Raising the Crown

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

Chapter 2 (v.1) - A Princess's Final Words.

Submitted: June 18, 2019

Reads: 115

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Submitted: June 18, 2019



“The people of Xudia would riot, and the dukes would fight to step up for the crown. My bloodline has ruled Xudia since the fourteenth century,” Marija finally explained when she met my eyes. “If Luca forfeits his right to the throne, then the next person in line would technically be the Duke of Vopuyune, but the other dukes would have a right to challenge him.”

“Wait, what? Vope-” I started to pronounce, but I had a hard time trying to repeat what she said.

Marija smiled warmly with a soft chuckle.

“It is pronounced Voh-poi-yoon,” she replied further. “It is the most northern province of Xudia. The Duke of Vopuyune is Xir Charles Oswad.”

Wait. I looked to Kristijan and he nodded. Did he just confirm that I just told off a duke?

“Yes, we just spoke with Xir Charles in the family room.”

Oh, wow. Shit. Way to go on making a fool of yourself there, Palladino.

“And I just . . . ?” I started to ask as I pointed towards the door behind me, but I was too stunned to finish my sentence.
“Yes,” Kristijan said with a chuckle. “You just put him in his place. I have been waiting for many years for someone to do that. He is what you would call a piece of work, someone that few people dare to stand up to. However, my wife is right. The people would riot, should Luca forfeit his right to the crown.”

“Yes, they would,” Marija added. “The people are strong followers of my family and they really want Luca to take up his throne when the time comes. Luca loves the people, but he knows nothing of being a part of a royal lineage, or the duties involved, except that he is the prince and heir to the throne of Xudia, and that he is now also the Duke of Aedon, which is the southernmost region Xudia.”

I was really at a loss for words right now. Just an hour ago, I thought I was coming here to simply pay my respects to Camila, and now I would be walking out of her parents’ home with a son I never knew about, who just happens to be the Duke of Aedon, and the heir to the crown of Xudia. My head was spinning and I was overwhelmed with this news.

“You said earlier that you and Gloria have sons that are with your wife in Greece?” Kristijan asked me.

That was a random question.

“Yes, we have two boys,” I answered. “Eric is eight and Matthew is six, but he goes by his middle name, Kristopher. We have another child on the way, though we’re hoping it will be a girl.”
“Very nice. Congratulations. Are they homeschooled, in private school, or public school?” Kristijan asked.

Now I can see where Kristijan was going with his questions.

“Thank you, and they’re homeschooled by my mother.”

The look on both of Camila’s parents’ faces dropped when they heard this.

“Oh, no, no, no!” Kristijan said sternly. “Luca cannot be homeschooled by her. Gloria must homeschool him.”
“I assure you, sir, that my mother is good at what she does,” I said.

“No, no, no,” Kristijan said as he refused. “If Gloria cannot homeschool Luca, then Xir Charles, being that he is the right hand to King Chaudhry, will put in a request for a personal teacher to come live with you.”

I was confused by Kristijan’s change in attitude. He seemed quite angry now. I looked to Marija for some kind of explanation, and she could see it on my face, so she now came forward and stood beside her husband.

“Your mother tried to give our daughter $15,000 to abort Luca and never speak to you again,” she explained. “Camila was devastated when she came home to us, and she said she was told by your mother that she was not good enough for you, that she would ruin your career, if she gave birth to Luca. She did not take your mother’s money, but your mother’s reaction is why she was set on aborting Luca, until Gloria came to the rescue.”

I was floored by this response. I was going to tell them that my mother was not capable of doing that kind of thing, as I knew for a fact that she did not believe in abortion, but then I thought about this for a moment. My mother never approved of Camila, and she thought Camila was a bad influence every time I rebelled against my mother’s authority, because it always seemed to be a coincidence. In truth, every time I rebelled, it was because I was tired of the fact that my mother constantly peered over my shoulder, and I needed my space, and Camila was right there to keep me level headed. I shook my head in disgrace for my mother’s ugly behavior towards Camila.

“I am sooo sorry,” I apologized sincerely. “I didn’t know that. I will be having a talk with my mother about that. I will also talk to Gloria to see if she’s willing to cut down on her hours as a Linguist, to see about homeschooling Luca. If not, then I will get back in touch with you, to see what we can do for him.”

