anita darling © May 2011 – present
Love Isn't As Easy As ABC
When you're only a regular nineteen-year-old, a normal civilian, and you fall pregnant from a one-night stand, despite being overly cautious, then it turns out that your one-night stand man was actually the Crown Prince of Denmark. Not only that, he wants you to come and live in Amalienborg Palace and marry him, so that you can provide him with an heir – and a couple more. How are you, a twenty-year-old woman, supposed to deal with that? Well, this is how I dealt with it.
I haven't been pregnant so I cannot verify that any of this information is true. I can however tell you that this idea is entirely my own and not stolen from any source (perhaps inspired by several, but that's not the same as stealing – not at all).
At some point in the future, I will go over this and edit it like crazy. And by "edit" I mean, add in extra scenes, and stretch it out ... possibly turn it into a multi-chaptered story. In fact, probably to the multi-chaptered story, and when that happens, I will probably take this (Love Isn't As Easy As ABC) down from FictionPress and re-upload it as I write in those extra tidbits ... With love.
It all started with a smile, shared across the bar.
"Ria, he is so smiling at you," my sister's best friend said to me.
"Jimmy," I replied, "he is not. I'm not interested anyway."
"Come on," Imogene Oats bumped my shoulder. "You lie. You are way interested. I'd be interested if he was smiling at me." I raised an eyebrow because Jimmy had a boyfriend – who she was incredibly loyal to. "Go and talk to him. What harm could come of it? You go back to his, have some wildly amazing sex – really, look at him – return home in the morning, say you stayed over with me. No one will know."
Later, of course, everyone knew. It was hard not to.
I hopped off my barstool and sauntered over to the man who'd smiled at me.
"Hello," he said upon my approach. He was even better looking closer up, he had gorgeous brown eyes, dark brunette hair that just touched his collar at the back, his jaw was solid and sharp, his nose was straight and his lips were incredible.
"Hello yourself," I replied, leaning against the bar, my back facing Jimmy. "I haven't seen you around here before."
"Sapphire Bay is new to me," he admitted, his accent thick, weird-sounding and yet incredibly sexy. Perhaps it was the alcohol in my blood stream. What was that thing Imogene said sometimes? Oh, right, 'there's too much blood in my alcohol system!' "You know your way around?"
"Born and raised," I told him.
"Would you like a drink?"
"Sex on the Beach," I replied, giving him that sexy smile that Jimmy and I had spent hours perfecting.
He smirked at me then waved the bartender over and ordered my drink and a Jack Daniels for him.
Barely forty-five minutes later we were in his hotel room – the most expensive suite in all of East Jacinta, I was sure. I didn't even know his name, I realised as he pulled the zipper on my dress down, flinging it onto his couch. I slipped off my heels and he wrapped his arms around my bare waist.
I came up in goosebumps wherever his hands touched.
The whole time we were having sex, we never kissed.
It had always been my rule, cliché as it was. Kissing was too intimate for what we were doing. This was primal, a mutual need. I stayed until morning, naked in his bed, his hard unrelenting body pressed against my back.
When I woke, I laid still for five minutes, just watching the clock. It was eight-oh-five when I sat up. He lifted his head, his eyes meeting mine, not saying a word, he rested his head on my stomach.
"I should be going," I whispered.
"Once more," he replied.
I sighed, relenting.
Who was I to deny this sex god another round?
Melanie sat beside me now, her arm wrapped around my shoulder. I hadn't told her why I was crying yet. I'd missed my period and I'd tested positive – three times! I was only nineteen for goodness sake!
Melly sighed, holding me closer. "You can tell me, you know."
"I know." I hiccupped.
It was only a fortnight ago.
It didn't make sense. I was on the pill. He'd used a condom.
Now I was most likely pregnant. I ran my hand over my still-flat stomach. It wouldn't be long before it would show.
"Ria, I have to – are you – are you pregnant?"
Melly's daughter, Tessa, chose that moment to run up to us, throwing herself into my lap. "Aunty Ria!" she said excitedly. "What? Why're you crying?"
"Honey, why don't you go let Sam outside?"
Tess looked at us both, obviously knowing that this was Grown Up Time, gave me a kiss and hopped off my lap, calling for Sam, their dog.
"I am," I told her, drying my eyes.
She closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath. "I don't want to lecture you, Ria, but God. Didn't you use protection?"
"Of course we did!" I said too loudly, then quietening my voice. "I'm on the pill, he used a condom. The only thing that could've made it safer was not having sex at all." Or perhaps the morning after pill, but I hadn't thought it necessary.
Melly looked at me. "What are you going to do?"
Melly had always been the strong one. When Jimmy's parents' marriage had broken down, she'd helped out both Jimmy and George, getting them through it. Her American husband, who she'd married when she was twenty-four, had just lost his mother to leukaemia, and his older sister had cervical cancer, with a low likelihood of survival (she did live, thank God), she'd pulled him through and they'd fallen in love.
"I don't think that I could, you know, get rid of it."
Melly nodded. "Will you keep her?"
Her? I thought. Suddenly I realised I could never get rid of my baby. "I couldn't give her up. She's – she's mine."
It was a long haul, but I had Melly and Andrew's support, as well as Jimmy's, my parents', and Xanthe's too. Jimmy was the one who took me to the hospital in the end, though – I'm sure everyone else wouldn't've minded, but they were all busy. Jimmy was the one who let me squeeze her hand as my body forced my baby out of my system, like it was some unwanted disease.
"Congratulations, Miss Hartz," my midwife, Carolyn, said. "You have a son."
"A son?" I asked, the word sounding foreign as it escaped my lips. Melly and I had been talking about the baby as a 'her' for nine months. I had never asked to know the gender of my child because I just knew that he was a she.
"Yes." She smiled. "A son."
My son was screaming his little lungs out. Sometime after they'd let me hold my son, I lost consciousness. I was exhausted.
When I woke, Andrew was leaning over me. "Hey there, y'all right?"
My eyes still felt tired as ever, and they drooped. "What drugs have they got me on?"
Andrew reeled off a heap of medical terms that I didn't understand and I gave him a meek smile. "Basically, stuff that makes you drowsy. Once you were asleep, they, uh, had to stitch you up a bit, your skin broke, so you're on pain relievers, mostly."
"I need to pee," I announced just as Tess and Melly walked in.
"I, uh – Melly?" Andrew was a nurse, but he wasn't a gynaecologist or a midwife, the only woman that he dealt with down there was Melanie.
"We should be all right to lift you out of bed, yeah?"
"Um," I said.
Andrew was eager to escape; I didn't blame him. "Tess and I will fetch Carolyn for you and then go to the park. Just give me a ring when you're ready to go home, Mel."
"But Daddy, I wan' t' see the baby again."
"Maybe tomorrow, sweetheart." He squatted to whisper not-so-quietly in her ear. "Maybe we could go and get some ice cream."
"Mummy says I-scream is only for specially special things."
Andrew tapped his nose, daring a glance at Melly who just smiled. "It'll be our little secret."
"Okay!" she grinned, looking at her mother. "Mummy, we're going to get –"
"Shhh, Tess! It's a secret!"
"Oh . . . Nothing," Tess sang, taking her dad's hand and pulling him out the door.
I slept for most of the day, only waking when the midwives brought in food or my son.
I didn't have a name for him yet, because I'd only been thinking of names for girls, but Xanthe had bought me a book of baby names and meanings, which I'd been going through.
Tess had kindly picked out my baby's first teddy, and I found myself thinking fondly of my one-night stand man. He'd been great in the sack, though he'd made it exponentially harder for me to ever get a husband, he'd left behind the best present I could ever ask for, no matter how much of a surprise my son was.
My parents had bought me chocolates, wine, flowers and a balloon, like the father should've been, they told me. I think it was a subtlety. They weren't really impressed that I'd had a child, not knowing who the father was, but I knew they'd grow to love my son.
He was already my world, after all.
It had taken me no time at all to decide on my son's middle name, but his first name was so much harder. I'd chosen Andrew for his middle name, if only because Andrew deserved it. Andrew'd had such a tough life, and then he was still there for me and Melly. He'd moved to Australia for my sister, and he'd been there for all of us ever since.
On my last day in hospital, I'd narrowed the list down to: Dexter, Elijah and Owen. Andrew and Tess came in to pick me up and to take me home.
They had to have written something down on his birth certificate, so I had to make a snap decision. I could always change his name later, but it just didn't seem right.
"Aunty Ria, did you choosed a name yet?" Tess bounced into the room, followed by her father.
"Choose," Andrew corrected then smiled and enveloped me in a hug. "How are you doing?"
"I'm ready to leave, that's for sure." I winked at Tessa, "That hospital food is yucky." I scrunched up my face and poked my tongue out.
The nurses had already been around earlier that morning, prepping my son and me for our return home. My apartment was not really baby appropriate, so Melly and Andrew were letting me stay at their home, at least until I found a place to live.
I had started at the Sapphire Bay uni this year, but I'd dropped the course and picked up more shifts at the restaurant for as long as they'd have me.
I was twenty, and a mother.
"What names are on your shortlist?" Andrew asked.
"Dexter, Elijah and Owen."
"I like Ow'n," Tess said.
Owen Andrew Hartz.
Dexter Andrew Hartz.
Elijah Andrew Hartz.
"Owen doesn't really leave much space for nicknames. And a kid has to be able to choose his – this sounds corny as all heck – identity. Dexter could be Dex and Elijah could be Eli."
I looked into my son's cot. He was wearing the issued pastel blue jumpsuit that the hospital provided. "He doesn't look like an Owen."
Andrew leaned over the cot too.
Tess stood up on her tippy toes and peered in through the clear plastic.
"I think he looks like a baby." She said and we laughed. "What? He does!"
"Dexter Andrew," I said aloud. "Elijah Andrew."
"Elijah," Tess told me, without a doubt in her voice. "I think he should be called E-li-jah."
I smiled. "Elijah Andrew Hartz."
Andrew smiled at me like I was his cute little sister. "I have to say, though, he looks like he's going to be trouble, your Elijah."
"My Elijah," I repeated.
As it turned out, Elijah was a lot of trouble. I'd heard that babies only allow their mothers to sleep for a couple of hours at a time, and I'd thought that I would be ready, but this was – almost hell. Elijah did get better over time. Slowly, he began to sleep for longer. Melly and Andrew paid me to look after Tess and Sam, so that they could spend more time at work, and I never did get that place of my own – not yet. No one wanted to rent to a twenty-year-old with a baby. I mean, it's simply obvious that she's not responsible and is into partying. Assholes.
The week before Elijah's third month-day (he'd been born August 11), however, I received a letter in the mail. I was excited to get a letter – who actually sends letters in the post these days anyway! – and I tore it open, barely glancing at the symbol on the back of the envelope, not reading the postal address.
The letterhead said that it was from Amalienborg Palace, Denmark.
This must be a hoax, I thought, reading on anyway.
Dear Miss Hartz,
Enclosed are two one-way tickets to Copenhagen, Denmark, on one of our private jets. We have been led to believe that your son, Elijah Andrew Hartz, is also the son of Crown Prince Christian of Denmark. As such, you have been summoned to the Palace. You will arrive in Copenhagen on November 10, two days before the Christening. Your son will have his DNA tested to check that he is, in fact, the son of the Crown Prince.
