“You got it?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
I gave the couch one final push, shoving all my weight into the cushions as Cindy pulled on the other side — step by step, we dragged the couch up the stairs and into the corridor outside our new flat.
Cindy blew out a deep breath and flopped down on her arm rest. “I hate every part of this.”
I agreed with her, but we’d spent enough time today moaning about how much we hated this. Every bag, every box, every piece of furniture had been welcomed to our new home with a string of curse words.
“At least there aren’t any more stairs,” I said.
“Hooray,” Cindy said, without any enthusiasm. She heaved out a long, weary sigh. “Let’s get it over with.”
Pushing the couch was a lot simpler on level ground, the couch just slid across the carpet without either one of us having to lift it. There was a little fumbling as we worked it around the corner and into our flat, but soon we had it set up in the living room — alongside the mountains of plastic moving boxes and the cardboard racks of unassembled flat pack furniture.
We both flopped onto the couch on opposite ends, our heads resting together in the middle.
“Is that everything?” Cindy asked. “Please tell me that’s everything.”
“That’s everything,” I said. “Oh shit!”
Cindy sat up. “What? What did we forget?”
“Sorry, I was joking.” I had wanted to lighten the mood a little, but I couldn’t lie to Cindy for long, even for a joke.
Cindy dropped back on the couch and slapped at the cushion above her head. She frowned. “Where are you?”
She slapped the top of my forehead. “Dick.”
“Ow.” I rubbed my head. “Okay, I deserved that.”
“Yes you did.” Cindy kept her hand on my head, running her fingers through my hair. Tingles ran through my whole body. “But even if that’s not it, I’m done. I’m not moving any more shite today.”
I was almost drifting off on the couch. Every muscle on my body hurt and Cindy’s touch was just the comfort I needed. “I still need to take the van back.”
“Can’t the servants do it?” Cindy asked.
I wrinkled my brow. I knew I was half-asleep, but I wasn’t sure I’d heard her right. “Servants?”
Cindy took her hand away. “You mean we don’t have servants? That’s it, I’m moving out.”
“You’d need to get up again though.”
“Damn, foiled again.” Cindy laughed and turned her head to look at me. My heart seized up. We’d been together two years and she still made me feel like we were on our first date all over again. I felt like a complete slob next to her. I’d been hauling furniture all day and looked like it, meanwhile Cindy had been hauling just as much furniture as me and could’ve walked out of here and gone straight to town.
Moments like this made me realise how lucky I was to have a woman like Cindy in my life. I didn’t deserve her. She was smart, tough, and beautiful. I was a doughy mound of failure who would have a panic attack every time I went outside if I wasn’t so lazy. I turned my head away but she caught me by the chin and turned me back towards her.
“You’re brooding again,” she said.
“I’m not really going to move out, you know that right?”
“Of course I do. You’d need to separate all your stuff from mine and take back about half the furniture.”
“Not just because of that. I love you you big dope.” She kissed me on the lips. Just a little peck, but it still made my knees weak. If I’d have been standing I’d have hit the floor right then.
“I love you too.”
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Cindy cast her eye out over the boxes stacked up in our new living room and blew out a long sigh. “Eventually.”
“Want to do it all tomorrow?”
Some of the tension went out of Cindy’s muscles as she relaxed into me. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
We lay on the couch together for a while. Everything was loaded into the flat, the van was locked, the most amazing woman in the world was lying by my side. There was no reason to get up. I wished life could freeze right here so I could live in this moment forever.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that.
Somebody hammered on the door.
We both sat up at the same time and shared a puzzled look. Another set of heavy knuckles thumped against the door.
“Are you expecting anybody?” Cindy asked me.
Cindy shrugged. They knocked again. Clearly they weren’t going away, so I forced myself off the couch and answered the door.
Four huge men in dark suits and sunglasses greeted me. Two of them strode past and filed out to either end of the living room without a word.
“Excuse me.” You know you’re British when four men are breaking into your home and all you can say is ‘excuse me.’
Cindy wasn’t nearly as polite. She was up and in one of their faces. Well, the men were massive so Cindy was only tall enough to seriously menace their pecs, but that didn’t frighten her. Nothing did. “Who the hell are you?”
The suit nearest to her put a hand to his ear and spoke into a headset. “All clear in here, sir. Send in the package.”
Cindy looked past the guy to me. I took out my phone to call the police.
Another trio of large be-suited men strolled out from around the corner, at the head of them was a man I knew very well. Not personally, of course. But there wasn’t a person in the world who wouldn’t recognise him.
I’d never considered myself much of a royalist, but a surge of sudden patriotism propelled me to my knees before Prince Henry Windsor, the next in line to the throne. He looked almost exactly the same as he did on the new fiver. The chiselled jaw, wide brown eyes with only a thin wedge of a nose to seperate them, the fading blonde hair at the top of his head so thin you could almost see his scalp.