Kristijan and Marija seemed pleased with my response.

“Thank you,” Kristijan said as a smile reappeared while he placed both of his hands on my shoulders. “I like you, Vince. I see why my little girl fell in love with you. You will make a good father to my grandson. How long are you here for?”
“Well, I’ve considered staying in a hotel tonight, and then hitting the road tomorrow morning, but haven’t made a decision yet.”

“I would like to open my home to you for tonight, Vince,” Kristijan offered. “Allow us some time to get to know you better. Also, it is customary for all living relatives for our dearly departed to attend the funeral service that will be held in Xudia, so Luca should attend, and he wants to, but once these papers are signed, it will be up to you as to whether or not he can go. We are leaving tomorrow afternoon, but you and Luca are welcomed to fly with us back to Xudia, as a courtesy of the Crown.”

“I want to respect your customs, and if Luca wants to go, then I will be honored to stay here, and travel with you all to Xudia.”

Marija and Kristijan seemed even more pleased and they exchanged satisfied expressions with one another before they looked back to me again.

“Perfect!” he exclaimed as he now let go of my shoulders, and turned towards the paperwork again. “I do not want to keep you here in this office all day, filling out paperwork, so shall we take care of this and get it over with?”
“Yes,” I said as we all now approached the office desk again and focused on the task at hand.

Once all the paperwork was all filled out, which took about twenty minutes to a half hour, Kristijan then turned to his wife.

“Darling, can you go fetch Paolo?” Without saying a word, Marija nodded while both her and her brother-in-law left the room, and then Kristijan spoke again toward me. “Paolo will quick take your measurements down, and report it back to the palace, so that they can get started right away on your formal funeral attire. We have very strict royal funeral customs, so it is of the utmost urgency they get started on making your ensemble straight away.”

Again, I was at a loss for words, and again my world was changing. I better call Gloria after this has all been said and done. Once my measurements were taken, I took a quick step outside the house, and dialed my wife in Greece.

“Hey, sweetie,” she said tenderly as she picked up after the first ring. “How’s everything going?”
“Actually . . . as well as one can expect,” I started to say. “Oh . . . and, uh . . . I finally met Luca . . .”

The other end of the line was quiet for a few moments, which meant to me that Gloria was in shock of what I just said, but I stayed quiet, and patiently waited for her response. She knew that my silence was her opportunity to find a quiet spot where she was able to come clean, and if I knew my wife, she will come forward. Then she finally spoke.

“I’m glad you finally met him,” she said softly. “I’m sorry it had to be under such an unfortunate circumstance, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about him sooner, but Camila made me promise not to tell you. It was the only way I could convince her not to abort him.”
“Really?” I asked in a slightly sarcastic tone as I could feel the tears in my eyes.

It was hard for me to not let my anger over this situation get the best of me in this moment, but I did what I could to keep from raising my voice toward Gloria.

“Honey, I tried my hardest,” she said.

I could hear the tears in her tone as well. I knew she was upset about this situation. If I knew her as well as I thought I did, she probably felt guilty about it, and I swear I could almost see it on her face.

“She said that she’d bring him to full term and keep him only under the condition that I not ever tell you. I went to see her in Xudia after she had him, and I went to see her every year afterwards in Xudia for his birthday, and each time she refused me permission to tell you, said she would keep him there permanently in Xudia if I told you. I really, really, really tried, Vince. She didn’t want your mother finding out that she kept Luca and she wanted to keep him as far away from her as possible. I don’t think she ever forgave your mother for what she did to her, for making her feel unworthy of you, and trying to buy her off in the process.”

I couldn’t be mad at Gloria. I could not even be mad at Camila. I was, however, livid with my mother, and so angry about this situation, because none of this should have ever happened.

“I don’t blame her for wanting to keep Luca as far away from my mother as possible. I can’t believe my mother did that,” I replied as I tried to keep it together. “Just wait ‘til I get back home. She’s really going to hear it from me, but thank you, Gloria, for doing what you did for Cami and Luca.”
“So you’re not mad at me?”
“No,” I said softly, lovingly. “I truly believe you did your best, and it’s one of the reasons why I love you so much.”

