The first woman pouted. “Hey, I was here first. Why don’t you dance with me, Prince William?”
“Back off,” snapped Tracey. “I saw him first.”
I almost huffed.
Yeah, you and the twenty other women here.
“William!” shouted Andrew from the other side of the banquet hall. He rushed over and pulled me away from the crowd, much to my relief. “Uncle John is here.”
“Come on, come say hi. There’s no need to be shy.”
I was pulled from one overbearing group to another overbearing group. They were still as handsy, still as stifling. Uncle John and Aunt Beatrice pinched my cheeks. They’d aged significantly since the last time I saw them. A pang of guilt hit me square in the chest. I really needed to visit home more often. But I loved travelling way too much. The idea of settling down in one place for an extended period of time didn’t exactly sit well with me.
“My boy,” chuckled Uncle John. “Have you lost some weight?”
“I’ll be sure to send you some of my famous shepherd’s pie,” said Aunt Beatrice. She patted my belly. “We’ll have to fatten you up before winter.”
I chuckled nervously. “Auntie B, would you mind giving me a moment? I really need to find–”
“Are you looking for someone to dance with you?”
“Well, actually, I–”
“Because Lady Teresa is here.”
“The Spanish princess?” gasped Uncle John. “You should go talk to her. Maybe you two will hit it off.”
I sighed in frustration, but nobody seemed to hear me. I turned to look about the massive banquet hall, searching for any sign of Hannah. But all I caught were eager eyes of people looking to gain something from me, no doubt excited by my title and what that could offer them. They weren’t really here for me. They were interested in my connections, my money, my land, my power.
But not Hannah. Hannah was here because she liked me for me. I promised that we’d have a good time, and things certainly weren’t going the way I’d planned. No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to find her amid the crowd. If I didn’t catch up to her soon, I was genuinely afraid she’d leave. That thought alone left my heart twisting in my chest, though I wasn’t entirely sure why.
So, as it turned out, William was far more popular than I gave him credit for. It made sense, though, that everybody would want to talk to him. He was handsome, charming and charismatic. He drew people in like magnets, myself included. But I wasn’t really one for crowds and it looked like he had a lot of catching up to do, so I slipped away for a moment to grab some fresh air. I wandered over to the refreshments table, which consisted of rows upon rows of fancy cocktails and bottled liquor. Since I didn’t really know anybody here, I grabbed myself a small glass of fruit punch and awkwardly stuck to the sidewall and observed William from afar.
He looked like some sort of celebrity, surrounded at all times by his faithful entourage. I understood that he was a really great, generous guy, but I didn’t quite understand the fascination. People looked at him like he was some sort of prince, up on a pedestal to admire. Several women were trying to get handsy with him, which I had to admit plucked at my chest bitterly. I told myself that I wasn’t envious. William and I were just having fun; this was nothing serious.
But then why the hell was I so totally jealous?
I didn’t like that they were pawing at him like some sort of cat scratching post. I didn’t like how he smiled at them, laughed with them like he did with me. I didn’t like that they took up all his attention and left me cast aside like some stranger. I wanted to be the one by his side. I wanted to be the one holding onto him.
I bitterly took a sip of my drink and mumbled against the rim, “This fucking sucks.”
Andrew, the groom, eventually hurried over and dragged William toward yet another group. This next one seemed better put-together, elegant and regal in a way I just couldn’t put into words. They were clearly well-off, judging by their bespoke suits and designer evening gowns. The old woman pinching William’s cheeks even wore a tiara. How over the top was that? This wasn’t a royal wedding, why not cool it a bit so poor commoners like me didn’t have to keep up with such uptight appearances?
A few of the woman that I saw earlier, the ones vying for William’s attention, walked up to me. I pressed my lips into a thin line and offered a polite smile.
“I saw you walked in with Prince William,” commented one.
“How long have you known him?” asked another.