We so look forward to meeting you and your son.
The Danish Royal Family.
I nearly passed out right there and then.
"Ooh," Tess said, "Aunty Ria got a letter. Is it important?"
"Tessie, could you please call your mummy? I need to talk to her."
"But I'm hungry, Aunty."
I lifted my butt up off of the couch and went for the phone in the kitchen just as Elijah started to grizzle.
"Tessie, can you –" Elijah started to scream in his bouncer seat – which was nothing unusual, but when I was on the verge of . . . No. This couldn't possibly be true. I picked up the envelope again and two small tickets fell out. Danish Royal Airlines.
I ignored Elijah's screaming. He had to learn – maybe I was harsh – that wailing didn't get you everything that you wanted. I found an orange in the fruit bowl and chopped it up for Tessa, setting it in her Dora the Explorer bowl.
"Elijah's still crying," said Tess. "He's hurting my ears."
"Tess, why don't you go and sit in the lounge room. Put a video on."
"A DVD?" she asked, taking the bowl of orange slices.
"Yeah, a DVD."
I pressed '1' on the phone and it rang through to Melanie's work.
"Provision of Assistance and Advice, this is Melanie Clarke speaking."
"Melly," I said.
"Ria, you all right?"
"No," I said, tears spilling over my cheeks. "God." I wiped them away.
"Elijah's really is letting it rip, isn't he?"
"Sure is," I replied. "Is there any chance you'd be able to leave work early?"
"Probably. I'll see. How's Tess doing?"
"She's watching a DVD and eating oranges."
"A DVD, really?"
"I know. But I just needed –"
"Don't fret. Just hold on a minnie, all right? I'll go and talk to John."
I heard her set the phone down on her desk, and I settled down beside Elijah in his bouncy seat, running my hand over his tiny head. He'd grown so much.
I blinked, making a googly face at Elijah, who calmed down as I wriggled one of the hanging toys on the bouncy seat. "Uh, yeah."
"John says it's A-okay. I'll be home as soon as possible."
I felt myself relax. "Thanks Melly. Tell John he's amazing."
"If I have to keep telling him that he's gonna start thinking you've got a thing for him."
I frowned. "I do not have a thing for your boss."
"I know, Ri. I'm just teasing."
"See you soon. Drive safe."
"You know I will."
And I hung up, putting the phone back on the receiver.
"You hungry, little Lijah?"
"Aah," he gurgled.
I lifted him up into my arms, pushing my t-shirt up, unclipping the cup of my bra. He still had his lips clamped around my nipple when Melanie walked into the dining room.
We'd gotten past the awkward stage and she just walked in and sat beside me on the floor. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"On the couch," I told her, pointing at the envelope – where I'd stuffed the letter and tickets back inside.
While she was reading, I detached Elijah and fixed up my bra and shirt.
"Wow," she murmured. "This sure is something. Have you Googled this? Maybe there's something in the Danish news."
The first link that we clicked on basically said that the Crown Prince had been having a private affair with an Australian woman, and that they'd been meeting up monthly since they discovered that she was pregnant. She was going to be flown into Denmark to live in Frederik VIII's Palace with the Crown Prince. The child, who was 'nameless,' would be christened on Saturday 12, November. The couple were to have an honourary wedding for the Danes.
"Such lies," I said. "I haven't seen the damned man since, well, almost a year ago! And to think they didn't even bother to tell me why I was flying over to Denmark and –"
Just as I was really getting into my rant, Melly cut me off. "Hey. It'll all be fine. I promise you."
I swallowed hard. "I just wish that – that maybe I'd known something, instead of having to fly over to Denmark and just hand over my baby. And it's not like I can exactly call Copenhagen Palace and confirm the details."
"Maybe they'll call here. If they know our address, there's nothing to stop them getting our phone number, not really."
"Copenhagen Palace must have a phone number, somewhere that you can call to wish congratulations or something."
"I dunno. I suppose we could . . ." she typed into the search engine, 'Contact Copenhagen Palace'.
It came up with a phone number. "International rates," I said. "It's going to be expensive."
Melly shrugged. "They're royalty. Get them to reimburse us."
"I'll just put Elijah down."
"I can do that, Ria. You call them. Now."
I dialled in the number and the person who answered said something in Danish and I just didn't know what I was doing. "Hello," I said carefully.
"Oh, hello!" the speaker said. "This is Henri speaking, you are?"
"I'm Victoria Hartz," I told him. "I was, uh, wondering if I could speak to the Crown Prince."
"The Crown Prince?" I could hear the smirk in his voice and some Danish muttering in the background. "Of course you can't speak to the Crown Prince, Miss."
"Oh," I said. "I just thought that – I received a letter from the Palace and I wasn't sure how I was supposed to –"
"What is your son's name, Miss?"
"Elijah Andrew Hartz," I told him. "I – if this is." I took a deep breath. "If I am being trouble, I can hang up."
There was some Danish spoken at the other end of the line and then a click.
"Miss Hartz," a new voice said.
"Yeah?" I could hear the soft murmur of Melly talking Elijah to sleep in my bedroom.
"I assume you are still a 'Miss'."
"You are not married," he said.
"Good. Would you like to leave Australia sooner than planned? I feel we have some things to discuss."
"Yes. You and I, Miss Hartz."
"Who are you?"
"You do not remember my voice?"
"No, I –" Why was I being defensive! I had every right! "Of course I don't remember your voice. How can I? I don't even know you!"
"I am the father of your child, Miss Hartz."
"Oh. Oh. Oh, my goodness." I sunk to the couch and folded my legs beneath me.
"Are we on the same page now?"
I closed my eyes, folding my arm around my stomach like I had been doing ever since . . . ever since Elijah was conceived.
"Yes." What was I supposed to call him? "Your Highness."
"I think we've passed formalities, don't you? You're the mother of my child. And we have many things to talk of. I would like to bring your departure date forward."
"How far forward? Thursday is already not enough time to pack."
"I was thinking tomorrow, actually."
"Tomorrow! I can't do that!"
"I think you can, and you will."
He was a man who was used to getting his way. Always. I wasn't going to let him off that easily when we met. I would fight him every step of the way. I wanted my son to be raised in Australia. Sapphire Bay.
"Fine." I said.
"That was easy."
"What do I need to bring? How many days will I be staying? Where will I be staying?" Because surely they wouldn't allow just anyone to stay in the royal –
"Bring nothing but the bare essentials, a few undergarments, toothpaste, hairbrushes . . . Bring enough to last the trip over for the boy. You will be staying in Amalienborg Palace for the winter."
'The boy!' That man had some nerve! "Why? How dare you!"
"I dare do whatever I like, Miss Hartz. And you will be staying indefinitely."
"Are you insane?"
"Insane? No. It doesn't run in the family."
"Indefinitely!" I yelled. "That is just not happening!"
"I am done talking with you, Miss Hartz. We will meet again on Wednesday."
"Wait up a second," I said, significantly calming my heart and mind as I took a deep breath. "When is the flight going to be?"
"Around midday. I will organise for someone to pick you up from your sister's house."
Elijah was going to know his father, I thought, giddy with excitement for my son. Then again, the Crown Prince of Denmark and I got along like a house on fire. It was all burning and arguments and nothing else. Surely that couldn't be a good environment for Elijah.
Which was how I ended up in a limo, with Elijah in his car seat, the barest of my belongings, enough to last my son two days, and a driver with a ridiculously ocker accent. I wanted to ask him how exactly he'd gotten a job with that accent as a limo driver, but I thought that might be rude.
"Aye, so ya're goin' t' Danemark."
"Yeah," I said.
"Nay partic'lar reesan?"
"The father of my baby," I said like it explained everything.
"That pretty much covers it."
This guy was growing on me. Massively.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Derek," he told me. "How 'bout you two?"
"I'm Victoria, and my son is Elijah."
Boarding the plane, I let my mind go. Everyone on the plane spoke Danish when they weren't addressing me, so it wasn't hard. Elijah and I were the only passengers, and we met the captain personally. "I'm Ulrik," he told me. "The captain of the plane."
"Victoria," I said, shaking his hand. He nodded at the boy in my arms and I smiled. "Elijah."
Melanie had been so . . . happy and insistent and annoyed. Tess was upset that Elijah and I were moving out. Andrew had just smiled, hugged me tight and told me he'd miss us. Melly was happy because she thought that all children should have two parents – even if they weren't in love anymore (or ever were). She'd been insistent that I go because of aforementioned reason. She'd been annoyed because stupid Crown Prince Christian of Denmark had given me half a day's notice to pack my bags to go and live in Denmark indefinitely. We'd had a big, rather impromptu dinner party at my parents' home. Xanthe and Jimmy had come, too, which had pretty much made my day.
"I'm terribly sad," Jimmy said. "Who am I going to take with me every second Friday to the clubs?"
"Take your boyfriend." I suggested.
"Pfft, who cares about him!"
I'd smiled as she'd left, hugged her tight to me, in the knowledge that I wouldn't see her for a long while, probably.
Xanthe had cried for me and I'd cried right along with her.
My parents were, honestly, not approving. But what else could I do? Deny the father of my child access? When he was the Crown Prince of Denmark? He could have Elijah whisked out of my arms in a matter of nanoseconds.
I slept for a lot of the flight, knowing that it would help me in the long run.
I dreamt that I became a princess. Crown Princess Victoria of Denmark. Then Queen Victoria of Denmark.
Impossible, I knew, as Lijah's screams wretched me from my dreams.
"Miss, would you like me to . . ?"
"No," I said, a little too hard. "I mean, I can handle it."
I held him tight against my chest, unsure of whether it was appropriate to breastfeed my child around strangers in Denmark.
We weren't in Denmark yet.
"'Scuse me," I said, trying to get one of the hostesses attention.
"Is it appropriate for me to feed my child here?"
"Would you like a bottle of milk, Miss?"
"No, thank you. I meant to breastfeed my child."
"Breastfeed," she repeated.
I pointed at my boob, and then at Elijah's mouth. "Breastfeeding."
"We will leave the cabin, Miss."
She quickly disappeared out of view, ushering the other two hostesses in Danish into another room.
I sighed. Elijah lifted his head and smiled at me. "Ooh."
"Yeah, Lijah. Mama's here." I unbuttoned my shirt and pulled down one cup. He wasn't slow, that was for sure.
When I got off of the aeroplane (a good twenty hours later), an older man in a nice suit reached for the baby carrier that I had tucked in my elbow.
"No, thank you." I insisted. "I can carry him."
He shrugged and went to take my carry-on bags instead – of which there were two: one was mine, the other Elijah's.
Once we were in a car with tinted windows, the man finally spoke. "It's forty minute to the Palace."
"Okay." I said, forcing a smile.
He was right. It was exactly forty minutes. This man must have driving down to a science.
We pulled through a gate and into a back alley, driving into what was clearly meant to be a secret garage. It looked like it was some kind of storage space, but as the roll-a-door opened, I could see that it was a whole garage filled with limos and normal cars, some with the Danish flag, others without, they all had tinted windows, though.
"We is here."
He nodded at me and got out of the car. Someone opened my door, but it wasn't the driver. He was taller, had broader shoulders, dark brown hair and dark eyes.
"Good morning, Miss Hartz."
