932 34 2

After lunch we came back to the castle. Emma greeted us at the door. Had she just been standing there, waiting for us to come back? Hayes nudged me with his arm.
"Dinner with the King and Queen?" I huffed. "What?" I knew he really wasn't asking, I'm sure it was a requirement, like breakfast.
"Hayes, I don't own anything nice. Look at me! You had to pick out my outfit like I'm 5 and you're my dad." He laughed and grabbed my shoulders softly.
"I'm most definitely not your father," I laughed a little. "It's not a formal event, what your wearing will do just fine." I nodded as I looked him over. He wore the same sweater he had in when we meet and navy dress pants. Hayes always looked so nice. When I met his eyes again, he smiled softly. I couldn't help but stare at his lips. "Well," I cleared my throat uncomfortably. "I must dash again, more business things." I nodded again. "I'm sorry." The tenderness of his words almost hurt. I wish he didn't have to do all these business things but I understand, he was a Prince 365 days a year. Vacations and time off, aren't a thing.
"You don't need to apologize for who you are."
"I'm not, I'm apologizing for the job." I smiled at him.
"The job is apart of who you are Hayes, I don't quite get it all but I know that your country comes first and everything else comes second." His eyes darted back and forth between mine.
"I wish I could tell you that wasn't true, but that would be a lie. I haven't lied to you thus far, I won't start now."
"Okay, go be a Prince. I'll see you at dinner." He gave my shoulders a squeeze and started to walk away.
"I'll find you for dinner." He called back to me.
"I'll try to be awake then." He turned and smiled brightly over his shoulder. I couldn't help myself but to smile too. I looked at Emma. "Can I just wonder around on my own?"
"As you wish." She bowed out. I started to roam around.

I found myself in a different part of the castle than this morning. I'm sure I could spend my left over days in Baltaver wondering this castle and I wouldn't see all of it. The castle might just be as big as Baltaver itself!
"Castle is lonely, isn't it?" I jumped a little. "Sorry dear, I didn't mean to startle you." I shook my head a little.
"It's okay, I'm a very jumpy person." Queen Rachel smiled. "I'm sorry William is in a meeting right now. He's always so busy, just like his father."
"Oh no." I assured her. "It's okay, I don't take priority. He has a kingdom to attend to." She smiled.
"You're very understanding."
"Well you all are very accommodating, it's the least I could do." We started to walk down the hall.
"The castle is very lonely. I know I sent Emma away but she's not really a friend, it's her job to follow me around, that makes it almost," I paused.
"Lonelier?" I nodded.
"Yes. How is that possible?" Queen Rachel smiled briefly.
"My dear, your hoping for someone else's presence, so when you're in someone else company, especially once's whom is an employee for you, it makes it lonelier. They are paid to be your company, you know if they weren't, they'd be somewhere else." I nodded a little.
"I guess, but I'd have to politely disagree. Your staff for some parts seems to enjoy your family. But I'm sure you can't have personal relationships with your staff, it's not dignified."
"It wasn't for a long time, Prince William is changing that."
"How so?" I looked at her. Queen Rachel was gorgeous, especially for her age. Her skin looked supple and her lips were plum. I hoped I looked half as good as she does at her age. I doubt it though, that California sun is brutal.
"William made friends with Ben when he was a child. They've always been secret friends, I adore that for him. When Emma was hired of years ago, William befriended her too, or tried to. She's very set in her ways." That was true. I smiled. "He always says hello to them and is polite, not that we weren't before but they just seem to have a stronger gratitude for Prince William." She sounded almost hurt by this.
"I think that just means you raised an amazing son." The Queen drew in a deep breath.
"I know, just hard to come to terms with." I nodded in agreement. I could understand that feeling. Almost as if to be replaced or set aside. No one wants to feel second best to someone who they used to be their number one.
"I think he gets lonely too."
"Oh I know he does. He will never admit it, but I know my son. He's been better lately, happier."
"Why?" She just turned and smiled at me. I nodded, I understood. "Is there anything you would like me to do while I'm here? I feel horrible just staying here for free." Queen Rachel jostled her head back and forth.
"No, no. William insisted on you staying here, my husband and I agreed. No one is to be alone on Christmas. There isn't a thing for you to do. Just enjoy the castle."
"Well, I am." I smiled. "It's very beautiful."
"Would you like to see the portrait hall?" I nodded.

A Christmas WalkWhere stories live. Discover now