Chapter 9: THE FINAL STAGE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: All Star Story Writers

Reads: 391
Comments: 3

 

 

I had just finished my shift in the palace produce shop, when I opened a script from Pop asking me to meet him in the library.

The smell of dusty ancient books lining the walls never fail to transport me back in time. I shivered involuntarily, even on a hot summer’s day like today, I always found the room cold and unfriendly and, at times, even I wondered if there could be some truth in Pop’s notorious ghost stories!

“Emmy, can we take a moment to go through your diary?” Pop asked. “We need to make sure both princes are given an equal share of your time during their stay.”

I opened up my organiser, which was crammed with royal luncheons, dinners and ceremonies, as well numerous social events.

“Right” he said, with air of authority. “Assuming they both arrive this week-end, I suggest you allocate each event in your diary over the next month, alternately between them, it’s the fairest way.”

“There you go again. You just can't help it can you?”

His thick, wiry eyebrows rose in surprise. “Can't help what?”

“Taking over, you do it every time. I’m quite capable of thinking for myself you know. I am an adult, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“OK, can you come up with a better idea?”

“It's not as simple as you seem to think. I suggest we count up the number of social and royal events separately, then divide them up equally.”

He still looked distinctly puzzled. “I'm not with you, Eemay.”

“Look at my diary,” I said, pointing out all the diary entries over the four weeks in question. It's not fair if one gets to attend more of the fun social occasions and the other gets all the royal stuffy ones, which is what will happen if we do it your way.

“Alright, I accept defeat. But don’t forget, Emmy, we can always extend their stay for as long as it takes you to make up your mind.”

Invitations were sent out to the princes by cymail, and their rooms prepared.

To make a good impression, Mum suggested that on their first evening we should all have dinner together in the formal dining room. The room had not been used in years and the old furniture stood covered in white dust-sheets like ghostly images frozen in time. But again, with some of the money from the magazine deal, it was redecorated. The huge hamogany table was stained and polished and the shabby chairs with their stuffing hanging out, reupholstered.

Hugh was the first to arrive. I had forgotten just how tall, fit and muscular he was, his physical presence seemed to fill the room. He was also impeccably groomed, confident and outgoing, greeting me with a peck on the cheek, and a wide smile. But it was when his piercing dark eyes penetrated deep into mine that my heart began to hammer and my legs turned to jelly. The effect he had on me was still as powerful as it had been on the night of the ball, and I found myself stammering like an idiot.

While we waited for Scott to arrive, typically, Pop grasped the opportunity to get to know more about him.

“Please, take a seat, let me get you a drink?” he offered. “There's beer, lager or wine.”

“Oh, I don't drink alcohol, do you have any fruit juice or mineral water?”

“Of course,” Pop said, pouring some fresh orange juice into a glass and handing it to him.

“Tell me a bit about yourself, do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“No sir, like Eemay, I am an only child, and heir to the throne of Sharemoor. Because of this my parents have always had high expectations of me. They instilled in me the importance of discipline, education and achievement.”

“What do you mean by high expectations?” Pop asked.

“Oh, all the usual stuff, when I was at school I was expected to be the best at everything. Head boy, tops marks in every subject, sports day champion, football hero.”

“And were you?”

“Well, I had to be, it wasn't up for negotiation, it was expected,” he said, almost flippantly. “As I said, I am their only son, so I have a lot to live up to.”

“Oh, you poor thing, that's awful,” I sympathised. “My parents have always encouraged me to try my best, but they never expected me to be the best.”

“Exactly,” Mum agreed. “It must have been very hard for you under so much pressure.”

“I’m not saying it’s been easy and I’ve had to work really hard, but you do get used to it, and it has definitely made me a stronger and far more determined person. I’m a fitness trainer in the army, so the discipline has helped me in my job.”

In a way, I felt quite sorry for him, he must have had a very stressful childhood and I suddenly felt very grateful that I had such supportive and loving parents, (despite Pop's tendency to take over).

“So, I take it you’re on leave at the moment?” I queried.

“Yes, I’m overdue some, so am taking a well-earned break. I read on the net how you turned the palace into a business venture, and was particularly interested in the area for ‘adrenaline junkies’. The zip wire circuit sounds right up my street, so I hope I get the chance to give it a go during my stay.”

“Of course. Feel free,” Pop assured him.

Pop consulted his watch with a deep frown on his face. “I wonder what has happened to Scott, he should have been here well over half an hour ago.”

“As if on cue, my cyPhone bleeped . . .

B with u soon, car broke down, am on my way in taxi, Scott.

Within five minutes, he was being escorted into the dining room by Edward.

“Good to see you young man,” Pop gushed. “Come on in, make yourself comfortable. Let me get you a drink.”

He gratefully accepted a glass of lager, and proceeded to greet everyone warmly.

“I do apologise for my late arrival. Unfortunately, my car has had to be towed away and taken in for repair, but at least I'm here now,” he explained, appearing relieved.

Scott went over to Hugh, shaking his hand vigorously. “Hi Hugh, it's good to see you again. I certainly hope your journey was better than mine.”

Hugh smiled as he took Scott's hand, but I noticed that it didn’t quite reach his eyes, which were scrutinising Scott intently. There was an awkward moment when they just stared at each other, locked in a vice like handshake.

“Something smells good,” Scott said, releasing his grip and sniffing in the delicious aroma of roast beef. He rubbed his hands together in eager anticipation. “I’m absolutely starving.”

