(Based on a fictional world system. All places, persons and constitutions are based on the writer's imagination.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)
"How long till that mask falls off — Princess?"
What happens when a sheltered Princess is thrown into the outside world to face the trials of life?
It's been the Jaye Royal Family's long-standing tradition to hide the identity of their children, and have them go through the trials of life without any Royal backing—till they come of age.
Her siblings are done with theirs—it's left with Aquilina. Can she manage to hide her identity, and save her people while guarding her heart?
Throw in the fact that the world's most powerful princes seem keen on winning her heart (or more). And working secretly alongside for the World Anti-Criminal Organisation...
Can her childlike faith in God stand the test of time?
Which force will finally win? The good or evil? Will her past forever hinder her chances of happiness?
Find out, in Princess Undercover.
*School bell rings in distance*
"Are you sure there is nothing you want to declare before the screening?" The security man asks me — again.
"No, sir," I respond shyly, though within, my frustration is skyrocketing.
I sigh for the umpteenth time, as I go through the security checkpoints of Velvet Regent.
The security man then ushers me through the machine which lights a bright green and finally allows me into the school.
"You may enter," he finally declares with a curt nod.
He does not know my identity, as many others do not. Only the principal and a few on the school board know about me — and my cousin, Jason.
My shoes move across the glass floors as I hurry through the deserted hallways.
I am late. And the thought of other students staring at you whilst you head to your seat is not so enticing.
"Unit A, B, C..." I mutter to myself till I finally locate the unit my class is located at.
I must admit, there is one thing I like about this school. It is just beautiful. With its grandeur and elegance.
"Well, good morning, students," I hear the voice of Miss Nicole as the class settles down to begin.
I half-run into my class just as Miss Nicole begins her lessons.
There are no writing boards here, all is technological. With large screens in every class and tablets on every desk.
"I'm sorry, I'm late," I apologise hurriedly.
Miss Nicole only turns a slight frown at me and nods me to my seat without saying a word.
She has always been my favourite teacher, though I have not been here for long.
I quickly make my way to my seat, waving at the few (and really few) friends I have made here, whilst also ignoring the glares I got from most.
"Okay class, let's take a look at today's lesson."
"Hey, girl," my friend Natalie whispers to me as I finally take my seat.
"Hey," I give her a slight smile.
"Got stuck at Security Checkpoint again?"
"That's an understatement."
"I know, right?" Natalie sighs and tucks a strand of her straight hair behind her ear. "I feel like they designed those as mental torture before roasting us in lessons."
I shake my head, a quiet smile tugging at my lips.
"It is frustrating," I admit, reaching for my school provided-tablet.
I slide across the screen, quickly logging into my account.
So, Velvet Regent — in case you are wondering — has grades from Primary through to Uni.
This school is only for the rich... and royals. They also accept scholarship kids (which people think I am one of).
And why was I screened afore?
The less rich are not allowed to carry in phones or anything which is considered hazardous.
I understand the latter, but phones... that is plain frustrating.
"Well, I hope they change some of those rules one of these days. I mean, we have lives too," Natalie leans close to me to whisper after logging into hers.
The reason why we, "the commoners" cannot use phones in school is because we are not allowed to Tweet or IG about the lives of the royals.
It is not the most thrilling, but this is what I get as my 'punishment' from the WACO.
That causes me to remember why I am back in high school after jumping ahead to study neurosurgery/cardiac surgery (how I ended up a surgeon at this age by God's grace is a story for another day).
"Okay Princess, I believe you understand why you have to go through this," Shawn Tyler, my boss at the WACO tells me.
"I understand, Sir," I reply, my face showing a calmness I didn't actually feel.
Within, I will my beating heart to remain calm.
"You will be acquitted once the investigation is over. I know you are innocent, child."
I can see the sincerity within his eyes. He doesn't want to do this. But he has to. And I can understand that.
Yet, the uncertainty of my future causes great sorrow within my heart. What will happen if this is to ever be leaked? What about my family?
Since I was younger, my siblings and I in one way or the other have been working for the WACO (World Anti-Criminal Organisation). And that is alongside whatever careers each pursues whilst going through "the trials".
So whilst working undercover for the WACO alongside practising Medicine, it came to pass one day that a terrorist threat was not realised by the system.
But galavanting on the network, I "mistakingly hacked" an unknown interface.
A threat was underway, and my naive self decided to take action before notifying my superiors. The threat was disabled, but so was my integrity brought to question.
I could have breezed past the protocols, but I am at the age of my trial, and no help can be offered by my family.
"You will be schooling at Velvet Regent like other Royals your age, but you won't be allowed to reveal your identity."
He hands me a school ID card and the reality of what is about to happen finally sinks in.
I had been homeschooled for a major part of my life.
As the youngest in my family, (also being the younger twin), I enjoyed the privilege of being delayed entering my trial years. I always envied watching other kids go to school.
But now, it doesn't seem as thrilling.
"Open to page 321 in your ebooks," Miss Nicole says making me snap back to attention.
As we all slide across to the said page on our tablets, I hear the class's door open and feel an aura fill the room.
I glance up and see them, the two most famous Princes in my grade.
I feel like I am talking a lot here, but I just want you to understand. There are Princes, and there are Princes. Some are, I guess minor in the sight of people. But these two, belong to the ruling Kingdoms.
Prince Francesco Ricci Romano, second son of the Italian King. Blond, and blue-eyed. It is said that he is partly French, which I know for a fact. But my source, I can not reveal now.
I hear the girls sit up straight and rearrange their hairstyles, and the boys sitting straighter.
He glances through the room and smiles his charming smile. A sigh escapes some girls sitting close to me. I nearly roll my eyes.
