Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Palace Envy, Chapter 6

 Prince Edward


I figure out which one is the indigo room because it’s where Nigel has dumped my bag. Also, the walls are vaguely purple. Or indigo, whatever that is. I suspect I’m mildly colorblind, but let’s face it, that’s the least of my problems.

King. My mother wants me to be king. Holy hell.

It’s out of the question. Twenty-five years ago, my mother kicked me out of the palace, and even though I spent a lot of time resenting her for it, she was right about one thing: I don’t belong here. The king and queen of Norland are essentially political figureheads. Their job is to be loved.

I have more important things to do with my life. I run a business. I’m not going to make my life’s work standing in front of the palace and blowing kisses while everyone cheers for me. I don’t want a bunch of servants waiting on me hand and foot. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I lived my life that way.

Not that I could do it if I wanted. Arthur was the sort of prince everybody adored. I’m not. Nobody is going to get excited about a king who can’t even walk—I’m just being honest with myself.

I’ll go to the funeral like I said I would. And then I’m going home.

I wish I brought my Dodge. If Hannah hadn’t shown up in that goddamn sundress, I would have it right now. That girl scrambled my brain. You would think I would know better by now.

I think back to my conversation with Hannah in the limo. I can’t help but feel a surge of resentment. She knew why she was bringing me back to the palace. She knew my mother’s plans for me. And she did not say one word. She’s even worse than Kate.

No, I take it back. Nobody is worse than Kate.

My crutches are on my lap, and I toss them on the bed and take inventory of the bedroom. I can’t say it’s not a nice room. It’s probably bigger than my entire house. The sheer amount of space in this palace always amazes me. I remember when I was a kid, I wanted more than anything to run along the hallways the way Arthur did.

Let’s race, Arthur would say.

And I would say yes. Because I wanted so badly to be like him and be able to run without falling. It was less of a race than a game for Arthur. He would give me a head start of half the length of the hallway. Or maybe he would walk backward. But no matter what advantage he gave me, he would always win. And then he would rub it in even worse. I was walking on my tiptoes and I still beat you!

I look over at my crutches. Even if Arthur were still alive, I wouldn’t be able to race him on my feet—it would be a joke. The only way I could win would be in a tortoise and hare situation where halfway through he lay down on the floor and took an hour-long nap. Although in my wheelchair, I might have a chance. Maybe.

Of course, I’ll never race Arthur again. My brother is gone.

Jesus Christ. I can’t believe Arthur is dead.


I look up. It’s Mara. She’s standing at the doorway to the indigo room, her eyes bloodshot, her face puffy. And now I get the hug I’ve been expecting since I got here. She clings to me and I can tell from the damp sensation on my neck that she’s crying again.

“I can’t believe it,” she murmurs as she pulls away. “How could he be gone?”

Sometimes I forget that Mara grew up with Arthur. She wasn’t sent away like I was, interacting with our brother only on major holidays. She cares about him in a way that I can’t seem to muster.

Even though he was awful to her too. Last Christmas, he made a joke about how she must still be a virgin. Right in front of everyone. I wanted to punch him in the nose, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Plus, even though I try to do weights to keep my upper body in as good shape as I can, my brother looked like he put in daily gym workouts. I had no delusion that in a fight, he would massacre me.

Still, it would have been worth it to get in one good punch. He deserved it and nobody would ever do it but me. One of the tragedies of Arthur’s death is I never got to punch him in the nose.

“When is the funeral?” I ask.

“It will be Saturday.” She wipes her eyes with the back of her hand and rubs her nose, which is big and red. “It’s at the church of Norland. Half the kingdom will probably be there.”

I’m sure they will. Everybody loved Arthur. Hannah probably worshipped the ground he walked on. Everybody thought he was the greatest man in the entire kingdom.

Everybody except me.

“Mara.” I chew on my lower lip. “I just want you to know that I came here to support the family and for the funeral, but I’m not staying. I’m going back home at the end of the week.”

Mara blinks at me. “Going back? Eddie, what are you talking about? Arthur is dead. You’re the next in line to be king.”

I wince. “You know about that too…”

Everybody knows. How did you not know? What did you think was going to happen?”

“I guess…” I lower my eyes. “I don’t know. I thought you would be next in line.”

“Me?” Mara laughs. “Oh no. I’m not even married, Eddie. I can’t produce any children at this point.”

“What are you talking about? You can still have kids. You’re only forty.”

Her lips form a straight line. “Right. The queen of Norland will be a single mother. I’m sure that will go over well.”

“Well, why the hell not? Why does the royal family have to be so goddamn perfect?”

Despite her grief, Mara punches her fists into her hips. “You don’t get it. You don’t understand tradition or how important it is. You don’t understand the expectations of the people in the kingdom.”

I snort. “Maybe I would if Mother hadn’t kicked me out of the palace when I was five years old.”

Her eyes soften. “She regrets that, Eddie.”


“It’s true. She worries about you, you know.”

“You would never know it on my end.”

“She does! She asks me about you all the time.”

I wish I could believe that. I really do. I love Uncle Walt and Aunt Grace more than anything, but my mother is my mother. After I left the palace, for almost a year, I cried for her every night—quietly, after everyone was asleep. I’m sure being abandoned by my own mother did a number on me. And what’s crazy is that even after all this time, I still want to believe she cares about me.

Except I don’t. All she wants is for me to be a replacement for Arthur. The son she really loved.

“Maybe Father could continue being the king,” I suggest. “He’s only seventy-four. He’s got plenty of good years left in him.”

Mara shakes her head. “I don’t know if you noticed this last time you were here, but Father isn’t doing well.”

I had noticed. At our Christmas dinner last year, it seemed like Father was repeating things he had already said. Most disturbingly, a couple of hours after we gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents, he asked my mother when we were going to open the presents. “He’s a little forgetful…”

“He has Alzheimer’s, Eddie.” The creases on her face deepen. Sometimes my sister looks my age, but right now, she looks twenty years older. “He’s getting worse. Much worse. Haven’t you noticed he never talks in public anymore?”

I hadn’t. I generally avoid any news that involves the royal family. But it did strike me as strange that our mother was the one who gave the statement to the press about Arthur’s death. “Has he seen a doctor?”

“Of course he has! He’s seen a dozen doctors and even some crazy natural healer who had him drinking these disgusting green smoothies.” She blinks away fresh tears. “He’s declining fast though. Sometimes he doesn’t even know my name. Like he looks at me and can’t figure out who I am or why I’m here.”

I felt that way even before he got sick.

Mara reaches out and grabs my hand. “You’ve got to come back. We need you here. Without you, there’s no royal family anymore.”

I bite my tongue to keep from saying what I want to say, which is that if they’re counting on me to save the royal family, they’re shit out of luck.






It’s my job to save the royal family.

No pressure or anything.

I was supposed to have most of the day off, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. That’s fine though. This is an emergency! It’s like wartime. The royal family needs me, and I’m here to do whatever I can. And if the only way to save the day is by setting the table for the seventh day in a row, that’s fine. That’s what I’m going to do.

As I’m arranging the four place settings on the table, I glance up again at the portrait on the wall. The king, the queen, Princess Marabelle, and Prince Arthur. I always liked the portrait, but now it strikes me as odd that Prince Edward was left out of it. It made sense when I thought he was dead. But why would they have a family portrait and leave out one of their two sons?

Iris comes out to inspect my handiwork. Immediately, she gets that critical expression on her face. I don’t understand why she can’t give it a rest, for just one day. I mean, the prince died last night. I don’t think the queen is going to care that the salad fork is an extra millimeter away from the dinner fork. I’ll be shocked if she can eat at all.

“This is completely wrong.” She folds her arms across her chest. “You need to redo all the place settings.”

“What are you talking about?” I burst out. “They’re perfect. And it’s not like anyone is going to care today…”

“They always care,” Iris says in that know-it-all voice of hers. “And it’s the least you can do to make the dinner table perfect after what you did to Arthur…”

I take a step back, my heart pounding. She’s acting like I killed him, for God’s sake. That is so unfair—I don’t know if I could have stopped him from getting in that car accident. I open my mouth to protest, but I’m stopped by the sound of someone calling out my name.


Queen Amelia’s voice rings out through the hallway. I hear her heels clicking loudly against the floor with each step. I look wildly at Iris, willing her to keep her mouth shut. I don’t think the queen heard our interaction, but if Iris keeps making little snarky comments like that, it’s just a matter of time.

“What can I do for you, Your Majesty?” I say when she gets within earshot.

“Please let Prince Edward know that dinner will be served shortly,” she says. “Make sure that he joins us.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

Iris blinks, astonished by this request. She’s been here a decade to my three months, and she considers herself the authority on just about everything. “Your Majesty,” she says. “Hannah will need to redo all the place settings, which were done incorrectly. I would be happy to speak with Prince Edward in her place.”

Queen Amelia’s eyes flit down to the table, then back up at the two of us. “For God’s sake, the place settings are fine, Isabelle. My son is dead. Have a little perspective please.”

The red in Iris’s neck is creeping into her cheeks. She’s not used to being contradicted, even by the queen. Also, I’m certain she noticed the queen called her by the wrong name. And she got my name right this time.

“Also…” Queen Amelia looks down at the black uniform that I put back on for the dinner service and her nose crinkles. “Hannah, I’ve had a few new dresses ordered for you. I’d like you to wear them from now on. I had them placed in your room.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

Iris’s mouth is hanging open, but I can’t bother about her right now. I’ve got to get to the indigo room. I debate if I should go back to my room first to change into one of the dresses, but it’s almost time for dinner. I should go talk to Prince Edward first.

I have a job to do, after all.

When I knock on the door, Edward calls for me to come in. He’s sitting on his bed, a stack of papers resting on his legs, chewing on the tip of a pen. The prince of Norland is chewing on his pen. It makes me feel a little better about how I always do that. “Yes?” he says.

“Dinner is served in ten minutes, Your Royal Highness.”

He nods distractedly, his hand on the cordless phone by his bed. “I’ve got an order that’s messed up. I have to deal with this. Any chance I could get my dinner in here?”

“The queen asked that you join them at the dinner table.”

One side of his lips quirks up, and I can’t help but think how he is so much cuter than his brother. But that is a very unproductive thought—it has nothing to do with my main mission here. “So basically,” he says, “I have to do whatever she says.”

I can’t fail the queen. I have to get him to the dinner table. “Given what she has been through today,” I say stiffly, “I think it would be nice if you did what she asked.”

“Really? She seems fine to me.”

“Her son is dead. You really think she’s fine?”

Any trace of a smile drops off his lips. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll… I’ll come out.”

I curtsy. “Thank you, Your Royal Highness.”

He slides the laptop onto the bed. “On two conditions.”

I suck in a breath. Of course. I knew he wasn’t going to make this easy for me. “Yes?”

“No more curtsying. It’s ridiculous.”

“It’s customary and respectful to—”

“I don’t care what’s customary or respectful,” he says. “If you actually respect me, you’ll honor my wishes and stop doing it.”

I grit my teeth. “Fine. What else?”

“Please don’t call me Your Royal Highness ever again.” He cringes. “I hate it. I really hate it.”

“That is the way I am required to address you.” I tap my foot impatiently. “It would be inappropriate for me to call you…”


“Right. That’s inappropriate.”

“Okay.” He picks up the phone and starts dialing a number. “Then I’m not coming to dinner.”

My mouth falls open but I’m not sure what to say. I can’t return to the dining table without the prince! I can’t bear the look of disappointment on the queen’s face. She’s been my hero since I was ten years old, and the royal family saved me from a life of destitution. The queen is my hero. I have to make this happen.

“Fine,” I say. “Eddie.”

The smile returns to his lips as he puts the phone back on the receiver. “That’s better… Hannah.”

I nod. “Do you need any help getting to the dining room?”

“I absolutely don’t.” He shoots me a look. “I live by myself, Hannah. I run three restaurants. I don’t need help.”

“I understand, Your Royal…”

He raises his eyebrows. “Excuse me?”

“I said I understand,” I mumble.

“Oh good. I thought you were going to call me Your Royal Highness again, even though I specifically asked you not to.”

The wheelchair I pushed into the house is next to his bed. He climbs into it, obviously not interested in bothering with the crutches right now. As he uses his hands to adjust his legs slightly, not for the first time, I wonder what put him in that chair. What happened to him that spared his twin brother?

“I have spinal muscular atrophy,” he tells me.

“Oh,” I murmur. “You don’t have to…”

“I’d rather tell you myself so you don’t have to gossip with the other staff.” He adjusts himself in the chair. “It’s a form of muscular dystrophy. It’s pretty rare, but that’s what happens when your parents are distant cousins. Arthur and I weren’t identical twins, so he didn’t get the two genes. It affects my legs much more than my arms.”

“I’m sorry…”

He shrugs. “Nothing to be sorry for. It’s something I’ve lived with my whole life. I don’t even really think about it much. It’s not that big a deal, honestly.”

“Isn’t there any medical treatment for it?”

“Yeah, a wheelchair.” He grabs the push rim of his right wheel. “My mother dragged me to doctors for a few years, but there isn’t much to do about it. You just deal with it. Or else, you know, send your kid far away so that nobody has to look at him.”

I wince. Edward might be adjusted to being disabled, but he is not over what his parents did to him as a child, at least not while he’s here. He still resents them. And by proxy, he resents the entire royal family. And I’m not sure how to change his mind. Or if I can. But I have to do my best to paint them in the best light.

“I’m sure Queen Amelia did what she felt was best for you,” I say. “She probably thought it would be hard for you growing up in the public eye.”

He laughs. “Yes, I’m sure that’s what she was thinking.”

“Well, it is hard. Being the king and queen is a sacrifice. They’ve given their lives to public service, to helping worthy causes and improving morale.”

“Hmm. That’s debatable.”

“There is no public figure in the entire country more beloved than your mother.” I square my shoulders. “When she speaks, everybody listens. You don’t think that’s worth respecting?”

He narrows his eyes. “I don’t think it’s worth respecting somebody who would send their five-year-old son away because he can’t walk.”

This isn’t working as well as I planned. He has spent the last twenty-five years resenting his parents, and I’m not sure if I can change it in a week. I squeeze my hands together, trying to decide if I should abort. Quit while I’m ahead. Even though I suppose I’m not technically ahead at all. “Maybe it’s not what you think,” I finally say.

Prince Edward sits there in his chair for a moment, as if mulling over my words. “Okay, you know what I really think?” He leans closer to me, his hazel eyes meeting mine. “I think my mother told you to make nice to me to get me to agree to this charade. I think she thinks I’ll listen to you because you’re beautiful and she thinks I’m a pushover. That’s what I think.”

When I open my mouth, nothing comes out but an embarrassing little squeak. My face grows hot, and I’m not sure if it’s because he called me out on what I was trying to do… or if it’s because the prince called me beautiful.

“And you know what else I think?” he adds. “I think that no matter what you do or say to me, by the end of this week, I’m going to be headed back home. And my mother can figure out what to do about the next heir. Because it sure as hell is not going to be me.”

With those words, he wheels past me out of the bedroom. He doesn’t slam the door behind him, but I get the general idea. It’s an implied slam.

Oh God, that didn’t go well at all. I got him out of the bedroom, but I’m not making any headway with the real goal. Norland needs a king. And despite what he thinks, Prince Edward would make a good king. The kingdom would love him if only he would let them.

I’ve got to find a way to convince him.




Prince Edward


I know my mother’s tricks pretty damn well.

She sent Hannah to my house to make sure I would get in the limo and wouldn’t have access to my car. And now she has assigned Hannah to me to try to convince me to take my brother’s place. Does she think I’m stupid? Does she think I wouldn’t realize exactly what she was doing?

I have to admit though, Hannah is ridiculously perfect for the job. First of all, she’s beautiful. But in a sweet, approachable sort of way that my mother has somehow figured out I have a very hard time resisting. And second, Hannah believes in the monarchy like nobody’s business. She’s the most dedicated person I’ve ever met.

Too bad she has no chance of convincing me.

By the time I wheel out to the dining table, the rest of my family is already seated at the table and the food is out. My mother has a rule that nobody eats until everybody has their food so that we start together, but it doesn’t seem like anybody cares much about the rules today. Mara still looks wrecked, her pale skin blotchy and her hair disheveled. My mother looks more put together, but she’s just staring at her plate. My father, on the other hand, looks completely unperturbed, which is disturbing in itself.

There’s a chair in front of my place setting. Which makes it a little hard for me to sit there. At other times, I might’ve made a comment, but today I just push it aside and take my place at the table.

There’s some sort of stew with mashed potatoes on my plate, but I don’t have much of an appetite. My eyes stray up from my food to the portrait on the wall. From the moment I first saw that thing two years ago, I wanted to throw food at it. How could they make a family portrait and leave me out of it?

“Thank you for joining us, Edward,” Mother says quietly.

My father looks up at me. He is seventy-four years old, but he looks ten years older than that. His hair is completely white and is now sticking straight up. He looks less like a king than a confused old man.

While I’ve grown distant from my family in the last twenty-five years, I’ve never known my father. When I was a little kid, he always seemed like this big scary man with immense, unlimited power. He barely spoke to me at all. Not that he spoke much to Arthur either, but if he did decide to bestow some attention onto his sons, it was always directed at Arthur. Whereas when he looked at me, it was always with an expression of barely contained disgust.

Sort of like the way he’s looking at me now.

“Why is there a crippled boy at our table, Amelia?” he asks.

“Frederick.” My mother gives him a sharp look. “That’s Edward. Your son.”

“No…” There’s a glob of mashed potatoes in the corner of his mouth. “My son is Arthur. Not Edward.”

“Edward is your son also,” she says patiently. “The boys are twins. Remember?”

“No…” Father crinkles his brow. “That can’t be right.”

“Maybe he would remember me if you had included me in the family portrait?” I say. I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself.

Mara lifts her eyes from her food and gives me a warning look. She’s right, but it’s too late now. I already said it.

“You don’t live here,” my mother points out. “It would not have been convenient for you to pose with us for that portrait.”

“You didn’t even ask me…”

“I assumed you would say no.”

I have to bite my tongue to keep from calling bullshit. No, I wouldn’t have sat for the portrait. But only because she didn’t want me in it. The whole family wanted to pretend I didn’t exist, until now, when they suddenly need me. Well, it’s too damn late.

Mother clears her throat. “I have a wonderful idea. Why don’t we go around the table and talk about Arthur? We can share our favorite memory about him or something we loved about him.”

That doesn’t sound like a wonderful idea. It sounds like a terrible idea, mostly because I have nothing good to say about my brother. But my mother is already plowing forward with it:

“I loved Arthur’s confidence,” she says. “He always believed in himself, and that made other people believe in him. I remember when he was playing in Little League when he was in fourth grade, he said to me one day, ‘Mother, I’m going to hit a homerun.’ And he did. It was like he made it happen with his confidence.”

She smiles at the memory. Of course, her memory of Arthur would involve a sporting event—something I could never participate in.

“Marabelle?” Mother says. “How about you?”

Mara drags her fork listlessly across her plate. When she finally looks up, her eyes are shiny. “I loved how much Arthur loved life. He was always so happy and he always seemed to be having so much fun. I admired that about him.”

Mother nods in approval. “Thank you, Marabelle. Frederick, would you like to go next?”

My father grunts. “Huh?”

This seems like a bad idea. My father only seems vaguely aware that Arthur is his son, much less that he died last night. I don’t know why we need to make him dredge up some memory of Arthur. But my mother seems determined.

“Frederick,” Mother says. “Your son, Arthur. Tell us something about him.”

Father nods, finally getting it. “Yes. I had a son. We were waiting a long time. All we had was one useless daughter. And then my lovely Amelia finally gave me two little princes. Then one turned out to be defective, so we got rid of him, but the other was just fine.”

“Frederick!” my mother cries.

