Kristyn K. Rose
"And who is this?" the prince asked.
"My sister," his lady companion answered. Near them, the little girl looked up from her play and smiled.
"It's nice to meet you," the youngster said, attempting a curtsy. The couple laughed and smiled. They continued their stroll. The girl returned to her game, but she watched them go. And the lights flashed in her mind.
"There's a pack of reporters outside your home and I'm afraid it's my fault," the young woman said. Her blue eyes glinted with a certain surprise.
"Reporters? Why?" Her employer could not imagine how this quiet nanny could draw such a crowd. From behind a shielding curtain of short blonde hair, the nineteen-year-old revealed that certain circles knew her as more than a preschool teacher. This five-dollar-an-hour treasure of a nanny was a titled Lady. Lady Diana Spencer.
And the lights began to flash.
She made her way along her usual routine as best she could, smiling demurely with her eyes downcast as she moved through the forest of lenses. Her every stumble made the news, and it was endearing. She stood in the sun and it was mildly scandalous.
"I can't make it to work today," said the sweet voice over the phone. The lights blocked her way. Soon, she would stop arriving at all. The children missed her.
Beyond the oceans, people climbed from sleepy beds. They crept through darkness to drink in the images from their televisions. A fairy tale in the modern world. A stunning princess bride and her dashing prince stood together, dwarfed in the grandeur of the cathedral. The universe burst into cheers and delight as she waved from the royal balcony. A new jewel stood among the crowns, her face alight with a degree of astonishment at the outpouring of joy. "Her spirit will awaken the monarchy," they predicted. The world nodded, hoping they were right.
We embraced Her Royal Highness, Princess Diana.
And the lights flashed, until they were hidden from sight.
"I must have her hair!" Salons around the world scrambled to provide it. "I must have her dress!" Designers clambored to duplicate it. Then, came the pause. "What is that she's wearing?" They watched, wondering....judging. "Should a princess do that?" Her calendar overflowed, yet they noted her clothing more than her causes.
Conform a little more, they said. Give up more of yourself, she heard. Do as I do and keep things quiet. Remember who you are now. Yet they forgot about her, what made her the Princess adored by the world. Her title had never been her identity. Within her, an energetic soul burned for release. She watched, longing, as her friends shopped their favorite stores, supported the causes of their choice, and watched all the new movies with their other friends in a crowded theater. They had a new name for her: Diana, the Prisoner of Wales.
And the lights flashed.
An officer in charge of America's Air Force One watched her, an exquisite blossom amid the stifling pomp and circumstance of the ceremony. In a shared moment, he caught her eye. Holding his posture, he winked to her.
With the slightest of smiles, she winked back. But no lights flashed, and he was glad of it.
She stepped from the car. A galaxy of brilliance burst around her, like a thousand stars exploding in her presence. Diana smiled, not missing a step, though her sight should have been nearly obliterated by the spectacle. The rules of this game were clearly defined now and she had learned them well. Inside, her heart twisted in agony. Is there a place for me, the real me, here? She wondered. The pain of it pressed on her.
Children, wonderful children! She delighted in the birth of her own little ones. Past, happy years spent caring for little ones came back as she looking into the shining faces of her precious babies. They would be raised as royals, of course, but childhood would not skip past them. She would be sure they enjoyed their youth, and she would enjoy it with them.
And the lights flashed. And her youngest cherub stuck his tongue out at them.
On Christmas Day, the cathedral filled with people. American military people waves U.S. flags at her after the worship services, hoping for a few personal words from her. She made her way to them, inquiring after their children and their Christmas wishes. "The boys are smashing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all over the palace," she laughed.
These were the conversations that delighted her, that brought her genuine smiles. The lights couldn't capture this joy.
A chill bit the air between them. Diana watched him, this man she once adored, once gave up pieces of her soul to love. No more. She had long since learned to stop wanting his touch. His devotion to another woman persisted, even endured where she failed to capture his attention. So be it. She could love another, too. The decision brought pain and grief to their family, breaking hearts. She felt bad for her children, for the hurt they must endure as their parents' failures, and indiscretions, danced brazenly through the media circus. No matter what, they could never steal her pride.