It can not be denied, they were handsome. But looks are not everything.
Girls look at him expectantly, hoping he will notice them. Though they know he is probably already engaged to some Princess.
Rumours have been flying around as to her identity.
"Francesco and Javier," Miss Nicole greets warmly.
Yes, in the name of equality, titles are rarely used, but the line is still glaringly clear.
"You may be seated."
The other Prince, Javier Miguel García de Habsburgo, is known for being cold yet handsome, with his dark hair and rare violet eyes.
He does not spare her or anyone else a glance but simply walks to his seat at the far back. No one ever ventures near it. It's always in the furthest part of the class.
The two are called, the Golden Friends. But it is hard to imagine, with one being so open and the other so cold.
I avoid looking at Francesco as he also walks to his seat. He reminds me too much of that person.
I shake my head reminding myself of the rules I was given before being sent to this school.
Do not get too close to the royals, as it will be easier for them to find out who you really are.
Do not involve yourself with too many people.
And always give vague responses, lest anyone tracks you to the WACO.
There were more, but these were the heart of them all.
Blend in, but don't stand out.
But, is that really going to happen?
GOD bless you richly for reading. Please, like, share, and comment if you enjoyed it. It will be encouraging.
Please let me know if you find this interesting or not. I really do not know...
Hi, lovelies! Thank you so much for being here. It will mean a lot to me if you would kindly vote and let me know what you think. I do not know if you will like me to continue...
Thank you anyway.
"Fais vite(Hurry up), Aquilina!" I hear Jason, my cousin, shout up to me. I can tell he is standing below the stairs.
"J'arrive (I'm coming)!" I holler back at him.
"You wouldn't want to get stuck at the Security Checkpoint, will you?"
Though we are not often seen together at school, Jason has decided to make a habit of 'making sure I arrive there in time'.
"I'm almost done."
I quickly button up my dark red jacket completing my uniform.
At Velvet Regent, the "Royals" get to wear whatever they want, so long as they keep the colours the same.
The "Commoners" wear our navy blue skirts (for the girls and la otra for the boys) and dark red jackets with golden pins.
That is kind of ironic since the motto of the school is, "Ut Omnes Unum Sint", "That All May Be One." Well, one look at our uniforms tells you straightway that all are not one.
Will we ever?
I hurry down the stairs just as I hear Jason's phone ring. After a moment, he turns to me with a curious look on his face and hands the phone over.
"It's for you."
I arch an eyebrow and reach for it.
"Shawn," Jason mouths quietly to me.
What does he want now?
"Hello," I answer walking towards the window.
"Princess, I believe you are fine. Well, I will just cut to the chase. The Organisation is going to be keeping a close eye on you. So do your best to keep a low profile. Alright?"
I swallow hard to hide my hurt. "I hear you, Sir."
"Good. I also want to let you know that I'm working hard on your case. Don't give up, alright?"
I hear all his promises but have a hard time letting my heart believe them.
"Everything okay?" Jason asks me when the call ends.
I only nod at him.
"Then, get going."
"You will be pairing for this classwork," Mr LeBlanc announces and everyone groans. Of course, except the royals.
We are now in Social Studies and are being assigned groups. The pairing is done by AI(Artificial Intelligence) or so they claim. But throughout my time here, it has never seemed to pair the right personalities.
"Here comes the art of Artificial Dumbness." The Asian boy in front of me murmurs.
"Last time, I got paired with the daughter of my father's business rival." Another girl in front of me whispered to her friend.
And on, and on they went.
"Funny how the Royals in the class never get paired with someone they don't like?" My close friend, Natalie, whispers to me.
Though she doesn't know the real me, I still consider her a close friend.
"I wonder if the system thinks the rest of us complete losers," she goes on.
I only smile and shake my head at her. I guess one could call me quiet. But not inside my head. My brain knows how talkative I am. It is never silent up there.
"Hey, do you think we might get paired this time around?" She flips through the pages on her tablet.
"I hope so. I can not flunk this class if I am going into law," I sigh and turn to look out the window.
I chose to study law because of my elder brother, Mike, who happens to be one of the best lawyers in the world. I admire him a lot for that.
God gifted me (and my siblings) with a high IQ. I always want to learn something new that will bring Him Glory.
And the law has always intrigued me despite having studied medicine years afore.
Having helped my brother whilst he was still studying helped me have an overview of it.
"I keep telling you. You are too uptight. Loosen up a little. You've got the brains and the looks. Like that party tonight..."
"No," I say immediately, my heart turning stone-cold.
"You see, this is what I mean. At least consider..." She begins and we both hear a throat clearing. We turn to see Mr LeBlanc staring down at us.
"Are you both done checking on your group info already?" He asks sternly.
I feel a little warmth in my cheeks and quickly unlock my tablet and tap on the notification icon which has "1" on it.
In my peripheral vision, I see Natalie doing the same, then she groans. Mine takes a little longer to load.
It finally displays my partner. Then, I blink. Once, twice, then the third time.
I glance around the class, then toward the back seat. He is staring back at me, no, glaring.
What have I gotten myself into?
I stare at the screen again. Then I reload. It must have been a mistake. No, the results on the screen are the same.
Javier Miguel García de Habsburgo
So sorry, this chapter is a little short. GOD bless you for reading. Song for the day: HE Knows my name
And thank you for your votes and comments.
Students file out of the classroom after the bell rings. Natalie mumbles something about talking to Mr LeBlanc about getting a different partner and runs off.
I quietly grab my few belongings into my bag, including my music-only device which the school provides. And that's something I am grateful for. As I hang my bag on person, I feel the glare—again.
Calculating the distance because of the sound of the breath I can hear - due to years spent in the WACO - I realise he is just behind me.
