“I’ll be going home Monday. Would you like to come for a visit?”
The previous three weeks had been enchanting, to say the least. Julien and Regan had seen each other nearly every day, most often just the two of them (plus a bodyguard or two), but occasionally accompanied by Genevieve (usually with the nurse hovering somewhere in the background). Julien had shown Regan many of the New York tourist sights, and had encouraged Regan to show him the New York she knew — some of the little gems that long-time residents know, but tourists rarely discover. It was a marvelous time.
Regan had been dreading the inevitable end, the day when Julien would be forced to return home. Now it was here, and he was asking her to come with him! Did she dare?
“Normally I’d be asking your father, but since your parents are dead I’m offering you the opportunity to bring one or two chaperones as well. Will you come? Can you?”
Her mind was racing. How could she make this work? Who could she …
“Yes,” she replied even before thoughts coalesced around who she could persuade to accompany her. It was such short notice!
“Good!” he said with relief, and quickly kissed her in gratitude. “We’ll pick you up …”
“I think we can find our way to the airport on our own, thank you.” The vision of the parade of vehicles necessary to move Julien’s entourage invading her Brooklyn neighborhood was more than she could take.
“Ok. Plan on packing for a week’s visit, nothing formal. I want your visit to my country to be a comfortable one. April in the Alps is beautiful, but can be chilly. Maurice here is my … call him my Executive Assistant. He will call you with the flight details.”
Regan arrived at the Lufthansa terminal as instructed with her friends Amanda and Renee in tow. She had explained the situation to them: “They seem to have some rather old-fashioned ideas, so you are coming along as my chaperones since my parents are dead.”
“I thought they were in Atlanta! At least your mom was, last I heard,” said Amanda.
“You know I’ve hardly talked to them in years. I don’t want them screwing this up for me, so I’ve told him they’re dead.”
“Be careful, my dear,” said Renee. “This deception of yours could come back to bite you!”
“Maybe, but for right now I want to leave them out of the picture. Keep everything simple.”
“Whatever you say, my dear. Are we supposed to be the kind of chaperones who keep you from bumping uglies, or the kind who stand lookout while you do the deed?”
“Oh, the latter, of course!”
They were greeted inside the terminal by Maurice and a Red Cap who took their luggage. Moments later they were sitting in the first class section of a Boeing 747 with Julien and Maurice. Genevieve and the nurse were also there, along with one of the bodyguards.
“Where’s everybody else?” asked Regan. “Did you leave them behind?”
Maurice spoke up. He seemed to be becoming more prominent as they got away from New York. “Unfortunately we don’t have an unlimited budget, so they are seated in the back.” He chuckled. “I imagine most of them find it a relief to be away from Julien and myself for a while.”
Renee spoke up. “Do you travel like this all the time?”
“No, this has been a very unusual trip. The … Julien doesn’t travel much, and rarely outside Europe.”
In Frankfurt they were welcomed into the European Union and then boarded a plane for Vienna. On the ground in Vienna Regan expected to be picked up by a limo, but instead they wound up in line at a bus stop.
Eventually a tour bus pulled up and people started boarding.
“We must really be on your home turf! No limo?”
“You seem to misunderstand. Vienna just happens to be the closest international airport to Rubintal. We still have another four hours of travel to go, and a limo is too confining for that sort of trip, and certainly not cost efficient. No, we will take the bus.”
The bus was certainly comfortable, configured more like something a rock star might travel in than an ordinary tour bus. No sooner had they found seats and gotten under way than someone offered them food and drink. Nothing too fancy, just wine and cheese and sandwich fixings. Simple, but delicious.
Regan and Amanda were glued to the windows as the bus wound through the Austrian countryside. Eventually they came to a border crossing.
“Is this your country?” asked Amanda as they stopped at the checkpoint.
“No, unfortunately there is only one road into Rubintal, and it goes through Slovenia. It is not as awkward as when this was Yugoslavia, but it is still a nuisance. Just sit tight, we’ll be done here in a moment.”
No sooner had he said that than the bus started moving again.
“I’m surprised they didn’t ask for passports,” said Renee.
“This bus has diplomatic immunity, provided it doesn’t stop between here and Rubintal. It’s considered an extension of our country. Just part of our unique heritage.”
“Are we close, then?” asked Regan.
“Another fifty kilometers or so,” said Maurice. He’d spent much of the trip in conversation with Renee, but now joined in with Julien and the girls. “The roads get pretty windy from here on, so it will be the better part of an hour still.”
Eventually the bus came to a small mountain village and stopped in the middle of a crowd of people. The door opened and passengers started getting off, but Julien stayed seated.
“Is this our stop?” asked Regan.
“Yes, but I like to let the others get off first. I’m in no rush.”
“Renee, would you and Amanda come with me?” Maurice led the two chaperones off the bus.
Now the only people on the bus were Regan, Julien and the baby Genevieve. Julien lifted the infant out of her car seat and directed Regan down the aisle ahead of him. As she stepped out of the bus a cheer went up. She turned around to see Julien coming down the steps behind her with Genevieve in one arm, the other hand waving to the crowd.
There was a group of people waiting for him. “Welcome home, Your Majesty!” one of them said.
“Your Majesty?” asked Regan. One of the locals turned to her. “Didn’t he tell you? Julien is our King, and Princess Genevieve is heir to the throne. Thank you for bringing them home!”
Next chapter -> At Castle Rubintal