Crazy Fantasy: Part 1-1

Surrounded by a crowd of a hundred people, I look at the plane and sigh dejectedly. I would much rather be back at the Hudson's working on Scott's charity. Not that there is much left to do, but it's the principle of the thing. Instead, I'm here with Jessica and Krissy to meet the prince. What a joke. There are so many people here I doubt we'll even get a decent view of him. But they insisted.

"You have to move on," Jess had said.

"Come and have some fun," Krissy pleaded.

I agreed. Well, after they threatened to tell Scott's parents that I wouldn't take any time for myself, besides to sit and relish in self pity. Since his death, Mary and Jim have been incredibly good to me, the girlfriend of their only child.

Last fall Scott and I had been out riding in the woods around his family home when his horse spooked and reared. Scott was thrown and hit his head on a rock. We took him off the machine a few days later. Scott and I had been dating for three years when the accident took him from me. Over the summer, we had begun working on a charity for under-privileged children. Lots of the local families couldn't afford the camps we had gone to as children (though the ones I went to were far fewer and less impressive than those Scott attended) and when we said goodbye to our reading buddies at the community centre's after school program in June we started to work on a way for them to have a memorable summer the next year. How ironic that the very activity we had chosen – riding – would be the one to take him from me. I spent the next few months in anguish, barely functioning, until Mary and Jim threatened to turf his camp, as it was desperately requiring attention if it would be a success this summer. Now everything is ready, but I can't leave the project. It was Scott's, and now holds my fondest memories of him. If only he could see what his love has brought into being.

I'm brought out of my thoughts when Krissy nudges me in the side. I look at her confused and then notice that the prince is just down from us, shaking hands. I nod in understanding and let her move in front of me. I could really care less if I shake hands with him or not.

* * *

I could have sworn Granddad agreed that we would go straight to the car once we got off the plane. I wish he had. I'm too tired to really care about what these people think of my suit, I don't want any flowers, I'll just send them on to the hospital anyway, and what is so wonderful about a handshake, anyway? But I will smile and shake hands, take gifts and make small talk. That is what is expected of royalty after all, isn't it?

Looking into the crowd around me I see a set of eyes that mirror the emotions I feel. The young woman obviously doesn't want to be here, but, by the way the girl standing next to her nudged her, her friends certainly do. Her eyes are so sad. She looks like she is longing for something special. What could cause such a desperate look when surrounded by such joyful friends? The woman who nudged her certainly seems carefree, but she looks lost in this happy, excited crowd.

I have a strange urge to try and connect with her. Maybe I could help her heal. Not that I'm doing the greatest job on my own. I made it through the first year, at least. That is the hardest.

* * *

As the prince comes closer, Jess and Krissy become more excited. Wait, was it just me, or did we just make eye contact and a look of, I guess, familiarity pass over his face. Well, it has only been a year since his father died. He must still grieve that loss. There isn't that much time between his loss and my own.

What is he doing? He is standing just to my left and is getting something out of his pocket, I think. But he keeps shaking hands. There, the girls have their handshakes – now he's really lost me. He offers whatever he had pulled from his pocket and says "I would appreciate it," as I take the offered paper.

All I can do is nod numbly that I heard what he said. He moves to my right, shaking hands again. I watch him for a few seconds then look at what he gave me. It is an invitation to the Queen's Ball, the dinner and dance the city is holding in honor of her visit. I can't decide whether to laugh or faint. I have some close connections to elite Fredericton, Scott's parents are part of the old money crowd, and I know these invites are hard to come by. Tickets were going for a thousand a seat, and there weren't that many for sale after the invited elite replied. The girls' voices finally get my attention and I am forced to leave my quiet brooding.

"Gen, what did he give you?" Krissy demands at the same time Jess says "Let me see!"

"Will you two knock it off? It's nothing, really," I lie as I stuff it into my coat. "You got your handshake, can we go now? I'm freezing!"

"You're showing us once we're out of this rain," Jess says before turning to head to my car.

I venture a final glance at the prince and am surprised to catch him looking at me again. I try to smile and indicate acceptance of his invitation, but I know it's weak. I'm too out of practice at the cordial facial expressions used between men and women. I hope he understands.