He brushed past me along with his bodyguards and Cindy gave an excited shriek, falling to her knees too.
The prince frowned at our flat and turned to his nearest bodyguard. “I need a cup of tea.”
The bodyguard snapped his lumpy fingers at me. “Get the kettle on.”
“Excuse me,” I said again. “What’s this about?”
I might’ve been British and a coward, but there are limits to even my politeness.
“It’s about you getting his highness a goddamn cup of tea.”
Cindy was already going through the boxes stacked up in the living room. “Where’s the kettle?”
I got up off my knees, I felt kind of stupid down there. “Is there a box of kitchen stuff?”
“Pots and pans. There’s a plate in with the living room stuff.” Cindy flashed a grin at the prince, who was staring up at something on the ceiling. “Sorry your highness, we’ve only just moved in.”
“You live here?” The prince frowned at the bare walls. “Why would you do that?”
Cindy and me both gave the prince the benefit of the doubt and laughed as if he’d made a joke. He was the prince after all, it was probably illegal not to laugh at his jokes.
“Never mind the tea, I don’t like it here, I want to go.”
“Could I just ask why you’re here, your highness?” I asked him.
The prince blinked at me like he’d only just noticed me. “Obviously I’m looking for my wife.”
“I didn’t know you were married,” Cindy said.
The prince’s brows knitted together. “I’m not.” He turned his attention to one of his bodyguards. “Not very bright is she? But she does have nice boobs I suppose.”
Cindy gave another nervous laugh as she tugged the neckline on her shirt up a little. This time I didn’t find the prince even the slightest bit funny.
“She’ll do,” the prince said to his bodyguard. Two of the huge men grabbed Cindy by her arms and lifted her onto the couch.
I rushed over to her, but another suit materialised in front of me, shoving me back against the wall. “Stay back, peasant.”
I tried to push the arm away, but it was like a tree trunk. Another two bodyguards floated just behind him while the two nearest to Cindy were tugging the shoes off her feet.
“What are you doing to her?” I asked.
The prince grinned, I noticed one little imperfection — his teeth were rotten and crooked. No wonder he didn’t smile on TV. I could smell his stinking breath all the way from the other side of the room.
He pulled something out the inside of his jacket. I strained to get a better look but the guards pushed me back against the wall.
Cindy wasn’t screaming or visibly frightened, in fact she seemed more confused more than anything. She watched as the prince did something down by her feet. The prince gave a little squeak of joy that sounded like a dog getting his tail caught in a car door. Cindy rolled her eyes at me.
“It fits! It fits!” The prince hopped up, clapping his hands. “Finally! We had to try this on three women this morning, it took about an hour. Such a bore.”
“What?” Cindy asked.
The bodyguards lifted Cindy back up to her feet. On one foot, I saw, was a single high-heeled shoe. It was completely transparent, made of some clear substance like crystal or glass.
They hustled her out the door. “What’s going on? Where are you taking me?”
“Silly girl, you’re coming back to Sandringham with me,” said the prince. “We’ll be married upon the morrow.”
“Married? You can’t be serious!” Cindy grabbed the open door frame and screamed my name.
I moved on instinct. My knee hit one of the bodyguard’s in the nuts seemingly by itself. I pushed him aside and charged over to Cindy. They weren’t going to take her away. They couldn’t.
A huge pain erupted in the back of my neck as one of the men hit me. I staggered forward a step and a huge hand seized my head and sent it crashing into the wall. One of my eyes went dark, through the other one I saw a hole in the drywall about the size of my skull and a fist the size of the whole world circling towards me.
Cindy screamed my name and I reached for her, but the fist hit me first.
I woke up in a puddle of my own blood and teeth a few hours later. They were a little pissed that I’d kneed their man in the balls, so they’d spent some time kicking me around my new flat. The boxes were upended, spilling ceramic shards and chips of broken glass all over the floor. My whole body was one giant bruise and my arm was bent at the elbow in a direction it wasn’t supposed to bend. It was a good thing it was completely numb below the shoulder otherwise I imagined that would’ve hurt.
The entire left side of my head felt like it was inside out and I still couldn’t see out of my left eye. The door was still open, there were scratch marks in the frame from where Cindy had clawed at it. I swallowed a lump in my throat and pushed myself onto my feet with the help of my one working hand and the wall behind me.
A cold breeze blew in through the open door, but I didn’t bother closing it. There was no point. This wasn’t home anymore. Besides, I couldn’t walk properly. One of my legs screamed with agony with every step.
I’d need to call an ambulance eventually, but I couldn’t call the police. Even if they believed me, it was illegal to criticise the royal family. I should’ve just been grateful his bodyguards had left me alive.
I wasn’t grateful at all.
I flopped onto the couch alone and waited until morning.
— Matt Holland 31/08/18
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