Sighing, I turn to face the source of the glare. He is facing me as Francesco stands beside him.
I force a smile and nod politely deciding it best to say nothing for now. I turn to leave when he speaks.
"Ah... I guess I'm stuck with the trash this year," He says sounding cold and condescending.
He looks at me to judge my reaction. I swallow and do what I have done for years when I feel the most overwhelmed. To show no feeling.
His violet eyes turn even darker and he stomps out. Francesco looks at me quietly for a second, a blank look in his eyes before he swaggers out, hands in his pocket.
I wait for a few minutes, and finally decide to visit Mr LeBlanc's office. I cannot allow myself to be close to them.
After a moment of pleading and beseeching, I finally leave Mr LeBlanc's office, dejected. He refused to change it.
"You know our policy, we can not change who your partner is for the entire year. Whoever was picked for you, will have to remain your partner in every other subject also."
"No buts, Missie."
Thoughts of depression flood my brain and I begin to wander around not bothering which direction I am heading to.
What if I am not able to win the court case due to this association? How will my parents feel? What if all the other secrets get out to the public?
I walk around the art park aimlessly, (yes, the art class has one for outdoor paintings) when I hear a holler.
I look up awkwardly and find all the students looking away from their canvases and staring at me. I sigh inwardly, I guess today is a day of stares.
"I am sorry, I was not watching where I was going," I say quietly to the Art Teacher, Mr. Francis.
He was not my teacher, but I had heard enough about him. He was really hard to please and had only one favourite student - Prince Francesco.
"Well, if you are here, come and explain this piece of art to a student who knows no more than you apparently." And he glares at the boy standing before him with his head bowed.
I walk slowly to him and study the piece of art. It was a bit quizzical at first. But then, I noticed the patterns.
"I think, Sir, that the Artist seemed to have been going through many lows."
I study it again, "With the use of dark hues, he portrays the body drowning, but his soul is painted in lighter hues which seems to float atop the surface."
I gulp and continue not minding if I am making a fool of myself before Mr. Francis and the rest of the students.
"I think he sees a future hope ahead of him. Though he is drowning now, he believes even the worst of situations can be salvaged."
I feel startled when I hear the sound of clapping.
I am as shocked as the others when I realise it is Mr. Francis clapping.
"That is what I am talking about." He says with a pleasant look on his face.
"Why are you not in Art Class?" He asks me, to the further surprise of everyone. It is well known that not just anyone can enter his class.
"Oh, I do not think I have any special talent." I blush slightly.
"I think you should consider it." A different voice says from behind.
I turn to see Francesco, in his signature pose - hands in pocket.
"Francis knows talent when he sees one. Just give it a try. We are going to be painting the whole Art Block this week, show us what you've got."
Seems like I do not have a choice, Mr Prince.
Hello, fam. GOD bless you for sticking with us this far.
Thank you so much for your support. Much love ❤
3RD PERSON POV
"I guess, I will think about it then," Aquilina said with false cheerfulness.
There is no way I am going to allow myself to get close to them, she thought.
The warnings from the WACO replayed in her mind.
She was expecting Francesco to get mad, he was probably not used to being turned down. Instead, something flicked in his baby-blue eyes before he smiled.
"The registration for the Art experiment ends on Tuesday next week," he declared, wiping his hands on a piece of cloth. "I believe I will see you before then."
He bid Mr. Francis farewell and glanced her way again, looking a bit amused before turning to walk away.
The rest of the students quickly placed things in order before filing past, whispering as they went.
"Young lady, I believe you know where to find me." Mr. Francis said, before walking out on a confused Aquilina.
What have I gotten myself into?
Aquilina sat at the kitchen counter eating a salad when Jason walked in. Nutrition was something that was held in high esteem at the WACO. Always keeping fit.
"Hey, you heard about the party tonight?" Jason laid his face towel on the counter panting heavily.
Her blond-haired cousin, though calm looking actually enjoyed boxing downtown at night. When in his mask, no one identified him as the cool looking kid in Velvet Regent.
He was popular, both in the ring and in class—and extremely handsome. The only person he could not defeat in the ring... was his cousin.
She was said to have been born with an "iron fist." So she rarely engaged in battles except to defend. And with that, she did the minimum she could, not wanting to injure any person.
Having received training in martial arts, she learned to hit certain pressure points on the body that seemed to do the trick.
"I did." She said with a sigh. "But I am not going."
"What do you mean you are not going?"
"I have a lot to do—to think about."
Jason could sense how pensive she was and decided not to push her—only this time. She used to be so fun and bubbly.
But after a few months into her trial, his cousin had changed. She hid from everyone as best as she could. She barely said a word.
And she did her best to hide her beauty. Her golden-brown-like locks were always tied up. She also wore thick-rimmed glasses.
Burying herself in work — surgery after surgery, and mission after mission — had become her habit. Till she joined Velvet Regent anyway.
All she now cared about was school and working hard to stay under the radar.
"Que s'est-il passé, Lina?" (What happened, Lina?) He asked in his rich baritone voice.
And she told him.
"I think you should do it. You can't stay hidden from them forever. You are in the same school."
He gulped a glass of milk he had poured himself from the fridge and then he continued, "The WACO did not mean do not talk with them at all. Just, fait attention." (Be careful.)
He sighed and left when she said nothing.
She did not mean to be rude. But bottling up her feelings had become her forte. She wanted to tell Jason everything. But that part of her that seemed to always get betrayed and hurt made her hold her tongue.
She wanted to say, I am scared. Scared of what might happen if I let go. If I relax and let down my guard... like that night several months back.
