Featured Review on this writing by Robert Helliger

Raising the Crown

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - The Past Comes Calling With Some Royal Discoveries.

Submitted: June 15, 2019

Reads: 867

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Submitted: June 15, 2019

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It was a hot summer night in the town of Malone, New York. I had just come off a bar stage after a very well enjoyed performance I put on. I had to take a short break before I started my autograph signing for VIP ticket holders. When I found myself in a hall that was free of bar guests, I delighted in the silence. Thank God for sound proof doors, because I seriously needed a few minutes without a single screaming fan, because I have been non-stop these past two weeks on a tour of performances every day in major cities along the eastern seaboard. When I saw my trusted security guard and long-time friend, José, walk up to me in a serious manner I knew something was up.

“Hey, Vince,” he said.

José was a big, burly man who stood about six foot and five inches tall, and he had the appearance of a tough biker, but he had the heart of a teddy bear. He had been my personal body guard since I was thrust into stardom at the age of fifteen. I’ve known him for eighteen years, and he probably knew everything about me by now, including my darkest secrets. As much as I loved my father, José was like a second father to me, and he was always such a clown, which explains how I knew that something was wrong right now.

“What’s up, José?” I asked when I stopped in my tracks.
“You’ve got an unexpected visitor,” he said. “I was going to refuse him entrance back here, but it’s important you see him. It’s about Camila.”

Camila? Good Lord! It’s been . . . a solid decade since I’ve seen or heard from her, and I can’t remember the last time she even came to mind.

“What about Camila?” I asked, now concerned.
“Mr. Crane . . . uh . . . Camila’s husband is waiting for you in your dressing room. I was going to pass the message along to you and take down his number since you have a full schedule, but what he has to say really should be said in person.”

Okay, he officially scared me. The look on his face, and his refusal to say what was exactly up with Camila, was a sure sign that something was definitely wrong. José gestured me towards the dressing room, and he opened the door for me when we approached it. After it opened, the first thing I saw was a man dressed up in what looked like a full-on cowboy outfit. It came complete with the hat and stirrup boots, and the whole ensemble was colored in earthy blue and brown tones. When the man turned around, I could swear he had just stepped out of an old western movie. He wore a big brown out of date mustache with the very curly tips, and I could see he was outdoors a lot, because he was quite tanned. He probably stood about six foot even, but his eyes told me there was a mystery to him, a hidden agenda.
 

“Has he been checked?” I asked José softly when I met José’s eyes.
“Yes,” José replied. “He even volunteered we do a background check. He’s clean. I’ll leave you to some privacy, because you’re going to need it, but I’ll be right outside this door.”

I nodded and stood silently until the door closed behind me.

“Ah, Mr. Palladino, it’s about time we finally met,” said the man as he walked towards me. “My name’s Timmy, Timothy Crane. I’ve heard so much about you.”

When he extended his hand for a shake, I felt as if he had put up a huge front. I smiled, though, and I forced myself to accept his handshake. As soon as our hands shook, something about him instantly irked me, gave me goosebumps. How in the hell did Camila go from dating me to marrying this guy? I could hardly believe this was her husband.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Crane?” I asked as I pulled my hand back and walked towards the vanity dresser across the room, though I kept my eyes on him through the mirror.
“Oh, please, Mr. Crane is my father. Call me Timmy.”

I did not want to call him anything. In fact, I did not even want him here, because his presence meant I had to dig up a past I tried hard to forget, and I succeeded for ten years – until now. Camila left me, and I never got a clear answer as to why, but I just knew that I could not afford to be bitter right now. Timmy does not strike me as the kind of man that would meet me, his wife’s ex-fiance whom she left, unless there was something wrong. I just smiled briefly as I sat down in the vanity chair and grabbed a towel that was already placed on the vanity desk from the venue staff. I wiped the sweat off my face and temples, and when I felt my face dry, I looked back at Mr. Crane through the mirror.

“What can I do for you, Timmy?” I asked as I met his gaze.

I can honestly say I have never heard of a full grown man to be known by a child’s nickname.

“Well, I’m Camila Juric’s husband. She spoke highly of you, sir.”
“I know who you are,” I said. “You’re the luckiest guy in the world. Congratulations. How’s Camila?”
“Thank you, but I’d hardly consider myself lucky right now. Camila . . . uh . . . I’m sorry, but there’s no easy way to say this.”

I watched as he momentarily stood silent and looked down at the floor. His hands were now on his hips and he sighed deeply. I then knew something was really, really wrong.