Oh, shit. That voice. "Good morning," I replied, taking his offered hand, letting him pull me out of the car. I pretended to be oblivious to his identity. I went to go and lean back inside the car to grab Elijah, but the Prince held my upper arm, his big hand went right around my arm, his fingers touching.
Upon looking around, I noticed we were alone. Dammit.
"I'll get him."
My heart pounded inside my chest. This man irritated me so much! "I am perfectly capable," I told him. Idiot.
He let go of my arm. "I was being polite," he snapped. "But if you do not think that courtesy is necessary then I won't bother." Then he said something in Danish, I guessed it was a swear word.
I reached in and pulled Elijah out, in his car seat. He wriggled a little, but stayed sleeping.
The Prince's face softened at the sight of my Elijah. Our Elijah, I thought with distaste.
"Miss Hartz," he murmured, his voice soft and warm – if that were even possible – making my heart melt.
I lifted my eyes from Elijah's sleeping face and met the Prince's eyes. I nearly smiled at the Prince, but that seemed like admitting defeat. "Yes?" I replied, trying to sound civilised.
"Shall we head inside now?"
He raised an eyebrow. "What does 'um' mean?"
"It's not a word," I tried to explain. How to do so without sounding stupid? There wasn't a way. I'd started an English major, so I was usually polite, well-versed, but this man . . . "'Um' is a form of hesitation, usually."
"I see." He said. "Like 'euh' is in French."
He knew French as well? Shit, man.
"May I take the boy?"
"'The boy,'" I began, "as you so eloquently put it, has a name. And I'd like if you'd use it."
"I also have a name, Miss Hartz."
"Sorry, Your Highness," I rolled my eyes. "If you used my son's name, I would let you take him." Take him. Bad choice of words.
"May I take Elijah Andrew Hartz, at least for a while?"
I handed over the car seat, straightening my back.
"You are smaller than I remember," he said as he led me into the Palace.
My brow furrowed. "Smaller."
"Shorter, more petite, I think you say."
I glanced down at my feet. "I was wearing heels that night. Am I going to be filled in on all of the crap that your family has fed the media?"
"Of course, Miss Hartz. We will get you settled first, though."
I wasn't really paying attention to the directions that we were turning, I couldn't help but notice that there seemed to be no people about anywhere.
"They're all in meeting," he said.
"Even the . . . servants?" I hated the word.
"Yes, even the serving staff. This is your room," he said, pushing the door closest to him open. I stepped into the room.
"I assume Elijah will stay with me."
"You are his mother," he said with a shrug that didn't actually answer my question. Then I noticed the cot in the corner of the room, and the gown hanging over the end. I lifted it up, holding it to the light.
"What is this?"
"The christening gown. I was the last to wear it."
"How old is it, then?"
"Many years, some decades."
"It's in very good condition," I said, laying it back down carefully.
The Prince set the car seat and my son down on the floor. Elijah's eyes snapped open at the sudden movement. He watched at the Prince for a moment, deciding that he wasn't going to come of harm and gurgled.
I met the Prince's eyes then took Elijah out of his car seat.
My son settled on my shoulder almost immediately.
"Thank you," I said, tacking on "Your Highness" at the end for good measure.
"He looks a lot like you," he replied decidedly.
My mind fluttered at that. The Crown Prince Christian of Denmark had just insinuated that I was beautiful.
I lifted Elijah off of my shoulder and held him out to the Prince – his father. When the Prince hesitated, I said, "Do you have somewhere else you want to be?"
"Despite the year I've had to come to terms with the fact that I have a son it's –" Insert Danish word here.
"Difficult?" I suggested.
"Yes, I suppose." Still, I stepped forward, practically forcing the damned Prince to take Elijah from my arms. "It will be discussed," he began, taking my wriggling child into his arms, "whether or not our son will be allowed to keep his birth name."
"It is the norm that all first-born Princes of Denmark are named either Christian or Frederik."
"Frederik is an awful name," I muttered, sitting on the expanse of bed. "Christian is all right."
"We can't very well name him Christian, seeing as that is my name."
"So? Isn't your father named Frederik, then?"
"The first-born male is named after his royal grandfather, always.
"Tell me what will happen."
He sat down beside me on the bed, looking a little more than uncomfortable with Elijah in his arms. "Our son will be christened, Prince of Denmark, next heir to the throne."
"Is that –" A question popped into my head, so I blurted it out, figuring there was nothing to lose, "Children aren't usually born out of wedlock in royal families, are they?"
"No. It isn't normal."
"Does that mean we must marry?"
"The people believe we had a private ceremony in Australia, before the boy was conceived – unusual as it was. We will have an official ceremony later."
"The people," I repeated.
"The Danes. Our public. Our marriage needn't be real, but it will be official."
I wasn't sure if I should be insulted or not. Should I be glad that he was willing to let me lead as normal of a life as possible or upset that he didn't want a real marriage with me?
"And we would, of course, be expected to provide more children."
"Your Highness," I began. "I'm not sure if I could – If we should –"
He looked worried. "Did something go wrong during the pregnancy?"
"No. Everything was fine, but –"
"Then there are no problems."
"What if I don't want to marry you?"
"I am confused, Miss Hartz. I am the father of our child. He will have the best possible upbringing here. Why would you not want to marry me?"
Just how foolish was the Crown Prince of Denmark? "Do you all marry for convenience here?" I snapped. "I don't want to marry someone simply because he is the father of my child, because my son could have 'the best possible upbringing' with him. When I get married, I want it to be to someone who loves Elijah and me. Not some pompous fool with loads of cash and a few Palaces, not someone who is ready to marry simply because it's easier."
With the way that he stood up so quickly in that moment, so violently, I was so scared that he was going to drop Elijah I almost screamed.
"You think that I am marrying you because it is easier? Despite what you might think, Miss Hartz, I would much rather be marrying a woman that I love, but you have not given me much choice in the matter."
"Me? Are you sure you're not insane? How is this my fault!" I stood too, simply because sitting down and arguing up at someone seems somewhat undignified.
"I used a condom, provided by you, no less, and obviously it broke."
"I was on the pill!"
"It didn't work!"
"Thank you, Captain Obvious," I snorted.
"Perhaps you should have gotten an abortion, then we wouldn't be in this mess."
"Mess." I said, my voice level. "This mess."
"Yes, this mess."
"How could you possibly look at my Elijah and say that he is a mess."
The Stupid Prince just stared at me.
I reached out and took my baby from his arms. "If you're going to be an ass about this, then you can leave. I don't want my child growing up in an environment surrounding by shouting and noise."
He didn't move. "Go." I said. "Go on, get out."
"Miss Hartz," he said in that persuasive tone, almost making my heart melt. Not this time.
"Shoo," I said, waving him away like he were a fly. "I need some alone time, Your Highness."
"Okay." He turned on his heel and walked out, heading down the corridor. I closed the door behind him and found my bags.
Mercifully, Elijah wasn't crying. I laid him on the bed and opened the baby bag. I couldn't remember what the time was, but I figured any time was a good time for sleeping. I fed Elijah, changed his nappy, put him in a warmer jumpsuit and put him in the cot. I moved the christening gown and went back to Elijah, singing him to sleep before closing the curtains and hopping into my own bed. I didn't even bother to get changed.
When I woke, it was to someone opening the curtains. "I'm sorry, Miss," she said, "but we cannot close the blinds during the day."
I just groaned and covered my head with the doona.
This day just couldn't get much crappier, could it?
"And, uh, Miss?"
I lifted my head above the covers, peeking at the serving woman. "Yes?"
"The Prince wants to see you. Soon. In fact, in ten minutes. I am to help you dress."
"And I thought it was the twenty-first century," I muttered.
Elijah took that as a cue to start fussing. I clambered out of bed, and pulled him into my arms.
"Would you like me to get someone to help you with the baby?"
"I'm fine, thank you. You can go," I said, my voice too harsh. I hoped she wouldn't judge me too hard. I probably deserved it, though.
She curtsied politely and exited the room, closing the door behind her. I listened to her heels clacking down the hall until the sound disappeared.
I changed Elijah's nappy, wiped his bum, dressed him and laid him on my bed while I got changed into a nice pair of jeans – perfectly fitted, oddly enough – that I found in the walk-in wardrobe that I apparently had, as well as a nice long-sleeved t-shirt.
With Elijah tucked against my body, I went out into the corridor, barefoot, and realised that I had no idea where I was going.
I wanted to go back in my room, sit down and give up. However, that's not what Ria Hartz would do. Ria would fight with everything she had.
And that big idea left me stumbling around Copenhagen Palace looking for the Prince – or anybody, it later became. I was completely lost.
Then I opened the door to the room where the meeting was going on. It was a grand room, a super long table, lined with candles and a tablerunner. The walls were mostly red and the same wood as the table. Every single chair at the table was filled, with a few people milling around the walls.
As soon as I'd cracked the door open, everyone in that room looked at me, their eyes wide. They all whispered to each other in Danish and I swallowed hard. This meeting was obviously about what to do with me.
"I'm so sorry for interrupting. I was just – I was just –" I closed the door and ran. As I ran, Elijah began to cry. Then he began to howl.
I stopped and leaned against one of the walls, sliding down to sit on the floor. Elijah quieted and lifted his hand to touch my cheek.
If only I hadn't been brought to Denmark.
If only I hadn't had sex with the Crown Prince of Denmark.
If only Jimmy hadn't smiled at me and suggested the whole damn thing.
No, that wasn't fair. It wasn't Jimmy's fault.
I was the fool here.
I began to cry too.
I didn't realise that I'd fallen asleep, but I woke back in my new Danish Royal Palace room, with some idiot leaning over me. This guy was an idiot because when I woke, I sat bolt upright and our heads bashed together.
"Ow," I groaned, closing a single eye and daring a look at – the Stupid Prince.
"The baby?" The baby. I scoffed. "He's sleeping in his crib."
"That's a cot," I said. "Not a crib."
"I learned that a baby's bed is called a crib."
"Maybe in America. Australians say cot."
He tried again – which made me a little happy inside. "Elijah is sleeping in his cot."
I rubbed at my temple again, not realising how close we were until our noses touched. "Shit." I whispered. My heart began to pound like a rower strokes right toward the end of a race. I'd be kidding myself if I didn't admit that I thought that the Crown Prince of Denmark was sexy.
He leaned back suddenly and it was gone, my heart slowed.
"We found you in one of the corridors, curled up on your side on the floor, with Elijah tucked between your knees and your chest. One of the women took Elijah and looked after him. I brought you back here." He was quiet for a moment. "What were you even doing? I asked Mary to bring you to my sitting room, then when she didn't I went looking for you."
"I was looking for you, you fool. I searched the whole entire Palace, I swear to God! And then I found that meeting room thing and I just – I don't know. I just I wish my sister was here."
"Melanie?" he asked.
"Tell me about her," he said softly.
"She's the greatest person in the whole wide world," I said with more than a hint of pride in my voice. "She's always helping people, and she's helped so many people I know get through tough times. She deserves every slice of goodness that she gets. She's a lot more than that, of course, but words are – She's too good for words."
I wasn't sure how this whole thing worked.
It seemed that the Prince could be awfully nice, but then sometimes he just got on my nerves so much.
He leaned over me, resting a hand near my hip to hold himself there.
