Even though he had been told that it was the epitome of bad manners, he kept his hands in his pockets.
He couldn’t help it.
It had been a long time since he’d seen her. Too long. She had moved high up in the world, while he had stayed in the bottom rungs.
The fine suit that he was wearing was just an easy lie. A borrowed suit coat. His best pair of old slacks.
She would see the old seams.
She always saw through his lies.
That was why he was standing in line like the others, waiting for her to arrive, instead of walking by her side.
The old games they had played.
The easy comradery they had shared.
The fast and easy nicknames.
The chance for her to love him…It all went to wreck and ruin with his last lie. She left him and took her rightful place as the Princess she was meant to be.
She left him behind with angry words and awful hurt.
“She’s coming! Look! Look! Look at the Grand Duchess Anastasia!”
He kept his hands in his pockets and nervously jingled his keys.
He wanted to lower his gaze and contemplate the blue and gold tiled floor.
But he kept his head up.
He had to see her again, even though it would destroy him all over again.
Then, like sunlight bursting through storm clouds, Anastasia arrived with her entourage of important people.
He knew their faces and names, but none of them mattered.
There she was…The Grand Duchess Anastasia. Her red hair beautifully arranged. Her brocade gown, a charming fit. Her blue eyes, so much brighter and deeper than he’d remembered.
She greeted each person she passed with a smile and kind words.
He knew that smile. He remembered it. More than anything else, he remembered that smile.
He stopped jingling his keys.
He held them, tightened his grip on them. Their teeth bit his skin, reminding him that he was still alive, he was still there.
She stopped in front of him.
They looked at each other in a frozen moment.
He bowed. “Your Highness.”