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Bad news, Internet. My ACL is officially torn, as I’m sure you’re heartbroken to learn. Surgery will be next Thursday, rehab starts the week after, six month recovery plan, blah blah blah.

More importantly, my sister is coming home from college for the weekend. We get a whirlwind two-ish days with her, then she goes back. It’s going to be splendiferous to see her again. Also, she is the most technologically savvy out of my family, so she will be assisting me in the purchase of a video camera.

Why, do you ask? Good question, Internet. First of all, I have a fantastic vlogging wall in my bedroom, and why waste an opportunity like that?

Second, after my surgery, I am going to be on some heavy-duty pain meds, and who wouldn’t want to get footage of that? Third, my dad wants to record my rehab, progress, etc. But mostly loopiness from the drugs. And I’m a narcissist, so I’m looking forward to a me-centric project like this one.

Moving on! This little tidbit is the very beginning of by far one of my best story ideas. Of course, that may mislead you by implying that it’s good. The grammar, syntax, and spelling is fine (I hope), and it’s not terrible for an early draft. It’s just not terribly exciting. Introductions rarely are. Soon my protagonist will start meeting more interesting people and doing more interesting things, but for now you’re stuck with my boring first page.

Anne Prescott set down her teacup and smoothed her skirt. She knew by the messenger’s face the news he was to share with her was bad. “I’m to inform you that Grand Duke William Prescott and his heir, Jonathan Prescott, have died. As his Grace’s sole surviving relative, you are the next Grand Duchess of Sussex.”

She folded her hands in her lap and nodded. “Who sent you to tell me?”
“The steward of Amberley, miss—Your Grace. Mr. Thomas Cranwell.”
“Of course. Send my thanks, and tell him I will be arriving at Amberley within the next two days. Elise, make sure he gets a tip for his trouble.”
The maid curtsied and led the messenger out. Anne knew she was expected to remain stoic, and that it wouldn’t be a problem. She took a sip of her tea, then rang for her footman.
“You called for me, Anya?” Aleksandar Dragov was her footman and friend of many years. She’d met him in Russia and he hadn’t left her side since.
“Aleksandar, I need you to arrange for all of my personal effects to be moved out of here. If possible, see about selling it in a few months.”
“We are moving then? What is our next destination?”
“Amberley castle, Sussex.”
“Sussex? That is where your family–”
“Yes. My father and brother have died, leaving the title and role of Grand Duchess to me, as their only surviving relative.”
He paused. “Very well, Anya. When do you wish to depart?”
“Tomorrow morning. You can begin moving my things at once.” he bowed,
“Oh, but Aleksandar,” she called after him. He turned back, one eyebrow raised. “I’ll be keeping my books and clothes.”
“Of course, Koshechka.” that had been the first of many Russian words he taught her. It meant “kitten.”
She smiled at him and sipped her tea, contemplating her next step. She could leave the funeral preparations to Cranwell and his wife, Marjorie. As for the rest… she sighed and drained the last of her tea.

When she stepped out of her town house the next morning, she could barely see ten meters in front of her for all the fog. “Will the air cars be safe in this?” she asked Aleksandar.

“If I’m the one driving,” he said, “you’ll get to Amberley safely.”

“Will people in your path be safe?”

He hesitated. “You’ll get to Amberley safely.”

She knew he was joking, but the Russian sometimes had a very dark sense of humour.

They talked little—they were the kind of friends who had known each other so long that they didn’t need conversation to enjoy each others’ company. And neither of them talked much in any case.

Aleksandar had never been to Amberley, and had only been to Sussex once or twice. He rarely left Anne’s side, and she never went there.

When they arrived at Amberley, the fog had begun to clear. They were greeted by Cranwell and Marjorie, who embraced Anne.

“Aleksandar, this is Thomas and Marjorie Cranwell. He’s the steward of Amberley, and she’s the cook. They practically raised me until I left. Marjorie, Cranwell, this is Aleksandar. We met while I was studying in Russia.”

“It’s lovely to meet you, Aleksandar,” Marjorie said, “now why don’t we go inside so I can get some food in the two of you?”

After lunch, there was an awkward interlude where Marjorie and Cranwell wondered how much to say about family matters in front of Aleksandar, but were too polite to ask. Anne was to the point of telling them they could talk in front of him when he stood. “I’ll bring the bags in from the air car, then. Mr. Cranwell, do you have a preference which rooms everything goes in?”
“Ah, yes, let me just call a man to show you where the bedrooms are. Anne can take the master bedroom, and you can choose whichever room you want.” Anne shot Aleksandar a grateful glance as the men left.
“Are you two, ah…” Marjorie began delicately.
Anne realized what she must think. “Aleksandar and I are just friends,” she said firmly, quickly changing the subject. “I’d like to know the… circumstances of my father and brother’s deaths.”
“What do you mean?”
“Was it accidental? Or should I be tightening security and looking for threats?”
“Accidental. There was an explosion at the factory they were inspecting. They died along with the manager. A couple of workers were hurt, too.”
“Factory? How long has Sussex had factories?” She hadn’t realized how out of touch she had become with the politics of her father’s duchy.
“Oh, your father was trying to change everything. He wanted to industrialize.”
Marjorie’s tone of voice made it quite clear she thought William was a fool.
“He nearly bankrupt himself trying to do it, too,” Cranwell said from the doorway.
“Nearly? What does Sussex look like financially right now?”
“Fine. Better than fine.”
“So industrializing was helpful?” that didn’t sound right. Sussex had limited metal supplies. She would think it would be more expensive to ship in the metal than the profit of working the metal would provide.
“I don’t know,” Cranwell said, “you’d have to study the records. You might find something interesting.”
Anne frowned, wondering if Cranwell was implying William was getting his money illegally. She and her father had never seen eye to eye, but she wouldn’t believe he would stoop so low as to steal or accept help from someone else.
She was unwilling to say anything yet, though. She needed more information, and she couldn’t alienate Cranwell. She needed his expertise and support. She loved Cranwell and Marjorie, admitted to herself they were more like parents to her than her own parents had ever been. She hadn’t been to Sussex since she turned eighteen, though, and she wouldn’t try to pretend their relationships would be unaffected. She was an adult now, whereas they saw the young woman of seven years ago.
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