Determined not to be intimidated by living in a palace, Farah nonetheless found the combination of slender, servants and Alexandra hard to adjust to. Especially Alexandra.
Daughter of a titled Russian family, Alexandra had been little more than a year old when they escaped at the beginning of the Revolution. After establishing his family in Paris, her father went back to Russia to fight and die for his Czar.
Her mother, the Duchess Sophia, proud and arrogant to her last breath and despising the "peasants" who had taken over her country, found herself left with three children to raise alone. Aside from a modest amount of cash the Duke had wisely transferred to foreign banks, her only assets were the family jewels which they had managed to smuggle out. By selling them off a few at a time, Sophia had been able to maintain a semblance of their former life style.
Alexandra had long since divested herself of many of Sophia's prejudices, but there remained a belief that one should not marry out of one's class. By nature and training accustomed to keeping people at a distance, her handsome appearance and regal bearing often intimidated even her peers. Her encounters with Farah, while cordial, lacked warmth.
Boris's wife Maria told Farah not to worry about it. "As soon as you're pregnant things will be different," she promised. "Alexandra desperately wants grandchildren, as well as an heir. Since I've been pregnant I can do no wrong in her eyes.."
"I'll get to work on it," Farah told her with a grin.
Within a short time she and Michael moved to a house of their own and things became easier. Much smaller than the royal palace and traditionally reserved for the heir to the throne upon his or her marriage, Boris now turned it over to Michael. It was a working farm situated outside the city limits which Michael already managed, and it seemed practical for them to live there.
Soon after the move, Michael returned one day from a consultation with Boris at the palace with a worried look on his face. "Maria's pregnancy is not going well," he told Farah. "The doctor fears she might have a miscarriage and has ordered her to stay off her feet."
"Oh, Michael, they both want that baby so much. How is Maria taking it?"
"She went straight to bed and said she'll stay there until the baby is born, if need be."
"I'll go see her tomorrow."
Farah and Boris's wife had already become fast friends, and Maria welcomed her cheerfully. "The doctor is making a fuss over nothing," she said. But when Farah rose to go after a brief visit, Maria clung to her. "I just have to have this baby," she said. "It's so important to Boris. He thought it was his fault I didn't conceive. If I lost the baby we may never have another chance."
Farah put her arms around her. "Just follow the doctor's orders and everything will be fine. You'll see." Behind Maria's back her fingers were crossed.
When Farah mentioned this conversation to Michael, he said, "The doctor told Boris that Maria may never be able to carry a child to term. And that's not their only problem. After they were married a couple years and nothing happened, Boris had some tests run which showed he didn't stand much chance of becoming a father. He'd kill me if he knew I'd told you this."
She laughed and crossed her heart. "He'll never hear it from me."
"I had the same tests run and I passed with flying colors. So it may be up to us to produce an heir."
Farah felt sudden panic. What if I'm not able to conceive, she thought. It never occurred to me before. I couldn't bear to fail him.
She had been surprised at the depth of her feelings for Michael. She had truly loved Noel, but the ceremony of marriage had created between her and Michael a commitment that Noel had never been able to make. How glad she was now that she had been able to surmount her own reluctance to make a commitment to Michael.
Because of Maria's indisposition, Farah's initiation into the civic duties of a princess came sooner than she had anticipated. She joined Alexandra and Michael in representing the royal family at social functions and those obligatory appearances at charity affairs and celebrations of the arts, visits to hospitals, and various other public appearances.
She found herself enjoying these activities. As a stranger in a strange land she had pictured herself alone in a big house full of servants while Michael fulfilled his princely duties. Now she was a part of them, and her days were full.
A few weeks later Maria miscarried. There were complications, and for a while the doctors feared for her life. Her recovery was slow, and Farah wondered if her feelings of failure impeded her progress.
For this reason, when she herself became pregnant she hesitated to break the news to Boris and Maria, feeling it might deepen their despondency. Her fears appeared to be groundless, for they both appeared genuinely happy for Farah and Michael as well as reassured that the family line had a chance of continuing through them.
The following June, Farah produced a fine, healthy son. Holding him for the first time, she thought how far she had come from being Donna Harris, that desperate little woman who could no longer dream, who had felt she had nothing left to live for. She looked from her child to her husband and felt such gratitude to Jason that she could not contain her tears.
