Staring up at the portrait of Queen Clarisse and King Rupert wasn’t really helping, but Mia couldn’t seem to take her eyes off it. They looked like such a happy couple, and her grandmother promised that they truly were, even though their marriage had been arranged for them.
Mia knew she could make it work if she had to. Andrew was a nice, decent guy, who was not at all hard to look at and really easy to spend time with. It was just that Mia always thought that when she got married it would be because she was in love. Once, she even thought she knew who the man would be that she married, but that was silly high school fantasy nonsense. At least, that’s what she had started to tell herself lately, and it had become harder and harder to believe as the days passed.
She turned too quickly to look at Charlotte and very nearly knocked herself over in the process, catching her balance just in time. Still, she saw Charlotte wince for her.
“Uh, you have a visitor.”
“Please tell me it’s not Lord Deveraux or his simpering nephew again? I really can’t deal with them.” Mia groaned.
“Oh, no, I think this is someone you might be happy to see,” said Charlotte with a secret kind of a smile. “I’ll show him in.”
“But I don’t... Charlotte!” Mia called, hurrying after her. “You didn’t tell me...”
She stopped so abruptly by the door that the shiny polished floor took her feet from under her again. Mia lurched forward and landed straight in the arms of her visitor.
“You were always graceful.”
Slowly, Mia looked up through her lashes, her mouth falling open as she realised who was holding onto her.
“Princess,” he joked, nodding once.
“Oh my... You’re here. You’re in Genovia!” she gasped, righting herself a moment, only to throw herself back into his arms for the biggest hug.
Michael hugged her back without pause and Mia couldn’t help but revel in the feeling. As much as Lily had always been her best friend, and always would be, Michael came an awfully close second, as well as having been her first and only boyfriend. To think that Mia had just been thinking about him and now here he was, and looking no less gorgeous than usual, she noted, as they parted from their hug.
“What are you even doing here?” she asked then, shaking her head in wonderment.
“Uh, I heard some rumour that you were having some problems here,” he said, eyes dipping to the floor as he shifted in place. “Something about you needing to get married if you want to be queen?” he said, eyes returning to hers.
“And, what?” Mia asked, heart thudding in her chest. “You came here to marry me so I could take the throne?” she said, frowning a little. “That’s... not romantic.”
Michael laughed at her expression. “It’s not supposed to be,” he assured her. “I didn’t come here to propose, Mia. Not that I don’t...” he began, only to clear his throat and change tack entirely. “I actually came here to talk some sense into you,” he said definitely. “Come on, Mia, you don’t need a man to be a princess or a queen. You never did.”
Mia opened her mouth to answer but closed it again fast before any sound came out. There was a stabbing pain somewhere in her heart at the way Michael said those words. That she never needed a man for anything. She knew very well that he struggled with dating a princess. As much as he loved Mia Thermopolis, being known as the suitor of Princess Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi was a lot for anyone to handle.
It wasn’t the only reason they broke up, but it was a big part of it, Mia knew. Another part was Michael wanting to tour with his band and be a rockstar. She had to admit, it suited him. Shy and retiring as he could be in ‘real life’ Michael sure knew how to own a stage. Mia supposed they had that in common in some ways.
She stood watching Michael who had since moved past her and was staring up at the same painting that had her attention before he came in.
“That’s your grandmother?” he checked.
“It is,” Mia agreed, smiling as she stepped up beside him. “An arranged marriage worked out for her.”
She knew Michael was staring at her with a scandalised expression long before she turned her head to meet his gaze.
“Come on, Mia. You’re not serious,” he said, shaking his head. “You cannot have an arranged marriage.”
“Genovian law states that a princess must marry before she can take the throne,” she stated matter of factly, wincing when she realised just how much like an automaton she sounded, knowing that Michael noticed it too.
“So, change the law,” he told her, turning to her and pulling her around to face him too. “Mia, you told me once that you chose me because I saw you when you were invisible. I don’t actually believe you were ever invisible, but even if you were, you’re not now,” he told her definitely. “You just need to believe in yourself for everyone to see you and hear you. Stand up and tell them you can do this by yourself and they have to listen. How can they do anything else?” he said, smiling then as he moved her hair back over her shoulder. “How can they not love you?”
A smile spread across Mia’s lips once again as a blush came to her cheeks.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she said softly.
“I’ve missed you too, Princess,” he said, smiling back at her.
The sweet moment grew serious as they gazed at each other. It had been too long and they couldn’t exactly say things ended badly between them. It was all very amicable in the end, they just wanted different things. They never had stopped loving each other. Mia didn’t think she could ever stop loving Michael even if she wanted to.