I could now hear the smile in her tone.

“I love you too, honey,” she replied.
“I take it you are also aware that Cami was a princess, and that Luca is next in line for the throne of Xudia?” I half-stated, half-asked.
“Yes, I am aware of that,” she said. “I am also aware of the fact that the king is dying and awaiting for Luca’s return for preparations to be a king.”

How did she come across this news? Unless Cami told her. Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.

“I’m not so sure about that . . .” I started to say. “That’s what Xudia wants, but Cami willed it so that I take over legal custody of him.”
“What? Seriously?” Gloria asked. “I thought she was just messing with me when she told me that last year!”

“Yes, I’m serious. I signed the paperwork already,” I answered. “I refuse to miss out on anymore of his life, Gloria. Ten years has been long enough. However, this means that we’re going to have to make some sacrifices, but we’ll discuss those further when we’re both home. I’m going with Luca and his family back to Xudia, so that he can formally attend Cami’s royal funeral service, and I guess it’s their custom to expect him to be there, so since he’s now officially under my care, I guess that means I’m going too.”

“I totally understand, and wait until you get to Xudia. It’s a beautiful country, especially in the Aedon and Moscjen regions.”

I could hear in the background that Eric and Kris had now called for their mother’s attention.

“Should I tell them about the news of the newest addition to our household?” she asked. “Or should I wait until we’re all home?”
“Wait until we’re all home,” I told her. “I know Eric won’t be happy that he’s no longer the oldest, but he’ll have to get over it.”

Gloria chuckled softly over the phone.

“Okay, well I will see you when we get home in a few days, okay? I love you.”
“I love you too,” I replied. “Give the boys a hug and kiss from me.”
“I will.”

With that, we both terminated the call, and went about our business. When I went back inside the Juric house, I could see that some people were starting to leave already, but then when I looked at the time on my Rolex, I noticed it was nearing the end of the hours of Camila’s wake. How did the time go so fast? When I looked back over at Luca, I saw that a little girl now sat with him, and she had her hair up, so I could see she had a hearing aid in her left ear. She seemed upset, but Luca tried really hard to cover his face, and she tried over and over to catch his attention and remove his hands from his face.

When he finally did, I could see he was beat red in the face as tears streamed down them, and I knew why. It broke my heart to see him so upset like that, but then I watched as the little girl used her hands for what appeared to be American Sign Language. I had no idea what she was saying to him, but he seemed to understand, because he signed his own signs right back to her. Their hand movements were fluid and graceful. I had never seen American Sign Language in person before, but it was definitely beautiful.

The little girl soon wrapped herself around Luca, which I could tell was to give him comfort, and I knew they were really good friends. Luca returned the little brunette’s hug of comfort, and he cried on her shoulders. I did not know that Luca could speak American Sign Language, but I knew there was a lot to learn about him yet, and I could not wait. A few of Camila’s best friends from childhood had approached me and talked to me for a little while, because they had been fans of mine since I was in a teenage pop rock band where I played the keyboard, but the band parted ways due to interests in different business adventures when we all reached the ages of nineteen and twenty, though Camila’s friends still followed my music. Because they were Camila’s friends, and knew about her royalty, the fact that Camila and I were once an item never seemed to faze them, and neither had the fact that I was a famous celebrity, just as long as Camila was happy.

After they said their goodbyes to Mr. and Mrs. Juric, and paid their final respects to Camila, they left. I wanted there to be as few people in the room as possible when I went up to Camila’s opened casket to pay my respects. I knew I definitely did not want Luca to see me cry. Eventually, it was just me, Camila’s parents, Luca, the little Deaf girl, and her parents. When the funeral director had returned with the hearse, I knew I needed to do what I need to do now, so I walked over to the casket, where Luca and his friend were. They both acknowledged my presence immediately.

“Hi,” I said with a small wave to both kids.
“Luna,” he said out loud, but signed her name at the same time, catching her attention, and he spoke up again as he signed some more. “This is my father.”

Then he looked to me.

“This is my best friend, Luna,” he said as he still signed.

