Paige Morgan set down the stethoscope with gentle hands, and rubbed the back of her tired neck. “What else have you got for me, Molly?”
The nurse at the desk looked over at Paige, in her rumpled green scrubs. Paige hoped that there was nothing on her white coat, and she reached to pat it, only to remember that it was slung over a chair, and had been since she’d last sat down six hours ago. “Paige, go home. You’re breaking federal laws, and you need to sleep.”
“Well, I should really wait to hand off to Dr. Stanhope.” Paige knew that Dr. Stanhope appreciated a smooth transition as she made her rounds in the morning, and Paige thought it best to do that personally, given that so many of the patients really needed that attention to detail.
Molly snorted, “How long have you been here? 30 hours?”
Paige did not answer. It hadn’t been that long. Really. “I’ll just make a few notes about Gloria...”
“No!” Molly blurted, and Paige noticed that everyone behind the desk was looking. There was so much gossip in this hospital that Paige did not need to create more. “Everything anyone needs to know is in your charting.”
With that, Paige looked again at her watch. “I can grab the 4:30.”
As people moved around and pretended they had not been staring, Paige grabbed her stuff, and for good measure, peeked in on the chest tubes being put in by an intern. She liked Rosalie, and she had a good way with patients.
She almost did not want to leave. Today had been hard. She had handed a new mother extra blankets as she’d held her baby, and had slipped from the room quietly so as to give the family privacy as their baby, incompatible with life, slipped from this world.
Paige shook her head. She could not help her patients if she allowed herself to dwell on a horrible tragedy. She had to tell herself that these things were the exception. She had to tell herself that she had done all she could for that baby in his short, but meaningful, life.
She slipped her key in the lock and felt the bolts unlock. She had made a home in Baltimore. Her apartment was nicer than she needed, but doormen and security came at a premium in a city filled with pain and violence. The whirlpool tub was hardly needed, but Arabella, on her occasional visits, declared it heavenly. Paige had never used it.
Paige dropped her bag on her sofa. She knew that her views were shaped by her work, but she had grown up. She had been a sheltered young girl, in college. She had never realized how much suffering and pain had gone on around her. Once she was off the farm, her eyes had truly been opened.
As a doctor, it was her duty to alleviate that to the best of her ability, through the treatment of illness. She had never realized, not until coming to Hopkins, that she did not need to search out far flung places to make a change in the world. There was injustice and oppression here, injustice that she could fight against. And so, in Baltimore she would stay.
Her heart was in Denmark, but her duty was in Baltimore. She had worked too long and too hard to work in some posh clinic, who would only come to see her because she was their Queen. However, her time in Baltimore was drawing to a close, and she wanted to go to Denmark. She had a fellowship application in place, and she was hopeful she might get a post.
Paige kicked off her shoes, left them in the middle of the hallway, and flopped down on her cold bed. With a groan, she rolled over and set her phone. She had to be back at the hospital in five hours.
Paige stuck a fork in her salad. She had been here for 17 hours, and was utterly starving. She had grabbed the last salad from the cafeteria, and had nearly had to fight a peds nurse over it. Paige pulled off the lid. The grilled chicken was still warm. Heaven.
Not as good as Soren’s eggs, but a girl couldn’t get carried away.
Paige lifted the fork to her mouth, and jumped when there came a knock on the doorframe. “Paige--” The blonde doctor in the doorway broke off, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was wondering if you might do me a favor.”
She set her fork down. It was not meant to be. She stuffed a piece of chicken in her mouth and stood. “Sure thing.”
Dr. Helmsworth did not usually come to the ED. She worked in the walk-in clinic, and though Paige had done rotations there, she did not spend much time there. She shut the door behind her, and Helmsworth explained, “You’re the only person I know of who speaks Danish.”
“It’s not my first language, but...” Paige had been learning Danish intensively for about five years. Soren Skyped with her, mostly, since Eddie only taught her words he thought she know. Once, he’d seriously convinced her that he was teaching her bits of the law, when he’d actually been teaching her poetry. Sappy, romantic kings were not to be trusted as language tutors.
“You speak it well enough to lead a nation.” Hannah whispered as they passed a group of people in the clinic waiting room, “And well enough to help with a kid whose parents aren’t here, and whose English seems to have fled in terror.”
