Aboard The SS Calypso
Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out"
The moment those five little words exited my mouth; I could only describe what happened next with one word.
The man looked relieved, so did the woman and the guards, but the reaction of my family was the exact opposite. Brad actually gasped, the look on Dad's face made my stomach churn, and Mom stood up from the couch. Jack was sitting straighter now, the mischievous glint of his emerald eyes switching to a surprised one. He had to blink a couple of times to make sure I had actually agreed to marry him, and once that was finished, he looked triumphant. That was, until he registered my smirk.
"What are you thinking?" Mom demanded, obviously not giving a damn that she was close to screaming.
I flinched. "Mom, it's - "
"Izzy," Dad interrupted. He was trying to be calm, I could tell. "Are you sure about this?"
Out of all the things that had surprised me today, what Dad said was the one that took me off-guard. I was expecting him to scold or ground me, but he also chose to say this out of the many things he had the right to say as my father. Mom turned to him incredulously and was about to object, when Brad gripped her shoulder tightly.
"Mom," he muttered softly.
Mom took a deep breath and waited.
"Jack said his country needs my help," I said as sincerely as I could. The smirk on my face was long gone and was now replaced with solemnity. The aforementioned stared at me with narrowed eyes. "I don't think I should be risking billions of people's lives just because I'd say no."
"Wise decision," I heard the man whisper.
There was a long silence. It was deafening and straining, and quite frankly it was the type of silence I would rather have than be reminded by my parents, brother, and - maybe - my grandfather about how stupid my decision was. But there was also a part of me that did care about the people of Jack's motherland. Though I was completely sure he'd make a horrible ruler, I could prevent that if I became his wife.
Okay, that was frightening. The word 'Jack' and 'wife' should never be put together in the same sentence or paragraph or - heck - page.
Mom sighed. "I knew it."
I blinked. "Pardon?"
"Like your grandfather, I suspected this would happen," she said ruefully. "Why else would some stranger ask for your details every year since you were born? Well, other than the fact to have you registered as a citizen of Baldasarre - "
"Wait, what?" My eyes widened.
Surprisingly, the woman cleared her throat. We all flipped our heads to her direction. "Ms. Isabelle, you were born in Baldasarre."
Mother of sweet things.
Jack choked. "She's what?"
"Izzy became a candidate to be your wife, Your Highness," Grandpa filled in. "Not only because I had worked there for many years, but because she is a citizen of the country. If there is such thing as Fil-Am, then there is most absolutely such thing as Baldasarrian-American."
Mother of Embassies.
I have been living a life filled with lies! And here I was, thinking I was born in New York City, when in fact I was actually born somewhere in Europe! Europe. Europe. I've always wanted to go to Europe. Oh, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, not to mention the Colosseum! Wait, that obviously means I had already been to Europe. Well, duh, I was born there. Ha, wait till I tell this to Drina! She'll be so jealous!
"She's having that blissful look again," Brad blurted out. "She's going crazy."
"I am not!" I giggled. Giggled. Such a funny word.
Mom placed her hand on my shoulder. "Honey, maybe you should take some time and rest. All of this must be troubling you. Watch TV, listen to jazz, meditate - " I swear from the corner of my very beautiful chocolate brown eyes I saw the man and woman and Jack and those funny bodyguards look at me, puzzled. " - just rest. I am now giving you the chance to walk out on us like in those shows we used to watch every Friday night. Let us grown ups talk about this."
I nodded, an innocent smile plastered on my face. "Sure." I glanced at the strikingly handsome prince - you know, the one with the blonde hair and shiny-like-stars emerald eyes? Yeah, I looked at him and announced quite loudly, "I am still marrying Jack!"
I didn't know how or when it happened, but the news of my engagement with Jack leaked all over the world. No joke. It had been on the news for a full week, as if technology were rubbing it in my face while I sat in the living room, glaring. Sure, I had said that I was going to marry His Royal Highness (I still hated him) on that destined day, but I was clearly more pissed about the fact that the paps got the whole story wrong.
First of all, I was chosen to be his wife because I had relations with the stupid prince when it came to my noble background, not because I had actual relations with him and got a mini-Izzy.
Second, I agreed because I was going to make Jack's life into a living hell, not because I wanted to rule the damn world.
And lastly, I was not a karate black belt. Shit, that was the worst thing they could ever make up!
I rarely cursed, mind you.
"Mom, can you please go to school instead? Or can I not go? It's just Clean-Your-Locker-Day." I flipped the channel to another news program. Though I despised everything the reporters had said, it was still amusing to make fun of their huge mistakes.
