Authors: Tegan Wren
hen I stepped onto my front stoop the next morning―a dreary October Thursday―an explosion of flashes and clicks stunned me. If I had any doubts about whether I was a part of the story, they evaporated in a flurry. I pushed and jostled my way through the crowd. Panic rose in my chest―the camera sounds and the movement of bodies made me think of swarming insects.
“Are you dating the prince?”
“Hatty, what did you do at the palace?”
“Are you John’s new girlfriend?”
I recognized some of the dozen or so men from yesterday’s press line at the childcare center. A scream threatened to burst from my lips as one photographer knelt down, a human obstacle between me and my car.
Wonder how much
photo is worth. Don’t do anything stupid!
“Excuse me,” I said, using my hands to part the group and open my car door. They moved aside without comment and I mentally gave them the middle finger.
Pulling away from the curb, I checked my rearview mirror. No one followed me, though a couple of photographers crouched in the street snapping pictures of the back of my car. Evidently, I was important enough to stalk, but not significant enough to chase. I found comfort in this knowledge.
Despite the unusual and disconcerting start to my day courtesy of the paparazzi, I realized the daily grind of reporting was going to feel especially dull after spending Wednesday with the prince at his palace. But the variety of assignments was one reason I loved journalism. I might interview a prince one day, and cover striking garbage collectors the next.
When I entered the newsroom, no one so much as looked up from their computer. I sat down at my desk and opened the notes for my investigative story. Paul, another intern, came over and tossed an envelope on my desk.
“I don’t know. The receptionist asked me to give it to you. You’re famous now, you know,” he said over his shoulder, as he walked away.
“Um, thanks?” I had no idea how to handle this new attention.
I looked at the envelope; I rarely received mail at the newsroom. I rubbed the heavy, creamy paper. Nice texture. My name was written in a neat script across the front. I opened it to find a note card inside in the same handwriting.
Thank you for your article on my grandmother’s early education program. I enjoyed speaking with you yesterday at Belvoir, and your article accurately reflected our discussion. Since your visit was impromptu and brief, I’d like to invite you back for a private tour of the palace. I’ll send a driver to pick you up Saturday at 9:00 a.m. at your flat.
The notecard fluttered from my hand onto the keyboard as my desk phone rang. I grabbed it.
“Are you okay? I’ve been trying to call you since last night. Please tell me there’s a reason you didn’t call and tell me everything about your new romance with Prince John.” Tilda didn’t pause for a breath.
“New romance? What are you talking about?” My stomach gave a restless turn.
“Haven’t you read the other papers this morning? The Daily Scoop blog?” She sounded incredulous.
“No. I had a late night―”
“I bet you did!”
“Look, I got to interview the prince, then had to come back here and crank out my story.”
As I spoke, I typed and clicked, trying to pull up the websites for the other papers.
I gasped. “Oh, no…” If the notecard from Prince John took my breath away, the story on the screen sucked all the oxygen out of the room. “What the heck?”
“Looks like you’re the prince’s newest conquest.”
Prince John Whisks Journalist Away for Romantic Tour of Palace
By Xpress staff
October 17, 2013
As Prince John dashed from the Smart Start preschool Wednesday afternoon, he invited a young reporter to ride with him in his limo.
According to a source, this was not the first time the prince had met this particular newspaper intern.
“Someone told me they heard the prince kissed her at a bar,” said a Smart Start staffer who asked to remain anonymous.
Xpress has learned the mystery woman is Hatty Brunelle, newsroom intern for The Morning Dispatch.
She’s the latest in a long string of women seen in public recently with the prince who’s on the rebound after his messy split from Claire Léglise, daughter of Monaco casino magnate François Léglise.
“Tilda. This is disastrous,” I whispered.
“Well, is it true?”
“What? No. Yes. Kind of.” I explained to her what happened, and how it must have looked to the other reporters as the guard pulled me into the limo with the prince.
“Tilda. I interviewed him at Belvoir. I was very professional.” This stupid tabloid story completely stole my credibility as a reporter.
Paul approached my desk. “James wants to see you in his office.”
“I’ve got to go. My editor’s about to skewer me.”
I hung up and walked into James’ office.
“Close the door. Sit.” He spoke in the same direct tone he wanted us to use when writing our stories.
He turned his computer monitor around, and there was the article I just read. “What’s this?”
“I don’t know.” I hated confrontation… when I was on the receiving end.
