Hey guys and gals! I'm glad that you all have enjoyed the story thus far. I'm also sorry that it took this long to post the next chapter. I'm working on Chapter 12 now, so eight should be posted very soon. Please note also that I'm changing the email address that is posted. My hotmail account is giving me fits of late, and so I'm swapping to use my yahoo account. The address is email@example.com. The yahoo group is also http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/groups/futurecanadiansgroup. There are postings of all my stories there: including, All Good Things, Senator's Son, and the first chapter of Journey of a Boy. Enjoy them all!
"The Princess and the Pauper/The Tangled Web, Part I"
Wednesday was an interesting day for both Alex and Gavin. Both of them woke from the position they'd slept in the night before and went to their respective classes and other responsibilities. As usual, they met for lunch, where Alex dispensed with his tradition of having something with gravy. That afternoon, Gavin took Alex to the doctor. Both of them were happy to learn that Alex's wrist had healed enough so that the cast could be replaced with a light weight, removable brace. They came back to the dorm that evening, where the two of them made love for almost two hours. When done, they showered and set out to watch a bit of TV and relax before falling asleep with Alex being held beneath the quite protective shield of Gavin's embrace.
The next morning, Alex, as usual, woke before Gavin. He was content to lie there, though, until his lover's body began to wake itself beneath the weight of a new day. The day was to be different, though. Alex went to his classes as normally; Gavin went into work early so that he could be home in plenty of time to take care of something with Alex. As the day stretched, both boys became more and more nervous. They weren't nervous about anything dealing with each other, but rather the action of the coming afternoon.
Alex finished his classes on time and headed back to the dorm room. He finished his homework quickly and responded to an email Marcia had sent him. Gavin waited, quite impatiently, for the end of his shift. When it was finally over, he clocked out and rushed back to Montevallo. It was five in the evening by the time he got back to Montevallo, and after checking on Alex, he excused himself for a quick shower. Alex finished a couple of things, and by that time, Gavin was walking back to his room, wrapped only in a towel. Alex's door was open, and he felt compelled to whistle while his boyfriend passed. Gavin smiled. Thankfully, Eddie wasn't there. He'd mumbled something a couple of days before about having to go to a study session for a big exam in one of his classes. Alex didn't pay much attention, he simply enjoyed the moment in his room without the boy there. When Gavin was dressed, he walked from his room. Alex smiled because he knew from the sound of the medal door closing that his boyfriend was about to try to sneak up from behind him and kiss the top of his head, followed by a firm embrace from behind. Alex would then be able to wrap his arms around his neck from behind to create a scene that he'd only ever imagined happening. He would have the honor of smiling, knowing that he was safe in Gavin and Gavin could feel safe in him.
Like clockwork, it all happened as he'd envisioned. "I'm so lucky," Gavin said in their first exchange after a moment of embrace.
"Why is that?"
"Because I've met a wonderful man, who I love him so much, and tonight, I get to meet his sister for the very first time."
"She is going to adore you," Alex said.
"As much as I adore you?"
"Probably close!" Alex said, both feeling and hearing Gavin's slight chuckle.
"I love you, Alex," Gavin said randomly.
"And I love you," Alex said, thinking for a second that the occasion that was about to occur.
"Alright. We should get going if she's going to be here at 6:30."
"Alright. Are you sure you don't mind taking me to meet her?"
"Alex...if I had any reservations, I would tell you."
"No you wouldn't," Alex said, smiling.
Gavin thought for a second. "Probably not, but I love you, and if our situations were reversed, you would do the same for me."
"Quite right, Mr. Butler," Alex said as he stood, walking past Gavin for a second to grab his coat from the closet.
The two of them walked from the room in a second. Alex locked the door and walked down the hall with his arm wrapped into Gavin's. Gavin unlocked the door for Alex, opening it and motioning for him to climb in. "Thank you, sir."
