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       Poison, p.3

           Adrienne Woods
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  “She sure is.” I thought about her again and how she’d made her entrance yelling Stan’s head off. Then I remembered what she’d interrupted. “Hey, how did you guys found out about this?”

  “I was miserable last night, not getting invited to your party,” Sammy said. “Dad phoned Queen Margerite who organized last night for you, and when she told him that she did invite all of us, well let’s just say the truth came out and she knew something wasn’t right.”

  I took a deep breath. “Sorry if I hurt you. I didn’t....”

  Becky touched my arm and gave me a stern look. “Hey it wasn’t you. If only we’d seen your plea and not thought the worst, this nightmare would’ve been over sooner.” She looked around. “And this hotel wouldn’t have been standing here today.” Becky got up and zipped up one of my bags.

  I closed the second and Sammy the third.

  “Ready?” Becky asked.

  “To go back to normality? I’m so ready.”

  E TOOK THE elevator after the bellboy came to take my luggage. A song with no lyrics played softly in the background. I hated the song as I’d been forced to listen to it every day for the past three days. Even though I’d stayed in the most beautiful suite, without these two girls, I could live in the Taj Mahal, and it wouldn’t have been the same.

  When the doors opened up, camera flashes winked in our faces. Sammy pressed the close button while Becky held out her hand.

  “Your glasses, Elena?” she asked and I handed my new designer bag to her. She looked at it first. “Nice, I like.”

  “I knew you would, that’s why I got you guys one too.”

  “You did?!” Sammy clapped her hands and jumped on the spot.

  “Focus Sammy,” Becky said and dug her hand into my bag. She took out my glasses and put them on my head. “You look like a real rebel without a cause.”

  I giggled.

  “We ready?” Sammy asked.

  “So ready, open up,” Becky said and Sammy pressed the button again.

  The flashes continued and I didn’t answer any of their questions. Most wanted to confirm if I was giving up on my princess duties, blah, blah, blah. I wasn’t giving up, but I wasn’t going to be forced to learn them the way they wanted me to.

  Sir Robert made his way through the cockroaches and grabbed my arm gently to lead me through the crowd of people with their flashing lights. From there it was easy to get to the limo. He was so good at yelling “The princess has nothing to say at this moment,” that I felt so stupid to have released him from his duties when he’d wanted to come on this crazy mission with me.

  Sammy climbed in first and I followed after Becky. Sir Robert slid in last and the guard that came with Queen Margerite, who was already in the limo, shut the door.

  She grabbed my hand in hers and smiled at me again. “Don’t worry, you won’t be forced to do anything ever again,” she said softly and kissed me on my forehead again, forcing me to lie on her chest as any mother would to comfort their child.

  I closed my eyes as I breathed in her sweet flowery and vanilla fragrance. This nightmare was officially over.

  Queen Margerite took us to the Port in Elm where I’d stayed for the past few days. It was crowded again with people wanting more pictures but with her guard and Sir Robert, we found the private departure section quickly.

  Lucille, George, Isabel and Dean waited in the room which was decorated with beautiful couches and a gorgeous glass bar at the back.

  The first pair of arms that hugged me belonged to Lucille. Tears threatened to come again but the past few days they’d drilled it into me not to cry, as princesses are fierce and do not show tears or fear.

  Becoming a princess was really hard, and I’d always thought Arianna had it so easy.

  I’d only thought about the wealth being able to buy whatever her little heart desired and not about the down side of it all. I hated the limelight; hated it when Lucian and I were together and I hated it even more alone.

  They’d forgotten him so easily with me being the long lost princess Paegeia had been waiting for. I still missed him, but I was also angry at him for lying to me. He’d known all those times whose voice was in my head, and hadn’t said anything.

  I would never love another the way I loved him, and now that I had everything, I would never know who liked me for me, or who liked me because of my crown.

  Yeah, it wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be.

