The palace staff stirred early on Farah's wedding day. The huge edifice was overflowing with wedding guests who had to be served, and preparations for the reception were under way. This was the big day, and there was much to be done.
Farah woke early, too, bright and alert although she had slept little. In the stillness of the night she had been remembering her roots, and she was afraid. What do I know about being a princess, she asked herself, as she had been doing for days. Alexandra was right in wanting Michael to marry someone of his own class. Wouldn't she be appalled if she knew who I really am, she thought, a nobody named Donna Harris, whom she would surely consider a peasant?
"Only in fairy tales can Cinderella marry a prince," she had told Michael, trying to share with him what she was feeling. "And She had a fairy godmother."
He had taken her in his arms. "Have you forgotten Princess Grace? There's not a royal princess in the world who can compare with either of you."
He stopped her with a kiss. "Don't worry so much about all the pomp and circumstance. It'll come naturally after a few months, you'll see. And we'll have more freedom now that Boris and Maria are expecting an heir."
So she had dropped the subject, but doubts kept nagging at her. And after tomorrow it would be too late. The drawbridge would be raised and she would be forever imprisoned in the castle.
Farah laughed aloud at such excesses of her imagination. Rising, she went to the open window and looked out at the garden, locked in a silver sleep, and all her fears quieted. I didn't have a fairy godmother, she thought, but I had Jason. He said he had created a princess. She remembered the elation on his face as he had made this remark.
Wishing that Jason could be with her tomorrow to give her away instead of Margaret's son, Jack, she went back to bed and had fallen asleep immediately with a smile on her face for Jason.
And now it was morning, and as she lay abed she was thinking with pleasure of her family and friends asleep under the same roof. It was good to see them all, especially Hack. He had been invited to stay at the palace but had chosen to remain at his room in the Pension where he had lived the summer before, and much of the winter sorting and classifying their finds at the dig. For the past few weeks he had been checking out a new site in Africa, and Farah had not seen him until two days before. He had called to ask her to lunch, saying he wanted to see her away from all the hustle and bustle of the palace.
There was an awkwardness in their meeting. Hack held out his hand in greeting, but Farah ignored it and kissed him on the cheek. He held her for a moment, and she could sense his anguish.
Releasing her, he said lightly. "You look wonderful, Princess." He grinned to cover his feelings. "I've called other girls 'princess' but you're the first one I ever introduced to a prince. And lost her to him."
"He introduced himself. You weren't even there." She used the same bantering tone they usually adopted with each other.
"Good. Now if things go sour you can't blame me."
The waiter came and they ordered. "Tell me about your work," she said when they were alone again. "Does the new dig look promising?"
"It looks so promising that I'm being transferred to supervise it. Someone else will take over here."
She couldn't hide her dismay. "I was counting on having you around. Alexandra hasn't thawed much, and you're the only one who knows how to handle her."
"Why don't you just admit you want me around because you find me so irresistible?" When she laughed, he added, "Well, you could lie."
The awkwardness gone, they chatted through their meal and long after, until Farah looked at her watch and exclaimed, "I'm already late for an appointment."
While they waited for her car to be brought around Farah put her hand on Hack's arm and said earnestly, "You're very dear to me, Hack. Please keep in touch, and come see us when you can."
"Only if you'll promise to name your firstborn after me. Otherwise I'll have to put a curse on you and your family."
Looking ridiculously solemn, Farah said, "Do you really think the world is ready for a Prince or Princess Hack?"
Her car arrived. She kissed him and got in, laughing, leaving him standing on the sidewalk. As the car moved away her smile vanished. She knew as surely as if she had been there that he had asked for the transfer. Because of her. She wished, not for the first time, that he could forget her and find with someone else the happiness he deserved.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts and signaled the arrival of Yvonne, the young woman who had been appointed her personal maid.
"Good morning," she said with a smile. "There's tea or coffee if you'd like some." Nothing in her tone or manner revealed whether she thought it strange that Farah should forego this continental custom each morning.
I'm a great disappointment to her, thought Farah. I won't even let her draw me a bath, because I always take showers. So far I've endured her helping me put on my clothes, but after I'm settled in I'll stop that nonsense, too.
She smiled back at Yvonne, thinking how glad she was that Jason had given her that crash course in French. "Thank you, no," she said, replying to the girl's question. "Perhaps later I'll have some orange juice and a piece of toast."
In the shower, she found herself singing, and suddenly she felt joy in her wedding day, in Michael, and in her life. Perhaps she was finally ready to bury the ghost of Donna Harris.
The wedding ceremony was to be at eleven o'clock at the city's ancient cathedral. Police had roped off the surrounding area, and crowds of townspeople had been arriving since early morning. They were for the most part well-behaved.
At the palace, an army of reporters and photographers swarmed at the gates. They would not be admitted to the ceremony; the only representative of a foreign press invited to attend was Cindy Peterson, who was ecstatic at the invitation. The proceedings would be filmed for later broadcast, by a television crew stationed in the loft of the cathedral.
Those less fortunate than Cindy now crowded around the wedding party as it drove through the gate, pushing and shoving to get close enough for pictures or a word with Farah. In the ensuing struggle with the security guards a few heads got cracked, but finally the way was cleared for the motorcade to proceed. The crowd melted away as everyone raced to their cars. Some of them were already at the church when the wedding party arrived. This time, reinforced by the police, the security guards soon had them under control.