Paige agreed on the latter point if not the former, and hastened back to the treatment room as a nurse filled her in on the girl’s illness. She had come to the States for language immersion over the summer, and her exchange program had given the girls the day to be tourists at the Aquarium. However, she had cut her hand on a ragged edge, and no one could conduct a history properly. They were best done in a patient’s preferred language.
She knocked on the door, and went inside. Two girls were standing there, and Paige saw their eyes go wide. She made a mental switch in languages, and hoped her accent wasn’t as awful as Arabella said it was. “Hello. I’m Paige. I see you hurt your hand.”
“Yes.” The girl on the table said, and Paige rubbed in her hand sanitizer as the girl explained, “There was water on the stairs. I slipped and cut my hand and they said I should come get checked out. I only knew about this hospital.”
“We didn’t think we’d actually see you!” The other girl blurted out, as if she wanted to make it clear that they weren’t playing tourist.
“You came to the right place, Clara.” Paige didn’t want her to feel ill at ease. It wasn’t odd that Clara and her friend only knew about Hopkins. How many Europeans spent time learning about a medium sized city of little international importance? Not many, Paige knew, unless there was someone as infamous as their king’s former fiancee living there. “I just need to ask you a few questions and get you stitched up.”
“Stitches?” Clara repeated, “It’s not that big.”
“May I?” She asked, reaching for Clara’s hand now that she had gloved up. There was already a kit ready and waiting. The nurses did 99% of the work, but they weren’t allowed to put in stitches, though Paige knew they were more skilled than most doctors. Regulations in the clinic were dumb, and often translated to slower care for patients. They existed to follow laws, laws and regulations that did not regularly consult medical professionals in the trenches.
Clara’s friend stepped aside, and Paige got to work. As she cleaned and irrigated the cut, she tried to distract Clara with chatter. “So, uhm.” The words came out in English, and Paige found that she did not know what to say in either language.
The truth was that little of her medical training covered what she ought to do when she had patients who were staring at her like she was a fish in the Aquarium. This had been covered, of course, by the Queen. Well, the Dowager Queen, but she would always be the Queen in Paige’s mind. There was nothing in her medical training that told her how to set patients at ease when they clearly were more worried about her than they were about the needle she was threading.
Stick to medical stuff, Paige thought. She carefully considered her words, and wished that her Danish lessons had been more about medical terms and less about politics. She could talk about referendums and about garden parties, but she struggled to find the words to explain that she was going to give Clara a series of shots, and then stick a needle in her hand and pull the wound closed.
Fumbling, Paige found the words. She explained, as best she was able, and gained Clara’s understanding and consent. The work was completed in less than seven minutes, and Paige stepped back, carefully, “So, be careful not to get it wet for at least 24 hours, and be careful not to pull your stitches.”
“Okay.” Clara agreed, “But can I go to the water park next Wednesday?”
“Barring any swelling or changes, you should be good.” Paige answered, “Do you have any questions?”
Clara’s friend giggled, “Is it true that Princess Arabella is coming to live with you? And does the palace really have its own chocolate fountain in the ballroom, built right in? And is true that you did...”
Paige cut them off, “I’m afraid I can only answer medical questions.”
“But can we at least tell our friends we saw you?” Clara asked. “It would make this whole thing so much better! And everyone knows you work here!”
Paige nodded, and quickly left the room, before her blush became apparent. Two giggling schoolgirls were a better risk than the paparazzi who had followed her throughout her career.
Paige went back to her office after checking in with the nurses, only to find that her salad was gone. Marci had taken it, and was sitting at her desk in the shared office, chowing down on cold grilled chicken.
Paige huffed, “Hey! I have five minutes before rounds.” The fact that she was starving went unsaid.
“I’m doing those for you. The least you can do is feed me for my kindness.” Marci teased, taking another bite, heavily smothered in dressing Paige could almost taste from across the tiny office.
“Why?’ Paige asked, sitting down in her chair and logging on to her computer. It loaded slowly, “You don’t have to do that, really...”
“Some fancy dude came by and said he needed to talk to you.” Marci elaborated, “He said he’d come back. He seemed to be in a hurry.”
Paige felt her stomach drop. Eddie was supposed to be in Washington D.C. next month. He was meeting with the President over a trade agreement, and there was a ball scheduled at the Embassy. Paige had a dress picked out a dress, and Eddie was tasked with bringing over something to go with it, per Arabella’s orders. Paige thought the Cartier was a bit showy, but his tastes did tend that way.
She grabbed her planner, and flipped through the pages frantically as her imaging software loaded. “Why didn’t you make him wait?”