"... So, I wanted you to know how grateful I am for the opportunity you've given me. But I am sorry, I have a lot to study as I am pursuing law, and cannot accept at the moment."
Aquilina breathed in relief after reciting her thoughtfully crafted speech to Mr. Francis. She forced a tiny smile at the end of it.
They were the only ones in the Art Studio.
She did not want to actually do that to Mr. Francis. He had, after all, given her something most others only dreamt to have.
She held her breath waiting for what he would say.
He took off his glasses and sighed.
"Young lady, I was not expecting this... but I am very fond of you," He folded his palms on his desk.
"How about this? Join the Art Block painting and train after studies each day. Show me your works when done. I am really interested in working with you. I will leave you with the keys."
He sounded so sincere. That caused her heart to melt even as she also remembered the words of her cousin.
"Alright, I'll give it a go." Aqui smiled a little bit at him. She felt excited but tried her best to suppress the feeling.
"Wonderful. Report here after school each day. You can go home and freshen up before returning."
He reached into his desk drawer and the jingle of keys was heard.
"Here is a spare key. I will inform the security of this. Feel free to show me your works during school hours whenever you are done."
He smiled and handed the keys over. She gratefully accepted them. And after a quick farewell, and expression of gratitude, she walked out.
However, Mr. Francis stood and walked to his window, remembering... of course he knew who she was.
Despite her tied-up hair and change in appearance, he would always spot a Jaye when he saw one. She looked just like her mother - a woman he could never forget - with her father's eyes.
Hmmm... This is going to be interesting. He thought.
Ni hao, lovely people!
GOD bless you once again for reading. Above is a picture of how I sometimes picture Aquilina.
Please vote, share and comment if you enjoyed this.
And did you like the 3rd Person POV? Would you like to see more of it?
And do you think Mr. Francis has her best interests at heart?
THIRD PERSON POV
"You have completed your 2-hour workout." Came the voice of the trainer through Aquilina's wireless earphones.
Sweating and breathing heavily, she drank heavily from her bottle of high PH water and hit the showers.
She turned the tap to hot to relieve her aching bones and allowed her thoughts to wander to the events of the past day.
After accepting the offer of Mr. Francis, Aquilina found herself looking forward to the bell ringing for the day. She realised how much she missed drawing and painting.
How much of herself had she had to bury after the incident that changed her whole life?
"Okay so you missed the party last night," Nat said when the teacher was not paying attention. She sounded like she had missed the world's greatest event.
"I am sorry, I could not make it. I had a lot to catch up on."
"Right!" Nat rolled her eyes. "You could pass every subject if you skipped every class."
"Okay, I will make it up to you. How about a Pizza at Uncle Jone's later."
"Puh-lease. Not that Vegan pizza again!" She groaned.
"Hey, you enjoyed it last time."
"I was starving. A hungry man or woman finds EVERYTHING tasty."
"You were asking for more to take home."
Natalie blushed, "My Mum is a vegan."
"So, you did not have more at home?" She cocked an eyebrow.
She gave in, "Maybe, let's say I ate more than 99% of it at home. I'm not saying I ate all. But back to the topic... guess who came to the party?"
"Let me guess... EXO's Do?"
"You wish! Don't tell me that's what you had to 'catch up' on."
"Maybe or maybe not..." Aquilina shrugged, amused at her friend's reaction.
"Aquilina!" Nat whisper-yelled. "You missed the greatest event of history."
"That is what you said about the party last week."
She looked confused and Aquilina wanted to burst into laughter looking at her friend's face. But she kept her look neutral.
"No. This week broke the record."
"Oh, dear! Okay fine. Tell me. What happened?"
"Well, as the clock struck 9:30ish..." she beamed entering into storytelling mode. "The big doors of Garret's hall where we were having the party swung open — the Golden Friends appeared."
"Really?" This piqued Aquilina's interest, for Prince Javier rarely attended any such event - to the best of her knowledge.
"And that is not the best part," Natalie went on, basking in the attention Aquilina had finally given her story.
"Guess which other people I saw?" She was clearly delighted. "Drumroll, please... Prince Lu Xia and Prince Lu Feng Mian."
"The twins?" Aquilina stated more than asked.
"Yes, the Chinese Princes!" Natalie was grinning from ear to ear now. "I have been in this school since I was in my diapers but I can count on my fingers how many times I have come across them. "
Aquilina sat back, processing it all.
"Wow," was all she could utter.
"I know, right? They probably all felt the need for some fun. Or Garret struck a big deal." She looked satisfied with herself as she relaxed back as well.
But Aquilina's mind was reeling. She had known the twins for some time, no, a long time. Prince Lu Xia the stern twin, would not have been there for anything.
Something had gone down, and she could sense it.
After stowing her belongings she was not going to need in her little cubicle after lessons —and yes, they had cubicles instead of simple lockers other normal schools had — she excitedly picked up the key she had been given to the Art Studio and headed out.
Hers was simple but sufficient. Others richer than she had even bigger decorated ones, which she had happened to glimpse before.
But she loved hers the same. For she had long since learnt, that joy was not found in the abundance of properties... which she had been blessed with.
None of them gave joy. But being content in that which GOD gives at any given time is truly what makes a man rich.
She got to the Art Studio and strangely found the door unlocked and the lights on.
Was Mr Francis still around?
She slowly opened the door and glanced around cautiously till she met a pair of baby-blue eyes.
"I am sorry, I did not know you were here. Mr Francis gave me the key."
"Yeah, he told me he did. Come on in." Francesco said.
"I do not mean to impose. Maybe I will come back another time." Or never, she wanted to add.
Surprisingly, he chuckled.
"You are no imposition. Come on here. There is room for more than the two of us."
An understatement. A whole community could fit in here.
"Then, I will work over there."
