"You're marrying a king, mother," I say. "You don't see the irony of that? You're telling me that fairy-tales don't exist when we're literally standing in a palace?"
"Don't be stupid," she says. "You're not a stupid girl. It's beneath you. As are fairy-tale notions of life.”
"You didn't fall in love with a king..." I question, my voice trailing off.
She looks at me for a long time. "You will fall in love with Derek. You'll smile and take his arm and stand by his side when he becomes the Governor of New York, just like his father. And then you'll stand beside him when his family money ensures he becomes President. And you'll turn the other way when he shares his bed with someone else. You'll smile and look beautiful because it's what you do."
"I'm not a teenager," I protest. "I'm twenty-three. And, despite what you might think, this isn't the eighteen hundreds and you can't force me into a marriage. I'm not doing it."
"We’ll discuss it later,” she says, waving her perfectly manicured hand dismissively. “There are more important matters at hand right now.”
“Like the fact that you’re marrying a King,” I say sarcastically. Obviously, that’s her most important concern here.
She raises her eyebrows and gives me a disapproving look. “Yes, Isabella,” she says. “We’re talking about making history. I know that you don’t seem to have an appreciation for rules and tradition and – God knows, I tried to instill that in you –“
“You’re from the United States,” I say. “You’re not even a native of Protrovia. You aren’t connected to their history or tradition.”
“We are making history,” she says. “Do you understand that? The Kensingtons – your family – your father’s name, God rest his soul. We are making history. Years ago, the idea of the King of Protrovia remarrying – to a foreigner, no less – would have been unacceptable. It would have been appalling. But today, it’s different. And we are a part of that. Do you not see the importance of this?”
I shake my head. “I don’t want to be a part of this,” I say, feeling strangely detached from the entire thing. “I’m going back to the States, mother. Coming here was a mistake.”
Of course, I’m already a part of this, I think. I’m married to the Crown Prince.
I force the thought out of my head. It’s inappropriate. And something I’ll just have to rectify before anyone finds out. The last thing I want is to become part of a public scandal, my life spread out before the world like an open book.
“It’s very important to me that you’re here for the summer,” she says, her tone calm. But it’s clear that it’s not a request.
Well, she can’t tell me what to do. I’m not a child anymore.
“I can’t stay here,” I say.
“The last thing you want is a public scandal,” she says. “I know how much you despise being the center of attention.”
“Why would anything be a scandal?” I ask, trying my best to keep my voice calm despite the guilt that surges through me at the thought of the secret I share with Albie.
“Staying for the summer, getting to know the king and your new family, is what people expect, Isabella,” she says. “Any behavior different from that is going to raise red flags. It will cause more media attention than I know you’d like to have on you. Reporters will track you down wherever you go in the States. The wedding will be the media event of the year. Here, in the palace – in Protrovia – we can protect you. There is a whole PR team dedicated to managing the publicity. There are bodyguards, security. The entire thing will be controlled. Everything will be handled.”