Blood rushes to my cheeks and my head feels hot. He must think I’m an idiot. Did he know that I didn’t know? Who am I kidding, of course he knew—I threw a pie in his face.
Ellie grabs her glitter-cased phone off the bed. “I am so putting this on Snapchat!”
My reaction is immediate and visceral.
“No.” I cover her hands with mine. “Don’t. Everyone will come here looking for him—it’ll be a madhouse.”
“Exactly!” She jumps up and down. “Business will be crazy. Ooh! We should name a pie after him! The McHotty—the king of pies!”
I know that would be the smart thing to do. The part of me that doesn’t actually want to get kicked out on the street yells, Sell, sell, sell!
But it feels…wrong.
I’m still not entirely sure Nicholas isn’t the dickhead he acted like the other night. I don’t owe him a thing. And yet, selling him out, using him to bring in business, telling the world where he might show up next, feels like…a betrayal.
“He won’t come back if you post that, Ellie.”
“Did he say he was going to? That he’s coming back?” This possibility seems to excite her more than a million social media likes.
“I…I think he will.”
And electricity races up my spine, because I want him to.
Ellie and I use the rare day off as a do-it-ourselves spa day. We soak our feet, loofah our heels, and paint each other’s nails. We glob Vaseline on our hands and put them in thick cotton socks, to moisturize. We rub a mixture of olive oil and raw eggs through our hair, then wrap our heads in plastic wrap, a verrry attractive look—if only Instagram could see us now. We put cucumber slices on our eyes and oatmeal masks on our faces—all with a VH1 The Big ’80s: The Big Movies marathon playing in the background—Ghostbusters, St. Elmo’s Fire, Dirty Dancing. We finish the beautification ritual by tweezing each other’s eyebrows—the ultimate trust exercise.
At about four o’clock, our dad comes out of his room. His eyes are tired and bloodshot, but he’s in a good mood. We play a few rounds of Hearts, a game he taught us when we were kids, then he makes Ellie and me tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s the best dinner I’ve had in a long time—probably because someone else made it for me. After the sun goes down and I can see my reflection in the window, Ellie slips on her boots, throws her coat over her pajamas, and walks to a friend’s house down the block. Our dad follows soon after—heading to the bar to “watch the game” with the guys.
And in my bed, alone, with a sandalwood and coconut candle burning on the nightstand, feeling soft and smooth and pretty, I engage in the activity I’ve been fantasizing about all day long.
I Google Nicholas Pembrook.
I have no clue if any of the information is true, but there’s a ton of it. Everything from his favorite color (black) to what brand of underwear he prefers (Calvin’s). Of course, he has his own Wikipedia page. He has an official website—and about ten thousand fan sites. His ass has its own Twitter handle, @HisRoyalArse, and it has more followers than Jon Hamm’s Penis and Chris Evans’ Beard put together.
The gossip sites claim he’s screwed practically every woman he’s spoken to—from Taylor Swift (she wrote a whole album about him) to Betty White (best night of her life). Nicholas and his brother, Henry, are close, sharing passions for polo and philanthropy. He simultaneously adores his grandmother the Queen—a gentle-looking woman, cute in that little-old-person kind of way—and is counting the days until she drops dead.
After a few hours, I feel like a stalker—and I’m convinced most of these writers are just making shit up. Before I log off, a video thumbnail at the top of the search list catches my attention—a news clip from the funeral of Prince Thomas and Princess Calista.
I click on it and am brought to a close-up of two coffins, both white and trimmed in gold, being pulled in a horse-drawn carriage. Throngs of crying spectators line the streets like a black curtain. The camera pans out, showing four people walking behind the carriage. The Queen and her husband, Prince Edward, are in the center; a young boy with light curling hair, Prince Henry, walks on the outside, and Nicholas, wearing the same coal-colored suit as his brother, is on the other side.
At fourteen, Nicholas was already his full height. His cheekbones are less defined, his chin smoother, shoulders narrower, but he’s still a handsome boy. The newscaster’s voice-over explains that it’s Wessco tradition for the sovereign and heirs to walk behind the coffin of a royal family member as it’s paraded through every street in the city, before arriving at the cathedral for the final service.
Miles. They had to walk miles before they could bury their parents.
Suddenly, Henry—he was ten then—stops walking, his knees almost buckling. He covers his face with both hands and sobs.
And I taste tears in the back of my throat, because he reminds me of Ellie, the day we buried our mother. How hard she cried—inconsolable—and that same devastation plays out on my computer screen. For several excruciating seconds, it’s as if all the people are frozen. No one moves; no one tries to comfort him. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
He might as well be standing in the middle of the street alone.
And then in three quick strides Nicholas is there, pulling his little brother against him, wrapping his arms around his small body like a shield. Henry’s head only comes to the top of Nicholas’s stomach—he buries his face and Nicholas gently strokes his hair. Then he glares up at the crowd and the cameras, a hooded gaze burning with resentment and grief.