Marci opened her mouth to speak, but another voice cut in, and caused Paige to spin around in her chair, “Your security is abysmal. As is your hair, Dr. Paige.”
“Soren!” Paige jumped up and hugged him. “I’ve missed you!”
“The feeling is quite mutual, I do assure you.” He ended the hug, and stepped back crisply, “I hate to barge in on you at work, but...” He glanced at Marci, and cleared his throat.
Their relationship had taken a huge hit, some years back. He’d been the one to shut the door in her face, been the one to force her to confront twelve hundred years of tradition, been the one to make her see that she was not ready to make sacrifices. He had been the one to make her see that she needed to wait, they needed to wait, until they could be strong in the face of opposition, and make changes together as a couple.
“Whatever you have to say, Soren, can be said in front of Marci.” Paige absolved his worry.
“In that case, Dr. Paige, I have come to free you from the burdens of labor as chief resident and whisk you away to an exotic locale for the evening.” When Paige blinked at him, he elaborated, “The Embassy is asking for your input on the ball.”
“You came all this way to do floral arrangements?” Paige asked, thinking of the fuel.
“Actually, I came for other reasons.” Soren did not say what his reasons were, and Paige knew better than to ask, “But my favorite part is, in fact, floral arrangements and the implicit diplomatic etiquette therein.”
Paige understood the words he did not say. Princess lessons had nothing on Queen lessons. Last month, she had spent twelve hours learning about Portugal marine health. All the world would see was a smiling blurb in a newspaper, but Paige was not about to be under informed.
“Are you sure, Marci?” Paige asked, a hesitant smile blooming on her face, “I won’t make a habit of it, but...”
“Good God, girl, go!” Marci said, “I want deets, though. If you should spy a single English speaking gentleman with a great--” Marci would have continued, but Paige cut her off. She had once asked about being set up with Prince Harry, and Paige had laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
“Sorry, most of them are pretty old.” Paige shook her head, “But if I see the dude that owns Hogwarts, I’ll put in a good word for you.”
Soren’s gaze was blank, but Paige knew the laughter in his eyes.
Paige grabbed her bag, and made sure her beeper was on her person. “I’m ready, then.” Paige knew that Soren was using his power for evil, that is parking illegally so as to avoid traffic, or worse in his mind, pointless loitering.
Pointless loitering made him shudder.
Soren’s nose wrinkled slightly. It was then that Paige noticed the discreet bag tucked over his body where his messenger bag belonged.
He extended the bag. Paige looked inside and down at her scrub clad legs. There were regulation official clothes inside the bag, a sedate but fashionable Malene Birger dress, and fair trade heels that were Paige’s own selection.
The choices of clothing had been a hard fought battle, but one Paige had won, by giving a little. She supported Danish designers when she could, and chose to mix and match as she saw fit. She no longer had a dresser, though someone to launder her white coats would have come as a godsend some days.
Paige changed quickly, throwing her hair back with a deft twist of her hand, and put some lip balm on, and was ready to go. She wondered what the international press would say if they knew she sometimes fell asleep in the shower and used VO5, bought with a coupon at the discount store.
Paige thusly exited the stall, and narrowly missed banging her elbow. She hopped out of the bathroom, throwing on her heels and tossing her sneakers in the bag Soren had provided. She narrowly missed bumping into him as she came out of the bathroom. “You look lovely, Dr. Paige.”
“As always, however, I am messing up your schedule.” Paige noted, waving goodbye to Marci with a wag of her fingers, at once annoyed to find her staring, and relieved to see that she was working on the charting.
“No.” Soren clearly lied. Paige could read him like a book after all these years, “However, one must never keep the ambassador’s aide waiting.”
And thusly, Paige set the doctor part of herself aside and picked up the mantle that her choices in life demanded she wear. She no longer felt like she was playacting, only compartmentalizing. It kept her sane, and had been vital in medical school when gunners wanted to be her friend. If you were friends with a future queen, she supposed, you might get by on substandard STEP scores. Not so in Paige’s mind, and she had made it clear to those sorts of people. After being around her for a few weeks, and realizing that she didn’t jet off to some sun drenched locale when she felt fatigued, well, people like that went away.
Paige ignored the stares, and steadied her nerves as the elevator car coasted down its shaft. Soren noticed all, as he always did. He had somewhat mellowed over the last few years, and while he was by no means a confidante, Paige trusted his discretion, if not for her sake, then for Eddie’s own.