“Mia...” he began, though he seemed to lose track of whatever it was he meant to say.
Taking some of that initiative he seemed to be encouraging her to find, Mia pushed forward, letting her lips find Michael’s own. To this day, when they kissed like that, her foot never failed to pop.
When they finally parted, their arms remained around each other, foreheads almost touching as they both tried to catch their breath.
“How long can you stay?” Mia asked softly.
“I have a concert in Florida tomorrow night,” Michael admitted, “so not long.”
Mia smiled, her hand at his cheek. “I just need a few hours.”
It took him back to the first time he first saw her really being a princess. Of course, Mia had always been as good as royalty to him, but Michael recalled so clearly how she looked in her white dress and tiara at that first ball, reminding him to bow as she curtsied and then they danced with everybody watching.
That night had been the beginning of their romantic relationship, something he would much rather think of than the ending that had been way too painful. Sometimes Michael wondered why he ever let that happen, why either of them had allowed what they had to so easily slip away, but now wasn’t the time to worry about it.
Mia stood up on the podium, facing an audience of just about every Genovian of authority, plus the press and public besides. Michael had a front row seat, between his sister and Mrs Thermopolis, staring up at Mia as she gave the speech to end all speeches, defying Genovia’s old-fashioned law that declared she must marry in order to rule.
“My grandmother has ruled without a man at her side for quite some time, and I think she rocks at it. So, as the granddaughter of Queen Clarisse and King Rupert... I ask the members of parliament to think about your daughters, your nieces, and sisters, and granddaughters, and ask yourselves: would you force them to do what you're trying to make me do?”
There was a lot of murmuring and muttering in the crowd, but the way she was explaining herself, Michael couldn’t imagine anyone being able to find an argument against what Mia was saying. She had come a long way from debate class where she couldn’t get out a single sentence before she threw up from nerves.
Rightly or wrongly, Michael had never been more proud of Mia than that moment as she held her ground, made sound arguments, and eventually, a motion was passed, the law changed. It was decided, Princess Mia would ascend the throne without a husband and rule alone.
As she stepped down from the podium to rapturous applause, Michael was the first on his feet, cheering and whistling, with Lily by his side being equally as loud in her approval of Mia’s speech and victory.
“You know, this doesn’t mean she’ll never want to get married at all, right?” said Lily, giving her brother a significant look.
“Shut up,” he told her, grinning in spite of his words as he threw an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “I have to go,” he said as they parted from their hug, him dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “Tell Mia I’ll call her soon, okay?”
“No way!” Lily protested, keeping a hold of his arm when Michael tried to walk away. “You can’t just leave.”
“Lil, I have to go. My flight leaves in a couple of hours and this is Genovia, not California. I really don’t think there’ll be another one along before tomorrow.”
“Michael, come on,” his sister urged him. “You have to talk to her before you go. You know you do.”
Of course, he knew he should and yet at the same time, it seemed like it might be easier on both Mia and himself if he did just slip away undetected. Looking back up towards the stage, he realised he couldn’t even see her now. She was probably too busy for goodbyes anyway.
Her voice near his ear made a mockery of his presumptions and he turned to see Mia at his elbow, smiling widely.
“Your majesty,” he said, making a big deal of bowing, especially since they were in public. “You were great up there.”
“Thanks.” Mia nodded. “And not just for saying that. For telling me I could do this. I could’ve made such a big mistake and lived to regret it, and really, I should’ve known better myself and maybe I would’ve figured it out but-”
Before she could say anymore, Michael had a hand behind her head, pulling her close and kissing her soundly. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought about the press and everybody else surrounding them, it was only that he didn’t care. If Mia could stand up to them about ruling alone, what did he have to fear in being honest about his feelings?
“Wow,” said Mia as they parted. “You do know what you just did, right?” she said softly as they parted.
“I know,” Michael promised her. “I mean, I know you don’t have to get married to rule, but someday, maybe...”
Mia smiled widely once more. “Someday, maybe,” she echoed, nodding her head. “Uh, don’t you have a concert to get to?”
“I do.” Michael sighed. “But there are only a couple of dates left on the tour,” he said hopefully.
“You know you’re always welcome in Genovia, Michael. Always,” she said pointedly.
Michael nodded, picking up her hand and kissing the back, a promise that this was far from over. Though he had to leave her, this time it wasn’t an ending for Michael and Mia, it was going to be an amazing new beginning.