Mara and my mother look horrified, but it seems like my father summed it all up pretty well. Too bad for them that life threw a curveball.

“Edward, he didn’t mean that,” Mother murmurs. She doesn’t even bother to apologize to Mara for the fact that he called her useless. I suppose Mara is used to it by now.

“It’s fine,” I say.

“We were just trying to do what was best for you…”

Bullshit bullshit bullshit… “I said it’s fine.”

Mother picks up her napkin and crumbles it in her hand. “Edward, would you like to say a few words about Arthur?”

“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” Mara says, wisely.

I don’t want to talk about my brother. I’ve been biting my tongue this entire meal, and I’m not sure how much longer I can do it.

“I think you should,” Mother says. “After all, Edward and Arthur were twins. For nine months, they only had each other. There’s no closer bond.”

Mara is shaking her head because she’s apparently the only other person at the table with any common sense. But it’s too late.

“A memory about my brother,” I muse. “Okay, I’ve got one.”

“Eddie,” Mara murmurs under her breath. If this table weren’t so wide, she’d be kicking me right now.

“So this one is from just this last Christmas.” I rub my thighs as it comes back to me, just like it was yesterday—Arthur sitting next to me on the couch, his thick cologne tickling my nose, that smirk he always wore was playing on his lips. “He was talking about how when father turned seventy-five, he would be the king. He had this whole plan about being the greatest king in the history of Norland. I mean, that was the whole plan—being the greatest king.”

My mother’s eyes are shining. “Yes, he might have been.”

I avoid Mara’s eyes because I know what she’s thinking. And I don’t care. “And then you know what he said to me?” I pause for dramatic effect. “He said, ‘Lucky thing there are two of us. Because you never could have done it, Eddie. It would’ve been a disaster.’” I look straight at my mother. “And he had it completely right.”

Her face crumbles. It’s enough to make me feel a jab of guilt until I look up at the portrait on the wall. That erases my guilt.

“Arthur was wrong about a lot of things.” Mother’s voice trembles. “He was wrong to get behind the wheel when he had so much to drink. And he was wrong about you, Edward. You will make a great king. Better than he ever could have been.”

“Uh-huh,” I mutter.

“It’s your destiny.” She nods as if confirming it to herself. “And it’s what Arthur would have wanted.”

I stare at her. “What Arthur would have wanted? Are you serious? All Arthur wanted was to be the king himself. He didn’t care about me. Not even a little bit.”

“That’s not true. You didn’t know him…”

“I didn’t have much of a chance to get to know him, did I?”

“Edward, Mother…” Mara’s voice is sharp. “You both need to stop this. We’re all upset over Arthur. We don’t need to make any plans right now.”

“But that’s not true, Marabelle.” The tremor has disappeared from my mother’s voice. “The kingdom is expecting us to name a new successor to the throne now that Arthur is no longer with us. We need to assure them that even though the prince is gone, they will still have a king.”

I glare at her. “That’s fine. But it won’t be me.”

Her eyelashes flutter. “That’s very selfish, Edward. The kingdom needs you. How could you let them down?”

I thought I could get through this dinner, but I can’t. How could my mother expect me to be the king and live here when I can’t even get through one meal? I grab my plate off the table and drop it onto my lap. Then I put my hands on the push rims of my chair.

“I’m going to my bedroom,” I say. “We can talk about the funeral arrangements tomorrow. But I’m not going to fight with you anymore.”

To her credit, my mother doesn’t try to stop me from leaving the room.

To be continued... 


  1. Thank you for the update! Can't wait for the next Monday to read the whole story. You've made me fall in love with it again - like it has happened with any otherbook you've written!

  2. This is so good! I can't wait for the whole book. It's amazing how real and relatable all the characters are, even in the made-up setting.

  3. So good. Can’t wait til the book is out. Rolling all the various scenarios that can happen at the end. You always make your characters so real & relatable

  4. Rolling around *

  5. Aww I feel so much for Edward. His wretched family be GONE. I'm just hoping for a coup d'etat led by the proletariat so he can go back to his house in the beach and make pretty, cool un-royal babies with Hannah. Can't wait for the book!!!