Chapter 7. Outings

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Chapter 7. Outings

Post  Rowanna on Sun May 03, 2015 11:25 pm

Chapter 7. Outings

Naitachel had taken to spending a good bit of his time each day downstairs with Mircea and Radu. So much so that the good doctor had grown concerned he might worry himself into becoming his newest patient. Radu’s headache had finally begun to ease, his shields slowly repairing themselves. This had the unfortunate effect of encouraging a certain restlessness in the younger brother as he worried more and more, and not without reason, about the work that was piling up in his absence. This stress, of course, worked against his recovery. Radu’s presence seemed to have a wholly therapeutic effect on Mircea, however. The elder Prince seemed far more lucid than he had in decades. As such, he set about finding things to do with Radu with the aim of keeping the younger’s mind occupied with things other than work.

Mircea reached to move his chess piece only to withdraw his hand again. “Naitachel, my dear brother, forgive me, but have you not been long enough out of the sunlight? I give you my word; I shall not stress Radu, nor allow him to stress himself further. He will still be here rebuilding that which was damaged when you return.”

Naitachel blinked in surprise. “You would rather I left, then?”

“I would rather radiant creatures of light not remain wholly in the darkness when there is an alternative.” Mircea corrected gently, moving his rook at last.

Patting his beloved’s hand, Radu softly agreed, “Please, my love. You need not worry so. I am much improved. You go on. I’ll just…”

Mircea softly humphed at his brother’s declaration then repeated before Radu could complete the sentence any other way, “He will remain here.”

Reluctantly, Naitachel nodded. Kissing Radu gently, he waved half-heartedly then headed back up the stairs. He paused in Radu’s office to straighten the files on his desk, only to be interrupted by the soft clearing of a throat.  

“I believe, sir,” Katarina approached, taking the files from him. “This task is mine.”  Almost as an after-thought, she added, “Miss Soraya awaits you in the kitchen.”

“Does she? “ Nait replied, trying to remember having made any plans with his sister in law. Unable to recall anything, he stepped away from the desk, allowing Katarina to take over the task he’d been about. “I suppose I should go see her then. Thank you, Katarina.”

The petite blonde girl only nodded.

In the kitchen, the radiant redhead wiped absently at the counters, smiling brightly when Naitachel entered.

“Katarina said you were waiting for me?” Naitachel queried, returning the smile as he joined her, carefully not allowing so much as a single feather to touch any of their appliances. After all, Matty had only just managed to get the ice maker working again.

“Yes,” Soraya replied, setting the dish towel aside and gathering up her purse. “I decided we needed a day out.” Seeing Naitachel’s expression, she held up a hand, “before you say no, just hear me out. All of us in the house have been struggling since we lost Doctor Mornay…”

“Only the head,” Naitachel corrected. “We found the rest of him. Well, what was left of him.”
Soraya cringed, “Yes, well…I was speaking euphemistically...”

“My apologies. Please, go on.”

“Right. As I was saying, we’ve been struggling, and now we can take a breath. At least, I hope we can. So, in that hope, you and I are going out.” Soraya announced. “We’re going to have lunch and shop and just enjoy the day.”

Nait hesitated. “I don’t know,” he demurred, “I’m not sure I should go so far from Radu. His shields are still…”

“Being supported by Mircea at the moment,” Soraya reminded him. “Who, by the way, made a point of calling up and suggesting this outing? He sounded good this morning, too. Very lucid. Don’t you think?”

“I suspect having his brother so close helps him, too.” Naitachel nodded. “It does them both good.”
“Good. Then we’re in agreement that they’ll both survive our absence for awhile. Grab your coat and crutches. Kristov is waiting in the garage for us.” Soraya smiled, happy that worked.

Nait looked first stunned then confused as he tried to figure out how that had happened. He knew he hadn’t actually agreed to go anywhere. Had he?

“I had thought to stay close, in case I was needed.” Nait admitted, hoping his friend wouldn’t be too disappointed in him.

Soraya sighed, placing her arm around his shoulders. “Mircea had a good point, though. Radu knows it’s not good for you to be kept in the dark. It’s not good for either of you.  You’re worried about each other, and the best thing to do about it is for you both to relax. So…coat…crutches. Shopping. See?”

Unable to dispute the logic of Mircea’s argument, Naitachel finally relented, as Soraya had known he would. Stepping into the garage, they found Kristov standing at attention beside one of the family’s stretch limos with darkly tinted windows.  The young blond moved swiftly to open the door and offer them a hand in.

“Relax, Kris. Please.” Soraya said, as always. “You don’t need to behave so formally.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, though he relaxed not at all as he set about making certain both were in and comfortable before closing the door.