"Which is precisely why you should go," she called out from the kitchen.
I grumbled. Hey, would you look at that! Another new photo of me on the news! Actually I kind of liked how I looked there, with my long dark hair in a ponytail and with a big trophy cradled in my arms. Scratch that, I loved this photo. I was pretty sure this was when I had won in the Nationals. Even if I had this big success, I had to admit that I didn't like competitions. I did judo for the sake of passion.
"Here," the reporter began. "Is another leaked photo of Isabelle Waters, the soon-to-be Crown Princess of Baldasarre, as she bags the title of Champion Female Contender of the Year for Karate - "
I switched off the television.
"Are you watching the news again?" Mom asked.
"You should go to school early if you want to not see your schoolmates."
I sighed and stood up. "Yeah."
Shutting close the front door, I reached for my bicycle and pulled up the hood of my shirt. As much as I hated bicycles, it couldn't be helped. Last night, on a certain channel, they interviewed my neighbor, Mrs. Dean, and she just had to tell everyone that I rode with Brad everyday in his Chevy. The damn woman even told the color and style. You couldn't imagine Brad's fury.
I sat on my bike and began pedaling, slipping on my shades at the same time. On a brighter note (pun unintended), I was now a thousand times cooler than I already was.
It had actually surprised me how my parents allowed me to get married. Maybe they had made a condition to the man or maybe Jack spilled out what I had done to him, but either way, I wasn't going to find out given that as they had discussed it in the living room, I was cuddling my big polar bear as I slept. I know, that wasn't something a girl like me would do, but I swear I get all cuddly when I'm stressed.
By the time I reached school, the parking lot was already filled with a few cars. I bet these were the people who knew I'd be arriving earlier than usual. I entered school with my head ducked, eyes (or sunglasses, in my case) glued to the floor, when I felt someone watching me. And not just someone, but a lot. I swiveled my head immediately, only to see some students busy with their lockers. They hadn't even noticed me.
I shrugged then and continued walking. Since my last name was in the last part of the alphabet, my locker was somewhere near the back door of school. This was the precise moment when I had allowed myself to relax and be stupid, because what stood in front of me made my sister chromatids freeze.
It was Drina.
AKA Drina who starred as Roxane.
AKA Drina who had a huge crush on my now-fiancé.
AKA Drina - my best friend.
Mother of Girl Codes.
Nothing in the world could have made me continue my expedition to my locker. I was deeply stunned as to how I was, for the first time, intimidated by her. Several shivers went through my spine however hard I tried to keep still. She was a few inches shorter than me, but Drina's cold blue eyes stuck on mine and forced me to not duck my head. Her golden curls were enough to entice mortal men. My own best bud since kindergarten was radiating a dangerous aura - something I've never seen before.
I gulped. "Hey."
"You think you were ever going to tell me?" She glared.
"I'll take that as a 'hey' too," I murmured, side-stepping in order to get my things out of that damned metal box and just go home and do the usual routine of making fun of the reporters. Unfortunately, Drina was as quick as lightning; blocking my way and crossing her arms over her chests.
"I repeat," she said dangerously, "Were you ever planning to tell me? It's impossible for the paparazzi to find out almost quickly - "
"That's just it!" I flew my arms in frustration. I was sick and tired of explaining all over again; my aunts and uncles had practically screamed over the phone when the news was leaked. "You think I knew about this? Why do you think Jack was waiting for me on the last day of school? You don't suppose he was coming over for tea!"
"Tea? What is this, England? Pizza would be better!"
"Well, I think pasta is - "
Drina shook her head vehemently. "That's besides the point. The fact that you decided to avoid the billions of missed calls I made over the past week was all I needed to know that you weren't even thinking of telling me. Never mind the fact that I like Jack - well, okay, do mind because he's a hot piece - and don't even bother pleading to me. I despise you, Caterina - " Her eyes said otherwise, mind you. " - and I can't even believe how you could hate the codename I made for you back in the third grade! It's absolutely gorgeous!"
I looked at her in dismay. "That was because Anna's second name was Karenina, not Caterina!"
"Tolstoy should have known Caterina was better!"
"But it's not Russian!"
"IZZY," Drina screamed, "I don't care if it's Russian or not! My point is that you don't think for a second that the choices you make affect the people around you! I don't care if you marry Jack - I really don't - but I'm royally pissed at you for not considering what I would feel about this." Somehow her face looked stricken, tired. The glimmer in her ocean eyes were long gone. I seemed smaller, more vulnerable, tiny. Something heavy pressed against my chest, like being buried alive with lead and not soil.