Aquilina quickly moved to the far end — away from Mr. Blue-Eyes and Overconfident. She dropped the key and the few belongings she had carried along on a different stool and settled into work.
She had no idea what to draw. And feeling a pair of eyes watching her every move did not help.
After a few minutes of practicing her strokes, she dove into drawing her favourite — Landscapes.
Funny, how she could immerse herself in landscapes and how it made her feel like she was in her own world. A world in which there was no hate, or abuse... or debauchery or false accusations.
She felt so immersed that she did not hear the footsteps nor hear the sound of breathing so close to her.
"That is so beautiful, and you say you have no talent?"
Startled, she missed a spot she was shading and turned abruptly to face the blonde-haired Prince behind her.
He stood so close, and he reminded her so much of him.
She felt too startled to speak.
"You did not draw these too fastidiously. The feathered lyrical strokes tell me you felt greatly about what you drew..."His gaze moved away from the art behind her and stared point-blank into her eyes.
"What were you thinking of?"
Aquilina turned to look at the simple artwork again. It was not much. But he had read her intentions well.
It was a landscape of a humble cottage; away from the world, away from everyone. And a lake lay just behind it.
To her, it was an escape.
"Just a place I think will be fun to be in." Or run away to.
She quickly explained and pulled to the side, away from him and not towards the easel.
"Oh... would you mind if I include this sketch amongst those that would be painted around the Art-Block?"
"I believe I wouldn't mind."
"Alright. I will get the tripod and capture this."
He walked towards the large shelves at the back and retrieved a tripod. But as he reached towards the camera lenses, a loud crash was heard.
"Are you okay?" She said running to him.
A sharpening blade had been mistakenly left on the lenses and hurt him. It was nothing big. A little cut around his elbows, where his shirt had been folded to.
"I'll be right back." She ran to her bag which had a few emergency medical supplies that she needed and hurried back to him.
She made him take a seat and began to treat his wound.
"It's nothing to worry about. It's only a little scrape."
She did not respond but worked on it diligently. Applying a cream to avoid scarring. It was really effective.
"It was all my fault." She mumbled.
"How was it your fault?" He looked rather amused.
"Hold still." She said putting finishing touches to her work. "If I had not come here today, you would not have needed the lenses and this would not have happened."
"That is a far stretch."
"It is not. It's my fault and I'm sorry."
But he strangely did not reply.
When she was done, she packed the items back and cleared up the mess on the floor. He was still silent. So she decided to turn and leave.
As she moved toward her belongings he reached out to catch her hand, and finally spoke, "If you still think it was your fault, would you do anything to help me as a payback?"
Hello, lovely family. I hope you enjoyed this. GOD bless you for making it this far.
And thank you for being faithful readers and for your awesome feedback.
Please let me continue to know what you think. It means a lot to me. Kindly Vote, Comment, and Share.
THIRD PERSON POV
Aquilina quickly dressed after her hot shower and tied up her hair, dressing up in her uniform for school.
She entered the elevator tapped the home icon leading her away from their hidden underground training centre. She sighed as her tummy grumbled. But that was the least of her troubles.
"If you still think it was your fault, would you do anything to help me as a payback?"
"Okay. If only possible." Aquilina responded.
"You can. So will you?"
"Okay," Aquilina replied naively, despite the alarm bells going off within her.
"It's a promise. No going back."
She nodded in affirmation and raised a palm, "I won't go back on my word."
"Pretend to date me for ten days." Prince Francesco had said.
Aquilina blinked, "Really, tell me what you want."
"I just did."
"You did not. I hate games, please."
"I am serious. Listen... I need your help with this to get me out of a situation. Come on, you owe me one, right?"
"No, that will be a lie, and I don't like the thought of deceiving anyone."
"Okay, fine. You don't have to say anything. Just ignore them if you are asked."
"No, anything but that."
"Please?" He made an innocent face at her. "Just do this for me? As a friend. I just need you to attend an event with me. And say nothing about us... not even to Javier — for ten days."
"You do not even know me."
"Well, that could be rectified. Come on, you promised. Are you going back on your word?"
She bit her lip and furrowed her brows and wondered, she had given her word. And she is not going to actually be anything to him.
"I'll be in deep trouble if you don't help me. Please?"
"Why me?" She finally asked after a moment of silence.
"You are different — and won't take advantage of the situation."
"Okay, but no funny stuff. No shenanigans. And I won't lie to anyone."
"Deal." And he offered her a ringed hand. The significance of that ring made her question her decision. She had seen that kind of ring before. And an encounter with it had left her broken.
But she had given her word. She reluctantly shook it.
"Deal." And she offered a tight smile.
Breathe. This is just as another project... mission, she thought to herself.
"Okay, may I have your number then?"
"Sure." She tapped it into his phone.
"Just a second." He stood behind her and quickly raised his phone for a selfie. "Smile."
"What for?" She scrunched up her nose and looked at him.
"To give them something to gossip about. Just do it." He pushed her back to him.
And this time she did.
I hope it looks real enough. She thought.
Aquilina quickly moved away and shoved her items into her pink cute satchel bag.
"I will drop you off — and I won't take no for an answer." He went off toward his easel and grabbed his keys.
She hit her head against the back of the elevator and groaned just as the doors swung open.
What have I gotten myself into? Sometimes, having a high IQ does not necessarily mean, having enough common sense. I should have said no.
She looked up to find Jason looking strangely at her.
"Everything alright, cuz?" He scratched his head, and continued, "I sort of stumbled upon your picture last night — with Francesco. What's up?"
"I wish I knew..."
He cocked an eyebrow.
"Don't worry, it does not mean anything." She tried to sound as nonchalant as possible and picked her nutritional bar from the kitchen counter.