“Just spit it out,” I told him as I turned around in my chair to look directly into Mr. Crane’s eyes. “Give it to me straight. What’s wrong with Camila? Is she sick? Hurt?”

Mr. Crane slowly brought his head up with tears now in his eyes, though he refused to let them slip from his hold.

“She’s dead.”

Everything, the whole world, all my thoughts, even time froze for me as soon as those words were spoken. I held my breath as I tried to keep my composure. The tears instantly surfaced as I could feel my heart had shattered into millions of pieces all over again, something I had not felt in this way since the day she left me, only this time a part of my soul was ripped out. I wanted to collapse, but I was not about to do so in front of a stranger, not someone who was the husband of my first love.

“When?” I asked as I did not know what else to say at the moment.
“Three days ago, on the eve of July 4th,” was his answer. “It was a car accident.”
“No . . . no, this is just a nightmare.”

Mr. Crane was silent for a moment before he continued.

“I know, it’s unfortunate, but what can I do? Someone cut her off on the highway and caused her to crash into the highway divider.”

How could he be so nonchalant about this? He just seemed so cold, like what happened with Cami didn't really matter to him. All I wanted to do was just break down and cry.

“I’m sorry we had to meet like this,” Mr. Crane added. “But I am glad I was able to reach you. Camila’s parents tried contacting your agent, Mr. Michaelson, but your agent never returned their calls. They’ve been trying to get a hold of you all day about Camila’s will.”

I have never met Camila’s parents, but the fact that Camila had a will was news to me.

“Camila has a will?” I asked.
“Yes, you’re in it,” Mr. Crane said.
“I’m in it?” I asked, even more surprised.

She was the one who left me. Why would I be in her will?

“Yes,” Mr. Crane answered. “Her wake is in three days.”

I watched as he took something out of his flannel shirt pocket. It was a small piece of paper folded neatly and he handed it to me.

“I’m sure Camila would want you there. Her parents definitely will be and they’d probably appreciate it if you showed up, showed how much you cared for Camila by paying your respects.”

Why don’t I like his tone?

“Of course I cared about her!” I said sharply as I quickly snatched the paper from him. “I would’ve given my life for her if I could!”

Mr. Crane was silent for a moment, surprised by my outburst, and I just sighed in defeat.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I just wasn’t . . .”
“Expecting this, I know,” he said. “And I’m sorry, but I really am pressed for time. I have to track down an old friend of Camila’s in Canada. I just wanted you to know what happened. I know you were important to Camila.”

“Thank you,” I replied as I stood up now to face him. “I appreciate you coming out here to meet me. I'm so sorry for your loss.”
“No, thank you, Mr. Palladino,” Mr. Crane said. “Have a nice night.”
“You too,” I answered as I watched him walk out of the room.

When he didn’t close the door behind him, José appeared from the side, from inside the hall.

“Vince?”

I instantly put my hand up, which signaled for him to stop talking.

“Cancel the autograph signing. Get all the names and addresses of the VIP ticket holders. We’ll issue and send them all a one-time VIP pass to any concert of their choice at any time. I can’t go out there right now. I just . . . I can’t.”
“I understand,” José said softly as he saw the tears in my eyes. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do. I’m sorry, Vince, I’m really sorry for your loss. I know what she meant to you. She was such a sweet girl.”

I could not say anything further to him. Jose knew I needed to be alone, so he just simply closed the door, and left me to my thoughts. I looked down at the paper that Mr. Crane gave me and I opened it. The paper then revealed an address, date, and time. It was for Camila’s wake and it was three days out. My Cami . . . my first love . . . she was . . . gone. I could hardly believe it. I quickly pulled out my cell phone from my pockets and speed dialed my wife in Greece. After three rings, she picked up, and she spoke in her usually cheery voice.

“Hello, darling.”

Oh, how I wished that she was here with me now and not in Greece with our two sons and her parents.

“Gloria,” I said softly, barely above a whisper.

My voice failed miserably at trying to stay strong. My wife instantly knew something was wrong, because her next words were only filled with concern.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”
“Camila . . .”

I did not want to say it out loud, but I knew I had to. My knees trembled in fear and buckled out before me, so I fell to the floor on my knees. Gloria knew who Camila was and she knew what Camila meant to me. After all, she was there for me when Camila left me, and Gloria picked up the pieces of my broken heart and put them back together with her own love. Now my heart was shattered once again. This time, I let the tears fall, because I knew there was no sense in holding them back.

