It turns out Tivoli is Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park and the second oldest in the world, located in Copenhagen. And, oh my god, it’s like Disneyland. By the time Henrik drops us off at the front entrance, I’m just as giddy and excited as the girls.
“Are you going to be okay, Miss Aurora?” Henrik asks warmly as we clamor out of the car.
I stick my head back in through the open door. “I should be. Right?”
He nods. “I can come in with you if you want. There shouldn’t be any problems, but if there is, I can always look intimidating.” He makes a faux angry face and pretends to flex a muscle.
“What problems?” I ask, feeling nervous now. “Oh my god. Like kidnapping? I didn’t get that far in the handbook yet!”
He gives me a wan smile. “You don’t need to worry about that.”
“Well, for one, you won’t be all alone in the park.”
I look around the busy parking lot. That’s true but…
“Meaning,” he goes on, “there will be people, royal staff, watching you. Bodyguards.”
I look around again, brows raised. “Oh. Where are they?”
“They’ll be around,” he says. “When it comes to the girls, King Aksel wants them to feel as normal as possible. That means keeping the guards and attendants at a distance. But don’t worry, they’ll always be watching.”
I’m not worrying at all but it is kind of unnerving. “So what problems did you mean, then?”
“Paparazzi,” he says. “You know, taking pictures. Aksel wants that at a minimum. But if it’s too much of a problem, you can always alert the staff and they can kick them out and escort you as well.”
Oh. That. I haven’t had to deal with the paparazzi yet. I mean, I’ve taken the girls for walks along the water and the parks a few times now (trailed by bodyguards, I’m now realizing) and maybe there’s been a person or two taking pictures of us with a big camera, but they were always so far away that it never bothered me.
Then again, I don’t read the Danish tabloids so I have no idea if we’re even featured in them or not. I can’t imagine why. There’s nothing exciting about two little girls and their nanny, princesses or not.
Now, if Aksel were here, well then I could see that being a different story. In fact, that’s one reason why I don’t pick up the tabloids if he’s being featured. I may not understand Danish, but I don’t think what they’re saying is always nice. It must be so hard to not only be a king at such a young (relatively) age but to lose your beloved queen as well. Aksel seems to be fodder for them and is never held in the same regard as Helena was.
Still, I assure Henrik that I’ll be fine and I grab the girls both by the hand and lead them into the park.
“So what are your favorite rides?” I ask them as we approach the ticket booth.
“Dragebådene,” says Freja.
“Minen!” shouts Clara.
“Den Flyvende Kuffert!”
I don’t understand what any of those are but I’m sure I’ll find out soon.
We pay for our tickets—the girl working the booth immediately recognizing the princesses—and we step inside the chaos of the park. Actually, it’s not that bad. Maybe because it’s getting late in the season but it’s definitely not as crazy crowded as Disneyland Paris.
The girls immediately start dragging me in different directions, past loop-de-loop coasters and Japanese pagodas and Arabian palaces and giant pirate ships. My stomach growls at the sights and smells of all the tasty treats but I manage to eat my scone to keep it in check.
First we go on the “Ballongyngen” which is just a fancy word for ferris wheel. Usually I hate ferris wheels because they’re claustrophobic and boring, but this is in an open hot air balloon, and it doesn’t go very high. After that we work our way to the Karavanen, a little roller coaster that’s a surprising amount of fun. The girls sit together in the compartment in front of me, and the attendant, recognizing who I am, I guess, lets me sit by myself behind them.
But this is the beginning of a problem I didn’t see coming.
Going to an amusement park with an odd number is difficult when most rides only let two sit together. We go to the “Dragebådene” which are self-piloted dragon boats, and I can’t drive one around while leaving the other child on shore and they both can’t do it themselves. The same goes for some of the bigger rides and roller coasters. The only rides the two of them can go on by themselves are the kiddie ones and that’s starting to piss Clara off more and more by the minute.
“But I’m not a little baby,” she cries out to me, stamping her foot as we watch people get on her favorite rollercoaster. “When we were here last, we were able to go on all the rides!”
Freja says something to her in Danish in a low voice, her lower lip pouting.
“What was that?” I ask, leaning in.
