the hearing.

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after visiting dominick, isabel ushered me back to the palace to be tortured once again.  this time, it was with make-up and hair rollers.

i winced as the esthetician layered concealer around my eyes.  isabel grabbed my hand.  "honey, thank you," she whispered.

i bit my lip, trying not to cry from the pain.  "for what?" i asked quietly.

"for still going through with this after what happened."

i chuckled.  "if i had known this is what comes out of marrying charlie, i would have hidden in d.j.'s room forever."

isabel laughed out loud.  "you know, when you were a little girl, here with your mother, you would run up and down the main hall.  you would talk out loud to yourself, like no one could hear you.  you would pretend to be the queen, and you would act like people were coming in for your coronation."  she smiled as i groaned.  "and, you would spin around and sing songs from all of those old princess movies that you and d.j. used to watch all the time.  finally, i decided you needed a friend, so i brought d.j. into the hall one day.  you wanted to play princess-"

"and he wanted to play judge and lawyer." i giggled.  "gosh, i'd forgotten about that."

isabel smiled.  "it feels like a million years ago."

* * *

the giant clock that sat on the wall above the senate hall's podium chimed out.  it felt big and ominous as it echoed through the room, giving me goosebumps.  senators shuffled to their seats throughout the room.  isabel and arabella settled into gallery seats on the balcony, surrounded petra, josiah, shawn, and lynette.  d.j. and charlie sat on chairs that had been built into the platform behind me, as i was led onto a side platform, which looked like the witness stand in a courtroom.

senator trixie tremblay stepped up to the microphone on the podium.  "ladies and gentlemen," she spoke softly, "thank you all for being here this evening.  we appreciate you all rearranging your schedules to be here this late in the night.  a few reminders of how this hearing will go.  the senate leaders, excluding prince dominick, will be given the floor to ask miss groves five questions.  following the questions, we will give you all twenty or thirty minutes to make your final confirmation or denouncement, then we will make our official announcement of the status of prince charles's engagement."

she introduced d.j., who straightened his tie as he walked up to the podium.

"good evening," he said in an all-business voice, "again, thank you all for being here, my family greatly appreciates it.  i would like you all to know that my father has recently regained the ability to speak, which we are extremely grateful for.  he wishes more than anything that he could be here tonight." he continued to address the senate, talking about what had happened earlier in the day, showing no emotion, whatsoever.  after speaking for about four minutes, d.j. cleared his throat and said, "now, i would like to turn this over to the senate leaders.  first up, senator john davis."

senator davis stepped up to the mic on the senate floor, thanking d.j. and acknowledging charlie.  finally, he turned to me.  "miss groves," he said, glancing down at a notecard, "you've been an unofficial part of the royal family for sometime now.  did you have an agenda to weasel your way into the family that way?"

i tensed up in my seat and adjusted.  isabel had warned me that they were going to trip me up, to make sure i could handle the scrutiny that came with being a royal.  i smiled.  "well, senator, i was five when prince dominick and i became friends.  my mother was a decorator on the queen's renovation team.  i don't think i've ever thought of being anything more that prince dominick's best friend.  it's really all i've ever wanted in life, until prince charles and i became involved and i found what i needed."

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