"Anytime, sir," Gavin said, shutting the door gently as Alex positioned himself on the seat and pulled the safety strap over his chest. Gavin walked around the front of the car, smiling at Alex as he sat patiently on the seat.
"So do you need gas?" Alex asked.
"Nope," Gavin said as he started the car and pulled it from the space.
"OK. Well then if you'll stop at the Regions ATM, I will get you some cash to pay for the gas you're going to use."
"Nope," Gavin said.
"I'm not worried about it, Alex. If I need some money for gas, I will let you know though. Cool?"
"I guess I'll have to live with that," Alex said, only able to hold a straight face for a second at his own joking tone.
"Yes you will. Besides. I can think of a couple of things you could do for me next week," Gavin responded, looking at Alex with a certain `you know what I'm talking about' look on his face.
"I'm sure that something could be arranged, Gavincito. Are you talking about me teaching you some more words in Cabochean or Spanish?"
"You could do that, too, if you'd like."
"What would like to know?" Alex asked. "Just in case I have to look it up."
"Lets see. How about: do that thing with your tongue that you did last night?" Gavin said, winking at Alex.
"Oh that's an easy one. You can just say: Alesandro, baby, and I'll do about anything you want."
"Alesandro," Gavin said, trying to sound sexy while still using a deep Southern accent.
"Grr..." Alex purred.
They talked for a bit as they drove up the interstate toward Birmingham. It was understood that they would refer to each other as `friends' unless Alex had a chance and the nerves to tell his sister. The traffic flowed quickly, and before they knew it, they were at the airport. Gavin pulled into the short-term parking deck and cut the car off.
"Can I ask you for a favor before we go in?"
"What's that babe?"
"Will you give me a kiss?"
"Yes," Alex responded as he leaned over and kissed Gavin on the cheek.
"Come on! I'm going to have to go five days without a kiss. Can you give me another?"
"Sure," Alex said, placing his right hand and turning Gavin's face. The two kissed passionately for a moment.
"Damn," Gavin said as they broke. "That gave me a hard on!"
"Really?" Alex said, reaching down and feeling his boyfriend's crotch.
"Right!" Alex said, sitting back in his seat, winking while Gavin looked at him.
"I'm not evil," Alex said, faking offense.
"Yes you are...but I still love you."
Alex smiled. "I love you, too." He looked down at his watch. "OH! Her flight should be here any minute!"
"Are you excited?"
"YES! I can't wait to see her, and she's going to love you!"
"More than you do?"
"OH NO!" Alex said, taking his boyfriend's hand. "I love you, so much!"
"I'm glad you do," Gavin said. "I'm a lovable person!" The two of them laughed and then climbed out of the truck. Alex felt compelled by the moment to hug Gavin. He wrapped his arms around Gavin's waist; Gavin wrapped his arms around Alex, pulling him in closely for a moment. "What was that for?"
"Just because," Alex said as the two broke their embrace. They walked toward the terminal's baggage claim. Alex found the arrivals notice and looked closely. Margaret's flight from DC wasn't listed there. She'd emailed him directly and said that she would be flying from DC to Birmingham. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone.
As he was dialing a number, Gavin noticed a tall, blond girl walking toward them. She put one finger over her mouth. Gavin could tell from her eyes who she was. She and her brother had the same luscious green eyes. Other than that, they had nothing psychically in common, though. She walked up behind her brother and put her hands over his eyes.
"There's a hot blonde behind you," she said.
"Oh? Nice rack?" Alex asked, knowing it was his sister.
"The nicest! They're not too big, and they're not to small. Wanna feel?" she asked, joking.
"That's OK," Alex said, "I'll take your word for it, Margaret!" Alex turned and looked into his sister's eyes. Without words, they hugged tightly. Both of them were more than happy to see the other.
"How are you, baby brother?"
"I am good. How's my favorite twin?"
"She's glad she's here!" The two of them pulled apart from each other. "It's good to be here!" She looked at him, then she turned to Gavin. "And you must be Gavin!" she said, extending her arm to shake his hand.