Yet again, I realised, we were alone – if you didn't count Elijah, which I wasn't.
His other hand lifted to my cheek, smoothing his thumb over the skin there. I truly couldn't help but lean into his hand, sighing.
I felt my stomach muscles squeeze.
"Didn't I say that we could drop the formalities?" he asked, running his tongue over his bottom lip.
"I was going to when you did," I replied, listening to my all too loud breathing.
"Victoria," he murmured.
I swallowed hard. Since when had my full name been such a turn-on? "Christ."
He smirked at me. "Christian, not Christ."
My memory of our one night (okay, and morning) together came flooding back in an instant. We'd been so – He was amazing in bed. What I'd give for another go at that ass.
I moistened my lip with my tongue. He was right here, in front of me.
Kissing him would certainly be . . . out of the question. I didn't kiss men who I wasn't serious about. I simply didn't.
Then when Christian kissed my cheek, I almost imploded. Oh, my goodness. I could so be serious about Christian.
No, you couldn't. He's irritating, remember?
"I'll leave you alone. Dinner is soon, though."
"Okay," I said. As he left, I realised that I had no idea what kind of clothes I was supposed to wear. Ugh, I could be so stupid sometimes!
Fortunately, Mary returned to help me out. She dressed Elijah while I changed into clothes that she set out on the bed for me. "Do you like Denmark, Miss?"
"I, ah, haven't seen much of it."
"Yes. What about the Prince? He is se-ex-y."
I raised an eyebrow.
"What?" she said. "He is. You are a lucky woman to be marrying him. He is quite a . . . catch."
I tried to smile. "I am lucky."
"You don't think so," she said.
I sat down on the edge of the bed, "I do not love him. Who else will be at dinner?"
"The King and Queen, the Prince and his sister, the Princess and her husband and their two daughters, as well as you and Elijah."
"And I have no idea how to behave."
"Politely," she said. "My husband is Danish, he was one of the serving staff. When I married him, I joined the team too. So my English is better than most here, since I was born in the U.K."
I'd dressed in a knee-length navy skirt and dark stockings and a white blouse. I brushed my honey-blond hair back and pulled it up into a ponytail.
"You look nice, Miss."
"Thank you, Mary. You can call me Ria."
"All right, Ria."
Mary had dressed Elijah in dark trousers and a white t-shirt, which I just knew would get dirty.
There was a knock on my door. Mary handed Elijah to me and I smiled as she got the door for me. It was Christian.
"Thank you, Mary," then he said something to her in Danish and she nodded, smiling. She turned to wink at me before leaving the room.
"You two look lovely," he said walking towards us.
I smiled. "Thank you."
"Just so you know, we shouldn't argue at the dinner table. Whilst the family knows that we are not really in love, we need not act like we hate each other."
Did he hate me?
"Of course," I said, bouncing Elijah in my arms.
"After dinner, you and I will sit down and discuss everything properly. Okay?"
"Yes," I said.
"Victoria," he said slowly. "Relax."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "Relaxed."
"May I take Elijah?"
I looked up at Christian and smiled. I remembered suddenly what I'd dreamt about. Crown Princess Victoria of Denmark, wife of Crown Prince Christian of Denmark, completely in love, the parents of Prince Elijah of Denmark.
I had always wished to be that woman who could just look at her husband and smile and know that they had all they'd ever had. To just know without touching – though I adored the idea of the gentle touches, brushed hands, hips, an arm around my waist.
I handed Elijah to my soon-to-be official-but-not-real husband and wondered if he would propose properly.
He held Elijah against his chest with one arm and tucked the other around my waist, holding me to his side. Holy Mother of God.
I was definitely looking forward to the attempting to produce more offspring part of our deal, even if we weren't in love. Christian certainly knew what he was doing in bed.
I had a single glass of wine at the dinner table, and Christian helped me with the numerous knives and forks set before me. Even his sister's daughters seemed to have better table manners than me. To think that back in Australia, Xanthe was always laughing at me for being so 'proper'.
King Frederik was nice enough, I supposed. I got the feeling that he wasn't impressed with his son, and this whole fiasco, though. Perhaps he'd expected his son to be a virgin until his wedding day, I wouldn't know. Queen Julianne was kind to me, though her English wasn't fabulous. Christian's sister was like her father, nice enough but somewhat condescending. It was easy to tell who married into this family and who was born into it. I hoped my Elijah wouldn't turn out like them.
After dessert we were dismissed. Well, I was. Elijah was to stay and meet the family. "Mary will keep a good eye on him," Christian told me. I still hated the idea of leaving my baby with strangers, but what could I do? They were going to be my new family. As Christian led me from the dining room, I didn't take my eyes off of Elijah until the doors closed behind us. Tears welled in my eyes and I blinked them away. This was not the time to show weakness.
I tried to pay more attention as Christian led me through the Palace this time. I still had no idea where we were by the time that he pushed through the final door, though. "My sitting room," he said.
I nodded and walked right over to the window, staring out across the courtyard. Copenhagen sure seemed like a hell of a city.
"Would you like a drink?"
"No, thank you."
Christian began, "The public celebrations will be on the Saturday. We will appear publicly as a couple in love, of course. Are you good at acting?"
"I haven't really tried."
"We will have to practice, then. We will have a public marriage ceremony maybe a month later, though the Danes have been told that we had a private ceremony in Australia, before the child was born."
"Stop calling Elijah 'the child,' 'the boy' or 'the baby' like he isn't your son too! It's just – so rude!"
"I don't think," he said, pulling me away from the window, he closed the curtains to the dark outside, "that you are in any position to be making demands, Victoria."
I glared at him, not going to the one to break our contact. Suddenly a smile appeared on his face. "What?" I said. "What?"
"You realise that I could do so much if you refused my wishes, Victoria. Your sister might just get into a drunken road accident, Andrew Clarke and Tessa too. How about Imogene Oats? Xanthe James? Your parents, Victoria? It would be so tragic, wouldn't it?"
"How could you be such an asshole!" I yelled, slamming a fist into his face. I would've hit him square on the nose, too, but he caught my hand.
"Don't damage my face. What would the public think?"
"They'd think that you're conning the mother of your child into marrying you because you made a mistake!" I shouted, snatching my hand back. I was suddenly so glad that Elijah was with the family and not here with us. There was no way I would be able to pretend I was in love with this idiot!
He scoffed. "The public would take my side. Always. You'd be framed as the woman who broke my heart, got herself pregnant to weasel her way into the Danish royal family and their money."
He was right. Of course he was right. That didn't mean I was going to admit it, though.
"My family would know the truth."
"And the Danish media are going to go to your family for their opinion?"
"I hate you."
"Passion works for me," he said, slipping an arm around my waist. He pulled me in close to him, so close that I could feel his erection pressing into me. No matter how much I wriggled, I couldn't get away. He hummed, then murmured something in Danish as he nuzzled my neck.
I tried to stay vigilant, but my head fell back, a moan escaping my throat despite it all.
"I think you like me more than you're willing to admit," he breathed.
"No. I definitely hate you," I said, shoving at his chest.
He dropped his arm and I fell to the floor, landing on my bum so hard that I was sure it would hurt for weeks. No emotion from him at all. Ass.
I got up and stretched, brushing off my bum, I left his stupid sitting room.
"You didn't seem so hateful a year ago in Sapphire Bay, Victoria."
Fuck, I hated him.
I managed to make my way back to the dining room, where I retrieved Elijah – who seemed to have captured the hearts of even the King. I smiled at them all as I left. Mary helped me find my room, and showed me markers that would no doubt help me later.
Mary wrapped Elijah in a blanket and found me some flannelette pyjamas in the wardrobe.
"How am I supposed to pretend that I am in love with such an idiot, Mary?"
"The Prince has his moments," she began. "Sometimes he makes me want to smack him and others I just want to kiss him he's so sweet."
"Mostly I want to punch his pretty little nose so hard that he suffers brain damage."
"You're a feisty one, hey," she said with a smirk. "Do you want me to get a bottle for Elijah?"
"Oh, no. I breastfeed him."
"Of course," she said with a smile. "I only ask because the Princess, she never breastfed her girls. She tried it once, said it hurt too much and gave it up for good. I think that the Prince wants to speak to you," she told me.
"We already spoke." I deadpanned.
"It didn't end well, then?"
"It never seems to with him. I can't have a conversation with him about the things we need to talk about – Elijah, the marriage, yadda yadda – without him irritating me so much that we end up arguing. This time I stomped out of the room."
"Prince Christian is very used to getting his own way. It's good to have someone to stand in his way, I think. I'll be on your side, always. I like you. It's nice to be around someone real. Queen Julianne and Prince Albert have been in the family too long, they've become too much like the real royals."
"Thank you, Mary," I said with a smile. "Oh. Do you think I'll have to learn how to speak Danish?"
"Most definitely. You have classes every day for a while now. Didn't Prince Christian tell you?"
"No, the Stupid Prince did most certainly not tell me."
"Well, there's no reason to panic. I'm the best English speaker here, I'm fairly sure I'll be your tutor. Unless the Prince decides to teach you himself."
Mary smiled. "I'll leave you alone."
"Thank you for all your help. It's nice to have a friend."
"The same to you. Goodnight, Ria."
I put Elijah in his cot and sang him to sleep before snuggling down in my all-too-big bed. This bed was obviously made to hold at least five full-grown adults, which left a lot of empty space. It made me feel lonely.
I awoke again to Mary pulling my curtains open. "The Prince wants to see you in half an hour, Ria."
"Good morning, Mary."
"Did you sleep well?"
"Lijah only woke once," I said, smiling.
"What does His Highness wish for me to wear?" I asked in my best posh English accent.
She smirked as she was going through the wardrobe. "Perhaps this." Mary held up a lingerie set that I had somehow missed. It was ice blue with black lace, a bra that probably wouldn't cover my nipples and a g-string that would only just cover me down there. Then there were garters.
Oh, my goodness. Sexual fantasy.
Turn that off, I told myself. "Not today, Mary."
She grinned. I hadn't said no.
She came out with dark wash jeans and a white and blue floral printed blouse. "This is good?"
"Thank you," I said, tearing myself from the bed and taking the clothes from her, grabbing a pair of my underpants and a beige bra from home.
"I'll look after Elijah for you," Mary said. "You have a shower."
It took me a bit to work out how to use the shower in my en suite, but I got it working and hopped in. I washed my hair with my shampoo from home, wondering if you could buy the same brand in Denmark.
There was a knock on my en suite door the moment I'd stepped out of the shower. I wrapped a towel around my body and peeked out into my bedroom. Christian was behind the door. He thrust a breast pump into my hand.
"Mary wants you to – you know."
"Right." I closed the door, locking it again.
I leaned against the counter and managed to get a fair amount of milk out of my body. I blow-dried my hair and then got dressed.
I was going to be polite and distanced with Christian, I had decided overnight, from now onwards.
I twisted my hair up messily, just to keep it from my face.
I walked back into the bedroom and smiled at Mary, who had Elijah cradled in her arms. "You're a miracle worker," I told her, handing over the bottle that I'd filled with breast milk. "I don't think I've slept so well in a while."
"That's all right. Christian's in the room next door."
"Should I wear shoes?"
She gave me a funny look.
