Raising the Crown

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

Chapter 12 (v.1) - Anger, Comfort, and Exhaustion, but Who is Gino?

Submitted: August 30, 2019

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Submitted: August 30, 2019

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When I had retired to my quarters after dinner, I could not help but want to spend the remainder of my night standing at one of the huge windows that overlooked the entire west side of Xudia. At the horizon, some of my view was composed of mountains to the right side, and some of it was also open waters towards the left. At the horizon itself, the sun was setting so beautifully, and all I could think about was that it was a representation of letting go of everything I knew of my old life, and saying goodbye to it forever, as my life was quite literally changing in so many ways, and would continue to do so for a while.

“Abbo?”

He was very good at sneaking in and out of rooms, wasn’t he? Once again I had not heard him come in, which meant he probably entered through the secret corridors located all throughout the palace. Truth be told, I wanted to be left alone right now, but I didn’t have the heart to turn him away.

“Sí?” was the only thing I could answer with in this moment as I kept my eyes upon the majestic city and province of Moscjen.
“Are you alright?” he asked as he approached and stood by my left side. “You’ve hardly said much at supper, except for the basics of what the king wanted to discuss, and even then you were not yet willing to undergo negotiations. Instead, you said you’d revisit the discussions of legitimization and regency upon your return. I can sense, Abbo, that His Majesty has overwhelmed you, hasn’t he?”

“I’m fine,” I said softly, but then met my son’s eyes for a moment. “It’s just a lot to process, that’s all.”
“I understand, Abbo. I’ve known of my royal lineage since I was old enough to understand, and I’ve been raised with that knowledge. You are already an adult with a well-established life, and you are just finding out now of your royal lineage. That must not be easy to process at all.”

You’ve got that right, kiddo. This shit is just insane. It's so crazy I could really go for a drink right about now . . .

“I’m not going to ask you what decision you’re leaning towards. I won’t even ask you what you plan to do when we return to America. I know you need some time to thoroughly look over all your options. I will say, however, that just because you are heir to the throne does not mean you have to accept the crown, not as regent or as a legitimized king. We the people would understand, simply because you weren’t born into our culture, which means you weren’t raised with our cultural expect-”

“I never had the chance,” I interrupted quietly and simultaneously looked back out through the window, and though my response was meant more for me, Luca still heard me.
“You are angry, Abbo,” he answered.
“You . . . have nooo idea,” I replied in as calm a manner as I could with my arms behind my back, which for me was just the simple physical reminder that I needed to keep my emotions 100% in check.

The silence between us was deafening and I could feel that Luca’s eyes were still only focused on me. Just about 75% of the sun was gone now behind the horizon. I could see street lights in the city now turning on one by one, and the same with a lot of the houses. Truth be told, I was fuming with fury and bitterness right now, but Luca wasn’t the one I was angry with, and he didn’t deserve to see me blow up in front of him when I was angry with someone else.

“When you leave the day after Mommy’s funeral, I will return with you to America,” he said.
“No, you will not,” I said sternly as I looked back into his eyes. “That vile and repulsive criminal that your mother married is still out there and he’s after you. You’re safer here with all your guards and soldiers around your palace.”

“How long will you be gone?”
“I don’t know yet,” I answered. “I have to talk to Gloria first. I know you know I have a nationwide sold out album tour waiting for me to pick up where I left off, so that’s something that’s going to need my immediate attention. I also need to talk to your grandparents . . . my parents.”

Luca kept his eyes on me for a few moments, and I could tell he had something on his mind, and then he parted his lips.

“Are you going to bring them here when you return, as the king has asked at supper?”
“All I can do is try, but I can’t make any promises. Truthfully, Luca, I’m not sure I want you to meet your grandmother right now . . . or ever.”
“I know you are angry with her, Abbo, but that’s not your decision to make for me. I know I’m only ten, and still by law recognized as a kid, but I’m far from any normal kid my age. Mommy told me about the entire conversation she had with your mother on that last day she was with you in New York before she left you the next morning. I asked her to tell me the conversation word for word.”