“She’s dead. She’s . . . she’s gone.”

 

***

 

Two days had passed and it was now twelve o’clock in the morning on the day of Camila’s wake. This was about to be the longest day of my life. I did not know if I would get a hotel or not, so I packed a day’s worth of clothes and the basic necessities just to be safe. I had told my agent, Jacob Michaelson, he had better keep my schedule cleared for this entire week, or he was fired. He was already under enough fire for keeping Camila’s parents’ calls from me. Gloria wanted to come home and be here with me, but our little boys were having too much fun with her parents in Greece, so I convinced her I would be okay without her. It was true that she helped me through a lot when it came to Camila, and I did want her to hold me when I was in shock about Camila’s . . . death . . . but in all honesty I needed this time to myself. I needed time to mourn alone.

I grabbed my duffle bag and locked up my house. I always loved the drive down to North Carolina, but this was one drive I dreaded, because it meant I had to say goodbye to the one I gave my heart to eighteen years ago. I sighed deeply once I sat down in my car. I sat there silently for a moment, and I felt the tears coming again, but I couldn’t let them slip while I was driving on the road. I quickly wiped my eyes dry before I turned the car on and then I put on my seatbelt. On the drive down to Point Pleasant, North Carolina, my mind went back to one of my favorite memories of me and Cami on our private beach.

“Cami?” I said as I held her in my arms and my head rested on hers.
“Yes, Vince?” she said as she turned her head towards mine.

In our peripheral vision the sun was rising from the horizon. We had spent the night on the beach where we made love to one another for the first time. We were seventeen.

“No matter where I am in this world, my heart will forever be here on this beach with you,” I told her. “You have my heart for always, baby.”

Camila gazed passionately into my eyes and smiled softly.

“I know,” she said. “I see you in the spotlight, pushing away the girls who are always throwing themselves at you. Never stop carrying my heart with you, Giovanni.”

I sat silently and just gazed softly into her eyes. That was the only time she ever called me by my first name. Coming from her, I loved it, and wished she had done that more, but she never did.

“I won't, I promise. I love you, Camila,” I said softly.

Camila smiled even bigger at me and she tenderly placed a kiss on my nose.

“I love you too.”

The drive to Point Pleasant was a lot quicker than I thought it was going to be, probably because while my mind was on Camila, my foot was heavy on the gas pedal. It was also a smooth, cleared drive down as well, especially when I hit the backroads. I arrived early enough that I still had another hour until Camila’s wake, so I went to the beach, our beach. It was funny how every time I came to this beach, whether alone or with Camila, there was never a soul around.

It was probably because it had some large boulders and rocks and people usually preferred beaches that were free of such obstacles, but Camila and I never minded, because we loved the privacy. For a good forty-five minutes I just sat in our most precious spot and I shed a few tears. I had no words right now. Truth be told, I hadn’t spoken a word since I convinced my wife to stay in Greece for the remainder of her trip with our boys. When I eventually arrived at Camila’s wake, from people I got looks of confusion and looks of surprise.

“Vincenzo Palladino?”

I turned my head at the sound of my name and saw an elderly couple standing before me. I figured they might have been Camila’s parents.

“Yes,” I said.
“Oh, we are so glad Mr. Michaelson gave you the news. We were afraid you would miss this,” said the graying woman. “I am Marija Juric, and this is my husband, Kristijan.”

I knew Camila had an American accent, but her parents don’t. I remembered Camila told me once that her parents emigrated from Xudia, which was long before she was even born, so they have actually been in the country for a long while. Their accents, I could tell, have weakened over time, but they were still strong enough for me to pick up on them, probably because I have never heard a true Xudian accent before.

“Oh, hi! It’s an honor to meet you, but please, you can just call me Vince,” I said as I extended my hand for a shake from both of them, which they immediately accepted. “Actually, I’m embarrassed to say this, but my agent kept your calls from me. It was Camila’s husband that came to see me in New York three nights ago. I’d just got done performing when he gave me the news.”
“Wait, Timothy Crane came to see you? Where in New York? The police are looking for him.”

This news sure surprised me.

“I was in Malone. He didn’t see me for long. He said he had to go track down an old friend of Camila’s in Canada,” I explained.
“Camila did not have any friends in Canada,” Kristijan said. “He is on the run for what he did to our little girl. Marija, darling, go notify Detective Landon and let him know what we just found out.”
“I will,” she said. “Mr. Palladino, if you will excuse me?”
“No problem,” I said as I smiled softly.