"Yes. I've heard a lot about you, Margaret!"
"As have I. The only thing is, my brother forgot to tell me that you were HOT," she said. Gavin blushed.
"I always compliment the hot men. Of course, I usually then go back to their place!" The three of them laughed. "I'm just joking," she said, trying to convince Gavin.
"No she's not!" Alex said. "She's a slut!"
"Bitch!" Margaret laughed.
"Takes one to know one!" Alex countered. The two of them laughed.
"Oh! So true...so true..." she said. The three of them stood there joking with one another for another few minutes before grabbing her bags. Alex carried both of them as the three of them talked. Margaret and Gavin seemed to get along really well, much to Alex's pleasure. Gavin opened the door for her. "Thank you," she said to his politeness.
"Not a problem," Gavin said, making sure her skirt was well in the car before carefully closing the door behind her. Alex had climbed into the backseat already. Gavin smiled at him as he walked past the door; they both thought Margaret hadn't noticed. They pulled out of the parking deck and paid the attendant waiting at the exit station. Margaret insisted on paying it, despite Gavin's protest. They drove out of the deck, with Gavin winning the argument. Gavin quickly made his way away from the airport and got onto the interstate.
Just as Alex had done, Margaret marveled at the city. They passed Sloss Furnace; pulling into the modest city's center. "What's that?" she asked, pointing toward the top of Red Mountain.
"Vulcan," Gavin answered. "It was built in the early 1900s to commerate the steel industry's rapid growth in the city."
"Very cool," she said, straining to look at the monument. Gavin checked the traffic around and then pulled off the interstate, passing through traffic on his way to Vulcan Park. "Where are we going?" she asked.
"Vulcan," Gavin said. He'd taken Alex there once before, on one of their dates. It was a moment that Alex remembered fondly from the back seat.
"Wow. Amazing!" she said as they turned to go up Red Mountain. Within minutes, they passed Five Points and headed up the mountain. It wasn't long before they were sitting just outside Vulcan Park. Gavin parked the car, and the three of them climbed out. Margaret looked in amazement at the statue. She took her camera out of the bag and took a picture of the statue, from behind. Within just a few minutes, she'd managed to get more than 30 pictures from different angles around the statue. Gavin watched in amazement; Alex watched to know that his sister, the ever inquisitive woman that she was, was still the same woman he'd left in Lorenzia a few weeks before.
"She seems so cool," Gavin said, turning to look at Alex.
Alex turned his attention to his boyfriend. "I'm sorry that I can't just kiss you right now."
"It's fine. With as horny as you made me earlier, it'd be likely that I'd want to put you in the back of the truck or something...so maybe it's best," Gavin said, smiling at Alex.
They continued to look at each other for a moment. They didn't notice that Margaret had returned to where they were. She watched Alex as she waited a minute to get them both into the viewscreen of her digital camera. They looked happy and comfortable around one another. The snapping of the picture sent a flash of light that caught the guys' attention. She smiled at them and then climbed into the front seat. There were no words exchanged. The guys complied though. As they climbed into the vehicle, Margaret was looking at the pictures.
"So can I ask a favor?" Margaret asked, turning to Gavin.
"I'm famished. Can we get something to eat? I'll pay for it all!" Margaret offered.
"We can go get something, but you don't have to pay for it," Gavin asked as he pulled out of the space.
"No! I want to do it as a way of saying `thank you.'" Margaret responded.
"What do you think Alex?"
"This is between you guys!" Alex said from the back seat. Margaret turned around and stuck out her tongue at her brother, who smiled at her. "It's good to have you here, Mags."
"It's good to be here. So have you talked to Mom lately?" she asked.
"I talked to her yesterday. Why?" Alex asked.
"She's been acting oddly lately. I was just wondering if you'd picked up on that over the phone."
"She sounded a little stressed about something, but she can be that way sometimes. Why? Did you piss her off again?" Alex asked, thinking his sister was joking.