I couldn’t help the tears in my eyes as I now placed my left hand on his right shoulder, and I bent forward to become more eye level with him.

“Then you know why I don’t think it’s a good idea to introduce you to her, at least not right now.”
“Abbo, listen,” Luca said as he now took my hand off his shoulder. “You are angry with her for a lot of reasons. You are angry with her for keeping you and Mommy apart. You are angry with her for trying to give Mommy money to terminate her pregnancy with me. You are angry with her for not telling you that your real father is the King of Xudia, and you are angry with her for keeping that rightful bond with him from you. You are angry with her for all the lies she gave you while she kept so many secrets behind your back.”

Was I that easy to read? Wait, what am I saying? This kid was just too smart for his own good. I stood up in my normal stance again, my hands once more behind my back, and then I sighed deeply. What was I to do with this kid?

“I understand, Abbo. I was angry once upon a time too about how mi nonna treated Mommy, and ultimately, me. I was angry with her, because honestly, what she did to Mommy kept me from knowing you. I know you’re angry with your mother, and that you need to talk with her, but guess what, Abbo? So do I. Nonna needs to answer to me for what she did to Mommy, for the way she treated her, and for the way she disregarded my life before I was even born. I need her to look into my eyes and really understand and own up to her mistakes. I need to hear it from her lips, how sorry she is, and I need to hear her ask for my forgiveness.”

That right there proved he really was like me, stubborn streak and all. I still didn’t think it was a good idea for him to meet my mother. I know he wanted to meet her, but she didn’t deserve to meet him, not after she wanted him aborted. I could tell he was the kind of person that preferred to face a problem head on, even if it meant confrontation, because ultimately he wanted a resolution. I just had a gut feeling he wasn’t going to take 'no' for an answer in this situation with my mother.

“And you know what else? I really doubt that monster is going to come back to America since he just left. After all, he’s wanted in a lot of states, maybe more than any of us even know yet. So I hardly think he’d make a run for me in America this soon. Besides, I honestly just wanted a few normal days to spend some time with you . . . just you . . . before our lives get crazier than they already are, and you know things will never be ordinary again when you return to the palace.” I knew Luca was upset with me now, and I watched as he walked back towards the secret passage door, and he looked over his shoulders as he opened the door. “I’m not going to beg you, Abbo, but at least consider taking me with you for the next week or so. We’ve already lost too much time, and if there’s a lesson to be learned over these past few days, it’s that time is just too short.”

With that said, Luca left my room, and closed the door to the secret corridor. I knew he was right, but really, wasn’t I right too? Okay, maybe he had a point or two about my mother, but I had a point as well that was in regards to his safety . . . right? Or was he on to something about that horrendous criminal avoiding America right now? I don’t know right now, to be honest. The jetlag from getting in this morning has finally caught up to me, and I’m just exhausted. I turned to the bed I knew would be mine for these next two nights, and the longer I stared at it the more I wanted to climb into that bed, but then there was a knock on my front quarter doors.

“Come in!”

No, honestly, just go away. I’m sick of people right now. Those doors opened though, and they quickly revealed Camila’s mother.

“Vince?” she called as she entered my quarters.

Okay, her I couldn’t say no to, so I walked towards her with a soft smile and my arms still behind my back, and then we met halfway in the room near my bed.

“Hello, Marija, how are you?” I asked as I saw she had a manila folder in her arms.
“I am well, thank you. How are you holding up? I hear today’s been a busy day with the young ones, followed by a particularly serious conversation at dinner.”
“Yes, it’s been a taxing day, but you know what? I really enjoyed meeting Rheya. Don’t tell anyone yet, but I’m going to talk to Gloria about adopting her.”

By the look on Marija’s face, I knew she was in awe over this.

“Awww, that’s so kind of you,” Marija replied. “You do know she’s terminal though, right? I don’t want you to get into an adoption, hoping she’s going to recover, just to lose her in the end.”
“I know, but I want to adopt her anyways,” I answered.
“Well, if you and Gloria decide to formally go through with the adoption, come to me. I oversee all the welfare of our nation’s children, which includes adoptions. Just so you are aware, the adoption process is very different between American adoptions and Xudian adoptions. I can get you through all the red tape quite quickly, but the process will be different, and will be impacted by the decision you make on whether you are going to keep your American citizenship and become a permanent resident here, or you trade your American citizenship for a Xudian citizenship.”

