Banks of flowers begin to pile outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. The king has been officially declared dead and the ascension of King Edward will take place soon. No one shall be there for the ascension, save for the king and those involved in the ceremony. Funeral arrangements have begun for the King and the Royal family must gather together to make decisions regarding such. In the evenings, a quiet dinner with family and friends will be hosted.
9:30 am. 2 hours until Annette’s flight left for London and she was in the cab on the way to De Gaulle airport. She had her purse and a small bag. She could only stay a week at most. It made her incredibly uncomfortable to think she’d be in the belly of the beast, so-to-speak. Max’s family role was everything she’d been fighting against for most of her life and now she was going to be part of it.
“Ici mademoiselle,” the taxi driver said as he stopped in front of the airport.
“Merci,” she said paying him what was due and heading into the airport.
Annette is brave and confident; there is no doubt about that. But her stomach was in knots and she felt like she was going to throw up. She remembers the first time she met Max, it was in De Gaulle. Her flight was delayed a few hours and he had snuck away from his security detail. After giving a very liberal verbal beating to a guy who just grabbed her arse she backed into Max. Their friendship was not an instant hit at all. She knew who he was and wanted to avoid him at all costs yet he pursued her through the airport and finally she gave in. and to be honest, she’s glad she did because he’s pretty awesome. He was funny and down-to-earth, not at all how she thought a member of England’s royal family would be. And now, here she was getting ready to fly to England to visit him. It truly is a strange world.
“Ann!” a familiar voice called out.
She turned around to find her brother, Henri sprinting toward her. “Henri! I didn’t know you were coming, how lovely,” she said smiling at her brother.
“Why the hell are you going to England?” he asked a bit flustered.
“I have to visit a friend, but I’ll be back next week,” she said quickly hoping that vague explanation was good enough.
But clearly it wasn’t. Henri scrunched his face together and stared and Annette for a moment. “Who are you going to visit?”
“Just a friend,” she said shifting uncomfortably.
“Is it that guy you met here in the airport?” Henri asked feeling as if something was not right.
“Uh, yeah,” Annette said wishing this conversation would finish, “Listen, Henri, it’s nothing. He just asked me to come up for a few days. I’ll be back before you know it.”
“are you getting married?” Henri blurted out.
Annette couldn’t help but laugh at her brother’s question. How absurd. But when she looked at his face she knew he was serious. “No, Henri, not at all. Someone in his family passed away and he asked me to come up for a few days,” she said more seriously.
“I just feel like there’s something you’re not telling me,” Henri said not dropping the subject.
Annette sighed and said, “Henri, what I keep from you is for your own good. I just want to protect you.”
Henri shook his head and said, with bitterness, “Ann, I am 20 years old. You don’t need to protect me anymore. I am very capable of being an adult and hearing what you have to say. So come on, out with it.”
“I can’t, Henri. I have to go but I’ll call you as soon as I can,” Annette said picking up her bag, “Don’t worry, everything is and will be fine.”
“You can’t keep hiding things from me, Annette,” Henri said exasperated.
“I know, I know, dear,” Annette said brushing him off. She kissed him on the cheek and was off to England.
“Are you Ms. Descoteaux?” a man dressed all in black asked Annette as she emerged from the gate at Heathrow.
“Yes, I am,” Annette said following the man as he turned and headed out of the airport. He opened the door on an unmarked black car and she quickly got in. she didn’t want to run into anyone, even though she knew no one in London except for Max. You never know.
Without a word the driver sped off into London and she sat in the back expectantly. Annette did not know what to expect or where she was going. She could only assume she’d be seeing back at some point in the day. The evidence of the king’s passing was quite clear. All flags were at half-mast, newspapers screamed the tragedy, and flower shops were overflowing with people waiting their turn to get flowers. Annette looked away from the window with an uncomfortable feeling in her gut. She didn’t belong here, especially at a time like this. “Dear God,” Annette said in shock as they passed Buckingham Palace. Outside of the gates there was a sea of flowers and people still placing flowers. For most people this was a sign of deep respect and mourning but Ann knew it only as a sight of the oppressors, just like those who made her mom work ridiculous hours when she had two young children at home. Annette just rolled her eyes and again turned away from the spectacle.
“Here we are,” the driver said coming to a stop in front of The May Fair Hotel.
“I’m sorry, I can’t afford this. Can you take me to some cheap hotel?” Annette said looking at the understated yet lovely façade of the hotel.
“It’s all taken care of,” the driver said hopping out of the car and opening Annette’s door. Then in a hushed voice he said, “Here, this is your identification card. He thought it was best if you didn’t use your real name.”
Annette took the plastic rectangle he held in his hand and studied it for a minute. Emily Williams. That was the name on the ID card. Annette couldn’t help but give a small laugh. As soon as she’d speak anyone with a brain would know that she was French and this lackluster name was not going to conceal that.
