Ethan’s head was spinning. Ever since he arrived here, he had felt progressively overwhelmed. A limousine picked him up from a private jet and took him to a palace – a literal one – with expensive cars parked outside.
He had to travel here without Blythe, due to some court protocol. He was dropped off, alone, told his luggage would be brought to his chambers and there he was. All alone.
Lacking other options or better ideas, he just went up to the palace doors, the guards didn’t flinch, but before he could knock the doors swung open – making Ethan think of scary movies where that customarily happened – but rather than some scary monster some man welcomed him, then called for someone else to take him from here.
He was shown to a room he would be staying in without Blythe as he learned to his dismay, then joined by some stiff guy rattling down rules about how to behave at court for several hours.
The only way Ethan got through it was by imagining his dad there with him. KC would have doubled over laughing non-stop. All this was the exact opposite of his family.
Then meeting the royal family, not allowed to hug or even smile at Blythe just standing around stiffly while listing to uninteresting ramblings. The word meeting was a moniker as well, Ethan and several other guests stood and stared at them, the king said some kind words and that was that.
Ethan was never personally addressed.
An uncomfortable dinner, stiff discussions phased off into eloquently phrased talks about nothing of substance … he had been here for almost 40 hours now, almost two whole days and not had one single minute alone with Blythe. He had only seen her a handful of times at all and even then only from the distance.
More stiff ceremonies, stiff meals, standing around stiffly while waiting only ever interrupted by some etiquette drive-bys when someone came to Ethan’s room to rattle down what he was NOT supposed to do and where he already messed up.
No wonder Blythe and Blair had fled this place. He was getting close to doing the exact same thing.
Finally at some point, he was wandering around lost, trying to figure out where to go, when Blythe appeared, her finger to her lips and pulled him with, down endless hallways and down some stairs.
When she stopped in some room somewhere below ground, she slammed shut the door, jumped into his embrace and kissed him.
A long kiss and suddenly the world seemed brighter, especially when the kiss ended and he saw her smiling face.
“You okay?” she asked him sweetly.
“Better now. Blythe, what the hell is all this? It all seems pointless! Why am I even here?” Ethan made it obvious that he didn’t like any of this.
“The reason I ran away is getting clearer, isn’t it? The reason I couldn’t tell you about all this sooner. What all this is, is a bunch of tight outdated rules that no longer make sense, but nobody dares to change them. It is oppression at its finest. Women are but a pawn in some noble chess game, the men only think of strategies of some sort, just like hundreds of years ago, and everything is fake as nobody holds any true power to speak of anymore. Welcome to life as modern royalty. Not quite as glamorous as in the movies, huh?” she smiled.
“Why are we even here? Clearly, your family could not care less about who I am…”
“That is where you are wrong. My family cares a lot. They just haven’t had a chance to show it yet. My dad really likes you. Despite of it all. And my mom … I am not going to tell you what my mom said about you. You’d get all dorky and trip over yourself again.” Blythe blushed and giggled.
“Your dad hasn’t even talked to me, not even as much as looked at me.”
“Oh, daddy has been watching you. He likes you. Even though you are a commoner, divorced and with a child. Three strikes. But since I kind of already removed myself from the succession line, it’s all good. And he knows you make me very very happy.”
“What am I even here for? I thought I was to meet your family. This we could have done via a video call …”
“You will meet them. Soon. They are dying to talk to you.”
“Your dad is the king, right? So why is it so hard? He can do whatever right?”
“Wrong. Daddy has to go by the rules too, has obligations. There is a lot of stuff he does not agree with, but has to do anyway. Some of it lost him Blair and me. But there is nothing he can do about it.”
“I thought you ran because he was so strict …” Ethan said.
“No. My daddy is a teddy bear at heart, but he has obligations. I love my family. This is why it is so very important that you meet them and they you. But being born into this life brings restrictions, lots of them. Had we remained here, Blair and I were to marry someone of similar standing. She had her debutante ball first since she is older than me and we laughed so hard at all the eligible bachelors .. awful guys, even some that were twice her age! Then we found out she had to pick within a year or a match would be made for her. She cried, yelled, complained, but in the end, there was nothing anyone could do. Except for what we did do. Picked a last name and left.”
“You .. what?” Ethan thought he was hearing things now.
“Most royal houses have no real last name. No need, no use. But you can pick, most do when they marry and start their own families, to separate their family tree from the rest. Blair and I chose Childs after some author we liked. And went with just the commoner names mom and dad gave all three of us on top of all the legacy names, my brother too, although he cannot leave, he is the crown prince and heir to the throne. He’s married and has a son, about Blake’s age. My full name is scary long and I hate it, but you probably heard it, just didn’t realize it was me. Charlotte Eugenia Maria Phillipa Blythe Princess Mountbatten-Wharton. Mouthful, huh?”
“Why didn’t you go with the last name Mountbat… something?”
“Right. Great idea. Maybe tell people who were are too, in case someone needs money, they know where to conveniently find us to abduct us and blackmail daddy.”