Luna smiled towards me and then she did three signs slowly. With the first one, she swiped her right palm face down across her left palm facing up. Then she brought both hands up, putting them in fists, but the index fingers pointed straight up, and the fists came together. Then she removed her left hand, and pointed straight at me.

“She says it’s nice to meet you,” Luca said.

I smiled warmly and carefully signed the same signs back to her. They were simple enough, right? Then she turned back to Luca excitedly and made more signs towards him. Luca could not help but smile now and he turned his attention back to me.

“She says you sign really well.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “Can I have some alone time with your mommy?”

Suddenly the smile on Luca’s face disappeared, and he signed to his friend, but both of them got up, and quietly walked away. I stood up again and now looked inside the casket for the first time. When I knew that no one was within earshot, I spoke up, but I spoke as quietly as I could, and placed my hands on the casket.

Please tell me this isn’t real,” I said as tears surfaced. “Because this is a nightmare . . . and a world without you in it is a world I don’t want to live in, but I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning, in a strange place, and I’m going to feel empty, because . . . because you’re gone.

I then brought the back of my hand to her cheek for the first time in ten years, and her cheek felt as solid as cement and colder than ice. There was no way I could hold it together now. I continued to speak, despite the fact that it was one-sided, because I knew this would be my last conversation with her.

“I’m so sorry for what my mother did to you,” I apologized as my voice cracked up on me. “And for how she treated you all those years. I wish I could say she was only looking out for my best interests, because she didn’t know who you were, that you were already rich, and that you were a princess, but there was no excuse for what she did . . . and if she had known about your background . . . well, at this point, I wouldn’t put it past her to then try and be your best friend. I don’t blame you, Cam, for keeping our son as far away from her as you could. I have half a mind to disown her myself, but that would be hurting my younger boys, Eric and Kris, whom I’m sure Gloria has told you about.”

My mind went back to the last time I was with Cami, which was the night before she left me for good. We were lying in my bed, all snuggled together, and I had never been happier. She gazed lovingly into my eyes before she spoke up.

“Yes?” I replied.
“Have you ever thought about kids?”

I propped my head up by my left hand, which was supported by my arm.

“Actually, no,” I replied. “But let’s talk about it.” Camila smiled as she traced her right hand fingers along my bare chest, but she kept her eyes on mine. “Do you see yourself having any?” I asked her.

She was quiet for a few moments, her smile getting wider.

“I would love to have children with you, but I don’t know where you would stand on the idea, since you’re a musician, and usually traveling the country with your album tours, and with your acting gigs.”

I was silent for a few moments as I knew she was right. I had no time to be a father, which is probably why the thought of being a father never really occurred, but now that she mentioned it . . .

“For you, Cam, I would have kids right now. I mean, we’re twenty-three. We’re full grown adults. I’d also want to put a second ring on your finger, if you know what I mean. We don’t need a big wedding. Just a judge and a witness, if you want. You’re my best friend, Cam, and you know everything there is to know about me.”

“But what about your music and your film projects?” Cami asked. “Wouldn’t you be worried that parenting and marriage would get in the way?”

I could tell she was concerned that being a parent and a husband would overwhelm me with what I loved doing as an actor and musician. Her looking out for me only made me love her more. I placed my left hand upon her face as I now spoke up.

“It is true that I love acting and singing, but trust me when I say that it’s not everything. You are everything to me, Cam, and if I’m being honest, I could use some time away from the limelight. You know better than anyone that sometimes I need my space and distance from the craziness and the attention that comes with being in Hollywood. Besides, even if I didn’t need some downtime from any of that, I could still be a parent and a husband to you. Just look at all the other celebrities out there. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

“Because your mother would never approve of me,” Cami replied softly.

I watched as the smile faded from her face. It was true that my mother did not like her. I, however, did not care one way or another on what she thought of my fiancé.

“Baby, don’t worry about her. In her eyes, nobody will ever be good enough for me, but that’s because I’m her only child.”
“She likes Gloria . . .”

I knew she picked up on this a long time ago, when I first went to college.