"If you say so. And lest I forget, I'll have a buddy over tonight. I hope you don't mind."
"I guess not... do I know this 'person'?"
"I think you know him." Jason gave her his adorable dimpled smile and headed upstairs.
Who could it be? She wondered.
As the lunch bell rang, Aqui was relieved to finally leave the whispers and stares of the classrooms and hallways.
Natalie was also not on speaking terms with her,
"I thought you were my best friend and we shared everything."
No amount of trying to explain without actually explaining seemed to be working.
She decided to skip the Cafeteria altogether and walked toward her cubicle to drop her belongings before heading towards the library.
But she did not travel far before Francesco found her.
"Yeah, it would be nice to give you a nickname don't you think?"
She suddenly felt conscious of the many eyes staring at her.
"Uhm... did you need something, please?" She asked uncomfortably.
"Come on let's go to the cafeteria together." And added in a low tone, "We had a deal. Remember?"
She gulped and slowly nodded.
Breathe. This is just as another mission.
She reminded herself — again.
She straightened and gave him her practised smile, "Shall we go then?"
Francesco smirked and led her to the cafeteria. She felt her anxiety level rise as they walked to the centre table where no "Commoner" dared to approach.
It was elevated, and the table and seats were sophisticated. It was not that the other tables were unpleasant. They were above the normal standards. But these surpassed all.
He led her in the direction of where he normally sat — a hand placed at the small of her back — and seated her right between himself and Javier, who did not look the least bit pleased.
"What would you like to have?" He inquired.
She told him and he left to get her meal.
Despite the diplomacy and show of flamboyance, they allowed all, Royals or not, to serve themselves.
When Francesco was out of sight, Javier leaned in, with his violet eyes a shade darker and looking more dangerous whispered to her,
"I knew you were no good. But I never pegged you as a gold digger also."
Aqui swallowed the pain and reminded herself of the words that had gotten her this far, told to her by her eldest brother and best friend, Luke, the Crown Prince.
What everybody says is not important. Not even what I say. But what GOD says about you, is all that really counts. And HE says you are HIS Child.
Thinking about that, made her smile — a real smile, though not broad, it was something. Javier noticed, and it infuriated him.
"It's okay if that's what you think of me." She said softly, barely above a whisper.
It was a simple statement. But her soft voice triggered something within him. He quickly hid it with his signature look — an icy glare.
"I was not asking for your approval." He finished his bottle of water and left, leaving his food untouched.
Francesco appeared then with the tray of food.
"Hey." He said.
"Hey." She gave her not-so-real smile again. "Thanks," she mumbled accepting the tray of food.
Francesco watched the retreating back of his friend and then turned to look at her. But her eyes were diverted.
He then squeezed her hand underneath the table, as if to say, "Don't be troubled."
He had told her the previous night as they had driven towards her home not to take Javier's rebuff to heart. But she was used to such behaviours now.
After Lunch, during which most of the Royals had barely spared her a glance, Aqui decided things had ended better than it could have.
Her schedule told her she had a free period then, so she happily walked to one of her favourite places in Velvet Regent — the old library.
It was no longer in use and housed almost empty shelves.
Did she find it uncanny? A little at the first. But she was used to it by now. She had never crossed anyone there.
But what drew her attention was, the Old Piano the school had left at the furthest corner.
After dusting a little bit and tuning sometime afore, she often found solace in playing the old guy.
It was in good shape and she wondered why the school had neglected it. But probably, they had better ones.
She hummed, a little tune as she walked to it. The tune reminded her of the good old days when she would perform with her twin brother for their family.
But now, she rarely sang, though her twin brother was now a popular artiste (a story for another day.)
Then she sat down, and after some time, began to sing softly and play the chords gently,
I was sure by now
God, You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say, "Amen"
and it's still rainin'
Well, as the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I'll raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away...
She wanted to cry it all out, but couldn't. She had long since lost the ability to let the pain out through tears.
After singing the chorus over and over, she stopped. Despite not being able to cry, that had felt... good.
She wanted to sing and play some more when she heard the groan.
She had not bothered turning all the lights on, just the ones around the piano this time.
She was startled, but not frightened. She rather analysed the sound. Where was it coming from? It came from the corner of the library. And it sounded like someone was in pain.
She slowly walked to the light switches and turned the other lights on.
"Turn it back off." And the person cursed in Spanish. His voice sounded pained.
"Why should I?" She asked after the shock of realising who it was.
"Por Dios, Chiquita (For God's sake, girl), I have a migraine here," Javier said rather crossly.
She saw the pain in his violet eyes and did his bidding.
In the faint light, she could see him sitting on the floor rocking back and forth with his head now buried in his hands.
She timidly approached him and sat on the floor beside him. He did not object. She did not say a word.
"Where does it hurt?" She whispered softly, knowing strong sounds would cause even more pain. She was glad the song from before was soft.
After a long awkward silence, he replied,
"The left side." He rasped out.
"Would you mind if I massage it?" She had learnt the pressure points for releasing migraines from an old man once in Taiwan and had used it on many occasions.
"If you want."
She gently lifted his head, being aware of any wrong movement, and started tapping and massaging around the pressure points.
She felt him being to relax. He then laid his head on her lap.
"Thank you." His throat sounded dry.
"Don't mention it. Are you thirsty?" She still kept her voice low.
"Yes, but... please don't leave me." He asked like a little boy afraid his mama would leave him.
"And can you sing that song again?"
Hello, hello! *waves shyly* Please I hope your day has been pleasant.
Thank you all for your love, votes, and comments. Kindly let me know what you all think.
What do you think of Javier? Is he secretly kind?