“Check in at the front desk with this name and there should be a note in your room,” the driver said tipping his hat and then he was off.
“You have got to be f-cking kidding me,” Annette said as she watched the car drive off. She shook her head and entered the hotel heading for the front desk. “I’m here to check in,” she said letting her bag flop to the ground. The concierge examined Annette critically for a moment. It was quite obvious she didn’t belong in the lap of luxury that was the May Fair.
“Name please,” Ellen, as her name was, said.
“Emily Williams,” Annette said trying not to laugh. Clearly Ellen did not believe that name was hers.
“ID,” she coldly said. Annette handed her the ID card and the lady inspected critically but in the end found no fault. “Here is your room key. I assume you can manage your one bag but if not Paul is here to help,” she said with a tone of hostility.
“I can manage,” Annette said snatching the key and heading for the elevator. When the elevator stopped Annette found her room. “For Christ’s sake!” she exclaimed dropping her bag to the floor. It wasn’t just a hotel room, it was a luxurious apartment. /The Opium Suite/ as her door said. She examined the suite in it entirety. It was larger than her flat in Paris. When she came back to her sense she pulled out her phone and gave her brother a call.
“Salut, Henri. Je suis à Londres,” Annette said retreating to the foyer of the suite.
“Annette, je veux savoir pourquoi tu es à Londres. Freddie m’a appelé parce qu'il ne sait pas où tu es. L’appelle, » Henri said exasperated with his sister’s secret.
« Je ferai ! » Annette exclaimed, realizing she had forgot to give Freddie some excuse. She turned around and gave a small shriek when she saw Max standing there.
“Est-ce que ça va?” Henri asked a bit alarmed by the small shriek.
“Oui, oui, Henri, je dois y aller. Je t’appellerai plus tard. » she said about to hang up.
“Annette, tu me dirais si quelque chose n’allait pas, non ? » Henri asked. Annette could sense the worry in his voice and she sighed. She wanted to tell him everything but she couldn’t, it was for his protection.
“Bien sûr, mon cher. Je t’aime,” Annette said.
« Je t’aime, » Henri replied and then there was a click and dial tone.
“Max, I thought there was just going to be a note for me,” Annette said immediately turning to him, “I didn’t know you’d be here.”
“I couldn’t wait to see you,” Max said coming forward. His eyes were bloodshot and overall he looked disheveled.
“Look, I can’t stay here, Max. This is way too much,” Annette said squirming as she looked around.
“Please, Annette, stay here. I can get here easy from my place and I will need to get away,” he said, his voice cracking.
“We should sit down,” Annette suggested. Max made his way into the sitting room and Annette sat across from him. She studied him for a minute. He had lost the sparkle in his eye. It was so evident he was hurting. “I don’t know what comfort I can bring you,” Annette began.
“You are the only normal friend I have, Annette,” Max said running his hand through his messy hair, “Everyone else is so involved and you know nothing of this world and I just need to get away sometimes.”
Annette straightened her posture and her eyes became cold. She ‘knew nothing of this world’ because she did not desire to. it was full of elitist snobs who thought themselves to be above everyone. She couldn’t stand being around any type of royalty or high ranking officials. Max clearly noticed he had offended her, though he thought it was something else.
“I didn’t mean to sound like a pr-ck,” he said starting his apology, “I just mean it’s nice to have someone who isn’t concerned with funerals and coronations and keeping up appearances. Of all the friends I have you are the one who is the most real. You don’t lie to me and I trust you immensely.”
Annette smiled at Max compassionately and then moved next to him on the couch. “I will try my best,” she said putting her arm around him. He turned to her with tears in his eyes and she embraced him. “Even royals have human feelings,” she thought to herself.
“Listen, Annette,” Max said sniffling, “I know this is a lot to ask of you but there’s a dinner tonight with family and friends and it would mean so much to me if you could be there.”
“I- I don’t know,” Annette said uncomfortably. If Freddie knew she had been invited to dine with royals he would definitely throw her out of the revolution, no doubt. It would ruin her.
“Please, Annette. I can guarantee it won’t be fun but it would mean so much to me,” Max pleaded.
“Okay,” Annette gave in, “I’ll be there.”
“Thank you, Annette, I genuinely appreciate it,” Max said embracing her once more. But this time Annette cringed at her own weakness.
Annette entered the dining room and stopped for a moment. Never in her life had she seen so much wealth and, well, waste. There were people who had nothing and yet these people chose to have red velvet wall coverings and gold knick knacks around the room. The setting didn’t frighten or even overwhelm Annette. It angered her and she knew what she was doing in Paris was for the greater good. Before she let her anger overtake her Max showed up at her side.
“Thank you, Annette, you have no idea how much this means to me,” he said with a small smile and even a faint twinkle in his eyes. Annette simply nodded and began to look around the room once again. “Come, let me introduce you to some people,” Max said taking her by the arm.
