English countryside always made Theresa long for mountains. It was pretty enough, rolling hills and neatly partitioned fields lined with trees and sweet little wooden fences, sheep speckling the grass and motorways that meandered instead of taking you in a straight line. She was hardly ever allowed to drive in Liechtenstein. Friedrich was a lovely man, but she did enjoy the freedom of going where she wanted, the way she wanted.
Martin was almost dozing off next to her. To him, this view was normal, the journey as familiar as flight controls. But she missed mountains.
They had been to Wokingham, to visit Wendy. Arthur had wanted to come too, what with his unusual but, at least Theresa thought, sweet friendship with her. But they had been invited for Tea with a capital letter, so Martin had gently dissuaded him with Herc’s help. When they had left, the two of them had been sat on the floor, untangling wires.
It was nearly two hours to Wokingham from Fitton, which was longer than it would take to drive the entire length of her country. She wondered what Martin considered a long journey – if two hours was a lot for her, how far was a lot for a professional pilot?
In another life, perhaps she might have known.
Martin’s sister had been there before they had arrived, tea in hand, smirk on face. She was nice enough, Caitlin. Prickly, Theresa always thought. She always gave Theresa suspicious glances, spoke to her in that oozingly polite tone British people used when they wanted to be rude, but had to act nicely. Theresa had learned long ago not to let this sort of behaviour get under her skin. Most people couldn’t get past the royalty, and she understood that Cat was just being protective of her brother.
That was novel, at least, the idea that she might be taking advantage of Martin. Usually, people assumed it was the commoner taking advantage of the money. Martin wasn’t like that at all, though. Martin still looked embarrassed when she bought things for him, and no amount of trying to impress upon him just how vast her fortune was would get through to him. She liked that.
Even if other people didn’t get it, she liked him. And she tried her best to like his family, but Cat was prickly, and Simon was distant and cold, and Wendy’s stiff upper lip could have held weights without wobbling. It was all terribly quaint.
Theresa was used to balls and events and stuffiness, used to not belonging to herself. But not quaint. Castles might have been lonely, but quaint was an entrapment she could understand Martin’s desperation to leave.
“Do you think it went okay?” Martin mumbled, his eyes still shut, head resting on the glass.
“Yeah, and Cat. I’m sorry she doesn’t like you very much. She’s always been like that, always hated my friends. Jealous. By the time my parents got round to her, they’d already given Simon everything in the world, and me the rest. But I suppose you’re pretty familiar with sibling rivalry.”
Theresa huffed a laugh. “They fought among themselves more than with me, my sisters. After all, I was crown Princess for the longest time, until Maxie, so I was both more a mother figure, and relatively untouchable due to my status. After Maxie…”
“There goes your importance.”
“Exactly. I am close to some of my sisters, as you know. I remember Elsie was very fond of you indeed.”
“Sybilla hated me though.”
“Sybilla hates everyone. She nearly smiled at you, which is verging upon nice for her. She used to want to be Queen because she thought I wasn’t worthy, and I’m certain she used to research witchcraft to try and find ways to dispose of me.”
“Unfortunately. I was the only thing stopping her, after all. It’s the younger ones I am closest with, Elsie and Greta, and Augusta used to ask me for help with her homework. Claudie and Sybilla always hated me. I would not be surprised if they were the ones who wrote pages and pages of letters to our newspaper, shouting their disfavour of me.”
“This makes my family drama look normal.” Martin stirred, conversation waking him back up. He settled into his seat, a classic Martin frown settling on his face.
Theresa flicked the indicator on, pulling off on their junction. Soon, the farmland would turn back into little houses, tiny streets and roundabouts as they neared Fitton. This was unlike Liechtenstein too, with what few settlements it had resting on mountainsides. Then, Fitton, she suspected, was bigger than Vaduz. It did have an airport, after all.
“There’s no such thing as a normal family drama. Mine was just exacerbated by living in a small town, and by being one of the only people of interest to the public. We are none of us free from the weights of expectation.”
Martin hummed in agreement, his frown still carving lines into his forehead. Theresa glanced at him and smiled gently. “Look at us now. No sisters to judge us, nor brothers to outshine us. All that matters to me is you, and Gerti’s little family.”
This made Martin’s mouth twitch into something more resembling a smile. “Well, if you want to tell Carolyn her spare bed’s lumpy…”
“I’ll leave that to you, my love.”