Last year dear cousin Rachel got caught in a tech company scam that nearly landed her in prison. To her good fortune, Mum and the Lauchtenland Investigative Service—the LIS—were onto the scheme well before her involvement. In the end, her innocence protected her.
“It’s a fairy tale,” Mum said. “Our fairy tale. The one I told you and Gus at bedtime.”
“Funny, I don’t see Rachel writing about shining knights and fire-breathing dragons.” He paused to read some of the text.
“…the young crown prince was all but commanded to find a wife or risk the right of the throne and lose the kingdom.”
“…king without a bride was no king at all.”
“The Swan’s Feather? She’s stolen our story.”
Perhaps it was the sentiment of his youth, or the realization he was a future king without a bride, that caused a rise of warm tears.
“She didn’t steal it but nor did she ask my permission,” Mum said. “But it’s done and I see no reason to protest. After the mess last year with the tech scam, she needs a win. A career in capital investment was not her future.”
“How can you let it go? The fairy tale was not hers to tell.” It was theirs. His and Mum’s. More specifically, his. He was the one who loved the tale as a child. The one who found a white feather in Clouver Abbey after his wife’s funeral.
It’d been a sacred moment. As if she were still with him. His one true love.
“Isn’t it? The story belongs to no one yet everyone. Especially to a Blue. I heard it from my grandmother who heard it from her grandmother. It’s the Family’s story and if Rachel profits from it, I’ve no quarrel. Perhaps she’s found her calling.”
“But you’re the queen, the proprietor of the story. The crown heir who had to marry.”
“Perhaps, but it’s done. Arabella asked me not to make a thing of it and I won’t. I’m really more concerned the publicity will bring up her faux pas from last year. I can see it now. On the set with some presenter. ‘Great fairy tale, Princess Rachel, but do tell us how you became involved with Digital Light. Were you almost thrown in the dungeon?’”
“The onus of the media will fall on her publisher.” John flipped through the story images, struck by how much the drawn prince resembled him.
“True, and Arabella claims they really believe in her and the book. She’ll perform readings at schools and daycares, highlighting the reading programs Arabella patrons. It’s a win for all.”
Mum excelled at supporting others, at believing in them. John used to attribute it to her position. Why not extol others from a queenly perch? After all, she was on top of the heap. But over the years he understood her generosity of spirit was more than duty. It was her nature. Her heart.
“I’ll do what I can to support her.” John returned the mock-up to his mother. “Why did we need a meeting about it? You could’ve told me over dinner.”
“There’s more than one purpose for our gathering.” Mum scanned the pages of Rachel’s book and smiled. “He looks like you. Didn’t you always see yourself as the hero in this story?”
“When I was ten, perhaps.” His eyes blurred again. He’d not confess it out loud, but that Family fairy tale had shaped his heart of love. “I found my princess without the journey of our hero. And she was most suitable. For me and the job.”
Yet the fairy-tale prince had a happy ending. The real-life prince was a widower at thirty-one.
“You’ll find a new love, John,” Mum said with a comforting hope he couldn’t quite accept. “You’re young, intelligent, handsome, if I say so myself.” She smiled her famous smile. The one Gus had inherited. “You are healing, aren’t you?”
“There are days I feel normal, whatever that is, like I’m ready to move on. I’ve been through all the firsts—birthdays, holidays, wedding anniversary. All that remains is the memorial of her death.” Almost two months away. At the end of August. “Other days I want to crawl into a hole. Twice this month, I started up North One to visit Briley but turned round at the first exit. I’m trapped, Mum, between my fairy tale”—he motioned to the manuscript—“and reality.”
She set aside the book and crossed over to him, kneeling beside his chair. “What can I do to help?”
He kissed her forehead. “You’re doing it. Listening. Loving me. Being patient.” He offered her a hand as she tried to stand and stumbled. “Mum, are you okay?”
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