She was three feet from the door, Soren flanking her discreetly, when she heard a voice call out, “Dr. Morgan!” The CFO of the hospital called out, “Dr. Morgan, a moment please?”
Paige paused, wincing inside. Of course Dr. Virizerini would come upon her just as she was leaving. It didn’t look good, not when she was applying for residencies. One negative word from Dr. Virizerini could change her carefully made plans. She spoke when the CFO was next to her, “Hello, Dr. Virizerini.”
“Good afternoon, Dr. Morgan.” The CFO smiled, “I’m sure you have a great deal on your plate today. However, I did want to extend this to you personally.”
The CFO extended a cream envelope. Paige’s mind was boggled, even though se should be used to it by now. She hated being used for money for some meaningless project the powers that be cooked up around here. Paige knew that she would extend her regrets, which was a Sorenese way to say “No way in hell.”
Paige had learned the hard way how to say no sometimes, meaning that she was free to say yes to the things that personally mattered to her with a bit more regularity. Paige took the invitation, “Thank you.”
The CFO nodded, “Of course the hospital wouldn’t mind if you brought along a guest.”
Paige noted that she had been allotted a plus one on the invitation. She smiled, “My brother is my plus one these days, so if we’re able to make it, I’m sure he’d be glad to come.”
When the CFO said goodbye and left them alone again, Paige slid into the waiting town car. After they had been driving for some time, “Did you have to burst her bubble so sharply?”
Paige grinned, “It’s kinder to blame the fact that he’s having another baby for my absence. Everyone loves babies.”
Paige knew that well, considering the pregnancy speculation ran rampant in the press when they had nothing better to report. The press office had said, “No comment.” so many times that Paige fantasized about telling the press herself that she had committed the great sin of eating a burrito or menstruating, sometimes both.
“Indeed.” Soren agreed, “Now, about the state dinner.”
“Soren.” Paige cut him off at the knees, “You and I both know that these details were handled months ago, so there is clearly another reason you’ve kidnapped me.”
He shot her a scandalized look. “Why would I do something like that, Dr. Paige?”
Without bothering to dignify that with a reply, Paige took out her reading from her bag, and began to study, using her knees and the wide seat of the town car to get work done. Her phone buzzed with an incoming text from time to time, but by the time they hit D.C. Paige had gotten enough work done that her guilt was lessened.
Paige exhaled when the car moved through D.C. She had a discreet escort. Eddie had very nearly insisted on a full escort. Paige had refused. His mother had backed Paige’s play. Rosalind was a true friend and ally, and Paige’s respect for her grew daily.
They arrived at the embassy, and Paige slid from the backseat of the town car and made her way up the steps to meet the aide. Paige no longer found these meetings strange. She had, at first, given the bad press of their broken engagement and the tentative way in which they had rebuilt their relationship during medical school.
Isadora paused. “Please wait here.”
Paige sat down on a high backed chair of yellow silk. “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do until you’re ready for me to help with the flowers.”
Her expression smoothed after a second, but Paige knew there were no flowers. “Of course.”
Paige had to hand it to Soren. She sat for a few moments, but she could not figure out his secret reasons for whisking her here. “Soren, what was your plan?”
A new voice answered, “You are remiss, Paige dear, in not thinking about the larger picture.” The Dowager Queen stood in the doorway, her smile radiant as she looked at Paige.
Paige wasn’t sure why she had been called to the carpet, but stood as was required. Paige thought back to her actions over the last few months. Only one day stood out, when she had threatened some abuser in the parking lot as she’d tried to save his wife’s life after he’d nearly killed her. Paige was glad the man was in jail and the woman was in transitional housing getting the help she needed. There was nothing she would apologize for in that moment. “Look, if you’re mad because I confronted that man...”
Rosalind waved a hand, “You merely escorted the patient inside. A queen never sits down in the face of injustice. She merely wields her sword with mercy and fortitude. You did what any decent human being should have done.”
When they sat again, and Rosalind had poured tea from the silver service on the table between them, Paige asked, “Not that I’m not happy to see you...”
“But you want to know why it is me you’re visiting, rather than Edvard?” Rosalind was astute as ever. Paige had been hoping Soren had collected her on Eddie’s behalf for some strange reason he’d cooked up only to see her.
Paige tilted her head.
Rosalind sipped her tea, “I happen to sit on the board of the hospital, as you know.”
