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My body jolted awake at the sound of my alarm. It was Christmas! Stretching my arms out, I looked for my phone. When I had stretched my arms out, it reminded me that Hayes and I were watching movies last night but I don't remember him leaving. Peeking through one eye I saw my screen lit up on the night stand. My phone was plugged in and a note rested next to it.
'Good morning and Merry Christmas Autumn. You fell asleep last night during the movie. I must confess, it was much better than I thought it would be. See you before breakfast. -Hayes'.
At the bottom he scrawled in perfect cursive:
'That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call 'em something else.' I smiled warmly knowing he actually did finish the movie, that or he saw To All The Boys I've Loved Before but I doubted that. Especially since that scene wasn't in the movie. Christmas bells rang in my head. I missed my family but I loved Christmas, no matter where I was. I flung the covers back and grabbed the only red shirt I owned along with some nicer black pants. I tucked myself away in the corner of my room to straighten my hair and maybe a little makeup.

After I was dressed and ready I stepped out of my room next to Emma.
"Merry Christmas Emma." I bursted at the seems with excitement.
"Merry Christmas Miss Leon." She actually smiled. "You're very excited."
"I love Christmas. It's my favorite holiday." This was the first time I felt like Emma and I were bonding. I guess Christmas magic was real.
"Good morning." Hayes and Ben walked down the hall.
"Good morning and Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas." Hayes bowed a little. I looked at Ben.
"You too Ben." He smiled brightly.
"Merry Christmas Autumn." I blushed a little. "You know it's not dignified for a royal to socialize with the help so much." I raised my brows. He saw me as a royal, but really I was just above hired help. I leaned in close to Ben and Prince Hayes.
"Want to know a secret?" A mischievous smile appeared on Bens face. "I'm not royalty." I started to walk and pulled Ben with me. Shocked flashed on his face for a moment. "So I guess those rules don't apply to me." I kept on talking like I didn't see his face. Quiet frankly I didn't want to look back and see Hayes's or Emma's face. "Heck, I think I'm closer to the hired help than royalty."
"I respectfully disagree."
"How do you figure?"
"You're staying at the castle." My attention snapped to Ben.
"What?" Bens brows ruffled together. "You don't stay here?" His head slowly shook back and forth.
"No dear, we go home." Home. Right. Where else would they go?
"Right." My breath was raspy. "Do you live far?" He shook his head. "Do you have family of your own?" His head shook again. My head snapped back to Emma. "Do you have family of your own?" She also shook her head no. Goosebumps raced all over my body.
"But we knew that when we took the job. We knew how all encompassing it was. I sighed up for that."
"So you see the royals as family and they see you as help." My words were soaked in sadness. Ben chuckled.
"No dear. We only do business together."
"But you've watched Prince William grow up." Ben smiled, he almost looked like he was reflecting on the memories.
"I have."
"You've watched him grow up. You've watched him go from 2 to 3 to 23. You've watched him date and taken him to Abigails tourist shop. You've watched him graduate and handle royal business." Ben nodded along with everything I've said. "You can't tell me he hasn't learn a thing from you." Been smiled widely and nodded. "So you must feel some pride in the Prince." We made hard eye contact.
"I do, yes." Ben quietly admitted.
"That's a family connection. You keep his secrets and have his best interest at heart." No one spoke. The air that engulfed us felt heavy. "You are just as much his family and his is yours." Bens eyes were clear.
"That's a bold statement and assumption."
"But it's not wrong." Hayes cleared his throat but said nothing.

We walked into the dinning hall. The King and Queen wore their normal clothing like Christmas was just another day. Prince Hayes at least wore his red sweater. I think he might just like that sweater.
"Good morning and Merry Christmas." I curtsied.
"Good morning and Merry Christmas dear." The Queen stirred her tea before she took a sip.
"I assume you had a good night, last night?" The King asked. The question felt a bit far fetched but I humored him.
"I did, yes."
"William?" King William looked at Hayes.
"Yes, yes of course." My heart bubbled.
"So, do you have meetings today?" Prince Hayes looked at me.
"Uh, no. Well one but it's just father and I." I nodded.
"I promise it will be quickly after breakfast then William is yours for the day. I smiled and nodded. I felt awkward. The conversation that happened in the hallways still pulled at me. I wanted to blurt out an apology, but I didn't.

The rest of breakfast went by slow but with every passing minute the tension seemed to lessen. The pancakes were strawberry flavored this morning. They were so good. I wanted to keep eating them but I was full. The Queen excused herself to get the room ready for later tonight. Whatever that meant.
"William, I'll meet you in the conference room. I'd like to talk with Autumn for a moment." My eyes widened. Hayes just simply nodded and left. "Why do you always look so scared when I say I want to take a walk with you?"
"Well you're a very busy man so I assume I'm in trouble when you do ask to see me." King William laughed.
"Relax child, you are just fine."

We walked down the hallway for a short while without a speaking. My nerves were eating at me.
"You know, I haven't seen my son smile so much since he was a child." I smiled. I liked seeing Prince Hayes smile. "Your secret movie night in pajamas was a good idea." My eyes widened.
"How did you know about that?"
"I saw you two in the kitchen making popcorn." He smiled. "You treat him like a Prince but also like a normal person, and I can't thank you enough for that." I went to touch my hair behind my ear but I heard Vanessa in my head yelling not to touch it. She always hated when I did my hair and then tucked it behind my ear and ruining it.
"Well, Prince William has taught me a lot and made being in Baltaver even more amazing."
"I'm simply saying, it's a very lonely castle for a King or even a Prince to walk alone." The King squeezed my arm. "If you'll excuse me, I have some political things to run over with my son." I nodded.
"Of course." He smiled and walked into the conference room with Hayes. As the doors closed, I slowly licked my lips.

I found myself back in my room after breakfast. My feet hung off the bed as I looked up at the ceiling. Even their ceilings were gorgeous. I could stare at them forever. A soft knock came at the door.
"Hi Hayes." I didn't even have to look to know. He always knocked in the same fashion. 4 soft knocks. Most people did 3, he always did 4.
"What are you looking at?" He stepped into my view.
"Ceiling." My eyes flickered down to him. I pushed myself up. "Listen, I'm really sorry about what I said earlier. I shouldn't have, I was way out of line." Hayes smiled and sat down next to me.
"I must be honest with you, at first I was annoyed but you're right. Ben is my family, Emma too. I've known them for so long and depend on them for quiet a bit. Ben said something I never understood before, they give up their lives to take this job. I thought we were the only ones who lived their jobs. It never crossed my mind they did too."
"So what are you going to do with that information now that you have it?" Hayes folded his hands in his lap.
"I'm not sure but I would like to cut back their hours." I nodded.
"That's a place to start." We exchanged glances. A magnet seems to be in both our lips, pulling us closer together. Another knock came at the door. I turned my head. The door way was empty. I got up to investigate. Ben and Emma stood side by side outside.
"The Queen said the room is ready." Ben said.
"Come on Hayes." I yelled over my shoulder but he was already at my heels. "Oh your close!" I jumped a little.
"Sorry." He waved his hand forward as if to lead.
"I don't know where I'm going."
"Come on." Hayes linked his arm with mine. My face felt warm but I said nothing. I liked the feeling of Prince Hayes touch.

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