When Duty Calls

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June 13, 2018

Jaclyn holds her breath, eyeing the doctorates and honors than like the office walls. They're supposed to assure her that everything's going to be fine, but they've done everything they're supposed to and Jaclyn can still feel the fracture in their marriage.

She established her expectations, set the boundaries, and William accepted them all. He's been home before dark, he's put distance between his friends that encouraged him to go out, and he's cut anything closely related to the incident out of his life. He shares his phone with her, and accepts her rages, and will step away when she's not ready to be touched.

They've done everything right, but still... She's lost and unsure how to navigate her way back to him even though she wants to.

Jaclyn looks to the marriage counselor The Queen recommended they see. Her dark eyes relaxed behind her wide rimmed glasses observing them, eyeing the space between them on the sofa and their blank side eyes.

They've recounted their entire past for her, from the happiest of moments to the messiest. They're first year together and their doomed secret courtship that blew up in their faces, the years apart, the fights to get back together, the peace in coming back, their joint hesitation in marriage, and so on.

Isn't all of this common knowledge, she had asked at the start, defensive of her past, but Dr. Ratcliff had only smiled.

Yes, but I want to hear it from you.

"Jaclyn, do you often feel pulled between two lifestyles?" Dr. Ratcliff asks. The scary thing is Jaclyn hasn't shared a single thought about that. Just how doomed her lessons with Lady Mountbatten made her feel at first, how she feared her parents wouldn't adjust in London, and her loathing of William's gifts.

"I suppose," she stutters in a soft voice, wringing her hands together. The doctor nods, and scribbles something down. She hasn't stopped writing since they sat down and it's unsettling.

"And William has it always been a trend for you to keep things from Jaclyn? Does it feel like protecting her?"

Jaclyn's cheeks burn and tighten as she ducks her head. Thirty minutes and this woman has them all figured out. He was always hesitant being truthful with her that first year, trying to protect her from his family's opinions. Then it was the deployment, and now here they are. Him keeping his fears from her, and keeping her out of the loop with what's going on with Harry and Meghan.

"Yes." His exhale is tired and broken, quiet yet filling the room closing in around them. Suddenly she wishes that they chose a different room to do this in, for the drawing room in KP has always been her favorite. She doesn't want this to taint the air.

"Let's redirect," Dr. Ratcliff announces, and when Jaclyn looks up the woman is watching her. "Jaclyn, how are you feeling in all of this?"

Jaclyn tries to exhale, pressing her palms flat into her thighs. "I-" She steals a glance at William who is watching her as well, and for a second she contemplates using her camera smile and moving on.

More than anything she just wants things to be better, doesn't want to lose him because she can't move on or forgive. The eyes of past royals find her around the room, painted stares moving to center on her, and she feels their judgment for not being like them.

But she doesn't want to be another sad marriage out of duty. Another chapter in a book people in the future will wistfully sigh over. She can't be a tragedy in longevity, written in stone with sorrow as her ink. She wants to heal, to hold William's hand without cringing from the contact, and to heal she has to be truthful.

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