The first people they approached were a lovely redheaded young lady and the man, who even Annette knew, was soon-to-be king Edward. The young lady was very pretty but looked a bit out of sorts, then again, so did everyone in the room. “Annette, allow me to introduce you to Ms. Charlotte Branbourne and my brother future King Edward,” Max said motioning to the couple.
Annette slightly bowed and if the situation had been different that would have been unacceptable but considering everyone was still troubled by the King’s passing, Edward did not seem to notice. He simply said, “It’s lovely to meet you, Annette. Please excuse me.” And with that he walked away.
“Hello, Annette,” Ms. Branbourne said, her eyes following Edward, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“And you as well,” Annette finally spoke.
“You’re French,” she said slightly taken aback.
“Yes, always have been and always will be,” Annette said not sure if Charlotte meant that with any negative connotations.
“Yes of course, pardon me. It was so nice to meet you, Annette,” charlotte said walking away, probably to find Edward.
“Sorry about that,” Max sighed, “Everyone is still out of sorts.”
“Not me,” a voice said from behind.
“Annette, this is my cousin Princess Adelaide of York,” Max said motioning to the young girl.
“Hullo, there,” she said with a smile, “These occasions are dull, aren’t they? Yes, I know uncle - the king- is dead but everyone dies.” Annette was taken aback by her brash and open way of thinking. She didn’t know royals acted like that. In a way, Annette was pleased. “Sorry, what was your name again?” she asked.
“Annette,” she said raising an eyebrow at the young creature.
“Oh you’re French! How exciting! The French have always known how to start a riot!” Adelaide said with a laugh. Her laugh was quite beautiful. It was clear was unlike all of the other people in that stuffy room.
“Adelaide, settle down for God’s sake,” Max said rolling his eyes at his cousin.
“Oh come now,” she said with a fake pouty face, “Don’t be such a pr-ck. I’ll see you around, Annette. I want to talk to you more!” and with that she flounced off leaving even Annette speechless.
“Wow,” Annette finally muttered with a small laugh.
“Sorry about that, she’s a wild-child of sorts,” he said with exasperation in his voice.
“Don’t be sorry, I actually enjoyed her very much,” she said truthfully.
“Max, I am so dreadfully sorry about your father,” a beautiful blonde lady said, appearing from nowhere. She noticed Annette and a critical scowl crept over her beautiful face. “Who is this?” she motioned to Annette.
“This is my friend, Annette. Annette this is Lady Lydia Carrington-Whitely,” Max said introducing the two, “If you’ll excuse me I have to see to something.”
“So you and Max are friends?” Lady Lydia said examining Annette as she sipped her glass.
“Yes, and you and Max are lovers?” Annette bit back. She watched the young lady nearly choke on her drink at Annette’s words.
“You’re French, how…”Lydia trailed off in a smug voice, “How typical.”
“Typical of what, dear?” Annette asked patronizingly.
“The vulgarity of course. Where did you and dear Max meet? No, let me guess. He befriended you as one of his charities,” Lydia said with a smug smile. She thought she had gotten the best of Annette but it would take a lot more than idiotic words from a snobbish girl.
“No dearie, I believe you’re getting your story mixed with mine,” Annette said becoming bored with her present company.
“How dare you talk to me in such a way,” Lydia spat back clearly flustered, “Do you know who I am?”
Annette gave a little laugh and said, “Yes, I do, and I don’t give a d-mn.”
“How dare you!” Lydia hissed.
“Calm down, Lydia, don’t make a scene,” Annette said with her teeth clenched.
“It’s Lady Carrington-Whitely to you- you- you peasant,” she spat back cruelly, “You’re just one of Max’s phases. Soon enough you’ll be gone and just another one of his little wh-res he had his fun with and when you’re gone he’ll come back to me.”
“I don’t know what you think I’m doing here with Max, but I can assure you we are not in any sort of relationship. I know it may be hard for that pretty little blonde head of yours to handle but it’s true,” Annette said watching her fume. Before Lady Lydia could respond, Max reappeared.
“Sorry about that,” he said, “Did you two get a chance to talk?”
“I’ll talk to you later, Max,” she said walking away.
“I know Lydia can be snobbish but she really is great,” Max said in her defense.
“You don’t have to explain yourself to me,” Annette shrugged
“explain myself, what do you mean?” Max asked confused.
“It’s clear that she’s going to be your wife one day. I don’t need an explanation as to why,” Annette said.
“Annette, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Sure, Lydia and I were or are together but who knows how long it will last,” he said looking hurt.
“Everyone is having a grand time with the little French girl in the room,” Annette said bitterly.
“I think it’s just a bunch of stereotypes between the French and the English. No one here actually hates the French,” Max said defending the company.
“No,” Annette thought, “Not yet at least.”
sorry so terrible!