When Marija disappeared from sight, Kristijan’s gaze had met mine, and he spoke up.

“I am glad we have finally met,” he said.
“I’m sorry we haven’t met sooner,” I told him as he patted me on my shoulder.
“I regret that it is under these circumstances, but to be honest, Marija and I have heard many good things about you from Camila for years, ever since she was fifteen. I am not sure if Timothy Crane told you, but I am the executor of my little girl’s will, and you are in it. I know you are a pretty busy guy, so I will have you sign some papers today with my wife being witness, but first I want you to meet someone.”

I didn’t say anything at first. I just followed Kristijan through the house. Eventually we reached the living room. I stopped in my shoes when I saw a little boy in front of Camila’s opened casket. He was on the floor, knees to his chest, and he cried as he held something in his arms. Kristijan stopped in his tracks too when he saw my eyes were on that boy.

“Do you know who that little boy is?” Kristijan asked me. I had no words. I just shook my head no. “That is Luca. He has not left Camila’s side since her casket was brought here.”

I knew no little kid named Luca, but why did he just look so familiar?

“He is Camila’s son,” Kristijan said. Those words instantly echoed in my mind. She had a son? “And he is your son too,” Kristijan added.

I instantly looked into Kristijan’s eyes with surprise.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I must not have heard you right. What did you say?”

Kristijan smiled softly.

“No, you heard me right. Luca is your son. Camila already gave birth to him before she met that . . . that husband of hers.”

To say the cat had my tongue was a total understatement. I really had no words.

“It is my understanding from my daughter that you knew absolutely nothing of Luca, that you did not even know your love for each other created such a miracle, because Camila did not want him ruining your career as a musician at such a young age.”

This . . . really surprised me. So that’s why she left me? I can’t say I was pleased to know I’ve had a son I didn’t know about for the last decade, but I was definitely glad I was finally able to understand why she left, because she left without any real reason why.

“Luca is the reason that you are in Camila’s will,” Kristijan stated. “She wanted to make sure that if anything ever happened to her, he would be placed in your care and out of harm’s way.”

I then turned my gaze from Kristijan to Luca. That’s why he looked so familiar. He looks a lot like me from when I was his age.

“What did Timothy do to Camila?” I asked, keeping my eyes on Luca. “What did he do to her that makes him dangerous?”
“It is too inappropriate to discuss here, but I can tell you that Timothy Crane is one of many of his disturbing aliases. He is a wanted man in fifteen other states for sexually heinous crimes.”

That was all Kristijan needed to say for me to understand exactly what kind of man Timothy was. It made me sad, though, but I had to know something.

“Did she really die in a car accident or was he lying?” I asked as I now looked back into Kristijan’s eyes.
“No, the accident really happened, but he was the cause of it. Eye witnesses told the authorities he was chasing her and driving recklessly. He killed a few others in the process and killed her by trying to get ahead of her, to get her to stop her car, but it crashed into the highway divider. The fatalities in all were five.”

“Oh, my God,” was all I could say in a soft tone as I crossed my arms against my chest, and my left hand momentarily covered my eyes.
“I see you are a husband?” Kristijan questioned as he looked at the ring on my left ring finger. “She is Gloria, yes, Gloria Vasallo?”

Did he always speak so properly?

“Yes, my wife, Gloria, knew Camila, and she is in Greece visiting her parents with our sons, but she does send her sympathies,” I answered. “Gloria understands who Camila was to me and she’s not upset in the slightest. In fact, she wishes she could be here. If I may ask, how do you know about Gloria? Did Camila tell you about her?”

Kristijan placed both of his hands on my shoulders and smiled widely.

“When Camila was pregnant with Luca, she was not going to keep him. In my country, abortion is a death sentence to the parents who choose to abort their unborn children. All life is precious, and miraculous, so abortion is . . . how you say . . . illegal.”

What? She was going to abort Luca?! I did not just hear this!

“Gloria came down here ten years ago to find out why my daughter left you and broke your heart, only to learn what Camila was going to do, and your darling wife somehow convinced Camila to keep her son. Nobody else could talk her out of what she was going to do.”

Wait a minute. What? Gloria came down here and talked to Camila? Why didn’t she ever tell me about this? And she really convinced Cami to keep Luca?

“Gloria is a Godsend. Though I would have preferred you married my daughter, you are a lucky, lucky man to have Gloria as your wife. She will be a wonderful stepmother to my grandson.”