Her recovery began quietly. Diana travelled where she wanted. She touched the downtrodden of the world, bringing light and recognition to the causes most dear to her heart. She cradled a hungry child, visited earnestly with the sick and the dying, and comforted children whose lives had been mutilated by the hate and selfishness of war machines.
The lights flashed and, for those she touched, she was glad.
Time with her own boys. She drank it in eagerly, truly enjoying each moment on the sparkling slopes. Then, she saw it. Film rolled on them even in their private time together. Although she covered the lenses, the camera recorded the sound of her gentle voice, pleading with them to leave her family alone. She thought they understood when they packed their gear. For that day, she wanted to be Diana, the Mother.
They played the recording on the news.
She hung up the phone. Dreadful words rang in her ears. Her dear, beloved father was gone, passed from this world. Grief wrung her heart. Stepping outside, still in her bathrobe, she sought solace in the fresh morning air. As she cradled her face in her hands, she heard it. Diana could vaguely remember a time when the snap of a shutter had been a gentle sound to her. Now, it felt like a stone through crystal. She turned reddened eyes to the offender. Another snap. "No! Not now!" she screamed, snapping herself. She crumpled to the floor, sobbing as the man quietly melted away.
The lights became too much. She retaliated, taking film and cameras. Even passersby helped her reclaim her privacy. In Native American lore, photographs are a fearful thing, freezing a portion of your spirit in each frame. Do you think Diana would agree?
Still, she stood tall, the weight of a thousand bonds lifted from her. Yet, a thousand more remained. In the crush of it all, he appeared. Perfect, no. A wealthy rogue with a careless reputation. Yet, he appreciated her uniqueness. He shielded her, like a protective knight in the wake of a prince's failure.
From a far-off perch, the lights flashed and penetrated her shelter.
A weekend getaway to Paris. Diana had dreamed of taking just such a jaunt. The buzzing of media insects complicated such an escape, but she felt free of the royal trappings that had once completely prevented it. They would have a marvelous time together. Who could resist the delicious irony of staying at the villa that once housed the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor?
A late night, made too hectic by the necessity to dodge photographers at every turn. Time to retire, yet the gauntlet awaited. Beyond the door of the brilliantly lit hotel lobby, the insects swarmed and anticipated their next strike. This weekend was not for their bold vulgarity. They planned a simple ruse, sending her trusted chauffeur to lure the careless ones away. Did she feel fate stepping close to her as he drove away?
And the lights lingered, waiting to invade.
They waited in a small hallway, hotel personnel attending their nightly business as the couple chatted the minutes away. Finally, their chance arrived. They dashed into the bustling midnight, their new driver leading the way. No lights flashed. In the streets, the pursuit began. The chase heated and the world whizzed past her window faster. If the lights were to flash, then they would have to catch her.
An instant of cold horror. The scream of ripping metal. A sickening explosion of glass. The crush of frail flesh. Her knight could not be bound to her side, leaving to await her entrance into another world. The stench of pain and death rose into the streets. Above the city sounds, the patter of running feet rushed to her. A galaxy of brilliance burst around her, like a thousand stars exploding. . .In their flurry of obscenity, did any one of them notice that blue blood runs a deep, human red?
And the lights flashed.
A woman stared at the headline that stated the unfathomable, from the impersonal frame of a newspaper machine. A life Diana never saw, knew, heard, or felt. Yet, a life touched and a heart grieving.
"I just can't grasp this," said an American military man, remembering Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Christmas.
May Heavenly Father bless her, thought a man who had once worked aboard Air Force One. He recalls a lighthearted wink, but his heart feels heavy.
Each saw what the lights brought forth, then turned away from them.
When she crossed their path, they watched and nodded. Yes, she would be a lovely new monarch. Once she moved in their midst, they shook their heads and demanded change. They resisted her lessons, confusing teacher with pupil, until impossible death brought it clearly upon their heads. Millions of shimmering blossoms flood streets of tears, proving the rightness of her ways. . .and the error of theirs.
The lights still flash, but do we willingly pay the price?
Kristyn Rose is a technical writer, who writes
science fiction in her spare time.