom?” their mother continued.


    Conner slowly walked away from the top of the stairs, where he’d been standing and back into the bathroom.  Ray and Gavin chuckled, while Paula shook her head.  He came back out in a second and announced that he’d complied.  There was another round of chuckling.  


    “Alright.  I’ll go tell him a story.”


    “Do you have a bag?” Gavin asked Margaret.


    “Yeah.  In the back of the truck,” Margaret said.


    “Give me your keys, and I’ll run get it,” Gavin said.


    “Alright,” Margaret said, having climbed half-way up the stairs.  She reached into her pocket and pulled out the key, tossing it to Gavin.  Margaret continued to climb the stairs and eventually turning to follow Conner into his room.  They went into his room for a second.  Gavin walked toward the door.  Ray followed him without asking.


    “Gavin?” Ray said after they were outside.


    “Yeah Dad?”


    “I want to know if this is what you want.  Do you want to go back to Lorenzia and see him?  I mean, are you sure about all this?”


    “Dad.  I want to see him…I need to see him…”


    Ray looked into his eyes.  It had been the one place to look when Ray wanted to know his true feelings.  “Alright.  Do you need some money to take?”


    “Pawpaw gave me his credit card.”


    “Oh!  Well, since that’s the case, bring me something nice!”  Gavin laughed at Ray’s joke.  “For real, though, be careful.”


    “I will Dad,” Gavin said as he pulled Margaret’s bag out.  “I’ll be in the safest place in Lorenzia.”


    “Alright,” Ray said.  He put his hand on Gavin’s back as he carried Margaret’s bag into the house.


    As they walked into the house, Margaret was coming from the second level.  She’d managed to get Conner to sleep faster than anyone else in the house.  Ray and Paula went to bed a bit later, leaving Gavin and Margaret up for a bit, in front of the TV.  Gavin instinctively turned the TV to the LBC and a show he found humerous.


    “You want to know something that I’ve been thinking about for the last month?”


    “What?” Margaret responded to Gavin’s question.


    “When I left Montevallo, one of the things on my mind was what would Alex want with me.  I mean, he could have had anyone.”


    “Well.  I told you that he’s turned down a LOT of guys.”


    “Yeah.  That actually makes me feel good,” Gavin said.


    “So what time are we leaving?”


    “The plane is set to leave around 8 local time.”


    “So we’d need to leave here around 6 or so.”




    “I never thought I’d be going to Lorenzia again.”


    “You’ve been there before?”


    “Yeah.  Last summer.  I went with a friend.  We only spent a couple of days there, though.  We were going between Madrid and Milan.”


    “Oh!  You’ll love it.  Meditaira is my favorite part.  The beach and the islands are amazing!  Mom has this house in Meditaira.  Well, it’s on an island.  Come to think of it, it’s the only house on the island.  It’s about 20 kilometers from Cabocha harbor, but since it’s an island, it’s Meditaira’s jurisdiction.”




    “So let’s get some sleep,” Margaret suggested, pulling over herself a blanket that was on the back of the couch and lying down.  She’d changed into a pair of pajamas that were packed into her bag.


    “Alright, Mags.  Go upstairs.”


    “No.  I’m a guest.  I shouldn’t ask you to give up your bed for me,” she said.


    “Just go!” Gavin insisted.  “It’s my own weird way of starting to pay you for coming.”


    “Are the sheets clean?” she asked.


    “For the most part!” Gavin countered.  They both giggled for a second, but Margaret finally agreed.  Gavin lay on the couch as Margaret ascended the stairs.  They were both asleep before too long.


    At four in the morning, Paula woke.  She climbed out of the bed and walked downstairs in her robe.  She quietly walked past the other bedrooms and then downstairs, past the living room.  Gavin was sleeping peacefully, with a smile on his face.  Paula thought about how good it was to see that.  She just hoped that his trip to meet Alex once again would work out for him and that it wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass.