Raising the Crown

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

Chapter 3 (v.1) - A Boy's Joy and a Mother's Pain.

Submitted: June 19, 2019

Reads: 143

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Submitted: June 19, 2019

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When I was finally alone at night with Luca, who now climbed into his bed, I sat down next to him with a relaxed sigh. This kid looked so much like me from when I was a kid that it was uncanny. His dark hair, that’s debatable on whose color he got, but he definitely had my eyes, my nose, my cheeky, goofy smile, and even my skin tone. The way he carried himself, however . . . and the way he treated everyone . . . that was Camila through and through. He shared her ability to see the best in people, had her intelligence, and he was a lover.

“My grandma and pop-pop told me I would be moving in with you, up in New York,” he said as he settled into his pillows and underneath his blankets.

Every time Luca talked, I could hear a sort of odd accent. It was weirder than his grandparents’. To me it sounded like a blend between Camila’s American accent, with a hint of a Xudian accent, which to me closely resembled those of the Greek and Croatian. It was almost like Luca could not decide on which of his cultures he wanted to represent more when he spoke, so he chose both America and Xudia. It didn’t matter to me, though, because it was still adorable coming from a ten year old.

“Yes,” I replied. “But we’re going back to Xudia tomorrow with your grandparents for a few days first.”
“Good,” Luca replied. “There are some people there that I want you to meet. You will love my country. I can’t wait to show you the elegance of Moscjen, and the mountains of Vopuyune, and the fields of Darijam, and the caves of Taergorija, and the shores of Aedon. I think you’re going to love the caves the most though. They’re my best kept secret for a reason, and you’ll for sure appreciate it, when I can take you there for an afternoon picnic.”

He seemed really excited that he could not wait to show me around his country. It brought a brief smile to my face. I absolutely loved his enthusiasm.

“I can’t wait,” I told him. “But, Luca, can I talk to you about some things?”
“Of course,” he said as he sat upright and looked to me expectantly.

Truthfully, I wanted to talk to him about the pictures that his mother gave me in that letter, but at the last second something told me that this wasn’t the right time, so I quick thought of something else that I was curious about earlier this evening.

“I heard you know Gloria,” I replied.

Suddenly, as if it was Christmas, his eyes lit up in pure joy. I could tell by how expressive his eyes were that he inherited this trait from me as well. I knew he was about to rave about Gloria.

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “She’s mommy’s friend from Greece. She comes to see me every year on my birthday in Xudia. She always brings me the best presents.”
“Oh, yeah?” I replied as I was so intrigued by his bond with Gloria.

I wanted to know exactly how much interaction my wife had with him. I wanted to see how close they were with each other. It was hard for me to believe that Gloria had a bond with him after all these years, and if I was anyone else, I would have instantly felt betrayed by her keeping Luca’s existence a secret from me. I knew, however, that Camila was faced with many difficult decisions, and that ultimately Gloria saved my son. How could I ever feel betrayed by her in this matter, though, if she was the only one who could save the life of this amazing kid now sitting in bed before me?

“Yeah, she always buys me a book printed in Greek!”

I could not help but chuckle as Luca seemed to suddenly be wired awake.

“So you like Gloria?” I asked him.
“She’s the best!” Luca replied as he now settled back into his pillows. “She taught me Greek back in Xudia, and in email and video chat when she couldn’t see me, which was most of the year. Actually, I only ever saw her around my birthday. She travels a lot. She knows sixteen languages! I can’t wait to learn that many.”

“This may sound like a silly question,” I said. “But do you like Xudia?”
“I love Xudia,” he answered. “Everyone there is so nice, but I love being an American too. However, I don’t have any power here, but I can make a difference in Xudia.”

I was surprised at how little confidence he had in himself with making a difference here in America.

“Why can’t you make a difference here?” I asked him.
“Because most Americans don’t know who I am, that I am Prince and heir to the throne of Xudia. In fact, most Americans have never even heard of Xudia.”

Well, kiddo, my fame is about to put your country on the map. There is no way I will be able to keep any of this totally away from the media. I’m surprised no one has gotten wind of this yet. I already knew the paparazzi will try and make a scandal of this. They have already tried to link me with Camila when she and I started getting serious ten years ago, when they tried to figure out who my “mystery woman” was, but she immediately did absolutely anything and everything she could to hide from the public eye, which I now guess had everything to do with her being a princess.

“So I don’t have any political influence here. Besides, everyone here thinks all political leaders are just liars. I don’t want to be seen as a liar. I want to make a difference here, but I don’t know how to. Back home in Xudia, it is much easier, because my people take me seriously.”

“I can’t speak for Xudia, but I can say that here in America, you do not need to have political ties to make a difference,” I told him. “Here in America, anyone can make a difference. If you can make the first school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in your country of Xudia, and incorporate a beautiful language for them, so they aren’t left out in the darkness of the world of communication, and so they can access their human right to education, you can do anything, and America is a great place with many opportunities to make something of yourself. I see a lot of potential in you, Luca.”

Luca was quiet for a few moments, but he smiled real wide, which told me he was pleased to hear what I told him.

“What do you want me to call you?” he asked me.
“You can call me whatever you want,” I answered.
“What do Eric and Kris call you?”
“They call me daddy,” I said. “But if you want to call me dad, daddy, papa, father, or anything else like that, go right ahead.”

Luca was again quiet for a few moments, but this time his smile disappeared, as I could tell he thought about my response, and then that smile of his returned.

“Abbo,” he said. “I will call you abbo.”

What on earth was an abbo, and did I just hear my first Xudian word?

“What is abbo?” I asked him.
“Abbo means ‘father’ in Xudian,” he explained.
“There you go,” I said. “That works. You’re going to have to teach me some Xudian.”
“I definitely will,” Luca replied.
“So, Luca,” I said as I did my best to turn this to a more serious conversation. “What are your plans for the crown? Do you have any intentions of accepting it or passing it off to someone else?”

Luca sat up right now.

“My king is dying, and my people need me, so I must accept it.”
“Okay, then as I understand it, your crown training would be five years?” I asked. “Are you ready for that?”

“No,” Luca replied. “But I must be prepared. As it stands now, my king will likely die before I can legally accept my coronation when I turn sixteen. With his prognosis, he will be lucky if he makes it another six months. I will have to have a regent ruler until then, if my king dies before I can accept my coronation that is. So I need to be ready before then.”
“But is that what you want?” I asked.

Luca was quiet for a few moments. Again, I knew those gears were grinding in his head, which was an indication that he was seriously thinking about my question.

“Eventually,” he said quietly. “There are things I want to do before my coronation, but I feel I do not have the time.”

There we go. Luca was definitely my son. He had certain goals and ambitions in mind and I wondered what they were.

“Such as?” I asked.
“I want to go with you on one of your film projects and have an acting part in it as well, and I want to sing with you on stage. I also want to travel to Italy, to Greece even, but I have been forbidden by my king to go into Italy.”

“Did he tell you why?” I asked.
“No,” Luca replied. “Just that it’s very dangerous for me to go, and that he cannot protect me there. He says I will find out in my crown training under the subject of Military Strategies.”

That was an interesting education subject, but I guess an appropriate and valuable one for a king-in-training.

“Well, I can tell you for sure that it’s because Italy and Xudia hate each other, and have been fighting for many, many years. Your king may not be allowed to bring anyone into Italy, and your diplomatic immunity may not apply there, so if you go to Italy, he may not be able protect you there.”
“Well . . . mommy’s Xudian and you’re Italian, and you don’t hate each other.”

I could see where Luca was going with this. It brought a smile to my face for a moment. Then I parted my lips.

“That’s because your mother and I fell in love before we learned of each other’s heritage. Even then, we weren’t bothered by where we came from. Your mother and I don’t have prejudices against other cultures and races.”

“Well . . . I really want to go to Italy. I want to see where you come from, and I want to meet the Pope, and the Prime Minister. I want Italy and Xudia to stop fighting and to get along, but I don’t think that will happen, not until I become king. I love my Xudian heritage, but I also love my Italian heritage too. It really bothers me to know that my two cultures hate each other.”

“I know, kiddo,” I replied. “We’ll figure something out, but in the meantime, you should get some sleep. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“Parli Italiano?”

I knew Luca was asking me if I spoke Italian. It warmed my heart to hear him actually speak it. My other boys refused to speak it outside of their own mandatory studies.