Paige did know this, of course. Rosalind was their patron. A patron devoted his or her time on behalf of the Royal Family in order to support the organization’s mission. Arabella had a few patronages in the arts. Eddie, weirdly, had a few in agriculture. He still couldn’t tell a combine from a backhoe, but the poor guy tried. His time each year with her parents helped him to learn to run a farm, even if sometimes she did wonder if Eddie felt like Marie Antoinette playing in Hameau de la Reine. But no, he really worked. He had grown up. He was a fundamentally good man. He joked that running a monarchy was little different from running a farm.
“I hope the fundraiser went well. That microsurgery unit is going to change lives.” Paige offered. She hadn’t yet seen them herself, but she did want to practice on them for a time. It was good to develop professional competencies where she could.
“Yes.” Rosalind agreed, “However, as a patron, I am sometimes asked to sit in on more mundane matters, such as a meeting wherein the selection of fellows are discussed. Naturally, at the last meeting, I left quite enlightened.”
“You must have left with your head spinning.” Paige breathed, “I would hope what you heard was held in confidence.”
“I would not raise Edvard’s hopes for all the world, Paige.” Rosalind’s reproach was gentle, but very clear. She did not want her son to be hurt.
“I am not a twenty year old girl, not anymore. There is work in Denmark that I can do, work that will lessen poverty and allow me to be a doctor as well as advocate for the people. No matter what else I am, I can be a doctor. I can be a whole person, with more to myself than just one...thing.” Paige finished lamely.
She did not wish to hurt Rosalind, but Rosalind had devoted her entire married life to being a Queen of merit. Rosalind had never had a profession, beyond the massive amounts of work required by her defining role as Queen Consort.
Paige waited for Rosalind’s beautiful face to be marred by a frown. It never came.
Instead, she said, “Well, it appears you have made up your mind.”
“Yes?” Paige ventured. After a second, she repeated herself with conviction, “Yes. I’d like to pursue a fellowship in Denmark.”
When Rosalind was silent, Paige added, “Provided I can get a visa.”
“I think it’s clear that you will need much more than a visa, Paige.” Rosalind referenced the citizenship that would be required when, if, if she married Eddie. Thankfully, she was already Lutheran. She would not renounce her faith for anyone. It was a gift of Grace, and she struggled with it, but it was hers, and she would not forsake it.
“I haven’t told Eddie I’d like to move to Denmark.” Paige confessed, “I don’t know anything beyond that I know what I want. I don’t know if I’ve been selected for a fellowship. I don’t know what he wants, if he wants a relationship, if he even wants to be more than just...” Paige stopped short of telling Rosalind the details of their relationship. She was, after all, Eddie’s mother.
“You delude yourself.” Rosalind chided, “You were top of your medical school class, top of your major at college, you have everything to recommend you, and you knew full well when you sent in your application that they’d bend over backwards to have you there. You knew full well what the choice to apply to Denmark means, for it is what you want it to mean. Your hesitation and false modesty does not become you between us. I know what you are and what you most desire. It is time you admit it to me, as you have done in your own mind.”
“Fine!” Paige began, “Do you want me to say that yet again I find myself wanting to book a ticket to show up at the palace gates, unsure of myself? Do you want me to say that I have spent years figuring out a way to balance my work as a doctor and my work as Eddie’s wife? I can be a doctor and a wife. The rest will come in time.”
“You can be a doctor, and a Queen, Paige, and so you shall, if not in the way you assumed both roles might look like at the age of twenty.” Rosalind said, “On the subject of my son, it is clear to all the position he seeks to give you in life. You only have to trust your heart.”
“That’s your advice?” Paige’s mind was boggled.
“When you were a girl, I gave the advice you needed to hear as a girl.” Rosalind clarified, “You were not who you are today. You a woman, and a woman never distrusts the workings of her heart when she has tested its fortitude and knows the strength of her mind and will to work to the desires of her heart possible.”
Paige looked down at her nails. They were coated with clear polish, the chips buffed over, and the callouses filed off as best as could be hoped. There was no taking the farm out of the girl. She shook out her skirt gently, feeling very much like Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, breathless and unsure.
Paige looked out the window to the busy world below. She was in the hospital here for the last time. She had handed in everything, not knowing what she would do next, only knowing that her time in Baltimore had taught all she could absorb. She was a fully trained doctor, certified in two specialties.
She had been fully trained for two hours, and it was taking everything she had inside of her not to run.