Makes total sense.

“I understand,” I replied, and then gestured towards the manila folder. “Is that for me?”

Marija looked at the manila folder for a moment and nodded.

“Yes,” Marija replied as she handed it to me. “The Point Pleasant Police Department back in North Carolina have faxed over all the paperwork earlier today, including the police reports for the accident and what we filed on behalf of Luca with the abuse he endured. If I may say, and you may correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure how you would feel about reading these police reports, but you do strike me as a man who would prefer to have easy access to all the necessary paperwork, should it ever be required of you to access them at any given point. For example, I highly suggest to you that you get Luca the psychological help that he needs, and I imagine the psychologist you would choose for Luca would probably require this paperwork I have in this folder.”

This alarmed me on a level I didn’t like. However, I did take the manila folder when she handed it to me, but I kept my eyes locked with hers.

“Luca is naturally gifted in putting on a façade that others cannot see through. However . . . He’s been having a lot of trouble sleeping at night. He didn’t sleep at all on the plane, and Kristijan caught him taken levatadine.”

My eyebrows furrowed in confusion and I now placed the folder at the foot of the bed.

“Wait, what’s levatadine?” I asked.
“It’s an over-the-counter medication used for people who need to be awake for extended periods of time. Depending on the user’s metabolism and the dosage used, a single pill can keep the individual awake for as long as 48 hours. When Kristijan questioned him on the plane after he took the few pills Luca had in his stash, Luca admitted he had taken one back at the house, when you asked for privacy with Camila.” Well . . . that explains why he was awake the entire night I had spent at their house. “He admitted that the stash Kristijan took from him was actually what was left in the bottle Camila had in a bag she mistakenly placed in Luca’s stuff that she left with us.”

I could tell that there was more to the story with the pills. Why did Camila even have them? What need did she have for them, unless of course she was paranoid about her husband catching her off guard or something if she was asleep?

“Camila was taking them?” I asked.
“I’m afraid that’s what the toxicology report says in that folder. She had double the dose of 500mg in her system, which means she was probably abusing them habitually to stay awake. Either that, or she was trying to stay awake for her drive until she could reach you in New York. That’s what the detectives think was going on with her on why she had them in her system. For so many years, she hid the fact that her husband was abusing her, but when she discovered he was abusing Luca, that’s when she brought him to us and told us everything.”

I could tell that Marija was barely holding onto her emotional strength right now. She tried with all her might, but the tears were ready to fall. Before I realized it, the sobs had escaped.

“Oh, my baby girl!” she exclaimed in total despair. “My poor little baby girl!”

She placed her hands in front of her face as a means to hide her grief, but this broken heart knew her heart’s pain all too well, so I lovingly placed my arms around her. When I brought her in close to comfort her, with her hands still on her face, she leaned into me and just wept away. I had no words for her, as I hardly knew this woman, but I could tell that she didn’t need words right now. She just needed comfort and a few moments to be allowed to grieve in the way she needed to. I held her for what felt like a good hour or so, but was probably just five or ten minutes, though it sure calmed her down.

“Thank you,” she said quietly once she pulled from my arms and met my gaze. “I’m sorry about all the tears-”
“You don’t have to apologize, Marija,” I interrupted. “I understand that there’s a time and place here to be strong in front of the general public, and to always show strength towards the military as a leader of a nation, but I also understand that grief needs its own time and place too. So with that being said, I’m here anytime you need a shoulder to cry on, even though we hardly know each other right now.”
“We will get to know each other quite well though, I am sure,” Marija replied as she placed her right hand on my left cheek. “Kristijan and I have decided that we are going to sell our place in North Carolina, and move back here. I have once upon a time completed my own crown training, so I can be of use for valuable advice to you and Luca when the time comes.”