"No. I haven't been out since you left," she responded. "I just get a vibe that something's not quite right," she said, turning back around in the seat and watching as Gavin drove. The conversation about their mother was dropped as if it had never started.
As Gavin drove down the road, back toward the interstate, the Queen was in Lorenzia, sitting in her office. Marcia had long since left, and the only sign of life outside the office in the palace was the guard who occasionally walked by. The only light in the office was a small lamp. Her desk was cleared of all clutter. The only things there were the powerless monitor for her computer, a pen, and three sheets of paper, with her monogram atop it.
"Dear Alex..." she wrote. "Several times, I have started this letter to you. I haven't finished either of those, though, because I didn't know exactly how to say what I need to say to you." She stopped for a moment and stared into space. "There are a lot of things about being King that you will have to learn on your own. My advice to you, my beloved, is to keep and open mind and learn to accept that sometimes, you have to compromise your own beliefs for the sake of the country. I also wanted to tell you that I love you beyond words. You and your sisters are my life, and I will always be with you in spirit." She stopped again. "I have no doubt that you will be a great King, Alex. Remember that your father and I loved you so much. Take care of your sisters for me." She stopped again. As she signed the letter, a single tear flowed from her right eye. It slowly trickled from her eye to the crevices of her nose to her cheek. The reality of her impending demise was well upon her. In private, she'd dealt with denial; she'd dealt with anger. She'd tried to bargain her way out of her death, begging for just a little more time. She knew that it was all fruitless, though. She put the letter in the envelope and sealed it. She wrote his name on the front of it and placed it in a drawer. There was a certain weight lifted from her shoulders. She wiped the tear from her eye and retired to her suite for the evening. She still wasn't able to sleep well, but at least she knew she would get a little bit of sleep.
As she climbed into bed, she had no idea about what was going on in America. The three of them had decided to eat at the Olive Garden just outside the Galleria shopping mall. It didn't take them long to get a table, as Margaret knew how to accurately use her assets to get what she wanted, whether with women or men.
"I'm buying this tonight, Gavin," they continued.
"No ma'am! I can get my own."
"You are a very stubborn person, aren't you?" she asked, smiling.
"Yes ma'am. But then again, you are, too!"
Alex chuckled but said nothing. Watching the two of them get along was amazing was a pleasant site. "I'm going to pee. Be right back," he announced after a second, leaving his boyfriend and sister to argue, or so he thought. After a second, Margaret looked around.
"So how long have the two of you been together?" Margaret asked.
"What?" Gavin asked, trying to play dumb.
"You don't have to say anything...just promise me that you won't let anything happen to him. OK?"
"Margaret. I can promise you that!" Gavin said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alex coming. "I told you, no, woman!"
She looked confused for a second and then realized what he was doing. "Are we going to argue about this all night?"
"If that's what it takes to convince you!"
"Look at the pot calling the kettle black!" Gavin said, as Margaret laughed. Their waiter brought more drinks and their salad and breadsticks.
"So I have an idea, Gavin," Margaret said.
She waited for the waiter to leave and then looked at him. "You're hot. I'm hot. We'll work our magic on the waiter, if he responds to you, we all pay for our own. If he responds more to me, then I pay for everyone's. What do you think?"
"Margaret!" Alex said, chuckling.
"Alright," Gavin agreed. Margaret readjusted her boobs so that they were more presentable.
The three of them talked about the most random things for a bit until the waiter came back with a tray filled with the food they'd ordered.
"Who had the chicken crostini, again?" he asked.
"That was mine," Margaret said, lifting her hand in such a way to accent the boobs. The waiter almost dropped the plate on the floor at the sight of the fine woman before him. Margaret glanced at Gavin with a smile on her face.
The waiter set her plate down and then asked, "Who had the pasta in marinara sauce?"
"That's mine," Gavin said, flexing his arm and chest muscles. The waiter placed the meatless plate in front of Gavin, but showed little reaction.
"That mean that the alfredo is for you, sir," he said to Alex, placing the final plate in front of him.