Elijah's eyes met mine and I smiled at him.
"Yes, no, what?"
Mary smirked. "Don't wear shoes."
"Um, all right."
The Stupid Prince doesn't have a foot fetish, does he?
The room next door was some kind of library, apparently. The Stupid Prince was sitting on a red, plush-looking couch with a glass of whiskey in his hand. You shouldn't be drinking so early in the morning, I thought. He said, "We're going to have a civilised conversation today."
"Okay," I replied as he stood, right in front of me.
"You can ask questions if you need to, but otherwise, don't interrupt me." I opened my mouth to protest but he held his index finger to my lips. "No interruptions."
"Right," I pretended to zip my mouth shut.
The Stupid Prince rolled his eyes and we sat in couches opposite each other. He set his glass down on the coffee table and began, "First of all, you will be having daily lessons in Danish. These will be from me where possible, but if I am unavailable for whatever reason, then Mary will teach you. Do you know any other languages, aside from Australian English?"
"Je parle Français mais ne bien pas. I don't know enough to get by."
"The basis of language always helps, though." I had nothing to say to that, so he continued, "Danish will be important because at certain events we will mingle with the public, or give interviews to Danish magazines and newspapers. There will be photo shoots, so we will have to look in love. We may take acting classes together if the need arises." Read: if I am a terrible actor and can't play in love with a man who I hate with almost all of my heart, we will take acting classes.
"The Danes believe that we had a private marriage ceremony in Australia, so this marriage will merely be for show. Still we will dress up and look beautiful for the public. Our marriage will definitely involve having more children – two is the usual number, though we could have more, if you'd like, since you are so young. You will not be allowed to have affairs during our marriage. There will be no divorce, either."
I stuck my hand up in the air, like a child in primary school who had a question, which I did.
I would've smiled, but my question was far too serious. "You said that I would not be allowed affairs, would the same rule apply to you?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Of course not."
I wanted to scream! He was such an ass! However – I took a deep, calming breath – I'd promised a civilised conversation, and I was being polite but cold. Right? . . . Sexist pig.
"Elijah's christening will be celebrated by the Danish public on Saturday, like I said last night. We might go for a walk on Sunday, depending on the weather. He will be tutored in the Palace until he is of a school age, then we will send him to the local primary school, and later to the best high school in Copenhagen. He will learn both Danish and English from a young age, possibly French and German too. We have a Palace doctor, but anything serious and we will go to the hospital without hesitation, you and him both. Understood?"
I wondered if saluting and saying 'Yes sir!' would be lost on him. Probably.
"So he will have a fairly normal childhood?" I asked when he didn't speak.
"Normal by my standards. Normal by yours, I am not sure."
"He will get to play with other children his age? Have normal birthday parties with his friends? Go to the park or the swimming pool? Elijah will get to have fun, right?"
"Fun," Christian repeated as if it were a foreign word – I supposed it might be, but still . . .
"Oh, my God, you cannot be –" serious!
"We're having a civilised conversation. Remember?"
"Right," I said, breathing deep. "Then I have nothing else to say to you. My brain is still awfully muddled from the ten hour time difference and I'd just rather do something else."
"I don't know. Spend some time with my son?"
"My mistake," I smiled sweetly. "Can I leave now, Your Highness?"
"No." I said slowly. "What do you mean 'no'?"
"I mean no."
I stared at him. He was being unreasonable, but I was being calm, cool and polite. It was Goddamned hard! I hadn't even had a cup of tea yet, or toast and Vegemite. Shit. Did they even sell that here?
"I have a question."
My voice was entirely serious as I asked, "Do they sell Vegemite in Denmark?"
"It's a breakfast spread, you eat it on toast."
"If it isn't here, we can get it imported for you."
Oh, thank goodness.
"My – our son is not growing up without eating Vegemite. It's just un-Australian."
Now Christian stared at me.
I had no idea how I'd ended up in bed with the Crown Prince of Denmark at all. Okay, so I had an idea, but it seemed so unreal. Impossible, like this whole situation. I was exhausted.
"No, because I needed to tell you that we have a photo shoot on Friday afternoon."
"Yes, you, the baby and I."
"I see . . . Now may I leave?"
"Not quite. We have to practice looking in love yet."
Mary was watching over us, Elijah in her arms. Another woman was fussing around Mary and my baby. Other than Christian and myself, the only others in the room were King Frederik and Queen Julianne. I had my eyes on Elijah as we sat in the huge lounge room thing, listening to all of the foreign language talk. The only word I thought I heard was 'danse' which I figured meant 'dance' – kind of like in High School French. I supposed it was good that I'd enjoyed dancing when I was younger. Elijah was fidgeting, watching his own limbs as he waved them around, gurgling. When he looked up and saw me he clapped his hands, smiling. I smiled back, and lifted my hand to wiggle my fingers at him. He giggled. Sometimes I heard my name spoken; usually it was 'Hartz' they called me.
Mary noticed my attention on Elijah and smiled at me, taking one of Elijah's arms and waving his hand at me.
I would have asked Mary to translate for me, but she was standing by a far window, and I was sitting on a couch with Christian, a good foot apart from him.
"Hmmm?" I looked up at Christian, then realising it wasn't he who had spoken but the King. "Oh, yes?"
"We are going to give you and Christian an hour, and then you will try to persuade Julianne and me that you are in love."
King Frederik, Queen Julianne, Mary and Elijah and the other woman – whose name I needed to learn – left the room then, almost silently.
Once again I was struck by my utterly woeful presence in Amalienborg Palace.
I slumped back against the couch, covering my face with my hands.
Elijah had better turn out to be one hell of a kid to make this worth him.
"Hey," Christian said, peeling one of my hands from my face. "It's not that bad, is it? You have Elijah." I opened an eye, peering out at him.
"You're really not very romantic, are you?"
He looked away. "No, I'm not."
I sat up straight, dropping my hands. "How are we going to go about this, then?"
"We need to look, ah, like we have a love so intense that distance will not make a difference, like we don't have to touch to feel anything more." Exactly the kind of love I'd longed for my whole life, and would now never get. How was the press going to take a twenty-year-old marrying a – "How old are you, Christian?"
"Twenty-seven. You're twenty now, which is younger than I'd thought you were last year. If I'd known you were nineteen then, we wouldn't be here."
How reassuring. I rolled my eyes.
He lifted my chin with his fingers, giving me no choice but to look him in the eyes. Christian was staring at me so weirdly that I started laughing. Once I was laughing the whole absurdity of this situation seemed so out of control that I couldn't stop. Christian's brow furrowed, and he held my cheeks in both of his hands now, his thumbs smoothing over my cheeks.
He'd moved closer, I realised belatedly, our thighs were touching now. The laughter subsided from my chest and I found myself staring at Christian's face. He hadn't shaved that morning, perhaps the night before, judging by the growth of stubble on his face. His nose was slightly off kilter, like someone had punched him there and he'd never bothered to have it realigned. His eyes were dark brown, it might be cliché to say it, but they actually reminded me of dark chocolate. Then there were his lips. Oh, my goodness.
"Victoria," he murmured.
I focused on his eyes. "Mmm?"
Christian leaned in close, at the same time bringing his face closer to mine – for a kiss. Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. That was not happening!
I pulled against his hands, looking everywhere but his lips.
Oops. Bulge in his pants. Don't want to think about that.
"Christian." I said firmly.
He let go of me and smiled. "You sound like a mother, you know."
"I am a mother, just not yours."
He stood, taking my hands and pulling me up too. Looping an arm around my waist, he walked us both around the room. I diverted my eyes in every which way.
"You are awful at this," he told me finally.
"You're really not helping." I stretched up on my tippy toes and kissed his stubbled cheek. "Sometimes," I began, "I really want to punch your nose so hard you get brain damage, and other times . . ."
"You want to have sex with me from when the sun sets in the West to when it rises in the East."
In other words, all night long. "No. I can – I can see us together, sometimes, in my daydreams. I can imagine you and me doing all of those couple-y things that are expected, but then you go and make it so Goddamned hard! You ruin any of those thoughts in an instant by being rude and irritating."
Christian closed his eyes, his eyebrows knitted so close together you could almost mistake them for a monobrow. "If I didn't like you, I wouldn't have had sex with you. I thought you were cute, funny, different, beautiful, of course, and were so business-like about the whole thing, there was no kissing or touchy-feely foreplay it was just, 'We both know we're here for the sex so let's get down to it already.'"
Crown Prince Christian of Denmark had just called me beautiful! As well as cute, funny, different and business-like . . . and beautiful.
I wrapped my arms around his waist, holding myself tight against him, unable to keep the grin off my face.
"Victoria?" Christian lifted his arms up into the air. "What are you doing?"
What does it look like, Stupid Prince? "I'm hugging you. Got a problem with that?"
He smirked. "What loving husband would have a problem with a cuddle from his loving wife." He lifted me off the ground and spun me around, both of us smiling so wide I thought my cheeks were gonna burst.
When he set me on my feet again, I met his eyes and there was something different there. He was leaning down, about to kiss me – I was about to let him (!) – when Mary burst through the doors, her breath coming too fast and too shallow.
She said in a perfectly flat, calm tone, "Miss, it's Elijah."
I ran up the stairs behind her, tripping on the edge of a step and probably bruising my forearms in the landing. I groaned and pulled myself back up. Christian held my hand the rest of the way to my bedroom. Mary threw the door open and ushered us inside.
"What's wrong with him?" I asked finally, panicking inside.
Mary looked at me like I was playing funny buggers. "There's nothing wrong with Elijah. He's just rolling around on the floor. Come see."
We all walked around my bed to where Elijah's play mat was set up. Christian squeezed my hand and I dropped to my knees on the floor. Elijah was rolling from his stomach onto his back and then back again, gurgling in that way of his.
"You nearly gave me a bloody heart attack," I said, looking up at Mary.
"I apologise, Miss."
"You shouldn't swear, Victoria," Christian chastised. "Especially not since you will soon be the Crown Princess of Denmark."
I pretended I didn't hear what he said and wiggled my fingers over Elijah's cute little face. "Who's a good lil' Lijah?" I smiled. "Mama."
"Aah," he babbled.
"Mama," I repeated, feeling Christian kneel beside me.
"I'll leave you alone with Elijah," Mary said, her heels clacking as she left the room.
"Mor," Christian said.
"More?" I asked.
"Mor means 'mum' or 'mother' in Danish."
My mother – my family! "Am I allowed to call my family?"
"Oh, yes. Not now, though. We are ten hours behind."
"Yes. It's ten a.m. here, it would be eight p.m. there. It is a perfect time to call."
"Can we please wait until lunch time?"
"Victoria," Christian said in the stern voice that I'd used earlier.
I was quiet for a moment, playing with Elijah's fingers. "How do you say 'father' in Danish?"
Christian smirked. "Far."
"Whatever. You sounded like such a far just now."
Christian smiled at me, lifting a finger to poke my nose. "I am a far, mor."
I took his hand in mine and held our hands out to Elijah. Our son was laying on his back, and he reached up and wrapped one of his tiny hands around Christian's little finger. "Min gud."
"Hmm?" I turned my head to look at Christian at the same time he turned his head and our noses bumped. "Oh." Blood coloured my cheeks and I looked away – to Elijah – immediately. This action, of course, was entirely ridiculous considering that we'd had sex.