Drina continued, "All you think about is yourself. But I won't rub it in anymore." Her voice turned into a whisper. She seemed to hesitate, and just as she was about to open her mouth to speak, something in her face shut close.
"Bodyguards. Of course, it's not like I would have expected you to tell me about this, too, Izzy. Oh, wait, I mean, Crown Princess," she said mockingly. I winced.
Sure enough, there was a clad of men in crisp black suits with headpieces around their heads. No wonder I had felt like I was being watched. But even if I felt so rotten and useless at the moment, as if I had no more energy for the day, something in me snapped. Drina's sinister tone rang in my ears, and I was so much inclined to slap her.
"You know what?" My voice rose. "It may be a joke to you that Isabelle Waters is going to be royalty, but you have no right to make fun of people who are just doing their jobs. I have no idea how these Men in Black arrived, for your information, smart-ass. I'm pretty sure they don't want to be here right now yet they still have to because they need to. It's the same for me. Baldasarre needs someone better than Jack and as cliché as this will sound, it's my duty." I pushed my sunglasses aside and pulled down the hood of my sweater. "Mock me all you want. I'm not changing my mind."
A yawn. "Are you done yet?"
I felt like I had been slapped in the face. All hell was about to break loose, but Drina looked just as shocked - Jack Devereaux stood behind me, hands inside his pockets and with a bored expression on his face. His dirty blonde hair fell above his eyebrows whereas the back of his hair stood up and twisted and actually curled. His eyes looked darker - olive green - or maybe I was just blinded by my immense irritation.
Jack adjusted his black polo. "Sorry to interrupt this emotional dispute, however, I need to remind you that our trip is tomorrow instead of three days later."
Drina shot a glare in my direction, but I ignored her. "What? That's too early! I haven't even packed yet!"
"Then start doing so," Jack said matter-of-factly.
"No," I said simply. "You go ahead. I'll follow."
He looked irritated. "It doesn't work that way."
"Oh? Excited to see mommy that much?"
Jack's face darkened to an almost purple hue. Inwardly, I felt a little bad, but then it was covered with a humorless smile. Would you look at that? I made two enemies today!
"Our ride to Baldasarre was cancelled because of an incoming storm," Jack said acridly. He squinted his eyes and stared at me, coming closer until his tall shadow loomed above my head. "We need to be there before the festival. Usually my father would preside over the event, but since he is unable to do so, I will be substituting for him."
Jack's face was inches from mine, his warm breath grazing my cheeks. He smelled of spearmint and something fresh. Green eyes glared at me with such intensity and I turned upwards to meet his. Fortunately, I didn't need to do anything to contribute to the staring contest. Already I was filled with a burning anger for the douchebag that I knew could be plainly seen in the expression I wore on my face. I felt like I needed to pull him from his feet and toss him somewhere in Shetlands. Classy.
"I'm leaving. More chores to do," Drina muttered. "But it's not like you guys have to know what I'm supposed to be doing."
The sound of Drina's voice jolted me into reality. In a flash Jack and I tore apart. I then glanced at Jack with disgust - which he returned amicably - and sneered at him.
"Have a safe trip," Drina interrupted again. She looked unsure. "I'll try to see you off?"
My best friend sucked at apologizing, always had. "Sure." I cracked into a smile. All the life returned to Drina, and she grinned before turning around and gazing at His Royal Ass (the face), then winked at me just as she headed outside.
"You've never had a problem when it comes to things like these." Brad crossed his arms.
My closet was a replica of a human body chewed and ripped to pieces by carnivorous animals. The remains laid sprawled on my bed, the drawers pulled open, and even my blankets served as the internal blood. Mom and Dad said I'd be there for the whole summer. Whole summer! Obviously I needed to bring all of my clothes. On the other hand, though, maybe the butlers and maids and the Queen herself had already provided for my clothes...
"What do beautiful soon-to-be-princesses wear?" I frowned.
"Their dignity." My brother shrugged.
I threw a pillow at his direction.
"Seriously!" Brad caught the pillow and tossed it into the air, as if playing basketball. It hit the ceiling of my room - the glass part, because my humble abode was designed uniquely, where the other half of my roof was cement while the other glass, as my room was supposed to be an attic; plus the walls were an excellent chartreuse color, not to mention the fact that they blended perfectly well with the teal pillows and bedsheets - and landed on the other stacks of pillows.
"It's like, girls become so conscious and mature when they reach 'the climax of their lives' that is the wondrous marriage." He crinkled his nose. "And I can't believe you're getting married before me."
I gagged. "It's not like I'm in love. Like, ew."