"Thank you," Alex said.
"Is there anything else I can get for you guys," he said, looking directly at Margaret.
"No thank you. Not right now. Can we get a dessert menu in about a half hour?"
"Certainly, ma'am," he said taking the tray away.
"Thank you, girls. You never let me down," Margaret said, gently adjusting her tits.
"You win!" Gavin said, laughing.
They talked for a bit longer. Alex and Margaret avoided talking about some subjects, specifically home. They did talk about Elizabeth, but in more general terms. After a rich dessert, though, they left the restaurant, heading toward Montevallo. Margaret pulled out her camera and snapped a few pictures along the way. Alex gave her a few interesting faces. Gavin cheesed it up, just for her. It wasn't very long before they were pulling off the interstate. Gavin wound and weaved his way through the country roads that lined the route from the interstate to Montevallo. Margaret looked around, but found she couldn't see much because of the darkness of the night.
In a matter of minutes, they were pulling into the town. "Would you like me to take you to the inn?" Gavin asked.
"If you don't mind," Margaret said, taking a moment away from her admiration of not only the buildings, but also the general ambiance of the campus.
"I certainly don't," Gavin said.
"Alex," Margaret said, turning to her brother, who was simply glad to have his sister there with them.
"Mind helping me up with my things?"
"Not at all, Mags."
Gavin pulled between Main Hall and Reynolds Hall and drove back toward the inn. It wasn't a proper hotel, but rather a building that had been used as a dorm that was simply converted into an inn for guests of the University. Gavin pulled into one of the spaces and then put the car in park. The three of them climbed out of the car. Margaret stayed toward the front of the car while Gavin and Alex pulled her bags out.
"I love you," Gavin whispered.
"I love you, too," Alex whispered back. Gavin looked to make sure that Margaret wasn't looking in their direction and kissed Alex's cheek.
"Sorry. I just needed to kiss you for a second."
"It's OK," Alex said, smiling. "In just a little bit, you can do that all you want."
"OK," Gavin said, as if he were a little kid.
Alex grabbed his sister's bags as he continued to smile at his boyfriend. He turned to find his sister had occupied her time by taking pictures of the front of the building. Gavin shut the door to the back of the truck and walked around the driver's side of the car to the front of the vehicle.
"Gavin. Thank you once again for coming to get me," Margaret said, stopping her picture taking for a second. She walked to Gavin and gave him a hug.
"It's not a problem," Gavin said, returning the quick embrace.
"Well, I appreciate your kindness."
"Anytime..." Gavin said, smiling.
Margaret walked over to Alex, grabbing one of the bags. "Woo hoo hoo! I'm so glad I'm here!!!" she proclaimed, smiling at both of them. Alex and Gavin both laughed heartily and then said their good-byes as Margaret and Alex walked into the inn. Gavin climbed back into the truck, pulling out his cell phone as Alex and Margaret were inside the inn.
"I'm going back over to the room for a bit. Will I see you later?" Gavin texted to Alex. He waited for a second, the reply came quickly.
"YES! I can't wait for a few minutes alone with you," Alex responded. Gavin pulled the truck out of the space and went back to the dorm. Alex stayed for a bit to get settled with his sister. After check in, they walked around to her room. Alex set her bags on the table in the room while she lay down on the bed.
"I can see why you're having so much fun," Margaret said. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do. There are no public appearances you have to do. You don't have to be what everyone else expects you to be."
"I still have those lingering feelings that one day, I'm going to be walking across campus and get picked up by the Royal Guard for some reason."
"Yeah...I know that feeling!" Margaret said. "So I have a question for you."
"OK?" Alex asked.
"Do you think Gavin would date me if I asked?" she watched for his reaction to the question very carefully.
Alex seemed to fumble as he contemplated the answer to the question. He'd never once that he remembered lied to his twin, the woman who swore that she would never to him either. "Um...Mags. There's something I have to tell you."