Oh, Gloria and I are going to have a very serious talk when she gets back home. She has a lot of explaining to do. I just smiled warmly at Kristijan and spoke up.

“Thank you, sir,” I said. “I will send her your thanks and appreciation.”
“Marvelous!” Kristijan exclaimed. “Now you must come meet Luca.”

Instantly I grew nervous. Did Luca know about me? Would he accept me? Would he reject me? Would he even want to come home with me? I have so many questions.

“Come, come!” Kristijan said excitedly as he urged me to move forward. “I will let you two talk a bit before you sign the paperwork.”
“What if he doesn’t like me?” I asked Kristijan as I looked him in the eyes. “What if he doesn’t want to come home with me?”
“Nonsense,” Kristijan answered. “He will love you just as you are and he is very kindhearted like his mother. You will see. Now go. Go spend a little time with your son.”

The old man reminded me a lot of my own mother who always tried to get me to do something that she wanted my attention and focus on. I turned my attention onto the little boy who sat in front of Camila’s casket. I looked to Kristijan real quick, who nodded enthusiastically with approval, and gestured with his hands for me to get a move on. I then headed over to the casket and slowly got down to the young boy’s level. Just as I had done so, his head lifted up, and our eyes met for the first time.

“Hey there, kiddo,” I said to him softly.

He silently wiped away his tears with his left arm as he held something in his right hand.

“Hi,” he replied quietly.

I was sad for his loss, and I hated knowing the fact that he had to learn about death at ten years old, but he also had an expression of curiosity in his chestnut brown eyes as he stared back into mine.

“Your grandpa told me to come see you,” I said kindly. “Do you know who I am?”

Luca stayed quiet, but he gently nodded his head, and then he turned the object around to reveal it was a picture frame. Inside the frame was a beautiful picture that came from the one and only professional, private photoshoot I had with his mother right after I had proposed to her. The frame itself had the following engraved message on the bottom: Mommy & Daddy. Tears instantly welled up in my eyes, but I did my best to keep my sobs back, because I did not want to seem weak in front of him. He knew who I was!

“Yeah, kiddo,” I continued softly.

I failed miserably at trying to remain strong. Luca set the picture frame down on the floor, and he stood up, and then wrapped his arms around me. His eyes mirrored mine with tears and then he brought his face to my shoulder.

“I miss mommy,” he said.

I gently wrapped my arms around him, held him snugly to my chest, and then my tears broke free.

“I miss her too,” was the only other thing I could say right now.

Both of us cried silently, but I could tell our hug brought comfort to one another, and it was in this moment I knew we really needed each other. I wanted to be mad over the fact that I missed out on the first ten years of Luca’s life, but I knew there was no point in being mad, and getting myself all worked up over it. I could never be mad at Camila. However, I was going to get the answers I knew I deserved, and I will get them from Gloria. God bless her, though, because she was the only one who could convince Camila to bring this beautiful boy into this world.

“Kristijan,” I heard a male call towards Camila’s father. “I must once again insist that the boy return with his mother’s casket for her proper burial, and for the boy to begin his training.”
“I have already told you,” Kristijan replied. “The boy must go with his father. It is in Camila’s will.”

“And the boy was born in her royal chambers back home,” added the mystery man. Did I just hear ‘royal’ chambers? “The crown insists, Kristijan. The king is dying of cancer and there is no one else in line to take the crown. Luca must begin his training.”
“I’ll be right back, kiddo,” I whispered.

Luca quietly let go of me, and got back into his position from earlier, and then I stood up. I went back over to Kristijan and this mystery man, whose name I did not know yet.

“I’m sorry, Charles, but Camila’s American Last Will and Testament states that the boy must go with his father, and because she was naturalized as an American citizen, America has legal jurisdiction over this matter.”
“Excuse me,” I said as I interrupted the two arguing men, whom everyone had their eyes on at this point. “But shouldn’t this matter be discussed elsewhere? It is dishonoring the one person everyone is here to pay their respects to.”
“You must be the wop,” said the mystery man who was now named Charles by Kristijan.

I was thrown off by this. I had not heard that derogatory term since I lived in Brooklyn when I was a child. The tone with which this man said it in told me this was meant with such hatred for my full-blooded Italian heritage. This was not just a racial slur towards me, but towards my proud culture, and my people, and I did not appreciate this at all.

“Excuse me?” I said as I got in his face. “This Italian is half the reason you’re even here.”