Kindly don't forget to vote and to comment.
When all have failed, or you can't seem to break through, just love, like you have never been hurt. It is the greatest weapon.
THIRD PERSON POV
Aquilina woke with a start as the bell sounded through the old deserted library. She rubbed her eyes and yawned.
She glanced at her wrist watch and groaned. She had missed her last period but wait — where was Javier?
She had dozed off after singing to him and certifying he was asleep. But now, he was nowhere to be found.
Oh, well! She thought.
She yawned again, and headed home on the bus — filled with *ahem* only Commoners — after grabbing her bag from her cubicle.
She plugged in her earbuds and listened to some classical music whilst gazing out the window.
She shouted after code-unlocking their door. She had noticed her cousin's car parked outside — and another; a black Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
A neighbour? She thought. They lived in a decent neighbourhood but who would drive a Rolls-Royce?
She kicked off her shoes, and in her socked feet headed straight for the fridge. She gulped down the water in one go. She felt weary for some reason, and had not paid much attention to her surroundings.
After quenching her thirst, she heard a slight movement behind her and turned around expecting to find Jason.
"Ja-" She paused.
Gazing at her with his ever so violet eyes, was Javier. He sat behind the kitchen counter with his phone in hand.
She gulped at the intensity of his gaze.
"Oh, hi?" She said looking puzzled.
He only stared coldly as Jason descended the stairs toward them.
"Oh, you're in! I couldn't find you after school. Where were you?" Jason asked.
"I sort of... dozed off somewhere today," Aqui replied, sipping some water to muffle the sound.
Jason cocked an eyebrow at her, "Weirdo."
"I guess you already know Javier, right?" Jason grabbed his keys on the counter. "He's the friend I mentioned this morning. We are going somewhere, we'll be back late. Don't wait up. Oh, and there's food in the fridge."
And with that said, they both walked out leaving behind a very baffled Aqui.
Wait, what? She replayed Jason's words in her mind. When did the two of them become friends?
She capped the bottle back and headed to her room.
At least, she knew Javier was okay. She wondered why he had had the migraine and if it happened often — her medical brain analysing.
It was sometime after midnight when Aqui awoke to the uneasiness in her chest. It had been a while since this happened.
She turned the lamp on and slowly got out of bed. She held her chest tightly and groaned a bit.
She unlocked her door quietly, not wanting to disturb anyone. She had heard Jason return sometime past (she was a really light sleeper).
After drinking a hot hibiscus tea, she felt the pain subside. She sighed, grateful to GOD.
As she turned to leave, there he was — again. Standing on the stairs this time around.
His black hair was slightly tussled, but the aura that emanated from him was intact.
"I wanted to talk to you." Javier said, quietly but cold enough.
She suddenly felt conscious of her night gown. It wasn't that short but neither was it the longest. She had not been expecting to encounter anyone.
"Okay. I'm listening." She wrapped her arms around her body in an attempt to ward off the cold air from outside.
"I think you may have misunderstood somethings today that I wanted to clarify." He walked a bit closer.
"What happened, does not change anything... I still regard you the same. And I will be grateful if you keep enough distance from me. I am not someone you would want to cross."
"I understand." Aqui said after a moment of silence on her part. She felt hurt. More than hurt, but she kept her face neutral and her eyes blank.
That had not been a hard thing to do... the smile had long since left her eyes. But perhaps, somewhere deep within, she had longed to smile again...
"Bueno. We still have our project to work on. That can be done with yet enough distance."
Then he walked up the stairs.
Aqui waited for him to shut the door upstairs, and run to make another cup of tea. She really needed it.
"Aquilina S. J. You are needed in the Principal's office."
Came the voice over the intercom.
She gulped and ignored the stares that were upon her as she walked to the Principal's office.
"Is she getting expelled?" She heard someone say in a not-so-much of a whisper.
On arriving at the Secretary's desk, she was quickly ushered in.
It looked like a Presidential Office. With lots of awards and photos featuring Kings and Presidents from all over the world hanging around.
She immediately felt nervous when she saw Ray Fitzgerald, her boss' assistant at the WCO stand to greet her.
Tall and lean with his jet-black hair, he had never been her favourite. He was too cold and difficult to read. She sometimes found certain actions of his suspicious.
"Please, do have a seat Miss Aquilina," the Principal said after shaking her hand.
He was a jovial elderly fellow, balding and a bit heavy. He had always been fair to her, kind even. Probably because he knew her identity.
She sat on the comfortable plush chair.
"How has your stay been?" Ray asked, taking his seat as well. He seemed to be in a hurry to get to the point.
Aqui only gave a brief, "Fine."
"Well, I am here today inform you on how your investigation is going." He laid down the file he had been holding.
"Please." She had long learnt that there was safety in few words.
"I regret to say we have made not-enough progress yet. And while there are not enough facts to prove your guilt by association, there isn't enough to prove your innocence either."
He leaned forward in her direction, "And because of that, the WCO wishes to inform you to continue your studies here. Your missions are still suspended for now. And you are making fine grades here. Do continue, and don't hesitate to let us know if ever you need help."
She was young, only 17, but had been around long enough to understand those words.
Her case, had turned into a "Stagnant Case". And oh did the WCO have enough of those.
Some, she heard of, had lived and passed away never clearing their names.
"But as you're here," the Principal cleared his throat and added, clearly trying to lighten up the mood.
"We would like to offer you a position, to be a part of this school's medical team.
The WCO has agreed to that and are more than glad to let you join us. We can not bear to see your talent go to waste."
Aqui walked down the now crowded hallway feeling dejected.
We wish you the best. Ray had told her as she stood up to leave.
Her future felt shattered. She wanted to run, right now.