"OK," she said, smiling as her brother struggled to make eye contact.
"Yes???" she asked. Alex looked at her, catching her eyes and smile for a moment.
"I think you know what I'm to say," Alex said, turning away as if he were ashamed of it. In fact, he wasn't ashamed, he was very proud to be who he was and with whom he was. He just found it hard to express it to the only person who he'd trusted until Gavin.
"I want to hear you say it, though."
"Why are you tormenting me?"
"Because I can!" Margaret responded in both a sarcastic and joking tone.
"Gavin and I are together, as a couple, as boyfriends." He took a very deep breath and waited for the proverbial shit to hit the fan.
Margaret sat up on the bed and put her arm around Alex's shoulders. "I did already know."
"From the way you seem to light up when we talk on the phone and I ask about him...From the way you looked at him lovingly tonight as we talked in the airport...as we sat in the restaurant...as you guys stood and watched me take pictures of the statue. There are a lot of pieces that I have put together. Chances are that I even knew before you did."
"How long do you think you've known?"
"Since we were about 11," Margaret answered.
"How come you didn't tell me?"
"I dunno. I assumed that you would tell me when you were ready," she answered sagely.
"How did you get so smart?"
"I matured faster," Margaret said. The two laughed for a second.
There was a silence that passed for a moment, but it was broken after Alex worked through his thoughts for a second. "What do you think Dad would say?"
"Oh! That's a tough one. I think that once he got over the initial shock and your bruises healed, he'd probably tell you to step aside and let Elizabeth take the throne. You know how he felt about gay people."
"Yeah...What do you think Mom will say?"
"I don't know. I think she will be happy for you, but I'm not sure how she would react as far matters of state are concerned."
"She'd probably tell me to step aside for Elizabeth."
"Probably not. She'd probably make Elizabeth and her children step aside first, and then pass the crown to me. Personally, I'm hoping that she takes it better than that, though, because I really have no desire to wear that heavy thing."
"Gee thanks for the support, sis!" Alex said with a chuckle.
"No! You know that I will be there to support you 110%, but I just don't want that responsibility for myself."
"I understand. I guess I really don't have a choice, do I?"
"Nope. Because Elizabeth and the Crown are like gas and fire...they should never be combined."
"So true!" Alex responded.
"Alex. I'm glad you're my brother, I just hate to say it, but I'm a bit jealous of you."
"Because you found a hot, hot, HOT man before I did!"
Alex laughed. "You should see his dick!"
"Don't tease me like that, Alex!"
"It's nice...long, thick...perfect head..."
"ALEX! Stop before I come over to your dorm and ruin half the men in there for the rest of their lives!"
"FINALLY! I'm one up on you!"
"I'll show you bitch, little bro!" Margaret said as she began to tickle her brother. Alex laughed.
"Stop...you'll make me pee!"
"Good! Walk back over to your dorm with pee-stained jeans! I don't care!"
There was an eventual relenting of the tickling, as Alex begged and begged to be spared the embarrassment of having to walk across the quad and into his dorm in pee soaked jeans.
"OK...OK..." Margaret said as the laughing died down. "I have another serious question for you."
"I'm the bottom..." Alex answered, incorrectly anticipating her next question.
"OK. That's good to know, I'm sure, but that's not what I wanted to ask."
"Does he know?"
"No," Alex said. He and his sister had talked about Gavin's knowledge before, but from the things that she'd seen that night, she was unsure.
"OK. We'll keep it that way until I've gotten the word from you that you guys have talked."
"Thank you, sis. I want to tell him, but the time never seems right."
"It will come. I assure you!" Margaret said. They hugged for a second, but not as strong as they had before. "Alright. I'm getting up bright and early in the morning to explore the campus and bother you."
"Cool. Just not before 10."
"Oh hell no! I'm over there at 8!"
"You might not like what you see in Gavin's room!"
"Or I might like it too much and try to take him away."
"Not a chance in hell, sis!"