“That’s because Gloria’s graduating with high honors in Linguistics in sixteen different languages, and she’s going to continue her education over in Europe. Gloria’s independent, and looking to make her own money, and travel the world, speaking all those languages. I don’t care much for money, and I want to be with someone who would settle down with me, someone who doesn’t care about money. I don’t want a career-minded woman. I want a family-oriented woman. I want you, Cam, so what my mother wants for me is irrelevant, because she has no say in the matter. I’m an adult, and I will handle my life however I want and need to, and I want and need you in my life. Like I’ve said before, you’re everything to me, and I love you with every fiber of my being. If my mother can’t handle that, then it’s her loss.”

Camila’s eyes watered in joy at my words, and I could not help but kiss her gently upon her forehead, then her nose, and then upon her lips.

“I love you too, Vince,” she said as our lips parted momentarily.

I knew she did. Those were our last words to each other. We had ended that conversation with making love to each other, and when I awoke the next morning, I found a sort of “Dear John” letter on my pillow she slept on throughout the night. Obviously I had never been in the military, but it was the idea of the letter, which was to inform me that despite how much she loved me she could not be with someone whose mother did not approve of her, and she only wanted what was best for me. She also gave me permission to date Gloria, who I had only been friends with at that point, but she liked Gloria a lot.

“If I’d have known what my mother said to you, I’d have chased you all the way around the world,” I said quietly to Camila. “I should’ve chased after you anyways. I knew where you were. I’m sorry that I failed you.”

Before I could say anything else, I was interrupted by the funeral director, who was now within my peripheral line of sight.

“Sir? I have come to collect the body-”

Did he really just say ‘the body?’ I could feel the fire of anger in my veins, but I kept as calm as I could. Then I spoke up, but I did not look at him.

“This isn’t just any random body,” I said. “This is Princess Camila Juric of Xudia. Have some decency and respect.”
“Vince?” I heard as my name was called kindly from behind me, and I knew it belonged to Camila’s mother.

When I turned in her direction, I knew she could see my tears, and then she turned to the funeral director.

“Will you please give us a few more minutes with my daughter?” she asked him. Without saying a word, the man bowed softly towards her, and then he stepped outside, and waited at his vehicle. “I wanted to give this to you in private, when everyone had left, because Camila wanted it. She wanted you to read this here. It was part of her will.”

I looked down into her eyes as I tried to clear my tears. It was another letter, but this one was in an envelope, and I knew now that she had some final words for me. I could feel my heart breaking all over again over this. A part of me did not want to read this letter, because it would be final, but at the same time I knew I needed to read this letter, not just for me, but for Camila as well. I then took the letter from Marija.

“I will leave you alone to read this,” she said. “And I do not know what it says, nor is it my business to know what is said between the two of you.”
“Mrs. Juric-” I started to say, but I was interrupted.
Please . . . call me Marija,” she said.
“I hope you know how much I loved your daughter,” I told her as tears once again built up in my eyes.

Marija’s eyes mirrored mine in tears and she brought her right hand up to my left cheek.

“Your love for her reminds me of my husband’s for me,” she said passionately. “My husband would do anything for me; therefore, I know you would do the same for my one and only daughter. It would have been an honor to have you as my son-in-law, but I am pleased to know that despite the fact that you are not, that will never take away the fact that you are the father of my daughter’s son. So that makes you family and I am honored to call you that.”

Marija brought me into a brief hug of comfort.

“Thank you,” I told her quietly.

Before long, I was left alone again, and I looked down at the letter in my hands. On the face of the envelope, my name was written in Camila’s ever so perfect and beautiful handwriting. When I turned the envelope around, I could see the envelope was sealed shut, so this was definitely for my eyes only. I sniffled as I carefully opened the envelope, and then took out the letter. There were other contents too, such as pictures, but I was only focused on the letter for right now, and as I read it, I could hear her voice in my head.

“Dear Giovanni.” Oh, no. Just her calling me by my legal first name alone was enough to make me cry. Keep it together, Palladino. “If you are reading this, then that can only mean one thing. Writing this is the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, with the first being that I left you behind ten years ago. By the time you have already gotten this letter, you will have met Luca, our son. It is true when I said I had to leave you behind when I did, because your mother did not accept me, but I confess that I lied to you by omitting the fact that I was pregnant with Luca. You are probably wondering why I did not tell you about him ten years ago, when I was pregnant with him, aren’t you?”