“One day,” Soraya sighed in exasperation.  Naitachel just shot her an amused look and shook his head, knowing how unlikely that really was. Kristov’s family had worked for the Prince’s as far back as the originator of their line, Xandr, and it hadn’t happened yet.

The car pulled out of the underground garage, into the bright sunlight and the shock of flashbulbs, though not a bit of it reached those in the back. The windows were dimmed completely so that no hint of sunlight would ever reach anyone save those in the front seat. At best, the paparazzi garnered yet another picture of a nameless driver, a nobody in their eyes.

“I was thinking we could look into a few shops then maybe have a nice lunch out. How does that sound?” Soraya asked, trying to encourage some enthusiasm in her friend.

“I suppose we could go to Bauman’s, or maybe Westsiders,” Naitachel conceded after a moment’s thought. “Radu’s ‘Thursday’ is coming up, after all.”

Soraya couldn’t help but smile at the reference, born so long ago.  “What do you think the odds are that they’ll have something he doesn’t already own, though?” She regretted the question the moment she asked it, as her friend’s fledgling enthusiasm quickly died away.

Radu’s personal library was immense, filling shelves in both the main level and the lower levels of their home with books spanning several centuries in some of the most obscure and archaic languages that had ever existed.

“Don’t worry,” Soraya assured him. “We’ll find him something great. We always do.” Patting Nait’s shoulder, she added, “And maybe a few things for ourselves, too,” though both knew it was far more likely she’d end up with an armload of gifts for her husband and children. For all her appreciation of finery and luxury, Soraya had never been one to indulge overmuch for herself. Gifts, however, were her weakness. Not receiving them so much, though she did appreciate them, but the giving of gifts to those she loved.

The speaker at her shoulder sounded, the soft voice of their young driver informing them that there would be a slight delay. The paparazzi seemed unusually determined this morning and he was having a very difficult time inching forward through the throng.

“I wonder why they’re being so persistent,” Soraya frowned. “They’re not usually quite this bad.”
Naitachel frowned as he tried to recall the last time they’d had quite so much trouble with the press. Suddenly his eyes went wide, “Not since the last time Min was found ‘dead’ somewhere.” He reminded her. “You don’t think…”

“Surely not,” Soraya exclaimed, taking a moment to do a quick head count of each of the family members she’d seen come in before the sun rose. Certain she’d missed no-one, she risked cracking her window just a bit in the hopes of hearing some hint.

“…was seen returning in a van full of fancy diagnostic equipment,” one voice was apparently reminding the young chauffer.

“Do they expect him to live?” another interrupted.

Still a third took a moment to inquire solicitously, “How is the rest of the family handling it all?”

“Min told us that his family was, and I quote, ‘gathered around to support him as well as they can during these trying times.’ Can you elaborate?” the first speaker pressed.

“Forgive, please,” Kristov replied as he often did when the press decided to push their way in and try to get information from him, his usual soft tones marred by a noticeable thickening of his already heavy accent, making his answer increasingly difficult to understand, “I am for to driving.  I am not knowing questions.”

Soraya tried not to laugh at how easily the boy suddenly seemed to lose his grasp of the English language and at least two dozen IQ points all at once. The reporters swiftly came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to get anything useful from the young foreigner, who many concluded was probably not even a citizen based on how poor his grasp of the language really was, and instead pressed their microphones, faces and camera lenses against the back window, hoping for at least one useable shot for all their time. Trying the handles and calling through the windows, they repeated their questions, demanding answers.

Kristov waited patiently, hoping they’d move away. When, after several long moments, it seemed that wasn’t going to happen, he tried tapping the horn. All that seemed to do was make the reporters more determined. Soraya quickly rolled the window back up and looked at Nait, who half-reclined, face palming.

“Min had to feed the flames,” Nait sighed. “Why does he do that?”

“I don’t know.” Soraya answered. A slow smile spread as she joked feebly, “We could always just kill him. We’d feel a lot better, and it’s not like he’d stay dead.” Nait’s look of reproach only managed to make the suggestion that much more amusing to Soraya, who held up her hands defensively. “I’m just saying, we could,” she laughed. The absurdity of the entire situation hit them both, leaving them laughing as the reporters continued to flock around them.

Kristov frowned, hitting the horn harder and inching the car forward, nudging any of them foolish enough to remain in his way until they finally dispersed. “Sorry,” his soft voice offered over the intercom. “We should be arriving at our first location, Bauman’s Rare Books, in ten minutes.”

Soraya smiled sweetly at Naitachel. “See. Fun?”

Nait rolled his eyes, though he couldn’t help smiling as Kristov opened the door for them and offered a hand to escort them out of the car.