I heard the door open behind us, but figuring it was Mary I paid it no notice. As amazing as Mary was to me, Christian and Elijah were kind of front and centre to my mind at the moment.
"Hey," he whispered, taking our hands back from Elijah, he brushed my cheek with the back of his hand, our fingers still entwined.
I looked Christian in the eye and smiled at him. "Hey yourself."
My eyes slipped down to his lips, he smirked.
Without realising it, I'd twisted my body to face him better.
This time it wasn't just Christian going in for a kiss. This time I wasn't leaning away. This time I was leaning closer too. Closer and closer and closer until our lips brushed against each other. He was gentle, careful, warm, slow. It was just a peck, then we went in again. And again, lingering against each other's mouths. Christian kissed my cheek and suddenly my world widened. Over the top of my new bed, I could see King Frederik and Queen Julianne. The Queen smiled but the King did not.
"Victoria, how are you?" Christian asked.
I assumed that he meant 'are you okay?' because 'how are you?' didn't really make sense. "I'm great, thank you," I smiled. "Et toi?"
"Ça va très, très bien, Victoria."
The King cleared his throat and Christian turned his head, saying something in Danish, I thought I caught far.
They began babbling away in Danish and I picked Elijah up, tucking him against my chest. Elijah waved his tiny hands in front of my face, gurgling.
"My Little Vegemite," I murmured, holding out my finger for him. His hand wrapped around my finger and he pulled my fingertip into his mouth, sucking on it.
Christian tucked an arm around my waist, helping me stand.
"I was convinced," Queen Julianne said to me with a smile.
"Far thinks that it could use some work," Christian said, smiling at me. "I told him that we could manage that before Friday."
"Friday is tomorrow."
"I know. We have all afternoon and evening," this accompanied by an amused smile. He looked back at his parents. "Are we done here?"
The King nodded, telling something to Christian in their usual Danish.
I took a seat on my bed as they left the room.
Christian had gone too, but he was back in moments with Mary trailing behind him. "I will take Elijah so that you two can practice looking in love without any interruptions." I stood and handed my son over, knowing it was pointless to argue. I was exhausted anyway.
Christian looped an arm around my shoulders and led me from my bedroom, taking me further down the corridor that my room and the library were on. "Where are we going?"
"My bedroom. We won't be interrupted when in there."
Why wouldn't we be interrupted? Because they expect we would be having sex, or simply because it was proper? People seemed to be in and out of my room as they pleased with no qualms. Life was unfair.
His bedroom was also larger than mine, not that that was important. His windows faced the octagonal courtyard, he was obviously on the corner of the Palace too, because his second window faced a different direction. With the door closed firmly behind us, locked too, I think, Christian wrapped his arms around me, spinning us in his room.
"Do you dance?" he asked when we stopped.
"Oh, my goodness. I need to sit down."
Christian led me to a chair and helped me down. "Dizzy?"
"So," he squatted down in front of me, his legs spread wide, "do you dance?"
"I did when I was a teenager."
"You are a teenager," he said with a smile, then his face dropped. "You're a teenager," he repeated. "I'm about to marry a teenager."
"Hey," I lifted my hand to his face, "I'm willing at least half of the time. I was completely willing when we did the dirty deed a year ago. Plus, I'm twenty now anyway."
"When we had sex," I said, my face flushing.
"You're cute," he said. "A cute teenager. Min gud."
Not a teenager, dammit. "I used to dance," I continued, "a few years back; it's been a while since I've done any ballroom dancing."
I did, standing, I embraced him properly and we danced around his bedroom. Like before I couldn't keep the smile off of my face. Breathing heavily, we fell back onto his bed. I pushed myself up on my elbows, my nose touching Christian's.
"Maybe we could be good at this whole romance thing," I said, brushing my lips against Christian's.
I wriggled back up onto the bed, so that my feet were on the covers, also because I liked teasing. Christian crawled up the length of my body, lowering his head to kiss my neck.
"Oh, oh." He was nibbling at my skin, licking my neck. "Mmnnn. We should – You should – aah."
"What should we do?" he ran a hand down my waist to my hip, kneading my skin there. "This?"
"No, that's not what I – oh, my goodness."
"Christia— Oh, my." I finally worked up the mind power to lift my hands to his shoulders, to give him a little push. "Really," I said. "Stop. Please."
"Stop?" he asked, rolling onto the cover beside me, propping his head up with his elbow on the bed.
"I can't have a hickey during the photo shoot tomorrow."
"Make up. Aren't you interested in sex?"
I stared at him. "No, actually. I think it's that whole pregnancy thing. I read somewhere that the time it takes to regain the longing for sexual pleasure after giving birth varies for different women, but –"
"You are speaking too fast. I do not understand."
"Having Elijah has made me not want for sex, but it's only temporary, so the doctors say."
"You don't want to have sex with me," he deadpanned.
I squeezed my eyes shut. "No," I opened my eyes. "It's not you, I swear. I would actually like to have sex with you right now" – goodness I felt stupid saying this – "but my body doesn't want sex. Not even Ashton Kutcher turns me on right now."
"Who is Kutcher?"
"He's an actor." Christian didn't reply. "You're probably sexier than him, though. Elijah's gonna be a cute one, with you for a far. See, I'm getting better at Danish already?"
I blinked. "What does that mean?"
He smirked at me. "It's a secret."
"Fine. I'll go and ask Mary." I went to get up but Christian grasped my arm and held tight. "Christian."
"Victoria, min prinsesse, won't you stay?" he tugged on my arm and I just looked at him before jumping on him, straddling his waist, holding him to the bed.
"If I have to tie you up, I will."
By the look on his face, I didn't think that he understood kinky. "You're cute."
I took his wrists in my hands – he wasn't really resisting – and held them above his head. "What does 'min kære' mean?"
He bonked his head between my breasts and I met his eyes.
"Do you mind?"
"Not at all, min prinsesse."
The tables were turned then, Christian rolled over, pinning me to his bed a lot more firmly than I had been no doubt, holding my hands above my head. Bastard. I didn't even have time to think.
He nuzzled his nose into my neck.
"I don't think that the, uh, photographers are going to be interested in this kind of thing."
He lifted his head enough so that I could clearly see his smile. "I am interested in this. I am interested in you. Who cares about the photographers."
When the Danish paps entered into the downstairs sitting room in Amalienborg – a room that had been transformed for the damn photos – I was leaning against Christian, Elijah tucked in between my arm and my breast. I knew that Christian was smiling down at me. First impressions were worth a lot. He kissed my forehead and brushed his fingers over Elijah's.
He and the paps began chattering away in Danish and I was at a loss, occasionally I thought I heard them say mor or far, but I couldn't be sure. The young, blonde male pap smiled at me and mouthed something then stopped halfway through when Christian barked out, "Aren."
I cringed at his tone and clutched Elijah tighter to me.
We had already gone over what he would say to Aren and the older one. Christian was going to tell them that while I was (ahem, not) learning Danish, I was not confident and did not wish to speak. If they had any questions for me personally, they would be had through the Crown Prince himself. As the baby had not been christened, he did not officially have a name, but we had one in mind – I was not allowed to say Elijah's name, and if I did let it slip then the paps weren't allowed to say a word.
"Victoria," the older of the two paps said, "I am Jorgen and this is Aren. It's a pleasure to meet you and your son."
What was 'thank you' in Danish? God knew. "Thanks."
Christian tucked an arm around my waist, leaning down over Elijah and me. "We will be having shots of us standing, holding the baby. You know what we're doing, just make it look real," the last part he whispered so quietly I could barely hear it.
I looked up and met Christian's eyes with what I hoped what the right amount of love. "All right," I smiled.
I watched the photographers unpack their cameras and set up tripods. Elijah wriggled in my arms, I realised almost immediately that he was about to start wailing and bounced him in my arms.
"Victoria?" Christian asked, concern lacing his voice. Damn, he was good at this. Much better than me. "We could reschedule . . ."
Aren looked worried at this. "No, no. It's okay. He's just a bit – he's in one of those moods."
Christian nodded like this made sense, like 'one of those moods' meant something to both of us. "If you're sure."
"Come. We will sit."
Sit, I thought. I can do sitting.
Christian let me lead the way to the couch and I settled into the corner. I smiled at Christian and listened to the click of photos being taken around us. Lijah looked worried in my arms. The paps were freaking him out, I realised. There wasn't much that I could do about it though.
The photo shoot allowed me much too much thinking time, even as we leant over Elijah in a cot that wasn't his own and smiled, murmuring to each other.
I was in Denmark. I was living in Amalienborg Palace. Soon I would be married to a man who didn't love me and a man who I didn't love. I would pretend to, of course, for Elijah and however many other children we were to have and for the world too. Not marrying Christian wasn't an option, the Danes could cut off any connections with Australia if I did any wrong; they could hurt my family. Then I would be – I would have that weight on my shoulders. It was expected by the Danish public that Elijah's name would be Frederik, as was the name of all Danish Kings. Danish Kings were always either named Frederik or Christian.
I was in fucking Denmark. I was going to be living here for the rest of my life.
"Prinsesse, look at the camera please."
I looked up and smiled. It was odd – so odd – being called 'Prinsesse' but I supposed I would get used to it, eventually. My family would not have to call me that, surely. My family.
Now is not the time for tears, I told myself. Just wait until you're alone.
I was dismissed from the sitting room with Elijah long before Christian – he had this whole other interview on top of the shoot. I kind of wanted to be there for him, there with him, but Elijah had just started howling.
Mary gave me a meek smile. "How was it?"
I lifted the corner of my lips just slightly. "It was different. I'm not used to being called 'Prinsesse.'"
"No one is," she replied over Elijah's howling.
He'd been fed, he was well-rested, he smelt clean. I didn't know exactly what was wrong with my baby, I supposed he was just being fussy.
We found my bedroom and went inside. "Would you like to call your family?" Mary asked. "It is eight p.m. in Australia now."
I chewed on my lip as Elijah gave a final scream before quieting completely. "I would love to, Mary. Thank you."
"I'll get you a phone. You'll probably have forty-five minutes before the interview is over, maybe half an hour more before the Prince comes looking for you."
Mary took care of Elijah and I laid down on my bed as she found me a telephone. I dialled in my parents' home number first, but they weren't home. Just my luck, so I left a message. Melly was second on my list and Andrew picked up after two rings.
"Hello, Andrew speaking."
I couldn't help but grin and cry. It felt like we hadn't spoken in weeks when it had only been days. "Andrew!"
"Ria? Is that you, Ria?"
"Yes," my throat choked up. "How's Sapphire Bay?"
"Same as always. How are you and Lijah? Are you doing all right in Denmark?"
I looked around the room; Mary had left me to myself. "We're okay. Adjusting is . . . I don't want to have to adjust, Andrew! I want to be at home, I want to be able to find a man who loves me, not some Prince who is marrying me because it's proper."
"Ria . . ."
"I know, I know. Can I – can I talk to Melly?"
"Yeah. I'll just get her for you."
I talked to Melanie for ages, when eventually she asked the big question.
"Do you think that you'll be tied to Denmark forever?"
"Christian said that we wouldn't be allowed to divorce."