  “It’s okay, Elena. You are safe now.” Lucille kissed me the same way Queen Margerite had this morning.

  Isabel was next. Guilt laced her eyes. I knew why she felt like that. If Blake had owned up to his responsibility, none of this would have happened. It wasn’t her fault, but still she felt it. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

  “Don’t be, it was going to happen no matter what.” I looked up at her and smiled again. “I’m glad it did, now I know why Blake is this way with them. They completely deserve it.”

  She giggled. “Always searching for that silver lining.”

  “It was one of your mother’s traits too,” Queen Margerite added. “You are so much like her, Elena. It’s good to be around you.”

  I huffed. “I beg to differ. My mom was amazing. Her journals help me so much.”

  “Did she ever speak about me in them?”

  “All the time. I’m reading about the ball.”

  Queen Margerite laughed. “It feels like yesterday. You should’ve seen her face when we finally were inside that carriage.”

  “Shhh, don’t tell us.” Becky stopped her. “We’re going to read about it tonight.”

  “You are sharing this with them?” she asked me with a sweet smile.

  “They’re my best friends. We don’t have secrets.” My eyes fell as I said those words. We did have secrets, one I couldn’t tell them. That the Greatest King who ever lived was still alive, trapped as Goran’s prisoner, guarded by the Saadedine.

  Queen Margerite gave me that look, the look that said she knew I wasn’t being completely honest and gave me another soft smile and a hug. “Your secret is safe with me,” she whispered and let go of me.

  I greeted Dean and George with a hug and slapped my hands together. “So where are we going?”

  “We’re just waiting for Helmut and Emanuel and then you will see.” Queen Margerite took a seat on one of the sofas. I sunk down onto the one across from her with Becky and Sammy next to me.

  George and Dean stood by the bar, getting us some sodas.

  I had to ask them something I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help it. “Any of you heard about the whereabouts of that stupid dragon of mine?” I mumbled.

  Sammy’s head rested on her palm and her eyes darted back at Becky.

  I found her reading a magazine with her shades resting on her head.

  “What’s going on?”

  “What do you mean?” Becky asked.

  “First the room and now this, and don’t tell me I am imagining it.”

  “The room?” Becky looked at me with a frown.

  “Before Sammy gave me the explanation about how you guys found out, and now this when I mentioned Blake’s name….oh shit. What did he do now?” He was responsible for me, but then again, I was also responsible for him.

  “He didn’t do anything, Elena. He’s just not back and we have no idea where he is.”

  “Then why so secretive?” I asked.

  “Because we don’t have the answers,” Sammy said simply.

  “And you are imagining things,” Becky added with her nose stuck inside her magazine again.

  “Mmmm,” I said and leaned back into the sofa.

  George and Dean came back with sodas and I decided to let it go. There was no way to force it out of them if they didn’t want to tell me, just like they couldn’t force things out of me.

  “So where do you guys think we are going?” George asked.

  “Dunno!” Becky said. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.”

nbsp; “I hate surprises.”

  “No you don’t. You loved your welcome surprise.”

  He gave her a guilty smile.

  “You knew about that, didn’t you?”

  “C’mon Becks, I can read you like a book. When you told me to go home, I knew something was up.”

  She tsked at him and rolled her eyes.

  The rest of us just laughed.

  The two boys started speaking to each other as my mind wandered back to Blake again.

  I missed my abilities, but it was a good thing that I hadn’t had them the past couple of weeks. Otherwise Stan would’ve been a heap of ash, his entire freaking team would’ve been. Still, I’d tried so hard to summon my fire, and nothing happened. Acid, ice, chlorine, none of it appeared. It was frustrating and I hated not knowing if Cheng and Lucian was right about this voice in my head. Did it belong to Paul, or was it Blake’s?

  The one in the ring didn’t sound anything like the voice that once occupied my thoughts, and a part of me knew that it wasn’t. It had to be Paul’s. But then there was the curiosity in Blake that time he’d asked me about it, and the Lucian ordeal when I’d told him about what I heard. It was frustrating not knowing for sure.