* * *

I wish that I could have said more to the mysterious woman with sad eyes, and giving her the invitation has opened up a lot of risks. I have to keep moving down the line so I can get some sleep. Grandmother won't be please I gave it to a perfect stranger. I know it's very likely that she won't even be able to go. Her jacket looks pretty worn; I doubt she'd be able to afford a dress. Maybe she'll sell the ticket. I hope not. I want to see her again. Maybe we can help each other. Or maybe I'm mistaken and she's just fine.

I glance her way just in time to catch her eye again. There is a half smile on her lips that doesn't reach her eyes, though they seem a bit more inviting now than two minutes ago. Does she know what I just gave her? Will she come? Is that what she's trying to indicate? Or that she can't and she's apologizing? I wish I could speak to her. Hear her voice!

I hate crowds.

* * *

Scott had been an only child of a rich family, with parents that were only children. When he died, Mary and Jim were faced with the dilemma of what to do with their estate. 'Were' being the key word. On the day of the accident, Scott had an engagement ring in the pocket of his jacket. Under the condition that I take the family name and keep it, I become the Hudson's sole benefactor, as though we were already married. This leaves me with a large sum of money and an important role in the social community to take on. Me, the simple country girl.

Since Scott and I started dating, I have taken finishing lessons from a private tutor and am learning the ins and outs of "polite" society. I have one thing to say for most of those with money. The stereotype of them being stuck-up is so true. But it gets me my car and a penthouse suite by the university.

Today, however, I'm driving out to the country and my parents' home to spend some time with childhood friends. Jess and I are finished university for the summer and Krissy is graduating high school in June. Laura should be home in a week from school, and then we're off to teach at camp. I am blessed with some amazing friends that have been in my life longer than I can remember. We know each other inside and out. There are no secrets.

Sometimes, I wish that were the case! As soon as we are in my car and out of the rain Jess and Krissy insist I tell them what the prince gave me. Once I show them, I have to smile at the shocked looks on their faces.

"You're going, of course, aren't you?" Jess asks me enthusiastically.

"I suppose I have to. It would hardly be good manners otherwise. I did get an invitation from the prince. I hate propriety."

"Bull to propriety, why wouldn't you go? It's been eight months. Your charity is finished, we're leading it in a month, there is nothing holding you back but you. Even Scott's parents are moving on. You're going and you're going to enjoy yourself," Krissy tells me in her not so blunt way.

All I can do is sigh and look at the invitation. The Hudson's will be pleased that I'm going, though they will likely be shocked by the fact that I'm there on the prince's invitation. Hell, I'm shocked.

"But why would he invite me," I ask as I look down at my coat then up at my make-up-less face in the mirror. "I'm hardly one do much eye catching." What can I say, I look like hell.

"Don't try that one on us. You are damned sexy, and there are some guys who like a girl of mystery. And those sad eyes hold a lot," Jess tells me.

I smile. "You can be sweet sometimes. I suppose I could get a ride with the Hudson's."

"No way! You have your personal valet right here. The ball isn't for from the apartment, just call me when you want me to pick you up and I'll come get you. Assuming you plan on going stag, that is," Jess offers me.

"Under the prince's invite? I couldn't take anyone with me. Especially since the only man my heart goes to is gone. Besides, I have at least met just about everyone who will be going.

"Let's stop at the penthouse to pick a dress out to wear."

* * *

I should have expected this. Of course, they'd bite into me for it. I'm not allowed to do something as normal as invite a girl to go out with me.

"You don't know a thing about her! What if she goes to the press? Or someone who saw you does? Or what if she shows up and makes a complete fool of you?" Grandmother is demanding of me.

"It won't be the first or the last time our family has made headlines," I say. I really don't care whether it was proper or not. I need to get out of here. "Permission to turn in for the night, Grandmother?"

She looks shocked that I could have the audacity to ask such a thing. Aren't I aloud to be tired? Or am I suppose to sit and listen to this for hours?

"Granted. This is not the end of this," she promises. But it never is, is it?

* * *