With his short thick blonde hair tinted by the sun, and his bright blue eyes sparkling in his tanned face, he looked extremely handsome. His smile, broad and relaxed, began to fill me with a radiant warmth that slowly spread through my entire body, until my face began to burn in a red hot blush.

To my surprise and quite unexpectedly, Pop suddenly stood up, cleared his throat and began to deliver a lecture he had obviously prepared.

“I am very pleased to welcome you both to the palace. Please make sure you follow the health & safety rules for the duration of your stay.”

“Because the door locks are extremely old, they can sometimes jamb. So, to make sure everyone is able to evacuate as quickly as possible in an emergency, all doors must remain unlocked when occupied. Feel free to lock your door for security purposes, when you are out.

Should you hear the fire-alarm, you must leave the building immediately through the fire exit and steps, at the end of the corridor. This will take you straight outside to the assembly point, where you must remain until a roll call has taken place. For your information, a fire alarm test takes place every Friday morning at eleven o’clock.”

I couldn’t help thinking that this was neither the time nor place to go through tedious health and safety procedures and was just about to suggest that Edward should do it later, when Pop launched into ‘rules to be obeyed’ during their stay.

“As you know, the reason for your stay is to spend some individual time with my daughter. I expect you both to conduct yourselves properly at all times. I will not hesitate to dismiss either of you from The Contest should I consider it necessary.

Please take note, I will not tolerate the following . . .

• Improper behaviour when accompanying Eemay on her royal  duties

•Arguing or fighting with one another

• Attempting to win The Contest by unfair or unreasonable behaviour

•Attempting to force or control Eemay in any way

•Any other behaviour that I consider to be unacceptable

I wish you both good luck, it is now up to Eemay to choose her prince charming, but remember, I will be keeping a close eye on you both.”

Anger began to rise in me like a tidal wave. There he goes again, I thought, making me look like a stupid little girl in front of the princes. I glared at him accusingly through narrowed eyes and gritted teeth. “Can I have a quiet word with you?” I whispered hoarsely.

“What on earth do you think you are doing, interfering and taking over, you just can't help yourself can you?”

He gripped my arm tightly and ushered me swiftly from the room, out of ear shot.

“My dear Eemay, I am only trying to protect you. You must realise what a tricky situation this is, which could go horribly wrong. It is vital they both know the consequence of their actions. Please don’t be angry with me, I am only trying to do what’s best for you.”

After his explanation, I calmed down. Why is he always right?

When we were all seated at the dining table, Edward shuffled in with a tureen of soup, which slopped around, threatening to spill on to the carpet at any moment. Scott did not hesitate and instantly jumped up. “Please, let me help you with that,” he said, carefully taking the large serving dish from Edward and placing it in the middle of the table. It was a spontaneous and considerate gesture, which impressed me, and over the main course of roast beef with all the trimmings, he talked about his family with genuine affection.

“I have an older brother, Hewlett, who is the heir to the throne of Excelsior. We are known as the heir and the spare,” he said, grinning widely.

“Do you have a day job as well as your royal duties?” I asked.

“I spend most of my spare time, buying and selling. I have a keen eye for a bargain and enjoy trudging around markets, auctions and car-boot sales, as well as surfing the net looking for bargains to buy and sell at a profit.”

“And do you make a decent profit?”

“Well, yes I do, but I also donate a large percentage of the profit to the charities I support,” he said, piling his plate high with roast potatoes, and mountains of veg. “It gives me a sense of purpose and satisfaction, which is really important to me. I actually read with interest how you turned the palace into various business ventures when you faced hard times, so it’s obvious we share similar values.”

“Are you going to climb that or eat it?” Hugh suddenly asked, his eyes wide with disbelief at the mountainous pile of food on Scott's plate  “Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Besides, gluttony is not good for you. I always advise my clients to eat a balanced diet, everything in moderation, it's the key to a healthy lifestyle.”

Scott stuffed a roast potato into his mouth ravenously. “I couldn't agree more, but I haven't eaten since breakfast.”

Conscious that it was a difficult situation for them both, I felt relieved when the meal was finally over. After handing them each a timetable, detailing their individual appointments and activities with me during their stay, Edward showed them to their rooms.

I gratefully retreated to the privacy of my bedroom, threw myself on to my bed and heaved a sigh of relief, happy in the knowledge that from now on I would only have to meet up with them one at a time.

This is just the beginning, was my last thought as I closed my eyes and drifted into a deep sleep.


Submitted: October 13, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Keke Serene

I can understand her frustration but her dad is 100% correct! They've only invited two total strangers into their home! One could very well be a psycho. Some interesting dynamics between the two, Scott doesn't seem he'll take kindly to loosing, being he's been obligated to be the best! I'm worried for Hugh, and already like him most for this reason!

Tue, October 9th, 2018 7:07pm

Author
Reply

Ah, a tricky situation that could go horribly wrong... watch this space!

Tue, October 9th, 2018 12:20pm

Keke Serene

....also because he thrifts Lol!

Tue, October 9th, 2018 7:07pm

Author
Reply

Ha, yeah! Thanks for sticking with this.

Tue, October 9th, 2018 12:26pm

KathrynAcacia

Lol, that would be a very awkward situation for everyone involved! XD This is a really good introduction to both of our princes- some nice foreshadowing for Hugh's true nature, but also a good description of why he's so charming... Not for long, I suspect!

Sat, October 13th, 2018 5:01pm

Author
Reply

This is really where it all kicks off! Thanks so much!

Sat, October 13th, 2018 10:53am

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