"Fine..." Margaret responded as if giving up an actual battle or conceding in an actual argument. She smiled at Alex. "I love you, Alex."
"Likewise, gemela (twin)," Alex said.
They both stood from the bed and embraced once more. "I'm glad I'm here," Mags said.
"Me too, sis," Alex responded, feeling for a second liberated from within a cocoon in which he'd trapped himself and his sexuality.
"OK. So I need to get some sleep," Margaret said as she yawned deeply. "Call you in the morning?"
"Yeah, but not before 10."
"Why so late?" Margaret asked. Alex gave her a look and a wink. "OH!" she said, blushing for a second. "Alright then. Not before 10!"
"Cool. Night sis," Alex said as he opened the door.
"Night, baby bro!" Alex waved once more then shut the door before turning to walk down the hallway back to the lobby. He greeted the person working the desk, who smiled back at him before wishing him a good night.
Alex walked across the quad almost as if he were floating on clouds. Not only was his sister there with him, but also because she officially knew about him and seemed fine with it. He traipsed across the quad quickly, running up the front stairs to the dorm. He walked passed his own room and headed toward Gavin's. He gently wrapped on the door, hearing a quiet `come in' from Gavin. He turned to find that Gavin was already sleeping quietly on the bed, with his back facing the door. Quitely, Alex locked the door behind him and made his way toward the bed. A small lamp on Kevin's desk shed enough light over the darkness so that Alex could take off his clothes and climb into bed beside Gavin. He quietly and gently pulled back the covers and climbed in behind him, wrapping his arms around Gavin's waist gently.
"Love you, babe," Gavin muttered, still reeling from sleep.
"También, yo te amo," Alex responded, squeezing Gavin gently. (I love you, too.)
Alex fell asleep quickly. He dreamt again of the beach, with Margaret on one side of him while Gavin was on the other. It seemed such a perfect image of happiness in his mind that he awoke the next morning smiling.
As the pair slept together in peaceful bliss, Lorenzia was coming alive with activity. The Queen took about her morning tasks, trying to live through the physical pain that was growing progressively worse day by day. She met with ministers and representatives throughout the morning, taking a long lunch to recover and relax before the afternoon of public appearances that had been schedule for her.
"Marcia," the Queen called between meetings.
"Yes ma'am?" Marcia asked as she came into the room.
"Can you call Dr. Stoyanov and ask him to casually drop by this afternoon?"
"Everything OK, Majesty?"
"I'm alright. I'm just feeling a little pain today is all."
"I'll give him a call," Marcia said.
"By the way," the Queen said as Marcia stood in the office, "The Prime Minister said that he's secured your raise. I asked him for 50%, but he was only able to get 35% from the Finance and Employment Minister. Is that alright?"
"Majesty! That's more than alright. I was hoping for maybe 10%, at the most."
"Marcia. I'm afraid that we're going to have to start scaling back my work days."
"Right. Do I need to cancel your appearances for today?"
"Any that are away from the palace. I don't feel I could go anywhere today," she said honestly. The pain had gotten worse from even the day before. She wanted to cry but held in her emotions, more to show strength and solidarity of the monarchy. Marcia left the office and set about the task of calling the doctor and canceling any appointments away from the palace. Isabel sat there alone, contemplating the future. She envisioned a land under the auspices of her son. She only wished that she would be able to see the direction the nation would take under his tutelage and rule.
"The doctor is on his way for a `casual visit'," Marcia said, returning into her office.
"Thank you, Marcia," she said.
"Majesty. May I ask a favor?"
"I know I just got a raise, but would it be possible to take tomorrow off. Mom isn't doing well, and I'd like to visit her."
"Of course. Take the time you need. I might take tomorrow off myself."
"Very good, Majesty. That would probably be a good thing," Marcia noted.
The Queen was waiting patiently in her office as the doctor arrived just a bit later. "Afternoon, Majesty," he said as he went into the office.
"Good afternoon, Petr," she said.
"Permission to speak freely?" the doctor asked as he got out a couple of instruments.