“Thank you, Kristov,” Soraya sighed, realizing that now more than ever the boy would be staying close and standing guard, as he often did when the press became ravenous. Still, they were not quite fast enough to escape the flashbulbs of those intrepid enough to attempt to follow them as the three entered the antique book store.

Mr. Barnaby Wright slammed the door shut and locked it behind them, shaking his head and muttering about vultures before turning to his guests. “I wasn’t sure you’d still want the books after I read the news.” He admitted as he scurried behind the counter to retrieve a small box. “How is he doing? Has there been any improvement?”

Soraya and Nait looked at one another in confusion. “To which ‘he’ are you referring? I’m afraid we don’t  really know what you are referring to.”

“Well, this, of course,” the aged shop owner picked up the morning paper and placed it where the others could read of the sudden illness afflicting their dashing family patriarch, and the heroic efforts being taken by the family to keep him alive. “I know how private Mister Prince prefers to be, and I’m certain he’d rather this not got out, but I do hope you’ll allow me to help if there is any way at all that I may.”

“Of course,” Naitachel answered absently as he continued reading the tale before him. “Nephew Min Prince refused to confirm or deny the severity of the elder Prince’s affliction, though he did confirm our earlier report that a new personal physician had been hired and was making regular visits to their home, and finally admitted, “the family has gathered around to support him as well as they can during these trying times.” He then asked that the press and well-wishers alike please remember how dearly his uncle protects his privacy and that it be respected at this time.”

“Honestly,” Soraya groaned. “Why do we ever leave him unsupervised?”

Naitachel shook his head. At this moment, he had no idea.

“Then it isn’t true? Mister Prince isn’t ill?” Wright asked hopefully. “He’s alright?”

“He’s fine,” Soraya answered while Naitachel, unable to answer dishonestly replied, “He is much improved.”

“Improved?” the man pressed.

“He has been ill, but nothing so dramatic as the reporters suggest,” Nait answered. “He should be well enough very soon.”

“But the doctor?”

“For the family. He’s been seeing to us all.” Soraya clarified. “So, now that we’ve got that all sorted out, what did you find for him?”

The shopkeeper beamed with pride as he carefully opened his parcel to reveal four beautifully preserved yet ancient tomes in obscure languages commonly thought to be dead.

“Do you think he will still want them?” Mr. Wright asked, still curious as to the nature of his favorite customer’s apparent illness and the severity of it.

“Most definitely,” Naitachel smiled, peering at the volumes as a new father might look down on his young.  “I don’t believe he has any of these.”

The seller’s eyes glimmered with excitement as he asked, “Do you suppose he’ll translate them for me?”

Soraya almost laughed as she patted his shoulder gently, “I’m sure he won’t mind. He did the others for you, didn’t he?”

“Yes. Yes he did,” He grinned. Wrapping them carefully, he carried them to the register for the pair. “Would you like to look around a bit more, or will this be all?”

“That will be all,”came Kristov’s surprising reply. He nodded toward the back room as he held the doors shut against he ravenous reporters who tried desperately to get in despite the locks. “You should try to go out the back door, please. I shall bring the car quickly to you.”

“Boy, you’re not thinking to try to go out there in the middle of that, are you?” the shopkeeper asked in alarm.

Kristov nodded. “I hold no interest for them. Only they do. Please keep them safe.”

“How?”

Kristov thought a moment. “Keep your eyes toward the shelves farthest Make a show of asking questions and receiving answers. Let the fools believe they are still in this room with you. I will honk the horn when we are safely loaded so that you might reopen if you wish.”

Seeing no way to dissuade the boy, the shopkeeper moved to lock the doors again behind him as he pushed back the throng with a surprising strength for one of his size.  He watched him a moment, pushing his way through them all before remembering what he’d been asked to do. Turning his attention back to his shop he did as he’d been bade, noting how the cameras and microphones pressed harder against the glass.

Kristov reached the car reasonably unmolested, save by a few who thought to use the boy’s supposed status as an illegal to demand answers only to be left shaking their heads as he responded in the language native to his ancestors – a ‘dead’ language they had no hope of ever understanding.

Nait and Soraya waited at the back door for Kristov to bring the car around, only to be surprised when another of the family’s cars met them there.

“Come on, then,” Colin smiled brightly as he hurried around to open the door. “Get in before the boy’s ruse is found out.”

Lupe and Stacy, two of the manor’s housekeepers, climbed out. The former wore a flame red wig. The latter sported a long brown coat. Soraya   couldn’t help but giggle at the sight of the leggy latina in the wig and her dress, though she looked far more comfortable than the tiny freckle-faced blonde struggling to figure out how Nait’s crutches worked.  She and Nait loaded into the limo with their purchase as the two women headed back through the store and toward the front door, though they wouldn’t exit until Kristov had the car in place. The shop keeper looked startled by the newcomers, but smiled as he caught on to what was about to happen.