There was nothing holding her back, except that she had not heard about a fellowship post in Copenhagen. It was clear as a bell to Paige. She could go to Texas. She had a possible spot there, because Austin was amazing and she’d been half drunk when making her list. She had one in Brussels, and two in London. She knew nothing of Denmark.
She could do anything. She simply had to...
Before Paige could finish the thought, Marci came up behind her. “Hey, what are you still doing here? You’re done, too, or had you forgotten?”
“I just...” Paige said, “I’m not sure where I’m going. I hate not having a plan.”
“Paige, you’re the girl with the plan.” Marci said, “You know. You’ve planned for nothing else for years. You’ve got to grab the bull by horns and make it happen. I don’t know what they tell you in Princess Lessons, but no handsome men just show up and make things easy.”
“They’re diplomatic protocol, history, and economics lessons.” Paige corrected, “But you’re right.”
“I’m right.” Marci repeated, “What does that even mean?”
Paige was walking quickly away, but Marci kept pace. “Don’t tell anyone where I’ve gone, not anyone.”
“I won’t.” Marci agreed, “Just make those old fogies at the University beg to have you, please.”
Paige had had a hard time making friends in medical school and in the hospital, but she had never been so glad for Marci, and her astute ways.
Paige raced to Dulles after changing, packing a small bag, grabbing her passport and dumping any perishables in her fridge. She got to the ticket counter sooner than she’d expected. There was a small line, but Paige used that time to do the sensible thing. She called her mom.
When she came to the desk, she said, “I’d like a ticket to Copenhagen.”
The woman at the ticket counter looked up, flicked a glance to the People magazine Paige noticed on the counter, and asked, “First class? Is a layover in London okay?”
“Coach is okay, too.” Paige checked her phone. She could afford a coach ticket, possibly business.
They got to the booking page, when the woman paused, clicked again. “Dr. Morgan...” She whispered, “I’m unable to book you. I’ve tried four times.”
“Wha--?” Paige opened her mouth to ask what was going on. She had no reason to be on a Do Not Fly list. What if Eddie’s third cousin Edgar had come through on that prank to bar her from Denmark? He was silly, and Paige thought him odious, but not cruel. He did have his fingers in pies at immigration.
“Dr. Morgan?” An impeccably dressed man came up to her, “If you would step this way, please?”
Paige noticed that people were pulling out iPhones. Paige smiled, and agreed. She followed him, suddenly wishing she had agreed to a security detail. They could at least bail her out of airport jail.
“Dr. Morgan, I hope we can clear this up quickly.” The man began as he led her back a hallway.
“I-I’m not sure what’s going on, here.” Paige tried to channel Rosalind or Arabella, “Perhaps you will explain?”
“Of course. I am Walter Green.” He asked, “Was there a reason you were buying a coach ticket when you have a standing first class ticket at the desk?”
“I don’t have a ticket. I just decided to...” Paige stopped, “I think you might have me confused with someone else.”
“That’s not possible, Doctor.” He smiled, and led through the concourse, “You see, I run this airport. I know who has planes, and where they will go. I know who is on approved passenger lists, and I know when an earmarked passenger enters my airport.”
“That’s a bit Orwellian, don’t you think?” Paige ventured.
“Certainly. All is forgiven in the name of good service.” He smiled at his own joke.
Paige faltered, “I do have to get a ticket.”
“Your flight to Heathrow doesn’t board for another twenty minutes.” He handed her a boarding pass folder, “Do please come to the first class desk if there is anything we can do for you in future. You’re prescreened, so the screening will take but a moment or two. No need to arrive hours in advance or to rush.”
Paige was left standing by the yellow wall that held door to a lounge. She stepped through as she looked at her ticket.
An airline hostess came over as soon as Paige looked up from her travel documents, “Dr. Morgan, welcome to the Lufthansa Lounge.”
“Hello.” Paige smiled, reading the woman’s name off of her tag, “Thank you for your hospitality, Marie.”
Paige made herself at home. There were other people in the lounge, but none seemed inclined to eye contact, so Paige saw no harm in eating a brownie. And two cookies. She was always going to be a stress eater.
Paige fixed herself a cup of tea, and thought about her choices. She was a doctor, had become something of a good trauma doctor, and had been chief resident in critical care/trauma. Now, days later, she was a doctor, fully qualified to practice medicine without oversight. It was mind boggling. In doing what she had set out to do, she had learned some lessons the hard way. She didn’t need to run 5000 miles from home to help save the world, and she had grown stronger from her choices. She didn’t regret them. She certainly missed Eddie from time to time, but they were committed even if they had not said the words, and they had made it work.