“So then you know the truth?” I asked her. “About what the king really wants?”
“Yes,” Marija answered as she removed her hand from my face. “I have known him since he was your age. I’ve known for many, many years, since before Luca was born, when my daughter told me about you and showed me what you looked like then. She didn’t know the king in his early days, so she didn’t think anything of your appearance, but it was quite obvious to Kristijan and myself. We have no place to question the king, so we just remained quiet about our suspicions, but he’s making you priority right now with the High Counsel in regards to legitimization.”

“I imagine they’re not happy about the idea, because I wasn’t raised with the Xudian cultural expectations,” I replied.
“I won’t lie to you. It’s true they’re not happy about it, but they also understand that they shouldn’t hold that against you. They have agreed to meet with you upon your return.”

I nodded in acknowledgment, but then I was reminded of my earlier conversation with the king in his chambers about someone named Gino.

“Can I ask you a random question?” I responded with curiosity.
“Of course,” Marija replied.
“Can you tell me who Gino is?” I asked.
“No, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard that name before. Why do you ask?” Marija answered.
“The king mentioned him earlier, when he asked me to bring my parents back when I return. He told me to tell them he found Gino.”

Marija thought on this for a few moments before she parted her lips.

“What I can tell you is that 'Gino' is not a Xudian name, but an Italian one. Whoever this ‘Gino’ is must be someone from the past that the king and your parents share. We know the king used to go to Italy a lot in his younger days, as well as in his childhood, but we know so little of what he did there, or how he knew your parents, as he is quite private about his history there. He resisted at first when the queen called him to be her consort, but his family was of wealth and high social status, and he would have brought shame to his family if he declined the queen’s offer of marriage, so he did what he was under obligation to do for his country. I could tell in our meeting earlier with the High Counsel that by bringing you up in conversation of legitimacy, it was plain to see in his eyes that he’s trying to make amends, which is what one often does when they know their life is-”

I could see tears in Marija’s eyes, and I couldn’t help but mirror them, but she held them back and continued to talk.

“I think whoever this ‘Gino’ is, is somebody important to your parents, and if he’s asking you to tell them that he found Gino, then that’s a task that must be completed. I’m sorry I can’t be of much use in this topic of discussion.”

I smiled and hugged her.

“Don’t worry about it,” I answered. “You’ve helped me plenty, trust me.”

When we parted ways from our second hug, she smiled again, and I could tell I made her feel better.

“And you have helped me as well. I pray you sleep well tonight, Vince, as you deserve it, but should you need anything, these guards here at your doors are ready to assist you in whatever you need.”
“Thank you, Marija, and I pray you will also sleep well.”

Marija bowed softly to me, and I mirrored her gesture.

“Goodnight, Vince,” she said as she turned on her heel.
“Goodnight,” I replied quietly as I watched her leave, and the guards closed my doors behind her.

I sighed deeply as I turned around and faced my bed. I quickly remembered I had placed the manila folder of police reports at the foot of my bed, and walked over to it. I was tempted to look through it when I picked it up, but I just had this gut feeling if I did, I’d probably have nightmares. I didn’t want any nightmares right now. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, so I knew that more than anything, I just needed some sleep.

I headed over to the desk and placed the manila folder there. I knew I would have to eventually open it, though definitely not now and maybe not tomorrow, but I will probably open it and read it on my way home. I then turned to the left side of the bed where the nightstand with Gloria’s picture of our family was, and I opened the first drawer. I took off my shirt, folded it neatly, and placed it inside the drawer, and soon closed it. Then I unrolled the covers on my side of the bed, climbed in, and once more looked at that picture.

I hadn’t realized it until now, but I regret the fact that I declined Gloria’s offer to be with me in North Carolina to pay our respects to Camila and her family. I really needed her right now, and she would have been here, but it is what it is. I knew I would see her soon enough. Her vacation in Greece would be coming to an end soon, and I would meet back up with her in New York, before I returned here to Xudia. I turned off the light on the nightstand behind the picture frame, and then got comfortable in bed, and soon drifted off.


© Copyright 2019 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.

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