Two and a half weeks had passed since the opening of the food bank and Maddie’s routine had returned to normal. She was back in her office seeing clients; some adults but mostly children. There were a few times a month when she was called out to a remote location—when there was an instance of localized violence. But things had been mostly in her office. She was finishing up some notes from her last session when Ella arrived. Knocking as she flew through the door, she bounced into the room; full of energy and spirit.
“Hello Ella,” Maddie smiled up from her notebook.
“You are never going to believe what I heard at work last night,” the smile on Ella’s face was wider than Maddie had ever seen.
“Um…Stevenson is finally getting a haircut?”
“No,” she shook her head, slipping into the chair across from Maddie’s desk. “It is way, way, WAY better than that.”
“Oh really?” Maddie tossed her notebook to her desk and shifted her attention to her friend. “Tell me.” Ella paused for dramatic effect.
“He’s coming back.”
“Who is coming back?”
“You know who.”
“I really don’t,” Maddie shook her head with a laugh. “Wait. Is this a character from one of your shows, because, if it is, that is not you know…actual news.”
“Hey!” She feigned offense for only a moment before folding her hands in her lap and smirking. “But no.”
“The…” Maddie felt her heart jump in her chest. “You mean Harry?”
“What did I tell you about calling him that?”
“He told me to call him that!” Maddie rolled her eyes. “And is that who you’re talking about when you say…”
“Yes!” Ella threw her hands up in the air. “Yes. Prince Harry of Wales. Returning to Bendal. In one week.”
“Wow…” Maddie smiled as she recalled the conversations she had shared with him less than a month ago.
“Yes, wow!” Ella nodded emphatically. “And why do you suppose that is?”
“I have no idea,” Maddie shook her head, her mind working overtime; excited that he would be coming back and embarrassed to admit her excitement at such a thing.
“No idea at all?” Ella’s head tipped to the side as she studied her friend.
“Nothing,” Maddie looked up, catching Ella’s pointed gaze. “What? You think this is somehow related to me?”
“Maybe,” she shrugged.
“Ella please!” Her eyes grew wide at the absurdity. “I spoke to him for what…an hour?”
“You gave him a tour.”
“And how many tours do you think a guy like that goes on in a week Ella?”
“I don’t know Madeline,” she sighed. “But how many of those tour guides order him to unload a truck load of food?”
“Ella,” Maddie’s voice dropped in warning. “He doesn’t remember me. I promise you. I…I would bet on it.”
“How much?” Ella leaned forward.
“He has a foundation! That is housed here! He knows Khenda and Collins! He said he owes her many favors! There is no way…”
“How much?” She seemed un-deterred by Maddie’s points.
“What do you want?”
“Fifty dollars—American dollars—says The Prince remembers you.”
“Without your interference,” Maddie pointed at her friend.
“All on his own,” Ella agreed, holding her hand out to seal the deal.
“You’re on,” Maddie met her friend’s hand and shook it. “Start saving.”
“Please. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“We’ll see,” Maddie shrugged. “One week.”
As the week passed by, the plans for his visit became the center of attention throughout the community. This time, his arrival was not going to be a surprise. Khenda had meeting after meeting; putting together a host of events for the five days he was going to be in Bendal. He would be meeting with dignitaries, attending lunches with community elders, entertained by student groups and local dance houses. As Khenda was still responsible for the functionalities of the camp and all who worked there, Collins was her right-hand man in all aspects of the word; taking meetings on everything from who would sit where and what sort of food they would be serving. The official word was that the Prince wanted to draw attention back to the region; showcasing the work that was being done and moving to the front of the discussion the work that was still needed. Though Maddie accepted that answer without blinking, Ella refused. She had been in the area for almost two years and she had seen the Prince twice and one of those times had been three weeks ago. She held her ground. And Maddie held hers.
When his arrival date approached, many of Maddie’s colleagues were traveling together to greet him; some even making signs and bringing flowers. A group of children she worked with on a regular basis were going to wave at him. And, though she tried to underplay her own excitement, Maddie had to admit; the Prince’s return was a big deal; a great moment for the community. So, she smiled as the kids talked about it and nodded as they made their plans. But when the day arrived, she stayed in the office. She had a few standing appointments that would not be making the trip to meet the plane and her expertise was definitely needed more in the office than at the airport.
Hours after he had arrived, the throngs of people began returning to camp, finding their way back to offices and classrooms; staffing their posts. As Maddie returned to her office from slipping out for a drink, she smiled a hello to the young woman who staffed the main reception desk before stepping past her to her office. And when she saw what was there, or who, her drink nearly tumbled from her hands.
“Good Afternoon Maddie,” his voice stunned her as her face snapped towards the sound.
“Oh my God!” She exclaimed scattering to catch the glass bottle before it crashed everywhere.
“You know,” his smile was teasing as he moved quickly to her said and reached a hand out to help steady her. “You really shouldn’t leave your office door open like that. There’s no telling who might wander in.” Smiling her thanks for his stable arm, she regained her composure and smiled.
“That is an excellent tip, your highness,” his lips pulled up in a smirk. “Who knew that they just allowed the Crown Prince to roam about freely.”
“Oh-ho!” He laughed out loud; clapping his hands together. There was something about her spunk that kept him hanging. “You do know that I am not actually a…”
“I do,” she nodded, her initial shock wearing off and giving way to the warm happy feeling that was washing over her as she spoke. “But the look on your face when I say it is hilarious.”
“Hilarious?” His face twisted up.
“Cute?” She offered.
“Cute?” His face softened and she blushed.
“I’m sorry,” she took a breath. “I have to admit, I am incredibly surprised to find you here; alone even.” She looked around for the group that usually accompanied him.
“I’m not alone,” he glanced at his watch. “I have a meeting down the hall in about two minutes. When Khenda told me that your office was so close, I had to stop by and say hello.”
“Well,” Maddie tried to quiet her pounding heart. “That was very sweet of you.”
“Yes well,” he moved towards the door then, turning to smile at her. “I’m not sure if you heard, but I’ll be in town for five days.”
“I did hear something along those lines.”
“Okay,” he stalled in her doorway. “Maybe I’ll see you again?”
“Maybe,” she nodded, her eyes dropping from his in nervousness.
“Oh!” He exclaimed. “I almost forgot. I brought you something.”
“You…” She watched as he moved across her office towards the bookshelves he had been standing near when she had entered. “I’m sorry, you brought me something?”
“Yes. I thought you might enjoy these,” and when he turned to face her, in his hands was a bag full of the chewy peppermint candies she had remembered eating with her grandmother as a child. Her throat grew tight and her eyes grew slightly teary as they traveled from the bag in his hands to his face where he had the most wonderful expression.
“I…” She breathed. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Thank you is usually customary,” he ribbed her playfully as he sat the bag onto her desk and looked at his watch before heading back towards the door. Maddie watched in stunned silence as he moved past her.
“Harry,” she called out. He turned to face her, seemingly nervous. Her eyes met his as her hand moved sub-concsiously to rest over her heart. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” and with one final smile, he stepped from the room; late for his meeting.
Maddie moved to her desk; her legs slower than she remembered and, as she sunk into her chair, her eyes stayed focused on the bag of peppermints. Her mind spiraled around her; sorting through what had just happened and the many reasons why it just happened and the only thing that she knew for sure?
She owed Ella fifty American dollars.