Paige rehearsed what she might say when she landed in her mind. She was calm, and confident in a way that she had never been before, and it was freeing. Gone was the giddiness of years ago. Her mind did not war with her heart this time. It pounded, but with hope and certainty, knowing that she had walked away after making a boy into a man so that she could become a woman in her own way.
Her resolve was firmer still when she landed in London. She was exhausted. It was almost evening by this time, and she slid into the crowds heading towards the lounge.
She stopped in the public bathroom, ignored the stares, said hello to a little girl, gave her teddy bear a kiss, and went on her way. The crowd thinned to a slow trickle of people in clusters of three or four as she moved along. Paige relished the feeling of being alone after the long hours of travel.
She looked out the wide window, knowing that she would not return to this island without creating change in her life, no matter the outcome.
A hand rested her shoulder, and Paige froze.
She was ready to shove her weight backwards to spin on her feet to see who had not let go. “Very nicely done, Dr. Paige.”
“Soren!” Paige resisted the urge to hug him or strangle him for testing her training and for asking security to thin the crowd by rerouting the path a bit, “How did you know I was coming?”
“I am Soren, great knower of All.” He joked, “Where is your luggage?”
“Just me.” Paige said, “I need to go to the University.”
“Ah.” Soren’s reply said nothing but revealed much.
“I am not telling you anything first.” Paige affirmed, “Not first, and not here.”
“Very well.” Soren agreed, “If we could bypass the Metro, though, your detail would be pleased.”
“I’m a private citizen.” Paige reiterated, looking past to Soren to the nondescript agents, “It is a waste of taxpayer funding to stick a few agents on me.”
“Luckily, we pay a lot of taxes.” Another voice interjected, “And these agents happen to be privately funded by a protective but somewhat misguided King.”
“Hi.” Paige smiled. There he was, there he was, and for the first time in a long while, her heart stopped pounding.
“Hey.” Eddie returned the greeting and the smile, “Didn’t you see them following you since you came through the gate?”
“They blend.” Paige countered, “Your haircut looks nicer in person.” She hadn’t gotten a good look at it on Skype.
Eddie’s voice was thick. “You’re a doctor.”
“I’m a doctor.” She had been a fully qualified doctor for 12 hours, eight of which she had spent in travel.
Eddie hesitated, “Are we doing this here?”
“It seems so.” Paige bit her lip to hide her smile, “I had these grand plans of showing up at the Palace and stating my case. I don’t even have a post lined up yet, or a Danish medical license. I haven’t even brushed my teeth. I wanted to show you that I had really thought about this, though.”
She wanted him to know this wasn’t a rash jaunt to Scandinavia.
“We’ve thought of little else, the pair of us. Would that one of us had told the other.” Eddie smiled, but it was a nervous smile that warmed Paige’s heart, “I hope, if you will agree, that we can compose a statement to go out just as we get home.”
Paige’s eyebrows rose, “The first thing you want to do is release a statement?”
“Well, the first public thing.” Eddie grinned, “I’ve got the plane for the other stuff. Sandwich making and such.”
“I see.” Paige held back laughter, “And what would you have it say?”
“‘The Dowager Queen is pleased to announce that her frustrating son Edvard and Paige Dear have finally decided to set a wedding date after years of long distance Skype dates and international liaisons. The Crown Princess is angling to be bridesmaid. The couple will be taking a private honeymoon to Africa to hand out mosquito nets, etc. etc. etc. No gifts, please.’ Isn’t that how these things go?”
“Not entirely.” Paige pushed up on her toes, and pressed her lips to his. Pulling back, she muttered, “It’s a good start, though.”
It was a really good start, she thought.
Standing in Heathrow, surrounded by Soren and security, Paige was glad they had walked the road that had led them to this moment. She was also glad she had chewed gum during landing, but had followed Rosalind’s edicts, and spit it out before leaving the plane.
Paige heard the click of a flash, and knew that their PDA had broken protocol and that the resulting photo would end up on every newspaper in the county, and most of the world, tomorrow. It was likely already on Twitter and trending on Facebook.
“Whoops.” Eddie whispered against her mouth, “Do you think Denmark’s ready?”
“Ready and waiting.” Paige replied, knowing full well what he meant.