An American Cinderella:A Royal Love Story(5)

By: Krista Lakes

“Why didn't they just start over? Or do something else?” I asked.

“Because that wasn't the plan,” he replied. He knelt before me with his knees in the damp grass. He put his hands on my small shoulders, our eyes at the same height. I loved it when he looked at me like this. I felt important. I was an equal.

“There's a lesson, isn't there?” I asked, a small smile on my face. My father always had some sort of lesson he wanted me to learn.

My father laughed and squeezed my shoulders. “Yes, Sweet-pea, there is.” His dark eyes found mine again. “The lesson is not to give up. Even if it isn't going to work out perfectly, don't give up. The builders of this monument didn't, and even though it isn't perfect, it's still beautiful. It's still amazing.”

I looked up at the different hues of white stone and thought about my father's words. “Things don't have to be perfect to be good,” I said.

“Exactly.” My father grinned and pulled me into a hug before rising to his feet. The knees of his suit pants were dark with grass water, but he didn't care. “That's it exactly, Sweet-pea.”

* * *

I could remember that day with crystal clarity, just as I could every time my father brought me here. We'd visit the monument at least once a year and I'd always ask the question of why it was two different shades of white. I knew the answer, but I loved having him explain it to me. It became a ritual between us for me to ask and him to answer.

I was sixteen the last time we'd both been here. It was the last place I'd seen him really alive. Being here was as close to being with my father as I could get.

“I could really use you today,” I whispered up at the monument. My father would know what to do about my job. He would know how to fix what my stepmother had done.

He would make things better, just by being there. My heart ached with missing him. I closed my eyes and wished for a sign. Something to tell me he was still here, just invisible.

A soft breeze across my face was all I got.

That, and someone crashing into me, knocking onto my butt in the grass and forcing me to go down.

Chapter 3

I was just standing there, minding my own business, reminiscing about my father, when a body came hurtling out of nowhere and knocked me over.

I sat on the grass, dazed and confused as to how I went from standing to sitting without meaning to. I tried to move, but my legs were tangled up with someone else's feet.

“Are you all right?” the person tangled up with me asked. He had a slight European accent to his words, making him sound educated, even if he was clumsy.

“I think so,” I said slowly, pulling my legs out from under his. Nothing seemed to be broken or too badly bruised. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I'm fine,” he assured me, rising to his feet. “I am so very sorry, miss.”

He held out a hand to help me up. I looked up and into the most handsome face I think I've ever seen. His hair was golden with just enough red to glint in the sun and he looked down at me with ocean eyes. His jaw was strong and his shoulders were broad in a t-shirt and gym shorts. I took his hand, feeling my heart speed up. It wasn't every day a handsome man crashed into me.

He tugged me up gently, a smile crossing his face as he did so. His grip had strength and he pulled me up with ease.

“Thanks,” I said. He waited until I had my balance to let me go. I missed the warmth of his hand as soon as it was gone.

“Again, I apologize.” He put his hand to his heart, making his bicep flex. He was in great shape. “You're sure you are okay?”

“I'm sure,” I told him, dusting the grass from my slacks. At least I didn't wear a skirt today. “I just didn't see you coming.”

“To be fair, I did come up from behind. I assume you were looking at the monument,” he said, looking up at the tall obelisk himself. “It's my fault.”

“Are you two okay?” another man asked, jogging up beside us. He had a similar complexion, but darker hair and a crooked nose that looked like it had been broken several times. The man was tall and also in great shape.

“We're fine, Andre,” the first man assured him with a small wave of his hand. “It was my fault. I wasn't looking where I was going.”

Andre still looked concerned. Somehow, his shoulders got bigger and his face darker.

“It's totally fine,” I replied, putting on a smile and trying to diffuse the situation. “Oh, and here's your Frisbee.”

I leaned over and tried to pick up the plastic disk. Unfortunately, I only picked up half of it, as it had broken into two pieces. I wasn't sure who exactly had landed on it, but given the ache in my hip, it was probably me.