“Sì,” I replied, which told him that my answer was yes.
“Okay,” Luca replied. “Buonanotte, abbo.”

I like that nickname. It was quite different. I ruffled Luca’s hair for a moment in a playful manner before I stood up from his bed.

“Good night, kiddo,” I told him.

I started to walk away, but I heard that nickname pass his lips again.

“Abbo?”

I turned around to face him again.

“What does ‘wop’ mean?” he asked.

He must have heard Xir Charles call me that name. I sighed as the smile on my face disappeared.

“It’s a bad derogatory name, or racial slur, for Italians.”
“You mean like Mick is for the Irish and-”
“Yes, exactly,” I told him quickly. “And it’s like I always tell Eric and Kris, I better not ever hear you use any racial slurs, or your mouth will be washed out with soap.”

Luca’s eyes widened in shock for a moment, but then went back to normal, and then he spoke up.

“You would dare to punish the future King of Xudia?” he asked as he sat upright.

I could tell he was joking, because he had a smirk on his face, but he was also curious to see what my response was.

“Yes, I would, because he’s not a king yet, and in my house, he will not be given any special treatment, except for what is expected of him when he has to handle his duties as the heir to the Xudian throne.”

Luca nodded in understanding.

“I can respect that, abbo,” he said as he settled back into his pillows. “Goodnight.”

I smiled again as I walked over to his bedroom door, and then I put my hand over his light switch as I stepped out, but I looked back into his brown eyes.

“Goodnight, son,” I told him.

It was weird to call another kid, one older than my other two boys, my son. At the same time, I felt proud, because Luca was very mature for his age. I had a feeling that Luca was not going to give me too much trouble, so in that respect, I can say he’s more like his mother. I, myself, gave my mother hell growing up. Luca did not seem to carry that habit, unless he was on his best behavior right now, and if that’s the case, then I’ll eventually see a rebellious side to him. However, I knew that raising Luca was going to be completely different from raising Eric and Kris. Since Gloria has been to Xudia for a decade, she must know quite a bit about their culture, so I’m sure she would help me learn more about Luca’s culture, so I was confident in my ability to raise Luca just fine. I just wish that Camila was still here with us, so she could see Luca grow up, and watch him eventually become King of Xudia.

After I closed Luca’s bedroom door, I then went to the only other available bedroom in this house, which happened to once belong to a young and teenaged Camila. I could tell the room had not changed much since Camila matured and moved out on her own. Her room was a mixture of some teenage obsessions, like posters of musicians and actors, and some more mature stuff, like a bookshelf of really thick books meant for college students in different subjects. I had tears in my eyes, because I could feel that this room was frozen in time, and my gut told me the room would always stay like this. I did not want to disrespect this room by messing it up, even if I was just sleeping in her bed.

“Are you okay with sleeping in here?” asked a kind and gentle voice from behind. “I know it is hard for even myself to step in here. I cannot remove anything or touch anything without crying.”

I turned around to face Camila’s sweet mother and I mirrored her soft, but sad smile. Earlier today, her gray hair was all up in a bun, but now she let her long hair all down, and it had a relaxed wave to it. When I looked into her eyes, I could see Camila in them, because they shared the same crystal blue eyes. It was easy to know that Camila took after her mother in looks, and that had Camila had the opportunity to grow old, she would have aged gracefully just like her mother. Unfortunately, this would never happen.

“I’m so sorry for what happened to Camila,” I said to her quietly. “It makes me so sick to know that her husband was behind her death. If I knew about Luca when she was pregnant with him, I would have chased her all over the world, because I wanted more than anything to marry her. I would have been good to her.”

Camila’s mother had tears in her eyes.

“I know,” she replied as the first of her tears slipped from her hold. “Her decision to keep Luca from you had nothing to do with you, specifically, but rather -”
“I know,” I replied. “It had everything to do with my mother, and I want to apologize for that. I want to apologize for my mother’s attitude and behavior towards Cami.”
“You are so sweet, Vince, and I would accept your apology, but Camila has told me on many occasion that she would leave it up to Luca to accept the apology directly from your mother.”

Wow. Just . . . wow.

“I understand, but does this mean that Luca knows the history between-” I started to ask, but Mrs. Juric already knew what the question was.
“Your mother and Camila?” she finished. “Yes, and Luca has vowed he would reserve his judgment until after he would meet her, and I anticipate he will, now that he’s in your care?”