The townspeople waved and cheered, Farah waved back, and finally they were all inside and the ceremony could begin.
As she stood with Jack, who was to give her away, and watched the bridesmaids move down the aisle, Farah thought of all the important people waiting inside to see her married. While the wedding of Prince Michael of Zhad to the commoner Farah Fuller was not the major social event in international circles that the marriage of Prince Ranier to Grace Kelly had been, the world took note. Many of those attending were mostly second-string members of royal families and officials of other governments, but they represented a whole new world to Farah. So much would be expected of her; she hoped she could handle it with grace and authority.
She hadn't realized she was clutching Jack's arm until he said to her, "Feeling nervous?"
She nodded. "I'm scared. All this razzle-dazzle."
"Do you love him?"
"Yes, of course. But I'm afraid I'm getting in over my head."
"Just take it one step at a time. Michael's a fine young man and he loves you. Everything will work out."
The music changed and the wedding march began. Farah took a deep breath and began her march to the altar, looking, as Cindy was to write later, every inch a princess in her gown of white satin and lace, with a veil of tulle and yards of train following in her wake.
As they reached the altar, Boris, who was acting as best man for his brother, came through a side door, followed by Michael. This was Farah's first glimpse of Michael since the night before, and as he joined her and turned on her a look of happiness free of any doubt, all her anxiety vanished.
The reception was held at the palace, where a sit-down luncheon was served. Michael and Farah stood in the reception line with Boris and Maria, Alexandra, Margaret, Jack and Sondra. Footmen escorted the guests to their proper tables, and a greatly expanded staff served the food and drinks.
Alexandra proved very adept at keeping the guests moving quickly along the reception line. Even so, it was some time before the final guest had greeted and been greeted. Almost the last to appear was the "bastard" cousin Andre, whom Alexandra had reluctantly allowed Michael to invite. Farah thought him quite attractive as he lingered a little too long over her hand, but instinctively felt he was not a man to be trusted.
After what seemed to Farah an eternity of toasts, speeches and felicitations, the cake was ceremoniously cut, served and eaten. Then she and Michael slipped away to change and leave on their honeymoon.
Farah held her breath as Michael maneuvered another hair-raising turn on the precipitous mountain highway. On one side a cliff rose ruggedly through fleecy clouds that occasionally drifted across the deepening blue of the sky. The other side fell off sharply to the sea. They were bound for an Italian village built high on the side of a mountain in the Sorrento Peninsula.
Michael had fallen in love with the village on an earlier visit and suggested it as a perfect place to start their honeymoon. He had made reservations at a hotel with rooms built on ledges jutting from the mountainside, some with private terraces overlooking the sea. They flew to the nearest airport in Michael's plane, with his car in the hold and his secretary along as co-pilot and to fly the plane back to Zhad.
"Will we be there soon?" Farah thought privately that this dangerous road was no place to be after nightfall, and already the sun was beginning to dip over the horizon, leaving them in shadow part of the time.
Michael scanned the scenery. "We're almost there." As he said this they rounded another hairpin curve and there it stood, this fabulous village built upon the cliffs, festooned with a riot of bougainvillea, windows reflecting the rays of the setting sun.
Farah gasped. "It's unbelievable. All these buildings clinging to the side of a mountain. However did they get them there?"
"Most of them sit on ledges, but don't ask me how they got there. Whoever built them must have been part monkey and part mountain goat."
Their voices as they talked were full of affection, excitement and anticipation. After all those weeks of busy palace life, where Farah had been instructed in palace etiquette, protocol, who was who in Zhad society and government, the operation of the huge household, and learning how to adapt to the constant comings and goings of servants, it would be heaven to be alone with Michael in this private place.
Entering the village, they threaded their way through narrow streets jammed with cars and homeward-bound pedestrians. At the hotel a bellboy unloaded their luggage, an attendant parked the car, and the manager himself ushered them ceremoniously to their suite. Michael had made the reservation in the name of M. Corday, but it was obvious they were recognized, even though the discreet man behind the desk hardly raised an eyebrow. The suite was lavishly appointed, and the terrace provided a smashing view of the sea, far below, its waves capped with gold by the setting sun.
"How do we get to the beach?" Farah asked.
"By a long flight of steps." Michael told her. "I hope your legs are strong, because to get anywhere here you have to go up and down stairs. There are even steps to the top of the cliff, but the view is worth the climb."
They dined on the terrace. Though the dinner was delicious and Farah had taken hardly any food all day, she had little appetite. The wine Michael selected was superb. Wine had never been served with meals in her parents' home, and Farah had no special liking for it, but Michael was helping her educate her palate.
They didn't linger over their meal. Michael pushed back his plate, saying, "I'm not hungry, either," and drew Farah to her feet. Music filtered out from the radio inside the apartment, and they held each other while they danced dreamily in the moonlight until the waiter came to remove the remains of the meal.
After the waiter had gone, Michael scooped Farah up and carried her to the bedroom, turning off lights as he went and opening drapes that covered a wall of glass. In the mellow glow of the moon he undressed her slowly, stroking and caressing her tenderly. Then he picked her up and carried her to the bed. Slipping out of his own clothes, he crawled in beside her. As she opened her arms to receive him, she knew with joy that she had found a safe haven at last.