Heavy metal accompanied the abnormal screeching called music. Nanny Maureen stood outside the living room, watching Danielle’s attempt to mimic the dances on TV. From the sweat on the teenager’s forehead, she’d been working awhile. Stepping into the room, she retrieved the remote and the volume went down several notches, effectively capturing the teenager’s attention.
A brief flicker of fear sashayed across her face immediately replaced by defiance. “Hey! What’d you do that for?”
Nanny Maureen offered a smile. “Not quite getting it, are you?” She studied the performance. “You’re missing a little of this-” With a step-twirl, followed by a wiggle of her hips, she moved as fluidly as the blonde doll bopping around the garish stage. “and that.”
Danielle stared at her, mouth open. “Where’d you learn that?”
“From my mother. She was a dancer, but didn’t want me to live that life. So she danced her way into a heart with power and position, then married it.” Nanny Maureen smiled. “Surprised you, didn’t I? Shocking to see that mirrored back, isn’t it?”
There was a shrug in reply.
“Mother’s stopped dancing, since my father no longer approves of her talent. Of course, it’s also unbearably hot. She’s raising my little girl for me. Which is-”
Danielle rolled her eyes. “Let me guess, cute, perfect-”
“And would never listen to that kind of music.” Nanny Maureen interrupted. “She holds herself to a higher standard, in spite of a bouncing beat, catchy tunes, rhyming words disguising this filth. If you saw this dance through your father’s eyes, or heard the lyrics through my ears, the expression on your face would be exactly what it is now. I’ve tip-toed around you these past months and I’m finished. We can talk now, or I can fetch your father and we’ll have this chat together.”
“It’s just dancing.” Danielle clicked the TV off. “Nothing wrong with it!”
“Not if it’s in celebration, for fun or enjoying yourself with someone you honestly care about. However, it worries me when you’re a 16-year-old girl, dancing provocatively in the outfit you smuggled out last night to wear-”
A fierce blush stained her cheeks. “I didn’t sneak-!”
“Cheating on curfew. Hiding in the bathroom with a hangover.” Nanny Maureen ticked them off on her fingers. “Ditching the bodyguard-shall I continue?”
“Stupid nanny!” Danielle’s hands curled into fists, fake fingernails digging into thin palms. “You’re ruining my summer! I don’t care how you tricked my father-”
“Into safeguarding the most precious thing in his world? Danielle, this charade-the clothes, music, parties you shouldn’t attend, regardless of age-it isn’t worth it! You can lock out love as long as your heart can stand it, when it crumbles-you die inside.”
“I’m already dead inside!” She scowled through tears. “Who cares? My father-Duke of Lalimar doesn’t! I’m a paycheck-”
“That I don’t need.” Nanny Maureen caught her in a hug. “If I wanted money, would I be a nanny?” She kissed her head. “Let the words out, love.”
And she did. Danielle cried and talked, emptying everything from feelings of her mother’s death to her father’s obsession with work. The pressuring boyfriend a few years older was topped by summer, formerly her favorite season-now trickling away.
“I’m missing everything! Why do you even care?”
“Because I have a daughter; I would give anything for her future, which is why I’m not hiding in the country beside her.”
“Hiding in the country?” Danielle sniffled.
Nanny Maureen offered a napkin. “If people like your father found her, she wouldn’t be safe.”
Danielle jerked away from the gentle arms, scrambling backwards until she hit the wall. Her eyes searched the elegant face. “Queen Maureen? Y-you’re alive!”
“And now that you know, I cannot stay and ask you to bear the burden of my true identity.” The queen rose from the sofa. “You’re still his little girl, Danielle. He cares! He’s in bad company now, but perhaps you’re the tool God will use to change his mind. My return to the throne is costly. This is the last free summer-don’t waste it. Not for a moment of pleasure or a second of torture. A time for memories and family, before war comes-live the life God has given you!” A thin, glowing jade bracelet slipped below her buttoned sleeve, bearing the Royal coat of arms for the Radork family.
In the tinkling of jade dust and wind chimes, the queen disappeared. Danielle felt her heart scream, hiccup, then cry. “Goodbye.” She whispered.
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