An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(4)

By: Krista Lakes

But first, I was going to get a coffee. Since I didn't have a job anymore, I could at least sit in the cheerful cafe and enjoy a caffeinated sugary drink. I had to make this day better somehow, and a vanilla latte with extra whipped cream seemed like a good place to start.

I had just settled down by the window with my grande coffee when my phone chirped. I dug through my purse, thinking it was another aide looking for me. I was going to have to tell everyone that I was fired.

The thought made me sad, so I took another sip of coffee before finding my phone.

You should be done crying by now. Go to the USTR office and fill out the hiring paperwork. Now.

The message was sent from my stepmother's phone.

It took everything I had not to chuck the cellphone at the window. I wanted to scream. I wanted to rage. I wanted to throw my coffee down and cry like a little kid.

But that would be a complete waste of coffee, so I didn't do that.

Instead, I sat and finished my coffee. I took my time. I played on my phone. I didn't have to do what she wanted right now. She could wait. It was my small form of rebellion against her. I took an extra long time at the shop, just because it meant that I had a little control over my life. I even ordered a second coffee to go.

And then I walked to the USTR office instead of taking a cab, because it was a beautiful day and it would take longer to get there this way. I was doing what she asked, just not how she wanted. Plus, it meant I got to spend the morning enjoying the sunshine and the sights of Washington.

I grew up here in DC. My father was a famous senator himself until he died. I loved coming to the city with him and exploring everything it had to offer. I knew the monuments inside out. I knew the museums, the trains, the parks, and every path to get between the various government offices.

So, I took the most scenic route I knew from the Senate Offices to the offices of the USTR. The USTR was located just west of the White House, so I walked past the Capitol, down the National Mall, and headed toward the Washington Monument. My plan was to circle around the Washington Monument at least once before heading up to the Ellipse, past the White House, and over to the offices. It would take a good hour and I wanted to take every minute I could not doing what Audrey wanted.

The sun was shining. Birds were chirping. I had coffee. If I ignored that I'd just lost the job that I'd planned my future around, it was a nice day.

I walked slowly, enjoying the sights. Washington is a beautiful city. I loved to watch the tourists with their cameras snapping pictures of the various monuments and parks. The trees had just started to leaf out, painting the bare branches with pale green. Flowers peeked out from the ground. Children ran around laughing. There was always something to look at.

I came to the Washington Monument. The great obelisk rose up white against the pale blue sky. The reflecting pool was on the opposite side, but it was still beautiful. A ring of American flags flapped in the gentle breeze as I walked up.

I closed my eyes and stood in the sunshine. The breeze was warm and soft across my face and for a moment, I could forget everything. For a moment, I could pretend that everything was how it was supposed to be.

* * *

“Daddy, why is it two different colors?”

My father turned and smiled at eight-year old me. “You noticed that, Sweet-pea?”

I nodded solemnly. “It looks...” I fidgeted, not wanting to get someone in trouble, but needing to point out the flaw. “It looks like they messed up.”

My father chuckled, his smile bright in the sunshine.

“It wasn't planned that way,” my father informed me. He squinted up at the white pillar of marble for a moment before looking back at me. He was so tall and smart. My father was the best person in the entire world. I knew it was true because he was a senator and millions of people had voted for him. Millions of people thought he was the best, too.

“Did someone mess up?” I asked, sure that whoever had done it probably ended up cleaning something as punishment like I did the time I put the paints away messily in art class.

“Well, they wanted to honor George Washington. You know who he was, right?” my father asked. I nodded.

“The first president of the United States,” I recited. My father smiled.

“Yes. The government wanted to build this to honor him. They started building, but then they ran out of money. The Civil War was more important than building monuments,” my father explained. “When the war was over and they could start again, they couldn't get the original stone. They had to use a different kind. That's why it's two different colors.”

I stared up at the white obelisk, unsure of what the point of my father's story was.