It would have been nice to know back then that I was going to be a father, yes, but I understand why you did what you did, Cami.

“Do you remember when we had our first discussion of having children?”

Yes, I do, and I remember it as clear as if it was yesterday.

I wanted to tell you the good news then, and I almost did, but your mother’s private conversation with me from earlier that day had overwhelmed me. You see, in my culture where I am from, mothers are more important than fathers. Women in my country of Xudia are treated with the highest of honors and respect. In fact, we prefer a queen over a king to rule our land, but our queen, my grandmother, died long ago when she gave birth to my mother.”

Wow. I had not realized this.

“What a mother says, we are typically required to obey, as long as it does not break any one of our laws. So as much as I loved you, when you said your mother’s wishes for you were irrelevant, I could not agree with you. I may have dual citizenship with America, but I know my family’s roots, and I was raised as if I was back home in Xudia, so I felt I had to obey your mother’s wishes, to an extent of course. Your mother tried to give me money, so that I could terminate my pregnancy with Luca as quickly as possible, but I refused to take her money. She firmly believed I was only interested in your money, and your fame, but I could not tell her about my royal lineage, about the fact that I would never need money.

However, for the longest time, I believed what your mother told me, about me not being worthy of your love. After all, I never told you that I was the Princess of Xudia. I never told you I was first in line for the throne of Xudia, because technically Xudia would not have accepted my marriage with an Italian, much less of any other culture aside from Xudian. My thrown, however, was never as important to me as was your love, and I was willing to give up the crown to marry you, but your mother did not approve of me, and I knew she never would. Really, though, I might as well be called a hypocrite, because I almost aborted Luca, which is illegal in my country.”

But you didn’t abort him though.

“Honestly, I have your beautiful wife, Gloria, to thank for that.”

Wait, what? She really had a lot of respect for Gloria, didn’t she?

Gloria was with me at the abortion clinic, and I was just minutes away from having the procedure, and she cried her heart out and begged me not to go through with it. She was even so willing to adopt him! That’s how adamant she was on making sure our son was brought into this world. I pray you will not be mad at Gloria for keeping all of this a secret from you, because as a princess I ordered her not to.

If you want to be mad at anyone, be angry with me. After all, I am the one who forced Gloria to keep quiet, and I am the one who was not honest with you from the start about my royal lineage, and I am the one who disregarded your wishes to marry someone like me, despite your mother’s wishes for you.”

My emotions made my face feel hot and I felt the tears threatening to slip from my eyes once again. I could hardly believe she was saying she was taking full responsibility for this whole thing. I’m not mad at you, Cami, and I’m not mad at Gloria either. I could never be mad at either of you over this. I just don’t understand why you were taken from all of us. Why was your husband the reason for killing you by chasing you on the road? What had he done to you for causing you to run from him? I need you to tell me what the hell was going on!

“I should have stayed with you, Vince. I should have told you about the news of my pregnancy with Luca. Because of the fact that I left you, I found someone else, and he turned out to be the worst mistake of my entire life, and if you’re reading this, then this mistake has cost me my own life.”

What the fuck. What the actual . . . calm down, Palladino, and just keep reading. She’s trying to explain.

He was charming when I met him, and I played right into his act, until it was too late. I had not realized he would be the biggest nightmare of my life until two years into our marriage, when Luca was four. If he would have been in my country, he would have been arrested and executed when he first started hitting me. He was a controlling narcissist who turned into the cruelest person that I have ever met, but my country does not believe in divorce unless infidelity is involved, and I could not let anyone know of what he did to me behind closed doors. I allowed him to touch me, and talk to me in whatever way he wanted for six years, until I found out he was touching Luca.”

Wait, what? Excuse me? What did you just say?

“If you take a look on Luca’s back, you might still see some marks, but I have added some pictures to this letter to show you what they looked like when they first happened.”

I opened the envelope again, and took out some of the pictures that she now spoke about, and they were pictures of huge welts on his back. I had tears of anger in my eyes, and the blood in my veins were on fire with anger again, and all I wanted to do was find that sick bastard and kill him! How dare he even come see me at my concert up in Malone?!