Brad changed the subject. "Besides, what you're wearing is decent enough." His gray eyes scrutinized my orange dress and wedges, and then at my hair, which was pinned up on the sides again. "I mean, I dunno. I'm a guy."
There was a knock on the door. Mom's head emerged; her red hair was in a clean low ponytail and she had this warm smile on her face. She didn't look like she had been crying. That was the good thing about my mother - she was a fighter.
"Are you done packing? Your dad's going to load your luggage in the van now," she said.
I looked at my jumbled trolley. Tossed my makeup bag inside. Brad gasped.
"I AM A WOMAN." I threw yet another pillow, which smacked into his face this time.
"Izzy." Mom sighed, but she looked like she was on the verge of laughing. She entered my room and zipped the luggage, raising her eyebrows at my brother expectantly. He looked at her blankly. "Bradley," she said with exasperation, "Be a man and bring this to the car. Oh, and don't bother asking about your father."
Brad and I stared at her questioningly.
"You might want to see for yourselves," was all she said.
And once Mom said that, we exchanged competitive glances, which was short-lived because we raced outside my room, pushed each other in the hallways - it was very much a challenge to run in heels, mind you - and tumbled down the carpeted stairs. Brad blocked my way with his muscular body, and it was hard not to feel inclined to grapple him, but since I was smaller compared to him, I was able to slip on a tiny, uncovered space; and then placed my foot in front of him to trip.
"No judo in the house!" he yelled
"Ladies first." I grinned triumphantly and fled outside the front door.
Dad was leaning on our sleek van, cradling something - I couldn't decipher it since I was quite far from him - though the minute I was within his vicinity, I noticed something the color of pastel pink. It had pointed ears as well as a shining horn, but what shocked me the most was how familiar it was. A mane of glittering hair fell splendidly over its neck. I recognized immediately the purple plastic plaque with the word, 'RONNIE', inscribed on it.
"What is Ronnie the Magical Unicorn doing here?" I gasped.
The moment I spoke was the exact moment Dad jumped from his position and stood coolly. He pulled Ronnie the Magical Unicorn from his arms and narrowed his eyes as if deciding whether he should continue with his sneaky affair. "I strongly suggest you bring her - "
" - with you to Baldasarre." Dad handed the stuffed toy to me with surprising gentleness. "Ronnie will get lonely. I mean, you never let go of the creepy creature when you were five-years-old."
I laughed. "You can hug me, daddy."
And just like that my father tackled me into a hug. Under normal circumstances I would have choked because of his heavy weight, but since nothing had been normal these days, even the familiar pains seemed reassuring to me.
Maybe I didn't care about knowing how long it took to get to Baldasarre or how we were going to get there. Seriously. It never even crossed my mind that I was finally going to Europe - consciously. But at the sight of the boat that was our transportation, I could do nothing but gape.
Sweet Sherlock, it was gorgeous.
The SS Calypso was tall enough to remind me of the Titanic. There were many floors, as seen by the number of decks, but what had me drool and drop Ronnie the Magical Unicorn was the fact that there were a lot of socialites and celebrities (One Direction! If only Drina had stayed longer!) aboard my fancy cruise. Ha, whatever. Jack felt nonexistent to me as of the moment.
"I already feel filthy rich." My eyes were bulging out of its sockets. I caught my parents' reprimanding look. "I can't help it!"
Brad sighed. "You know, I'll miss you, you conceited little girl."
Mom hugged me tightly. I thought we were going to pull away, but her grip was like iron. Grandpa had to pull the woman from me. Dad followed suit, as well as Brad, who tried very hard to sound emotionless. The bodyguards whom I saw yesterday were surrounding me once again, while a larger group of them led Jack the Jerk towards the boat. Dammit I hated him so much if predestination were already proven, I was positive he wouldn't be heading towards salvation.
Plus, I was pissed at the fact that I couldn't even properly admire the scenery anymore. I was being squished by thousands of people and paparazzi who were shoving their microphones on my lips. The next thing I knew I was following Jack as he entered the grand set of doors, but before I could lay a finger inside, I ducked away and ran towards the deck.
"SEE YOU, GUYS!" I grinned at my family. They waved back with affection, and then suddenly the cameramen began snapping shots and writing things on their notepads, eyes glinting as if they had found a cure for cancer.
I could already imagine how the picture would look like - a girl smiling towards the audience; but the camera wouldn't catch the family she was waving to, just the wide grin that looked as if she were about to accomplish something. Maybe if they looked closer, they could also see half of the face of the young man with a secretive smirk, his green eyes sparkling in rhythm to his mood.