“She said it was because Papa and Mama were here with us!” Clara practically yells, her face growing red. “Now she’s gone and he won’t come and we have nothing!”
Oh my god. Is she about to have a public meltdown?
I put my hands on Clara’s shoulders. “Listen, we’re still having a good time. We still went on the flying trunk ride and the mine ride that you like and the Viking carousel and—”
“No!” she cries out, ripping away from me and running to the front of the line, starting to yell at the ride operator. “Jeg er prinsessen, jeg skal med på turen!”
Everyone in line is both wide-eyed and submissive, immediately stepping back and out of the way to let her go in front.
I grab Clara’s arm as gently as I can and try to pull her away. “You see the sign, you can’t go by yourself, and I can’t leave Freja behind.” I’m pleading with her now not to make a scene but I know it’s too late. She’s making one. Everyone can hear what she’s saying and, worse, I see cameras and phones out, snapping her picture, probably even recording it.
“Do you mind?” I turn around and yell at the crowd. “This little girl might be a princess but she’s still a little girl who lost her mother. If you post any of that, we will sue you!”
“Yeah, sue you,” Freja interjects, pointing her finger at them.
Finally, Clara gives in and lets me drag her away. I manage to get her around the corner from the crowd and then drop to my knees to look at her, my hands on her shoulders keeping her in place. “Clara, please, you know you can’t act like this.”
“I can do whatever I want,” she sniffs, wiping the lone tear that’s falling from her eye. “I’m a princess and I’m going to be a queen someday.”
I can’t really argue with that one.
“Then you must learn how queens behave themselves. You’re a queen-in-training, Clara.”
“And a goddess,” Freja speaks up.
I give Freja a grateful smile. “Yes, and a goddess.” I pull Clara in for a light hug. I’m a hugger but I understand people who aren’t and with Clara she’s either into it or making a fuss.
Clara pulls back and nods, looking away. She seems ashamed and suddenly aware of the scene she caused. “I just miss Mama,” she admits.
“Oh sweetheart, I know you do. Everyone does. Everyone loved her.”
“But she was only our mother, no one else’s. And now she’s gone. And we can’t even come here like we used to.”
My heart is waterlogged. I sigh and brush her hair over her shoulder. “I wish I had magic to bring your mother back and have everything the way it was. I wish life worked that way.”
“When I’m queen, I’m going to find that magic. I’ll be able to turn back time.”
“Well, let me know when you do, because I’ve got a few mistakes in my past I wouldn’t mind redoing.”
That got her attention, distracting her from her own sadness. “Really? Like what?”
I smile. “That’s a conversation for another time. For now though, all we have is the present so we better make the most of it. Isn’t that right?”
“That’s right,” Freja says, coming over and leaning against her sister in support.
“Can we go to the autumn fair now?” Clara asks quietly, staring at her shoes.
“Yes, of course,” I tell them. “Let’s go.” I take both their hands and all three of us raise our chins, heads held high, and walk out of the park.
The autumn fair is further outside of the city, which is a nice little drive through lanes lined with red and golden-leafed trees and misty fields of wheat. I roll down the window and take in a deep breath, slowly feeling my head start to clear. I’d spent most of the ride totally foggy-headed and drained after Clara’s breakdown in Tivoli.
I don’t blame her—at all. This is the first time I’ve seen Clara give any sign of trauma, that something is wrong. Normally quiet Freja is the sensitive one, wearing her heart on her sleeve and Clara is just so happy-go-lucky through life. In fact, she reminds me a lot of me. For her to get emotional like this, it’s healthy and long overdue.
But I fear what might get printed in the tabloids or put online. The stuff they might say about her. I don’t give a rat’s ass what they’ll say about me because I’m pretty sure me yelling at people isn’t going to paint me in the best “Mary Poppins” light and they’ll probably post unflattering pictures of me in my skirt, call me a hussy or something, and then say I was totally incompetent. But I want to protect Clara and Freja from as much of this as I can.
Thankfully the fair isn’t nearly as busy as Tivoli, and as far as I can tell, there aren’t any paparazzi around. It’s mostly apple orchards, pens of prized farm animals, and endless stalls selling harvest vegetables and crafts and food, set on a sprawling, picturesque farm.