"You're losing weight too rapidly," the doctor said.
"And I used to complain about being fat when I was younger!" the Queen tried to joke.
"I'm afraid that things are progressing faster than I'd initially imagined."
"I'm going to need to set up regular visits with you. I would prefer twice a week, if your schedule will permit."
"Talk to Marcia about that," the Queen said, struggling to stand from the position seated behind her desk.
"Do you need some help, Majesty?"
"No. I still have to do it."
"Do you need something for pain?"
"That would be nice," Isabel said, slowly moving toward the sofa. "I don't understand it. I felt fine yesterday, but today, I'm not doing so well."
"It's understandable. You're at a point where you will have good days and bad, Majesty."
"I just wish there were more good ones."
"I wish that we'd caught this in time."
"Yeah. You and me both." Isabel looked at the doctor for a moment. "You realize that if, at any point, you feel that I am no longer able to serve, you have the power and responsibility as my personal physician and oncologist to inform the Prime Minister of my incapacity."
"By you telling me that, I know that you're still in sound mind."
"I hope it stays that way for a long time."
"Again, both of us wish the same thing."
"The procedure is somewhat clear. You must put the announcement in writing and deliver a copy to this office. You must then take a copy of the letter to the Prime Minister's office. If you should have to, there is a password you give the receptionist in the PM's office."
"And that password is `cabochaleira,' right?"
"Right. At that point, the receptionist will get the Prime Minister, who will call an immediate meeting with the Royal Minister and the Minister of Health. You are to give them, without question, all of my medical records. I know that confidentiality is tricky with me, but I give you all permissions necessary to release those records."
"Majesty?" the doctor interrupted.
"This is the fourth time we've discussed this," he said, smiling.
"I know. I'm a control freak, micro-manager."
"This isn't always a bad thing."
"Yes it is, but I thank you for being nice to an old lady."
"We're the same age, Majesty."
"And you are an old man!" the Queen joked.
As the two sat and talked for more than an hour, Elizabeth was enjoying the sunny February day at her home in Italy. Her children were with their tutor; her husband was away on business related to the company that his family owned. She was left to her own devices. One of her servants brought a light lunch as she sat on a terrace overlooking the Aegean on the western coast of Italy. There were no words exchanged between her and her servant as the servant meekly set the tray on a table in front of the Princess.
"Grazie," Elizabeth said coldly. The servant, who was, to Elizabeth, nameless, curtsied and then exited as quickly as she'd entered. She picked up a phone sitting beside her and dialed the number for Alex's room.
"Hello?" Eddie answered.
"Eddie? This is Elizabeth, Alex's sister."
"Oh! Hey! How are you?"
"I'm fine," she said, trying to sound nice and concerned about her brother while plotting in her mind the best way to destroy her little brother's credibility. "How are you?"
"I'm doing OK. I'm sorry that I haven't contacted you. I've been busy with school and I haven't seen Alex very much either."
"So my little brother's busy with school?"
"Yeah. He spends a lot of time with friends, too."
"Ah! Ever the social butterfly!"
"Yeah..." Eddie responded before yawning, as he'd been awoken by the phone.
"Well, as soon as you send me some photos, I can wire you some money. I was thinking about $50,000 euro or something in that range."
"How much is that in US dollars?"
"If I'm not mistaken, it's about $65,000 US."
"Wow! That much for a few pictures."
"It's worth it," she said, believing herself for the first time in the conversation.
"I will definitely see what I can do."
"It will be greatly appreciated," she said.
"Well, I can tell you were still asleep, so I will speak with you shortly. You still have my email address, right?"
"Yes ma'am. I do."
"Great! We will be in touch then soon!"
"Good-bye," she said, in a very stately European tone.
"Bye," Eddie said as Elizabeth pulled the phone away from her head and pressing the button to hang up the phone. Eddie hung up the phone and went back to sleep, as he'd planned on sleeping in, since classes had been cancelled for that Friday.