After I saw the proof that he had been beating on Luca with a belt, I knew I had to leave him, and I did. You see, Luca is a special boy, and it is dangerous for him to be beat on in the way my husband did. Luca was born with hemophilia, and along the way he ended up catching Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion. He was symptomless with the Hepatitis C, which is why it went undetected, until he went into acute liver failure. He was six years old when he had to have a liver transplant and undergo treatment for Hepatitis C. Somehow, the healthy liver had given him new blood clotting factors that his doctors think have cured his hemophilia, but I just don’t trust that diagnosis, which is why I needed to get Luca away from Tim as soon as possible. I left Luca in my parents’ care and told them I was driving up to see you and Gloria in New York, because I knew I needed your help. If you are seeing this, then something has gone wrong.”

Yeah, that crazy son of a bitch chased you into a damn highway divider!

“I’m so, so, so terribly sorry that you have to be reading this letter.”

There were tear stains all over this letter, and most of this letter was legible, but this one spot, I could barely make out what it said, and the fact that she cried when she wrote this pushed my emotions over the edge. I could not help but cry with her at this point. A couple of my own tears slipped onto the letter as well.

I love you so much, Giovanni, and I’ve never stopped loving you. I wish I could take back these ten years. I wish it more than anything in this world, but I can’t, and I’m so, so, so sorry that I can’t!”

All I wanted to do now was hold her in my arms, and comfort her, and tell her it was going to be all right . . . but it wasn’t. She was gone, because that fucking monster took her away from the people of her country, from her family, from Luca, and from me! I could not help but pace back and forth now as the letter was scrunched into my right hand, with the photos and envelope in my left hand, and I had to look away and close my eyes. I wanted to break shit, to break everything in this world, and break the pieces of everything I could break, to show exactly how broken I felt all the way down to my core. I did not know what to do with myself right now.

I could not wrap my head around the fact that someone like Timothy Crane could be so damn awful and cruel! I already knew he was wanted in fifteen different states for sexually heinous crimes, but now I knew he was a wife beater, and a child abuser too, and this just angered me on so many levels. Why would someone abuse women and children? This whole thing was a damn nightmare straight out of hell! I stopped again in front of the casket, took a breather, and de-scrunched the letter, because there was quite a bit more I knew I needed to read.

Nothing I could ever do in this world could ever make up for your lost time with Luca, or for the wrong I have done you, but there was only one thing I could think of that may remotely help. I have changed my will so that you will get full legal guardianship over Luca. He has a dual citizenship with America and with Xudia.

In Xudia, he will legally be a full grown adult at the age of sixteen, but here in America, he will still be a minor, so you will still have legal guardianship over him on American soil until he is eighteen. If you’re ever on Xudian soil once Luca is sixteen, however, he can legally refuse to return with you to the states. He can also have his coronation at sixteen, if he chooses to accept the crown, but he has to undergo at least five years of training for the crown. I am well aware that the king, my grandfather, has been dying of cancer for two years now, but I am not making the decision of the crown for Luca. I wanted to first raise him in love and kindness, and teach him those things, as well as respect and honor, and integrity and humility, because these are all the things that would make him a great king someday – should he choose to accept the crown, that is.

I believe in my little prince, but it’s up to you now to continue to raise him with Gloria in all the same ways I have been doing. I know you, Giovanni, and through Gloria, I know how wonderful of a father you are to your two younger sons. I have no doubt in my mind that you will love Luca the same as you love his brothers. Gloria has come to visit us in Xudia every year for Luca’s birthday, as he loves to celebrate it with his people, and Luca loves her. I know Gloria loves him like he’s one of her own sons, and I know deep in my heart that she will make a wonderful stepmother to him.”

The fact that she was talking about Gloria in the way that she was seemed to calm me down to an extent. My ex-fiancé, who was the mother of my oldest son, and my wife were good friends? How many people could say that? It kind of brought a smile to my face. Of course, however, there was still much more to read.

“There are a few things you should know about Luca. He is almost finished with home schooling. Remember when I graduated high school at the ripe young age of fourteen? Well, Luca’s even smarter than me, and he’ll be finishing his primary education in two more years, if not sooner. Unlike me, however, he takes his studies very seriously.”