"I was looking it up on the Internet, one of the Princes of Denmark divorced his wife. If you did end up separating, though, you don't get any money or stuff. It's all like, royal money. It stays in the family. Pre-nup agreements."
"I kind of figured." I swallowed hard. "I wish I could be back in Sapphire City, Melly. I don't want to be here. I don't want to have to become a Danish Princess." There was a knock at my door. "Will you hold on a second?"
"Sure thing, Ri."
I covered the mouthpiece of the phone and called out, "Come in!"
Christian walked in and sat down beside me. "Who are you talking to?"
"My sister. I, ah, how do you put this on speakerphone?"
"What is 'speakerphone'?"
I didn't know how to explain. Instead I handed him the phone.
"Hello, this is the Crown Prince Christian of Denmark." I could hear Melly's laughter, but that was all. "Yes, of course I am. She is well, so is the baby. The christening is tomorrow, yes. Ah, I think it might be on the Internet? No. No, I am not. Not yet, Melanie. I don't think that it is impossible." His brow furrowed. "We will be happy. We are happy." Elijah gurgled in his cot, waving his little hands above his head. "Yes. Okay. Goodbye, Melanie."
He handed over the phone. "What did you say to him?" I hissed.
"Nothing, nothing. I'm just keeping an eye on you. Will I be able to call you on this number?"
"Ah. I don't know. I'll call you as soon as I can, all right? Can you say hello to Xanthe and Jimmy for me?"
"Mum and Dad?"
"Left them a message. Look, I love you. We'll talk soon, I swear. I miss you so much."
"I love you too, Ria. We better talk soon. Oh, Tessa says to say hello."
"Tell Tess I love her. Bye, Melly."
Christian rested his head on my shoulder, wrapping an arm around my waist. I swallowed hard. "Christian, what are you doing?"
"Giving my wife a cuddle."
I shoved him off me. "We are not married."
"We will be. Hey – you took your ring off!"
"You expected me to keep it on after that stupid photo shoot?"
"Well it would be nice." He let out a deep breath. "You're being particularly difficult this evening, Victoria. What is wrong?"
What's wrong! What's wrong! "Do you really want to know what is wrong?"
"I'm twenty and I have a child. My child was going to grow up without a father, and then I received a letter telling me that I was flying to Denmark because the father of my baby was also the Crown Prince of Denmark, next in line to the throne! I have to live in Denmark, married to a man I don't love, away from all of my family, away from any sensibilities. I have to bear more children to that same idiot of a man. And I might even have to rename my beautiful son the most ridiculous name in the universe – Frederik! What kind of a name is that!" Tears began to well in my eyes, before falling down my cheeks. I didn't make any effort to wipe them away. I just let them drop. Christian lifted his hand to my face but I slapped him away.
"Victoria . . ."
"Don't 'Victoria' me."
He kissed my cheek, then my lips, just chastely, like kissing family or friends. "I don't mean to hurt you. I just need to do what is right for the monarchy."
I covered my face with my hands. "I know," I said. "I know."
"Shhh, just breathe. In and out."
I did like he said, focusing my mind on my breathing and the sound of Elijah's gurgling. When Christian wrapped his arms around me, I tried to shrug him off, but when he held on tighter I let myself relax into his body.
"Good girl," he murmured, pressing his lips to my hair. "Do you want the baby?"
"Elijah," I whispered. "Yes, please."
"You know we're going to have to name him Frederik. There will be lenience with the rest of our children's names but he is the first-born. He can be Frederik Elijah Andrew, if you like. You can call him Elijah behind Palace walls too."
I gave the Prince a meek smile. What else could I do? He would be Frederik to the world and my gorgeous Little Vegemite Elijah to me. "Will you call him Elijah?" I asked as he passed my baby to me.
"Me? Elijah is his name, isn't it?"
"Then I will call him that." He kissed my forehead. "I have some things to do, Victoria, and you must be exhausted. I will let you and Elijah nap until lunchtime."
I rolled my eyes good-naturedly. "How generous."
"I know," Christian kissed my lips, his mouth lingering against mine. "Sleep well."
My son was going to be christened. Elijah was going to be raised with a belief in God. I wasn't a believer, though, so I didn't know how I was going to teach him that He existed. I supposed that I could pretend to believe, after all if He did exist, then He had given me Elijah and I would forever be grateful to Him for that.
"Victoria," a voice whispered in the dark of my bedroom.
I groaned in response, rolling over to glance at my alarm clock.
"Hey," a body landed on my mattress and I sunk into the dip, eventually coming to rest against somebody's leg. "Victoria?"
"Mmm?" I forced my eyes open and looked up at Christian's darkened face. "What's up?"
"I could not sleep."
"I'm not your mother," I murmur.
"No," he agrees. "You're not."
I wriggle back on my bed, making room for him. "Will we have to sleep in the same bed when we are married?"
"Most likely," he laid down beside me, resting his head on my pillow.
Elijah usually woke around this time, I realised upon hearing him coo. He was being oddly quiet, perhaps soothed by talking? I don't know. "Lijah," I murmured, climbing over Christian and hopping down onto the wooden floor.
"Aah," he smiled as I looked down at him in his cot.
He was so sweet, so clean. Christian's arms wrapped around my waist, his body pressed hard against my back. I had to fight to repress a shiver – a good shiver.
I reached into the cot and brought Elijah up into my arms.
"He looks like a Frederik, you know. He looks like he could be a king."
"I think he looks like a Christian more so," I said.
"Mm-hmm." I turned around and Christian let go of my waist.
"Is he hungry? Should I leave the room?"
I shot him a 'Are you actually being serious?' look.
"It's not like you'd be seeing something you hadn't already."
"I know this, but I thought you might –"
I smiled. "It's fine. You're sweet."
I settled down on the edge of the bed, letting my mind fold into the darkness as I unbuttoned my pyjama top, giving Elijah access to my breast.
When Christian sat down beside me I leaned against him, closing my eyes when he looped his arm around my back, his fingers gripping my hipbone.
He muttered something in Danish and I asked him what he'd said. "I was thinking that it's incredible that one night of amazing sex" – I was glad, so glad, that Christian had thought I was amazing – "could end up with a baby growing inside of a beautiful woman and then be in front of me, growing up. That your body could create a life like that."
I was quiet for a moment. "That's quite a thought."
He kissed me. He kissed me. He kissed me.
I kissed him back and Elijah gurgled, "Mama."
I woke to Elijah's low, rumbling cry at six thirty Denmark time. I moaned and tried to push myself up to get to him but there was a dead weight hanging over my waist.
"Mnnn, 'Toria." He pulled my back down, holding me against his chest.
"Christian, I have to get –"
"Mm-no. Babies need to know that just because they cry mor isn't going to come running." I grimaced; that was exactly what I did.
There was a knock on my door, I opened my mouth to say 'Come in' but Christian beat me to it, calling out something in Danish. I thought I heard Mary's voice on the other side of the door but I couldn't be sure.
"What did you say?"
"I said that we could handle it."
"Isn't the christening today?"
Christian groaned. "Maybe we should get up."
"Really, really don't wanna."
I rolled over in Christian's arms. His chest was still bare from last night. He twined his legs through mine, his leg hair scratching and tickling my skin as he pushed the legs of my flannelette pyjamas up.
He hummed and smiled at me.
"Would you like to have sex with me now?"
I glanced around the room. "Have sex with you on the morning of my son's christening? I don't want to walk into the church with an I-just-got-laid glow on my face."
"We're not having sex."
He groaned and I forced my way out of his arms. "You're great and all," I began, "sexy, smart, Danish . . . but I'm not ready for sex yet. I'm just not."
I was dressed in simple, fashionable clothes for the event. Elijah wore the christening gown and Christian was in simple suit. We walked down the aisle of the church and everyone was smiling. I didn't know any of the faces, though. Christian told me that many were Princes and Princesses from other countries. Elijah's Godparents would be the Crown Prince and Princess of some neighbouring country and I was allowed to name a Godparent too.
Usually Godparents were supposed to be present at the ceremony, but I hadn't had enough time to be able to organise for Xanthe to come to Denmark. Christian promised that my family and friends would be allowed to attend the wedding, though.
Elijah was christened Frederik Vladimir Christian Andrew Elijah and there were tears in my eyes at the end of the ceremony. Maybe I didn't believe in any deity, but it was so amazing. There were photographs afterward, so many photographs. Elijah in my arms, Christian wrapped around me, we smiled like we were a perfect family, like this situation was nothing out of the ordinary.
Christian kissed my cheek a couple of times then when we were getting into one of the royal cars – one of the ones with a flag on the bonnet – he kissed me full on the lips in front of the ever tiresome paparazzi.
Flashes went off all around us and I could hardly pull myself away from the man I was supposed to be married to. I bit down on his lip hard enough to hurt and he pulled away. I smiled sheepishly, gave a final wave to the paparazzi and ducked down out of sight.
Once we were pulling away from the kerb I glared at Christian.
"What was that for?"
He shrugged. "We are in love. I cannot keep my hands off of you."
I raised an eyebrow. "That was a lot more lip than hand. You're not wearing your seatbelt."
He reached up behind him and tugged his seatbelt across his chest, locking it in. "You don't. Let me hold Elijah."
I handed him over and put my seatbelt on too. "I'm glad you didn't call him Frederik."
"I said that I wouldn't. I take our relationship very seriously."
"Sometimes I doubt that."
He smiled and glanced out the window. Elijah was asleep in Christian's arms. They were both absolutely adorable. Elijah was going to have Christian's hair, not mine.
"Christian," I murmured.
"What would happen if we fell in love?"
He looked at me. "I don't know."
There is nothing. My life means nothing to me anymore. I'm not living. I have no reason to live. It's been a week already.
Christian pressed his body against my back, wrapping his arms around me.
My pillow was soaked through.
Melly, Jimmy, Andrew, Xanthe, my parents, they'd all tried to call through but I couldn't talk to them. I hated that they had found out through the news, the Internet. It was unfair but I didn't think that I could talk to them without exploding.
"Victoria," Christian murmured. "You need to eat something."
I shook my head. I'd been crying for so long that my eyes were dry.
"If you don't eat we will have to take you to the hospital. Victoria? Look at me. Look at me."
I rolled over slowly. Christian made it worse and better all at the same time. Whenever I looked at him, I thought of Elijah and his tiny breathless body, but I didn't think I'd be able to sleep if he wasn't there.
He lifted one of his hands to my cheek.
"Victoria, I'm so sorry."
"I should have –"
"It was not your fault at all. It happens."
My throat choked up. "It wasn't supposed to happen to Lijah!" I cried.
He pulled my head in against his chest and I just laid there hiccuping and sobbing and making horrible, weak noises.
Finally, Christian said, "Melanie and Andrew are flying over tonight."
I looked up at him. "What about Tess and Xanthe and Jimmy and my parents?"
"Victoria . . ."
"Will we still be – getting married?"
"If you object greatly, no. I think that – and the doctor agrees – you should stay in Denmark. I don't doubt your family and friends could look after you but we are . . . we can take care of you just as well, if not better." He was quiet for a minute, then, "The country had a day of mourning, you know."
I didn't react.
He didn't say a word for what felt like a very long time.
"They'll be here tomorrow. You should try to pull it together."