“Do you know how this looks?”
“Awful. It makes me look like a ditz who’s chasing the prince.”
“Maybe. But it also looks like you’ve got an inside line to Belvoir. Your star at the paper’s rising. Letting him drag you into his limo may have been the best move of your career. So, do you have a special relationship with the prince?” He leaned toward me with a wink.
“No. I met him for the first time briefly Saturday night at a bar. Then yesterday, he recognized me outside the preschool. It started raining and I was getting soaked. He had one of his guards bring me into the limo. That’s it.”
“I don’t care how it happened. We want to give you your own blog.”
“And what will I write about? My investigation into the environmental and health impacts of the smelter at Kortrijk?”
Yes! A platform for my investigative story!
“No. You’ll write about anything and everything involving the royal family. It will complement Heidi’s coverage. Is that a problem?” His tone dared me to disagree. I watched in horror as my personal and professional lives collided at the intersection of Big Break Boulevard and Prince Charming Way.
“I need to think about it. Can I let you know Monday?”
“No. We have to strike while you’re hot. Most interns would kill for this kind of break.”
He was right, of course. But covering the royals was merely an amusing assignment. I went into journalism to take down corrupt politicians by brandishing my stick-it-to-the-man attitude. Blogging about the royals was like getting in bed with the man. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
“If I do this new blog, can I still do my investigative story?”
“Sure. Take a couple of hours this morning. But the blog is your priority. We want to promote it. This is going to change your life, Hatty.”
fter leaving James’ office, I borrowed Paul’s phone and texted Tilda. I asked her to round up Plato, Sam, and Sara for drinks at Finn’s. Since it was a non-karaoke night, it wouldn’t be crowded. Full of people or not, we loved this pub precisely because it wasn’t like any of the other bars in town, most of which felt frozen with cold, modern décor and post-modern rock.
We sat in our usual booth at the back, sipping Toulene’s famous red wine and speculating about my visit to Belvoir Saturday.
“Do you think he’ll try to kiss you again?” Sara asked, already a bit tipsy.
“Absolutely not. This is strictly professional, and I’m not sure he even tried to kiss me last Saturday,” I asserted.
“Your flirt-dar’s broken. Of course, he tried to kiss you.”
“Your flirting radar. I was sitting across the room, and I saw him lift your chin and lean in for a kiss.” Sara kissed the air with a loud smack.
“Sara’s right. I think he’s into you, girl.” Plato’s eyebrows bounced up and down and he grinned as though he had inside knowledge.
“You guys are crazy. This invitation to visit the palace is merely a courtesy.”
“Perhaps. But I bet he thinks he can use you, that you’ll do whatever he asks,” Tilda said, ever skeptical of the royal family. The daughter of Kenyan immigrants, Tilda worked for Assemblyman Hans Aalders, a majority leader in the federal legislative body.
“Well, he can forget that, too. And they’re the most powerful family in the country. Why do they need reporters in their back pocket?”
“Are you serious? They have a select group of reporters they use to plant stories. They think the press can sway the National Assembly and public opinion. Unfortunately, they’re right, to an extent, though my boss doesn’t care about the press. No offense, Hatty,” Tilda said.
From the moment she heard about my encounter with the prince after my karaoke performance, Tilda questioned his motives. Even though she was a relatively recent law school grad and had only worked for the assemblyman a few months, she already had a firm grasp on the inner workings of Toulene’s political scene and how the royal family figured into it.
I glanced across the room and saw my fellow intern Paul sitting in a booth, snapping photos of us with his smartphone. Without hesitation, I marched over to him.
“What are you doing?” I grabbed his phone and looked at the pictures. Most of them were close-ups of me. I began deleting them.
“Hey! That’s my phone!”
“That’s my face! Stop it.” I slammed his phone onto the table. “Look, you idiot. I’m not the story. The royals are. Didn’t you hear? James wants me to blog about them. So leave me alone.” I turned and walked back to my table.
“Who the hell’s that?” Plato inquired. As a graduate student, fellow American, and occasional DJ-for-hire, Plato knew lots of 20-somethings in Roeselare, and he was always shocked when we ran into someone he didn’t recognize.
“Paul. Another intern at the
“You’re such a badass. I hope the real paparazzi does try to come after you. You’ll kill ‘em.” Plato didn’t know about my lack of badassery when I’d gone toe-to-toe with the photographers outside my apartment building that morning.