I wanted to tell him off. If Camila and I would have never met, then this man would not be here, asking for Luca to begin his ‘crown’ training, because he would not even exist. That is what I wanted to tell the man, but I knew it would be a low blow, even for me, so I decided not to say it. I was angry though. To be honest, I was surprised at how level-headed I was right now.

“Luca is my son, and had I known about him from the beginning, I would have stood right by him and his mother. If Luca wants to return back to your country for his mother’s burial, I’ll be honored to take him, but as far as this ‘training’ that you speak of goes, you’ll have to go through me, his father. And, just so you are aware, by calling me such an insulting name as you have done means not only disrespect for my culture, but for half of Luca’s as well, so you dishonor Luca with your manners of disrespect,” I told the man.

I usually thought about what I should say before I say it, but I surprised myself with the second half to my statement. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m sure glad I said it, because it was the truth. This man, Charles, also quickly realized that I was right, and embarrassment now painted itself across his face.

“Where are the papers, Kristijan?” I asked as I kept my eyes on Charles. “I’ll sign them right now.”

In my peripheral vision, I could tell by the look on Kristijan’s face that he was pleased with my response to Charles, as he smiled smugly towards the man.

“Yes, you can follow me to my office,” he replied towards me, and so I turned my attention towards him, and followed him out of the living room, and we both left Charles behind.

When we entered Kristijan’s office, I could see Marija was already in here, and she was in the middle of a conversation with someone.

“I am sorry about Xir Charles. It is true when he says King Chaudhry Oorija is requesting Luca to return to Xudia. Luca should have started his crown training when he was five, but my daughter did not want Luca’s life to be about royalty. Camila wanted to teach him respect, and humility, and to enjoy his childhood before it was over. We started her own training when she was five, and she hated that we did so, told us she felt she never really had a childhood, and that she owed it to Luca to give him one that he deserved.”

“With all due respect, I understand where Camila’s coming from,” I replied kindly. “My own mother pushed me into the limelight when I was eight. She put me on stage for theatre and for music as often as she could, and I hated it in the beginning. I eventually grew out of that phase, and I’m happy she pushed me out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, there were times I bucked against her own authority. Actually, that’s how I met Cami. My parents were down here in North Carolina, and prepping me for a big audition, but I wanted none of it, and ran to the beach, where I first met Cami for a day. We were thirteen then.”

Kristijan smiled warmly at me when he heard this.

“Ahhh, so you were the boy she met on the beach!” he said. “You got her grounded for two weeks, because she did not come home for dinner that night.”

I could see that Kristijan had thought of this memory fondly, as the smile on his face remained there, and in turn I just chuckled. I thought for a moment back to when Cami and I first met. It was true we met at thirteen for that one day at the beach, but we wouldn’t see each other again until two years later. That’s when we really started to get to know each other.

“My apologies,” I replied. “Though I did make sure she had something to eat.”
“A hot dog, chips, and soda,” Kristijan said. “With the last five dollars you had in your pockets.”

Now both of us chuckled, and then our attention was drawn towards Marija, who had introduced the person she was talking to as Kristijan’s brother, who was also in the room as a witness for the legal paperwork I needed to sign. When the papers were all brought out, I could see Luca’s birth certificate from Xudia. Everyone in the room froze when they saw me freeze in my own shoes as I stared at that birth certificate.

“Vince?” Kristijan called. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” I replied softly as I looked up into his eyes. “I just didn’t realize she named him after me.”

“Ahhh, yes, Luca Giovanni Palladino,” Kristijan replied. “The crown and the people are not happy about his last name, considering my country and yours have been at war with one another for a few centuries now, but Luca has been there a few times, has shown the people of his kind heart, and has shown them he has earned his right to being the heir to the throne. The people of Xudia love him and consider him their crown prince. He is only ten, but I think he would make a great king for Xudia someday. However, per my little girl’s request, I would not force it upon him, if he did not want it.”

My eyebrows furrowed in confusion for a moment as a question popped into my head.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what would happen to Xudia if the king died, and if Luca didn’t want the crown?”

A serious expression was exchanged between Marija and Kristijan. It did not give me any comfort whatsoever. Did Gloria know about any of this? What had I gotten myself into? It was obvious Luca was no ordinary child, and that he was meant for extraordinary things, but how was I going to raise the crown Prince of Xudia, a country as tiny as Rhode Island tucked away between Italy and Slovenia?


© Copyright 2019 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.

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