So yeah. Not only am I heading to the bloody royal palace to meet them all but I have to be mindful of what this family has gone through. The kids I’ve watched over in the past have all had varying degrees of difficulties and problems (don’t get me started on Etienne), but none of them have had to deal with grief other than the death of a goldfish.
Me, on the other hand? Well, let’s just say I know it in many forms.
The harsh jolt of the plane’s landing literally snaps me out of my thoughts.
The woman next to me stops her praying and I peek out the window at the runways of Copenhagen airport.
Nausea rolls through me as if we’re back in the air again.
The funny thing is that though days ago I had been considering a change of pace, doing anything but this, ready for a new direction in my life, now I’m counting on getting this job above all others.
I am not refined. I have zero interest in royalty.
There’s absolutely nothing that makes me think I would even be a good fit for this position. I’d always assumed that people who worked for a royal family—especially a nanny—would have to come from a line of nobility themselves. Lord, I hope I don’t have to open up about my own background because I’m pretty sure I’d be shown the door in a hot second.
And yet, if I did happen to get the job, I can see the doors opening from it, my future expanding, and a purpose that’s always eluded me might finally be in my reach.
If I get the job, of course.
Big, fat if.
Once we’re at the gate, I grab my small carry-on from the overhead compartment and shuffle down the aisle. The royal family paid for the flight, which was nice of them. I’ve been saving up over the years so I could swing it but even so, I’m careful with my money.
At the arrivals area I see Maja again plus a man who must be the driver, standing at attention beside her. Like before, her hair is back in a braid and she’s dressed plainly in dark colors.
Here I go.
“Hello again,” I say to her, holding out my hand. “Thank you so much for having me.”
Maja’s hand shake is firm, her smile tight. “Come this way,” she says in her heavy accent before turning and walking off, the driver beside her.
Okay. So she may have called me back for a second interview but we’re definitely not best buds yet. That’s fine. I can win her over with time.
If you have time, I remind myself. Think before you speak.
I follow the two of them out to a waiting black Town Car where the driver takes my bag and puts it in the trunk and then opens the back door. Maja nods at me to get inside and I feel a thrill run through me. Not that I haven’t been in such a car before but I am a little suspicious these two are going to dump my body in the castle moat. With all my research I hadn’t found any information on Maja.
The urge to ask her about herself is strong, especially as neither she nor the driver talk at all during the drive. I like to talk, mainly because I’m curious and also because I can’t stand awkward silences.
I stare at Maja, trying to figure out her game.
She stares right back at me, one eyebrow raised.
Shit, I’m already blowing it. I do tend to stare at people a lot but I do it out of curiosity, not to be rude. There’s a lot you can learn about people just by staying silent and watching them.
Unfortunately, I sometimes have problems with the staying silent part.
“I take it you might have some questions for me,” she says after a beat.
“I do,” I say. “I mean, I never really got to hear what your role in all of this is.”
I bite my lip, wondering if I’m being nosy. “Yes. Are you … working for the royal family?”
“I’m the queen’s sister,” she says stiffly. “The dowager queen.”
Which I now know means the title is by marriage and not by birthright, so that makes Maja the sister of Queen Liva—therefore she’s King Aksel’s aunt. “I’m handling these affairs for His Majesty.”
I nod. “I bet it can’t be easy. Finding someone.”
“No,” she says. “It’s not. We’ve had a nanny or two since Helena died but they weren’t quite right.”
“Is it bold if I asked what went wrong?”
She purses her lips together as she eyes me. “It is bold,” she says after a moment of scrutiny. “But I’ll allow it.” She sighs, looking out the window and I can tell she’s trying to find the right words. “As you well know, the family has gone through a lot in the last four years. First with the King, Aksel’s father, passing away. Then with my dear sister Liva … she’s not been the same since. Aksel was thrust into the role of king far before he was ready and more or less lost both parents at once. Then with the car accident and Helena … you can understand he can be quite disagreeable at times.”
I have a feeling that ladies like Maja use the term “disagreeable” to mean raging asshole, but time will tell.
