Here’s chapter 2!!! It’s a little longer than I expected…
Twenty years later…
I shut my social studies book, A Kid’s Guide To The Lintonian Government, and roll over onto my back on the white carpet floor in our two-story house just outside of Fleston, Carrteroy, in our beautiful little country of Lintonia. Oh, what’s that? You’ve never heard of Lintonia? Oh, sure you have! We’re right over there in Midwestern Europe, one of those smaller countries. Okay, I’ll admit we are a rather small island country surrounded by much more powerful-seeming European nations, but we are as powerful as Victorian England and sophisticated as France. Just pull out a map or a globe or something. You’ll find us eventually.
Oh, did I introduce myself? Sorry! I forget a lot of things, my parents tell me that all the time, and so do my teachers, like forgetting to clean my room or turn in that science project (I hate science). My name’s Aria Claxton, I’m 11 years old in the sixth grade, and I’m the only child of my all-around cool parents, Hailey and Jason Claxton. I have a BFF named Megan who is the best friend ever and stands up for me when the girls at school who act like they’re the coolest people in the world are mean to me for basically no reason. I’m not a nerd, probably the complete opposite (but I can’t seem to resist social studies!) and I love to watch and help my sew cool stuff for her bridal/fancy occasion dress shop she has downtown, which gets a pretty good stream of business. I have my own sewing machine, and I think it’s cool to make things on your own for yourself. Like, why buy something when you could just make it?
“Mom,” I groan dramatically and stretch on the floor in her sewing studio here at home. She has a separate studio by her shop downtown, but sometimes when she wants to spend extra time on a custom order, she brings her stuff home and works on them in her sewing room. “Mom, I’m done with my homework, and I’m sooo hungry! Can we go for pizza?”
Mom looks down from the dress form she is using to decorate a bodice and smiles at me. “Let me finish this bodice, and we can pick some up. You can actually call and order from Paulino’s while I wrap this up. You dad should be here in a little while.”
“Okay.” I run to grab Mom’s smartphone with the cool rubbery aqua case and dial the number for Paulino’s Pizza Parlor, which is also downtown, reading it from a mini magnet/menu on our refrigerator.
Mom and I step out into the warm spring air outside, heading toward our silver family SUV parked in the driveway. I jump in and close the door, making sure not to sit on a plastic shopping bag full of stuff from a notions store my mom shops at a lot. Mom starts the car, and we pull from our driveway and drive down the street.
At Paulino’s, I look for a college girl named Tara who works here, she’s super cool and talks to Mom and I whenever we come here. I catch a glimpse of her pulling a pizza from a giant commercial oven and wave. She grins and waves back. I breathe in the delicious smells of cheese, pizza dough and tomato sauce.
“Hi, we’re here for pickup”, Mom says to another girl working here, and gives the name and phone number. I pull myself up onto one of the high chairs at an empty table and look up at one of the restauraunt’s TV screens showing the evening news. My mouth drops open as a caption and photo pop up onto the screen. My eyes grow wide as I watch, and I slide down from my seat and run to where Mom is standing by the counter, typing on her phone.
“Mom! Hey, mom! Did you see the news? The Queen is retiring!” I point to the TV mounted up in the corner. She nods and raises her eyebrows, not lifting her eyes from her phone. “Mom? Did you hear me?”
She jerks her head up. “Oh, I’m sorry, Ria. What did you say?”
“Queen Viola! She’s retiring from the throne! Look! They’re showing it right now!” I point again and walk closer to see and hear better over the light chatter in the dining area. The people in the restaurant must have kinda heard me, because I had said it sort of loud, and now everyone is staring at the TV in surprise, including Tara and the employees. The reporter lady’s voice on the new gets louder as everyone gets quiet to hear:
“Her Majesty was referring to her daughter, the princess Lillian, who ran away from her home— the palace— on her seventeenth birthday twenty years ago. For years, the royal police have been and are searching for he lost princess. Several women have stepped forward over the years claiming to be Her Royal Highness returned, but Her Majesty as a mother has repeatedly confirmed that none of the said women are her daughter. We go now to Al at the palace gate in Relay, what is going on there Al?”
I stare up in fascination. Another princess? Named Lillian? Run away from home two decades ago? She could be married and have kids by now, living anywhere! Strangely, I had never heard this story before. I turn to see Mom’s reaction, but she is just kind of frozen with her phone in hand, staring at the TV with a strange expression.
“Ma’am?” Mom turns around to see the girl with her hand resting on our three pizza boxes. I rub my hands together gleefully. I am a complete pizza-eating machine. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner if my parents actually let me. My dad actually ordered pizza for breakfast for the two of us once when my mom was out for the weekend, and it was delicious. Mom pays for the food and we leave Paulino’s, walking down the busy sidewalk through light rain to our vertical-parked car.
“So, mom”, I begin, “is there seriously a real princess who has been living incognito for twenty years?“
“Yes, Aria. Her name is Princess Lillian, and she left the palace when she was seventeen to go to fashion school.”