I had to chuckle at that last bit there. Camila hated school work. She always found it tedious and boring.

“He loves to read, and you will often find him reading in other languages, and he has an idyllic memory. He is very fluent in English, Xudian, Italian, Russian, Croatian, Spanish, Greek – which he got interested in, because of Gloria –, and American Sign Language – which is because of his best friend, who is a Deaf girl from Xudia – and her name is Luna. Speaking of American Sign Language, Luca single-handedly created the first school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Xudia. With Gloria’s help, she guided some of Xudian’s best teachers into learning American Sign Language, and taught it back to the young children. His inspiration from the school was from when he met Luna when they were six, and she could not get an education, because she could not hear, and she did not know how to communicate, because Xudia did not have any government assistance or resources of any kind for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

When Luca learned of the lack of resources, he decided to start his own school, and he started it with Luna. Luna was also an orphan, with no family, so we found some American friends who said they would adopt her, and now she’s here in North Carolina. It can be hard to separate the two of them when they’re together, because they’re best friends, and can stick together like glue. If I’m being honest, I think Luca has a little crush on her, but he refuses to tell me, though I know Luca will be devastated he’ll be moving out of state, and away from Luna. I do know, however, that he cares about her too much to let her disappear from his life, so he’ll find ways to keep in touch with her, which is fine with me, because Luna is a total sweetheart, and I pray you will get to meet her someday.”

I had to smile over this one. Luna did seem like a total sweetheart. However, I found it quite surprising that Luca created his own school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Xudia. That was a very proud accomplishment. I was even more surprised to learn that Gloria was in Xudia that much, but now that I think of all her pro bono work, I remember her saying something about helping to create a school there to help Deaf and Hard of Hearing children learn ways to communicate.

“Luca also loves to help feed and clothe the homeless. He has assisted doctors in Xudia with their sick and injured patients as well. He will even spend a lot of his own precious time with the elderly and open doors for everyone. He loves and he lives to serve others. He has to put a smile on at least one person a day or he’s not satisfied.

 Luca is a beautiful boy, Giovanni, and you will love him. I don’t expect you to give him the royal treatment, and under my roof, he never did get that. I have told him everything I know about you and he has waited for a long time to meet you. Now, he is all yours, so please take good care of our little prince. I love you both so much, and even though I am no longer physically present, I am always here beside you both in your hearts. Please know that this is not forever. I will not say goodbye. I know I will see you again someday, and until I do, I will wait for you at Heaven’s gate. With all my love, yours truly, Cam.”

I could not help the tears anymore. I looked down at Camila in her casket. A couple sobs escaped my lips as my hands now gripped the edge of her casket.

“Oh, Cami,” I said between sobs. “I love you too.”

I leaned into the casket and gently placed my lips upon hers for one last kiss. I needed to for closure. After a few moments, when I removed mine from hers, I parted my lips again, but I stayed in her face, just as I had always done when she was alive and I hovered over her.

“I promise I will take good care of him. I will do what you’ve been doing with him.” I could no longer stand. I had this sudden urge to just kneel before her, so I did. “I will do everything I can for him. I promise, Cami.”

I was quiet for a few moments, but I did not hear Luca approach, nor did I see him, as my head was down, and my eyes were closed. He gently placed his hand upon my right shoulder, which got me to open my eyes, and I could see the funeral director had returned, and so had Camila’s parents. Luca stepped up to his mother’s casket, and he gave his mother a kiss on her forehead.

“I promise to take good care of my father,” he said to her. “This isn’t goodbye, but until I see you again someday, I will always keep you in my heart. I love you, mommy.”

Then Luca stepped away, which allowed the funeral director to do his job. When he closed the casket, more tears approached, but Luca now stood beside me, and reached to me with his left palm facing up. I knew he wanted me to grab his hand, so I put the letter in my left hand, and grabbed his hand with my own right hand. We both watched silently as Camila was taken out of the house. When the door closed behind that man, Luca immediately threw himself into my arms, and sobbed away with his face now buried into my neck after I got down to his level.

“I know, kiddo,” I replied as I wrapped both of my arms around him and tenderly pressed my head upon his. “I love her too.”

Together, in each other’s arms, we both cried.

© Copyright 2019 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.


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