“I’ve worked well with a variety of personalities,” I assure her. Including Etienne’s father who hit on me non-stop. That tosser was just part of the reason I quit that last job. “Nothing phases me.”
Except, you know, sexual harassment and brats that try to set your hair on fire.
She gives me a tight-lipped smile. “Which is one of the reasons why I called you back. The last two nannies were too soft, too sensitive, too reactive to stress. What the King needs, what the girls need, is someone who can weather any storm. Water off a duck’s back, is the English term, is it not?”
“And you can handle all that?”
“Godt,” she says, clasping her hands in her lap. “Good,” she then clarifies, which makes me realize I have to start picking up some Danish.
We don’t talk for the rest of the drive but that’s fine with me as my attention is completely stolen by the streets of Copenhagen. I hadn’t made it up to northern Europe yet, so this is my first glimpse of everything Viking and Hygge.
So far, Copenhagen is living up to all my Scandinavian dreams. It’s absolutely charming, with cobblestone streets between colorful buildings done up in yellows and corals and greens, and I swear, the hottest people I’ve ever seen. The majority of them are tall and blonde with cheekbones that can cut glass. Most seem to have an ice cream cone in their hand, biking past breezily. All seem exceptionally smiley and happy. I guess I’d be that happy too if I was eating ice cream and looked like a supermodel.
“And here is the palace,” Maja says suddenly, which snaps my attention forward again. I had no idea how close the palace was to the city center. For some reason I expected the royal palace to be on the outskirts, not right beside the harbor.
But there it is.
“This is Amalienborg Palace,” Maja says as the driver takes us down a side street past an imposing domed church and a large square full of photo-happy tourists. At all four points of the square there are palaces. “There are four palaces but only the fourth one, Christian IX’s Palace, is where we take up residence.”
“It’s so close to … everything,” I say, gawking out the window at the four matching palaces dotted with grand windows and stone columns. I can’t believe they all face a public square like that. “How do you get any privacy? Where do the kids play?”
“There is a small yard in the back. It is enough. And as it is, we’ve only just come back last month. We use this as a residence for autumn and winter. We spend the summer elsewhere.”
All I know is that if I were royalty, I wouldn’t be in a palace surrounded by tourists peering up at all the windows. I’d be holed up in a castle somewhere. Preferably on a beach. With a margarita in hand. And a shirtless butler that looks like Jason Momoa.
“Here we are,” Maja says as the car stops in a small lot behind the palace, a heavily guarded gate closing behind us.
Okay, enough crazy daydreams. I’m here. And I’m bloody nervous.
I get out of the car and Maja escorts me in through a large wooden door.
We step inside a small foyer and I’m led along intricately designed Baroque floors toward a grand room.
“Have a seat,” Maja says as we step inside, gesturing to a teal velvet chair beside an antique desk.
I do as she asks and look around. The room is long and filled floor-to-ceiling with books between fancy moldings, with a comfy looking couch down toward one end.
“Is this the library?” I ask, itching to take a look at all the spines. They’re probably all written in Danish but I don’t care. Books are one of my addictions.
“This is just a study,” she says, waving her hand at the room like it’s a linen closet.
Oh. Just a study.
“I’ll go and get the girls.”
“You’ll be meeting with Clara and Freja first,” she says, and I swear I see a smile crack on her face. “They can be a better judge of character than the King.”
She disappears, closing the door behind her.
Great. Maja seems to think well of me, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But now my job rests in the hands of two little girls. In general, girls tend to like me better than boys, and most kids warm up to me right away. But there are always a few outliers who need a lot of convincing. Candy usually works in those situations but I’m not sure if bribery is within royal palace protocols.
Just as I’m mulling over what kind of lollies the Danes might have, the door opens and Maja appears with a girl on each side of her, holding their hands.
I’m not sure what the etiquette is around princesses but I err on the side of caution and get to my feet, then immediately curtsey. Makes me wish I was wearing a pretty dress like they are instead of my black dress pants and navy wrap shirt. Makes me wish I knew exactly what I was doing. My version of a curtsey makes me nearly fall over.
One girl looks amused by it, the slightly taller one. The other girl stays closer to Maja’s side, avoiding eye contact.