"Michael," she said, wondering why she hadn't thought of it before, "can we add 'Jason' to the list of names we've chosen for our son?"
If we was astonished he didn't show it. "I don't know why not. Jason sounds princely enough to me."
So that tiny newborn citizen became Prince Louis Nickolai Rupert Pierre Jason of Zhad, commonly called Nicholai, the hope of the future of this small nation, because it was now almost certain that Boris and Maria could never have a child.
The day Farah came home from the hospital she had her first clash with Alexandra. She was surprised to find Alexandra there, for she seldom visited them. With her was a decidedly elderly woman in a modest black dress.
"This is Therese," Alexandra said, looking pleased with herself. "She was nanny to Michael and Boris. Isn't it lucky she's available now for Nicholai?"
Farah smiled at Therese. "How nice to meet you. I've heard wonderful things about from Michael." Turning to her husband, she said, "Michael, will you please take Nicholai and Therese upstairs to the nursery? You'd probably like to have a visit with her. I wish to have a word with Her Highness."
After a moments hesitation, Michael did as he was told. Fighting her anger, Farah said to Alexandra, "I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Michael has told me how fond he and Boris were of Therese. But isn't she getting a little old for the job?"
Alexandra sputtered. "She doesn't think so, and neither do I."
"Well, of course we'll want her to stay," said Farah, "but she'll need a younger woman to assist her. And for the present Michael and I are planning to keep Nickolai with us. I think it's important for him to know right away who his parents are. Maybe I'm being selfish, but I can't bear to think of someone else doing everything for him."
Color came and went in Alexandra's face as she wrestled with her temper. "Therese is fully qualified and I'm certain you'd find her more than satisfactory. But of course it's your decision."
"Surely you can understand why I think Therese will need help?"
No understanding showed in Alexandra's face, but generations of breeding triumphed. She said in a sweetly false voice, "Of course, dear, I understand perfectly." Picking up her purse, she added, "I'll have my car brought around," and sailed from the room in her most regal manner.
"What was that all about?" Michael asked when Farah joined him.
"You heard her. She didn't even consult me."
"She was just trying to help."
"I know. But I'm afraid Therese has outgrown her usefulness."
He bristled a little. "She was a wonderful nanny to me and Boris. We loved her."
"Well, of course she can stay. We'll get a younger woman to help her."
Farah looked down at Nickolai, sleeping in his crib. "Oh, Michael, don't you see? I want to take care of him myself. I want him to know I'm his mother. I want to go to him when he cries in the night, to be the first to pick him up when he wakes in the morning. I need to hold him and feed him and sing to him. I can't let another woman do these things for my baby."
Michael reached down and stroked a little hand. The baby's mouth stretched in what looked almost like a smile. Michael beamed. "He smiled at me. He knows I'm his father."
"It's just gas."
"That's gross. Can't you leave me and my illusions?"
"You're going to be a wonderful father," she said.
"Naturally. And if we're going to keep him in here I expect equal time."
"You got it. You can have him when he cries in the night." Then she sighed. "Who are we kidding? We'll both have to get back in harness as soon as possible."
"Why don't we get Cousin Andre to help out? If you'd include him in the family more he might not be such a danger."
Michael's hand stroking the baby stopped in midair. "What do you mean, a danger?"
"I don't really know. I just had a feeling when I met him that he was potentially dangerous."
"Nonsense. He's too weak to be dangerous."
"It's Because he's weak that he might be dangerous. He could be manipulated."
"Farah darling, you're not being rational today. Why don't you take things easy until you get your strength back?"
She looked at him angrily. "What kind of a chauvinistic remark is that? I've never been stronger in my life."
"Hey, cool it, baby. You're turning out to be a little spitfire." This seemed to please him. "I never knew you had so much spunk."
"Neither did I." She nestled against him. "Do you realize we almost had our first quarrel?"
"And all over that bastard Andre. But you know, you might be right about including him more. I'll speak to mother, but I don't think she'll go for it."
"Don't tell her I suggested it. Let her think it's your idea."
Michael reported later that Alexandra had cautiously conceded that including Andre in some of their activities might not be a bad move. "She hates his guts," he said, "but she agreed to consider it."
Years later Farah was to remember these words they now spoke so lightly.