I wasn’t too sure about this. Probably not. I couldn’t tell if Camila’s mother wanted me to say yes or no.

“Maybe,” I replied softly. “I haven’t decided yet. I’m not sure she deserves to meet Luca, not after what she did to Camila, but I’ll give it some hard thinking, see if there’s any possibility that Luca cares to meet her or not. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to, since he knows what happened and all.”
“You don’t need to wonder,” Mrs. Juric answered. “I can already tell you that Luca wants to meet her. He wants to prove to her that he’s worthy of being brought into this world.”

That made me sad.

“What? He doesn’t need to prove his worth,” I replied as I sat down on the bed.
“I know, but in this he is stubborn.”

Oh, yeah, definitely mine.

“I’ll talk to him about meeting her once we’re all settled in at my place. Can I talk to you about something that Camila mentioned in the letter I read earlier?”
“Sure,” Mrs. Juric replied as she sat down next to me on the bed in curiosity.
“She gave me pictures of the welts on Luca’s back . . .”

Camila’s mother was silent for a moment, but I could also see the tears that surfaced.

“I’m not sure what she told you in her letter, but she and Luca confessed that it was happening for 2 years. Camila told us the day she dropped Luca off that he kept it from her all this time. She said she had been up all night making arrangements, writing letters, and making her final will just hours before her father notarized it, since he has a personal side business as a legal notary and we have a friend who is a judge. We tried to tell her that if we just got the police involved, she could file a restraining order against her husband, but she insisted there wasn’t a moment to lose, not after the way their last conversation ended. We called the police, but she insisted on leaving and finding you before personally speaking with the cops. She knew Luca would be safe with us for the time being if we called the police, but she feared for her own life. All she could think about was you. She quite literally called your agent ten times.”

Okay, Mr. Michaelson was officially fired when I get back home. He made me super angry, yet I felt so helpless, because I couldn’t do anything to prevent what happened to Camila. I sighed in defeat as I looked down for a moment.

“I’m so sorry,” I apologized. “I didn’t get any messages.”
“It’s not your fault,” Mrs. Juric replied. “Whether or not you got the messages would not have made a difference, because that husband of hers was determined to . . .”

I could see it in Mrs. Juric’s eyes. She blamed herself. I could tell she was about to break, but she inhaled deeply, and kept her kind eyes locked with mine.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I am quite exhausted. Is there anything I can do for you before I turn in for the night?”

I knew this was her way to say she was done with this conversation. I understood. I respected this wish.

“Actually, yes. With all due respect, I really don’t think I can sleep in here,” I answered softly.

Mrs. Juric nodded in understanding.

“I understand. I will quick make a place for you in the den down in the basement. It gets a little chilly down there. Come on down whenever you are ready. If you have any trouble sleeping, feel free to watch television, or whatever it is that you may find comfort in. Our home is yours.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Juric.”

The woman smiled softly as she brought her hand up to my face as she had done earlier. I could see so much pain in her eyes as she thought about Camila. I could tell she tried to hide it, but it was too obvious now, but I did not dare point it out to her.

Please . . . Just call me Marija.” I felt super awkward with the idea of that, but there was no need to call her by her first name in this moment, so I just nodded respectfully. “Good night, Vince.”
“Good night and thank you for your hospitality,” I answered. “It means a lot to me.”

Instead of saying anything, Mrs. Juric just nodded in acknowledgment with a subtle bow of her head, and then she left the room. I took one last glance around my first love’s teenage room and then walked out. I really like Camila’s parents. They’re so kind, and genuine, and respectful. Before I left the room completely, I turned back, and looked above Camila’s bed. Above it was a big picture frame of her in a professional shoot, probably at the age of nineteen, based on the style of hair she had back when this photo was taken. She had her long raven locks styled to the side with subtle caramel highlights to add beauty and life to her gorgeous and soft hair. Tears immediately surfaced, but I kept hold of them, and did as Mrs. Juric did with a deep intake of air.

“Good night, Camila,” I said softly as I turned off the light to her room, and then closed the door, but stood there frozen for a moment before I walked away. “I love you.”


© Copyright 2019 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.

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