A little while later she got up again, and walked over to the telecom. The one in her bedroom was a little different from the others around the palace. They were simple metal panels in the wall with a few numbers, a speed dial and the ‘make call’ and ‘end call’ buttons, helpfully colour coded for those that didn’t yet know which was which. This one, however, was the only part of the room that was old-fashioned, perversely enough, and was made of wood with a telephone-style receiver.
“Is Richard Matthews available now?” she said, when she was put through to the office. The young lad sounded a little put out at being called again so quickly, especially after she had hung up on him before. He was only seventeen and this job had seemed like a goldmine, but he knew the Queen could have him fired if he didn’t keep her happy. At least, he thought she could. She didn’t actually have that power, but he wasn’t the most up to date.
“If you had let me explain, your majesty, he’s not going to be out of this conference for several hours. You will have to ask him to call you back for they often overrun.” That was the last thing Alanna wanted; Prime Ministers, she had decided, were always late with ringing back.
“No, I’ll ring him first thing tomorrow morning. He will have no excuse not to come to the phone.” She resigned herself to the wait. “Do you happen to know what this conference is about? I’m intrigued.”
Her friendly voice reassuring him, the young man answered, “No, but I think it’s something about tram fares.” Since the petrol had almost run out, buses had been phased out and it was now all about those marvels of electrical engineering, trams. Of course, everybody had seen pictures of what they used to look like and agreed that they were hideous, so the new designs were sleek, aerodynamic and above all, stylish.
“Of course. It would be.” The queen was mildly annoyed at not having been consulted. She was, after all, the ruler. When she was younger she had fantasised about growing up and wondered what it would be like to have absolute power, but that was before she worked out that actually, she didn’t have any. It was a sore blow.
“Is there anything else, ma’am?” he asked her, hoping to end the conversation since it was coming up to the final minutes of his shift and he was anxious to go home. His girlfriend was returning from her holiday.
“That will be all. Thank you.” Empty words but they told him she wasn’t angry, which relieved him. Alanna ended the call and hung up the receiver, which she liked for its antiquity and quaint appeal. Others found it clunky and difficult to use, but she sort of admired the ingenuity of the people that had designed it. Really, they had thought of everything.
It did nothing to change her mind about the politicians which were so irritating her, though. She decided to try the Deputy Prime Minister, who was usually a little more reliable and wasn’t often at conferences since he tended to take rather a back seat. He, too, was on the speed dial and it wasn’t long before she was trying to get past his secretary.
“Mr Ian Woon ... no, I am well aware that he is a busy man. I am also aware that I am supposedly the most important person in the country even if that’s just a pile of crap and I am wondering why everybody I spoke to is acting so badly towards me – the insolence of some people ... yes, I’m the bloody Queen, who did you think I was?” Her sigh was loud and summed up her attitude quite well. “I know I’ve got a young voice. Maybe that’s because I am young, hmm? Please, Ms Lane, put me through to Mr Woon ... Oh, so now you tell me he’s not here, couldn’t you have said that a little bit sooner?”
Exasperated, she hung up again and flopped back onto the low bed. She was hungry. Lunchtime suddenly seemed ever so long ago, though it was only three in the afternoon, and she pulled herself upright with the intent to go and find herself some food. The kitchens would still be well stocked despite the fact that nothing much was going on and, though she lived alone, there would be more than enough food to feed a small family for several weeks.
“Your majesty,” said one of the kitchen staff, curtseying. An old tradition. She had wanted them to drop it, but no such luck. The cook, on the other hand, had known her since childhood and only used her full title mockingly, as she did now
“Ah, Her Majesty Queen Alanna the Second, to what do we owe this pleasure?” said formidable Dina James. “You look a little pasty. Is something wrong?”“Just politicians, as usual,” she said, and reached for a freshly-baked loaf of bread.