“Oh, right. Nobody ever figured it out?”
“You have been closer to me than anyone before, and you haven’t. So, no. Officially the two princesses are studying culture somewhere in the world, whatever the royal correspondent makes up. We better get back upstairs.”
His initial stiffness faded when Ethan realized Blythe’s family were just regular people when nobody was around. The little boy played with his father and mother, who oddly seem to get along well, even though he learned from Blythe that her older brother’s marriage had been practically arranged. The king was a devoted husband, loving father, doting on his grandson.
At least as long as nobody entered. As soon as anyone did, usually some messenger, the family would snap into the rigidity expected of them, then back to normal after the doors shut.
Ethan even stepped aside for a moment, and was joined by the king himself. After Ethan got very tongue tied, Blythe’s father took the lead of the conversation, smiling slightly. He was pleasant to talk to, once Ethan started to imagine he was just his girlfriend’s dad, and forgot the rest.
“My love, we have to get ready for dinner now.” the queen smiled warmly at her husband, then Ethan.
“Of course, dear.” the King, who reminded Ethan of his own grandfather now, responded.
“Your highn … royal … umm … excellen … ahem …. king .. uh …” What was his name again?!, Ethan thought panicking. They all seemed to have too many to remember.
“What is it, son?” the king seemed amused.
“May I have a word in private?” Ethan had no idea where he got the courage from.
“Certainly. And the term you are looking for is ‘your majesty’, but never mind that, just for later at dinner, you may want to remember that.” his smile was kind.
Ethan nodded gratefully, then inhaled deeply, before he spoke.
“Ethan, we are not supposed to do that!” Blythe protested when he had caught up with her after dinner, grabbed her by the hand and pulled her into some random room, shut and locked the door.
“I don’t care! I need to be with you. NOW! I cannot stand being alone in this place another minute, knowing you are just a few walls away…”
“Technically more than a few walls. Since I am royalty, I rank higher than you, meaning I reside higher. I am upstairs in the ladies wing.” she giggled.
“Whatever, Blythe, I love you and I miss you!” Ethan had no mind for her teasing.
“I love and miss you too. It’s almost over. Just one more day to get through. Then we’ll be back home and all with be normal again.”
“Blythe, I need to know this though: what do you want in life? How do you imagine your future? Because one thing is for certain, I will never be able to give you anything even remotely close to any of this!”
“My future? With you. And Blake. And all your crazy family who are so special to me already. I so wish I knew how to get our dads together! I wish I could just take my family and visit yours. But that is not possible. What I want my future to be is … hmm … I see myself waiting for you at home, dinner cooking, Blake doing his homework at the table, while our littlest one plays on the floor, you walk in, the kids greet daddy at the door and you come and kiss me, stealing a taste of dinner … is that too whimsy?”
“It is pretty sappy and not at all what I would have expected from you, but it matches my very unmanly visions. I know we both want to take things slow, but … I cannot wait that long. Blythe, I love you with all my heart, despite of whatever all this is. But all of it made me realize that I HATE being separated from you and even more so knowing I cannot just jump in my car and go see you. I can’t even call you, they took my cell phone from me. Something about limiting media exposure. Like I would run around taking Selfies all over this place. Either way, I have no clue how this will work out, but I want to try. And we can take all the time in the world, I am not trying to rush into anything, but I think we both need this next step to happen now. Also, I am sorry, I cannot possibly remember all your names, so here goes in a very simple way, cos I am a very simple man: Blythe Childs, will you make me the happiest man in the world and become my wife?”
Ethan was down on one knee now, ring box in hand, staring at Blythe.
“Oh my God, yes. A thousand times yes, I will marry you, Ethan Cameron!”
Ethan smiled, grabbed her hand and put on the ring as Blythe was somewhere between laughing and crying.
“Thank you for saying yes and not making this day any rougher than it already has been.” Ethan said with honest relief in his voice. Most men choke at this question, try asking a princess for her hand in marriage.
“How could I refuse, considering you asked me in a bathroom.” she burst into laughter.
“Oh shit, I didn’t even realized we were in one. So sorry. Want me to do that again somewhere more romantic?” Ethan was shocked but when he saw her laughing and looking very happy, he grinned too and she kissed him.
“No baby, this is definitely a one of a kind thing and nothing I will ever forget. At least it’s a royal bathroom and not some truck stop one, right? Hmm, Ethan … there is one more thing … I hate to be that way, but … you formally have to ask my father for my hand before this can become truly official.” she ruffled her nose at the last part.
“You think I am a total country bumpkin? Already done. Asked king daddy for your hand and he royally sanctioned it. Now THAT is something even my trailer park daddy taught me to do when I was still a boy! Out of respect and courtesy for the girl.”
“You are amazing! But what do you mean with trailer park daddy?”
“Oh that? I think once we are back home, I’ll have something interesting for you to digest. This is too hilarious to put into words, plus I cannot wait for your face!” Ethan chuckled.