  “What’s up?” Sammy asked and I could see in the corner of my eyes that Becky wanted to know too.

  “It’s hard to explain.” I blew out a breath, a frustrated breath. “Ever since I lost Cara and claimed your brother … nothing makes sense anymore.”

  Sammy stroked my back. “It’s normal, Elena.”

  I left it there, it wasn’t normal. I would never truly feel normal again.

  George moved closer to Becky and he started to whisper vulgar things into her ear. My hearing was good, but not as good as when Cara had been with me.

  Becky giggled and pushed him away playfully.

  I struggled to imagine me and Blake playing around and looking at each other the way they did, speaking about things like that. It was really hard thinking that he would ever feel this way about me. It would be unreal and then it hit me.

  I couldn’t force Blake to dent if he didn’t want to. Even if he needed it, I couldn’t force him to be with me. The only thing that stayed in my mind was the thought of letting him go. Of giving him back his freedom.


  HEN THE DOOR opened King Helmut and Emanuel, his dragon, came waltzing in. Flashing lights pierced the room once again and I watched as Emanuel shut the door in everyone’s faces.

  King Helmut came over to me with huge strides. I stood up and he took both my hands in his big, gorilla-like ones. “I’m so sorry, Elena. Please, you’ve got to believe me. I knew nothing about this.”

  “Not to worry.” I lifted up my chin and held my head high. “It’s over now.”

  He gave my hands a soft squeeze before he let them go.

  “Everyone ready to go?” he asked and looked at everyone else.

  “Where are we going?” I asked.

  “It’s your birthday, Elena. And your eighteenth one at that. It’s time you see how our royals really party.” He winked which made me giggle.

  Dean and George slapped one another’s hands high in the air and the excitement over the huge party came from both of them.

  We took private elevators to wherever we were going. I wasn’t scared of them anymore. It was fun now that I’d gotten rid of all my fears and had turned into an adrenaline junkie. Thanks to Cara. I still missed her everyday and ever since she died, it felt as if someone had cut a huge part from me.

  I let out a howl of pleasure the same time as Becky when the elevator dropped at high speed. She’d taken the chair next to me and we both sucked in a huge breath when the chair jolted forward. The pain turned into only pins and needles now and was far better than the burning sensation I’d once felt.

  When the elevator stopped my hair stood up in every direction and I patted it back into place and out of my face.

  We let ourselves out and took the helping hands of the staff that waited for us.

  “Welcome to Bernice, Your Highness,” one of the attendants said.

  “Thank you.” I smiled at him and stepped out.

  I gasped as Hawaiian music played and people dressed in hula gear started to dance in front of us.

  Becky jumped up with excitement and loved every minute of it. A couple of bystanders took pictures when they saw me, but it wasn’t like the cockroaches from before. These cameras belonged to friendly faces who were glad to see me.

  We took another elevator, the real kind, to the ground floor and a group of people were waiting for us. They were smiling and made all of us feel extremely welcome in Bernice.

  I posed for a picture with the nearest family who had two little girls. It was still weird and I wasn’t as used to it as I should be.

  When they were done, the old grandma grabbed my face and smacked a kiss on each of my cheeks and babbled something in a foreign language which made her family laugh.

  “She said she loved your father so much and he was the greatest king that ever ruled. You look like him, but you’ve got your mother’s grace,” her son translated.

  “Thank you,” I said to the old lady with a huge smile, who just bowed her head at me as I said goodbye.

  That sentence still got to me every time I met a stranger that loved my parents, and it would follow with the burden I carried, knowing that he was alive and that I’d promised to not go after him.

  If these people knew my father was alive and was being mistreated, they would fight to the death to free him. A part of me knew that he knew that but his love for his people and for my safety was bigger than I could ever know.