Lord, what do I do now? She questioned.
She slowly turned around to the voice of Natalie. She was running to catch up with her.
It had been almost 24 hours since they last spoke to each other.
"Hold up!" She threw an arm around her shoulder. She looked worried. "I heard your name being called to go to Mr. V's (the principal). Everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything is fine. I was given a position, to be a part of the Medical Team. An assistant, nothing special." Aqui forced a smile to encourage her friend she way okay.
"Oh! How nice!" She beamed. "Wait, I thought they only allow those interested in doing medicine to become assistants."
"I guess my Science grades convinced them."
"Probably. Look, I wanted to say that I'm sorry for everything that happened yesterday. I'm still a little sad, but you probably had your reasons. Forgive me?"
"I don't hold anything against you." And they hugged each other. "I'm sorry too for everything that is going on."
"Well, I have a question for you." And Natalie pulled back.
Aqui braced herself thinking she might ask about Francesco.
"Do you think I've grown fat? Come on, tell me the truth."
"No, I was going to say that you've lost a little weight."
"I knew Cassie was being mean."
And Aqui smiled.
It's funny how a little conversation can cheer up someone whose life has just been turned upside down.
Aqui sat quietly in the cafeteria beside Francesco not quite touching her food. Javier was absent, and everyone else ignored her, but she was grateful for that.
"Come with me." She felt his hot breath on her right ear.
Francesco nodded his head towards the exit. And she stood up and left with him, ignoring the stares and looks of disgust by some around her.
They passed through the hall, and took the elevator (yes, they have elevators). Francesco led her to the last floor and ascended some stairs obscured from view with her.
"Where are you taking me?" She asked again.
"Non ancora."(Not yet.)
She had acted like she did not understand whenever students spoke their languages around her. But that was not so. She had understood most perfectly.
She realised they had gotten to a chamber on the roof. It had flowers and a long bench.
"Wow," she exclaimed out loud.
Francesco just glanced at her and pointed her toward the seat.
She sat down and glanced around some more.
"I needed to get away, and to talk to you as well. Being in a quiet place is much better," he said after a moment of comfortable silence, his arm rested on the back of the bench. She noted the slight Italian accent.
"Look, I know what I have asked of you is very strange. And has cost you a lot. But I really need your help. I want you to understand. The thing is," he sighed and leaned forward.
"There is a girl."
"There's always a girl." Her eyes widened when she realised she had said that out loud.
Way to go, Aqui.
Contrariwise to the serious tone of their conversation, that caused Francesco to laugh out loud.
It was not a rowdy laugh. It sounded rather smooth.
"Yes, I guess there is." He wiped a tear from his eye.
"Well, her name is Rosa. Her father is the first ranking businessman in Europe."
Aqui nodded for him to continue. She had heard of her.
"We grew up together, she, Javi and I. It has always been understood that she will get married to Javier. I thought so too, until one summer, Javi traveled and it was just the two of us."
He had a far-away look and she could tell those memories were dear to him.
"And then, Rosa and I realised we didn't want to be just friends. When Javi returned, he said it was okay, it was a family arranged thing after all. But I knew it hurt him."
"So last summer, I told Rosa I had met someone else I loved and that she should move on with Javi. She was hurt. But she later realised it wasn't true. Two weeks ago, I received her call. She's coming back."
"Oh... I see."
"Yes, I need to make her believe it. And that's where you come in."
"But what about you? Will you ever forget?"
"Javi... has been through a lot. Seeing him happy, though it hurts will bring me great joy."
"I get your point."
Somehow, he looked different to her. He did not look like the same old, arrogant-but-handsome Prince.
He looked... normal at that moment.
"You did not look very cheerful in the Cafeteria." He did not question or push. It was a simple statement.
Something about his sincere gaze made Aquilina open up.
She couldn't say everything of course.
"It's just that... I heard some very discouraging news today. And I feel like I'm at my lowest. No way back up."
There. She had finally shared some of her true feelings with someone else for the first time in a long while.
"Do you remember the first time we spoke?" He asked suddenly taking her by surprise.
"Ugh... during your Art Class?"
"Which someone had interrupted."
"I did not. I was minding my own business. When you all waltzed into my path." They both chuckled.
"Right. But do you remember the painting and the explanation you gave?"
"How can I forget? It's the reason why I'm stuck in this mess." She said half-joking.
He gave her a stern look.
"Okay, I remember. The drowning man... and how he found hope even in the depths of the sea." She finished softly.
It clicked. There was hope for her even in all this. She smiled a tiny bit. But it was heartfelt.
It amazes her how easy it was to open up to him. He made her feel warm.
"You're welcome. We have some minutes left till lunch is over," he said glancing at his watch. "I'll grab a snack before that. Wanna go with me?"
"No, I'm okay. See you later."
They left together.
It was after the talk with Francesco during lunchtime that Aquilina finally had the courage to do it.
He had hurt her, and said mean things to her, but there she stood — in the deserted classroom. Lunch break would soon be over, and she had excused herself from Francesco's side to do this.
I must not chicken out.
She looked at the bottle and little notes of instruction that she had written.
"Am I being foolish?" She asked out loud.
When she had woken up for a jog that morning, she had seen Prince Javier García sitting in his car with his head bowed in his hands. He hadn't seen her. But as he rubbed the left side of his head with his eyes closed, she knew. The migraines were back.
So here she was, at his 'permanent' desk. She knew this age old medicine — which was a mixture of herbs — concocted by her GrandMa could help alleviate his migraines.
If not permanently, it would be useful whenever the migraine dropped by for a visit.
After taking in a deep breath, she left it underneath his desk.
Thank you for making it this far — for the votes, and comments. I am very grateful