Late at night, January 12th 2013
Those of you with royal or diplomatic connections have been invited to a gala in support of children's literacy abroad.
However, as the party winds down and many guests leave for home, the news comes in. The King has died en route from Heathrow International Airport in a fiery car explosion. Those immediate members of the royal family will be guarded by security as soon as possible and access to the palace will be severely limited.
A night like any other. The smell of smoke and cheap wine filled the air as sounds of mumbling and laughing and of course arguing. In the back corner of the crumbling café was Annette with her revolutionary comrades talking about what their next move would be. Annette wanted to strike immediately but Freddie, the leader, was insistent on holding back a bit longer.
“You don’t understand,” Annette said setting her glass down on the stained table and picking up her cigarette and taking a drag, “If we don’t strike now it weakens our resolution and gives Hollande and anyone who opposes up the upper hand.”
“Victoire,” Freddie said blowing smoke out of his mouth in a casual way, “We can’t attack now. Quite frankly we don’t have the manpower to withhold a major strike. Another month or so and we should be ready.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Annette, or Victoire as she was known to the revolutionaries, said. She kept her real identity a secret so her radical protests did not interfere with her university life. She did not think of it as hiding something but rather as waiting until the right moment came to reveal her true revolutionary self to the world. “How can you call yourself the leader of this group and talk like that?” Annette spat at Freddie.
Now the three other guys who were around the table with Annette and Freddie stared silently at Freddie to see what he would do. Freddie and Annette were always butting heads and yet when it came down to the last second they always agreed. The tension between the two was thicker than the smoke in the air. Freddie was the first to break the silence as he sighed and motioned to Annette to follow him out the back.
“Annette, you need to stop opposing me,” Freddie said when they were out the backdoor in the ally. He knew her real situation and was okay with it. He only called her Victoire when they were around other members.
“You need to stop being such a prude and finally do something!” Annette exclaimed in hushed whispers.
“Listen, I am just as frustrated as you are and you know that but I am also a bit more reasonable than you are. In a month’s time we’ll have the group from Toulouse on our side and from then we can go forth,” Freddie said running his hand through his hair.
“But we have already the groups from Lyon, Marseille, Nice, and Lille on our side. Why do we need Toulouse?” Annette whined taking a puff.
“The head of the Toulouse sect has valuable connections in the English government who are sympathetic to the cause. They could create a stalemate in the English government so they would be unable to aid the Republic,” Freddie said in hushed tones. Apparently no one was supposed to know that information quite yet.
Just as Annette was going to protest her phone rang. She looked down at the ID and her eyes widened and looked from it to Freddie. He tilted his head suspiciously and furrowed his eyebrows together.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“Oh, um, just my brother. I can call him back later,” Annette lied stuffing her phone back into her pocket, “Now as I was saying-“ she tried to continue.
“No, go ahead answer it. I know how much your brother means to you,” Freddie said leaning against the cool brick building.
“Really it’s fine,” Annette said flushing a red color.
“I insist,” he said taking another drag on his cigarette.
Reluctantly Annette pulled out her phone and walked a bit further down the alley way. When she was sure she was out of Freddie’s earshot she answered her phone.
“Hello,” she said quietly answering the call.
“Annette,” a disheveled voice who she barely recognized and Max said.
“What’s wrong, Max? Can it wait? I’m in the middle of something,” Annette said quickly turning around to glance at Freddie who was still outside.
“My dad died,” a cold voice said bluntly.
“Oh my god,” I said looking up into the sky, “I am so sorry. How?”
“Some car explosion from Heathrow, I think,” a voice on the brink of tears fumbled out.
“Look, I really am sorry but you should probably be with your family and others know. I’m probably not the person you should come to,” Annette said shifting uncomfortably.
“Come to England,” Max blurted out.
For a moment Annette was silent. She didn’t know how to respond to such a request. “I- I don’t think I can,” Annette said uneasily, “Beside I would get in the way of your family and your family, from what I hear, is quite important in England.”
Max gave a cold laugh and said, “Please, for me.”
“I have to go, Max,” she said looking at Freddie, “I hope everything turns out for the best.” And with that she hung up and returned to Freddie.
“Everything okay?” he asked throwing his cigarette to the ground.
“Um, yeah, everything’s fine,” she said unconvincingly.
Freddie nodded with suspicious eyes and said, “Let’s get back inside.”
As much as she wanted to forget about Max’s phone call she couldn’t because he kept calling. Freddie kept looking at her and she just wanted the night to be over. If she could get away without Freddie finding out she was friends with English royalty the night would be a success. Freddie would persecute her and surely ruin her desire of being part of a revolution. She would be ostracized by anyone and everyone in the radical groups. She knew the best thing would be to break off the friendship entirely but she did like Max. Sure, he lived the highlife and enjoyed it but he was a great guy once you got to know him, but Freddie would never understand that. Therefore their friendship had to be kept secret.
“For god sake, Annette,” Freddie said nearly hissing at her, “Go home. Clearly your brother still wants to talk to you and you can do that better from your flat and you won’t get in the way from there either.”
Annette’s blood boiled but she calmed herself down. “ I’ll be back tomorrow,” she said grabbing her jacket and heading outside.
Once again her phone rang and she picked it up this time. “Max, I know you’re upset but I promised to call you. You shouldn’t have called me so much,” Annette said a bit too harshly.
“Sorry,” a sad voice said and immediately Annette regretted being so harsh.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped at you. How are you doing?” she asked with a sigh.
“I ordered you a ticket for tomorrow,” Max said, “Check your email.”
“Max, as much as I want to be there for you I can’t just leave Paris! I have things going on,” she said nervously.
“Annette, come for just a few days at least. I can’t stand being around anyone here,” he said with a lump in his throat.
Annette stopped on the sidewalk and looked around, paranoid. “I really want to, but I don’t think I can,” she said in a softer tone.
“Annette, please,” he said kindly.
Annette sighed and reluctantly said, “Fine, but I can’t stay too long.”
“Thank you so much,” a voice of relief said, “someone will be at the airport to pick you up tomorrow.”
“Bye,” Annette said hanging up. she had done it. She gave in and was going to England. Perhaps Eddie was right in putting the strike off for another month. At least it wouldn’t look like she was backing out. But God only knows how she could be useful to Max in England. His world was not hers.
@roses-are-roses hope Max is portrayed okay! If not just let me know!