  “What was that about?”

  “A princess thing,” I said and hooked my arm in with Becky who practically danced as she walked. I laughed at her and bowed down as a woman with a flower necklace came closer. She put it over my head and the exotic flowers reached the middle of my waist. She gave me two kisses on the cheek and mouthed a Happy birthday.

  I replied with a soft, “Thank you.”

  One of the guards guided Becky and me to the first limo outside. It felt like heaven when I found no paparazzi with their flashing lights in my face, and I felt normal again.

  “See, there are places where royals still feel like normal humans.”

  “Becky we are normal humans.”

  She laughed and bumped me playfully. “You know what I mean.”

  In a few minutes, Sammy and Dean climbed in.

  “This is so frawsome!” Sammy said. “Did you see those dancers, the way they moved, I would break a hip if it was me, I tell you.” We started to laugh at her excitement.

  She hadn’t been this excited in a long time. I guessed being friends with someone like me, not royalty but someone who was surrounded by danger all the time, took its toll on people. Even the chirpy ones.

  George climbed in next with Lucille and they all looked like they were in the mood to party. Each of them carried the same necklace as me and Becky.

  Sir Robert and Isabel slid into the opposite chairs, and last came King Helmut and Queen Margerite.

  Emanuel shut the door and I saw the outline of his figure through the tinted windows climbing in the front. The limo took off and I rolled down the window to look at the scenery, even if it was the first rule they had taught me not to do as a princess.

  Becky leaned with her head on my shoulder, watching the scenery with me. It was tropical with a beach right next to the road. The water was so blue with boats and jet ski’s playing in the ocean. We gasped as a dolphin jumped out of the water and I froze when I saw a human figure with a fish tale jumping after it.

  I looked at Becky with huge eyes, and she laughed.

  “C’mon Elena, don’t tell me you’ve never seen a mermaid.”

  “They exist?”

  “Of course they do, you’ve never seen one on the other side?”

  I shook my head fast and watched the ocean again, hoping to see another one. I guessed all thing
s this side of the wall felt free enough to show themselves.

  Becky put her chin on my shoulder again after she announced to the entire limo that I’d never seen a mermaid before.

  “Then she definitely has to go swimming with one,” King Helmut said. “You father actually had one that was madly in love with him.”

  I looked at him. “A mermaid was in love with my dad?”

  They all laughed.

  “How many times did she try to drown Katie?” the queen said.

  “She tried to drown my mother?”

  “They are very vain, Elena, but some of them are very friendly. Who knows, maybe one will let you swim with her.” Queen Margerite smiled.

  “I hope so,” I thought, but I’d said it out loud and I watched the ocean again thinking what it must feel like to swim with a mermaid.

  E STOPPED IN front of a huge mansion of a house. It had a porch that reached the water and a gate that opened up to a small wooden dock which had plenty of jet skis and a speed boat with a yacht I’d only seen once in a magazine when Lucian had been here, just last year.

  I sighed as an emotion jolted through my heart. It must be the first time they’d come back since his death. As much as I wanted to celebrate my birthday I felt miserable without him here.

  We each were assigned to a room and when I saw mine, I knew it had been his. It had dark colors and his sports jersey hung in the closet. I brought it to my nose but it smelled nothing like him, they must have washed it when they found it left behind.

  I took it out. It was green and soft and I buried my face in it. I softly cursed the person who’d washed it, but I guessed they didn’t even think for one second, that he would never enter the front door of this beautiful place ever again.

  The door opened up and Queen Margerite entered. Her face fell when she saw me with the jersey in my hand. I just looked at her for a few seconds and held on tighter to it, scared that she would want to claim it for herself, like all the rest of his things. But instead she pulled her arm around me and gave me a soft hug. “I’m still waiting for it to be bearable, but it never comes.” She had tears in her eyes and mine glistened too. Princess or no princess, I would cry for the only love I’d lost.

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