“Wow! I thought Princess Eleanor was an only child!”
“Nope. She has a big sis out there”, Mom says a little softly, her eyes wandering over people walking down sidewalks past shops and apartments and old historical buildings downtown as we stop at a red light.
I tip my head. “Wait, a big sis? So since The Queen is retiring from her throne, does this mean that Lillian has to go back to the palace after all these years and become the Queen?”
There is a long pause as Mom is silent. “I guess so.”
We pull into our driveway, and I recognize the car already parked there as Dad’s and jump out in excitement to meet him. He travels a lot for his job, so when weekends come and he gets home, I get sort of hyper.
“Dad!” I run down the hall and right into him, bumping in the family room.
“Ooph!” He staggers backward overdramatically, making a show of me bumping into him, and pulls me down along with him to the floor, tickling.
Mom walks into the house, balancing pizza boxes in one hand, and the shopping bag of sewing supplies hanging from her other arm. She flashes a sarcastic grin at the two of us. “Thank you for the help, Jason, Aria,” she says, “thanks for thinking about me and helping me with all these packages.”
Dad jumps up and catches the top pizza box just as it falls from the top of the stack Mom is carrying and sets it on the kitchen table. “Hailey, did you hear that Her Majesty is abdicating? It was all everyone talked about at lunch.”
“Yes, it was on the news at Paulino’s,” Mom sighs. She looks at Dad, and he looks at her, and Dad turns to me.
“Ria, you can go ahead and eat. Mom and I are just going to talk for a bit. And,” he folds his arms and leans down, “no eating up all the pizza, hmm, missy?”
I giggle and nod. “Okay.” I run to the family room with a nice wide slice of Lintonian cheese pizza and turn on the TV, flipping to my favorite American comedy while Mom and Dad’s voices blur as the familiar sound of their bedroom door closes.
I crack up at the actors’ lines and wipe sauce off my mouth with a napkin. I hear my parents voices grow lower, then silence.
What’s wrong? I wonder, staring down the hall at the staircase, a feeling of uncertainty rising in my stomach. They aren’t yelling, but they’re whispering. I slide off the sofa as a loud commercial comes on and sneak down the hall, my socks silent against the hardwood floor. I press my ear against the wall on the staircase, hoping to pick up part of their conversation.
The words Relay and mother are all I catch. Maybe they’re talking about Mom’s mother? I’ve never met her before. I press harder, straining to pick up more clues.
“Are you going to tell her?” That’s my dad’s voice, I think. Tell who what?
The next words, coming from my mom, are so soft I don’t catch any of them. I begin to worry. Is Mom’s mother sick? Or…worse?
The sound of their bedroom door unlocking makes me snap back to reality, and I scurry back down the stairs as silently as possible and resettle myself on the sofa as my parents’ footsteps sound down the stairs and they walk into the kitchen. I look over, holding my pizza and am alarmed to see Mom’s red eyes and tearstained cheeks. The sit down across from me and Dad glances at Mom, then looks at me.
“Ah, Aria… Your mother has something she needs to tell you… Take her down to the basement and she’ll explain it all. I’ll be up here taking care of some things while she talks to you.” Dad squeezes Mom’s shoulder and stands up.
Mom takes my hand, and we head two the basement door and walk down the stairs slowly without talking. She leads me to the old couch we have in the part of the basement that’s finished, and after we sit down, she finally looks at me and begins.
“Aria, what do you know about my family?” It’s an awkward question, one she’s never asked me before. My stomach does a flip-flop. So this is about her mother.
“Um, I think your Mom lives in Relay, and you have a sibling, right?”
Mom does not say anything for a few seconds, then gets up and moves to the closet where we keep stuff like our Christmas decorations, my outgrown clothes long supposed to be donated, and other random stuff. What in the world is going on?
She digs around in the closet, things clinking and clunking, then I hear a clatter, and a muffled oof.
“Are you okay, Mom?” I stand up and peer through the dim light as she shuffles back toward me, holding a small, worn cardboard box.
“Yes.” She sits back down and removes the lid of the box. I lean forward a little eagerly despite the situation, expecting to see some old black-and-white pictures, or maybe some old coins or something. My mom moves the faded, dusty tissue paper in the box, and something catches the faint light and sparkles. I lean back from the box and gasp, heart pounding.
Mom lifts out a delicate, intricate tiara made of solid silver, studded all over with glimmering diamonds and three deep green garnets forming a regal peak at the top.
My mouth hangs open. I am completely speechless. This tiara looks real. This tiara IS real! Wait…
My heart skips a beat as Mom holds the tiara over my head, looking into my eyes.
“Hail Her Royal Highness Princess Aria Karena Maria Alexandra, Duchess of Crayton, Viscountess of Stonewell, Baroness of Winebridge.”
And she sets the tiara on my head, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
Part 3 coming soon!