Colin parked around the block where he and his passengers could watch the show without being seen, waiting for their chance to drive off without being spotted. They watched the shopkeeper and the young driver carefully obscure more than a fleeting glimpse of their charges as they loaded them into the car. The reporters and photographers did their best, but none could get a clear shot at the Prince spouses. They quickly circled around the vehicle, more determined than ever this time to get their story no matter what. The shopkeeper pushed his way back through the throng, no more interesting than the driver once the question of what the two had purchased had been answered with nothing more than a gruff ‘no comment’.

Once they saw that Kristov’s vehicle had the presses absolute attention, Colin was able to drive away. “Where to next?” he asked merrily over the intercom.

“Home,” Nait sighed, shaking his head apologetically to Soraya. “I don’t think they’re going to be fooled for long and I really can’t stomach too much more excitement from the press today.”

“I don’t blame you,” Soraya admitted with a smile. “I think a nice cup of tea on the terrace will suit us just as well.”

Nait couldn’t help but smile back, grateful for his dear friend’s understanding.

“Besides,” Soraya added brightly, “We need to get Radu’s Thursday present wrapped and hidden before anyone else sees it!”

Twenty minutes later they descended the stairs in time to hear Kristov escort in, Lupe and Stacy enter,both of whom were laughing hysterically.

“What?” Soraya asked, spying the hint of mischief in the young driver’s eyes.

“You must see,” he answered, hurrying to the large console television and turning it on to their local station just in time to hear one of the comedic commentators reach their final story for the day.

“We hear all the time how our colleagues in the press get a little over zealous in their quest for the story. Well, today they got back a bit of their own when they chased a limo from the notorious Prince Manor all the way to a local antique book shop, trying to get their story after hearing how family patriarch Radu Prince had taken devastatingly ill. First let me tell you that even I know that the spouses wouldn’t be on a shopping trip if that were true, but our colleagues were like piranha, hungry and circling. Well, they managed to corner the two coming out of the story and finally forced them to cough up a comment. What they got…well, how about we just show you. Randy, go ahead and roll the clip.”

The view changed to the outside of the limo as the windows slowly rolled down to reveal the bowed head of what they expected to be a radiant redhead. Instead, they found an aging latina with a gap-toothed smiled, waving to them all. “Oh, hi!” she called out. “You want to take my picture? It’s okay. You can take my picture.” She blew them kisses and struck exaggerated poses for the camera, flinging the long strands of the wig about until it finally fell off. Meanwhile, the photographers on the other side of the car were treated to similar antics from the freckle faced blonde who smiled and waved happily. “Hello, America!” she called out as she opened the long coat to ‘flash’ a red white and blue bikini. “I LOVE YOU!”

“We love you too,” the comedian confirmed, “though I’d lay odds that the stations who went live with that coverage probably aren’t feeling quite the same way.” He concluded his commentary, though they barely heard it as they fell about on the couches laughing.

“Kris, you are a genius,” Colin congratulated the younger driver. “We got all the way back here and into the garage without any fanfare at all.”

“They were probably afraid to try again. Who knows who’d flash them next time,” Stacy giggled.
“Give another hour or so and Min’ll probably do it himself.” Lupe agreed.

“Oh lord,” Stacy shook her head, wiping her eyes and calming herself, desperately trying not to envision what Min might wear – or frighteningly NOT wear – should he decide to pull that particular prank himself.

“Do not get me started on Min,” Soraya warned, pulling herself together. “It’s his fault this spiraled out of control like that.”

“To be fair, it was already heading on that trajectory.” Colin disagreed. “Every trip since the open interviews for the doc has gotten more and more interest. They likely would have been there either way.”

“Maybe,” Nait offered, “But he didn’t need to feed the flames.”

“But it’s so much fun to watch them chase their tails over ambiguous say-nothing sound bites like that,” Min’s voice sailed down the stairs. “Stacy, my love, that bikini suits you. You look good enough to eat.” The blonde hurried over to his side and accompanied him back up the stairs as Lupe headed back toward the garage at a rapid pace.

“Is everything okay, Lupe?” Soraya asked curiously.

“I need to get the wig back out of the car.” She told her.

“Why?” Kristov asked, grabbing the keys so he could let her back into the vehicle. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh no,” Lupe smiled brightly. “I just need it for tonight.” She held up her hand and showed a number written hastily upon it in blue ink. “Ms. Mary London’s camera man and I have a date.”
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Rowanna
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