I just stared at him. "Try to pull it together? Are you, I don't know, mentally ill or something, Christian? My son, my three-month-old son who has not seen the world, is dead! He will never get to see the world. He's your son too. How are you not upset about this!"
I noticed then that his eyes were red too, so red.
"Oh my goodness, I'm so – so sorry. I don't know what I was –"
He pressed his mouth against mine, his fingertips creeped along my skin and under my shirt, smoothing the skin there, his thumb brushed the underside of my breast and I moaned into his mouth.
I opened my eyes and watched him. I thought of Melly and pulled my lips from his. "I've been so selfish," I whispered. I'd left Melanie, Andrew and my family behind in Sapphire Bay where they were no doubt mourning too.
He rested his forehead against mine.
"I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," he said. "It's going to be okay."
When Melanie and Andrew were invited inside Amalienborg Palace I ran straight at them, almost slipping on the tiled floor. "Melly!"
"Ria," she sobbed.
I hugged her tight, trying to hide myself inside of her, bury myself in her.
Out of the corner of my eye I watched Andrew walk over to Christian like he was just some normal guy and not the Crown Prince of Denmark, and he patted him on the back all manly-like.
I choked back the lump in my throat and we all turned to face each other. "Andrew, Melly, this is Crown Prince Christian of Denmark. Christian, this is my sister Melly and her husband Andrew."
"Pleased to meet you," Christian said.
"You too," Melly and Andrew said in sync, they gave each other a small smile.
I thought of Elijah and tears welled in my eyes.
Melly pulled out a photo album from her Country Road bag.
"Did you take many photos while you were here?"
"I –" hadn't taken any! Christian was there, suddenly, his arm around my waist holding me up.
"Mary took some photographs," he said and I felt relief course through my body. "Shall we go to the sitting room?"
It was where I spent a lot of my time now, sitting on one of the couches and staring out the windows at the sky. I felt dead inside.
Melly nodded and we go to the sitting room.
I decided that I might be suffering from mind blanks of some sort because sometimes I sort of just notice that I'm somewhere where I wasn't before.
Melanie put the photo album in my lap and opened it for me.
"Every moment," she said.
Andrew and Christian spoke in whispers by the window while I leant against my sister. She flipped through the pages and I tried to focus on the face of my Elijah but it was hard when tears filled my eyes, blurring everything.
Melly put an arm around me. "Ria. We all miss you."
"I wish I could come home."
"Won't they let you?"
"Christian said that I could if I really wanted to."
"Are you going to?"
I glanced up at Christian, still by the window. "I don't know."
"Are you and him . . . ?"
"No. Well, I don't think so."
"You haven't done it again?"
"No," I hissed, my mind then slipping to the first and only time we had done 'it' and its consequences. A beautiful son.
A funny choked noise escaped my throat and I looked up at Christian desperately.
"It's been a long flight," Christian said. "Would you two like to rest for a while? I think we're all tired. Perhaps you'd like some lunch?"
Melly looked at me then Christian and back at me.
"All right. We'll rest up for a while and no to lunch, thank you."
I loved my sister more than anyone else on the planet but she was – she reminded me of Elijah.
"Stay here, min elskede." He kissed the top of my head and led my sister and her husband from the sitting room.
I had another of those blanks, my mind fell away from me. I didn't even remember looking out the window.
"Prinsesse?" Christian sat down beside me. "Are you okay?"
I sort of stared at him, but blankly, not with any kind of hatred for asking a stupid question.
"Victoria, I know it's hard but we can work through this. We could try again."
"For another baby?" I asked.
"If we get married properly, of course."
He glanced out the window when I tried to capture his attention. "What are you hiding from me?"
"Far wants the wedding to be soon, to raise the spirits of the nation. In two months, perhaps."
"The King does not want me to leave."
"No," Christian said. "If you want to go home, I will make sure that you can."
I gave Christian a smile and leant into him. "Thank you."
Christian got down on one knee and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small blue velvet box and opened it, smiling at me. "Victoria, min prinsesse, will you marry me?"
I kneeled down too and wrapped my arms around him, holding myself to him.
"Is that a yes?"
I looked up at him, tears in my eyes. "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes."
"Hey," he murmured. "Hey. Shhh. It's okay."
"Don't cry. Open your eyes."
My eyes aren't – "Christian?"
We were lying in his bed. Did I just dream that he proposed to me? And that I said yes? "Yes, Prinsesse."
"It was all a dream?"
"What did you dream of?"
I felt my cheeks grow red and splotchy.
"Come on, tell me."
"You proposed to me," I said.
"Yeah? What did you say?"
I whimpered. "Yes."
"Say that again."
"Yes," I said a little bit louder.
"Will you marry me in real life?" he asked.
I stared at him, watching as he reached across the bed to the bedside table, pulling out a small blue velvet box from his drawer.
"Yes," I told him. "Yes. Yes. Yes."
I wriggled in and kissed him.
"You don't need to cry," he said. "We can get through this – together."
I lifted my wrist. Dangling there off of a blue ribbon was Lijah's dummy. I stared at it, my throat choking up all over again.
I woke at seven in the morning. It was the first time that Elijah had ever allowed me to sleep the whole night through. It wasn't usual. I figured at the time maybe I'd gotten lucky or perhaps Mary had heard him and fed him for me. His eyes were closed, sleeping. Forever sleeping. When I lifted him into my arms he felt colder than normal, cold against my skin when he was usually so warm. It was only then that my mind began to race. I'd heard so many horror stories about babies – I couldn't even think it! It was impossible!
I lifted him up so that his mouth was near my ear, but I couldn't hear him breathing, I couldn't feel him breathing. I held him out in front of me, as far away as I could and his head flopped backwards.
To say that I screamed might have been an understatement.
Apparently they heard me on the complete opposite side of Amalienborg Palace.
Christian was the first to my room and I fell into his arms, unable to keep myself away.
"Victoria? What is wrong?"
"Elijah, he's . . ."
"What is wrong with Elijah?"
"I can't even –"
Christian took Elijah's body from my hands and held it up, his head flopped back all over again and I fainted.
When I came to, Christian was watching over me. I had a brief moment of blankness, a complete lack of memory at what had occurred.
"Victoria," Christian murmured as I sat up, "Elijah is –"
I clutched Christian to me, trying to sink inside of him.
"Elijah is," he gulped, "dead."
I could not have imagined a worse pain than this. Childbirth was pretty damn painful and then there was this.
It was like my heart had shattered into a million tiny fragments but was still trying so hard to keep itself alive and pumping.
I cried and sobbed and hiccuped into Christian's shirt and he just held me. Occasionally I felt a tear drop onto my skin that wasn't mine and it only made me cry harder. I'd lost my only son.
Maybe our engagement was out of society's norms – being proposed to in bed was certainly different, and sometimes I wondered if Christian had just been too cowardly to ask me, that he waited until he knew that I'd say yes before popping the Big Question.
Still my father got to walk me down the aisle and I had Elijah's dummy tied to my bouquet of flowers. Tessa was my gorgeous flower girl and Christian invited the young Prince of Monaco to be the ring boy.
I was only half paying attention as I repeated the vows that the priest spoke in Danish – I'd practiced them so many times with Christian that I probably said them in my sleep – until he smiled and Christian and I repeated 'I do' in Danish.
The priest finished with a warm "Dukannukyssebruden."
Christian, who was still holding my hand after having placed a real ring on my finger, pulled me into him and planted a big one on my lips.
We practiced beforehand, how long we would kiss for, so that it wouldn't be awkward when one of us tried to pull away.
He wound his arm around my waist and held me close as we turned to face our friends and family. "You look amazing," he whispered and I smiled widely.
Tears filled my eyes; tears of happiness as well as tears for Elijah. He would always be my little Vegemite.
I smiled at Melly, Xanthe and Jimmy, my best friends in the whole wide world as well as one of Christian's Princess friends. Andrew stood on Christian's left, last in the line.
Cameras flashed and I couldn't help when the tears rolled down my face. The make up ladies were smart to have put on only waterproof make up.
Christian reached across and wiped away my tears with his thumb. "Come."
We walked back down the aisle, smiling widely at everyone we passed.
I didn't doubt that there would be moments in my life where Christian was annoying me so much that I wished I hadn't married him but he was there for me. He seemed to be only one who really understood what I was going through, as hard as Melly tried it was . . . Christian. He'd lost a child too. Our child.
"Congratulations," Melly murmured with a smile. "You did great, Ria."
Late that evening, exactly three months after Elijah died, Christian and I made love properly. We didn't have sex – well, we did, but it was about love and loss not just pleasure, cliché as that is. Even if I was pleasured a few times.
Christian slid my wedding gown off of my skin, lifting it up and over my head, laying it over the seat at the end of the bed. I wasn't on the pill and Christian didn't use a condom. No child would ever replace Elijah but I looked forward to having many more children with Christian.
"How many children would you like?" Christian had asked me a week before the wedding.
"Anywhere between three and six," I'd told him, smiling weakly.
"Not counting . . ."
"No, not counting my Little Vegemite." I'd replied, choking up.
I helped Christian out of his silly uniform and he'd smiled so wide.
"Crown Princess Victoria of Denmark, Countess of Monzepat."
"I love you," I whispered.
"I know," he said.
"You said so while you were sleeping, before you told me about your dream about me proposing."
I gave him a small smile. "Do you love me?"
"That's a silly question," he smirked.
I couldn't be having doubts, not tonight. I was married to a man who hadn't even said he loved me. Oh my goodness, I was a fool.
"Victoria, prinsesse," Christian said, lifting my chin. "You are worrying, yes?" I smiled because he could read me so well. "You do not need to. I love you, Victoria, more than anything."
"More than anyone?"
"Of course. I love you more than life itself."
"That's just corny," I said with a smile.
"I love you," I whispered again.
"I love you too," Christian replied, kissing my forehead.
Every night for the rest of my life, Elijah's was the face that I saw when I tried to get to sleep. We hadn't told our children – five of them – about him yet. I was thirty-three and Christian forty but we still loved each other, even if sometimes we fought.
I'd think about all of our children, our four boys and Mathilde and Elijah and remember how much I loved Christian and how I'd fallen more in love with him every year we'd been married.
Elijah would have been twelve this year, I thought, tears forming in my eyes.
"Min kære," Christian whispered, "he is happy in Heaven with God."
"He was so little."
Christian wrapped his arms around me.
Frederik ran into our bedroom, nine-year-old Frederik with my honey-blonde hair jumped up at us. "Mor, mor!" He looked at me, judging. "Why are you crying?" he asked in perfectly articulated Danish.
"Mor is sad," I replied in his native language. "Mum needs some –"
He squeezed my hand, still speaking in Danish, "Mor, tell me what is wrong."
Christian and I sat Frederik down and told him about Elijah, about how he had been born, and later christened then died that same night. Our gorgeous Frederik held my hand the entire time we were telling him, tears in his eyes.
Maybe we had been wrong to tell him when he was so young, but he was a strong boy he would be stronger for it. He would help us cope, I was sure. As would Ulrik, Jakob, Aren and Mathilde when they were old enough to know.
I knew I was lucky to have such a wonderful family, from my parents and sister, to my friends and my Danish family.
Reviews are appreciated. I've enjoyed writing this and I hope you enjoyed reading it.
I may later add an epilogue to this story from Frederik's point of view. Or Mathilde's.